The name MunaLuchi holds a special place in our hearts. It is the combination of two African names which when fused together mean, "Beautiful Work of God"...
Perfectly describing our brides...
The MunaLuchi bride is bold, beautiful, worldly... She is witty, vibrant and free. She loves the finer things in life, and is not afraid to go after what she wants. She exudes style and grace and is determined to look her very best not just on her wedding day but every day. She yearns to embrace her culture and seeks inspiration that speaks to her. She comes in all sizes and shades. Simply put, she is beautiful no matter what skin she's in.
Our mission is to promote positive images of women of color...because we believe positive imagery is the threshold for confidence... and confidence inspires self love.
We aspire to inspire...
What makes for a magical honeymoon? It’s playing together in a place where anything seems possible… where days and nights blend seamlessly because they’re filled with love, laughter, and shared adventures. At Sandals ® Resorts, the magic is found in the details and makes honeymoon dreams come true.
Hey there, Muna family!
I am so excited to share with you the latest MunaLuchi issue, featuring the absolutely stunning Tony Award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose and her husband, actor Jason Dirden on the cover. Their love story is truly inspiring, and we are just over the moon to be able to share it with all of you. I traveled to Curacao to shoot this cover and have to say, it's definitely a location you should add to your travel bucket list! Get our top tips for traveling to Curacao on page 22.
We know planning a wedding can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to finding resources that cater to your unique needs. That's why we've curated a collection of tips, real wedding inspiration, and advice from top experts in the wedding industry to help you plan every detail of your special day with ease and confidence.
This issue was created to inspire you and help you personalize your wedding day with unique touches, just like our cover couple Jason and Anika did. You can read their exclusive interview on page 32 and then check out their gorgeous Los Angeles wedding on page 54. We hope their story and our resources will inspire you to create a wedding that truly reflects your personality and style.
So go ahead and get into this issue, and let me know what you think! I hope it'll be a valuable resource for you as you plan your special day.Jacqueline Nwobu CEO/EDITOR-IN-CHIEF MUNALUCHI BRIDE MAGAZINE EDITOR@MUNALUCHIBRIDAL.COM
Happy Planning, and remember to celebrate love in all of its beautiful forms! NO.
Creative Direction: Jacqueline Nwobu, MunaLuchi Bride Magazine
Shot on Location: Sandals Royal Curaçao in Santa Barbara, Curaçao
Hairstylist: Ryan Burrell
Makeup Artist: Jamecca Dickerson
Wardrobe Styling: Jason Rembert
(Kirsten McGovern - for Anika; Jarrett Meilleur - for Jason)
Photography: Kareem and Sandy Virgo
Cinematography: Homely Appolon and Brittany Blackshire
PRESIDENT Chike Nwobu
Marie D. Smith, Lily Taylor, Dana Miller
DIRECTOR OF EVENTS
The Islands of the
Muna Love Affair is Back! Recap of our Brooklyn EventTEXT BY LINDA WALLENTINE
Following a 3-year pandemic hiatus, our Muna Love Affair boutique bridal show returned to kick off Bridal Fashion Week on Monday, April 10th, 2023, in Brooklyn, New York, and it did not disappoint!
Upon entering the sparkling glass doors of The Atrium Event Space by Bond Gather, guests were greeted by the tunes of the evertalented Chevy Chevis live band, stunning fuchsia floral arrangements by NYC Flower Project , and a modern wall graphic designed by Danielle Flowers
Creative Director Toni Antrobus of HerKreations conceptualized all design details while Wedding and Event Planner Tiffany Chalk Events and Shades of Grey productions (along with our fabulous Muna Team!) helped bring Muna Love Affair Brooklyn to life!
Throughout the evening, attendees filtered between two floors where they could mix and mingle with exhibiting wedding vendors ranging from couture fashion designers, photographers, caterers, florists, event planners, and more. Both levels were filled with elegant decor and furniture provided by Long Island Party Rentals, giving guests ample photo opportunities. Each floor also included an open bar where folks were served signature Muna Love Affair cocktails including a tropical rum punch drink and a refreshing watermelon concoction crafted by WSJ Bartenders .
Light bites like mouth-watering salmon skewers, teriyaki chicken Asian tostadas, and other delicacies were meticulously prepared onsite by Delivering Experiences and The Fork Goes on the Left. An elegant-chic outdoor patio area was not only a photo-op moment but also a place to unwind and relax with La Casa Grande Cigars providing a unique live cigar rolling experience.
We invite you to peruse the gorgeous photos from Linda McQueen Photography covering our first Muna Love Affair event of 2023! And make sure to read all the details from our fashion panel, featuring couture designers Kosibah, Garcon Couture , and Andrea Osei Bride . Visit our website at www.munaluchibridal.com to see the recap video by Luxor Wedding Films.
MLA BROOKLYN PARTNERS:
HOST VENUE: The Atrium at Bond Gather
PLANNING/DIRECTOR OF EVENTS: Tiffany Chalk Events & Muna Team
CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Toni Antrobus of HerKreations
PRODUCTION: Shades of Grey
RENTALS: Iconic Decor Rentals & Long Island Party Rentals
FLORIST: NYC Flower Project
PILLOWS: The Spilled Tee
PRINTING: EMG Prints
BALLOONS: The Pop Factor
PHOTOGRAPHY: Linda McQueen Photography
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Luxor Films
MAKEUP (MODELS): Felicia Graham Makeup & Felicia Graham Beauty Team
HAIR (MODELS): The Key Look
EARRINGS (MODELS): Earring Envy
ENTERTAINMENT: Chevy Chevis
MC/DJ: The Finer Touch
CATERING: Delivering Experiences and The Fork Goes on the Left
MIXOLOGIST: WSJ Bartenders
CIGAR ROLLER: La Casa Grande Cigars
SWAG BAG SPONSORS: Bolden Skin Care & CurlMix
GRAPHICS/PRINTING: Danielle Flowers
PHOTO BOOTH: Vince Trice Photobooth
PHOTOGRAPHER: Sequoyah Daniel Photography
PHOTOGRAPHER: Nana Annan Photography
EVENT DESIGN/DECOR: Lunaluxe Events
GOWN DESIGNER: Andrea Osei Bride
MENSWEAR: Garcon Couture
GOWN DESIGNER: Kosibah
ENTERTAINMENT: DJ Spynfo
CAKE: Sugar Fetish Cakery
EVENT PLANNER: EbonyCattouse Events
FLORIST: Donna Nolisa Designs
MAKEUP ARTIST: Felicia Graham Beauty
FLORIST: Crystal K Events
FLORIST: B. Luxe Blooms
TOURISM BOARD: Cayman IslandsDRESS: KOSIBAH DRESS: KOSIBAH
The Hottest Trends from New York Bridal Fashion WeekTEXT BY MARIE D. SMITH
For 2024, designers presented collections for the bride ready to say I’Do in looks that scream “This is me!”…because frankly why not wear what suits you best on YOUR wedding day?
The bride that designers had on their minds for the Spring Summer 2024 bridal collections is anything but blushing.
The super sexy, edgy, and ready-to-do-things their OWN way bride will turn heads dressed in the newest looks. For the 2024 wedding season, the best version of a bride means showing off her legs and body for days. 3-D flowers and appliques were in abundance, while mikado and lace still reigned throughout the shows.
The two biggest trends that caught our eyes were “ naked dresses ” along with super short and sweet minis which popped up all over the runway presentations this season. Brides were indeed given the option to go for something versatile enough for their formal ceremony and then to party hard at the reception afterward.
With this year's wedding season revving up to be bigger than ever, designers want their clientele to showcase the best version of themselves instead of adhering to the same traditional silhouette. We are showcasing the best in intricate embroideries, luxurious fabrics, and ultra-minimalist silhouettes that dare to be paired with the trendiest of the moment accessories.
Curaçao is calling...
EXPLORE CURAÇAO AS A DESTINATION FOR MULTICULTURAL COUPLESTEXT BY LINDA WALLENTINE
Crystal blue waters, secret coves, untouched coral reefs, and serene shorelines adorned with colorful colonial architecture beckons couples from around the world to come and relax, unwind, explore, and discover the rich culture and endless beauty of Curaçao.
In 2023, U.S. arrivals to this unique destination increased exponentially with the Curaçao Tourism Board reporting a record 60 percent growth in visitors during the month of March. This can be attributed to the increase in direct flights offered to the country and the development of luxury hotels such as Sandals and Baoase, along with other boutique lodgings offered on the island. With everything Curaçao has to offer, we’re not surprised.
A STORIED HISTORY
For centuries, the historic integrity of this beautiful Island Country of the Dutch Caribbean has been pristinely maintained. In fact, in 1997, Curaçao’s capital, Willemstad, was awarded the prestigious title of a UNESCO City , signifying its worldwide acknowledgment as a well-preserved harbor and historical site.
