Vibrant Fall Celebration at The San Francisco Ferry Building

Jennifer and Elay
Photographed by: Michelle Walker PhotographyLocation: San Francisco, California, United States

During a chance meeting at a party, Jennifer Pliner and Elay Cohen found they had a surprising amount in common. From recent visits to Egypt to jobs at the same company, their similarities had them talking all night long. A second revealing tête-à-tête on their first date even caused them to close down the restaurant. “They were putting chairs up on the tables next to us,” recalls Jennifer.

On the night they became engaged, Elay welcomed Jennifer home from a two-week business trip with a house full of glowing candles. Unfortunately, instead of feeling the love, Jennifer’s initial reaction was fear: “I thought the place was on fire!” Realizing her mistake, Jennifer did her best to be in the moment. “When he got down on one knee to propose I was so nervous that I forgot to say ‘yes.’”

Frustrated with their unsuccessful search to find the ideal wedding location, Jennifer and Elay flirted briefly with the idea of eloping. That was until they considered a spot that had been under their noses all along: San Francisco’s Ferry Building. The couple frequented its well-known farmers market every Saturday but never realized it was available for private events. “We immediately knew it was where we wanted to get married,” says the bride.

But the task of planning a wedding was not something either of their demanding schedules could easily accommodate. Thankfully, the bride’s mother (who Jennifer credits as having amazing taste and vision) and wedding consultant Maxine Andrew of Instead of You! came to the rescue. “She’s not joking about the name of her company,” laughs Jennifer about Andrew’s contribution. “I nicknamed her ‘The Surrogate Daughter’ because she worked so closely with my mother.” Soon, save-the-dates in the form of vintage postcards of the Ferry Building were sent to the couple’s 200 guests.

Because the location held such personal significance for the couple, the design team was challenged with making the Ferry Building’s expansive spaces feel intimate. To compensate for the venue’s size, they enclosed the party areas in chestnut silk drapes, employed a warm autumnal color scheme, and arranged ceremony seating “in the round” to create a full embrace of guests around the couple.

Jennifer’s parents escorted her down the aisle to her father’s special request— Peter Gabriel’s “The Book of Love”— and the bride and groom beamed as they stood beneath a striking chuppah made completely of green dendrobium orchids. Joined by all the members of their immediate families, Jennifer and Elay exchanged vows in a traditional Jewish ceremony while standing atop the mosaic-tiled Great Seal of California. “Elay and I both agree that the ceremony was our favorite part of the wedding,” asserts Jennifer.

But with the help of an innovative menu and magical décor, the overall effect of the reception was dazzling. Tables dressed in chocolate linens featured clever centerpieces that, while voluminous enough to accommodate the proportions of the grand hall, were tall enough to allow for the flow of conversation. Curved iron stands mimicking the building’s trussed ceiling supported three interwoven arrangements of black magic roses, copper hydrangea, chocolate cosmos, dahlias, and vivid fall foliage. Dangling orange orchids danced just above a collection of persimmon colored candles, which caused each table to glow with warmth.

Not that additional warmth was necessary, as the hall was already filled with palpable affection. Jennifer surprised her husband with a poem written just for him, and his father sang “I Left My Elay in San Francisco” with the band. To have everyone they loved gathered in a place that had played such an important role in their relationship was an amazing experience for the newlyweds. In fact, the couple and its guests had spent the day before the wedding at the Ferry Building, enjoying the market. As Jennifer explains, “It is an extremely personal space for us, but since [our guests] were able to witness its incredible transformation for our wedding, we feel it made the space personal for everyone.”

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