Give us the scoop 😉how did you two meet?
James and I met during our first month as surgical interns at UCSF over 5 years ago. We had both recently moved to San Francisco from out of state. As interns, we had structured surgical skills labs that we attended every other week. James and I were in the same session and one day we happened to be partners! That was the beginning of our first interactions.
When James officially asked me out, I didn’t even realize it was a date at first! We had only hung out in groups before this, so when he texted asking if I wanted to meet for a drink after work one day, I assumed that it was going to be with a group of friends.
Unfortunately, I was busy that day, but all was not lost as we had made previous plans to go running the following weekend. Although I thought it was just a friendly run (we ended up going around 8 miles!), we decided to get brunch on the way back, after which James picked up the tab. Then I finally suspected that this might not be a "just friends" thing after all.
Obviously, y’all put a ring on it 💍tell us your engagement story!
James was very secretive about the whole thing, and I suspected nothing. I think he had planned to do it earlier when we were on a trip to Joshua Tree, but the ring ended up not being ready in time.
When we were back in San Francisco, he suggested that we go hiking that weekend. Not something super unusual, but typically, I am the one that initiates a lot of our activities, so maybe I should have suspected something then.
That Saturday, we headed to Stinson Beach to hike the Steep Ravine/Matt Davis trail loop. On the way out of the city, we stopped at Arsicault for one of each of their croissants. Delicious!
At Stinson Beach, we picked up burritos to pack for lunch and started out on the trail. I had done the trail years ago and remembered that there was some large flat rock with a view of the beach that would be a nice spot to eat lunch, and I was determined to find it.
But I forgot that this rock was pretty much at the end of the trail. Later I found out that James was stressing out during the last half of the hike because we were passing all these nice vistas where he could propose, and I was so determined to find this supposed rock. Well, we did find it at last! We had our burritos, and he brought out the ring while he was pretending to get our dessert.
You both had a vision for your wedding 🔮how did you come up with ideas?
James wanted to have a small city hall ceremony and intimate reception, and while I liked the idea, I couldn’t shake the desire to celebrate with all our friends and family.
We wanted something modern and natural with the guests as our focus. I was inspired by the greenery and loved tropical foliage, which I thought would be a nice way to create warmth and ambiance without having to go overboard on flowers.
In terms of dresses, I sent out inspiration photos to my bridesmaids. I knew I didn’t want matching dresses but wasn’t sure if I wanted different prints in one color scheme or three different but complementary dresses. Turns out that the three dresses my friends liked the best worked really well together and created a modern, ombre look.
We asked the groomsmen to wear a dark navy suit. James hates ties, so that part was easy!
Tell us about your fams 👨👩👧👦
James and I are both immigrants from opposite sides of the world. I was born in Shanghai, China, and he was born in Oxford, England. We both came to the states when we were really young.
We planned a modified Chinese tea ceremony at our wedding.
I did ask James if there was anything English he wanted to do, and he said no! 😂But, as his father put it during the tea ceremony, the English are a tea-loving culture.
Location, location, location 🎯where did you get married?
We got married at Foreign Cinema in the Mission. It turned out to be a perfect space for us and the food was AMAZING.
We wanted a venue that would be accessible to our friends and family and that could take care of a lot of typical wedding things (i.e. tables, chairs, linens, catering).
The space itself was already very warm and inviting so we didn’t have to do too much to make it nice and it fit our modern, simple, aesthetic well. We also really wanted to have good food.
To this day, our friends still talk about how that was the best wedding food they have ever had. I am still trying to convince someone I know to get married there so that I can eat the hor d'oeuvres as I hardly ate anything during cocktail hour.
Girl meets dress 💃🏻 – how did you learn about East Meets Dress (EMD) and why did you choose an EMD cheongsam?
I found EMD as I was searching for inspiration for a cheongsam (qipao) to wear. I was inspired by the fact that it was started by two women around my own age who had gone through a similar experience, so I really wanted to support the business!
I really loved the look of the Emma Bespoke Dress, because it had the traditional qipao elements but with a modern twist. I was sad to let the train go in the version I wore, but I was worried about tripping on it during the reception! My guests loved the dress and I was also able to wear it again for my graduation from residency!
I knew my mom was going to wear a traditional cheongsam dress for the tea ceremony, but I had no idea what it was going to look like. 😅 The color coordination worked out perfectly though! She actually had two dresses too, so she changed after the wedding ceremony before the tea ceremony.
I had one of my bridesmaids narrate the tea ceremony so that the guests could learn a little bit of history about the tradition.
Putting your own spin on things 💕How did you make your wedding more unique and personal to you two?
We asked a close mutual friend (my friend from medical school and James’s co-resident) to officiate our wedding, and we co-wrote part of the ceremony with him, which really gave it a wonderful, personal feel.
It was really special to hear someone you are close with to reflect on your relationship with your partner. We selected a reading from the Velveteen Rabbit and adapted the poem “I Like You” by Sandol Stoddard, rather than traditional wedding readings.
The big day 👰🏻How did everything go on your wedding day?
Honestly, we didn’t have any major hiccups, which was such a relief! We did have a little rain in the morning that cleared up. Thank goodness, because we had planned to rent boats for photos in GGP! It was truly more fun than I could have imagined.
It’s not very often in your life that you get to be surrounded by 120 of the most important people in your life. My only regret is not eating more food!
Seeking your wisdom 🙋🏻♀️do you have any advice for other brides planning a modern Asian-American wedding?
1. Decide ahead of time on what is important to you–There are so many decisions to make and it is easy to get carried away with things that other people make you think are necessary. Knowing your priorities ahead of time will help you focus!
2. Keep a spreadsheet of all our expenditures–We spent the most on the venue/food, photography, and videography. I also felt it was really important to find a makeup artist who knew how to do Asian bridal make-up, and I happened upon the amazing Aimee Lam on Instagram (thank goodness for social media)!
I found my wedding dress on a pre-owned website and was lucky that it had been previously owned but never altered or worn. I borrowed my veil from a friend. We didn’t spend any money on paper other than the cardstock we bought to print our own place cards–everything else was electronic. We kept the flowers minimal and simple, which worked for us, but everyone is different!
3. Our month-of coordinator was invaluable–I highly recommend finding someone to help because there’s so much that you don’t want to deal with on the day (or even week) of your wedding! Find someone that matches your personality. I was overall fairly laid back, so there were many that I interviewed that seemed too intense or disengaged. Don’t be afraid to shop around!
4. Be creative with alternative solutions–I had fallen in love with the idea of doing wedding photos in a national park, but we couldn’t realistically have a full wedding there. So, I decided against engagement photos and instead we drove to Yosemite for post-wedding photos 2 days after the wedding. It was a magical experience!
- The Bride & Groom: Nina (@nwzhao) & James (@jterrissross)
- Venue: Foreign Cinema (@foreigncinemasf) | Website
- Photography (wedding): Clara Rice (@clara.rice.photo) | Website
- Photography (post-wedding): The Hearnes (@thehearnes) | Website
- Videography: Flom Films (@flomweddingfilms) | Website
- Florist: Katharina Stuart (@katharinastuart) | Website
- Hair and Makeup: Aimee Lam (@aimeeartistry) | Website
- Coordinator: Shannon Berry (@shannonberry2018) | Website
- White Dress: Sarah Seven (@sarahseven) | Website
- Groom Suit: Tailors’ Keep (@tailorskeep) | Website