Curaçao’s charming island metropolis is also bursting with
cultural diversity. Tracing back to its historic trade relationships with the neighboring Caribbean islands to the Dutch colonies, the Netherlands, and Spanish and Portuguese colonial towns, each region has added to the rich cultural fusion experienced in Curaçao today.
PLACES TO GO
Notable Curaçao landmarks include the floating Queen Emma Bridge , which connects one of the island's oldest districts, Punda , to the district of Otrobanda , and the 19thcentury Rif Fort (now a converted shopping center) with restaurants offering an exquisite melting pot of Dutch and Afro-Caribbean inspired cuisines.
Handelskade is another popular tourist attraction located in Punda.
The waterfront strip is known for its 18th-century-style houses painted in vibrant hues with cute outdoor cafes. While there, make sure to order an orange-flavored liquor. Made with island-grown, bitter Laraha Orange peels, you can only experience this special cocktail in Curaçao!
Curaçao is one of the three ABC Islands ( Its sister islands are Aruba and Bonaire ). Located 90 miles from Venezuela and outside of the hurricane belt, flights to Curaçao are becoming more readily available. Currently, US flights are available from Miami (MIA), New York (JFK), Charlotte (CLT), and Newark (EWR) with Atlanta (ATL) as the newest US flight pattern that'll be available December 2023.
BEST TIME TO TRAVEL
Because Curaçao is outside of the hurricane belt, travel is favorable all year round. Most travelers plan their trips to Curaçao around what’s happening on the island. February and March are the Curaçao Carnival period, so plan to visit then if you’d like to experience the carnival season. For film junkies, The Curaçao
International Film Festival happens in April. Towards the end of summer, you’ll get to enjoy the Curaçao North Sea Jazz Festival
If you’re looking for a great way to usher in the new year, travel to Curaçao late-December to early January for a multitude of parties, fire-works and events like Fuik Day , an annual party organized by Curaçaoans every first Sunday
of the new year where everyone heads to Fuik Beach.
Ultimately, whether you’re saying “I do,” celebrating a milestone anniversary with your partner, vacationing with family, or friends, or simply seeking a solo adventure, Curaçao’s rich culture will have you yearning for more. An eclectic adventure awaits!
From Humble Beginnings to Floral and Design Powerhouse: Getting to Kn ow Dr. Hossmann of Tai Flora LuxeINTERVIEW BY LINDA WALLENTINE
on a farm producing roses for export and I thought that perhaps I would be a good fit. I was successful in landing the job, and this became a turning point in my life.”
From then on, Dr. Hossmann was fully involved in the production of roses for export. From prepping flowers, to working with local markets, and connecting with florists across the island for deliveries, this was the beginning sparks of her new love: Botany.
Her blooming love affair with local flora and a newfound desire to improve the production methods for tropical flowers in Jamaica led her to pursue further education with a Master of Science Degree in Botany and eventually, a Doctorate Of Philosophy in Botany.
Following this string of fortuitous events, Dr. Hossmann admits, “I was fully intent on a career in research.” However, after a stint at the Jamaica Agricultural Development Foundation and working closely with farmers growing cut orchids for export, she was met with more unexpected twists: the opportunity to become a part owner of an orchid farm, and… she found love!
everything from décor to design, lighting and linens, and flowers of course! Partnering with local vendors and maintaining their own farms to provide the most beautiful, freshcut tropical florals and orchids, they couldn’t imagine a more fulfilling business. It is more than they ever dreamed of.
Dr. Hossmann shares, “Never in my wildest dreams did I expect that a career in the wedding and events industry would be the path my life would have taken.”
However, looking back, she admits: “I have come to realize that this is what I was meant to do… that my journey was not by chance but completely by design. Creating amazing, beautiful events is exactly what I was meant to do with my life.”
Continue reading for MunaLuchi’s exclusive Q&A with Dr. Paulette Hossmann on everything from her life’s guiding principles to how her team overcomes challenges working on an island, her keys to success, and more. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Tai Flora Luxe !
“My journey is one of taking chances, fate, and destiny.”
Born and raised from humble beginnings in a traditional Jamaican rural district called Balaclava in the Parish of St. Elizabeth, Dr. Hossmann grew up dreaming of becoming a veterinarian. She even drew up her own business plans for a veterinary hospital at only nine years old! Her passion for animals evolved into a love for science, and with hard work, determination, and faith, she received a full scholarship to pursue her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology in the United States.
Upon her return home to Jamaica, Dr. Hossmann happened to see an Ad in her local newspaper that would change everything. She recalls: “By chance, I saw an advertisement in the newspaper for a job
After meeting her husband, Sascha, little did she know he would also inspire their future business! Dr. Hossmann recalls, “One day [Sascha] expressed an interest in accompanying me to see what we did on the orchid farm. I distinctly remember when we arrived there was a pile of orchids to be dumped, as we didn’t have a market for them. Sascha was in the hotel industry as a Food and Beverage Manager and had seen the need for floral products in the rapidly expanding Tourism Industry. He suggested we sell them to the hotels. This was a pivotal moment that changed both of our lives.”
Their fledgling floral company started out as a small operation on the front porch of their home. Today, twenty-three years later, Dr. Hossmann and her husband, Sascha, Co-own and operate Tai Flora Luxe, a worldrenowned, full-service event management company based in Jamaica producing luxurious events for clients from around the world!
In addition to creating gorgeous events, their company provides clients with
Life is an unpredictable journey. We never know where it will take us; who we will meet along the way, what obstacles we will have to face, or what will inspire us to change course. Anything is possible, even if we ourselves do not see it yet.For Dr. Paulette Hossmann , a career in the wedding and events industry was a path she never imagined her life would take.
- Dr. HossmannPictured here: Dr. Hossmann and her husband, Sascha
Q: You live by the guiding principle: “I cannot say no.” How has this principle served you personally and influenced the growth of your company?
An important trait about me is that I was brought up on the virtue of hard work and this now comes naturally to me. I’m also very competitive, as I do not like to fail in anything and these traits are guides in my life. As a result, I’m not going to disappoint a client by not delivering their desired look. My team is also very important to me. Once you’re a part of our team, we’re going to teach you to win and be proud of your accomplishments. We’re going to drag each other across that finish line to achieve that goal. That is now a part of the ethos of our company.
Q: Based in Jamaica, what challenges do you face working on an island? How do you overcome those obstacles?
We have numerous challenges operating on an island but after 23 years we have been able to adapt and navigate our way through these obstacles. We have challenges with transportation, product availability, logistics, and sourcing items or services to fulfill clients' wishes. It’s never easy, but we come in each day, have that cup of coffee, and start making it happen for our clients. Consistently delivering has built up a reputation affording us the trust of our many clients, and the stories of pulling out all the stops to deliver just keep getting written.
Q: How has your company bridged the gap between luxury and sustainability?
We have built a team that has stuck with us, as several of our staff have been with the company for 15 to 23 years! Being on an island, we felt that it was absolutely essential to have a very diversified portfolio. We do very large weddings and events, but we also do small weddings every day, concierge services, and retail. We are able to repurpose and manufacture a lot of what we do in-house. We have also stuck to our roots, as we still maintain our farms which supply us with tropical flowers and orchids. We also work closely with farms across the island to preserve the quality of our supplies for our clients.
Q: As an attendee and partner of MunaLuchi’s 2022 Coterie Retreat, how was the experience? Who or what inspired you there, and why would you recommend other business owners to attend?
It was a moment where we really felt recognized for the work that we have done over the years and the team that we have assembled.
To have the principals of MunaLuchi sit with us in our operations and discuss design ideas, I cannot begin to describe what that felt like. It was an incredible and momentous occasion for us. Additionally, we were able to connect with other industry players and designers, exchange ideas, and share experiences.
Overall, it was an amazing growth experience for our business. Jacqueline and Chike Nwobu are truly inspirational and exhibited deliberate care in the content that was discussed at the conference. I would unreservedly recommend it to other business owners as we get an opportunity to network with our peers and openly share our journeys. This business is demanding and these experiences are also nurturing for your soul.
Q: What are your future goals for Tai Flora Luxe?
Our work is constantly evolving, we are planning much larger projects, executing more complicated and beautiful design concepts and we are absolutely loving every minute of it.
Q: Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs? And what are your keys to success?
It is important to recognize very early that failure is part of the growth process and that you will have to keep going, never giving up. We learn from our challenges and difficult experiences as well. If you have moments where you weren’t as great as you should have been, take the lesson from it and keep moving forward.
INTENTIONAL MODERN ROMANCE...
In our Summer 2023 issue, we got personal with Tony Award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose, best known for her role as the voice of Tiana from Disney’s “Princess and the Frog” and her husband, actor Jason Dirden , known for his role as Basie Skanks in “Greenleaf,” about the joy of intentional living, their romantic love story, and wedding highlights.
For our first-ever international destination cover shoot, the MunaLuchi team headed to the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao with a team of seasoned artists to create magic. Our cover couple, Jason and Anika, brought romance and affectionate vibes to our mini-moon-inspired fashion editorial. Their passion and love for one another are palpable through the photos and videos we were able to create together.
