I stand on Kettner Boulevard experiencing a tinge of regret that I’m already married.
Not because my eyes feast on some hunk of fine-ass man but because I’m witnessing the wedding I kinda wish I’d had. I love every detail, from the green vintage Sportsman van decked out with red-and-white gingham curtains and fancy window soap designs that read “Let’s Runaway” to the belini bar and chalkboard menu announcing grilled-cheese sandwiches and short-rib sliders. The whole thing has that hippie-chic handcrafted vibe that photographs so well for Instagram. It’s so...today.
Don’t get me wrong — my wedding at the Prado was beautiful. But this? This is cool and unusual. Cool because it’s unusual, and unlike the Prado, which sees 100-plus marriage ceremonies per year, the Runaway Pop-Up Wedding is available for only five couples and will never be done exactly this way again. Hence, the term pop-up.
Between August 2010 and the time of this writing, 55 “pop-up” events made their way into the Reader’s events listings. The idea isn’t a new one; temporary pumpkin patches and crafty bazaars have been “popping up” since who knows when. And the now-global annual “Diner en Blanc” (a pop-up picnic where the location is revealed at the last minute and everyone wears white) started in Paris in 1988. The past few years have seen the pop-up concept explode. Pop-up art shows/galleries, pop-up restaurants, pop-up boutiques, pop-up plays, and so on litter events pages everywhere. Today, a quick Google search reveals a handful of websites dedicated to finding and marketing pop-up events.
Even so, the pop-up wedding is a new one on me.
Runaway is the brainchild of Jamie Street and Michelle Pullman of Rad + In Love Photography, and Tori Hendrix, of Sitting in a Tree Design, whose blogs and websites have the power to make hours disappear from my life. This particular event turns the idea of a traditional wedding on its head.
Street likens Runaway to an affordable medium between a courthouse wedding and a fancy soiree.
“It’s for people who want a smaller, more intimate wedding or elopement but don’t want to sacrifice a lot of the fun, pretty details that you see in a lot of contemporary weddings today,” she will tell me over the phone when the event is over.
At the moment, she’s on the clock, standing on the sidewalk between Casa Artelexia and the vintage van. She’s in a long green summery dress and photographing one wedding party while Pullman snaps photos of a separate wedding ceremony taking place inside.
Yes, plural weddings, back-to-back, each with an hour-and-a-half time slot. I didn’t quite get the concept or see the appeal until I arrived. But, up close, I see that it’s as inspired as other great pop-up experiences, the best of which are usually collaborations between creative people of various mediums.
The idea for Runaway began with a discussion about how to collaborate Hendrix’s styling with Street’s photography without creating a typical staged set void of human emotion. Eventually, they decided on the one-day wedding opportunity for multiple couples that would take the details off the bride and groom’s shoulders and put it in the hands of Hendrix and Street’s creative friends.
“It gave all of us a chance to collaborate and work together and share our skills and work on a vision that was our own,” Street says. “So, instead of customizing or catering to the client, we showed them our vision, and if it appealed to them, they could sign up.”
And five couples believed in the vision enough to shell out $1200 each for their time slots, which includes marriage-certificate keepsakes and announcements by Pitbulls and Posies; a bouquet or floral crown by Bloem Hill; celebratory drinks and food by A MIHO Experience prior to the ceremony (for up to 30 guests, an additional $20 per food-and-drink ticket) in a private waiting-room-styled (earthy chic — i.e. lots of ferns, a hint of tie-dye, and blue velvet pillows) by Sitting in a Tree; acoustic-guitar music by Bart Davenport; photographic coverage of the ceremony plus a 30-minute portrait session for the bride and groom by Rad + In Love; and the ceremony performed by Lara, a blonde officiant in a turquoise maxi dress.
“You know that other couples are having the same experience, and you have to be okay with that,” says Hendrix, who takes a moment to chat and show me around. Unlike Street, whose work takes place during and after, Hendrix has done the bulk of her work in the days leading up to now.
Later, Street will add, “That’s part of what made it affordable, was doing the same design for each client rather than customizing it for each one.”
The idea of a quick in-and-out wedding and limited input on the design may not appeal to every couple, but going by dresses alone, it’s clear that the brides here today aren’t run-of-the-mill. One wears a simple off-white shift dress with large black polka dots. Another wears a floor-length number with a combination of crocheted lace cutouts and embroidered chiffon overlay. One wears an ivory-white dress adorned with coppery sequin stripes. Another wears orange.
As with most other pop-up events, Runaway seems to speak to the creative, or those who seek the creative. Although having the same wedding (style-wise) as all the other couples sounds about as factory-like and same-samey as a Vegas chapel, Runaway feels fresh, new, and intimate. Hendrix suggests that the temporary, one-day-only venue provides a blank canvas that prospective couples and/or their wedding planners won’t find at a typical San Diego hotel wedding.
“Hotels have rules,” Hendrix says. “You have to use their caterer, and it’s hard to take a carpeted ballroom and transform that without millions of dollars in uplighting. People right now are so interested in personalizing their weddings. They want to be able to have fish tacos instead of a chicken dish.”
It’s this same rule-breaking that inspires pop-ups of all kinds, including those one-night-only dining experiences presented by chef Chad White of Plancha Baja Med.