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Love, SF-style: He proposed via a drone. They rode off in a robotaxi

A bride in a self-driving car, with a sensor-laden roof, smiles and takes a man's hand as she gets out of the vehicle.
Josefina Van Thienen steps out of a Waymo autonomous vehicle on her wedding day. | Source: Courtesy ES STUDIO

Move over, stretch limos and horse-drawn carriages. For one couple tying the knot in San Francisco, it was all about riding off into the sunset in a robotaxi.

After exchanging vows at San Francisco City Hall on Feb. 15, Josefina Van Thienen and Felipe Abello, took part in a very new SF tradition. The pair summoned a Waymo for a ride to Fort Point National Historic Site at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

An image from the wedding day photo shoot has since gone viral, with more than 76,000 views and plenty of well wishes for the tech-entrepreneur couple. 

Van Thienen, 32, is co-founder and chief revenue officer of the global benefits platform Atlas. Abello, 31, is working on a startup in stealth mode at Fort Mason-based tech incubator Founders Inc

The pair initially met over Zoom during the pandemic while Van Thienen, a native of Argentina, was working on another startup venture in San Francisco and Abello was heading up a software agency in Colombia. 

She had contracted him to work on some code for her, but the professional relationship quickly blossomed into something more.  

A wedding couple, seated, kisses in front of a large window. The person on the left wears a suit and bow tie, the one on the right wears a white pantsuit and veil.
Felipe Abello and Josefina Van Thienen share a kiss. | Source: Courtesy ES STUDIO

“I wasn’t really looking, but when I saw him in that Zoom, I was like, ‘Oh my God! I like him.’ Instant attraction,” Van Thienen said. 

After six months of exchanging podcasts and readings on the entrepreneurial life via Zoom, the pair finally met up in Miami in July 2021 and moved to San Francisco together shortly thereafter when Abello joined a cohort at Y Combinator. 

Abello later proposed with a ring-dropping drone on a dedicated art island in Japan, filled with art installations and museums. 

A couple in wedding attire stands by a self-driving car with sensors on the roof.
Newlyweds and startup founders Josefina Van Thienen and Felipe Abello stand in front of the Waymo that whisked them away from their City Hall ceremony. | Source: Courtesy ES STUDIO

Van Thienen and Abello are not the first lovebirds to incorporate an autonomous vehicle into their wedding day. In 2018, three engineers who worked on self-driving buses at Baidu and their brides were married in a collective wedding at the Chinese company’s Beijing headquarters, with the three couples ferried around the grounds in the vehicles, according to the South China Morning Post.

And in June 2023, Adam Fulton and Ashley Fansler, who met while working as autonomous vehicle specialists for Waymo, got hitched at San Francisco City Hall and took a self-driving car to brunch afterward. 

“Ashley and I met during Waymo driver training almost 6 years ago, and it was always a dream to have one as our wedding car,” wrote Fulton in a Facebook post with pictures commemorating the big day. 

Recently, Waymo has received reports from other riders in San Francisco and Phoenix who have called on the self-driving taxis to take them to sign their wedding papers at City Hall, whisk happy couples away from their ceremonies and transport wedding guests to and from venues, hotels and bachelor and bachelorette parties. 

The company does not make special arrangements for couples who hope to incorporate a robotaxi into their wedding day—brides and bridegrooms have to summon a car with the app, just like anyone else, and pay the standard fees. 

“We're honored to take part in riders' life moments, big and small, and are humbled to join the wedding party,” a Waymo spokesperson told the Standard.

To be sure, robotaxis and drones are hardly the only technology being incorporated into modern marriage ceremonies. 

A smiling bride and groom in wedding attire share a joyful moment and look at a smartphone.
Felipe Abello and Josefina Van Thienen pose for a selfie on their wedding day. | Source: Courtesy ES STUDIO

One Utah groom, riding a trend of partygoers wearing Apple Vision Pros to parties, made his nuptials high-tech by wearing the futuristic augmented reality goggles at the altar. Another San Francisco tech couple came together in holy matrimony in a “metaverse” ceremony hosted by Taco Bell last year.  

In Abello and Van Thienen's case, it was the groom’s idea to hire the Waymo. “He's a nerd. He's a geek in love,” Van Thienen said of her husband. “I think it's such a San Francisco thing to do.”

Van Thienen said riding off in a Waymo after her wedding not only symbolized the couple's love of technology but of their long-term commitment to the city, which she calls "the future itself." 

“It tells a lot about … where we’re living right now,” she said. “We love San Francisco. We’re going to stay in San Francisco.”

Christina Campodonico can be reached at