Fashion stylist Jason Rembert and his team of Kirsten McGovern and Jarrett Meilleur elevated the fashion story with colorful and trendy bridal and resort-chic looks for Jason and Anika. Anika’s makeup looks were dreamy and natural thanks to the artistry of Jamecca Dickerson and paired gracefully with gorgeously crafted natural hairstyles by Ryan Burrell.
We loved how it all turned out, and you’ll be able to relive each moment through the lenses of our accomplished photo and video team, Kareem and Sandy of Reem Photography and Homely and Brittany of Unleashed Visuals.
Shot on location at Sandals Royal Curaçao, the resort was the quintessential location to document the affection Anika and Jason have for one another. With their love for travel, culture, and exploration, there was no shortage of scenic backdrops and landscapes on the 44-acre resort to set the stage for each look. Sandals Royal Curaçao is truly a humbling escape, providing exquisite rooms and suites stretched along the Spanish Water Bay and Caribbean Sea, 11 dining options, white-sand beach and amongst the various water features, the bi-level Dos Awa infinity pool. Delight in this luxe editorial and read our exclusive interview with Anika and Jason!
Creative Direction: Jacqueline Nwobu, MunaLuchi Bride Magazine
Shot on Location: Sandals Royal Curaçao in Santa Barbara, Curaçao
Hairstylist: Ryan Burrell
Makeup Artist: Jamecca Dickerson
Wardrobe Styling: Jason Rembert (Kirsten McGovern - for Anika; Jarrett Meilleur - for Jason)
Photography: Kareem and Sandy Virgo
Cinematography: Homely Appolon and Brittany Blackshire
How did you two meet?
ANIKA: Well, we did a show together. We did A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway together. We became friends during the show. We had a lot of time that we spent together in rehearsal when we…
Jackie: Oh, what's that laugh for?
JASON: Our scenes were always together. I didn't have scenes with anyone else but her. And we were, from my point of view, love interests…So you know, because of that, when I was in rehearsal, if I wasn't rehearsing or she wasn't rehearsing, then we were just either talking about the play or just getting to know each other on just a personal level.
ANIKA: It's true. My character had two boyfriends, so...
JACKIE: No way!
ANIKA: And then he was not chosen..
JASON: And that's the difference between play and reality.
ANIKA: Neither one of us were thinking about anything other than the platonic level of what that was. And we just got to know each other [and] enjoyed each other on stage. We had a great time, but we also had a good time talking, and we had lots of walking to do in the city, because he was staying in Jersey.
JASON: That was about 34, 35 blocks.
JASON: Good conversation made it a little easier to make that trek. We had discovered so much about each other, particularly the number of people we had in common. She didn't know me at all. I think by chance she found out that she and my brother share a manager. But that's all she knew about me. But I think that kind of created this lightness and this comfort between us. We actually have some degrees of separation between us, and that's why the vibe is kind of easy between us, you know? We found out we had a similar spirit for humor...for selflessness.
This was 2014 when you met, right?
How long was this production for?
JASON: I think [in] total it was about 14 weeks with rehearsal and then performance.
After the production was over, what happens next?
ANIKA: We went our ways and we didn't really connect again till... about a year and a half, maybe. He was doing another show. I went and saw the show and we were like...huh.
So did you go and see the show because he was in it or did you just want to see it? Did you keep in touch?
ANIKA: Yeah. We kept in touch, but lightly.
JASON: The sweet thing about Anika is [that] she holds stuff close to her chest and she moves very stealthily. So I told her one day when we were doing A Raisin in the Sun , that if I ever had a chance to do a certain show, I would love to do it because there is a role that I really want to play. It just so happened that my brother was directing the show at and I was going to be playing THE role. The universe just happened. I didn't tell Anika that I was doing this. I didn't tell her anything… We're doing the show. We come down one night, I go backstage and Anika's backstage in the hall.
She just happened to be back there?
JASON: Just standing there, grinning. And in my mind…in that moment, I was like, okay, let's maybe try to discover what's here… that’s more than friendship.
JASON: Clearly there's a connection between us and we had not really given it a chance. But if she's doing this, then I'm clear that she wants a brother.
JASON: No, what I mean is I'm clear that she's open for the exploration of what could possibly be.
ANIKA: And I brought opening night gifts.
JASON: She did.
Oh, you brought gifts! What kind of gifts did you bring?
ANIKA: I made cheesecakes.
JASON: Cheesecake with...
ANIKA: Peanut M&Ms.
JASON: Peanut M&Ms on top.
JACKIE: I love the attention to detail!
JASON: And she remembered [that I love cheesecake]. So she brought little mini cheesecakes with peanut M&Ms.
Well, you had a great foundation to start off with just by talking. No expectations. Just conversation and vibes.
ANIKA: I think it's so important for people to give themselves time to make a friend and see who that person is. And also to know really clearly who you are before deciding to marry somebody... that's a big deal. [Relationships] need to start with some sort of firm foundation. We did a lot of talking. We did a lot of playing Scrabble. It was just easy getting to know each other without an agenda. And I think that's really because you can have a conversation and get to know somebody, but if you have an agenda, then you're going to be missing something.
JASON: We were able to discover so much about each other through not just asking questions, but through song. We would email each other songs.. "I really like this song. Do you know it? You should listen to it." And one of them was "Come Away With Me" by Nora Jones. It was one of the first songs that she emailed to me.
ANIKA: Because he loves music.
JASON: I love music
Do you play any music?
JASON: I do. Well, it's funny…
ANIKA: He can play spoons.
JASON: ... I grew up playing the saxophone. [I wanted] to be a worldfamous saxophone player. And that ended in ninth grade. I played from third grade to ninth grade. That's when I started acting. But I've always [had] an ear for musical instruments. Learned how to play the trumpet for a role. Had to learn how to play the harmonica for a role. Spoons. But I love, love, love music. And she does too.
ANIKA: And so we often played music in the show in the hallway while everybody was getting ready…usually on Sunday. It was almost a three-hour show. We did eight shows a week. By the time you hit Sunday, we were like...
JASON: Needed something to lift you up.
ANIKA: And so I would play Pharrell's "Happy" Blast it in the hallway so we could get everyone in a mood and just have a moment. We
Shirt/trousers by ETRO
Location: Oceanview Pavilion, Sandals Royal CuraçaoDress by THEIA Earrings/Ring by ALEXIS BITTAR Shoes by GIANVITO ROSSI (Jason) Shirt/Pants by ETRO Shoes by TODS Location: Oceanview Pavillion, Sandals Royal Curaçao
really connected on music. And I would tell him different artists that I enjoyed [and would] ask if he knew about them. I think I introduced you to Gregory Porter.
JASON: You did. But it taught me so much about who she was and what her spirit was. There was nothing shallow about the music she was sending. It was deep, it was personal, it was warm, it was moving. The stories meant something, you know, you couldn't not be affected by what you were hearing in the music. She's a very intentional person. And if she allows you to be this close, she's speaking with her heart. So be careful with it. You know what I mean? All of that came through with the music that she was sharing.
That's beautiful. So 2016, you start dating, right? And did that continue or was there a gap before we got to where we are now?
JASON: Yeah, kind of…
ANIKA: We did have a gap.
So you took some time off. What was that spark that got the relationship back on track?
JASON: Yes. I cared deeply for Anika, and I was like, yes, let's really explore this. I knew internally, I wasn't ready mentally and emotionally to give our relationship what it deserved and what she deserved in a partner. And that's because I had come out of a long relationship, you know what I mean? There's a time period where you need to really be by yourself and recalibrate.
Recalibrate and rediscover.
ANIKA: ... You know, I think that when you're talking about healing, very often that is a journey that you have to take on your own because you can't see clearly when there's extra noise. So you know, it has to be a singular motion for healing.
So when did you get back together?
ANIKA: It took a minute.
JASON: It took a minute. It took over a year. And I was okay with that. And I told her, I said, take whatever time you need because I understand. But I was never going to close that door again until she closed it and locked it…
That's beautiful. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be, you know?
JASON: ... When we moved forward together, it was like the music she was giving me...it was very intentional. There was a reason behind it. We both understood what we were coming out of and going into as individuals and as teammates.
You were dating through the pandemic then, right?
ANIKA: Yeah, we actually moved in together right before the pandemic.
JASON: Yeah, like three months before.
ANIKA: We were really lucky. We were in a small house. We had a really nice backyard. We were both in LA, so it was a neighborhood that had fruit everywhere. I don't think I bought a piece of citrus. I would just walk around in the evening and pick lemons.
JASON: Stealing fruit.
ANIKA: They would put lemons and limes and oranges in baskets and just put them out and say "free." I picked berries. I picked so many things, which is something that makes me very happy. God provides.
ANIKA: If I can pick a piece of sustenance from a tree or a bush, it makes me exquisitely happy. So there was horror happening but we also had the calm and the nurturing that is nature. We could just go sit in the grass and turn on some music. It was very therapeutic.
