BART down the aisle: Why one local couple took BART to get married

“BART isn’t just for work anymore,” Cathleen Sullivan told BARTable. “You really can build a full complete life without a car in the Bay Area.” She should know.

On August 27, 2015, the Oakland resident started her new life with Mateo Williford by hopping on at MacArthur Station donning a simple white dress with a vibrant orange-and-pink flower bouquet in hand as she set off to get married at City Hall. Taking BART for such a landmark event was reflective of the couple’s history, present shared life, and future.

She is a transportation planner committed to making modes other than automobiles more viable alternatives for cities across the country; he works in solar energy. The two met in 2001 working for Greenpeace solar bond initiatives in San Francisco, often lobbying side by side in front of City Hall, and both have been immersed in energy or transportation sustainability issues ever since.

“It’s built into our lifestyle,” Sullivan said of the couple’s passion for shared commuting. “We don’t own a car; we bike or take public transit everywhere to do everything.”

It’s fitting, then, that the pair got engaged on their bikes in May during the five-day Fortuna-to-San Francisco fundraising Climate Ride that supports environmental organizations. We mean literally, atop their bikes. While their respective two wheels were spinning, Williford’s wheels were spinning to pop the question.

Coming down Highway 1 out of Bodega Bay on day four, he rode up alongside Sullivan and simply said, “Hey, will you marry me?” Her response? “I was laughing hysterically and I think the first thing I said was, ‘Are you serious?’ because I couldn’t believe he was asking me on our bicycles! And then, of course, I said yes.”

Fast forward three months later and the two were making it official in similar jovial ‘n’ casual fashion. Sure, jumping on BART was the easiest way across the Bay to get hitched, but there’s more to it than that. So much more.

Sullivan explained, “I will always love the fact that I got engaged on my bicycle and got married with a BART ride. It’s sort of like living our values: Work for and live by standards that honor the future of our planet.”

Post-ceremony reception was an uncomplicated picnic in Dolores Park, where their place marker was an enormous Just Married sign (made by a friend) that got more than a few congratulations from surrounding strangers.

Rather than feeling like her wedding experience was isolated from the rest of the world, as is traditionally executed by most, Sullivan looks back on her big day as one that integrated some of the couple’s favorite spots relevant to their daily lives — their home BART station, City Hall (where they first met and which she described as “a spectacular, beautiful civic resource on a BART line”), and Dolores Park (“such an amazing park”).

“[Our wedding day] wasn’t different and separate,” Sullivan began, “it was embedded in some of the most special places to us in the Bay Area.”

She continued to explain how public transportation isn’t just about getting around, it’s also about getting — and staying — in touch.

“I appreciate that I feel more connected to my community every day because I walk through it and see people on BART instead of getting into my private car alone,” she described. “I think it’s  a community building tool and contributes to our shared sense of humanity. It isn’t a choice of last resort; I feel quite privileged to have BART as an option.”

For those still debating the value of this anomalous means of arriving at such a special occasion, factoring in finances should win you over. Sullivan broke down the cost of her nuptials and park reception at a whopping $200 for the entire five-person wedding party.

On the walk between BART and their home in Oakland, after riding from 16th St. Mission Station back to MacArthur Station, the couple met up with a larger dinner party of about 18 people to celebrate at Hog’s Apothecary for an additional tab of a few hundred dollars.

She concluded with a sense of accomplishment, “Compared to a $20,000 wedding it was a good deal — save some money and save the planet!”

Cathleen Sullivan and Mateo Williford got engaged during a five-day Fortuna-to-San Francisco fundraising Climate Ride. The couple rode BART to get married at San Francisco City Hall.

Cathleen Sullivan and Mateo Williford rode BART to get married at San Francisco City Hall

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