Photography: A Heart String Photography
Ben and I met on April 18, 2015. The story of how we met has been told by each of us successfully and unsuccessfully, but basically it revolves around our mutual friend Jamie Freedman, who I used to work with. She had recently started dating my other friend, Ariel, and he had asked me to accompany him to her birthday party since he hadn't met most of her friends yet. She had invited me to her party in years past, but I'd never quite made it there. Thank goodness for Ariel. I almost didn't show, but he managed to persuade me. When I got there, Ben was talking to Jamie. They grew up together and had been friends since elementary school. She introduced us, and he quickly said something that I thought was a bit brash, so I definitely didn't think that we'd be talking for much longer, but somehow he managed to find me, and keep the conversation going. Before we knew it, we were pretty much exclusively talking to one another the entire night. Little did I know that Jamie had sneakily cornered Ben, suggested that he and I would get along really well, and he had told her he was "way ahead of her." She had said similar things to me, and though I was skeptical, she clearly knew what she was talking about, because throughout the night he won me over, we went on our first date the following day, and I guess the rest is history.
I had moved from my beloved apartment in Fort Greene to Ben’s apartment on the Upper East Side the previous day, and as excited as I was to finally be living together, I was also somewhat sad to have left a neighborhood I loved so much. To make the transition easier, Ben had planned for us to spend all day Sunday walking around the UES and doing fun things to get me excited about my new hood. We went to the Conservatory Garden in Central Park, and then to the Guggenheim. After that, Ben suggested going to the Cooper Hewitt, which is where we had our first date, and is a very special place to us; for a moment I thought he might propose, but I had eyed his pants pockets and didn’t see a ring box (as if he would have put the entire BOX in his pocket...), so I convinced myself it wasn’t happening. We went to the museum and then headed home, but on the way home I told Ben that I was exhausted from the move and walking around all day, so wanted solo time when we got home - aka - “don’t talk to me” time. The entire walk back home Ben asked me if I was having a good day, and if I was happy, which wasn’t unusual, but in retrospect, more insistent than normal. Once we got back, Ben asked once more whether I was having a good day, and walked out of the kitchen with a fancy bottle of Cristal that we had decided to save for a special occasion. At that point, I was just kind of exasperated and said “YES, I’m having a good day but you really don’t have to keep trying to make me feel better about leaving Brooklyn, we don’t need to drink the fancy champagne!” At that point, he started saying all the nice things, and got down on one knee, and I realized exactly what was happening, among my unpacked boxes and my desire for solo screen time. I cried a lot, and said yes (obviously!). And it turns out he did have the ring in his pocket the whole time!
I purchased the gown from Saks Fifth Avenue Bridal Salon, NYC. I went into dress shopping thinking I definitely did not want a “ball gown.” I am a woman of extremes, I wanted something super non-traditional and over the top or something super minimal (which was always going to be a hard sell with my mother). After a lot of shopping around, I thought I had decided on a skirt/top combo, but when I tried it on, I didn’t feel fully confident that it was the one. Just to make sure that I was sure, my mom suggested we do our last appointment at Saks. The Amsale caught my eye early on, and I tried on a couple dresses, but as soon as I put on the Amsale, I didn’t want to take it off. It was a dress that felt as though it would be timeless, but at the same time it was so clean and modern, and also unexpected with the pleating that just felt so romantic. At the end of the day, I realized that I wanted the day to be about me and Ben and not some crazy dress. I felt like the Amsale dress was beautiful and unique and the perfect complement to the overall day; it was stunning.
We felt pretty strongly that we wanted to get married in the city, as it’s where we met and fell in love. We’d looked at a lot of places, and the first place in Brooklyn I thought we would choose never got back to me, but my friend told me about this new venue in Bushwick that her friend was starting that hadn’t opened yet. She made the connection and I went down one day after work just to check it out, and as soon as I saw it I knew it was the place we had to get married. At the time, the courtyard was a lot filled with dumpsters, and it was in the midst of construction, but the team seemed so accommodating, the vision so exciting, and the space (its windows!) was a beautiful, rare oasis that I hadn’t seen anything quite like, so I called Ben, and after a few discussions with my parents, we took the risk in booking it, believing that it would all work out. Luckily it did!
Technically, Ben and I got to have two different ceremony spaces (somewhat unplanned), because as soon as we finished the processional through the courtyard, and my dad had dropped me off under the Chuppah, it started pouring rain. In retrospect, it really was fortuitous (the weather was much colder than expected for mid-May, and ultimately, moving indoors made the whole wedding feel that much more intimate). The original space in the courtyard was decorated beautifully, with giant green palms lining the tree-filled entry area, and then some larger plants in beautiful terracotta pots flanking the chuppah, which was decorated with our favorite Kente Cloth (which my parents had gifted to us during our traditional Ghanaian engagement ceremony in Accra, which was held in January) and Ben’s tallit that his Grandma Edith had made him many years ago. Once we moved indoors, we kept the plants and the chuppah, but added three large, beautiful hanging floral pieces that Taylor’s team at Fox Fodder Farm had rigged in the middle of the room, above the dance floor/ceremony spot. That, plus the warm glow of the tables, which by that point had already been set up in anticipation of dinner (and thinking that the ceremony would be outside!). Family and friends were seated at as many chairs as we could move back into the main room between tables, and the rest stood or sat at tables. Though we lost the “reveal” of the room, everyone was genuinely really happy (probably because of the pre-ceremony cocktails they had while the room was being re-set up) and the love was palpable. Surprisingly, most people said the late-breaking rain change made the wedding that much more fun!
What tip or piece of advice would you give brides-to-be?
Having the time and space post-wedding to really get to be married has illuminated that although it was one of the best, most memorable days, our wedding was about so much more than one day. Try to enjoy it and remember the big picture; the life you’re building is so much bigger than a table setting or floral arrangement. And though I’m a meticulous planner who cares deeply for all that stuff, it’s important to remember that if there’s love and it’s palpable, that’s really all everyone else will remember, so don’t sweat the small stuff.