I love that! At what point, Jason, did you feel like, "I want to propose"? At what point did you say, "I want to take this to the next level"?
JASON: She started talking about rings. Not in the sense of getting married, but she would share Instagram pictures.
ANIKA: Now, mind you...I want to say very clearly that it was not a passive-aggressive hint of anything. I mean, what did you do during the pandemic but look at Instagram?
JACKIE: Right What did you do? Content overload.
ANIKA: Rings would pop up. I looked at rings. We looked at houses. We are big house lookers on Instagram. That doesn't mean I'm about to buy a mansion.
JASON: I'm thinking, well, there’s a lot happening right now. When I started to make decisions about things, I would have her in mind. And I didn't mind having her in mind. It was no longer just about my path. So all of those conversations, those happenings, the moving in together, the DM-ing or forwarding of rings, or dresses or pictures…
ANIKA: I didn't forward him not one thing!
JASON: She didn't.
How did you find out what Anika would like in terms of rings?
JASON: As a man, when I propose…when I get the ring… I wanted to do it all on my own and pop up with it. You know what I mean? But she is very particular about what she wears, especially something that she's going to wear for the rest of her life. From that standpoint, I didn't want the moment to be ruined by making a bad choice. So we decided to do most of it together...
JACKIE: So something more custom and unique, right?
JASON: Yeah. She really spearheaded the design, and I was a teammate on it. We settled on a few things.
ANIKA: And then, I stepped away.
JASON: It was so much fun as opposed to feeling anxiety about choosing the right ring. You know what I mean?
Absolutely! Once you finally did settle on something that spoke to your heart, how did you plan this proposal? Was it a surprise?
He actually did surprise you?
ANIKA: I'm a difficult person to surprise.
That's what I was gathering! I don't know how you pulled this off. How did you pull this off Jason?
JASON: I know Anika's spirit. It’s the same as mine in that we don't like the spotlight on us like that. I wasn't going to do a huge, public thing. That was never going to be a possibility. We had this conversation out of the blue. She was like, "Jason, if and when you propose to me, you don't have to do it on any kind of major holiday. Not Valentine's Day, not my birthday…Let that day be that day. Do it on a random day.” I chose Christmas.
JACKIE: What?! Is Christmas not a holiday?
JASON: Well here's why. Number one, I knew she wouldn't assume that it was going to happen on Christmas because we had that conversation. Number two, this is 2021. We're still not really traveling. I want, at least my family and her family to be a part of it. For the last couple of years, my family has been doing a Zoom Secret Santa. She's been taking part in it. I called up her dad, her mom, and her brother. And then I called my dad and we talked and told him my plans. The two nights before Christmas, I'm up at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. I'm getting out of bed. She was like, 'What's wrong?' I say, 'I can't sleep and I don't want to toss and turn and disturb you.' She's a light sleeper. 'I'm going to go downstairs and watch TV.' What she didn't know was that I was staying up till 3:00, 4:00 in the morning putting together a video of pictures of our excursions throughout our time together. From the moment we met in the Raisin in the Sun up until 2021…putting it all together. I had Nora Jones' "Come Away With Me" underscoring it all.
On Zoom, it's myself and of course, we're together. My parents are on there, my brothers, my sisters, and everyone who's part of the Secret Santa. We're all having fun. All of a sudden, Anika looks up and her dad pops up on the Zoom. Her mom pops up on the Zoom, and her brother pops up on the Zoom. Some mutual friends that we love pop up on the Zoom. We are all on the Zoom. She's like, 'Daddy, Mama, wait a minute!' That's when I play the video.
ANIKA: It was beautiful.
Oh, you got her!
JASON: I got her. I got myself, too. I could barely get the words out. I was crying. It was one of those moments where you are watching yourself, because it was, again...it was very intentional. An intentional move forward. Until it actually happens, you can't believe it's happening. You can't believe you're having the privilege of it actually happening. I'm watching myself barely getting these words out. I had a much longer speech to give. I was like,'"Will you marry me?'
ANIKA: It was lovely. It was very beautiful. He's a great editor. It was so thoughtful, and beautiful and surprising. Pictures that I didn't even know he still had. And then, to put that song there, which was the first song that I sent saying, 'Hey, do you know this artist? She's fantastic. I love this song.' For that to become the song, it was really beautiful.
Well done, Jason! So you went from the proposal to a quick turnaround for the wedding, or what was the transition from that? How much time did you have to plan and how was the planning process?
ANIKA: In a perfect world, we had what, a year? The wedding was October, 2022. However, I booked a show so I was in New York shooting from January through June. By the time I really got back to LA, it was mid-August. We had planned nothing, because... there was no way I could get away from the show to do those things. At first, we were thinking of doing it on the East Coast, because I'm an East Coast girl. Maybe, on the vineyard, because that's where my family has spent our summers. We realized that there were too many things that were going to make that difficult for people. We were not going to do Houston. Rain, heat and cold...
Were you in Houston? Why Houston? Do you have family there?
JASON: I'm from Houston. My immediate family is in Houston.
ANIKA: Okay, well, California. We'll find somewhere in California. We had no idea where, and visited a couple of places. The place that we ended up with, we saw by accident, almost. His friend said, 'I went to a wedding here recently.' We looked it up online, and we went and looked at the place. It was a gorgeous 1920s estate called The Paramour.
JASON: Because she was working until early July, and I was in New York working for a little bit, by the time we could concentrate on planning, it was the end of July.
ANIKA: We had eight weeks!
JASON: We desperately wanted the wedding outside.
ANIKA: That was important. So we asked what dates [they] had. We had five dates to choose from, and we were like, we'll take this one. And we made it work. We made it happen and we did a lot of things ourselves, which I think we would've done anyway. We did have a wedding coordinator. She didn't live in California, she lives in Philly... Stacey Thomas of The Philadelphia Wedding Chapel.
JASON: She was great. Really, really, really great.
ANIKA: I ordered things from Etsy. I loved it. I ordered bubbles and we had ribbons with our names and the dates. I ordered bow ties for the young boys in the wedding, and a regular tie for my dad, so everybody had the same color. I bought the flower girl's basket and spray-painted it the exact color I wanted.
Simple and elegant. I love how you incorporated so many DIY elements thoughtfully.
ANIKA: We did all of these things. We ordered amazing chocolate from a company called Fine and Raw out of Brooklyn. It's dark chocolate and it's made with oat milk. It was delicious. I ordered tiny bars for our wedding favors, because I didn't want people to take home stuff that they're like, what am I going to do with this? And I found an artist… Jennifer L. Meyer ...I've been following her on Twitter for some time. She does [illustrations] of beautiful, whimsical little animals and sweet things [and] we wanted a fox because Jason sort of looks like a fox.
JASON: She told me that about eight years ago. And I just ran with it.
ANIKA: So we wanted a fox riding a bicycle, because we love to ride bikes. That's something we did during the pandemic. We did it in New York as well. She painted this whimsical portrait of a fox riding an old school bicycle [with a] basket full of roses. It's stunning. And we turned it into the welcome sign.
ANIKA: And we also had it put on the labels of the chocolate bar with our names and the dates of the wedding.
JASON: This word, intentional...We are so intentional about how we move, and if we're going to have something, it has to be of us. Not just nice, not just because your aesthetic for what's beautiful and wonderful may be great, but if it's not our spirit, it's not of us. So even if we had an on-location planner, we still would've been there every single step of the way to try to customize [our wedding] around what [works for both of us].
So what flavors were the cake?
ANIKA: So I love vanilla. Maria my cousin, is an amazing baker, and she was like, well can I do raspberry filling? I was like, nooo you can't, because I hate it. But I said, what about apricot? I love apricot and it's something that's not too sweet. So she created some apricot filling and a white chocolate frosting decorated with real flowers and goldleaf. But really softly, not aggressively. Really soft and beautifully placed. And she baked that cake in Massachusetts and FedExed it.
JACKIE: FedExed the cake?
ANIKA: Yep. I put it in the freezer. She flew out three days before the wedding with 30 pounds of buttercream in her luggage and decorated the cake the morning of the wedding.
JACKIE: She had to bring her own buttercream? It was that good.
ANIKA: Brought the buttercream. It was amazing. It was so delicious.
Her name is Maria B. Rose of The Tiered Bake Shoppe in Boston.
JASON: People enjoyed it so much that the night of the wedding we left the venue and realized, oh, we forgot the top tier of the cake that we're supposed to save and freeze. The next day we go back to get the top tier ...half of that tier is gone!
JACKIE: Who ate it?
JASON: I don't know. But they're smiling and they're happy and still talking about it.
JASON: My mom has always made cookies my whole life. She's known as ‘The Cookie Lady.’ And so I asked her, instead of having a groom’s cake, I said, Mom, can I get groom's cookies? I want you to make them for the wedding. So she made probably 300 cookies. Oatmeal, chocolate chip and white puff cookies…
ANIKA: It was fantastic. I got somebody that I met on a show to choreograph our dance for us. Her name is Brittany P. Russell. She's amazing. She's an actor, dancer and choreographer. But what Jason didn't know is that I went to a producer's house and I rerecorded the song with my vocals.
JASON: "Come Away With Me "
ANIKA: That's the song that we danced to.
So when the song came on, Jason, what did you feel when you heard Anika's voice?
JASON: It was layered, right…So number one was…I was so concentrated on the moves. I didn't recognize it right away. And then there's a line she sings "on a bus" and it's the way she sang "on a bus". I was so shocked.
JACKIE: She got you.
JASON: Yes, yes. She got me to the point where I froze for half a second. And was like wait a minute. I can't mess up this dance. I was so moved because I know how private Anika is and how private our relationship has been. So for her to open up and be that vulnerable and share that gift for me in front of our guests was special. She got me.
ANIKA: Yeah. And by then I’d changed into my reception dress which was designed and created in two weeks.
JASON: Yes, it was.
Your reception dress was made in two weeks?! Same designer or different designer?
ANIKA: No, designed by Simin, of Simin Couture . She's amazing, and a beautiful spirit. I was very lucky with the dresses and designers that I had. Both Simin and Alonuko ! I just feel so grateful. I had my new dress and I came out and we did the dance and it was just lovely. There was a gorgeous pool in the back, and that's where cocktail hour was. And we had our quartet there, and they were amazing. They were playing both contemporary music and classical music mixed in.
It sounds like it was everything that you wanted and more.
ANIKA: It was.
JASON: And so much more.
And you did all of this on your terms without anyone telling you what timeline and what budget you were supposed to abide by. You did it your way and everyone had a great time, and you speak about it with so much joy. I can just tell it was truly one of the best days of your lives. You actually had a wedding and enjoyed the wedding.
ANIKA: It was fun! One of my closest friends, Colman Domingo, officiated. And we ate! People were like, oh, the couple never gets to eat. I was like, oh, not this Bride.
JASON: Yeah, it was what we wanted…we wanted it to be classy, but [approachable]. You know what I mean? We wanted [our guests] to be a part of it.
ANIKA: [We wanted] for it to be a tactile experience. Which is one reason why that estate was so amazing because it's sort of like a museum. I wanted people to have space to move around. In the reception room, framed pictures of ourselves through the years were placed throughout. That was part of the decor…fairy lights...electric candles. And Stacy Thomas , who was the Coordinator was really helpful in that. There was a huge fireplace and she filled that with tiered candles. She just did a lovely, lovely job bringing all of what we wanted together.
So beautiful! So how did the two of you keep your relationship private?
JASON: We weren't hiding, but because we're private people and we know how this business and how social media works...one little kernel of information [gets out] and people run with it thinking they know you. We're us, we're together, and that's that. So the day that we planned was…...It felt like a wedding was happening, and everyone was looking on through a window...an open window, and people were leaning through. And we were happy about it. It was our one opportunity…
JACKIE: To give a glimpse?
JASON: To be us without any type of inhibitions. We were just us, and I think we felt safe because of who was there and the spirit that was there, and in turn, that allowed everyone else to be themselves. It was more than beautiful. It was freeing and satisfying.
ANIKA: And it truly felt magical. It felt…I don't know. It felt blessed in the moment.
ANIKA: And the reason we kept it private and we kept our relationship private was because we didn't want a third party in the relationship. We didn’t want to be a throuple with the public. We wanted to be able to know ourselves as ourselves and learn who we were as a unit on our own…They're not paying attention the way you think they are. They're looking…but not really paying attention. So we didn't do anything extravagant. I didn't wear the ring around Los Angeles.
JACKIE: Of course.
ANIKA: And we're not really huge PDA people anyway.
JASON: But also I think what really helps is that these are all things that we communicated.
JACKIE: You guys were on the same page.
JASON: Yes, absolutely. We were very open about how we should move.
And so, now you're married. What was the transition like right after that? Did you have jobs that you were going right into? Or did you have some time to kind of just be together?…I know you had just finished working.
ANIKA: So that was a week after the wedding. The night of the wedding, after we helped everybody get back to their hotel, we got extra cookies.
JASON: We drove to Palm Spring.
ANIKA: I call it a mini-moon. We knew that wasn't going to be the real thing, but it was something to make it feel real. And he planned all that. It was a whole retreat. And it was so peaceful and nice.
JASON : And right after that we went to Tahiti to The Brando.
Was Tahiti the actual honeymoon?
JASON AND ANIKA: Yes.
Who picked Tahiti? Did you pick together?
ANIKA: I did. I don't think we're finished honeymooning. It was short. Not like teensy, but I think we're going to do some more traveling too. It was really nice. It was breathtaking. And God, it was the most beautiful water. We were on a private island. It felt divine. And we rang in the new year.
What are some of your favorite things to do together? I know you love music. And I think you're foodies, right?
JASON: I like good food, but I can eat the same thing five days in a row. She can't. Anika sees food as an experience.
JACKIE: Yeah. It's an experience. It's family. It's bringing people together.
ANIKA: And it's an expression of love as well. And I think we know that here in America, but we also have a culture of fast food…I just want it to be good. I want it to be an experience. I want to take a bite and be like, 'Oh my goodness, I've never tasted this before.' And I love experiencing other people's cultures through food. I think you really get to know people differently that way. So that's my journey through food. When I go somewhere, it's very rare that I stay in one spot. I'm out. I'm like, 'Where are the people-'
So, who cooks?
JASON: We share the responsibility. I cook more now. And actually, I enjoy it more. I was able to survive on my own. I would cook, but simple stuff to eat. But she finds those kinds of mundane meals boring, so I experiment.
JACKIE: You gotta spice it up!
ANIKA: I love cooking. I follow the New York Times cooking section, and I try to make something new every week. There was a time where I was making a couple things a week.
JASON: We love to watch baking shows as well.
What's the most recent baking show you've watched?
JASON: Summer Baking Championship.
ANIKA: Yeah, we love the Kid's Baking Championship! Love it. Some of those kids are amazing.
JASON: We also like to go to open houses. Even if we're not actively looking for a home, we’ll just go pop up at an open house, and judge it. Like, 'Why would they do that?' Or, 'If we bought this house, we would do this.'
ANIKA: We do a lot of serious walking.
JASON: We do.
ANIKA: I'm a walker. And I think I started walking even more during COVID. I called it my mental health walk because I would wake up early around 5:30am to do it. I love to walk. And I've gotten him into walking. And I love to travel.
If you can travel anywhere today, where would you go?
JASON: Well, we want to go to Japan. We would love to go during the cherry blossom season.
ANIKA: We’d like to go to Ghana. And Madagascar. And Seychelles. I’d like to go everywhere in Africa…all the countries that I can go to, I want to go. But we also want to go to go to Iceland. Oh…we would like to see the tulips in Amsterdam because we went once, and we missed tulips by a couple weeks.
JASON: She wants to experience the world and all of its people.
JACKIE: Yeah. Do it while you can. Why not?
ANIKA: That's part of my why my Instagram handle became @ anikaaroundtheworld . I was lucky, traveling with work. I've been to places with my job, where I may have never gone otherwise. I've been to Vietnam and had an amazing time in Vietnam that wasn't for work. Curaçao was really lovely. It was fantastic.
Yeah, getting out to see the culture and the people is really, really special there in Curaçao. It's very interesting.
ANIKA: It's always thrilling to me where we find Black people, because I think that the world tries to tell us that we only exist in certain spaces. And we can be found everywhere. And learning different parts of who we are in the diaspora is fantastic.
JACKIE: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.
While you were in Curaçao for the shoot, you saw a shooting star! Tell me more about that experience.
JASON: She really did.
ANIKA: I had never seen a shooting star before. I was in the pool at night, and there were only four of us in the pool. We were having a conversation. I went, 'Oh, it's a shooting star!' And nobody else saw it.
JASON: We were all looking for it.
ANIKA: It was so beautiful. I don't know...it just made the trip. Which was a perfect trip, by the way. Thank you.
JACKIE: Thank you.
ANIKA: It was a perfect group of people. It was so much fun and joyous. It was like the capper. It was like somebody took a champagne bottle and went [pop].
JASON: It really was.
And so, on that note, what's your wish? What's something that you'd like to tell Jason? Your wish for this marriage, and for your life together. And Jason, you do the same for Anika.
ANIKA: Ooh. I wish for us to have longevity, joyous longevity, and prosperous longevity. Not just monetarily, but spiritually prosperous. I hope that we always are able to talk to each other, listen to each other, hear each other. And I wish us a lifetime of adventure.
JASON: That was beautiful. Oh my gosh. Oh, man. I wish for us that we remain just like the music that we used to send to each other...intentional and full of heart.
That’s so beautiful.Thank you so much, Jason and Anika, for participating in this editorial shoot!
ANIKA AND JASON: Thank you so much, Jackie. This is not something that either one of us thought that we would be doing. And I have to say, that it is due to the care that you take with the magazine. We felt like it would be a safe space. Thank you for making it a safe space, and for being interested in our journey, and our story, and who we actually are. We had a great time in Curaçao
"I wish for us to have longevity…joyous longevity, and prosperous longevity. Not just monetarily, but spiritually prosperous. I hope that we always are able to talk to each other, listen to each other, hear each other. And I wish us a lifetime of adventure
." - Anika
ANIKA NONI ROSE + JASON DIRDEN
Anika and Jason's love story is one of intentionality, of making every detail reflect who they are and what they love. From the design of their wedding invitations to the welcome sign at the reception, every aspect of their special day was a true reflection of their personalities. Undeterred by outside noise or distractions, their journey together has been divinely crafted, with a focus on one another and their shared interests.
For Anika and Jason, every detail of their wedding had to be meaningful and reflect their spirit. You'll see that through the well thought out customizations and attention to fine details. The result was a wedding that was not only beautiful but also a true representation of who they are as individuals and as a couple. Take a look at some of our favorite images of their wedding day.
SOMETHING OLD: Anika's bridal bouquet was accented with a custom wrap created with the sleeves of her mother's wedding dress.
BRIDESMAID/GROOMSMEN GIFTS: Bridesmaids received pre-wedding facials by Tracy Hudson Skincare and Buttah Skin Products. Groomsmen received their custom suits.
CUSTOM FAVORS: Anika worked with artist Jennifer L. Meyer to create a custom illustration of a fox riding a bicycle. "We wanted a fox because Jason sort of looks like a fox," recalls Anika. The illustration was used on the labels of the wedding favors - dark chocolate bars made with oat milk. The illustration was also used on their welcome sign.
"I was very lucky with the dresses and designers that I had. Both Simin and Alonuko! I just feel so grateful." - Anika
JASON & GROOMSMEN'S CEREMONY ENTRANCE SONG: “Knocks Me Off My Feet” by Stevie Wonder, transitioned to “Wedding March”
ANIKA'S ENTRANCE SONG: “Best Part” by H.E.R. and Daniel Caesar, performed by Bianca McClure & Chrys Ryan
ANIKA & JASON'S RECESSION SONG: “As” by Stevie Wonder
FIRST DANCE SONG: Norah Jones’ “Come Away With Me,” pre-recorded by Anika herself!
she asked ‘you are in love what does love look like to which I replied ‘like everything I’ve ever lost come back to me
WRITTEN BY NAYYIRAH WAHEED
"I wish for us that we remain just like the music that we used to send to each other... intentional and full of heart."
DAY-OF COORDINATION: Stacey Thomas of the Philadelphia Wedding Chapel and Vows on the Vineyard
PHOTOGRAPHER: Adonye Jaja Photography
SECOND SHOOTER: Erik Clausen
VIDEOGRAPHY: Elysium Productions
VENUE: The Paramour Estate
RENTALS: Premiere Party Rents
LIGHTING: Pro Lighting Rental
OFFICIANT: Euphoria star Colman Domingo
PERFORMANCES: DreamPlug string quartet
VOCALISTS: Bianca McClure & Chrys Ryan
DIY STATIONERY: Basic Invite
WEDDING DRESS & VEIL: Gbemi Okunlola of Alonuko Bridal
RECEPTION DRESS: Simin Couture
RECEPTION JUMPSUIT: Zara & Birkenstock
VINTAGE GOWN REFERBURSHER: The French Cleaner
WEDDING BOUQUET & FLORAL DECOR:
Schentell Nunn of Offerings
BRIDE’S SHOES: Badgley Mischka “Nicolitie” stilettos
BRIDE’S JEWELRY: Jennifer Meyer Jewelry
ENGAGEMENT RING: Frank Gomez of G Creations Inc. and Antoinette Matlins, PG, FGA
WEDDING BANDS: Frank Gomez of G Creations Inc and Niwaka
BRIDE’S MUA: Ernesto Casillas
BRIDE’S HAIR: Cynthia Alvarez
BRIDESMAID’S DRESSES: Simin Couture
GROOM’S ATTIRE: Wayne Willis of Well
GROOMSMEN ATTIRE: Wayne Willis of Well Groomed Man
POCKET SQUARES: My Bowtiful Creations
PRE-WEDDING FACIALS: Tracy Hudson
SKIN CARE PRODUCTS: Buttah skin
FAVORS: Fine & Raw
ART FOR WELCOME SIGN & CUSTOM
FAVOR WRAPPER: Jennifer L. Meyer
CATERING: Alligator Pear Catering
BAR SERVICE: Liquid Catering
WEDDING CAKE: Maria B. Rose of Tiered Cake Shoppe
GROOM’S COOKIES: Jason’s Mother
DJ: George 2.0
FIRST DANCE CHOREOGRAPHY: Brittany Russell
VINTAGE TANDEM BIKE: eBay
PHOTOGRAPHED BY REEM PHOTOGRAPHY
WEDDING DATE: August 13, 2023
OCCUPATIONS: (Sarah) Nurse/ (Bishop): Lawyer
HOW THEY MET: It all started at the University of Maryland, College Park. They used to see each other on campus here and there but it wasn't until Sarah joined the school's African dance team, Afrochique in 2010, that they started to really notice one another other more and more. It was the same year Bishop became president of the African Student Association on campus and if you know Bishop you know he was the people's President!
FIRST DATE : Not sure if this was our first or second date, but this was one of the first formal dates that we went on that really stuck out to us. Bishop surprised me with tickets to a comedy show that his cousin was performing in.
I loved this date idea because I had never been to an actual comedy show before, but had always wanted to go. I thought it was even more special that he knew someone who was performing. We laughed together, I got to meet his cousin, and we went out to eat and just had an overall great time.
PROPOSAL STORY: With the help of so many people and designed by our friend and wedding planner, Melissa Williams of B Astonished Events, the proposal was able to take shape and Sarah received a truly memorable proposal.
Bishop tapped into all his resources and supporters of his love! On October 29,
2021, at an art gallery in Washington, D.C., approximately 80 or so people attended to show their love and support for the couple. Throughout the night, food was served by Mama K's Kitchen, drinks were served by Arena Social, and the saxophone was played by Chris Garcia.
As guests reveled in the astonishing art gallery created by the incomparable artistry of Lex Marie, pictures were taken by the lovely Terri Baskin Photography, and videos were captured by the great Blair Williams Productions. As an incredible favor to the couple, artist Lex Marie decided to start a live painting of the couple before their arrival. To complete this, Bishop had to send a picture of their outfits before they arrived. Once the couple FINALLY arrived, all guests were moved to the back of the gallery where the room was dimly lit with candles, while gold and purple decor highlighted the room.
Bishop took Sarah through the art gallery, but she questioned where the rest of the partygoers were as he removed her jacket. As Bishop was berated by Sarah's questions regarding the emptiness of the venue, he reassured her that everyone should be in the back. It was then that Sarah saw all the invited guests... including her mother in the crowd! And it was then that the beautiful bride-to-be shed tears of joy and excitement as the love in the room grew with cheers.
Bishop led Sarah down the aisle and they took in the animated crowd that outpoured their love for them....and he began. Bishop spoke from the heart, without anything written, to let Sarah know what he felt about her. Luckily, his words were convincing because once he asked for her hand in marriage, she said "YES!" as more tears fell down her eyes. From there, the couple enjoyed the night with their family and friends as they took pictures and videos with everyone!
ENGAGEMENT SESSION THEME: The theme of the engagement shoot was, “Black people look amazing in vibrant colors.” We both knew that we wanted to do something completely different from the formal engagement shoots we normally see everyone doing.
Sarah’s vision was to take pictures that we could see being in a magazine ad, so it’s amazing that we are being featured in MunaLuchi. We took a picture together a couple of summers ago that really inspired our style for this shoot and we went from there to create a look from our matching sneakers, up.
FAVORITE THING TO DO AS A COUPLE: One of our favorite things to do is watch shows and movies together. We always try to do a movie date night at least once a month at our favorite theater close by. It’s very simple but it’s a great way for us to connect and decompress.
HOW HAS WEDDING PLANNING BEEN SO FAR? Wedding planning has been stressful, to say the least. Because we are both Ghanaian, planning a traditional Ghanaian wedding and a white wedding within the same year has been a huge undertaking. But our wedding planning team B Astonished Events has been so wonderful and has helped us since step one of this journey to make sure that we get everything we are looking for out of our wedding ceremonies.
Looking forward to...
We're looking forward to having a great time with our family and friends in Santorini, Greece. We wanted to give our guests a fun and memorable experience while also celebrating our love story in another country.
Adiah + Alphonse
THE SIXPENCE, WHITESTOWN INDIANA
PHOTOGRAPHED BY HONEY LENS IMAGING
WEDDING DATE: August 27, 2023
WEDDING LOCATION: Whitestown, Indiana
OCCUPATIONS: Home Health Care Aids
HOW THEY MET: We first met in college in 2019. We both went to Indiana state university and Alphonse had seen me on my friend's Snapchat and then he added me. We started talking about music and what we liked and didn’t like. Then after a couple of days, he came over and we met in person. At this time, I didn’t realize that he was trying to get to know me on a more personal level. I just thought he wanted to be my friend. So the whole time we we're talking I was just telling him about my boy problems not even realizing he wanted me.
So after that day, we were supposed to hang out again but we were both busy and never got back around to it until one of my best friends invited me to her house and Alphonse was there as well. Neither one of us knew that we had this mutual friend in common so it was a nice surprise to see each other. That day is when he asked me out on a date to my favorite breakfast restaurant at the time which was Le’ Peep.
PROPOSAL STORY: I love our proposal story! So we got engaged on July 31st, 2022. That weekend my mother had planned to take all of her kids and their significant others to Jamaica. So we got to Jamaica on July 29th. The whole time we were there I never thought that he would propose because Alphonse
always said whenever he proposed he wanted his mother to be there so I was like “No, he’s not going to propose to me here in Jamaica,“ although I wanted him to.
On July 31st, it was a beautiful day. Alphonse and I spent the day in the water with my family and having some drinks on the beach. Then, after a while, everyone left to go back to their rooms to change because they had told me the boys were going to do their own thing and my mom had said she wanted to have a meeting with all her daughters, so I wasn’t thinking anything of it.
I didn’t think anything of it until Alphonse and I went back to our room. He was getting dressed and he had said to me “Tonight I want you to look the prettiest you’ve ever looked,” and he kept smiling at me. So I was like why? Because he never says things like that. He always tells me I look pretty, so I was like hmm what do you have up your sleeve? We both left the room and he went with the boys and I went with the girls. Once I got with the girls my sisters kept trying to fix my hair and give me lip gloss which made me even more suspicious. Then my mom was like “Okay ladies, let's go to the beach.“ And while were walking to the beach I saw my stepdad and my brother walking next to us which was odd to me because it was supposed to be a boy's night for them.
So the closer we got to the beach, my sister told me to give her my phone because she needed to make a call and I was like um okay? Now by this time, we’ve reached the beach and I see my handsome love standing in the middle waiting for me and I’m like what’s going on? My mom was like “We're all about to take couple’s pictures. You and AJ go first.”
So we're standing there taking pictures and then AJ starts doing his proposal speech. I’m standing there like a big goof in total shock. He gets on one knee and asked me to marry him! I was so excited I couldn’t muster out any other word than “Fasho.” He put the ring on my finger and we took pictures on the beach while the sun was setting. It was perfect.
WHEN DID YOU KNOW HE/SHE WAS “THE ONE”?
I knew Alphonse was the one because I had never been treated like this in my life without anyone asking for something in return. He would just take me on dates and never looked for anything in return. He would drive down to my college every week (which was about an hour and a half away from him) to come and take me out on a date, or hang out. He just wanted to see me. I think what really set it off was when I didn’t want to be loved and he still loved me. He is the sweetest most loving man I’ve ever met and he believes in Jesus so that really set it off. What made me really want to be with him was seeing the type of family he came from. I feel like family plays a big part and his family is just filled with love. They love everyone and they welcome everyone
DESCRIBE YOUR ENGAGEMENT SESSION. DID YOU HAVE A THEME? Our engagement session was a great time. I knew I wanted a picnic/fall vibe to it. For a while, I couldn’t figure out where to take the pictures so that’s why I just asked my venue if we could do them there. It was not a problem at all. We did two outfit changes. One set of outfits was incorrect because we were supposed to wear black and white but we forgot my fiancé’s black pants so he had to wear his all-brown suit. The next outfit change was our orange and brown colors. My photographer made sure we had some great golden hour photos. The shoot was amazing, it felt comfortable. My photographer helped us out a lot. She literally heard my idea and made it come to life.
WHAT DID YOU DO ON YOUR FIRST DATE? On our first date, Alphonse took me to my favorite restaurant which is Le’ Peep. It’s a breakfast place. We sat there for two hours talking. We talked about prior relationships, music, our favorite food, and our family. It was honestly a great time. I believe we went on our second date a couple of days later.
YOUR FAVORITE THING TO DO AS A COUPLE?
Our favorite thing to do as a couple is travel and eat. We love just getting out and going places. Our favorite place to go is Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We go at least twice a year. We love Tennessee so much because we believe that’s where we actually fell in love with one another. After Tennessee, we’ve just been so in love with each other.
HOW HAS WEDDING PLANNING BEEN SO FAR?
Honestly, wedding planning hasn’t been that bad. I think I’m more bored than anything. I have a wedding coordinator so she deals with everything which leaves me with nothing to do. Sometimes I would like to have something to do, but at least everything is being taken care of. I think the only stressful part I’ve been working on is making sure my wedding party and I can all still fit in our dresses and suits!
TELL US WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FORWARD TO MOST ON THE WEDDING DAY.
What we are looking forward to the most on our wedding day is saying “I do”. We already live together but saying I do just makes everything so much more official and special.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Natalie Giangiulio of Honey Lens Imaging
VENUE: The Sixpence
EVENT PLANNER: Stephanie Armstrong
Wedding IdeasPHOTOGRAPHED BY OMARIA MCCRAE PHOTOGRAPHY Text by Linda Wallentine
Set against the white canvas walls of the historic 1924 Rialto Theatre in Tampa, Florida, Omaria McCrae creates and captures an intricate scene of classic ethereal romance. “This shoot was nothing more than elegant and dreamy,” she shares. Inspired by high fashion and refined details, Omaria incorporated lavish florals by Flor & Soul, gorgeous stationery by Of Light & Letters, and a color palette of white, stone, and earth tones –the perfect trio for a timeless wedding!
The dreamy shoot exudes every ounce of elegance with the bride wearing an on-trend lace long-sleeved fit and flare gown and the groom wearing a sleek black tux, both from Royal Bridal. A decadent all-white cake by Daisy Delights Events, gold-plated tableware from Oak & Ash Luxury Event Rentals, and a crystal champagne tower added the finishing touches to this delightfully elegant editorial.
CONCEPT DESIGN, PLANNING, PHOTOGRAPHER: Omaria McCrae Photography VENUE: The Rialto Theatre DAY OF
Inspired by a luxury bohemian theme, this chic-styled shoot at Château Bouffémont in Paris is a gorgeous ode to Spring.
With a creative team hailing from the USA, France, Brazil, Romania, and Portugal, Lead Planner, Aurore Astor-Sims of PIEvents and Co., incorporated spring blooms inspired by a color palette of blush, salmon, and pink tones to encourage couples to create their own luscious outdoor ceremonies.
Representing a mixed-race couple, their styled shoot speaks to diverse audiences while the bride’s natural hairstyle strives to inspire Black brides to embrace their natural tresses and love themselves, always.
“We did not spare any details to create the perfect bridal experience: being open to new ideas and ways of doing things, we embraced the diversity of our team. This made a truly unique and memorable event day.” – Aurore Astor-Sims of PIEvents and Co.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY ALEXIA
PRIVITERA | TEXT BY LINDA WALLENTINE
Wedding Planner and Designer: PIEVENTS AND CO Photographer and Styling : ALEXIA PRIVITERA Floral Designer : EXQUISE
DESIGN Beauty : LARISSA BEAUTY PARIS Cake Designer : CAKE DESIGN BY KELLY Videographers : CRIS VIDAL & MAYCON DEHAN
Stationery : BEE IN LOVE Reception Dress : MILLIA LONDON Ceremony Dress : TOP BRIDAL Venue : CHATEAU BOUFFEMONT
The talented Heather Benge and Alexia Woolum of Styled Shoots Across America have crafted yet another timeless and ever-romantic editorial!
Photographer Kimie James shares, “This beautiful shoot called upon the classic aesthetic of Grecian romance, married with all shades of blue, and was kissed with a hint of Southern charm.”
Set against the backdrop of The Estate at River Run in Maiden, Virginia, the shoot seamlessly combines Old World European elements with soft blues and purples to create a classic-meets luxury-inspired wedding.
The beautiful bride, Michelle, donned a romantic corset dress that perfectly complimented both tablescape designs, while elegant florals crafted by Intrigue Designs Student Team (who were assisted by the fabulous MunaCoterie member, Flower Guy Bron!) created larger-than-life centerpieces and an intricate flower staircase installation. Other highlights included a hand-painted champagne bottle and a custom seating cart with bespoke floral seals.
Prepare to be inspired!
PHOTOGRAPHED BY KIMIE JAMES PHOTO AND VIDEO TEXT BY LINDA WALLENTINE
PHOTOGRAPHY: Kimie James Photo and Video
HOST/CONCEPT/PLANNING: Heather Benge and Alexia
Woolum of Styled Shoots Across America
ASSISTANT: Sugar Plum Events
VENUE: The Estate at River Run
FLORIST: Intrigue Designs (Student Team)
FLORAL ASSISTANT: The Flower Guy Bron
WHOLESALE FLORIST: Jet Fresh Flowers
SUPPLIES: Oasis Floral Products
VESSELS & CANDLES: Accent Decor, Inc.
FLORAL SOFTWARE: Curate
HAIR STYLIST: Boho Braids by Ivy
MAKEUP ARTIST: Deja Gentry
STATIONERY: RSVP Love
CAKE: Salted Sprinkle Signature Sweets
RENTALS: Rent Equip
SPECIALTY RENTALS: Nance's Rustic Rentals
LINENS: Nüage Designs
GOWN SALON: Styled Gowns
MEN'S WEAR: Stitch and Tie
TIARA/EARRINGS: White Sands Bridal
PAINTED CANDLES: Courtney Kibby
VEIL: Belle Botanical Creations
LIVE WEDDING PAINTER: Brittany Branson
RING BOXES: The Lovely Ring Boxes
STYLING MATS: The Flat Lays Styler
MODEL: Michelle Gonzales
The Perfect Storm
Khadidra Muhammad of Priceless Event Planning LLC hosted her annual PEP Gala event on April 20, 2023, at Revel Events in Queens, New York! This year’s theme: “The Perfect Storm.”
S ince hosting her first Gala event in October 2018, Khadidra admits, “The PEP Gala has become its own creation!” The now sought-after-gathering of elite event professionals started out as a simple dinner celebrating attendees' hard work in the industry. “Our first celebration was after a workshop. It was very intimate with 50 to 60 guests.”
Today, the event has grown into something so much more significant.
“I wanted attendees to be able to network,” Khadidra explains. Looking back on her own networking experiences, she admits that those events were not always as gratifying as she hoped they would be. “I’ve been to networking events, and they’re cool, but not tailored for US! I was determined. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it my way, unapologetically, and embrace our culture!”
In response, their team invited the best of the best in their fields and created an evening to remember. A night, once a year, where people in the events world can collaborate, connect, and be celebrated. “The PEP Gala has truly become a night created by us for us, where we get to enjoy the experience we create for others. You truly have to be in the room to understand.”
To give you a taste of this year’s luxe event, we invite you to join us in celebrating Priceless Event Planning LLC’s rebranding event: “The Perfect Storm” themed Gala. “We decided this rebrand will show that we can withstand any storm and better yet, become the perfect storm.”
Prepare to experience a networking extravaganza for event industry creatives like no other!PHOTOGRAPHED BY REEM PHOTOGRAPHY Text by Linda Wallentine
What was your inspiration behind this year's theme)?
Priceless Event Planning has grown a lot over the last 6 years. It hasn’t been an easy journey. We definitely struggled and overcame our own storms. We decided this rebrand will show that we can withstand any storm and better yet, become the perfect storm. Destroying anything that gets in our way!
Why do you host these annual celebrations?
When I started event planning as a hobby 12 years ago, I didn’t know of any classes or that this could even be my career. I continued to dibble and dabble here and there, designing events for close friends and family as I was passionate about it and it brought me joy… however it wasn’t profitable. I made many mistakes and definitely was clueless about making it a business.
The beauty of social media is its reach. Learning many people were interested in my journey and noticed our growth. I’ve been to classes in the past but they were very much filtered and not raw enough for me. I want to know the real real, and I decided that I would use my platform to do exactly that. Give you the non-cookie cutter version of the business, the real mistakes that people are too afraid to say they made out loud. Which was the birth of the Pick PEP Brain seminar that has now evolved and become the PEP Masterclass. We do them once a year and then host a Gala where it’s a night created for us, celebrating us, where the event industry creatives get to truly have fun while networking.
Any celebrity clients you'd like to give a shout-out to?
Angela Simmons was our very first celebrity client and it truly started with a slide in the DMs. I’ll never forget, she said ‘I came across your page and your work is amazing.’ It was as organic as that and we just continued to grow. I was sooo excited that someone who goes to events non-stop noticed
something special in this little girl from Brooklyn. Since then I’ve been blessed to create events for some of our high-profile clients such as Mary J Blige, Cardi B, Lil Baby, Kirk Franklin, and professional NBA & NFL athletes to name a few.
Who is your dream client?
My Dream client is Beyoncé for sure!!!! I literally have a pitch deck ready to go with random events for her.
What's your favorite memory from the event?
My favorite moment from the PEP Gala is giving my vendor partners their flowers, letting over 250 guests know that they did this! I love SHOUTING OUT how dope the team I’m blessed to work with is. My second favorite moment is the turning up on the dance floor. It’s nice to see everyone let loose and just be guests partying
Are there any exciting announcements/updates about your brand?
We officially revealed our rebrand at our Gala! Our designs and work is elevating so it was time for the brand to look elevated and match where we are at now. We are also excited to share our YouTube channel, PEP Productions TV, where you’ll get a BTS series of our event world.
DESIGN & PRODUCTION: Priceless Event Planning LLC
VIDEOGRAPHY: Alejandro Dario Films
LIGHTING & PRODUCTION: Lectro
BALLOONS: POParazzi Balloons
DRAPES: Perez Events
DANCE FLOOR: Emg Prints
FLORAL DESIGNER: Ivie Joy Floral Arts
FLORAL DESIGNER: NYC Flower Project
VENUE: Ravel Events
CAKES & DESSERTS: Sweet Touch By Iva
FURNITURE RENTALS: Glam Party
Rentals, Silvera Event Furnishings, Lap Of Luxury, and RSVP Event Rentals
CATERER: Delivering Experiences
CLASS & DECOR PHOTOGRAPHER: Daniel Serette of Danni Da Davinchi
FABRICATORS: Maria & J Creations & Evolution Rentals
BRANDING & MENUS & SIGNAGE: Design 35 NY
PRINTS: Sign Boyz Graphics & Prints
CARPET: It’s Two Bros
MODEL: Catherine Lamour
STYLIST: Vainglorious Brides
DRESS: Matopeda Atelier
MUA: Aundra Van Dyke
HAIR: The Real Janel Smith
GRAPHICS: The MEP Collective
RENDERING: Celebrate 3D Event
DJS: The Real DJ Ty & The Real DJ Kidd
ROLLED ICE CREAM: Lyxr Bar Event
GALA PHOTOGRAPHER: Calvin G
STYLED SHOOT PHOTOGRAPHER:
LINENS: The Finishing Touch NY
BARTENDERS: Gypsy Bartender
LIQUOR PARTNER: Plush Vodka
FLORAL SUPPLIERS: FMI Farms & Colgarden Group
BALLOON DISTRIBUTOR: Havin A Party
BRANDED PAPERGOODS: Funfetti
SMOOTHIES: Event Carts NYC
FRINGE: 730 Balloons
TRANSPORTATION: Family 1st Luxury
MC: Kelvin Taitt
GREETER: Jason Hurt
FLORHAM PARK, NEW JERSEY | FEBRUARY 26, 2023PHOTOGRAPHED BY TRISHA JAY PHOTOGRAPHY
Rose and Michael’s elegant and chic wedding was not only a celebration of love, but a celebration of who they are as individuals and as a couple.
The pair were first introduced by a mutual friend in their Japanese language exchange group. They quickly discovered that they were both Haitian Americans with a love for culture, travel, games, languages, and foreign films. With so many shared passions it didn’t take long for Rose and Michael to fall head over heels for one another.
Michael amped up the surprise factor by proposing casually amongst mutual friends on what Rose thought was a typical Friday night out. Rose shares, “His other friends asked us about rings and weddings, and I turned to Michael and joked "You better propose soon." Michael said "Sure, how about now?" and pulled out a beautiful ring.” She couldn’t have been more ecstatic!
Rose and Michael wanted their wedding to authentically reflect their personalities, relationship, and unique style. Their love of art, culture, and foreign languages was beautifully incorporated throughout the entire ceremony. They had elegant ballet dancers dance down the aisle as their flower girls and included Creole, their native language, and Japanese in the lecture reading and service.
Despite having a winter wedding, Rose and Michael didn’t want any white flowers in their floral arrangements. As a result, their florals were bold, colorful, and elegant; perfectly representing Rose and Michael’s styles and personalities.
Wedding flowers: Roses, peonies, anemones, greenery, larkspur, eucalyptus, etc.
Favorite item on the menu: We don’t have a favorite, everything was excellent.
Bridesmaids/Groomsmen Gifts: Jewelry for the bridesmaids and custom cuff links for the groomsmen.
Gifts for one another: We gifted each other Jewelry.
Groom’s Ceremony entrance song: “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton
Bride’s Ceremony entrance song: “Fall for You” by Leela James
First dance song: “Anything for You” by Ledisi
Advice for brides: Enjoy the moment and stay present. It goes by fast!
PLANNING + DESIGN PRODUCTION: JP Events & Design
FLORALS: JP Events & Design
FLORAL SUPPLIER: Flower Marketplace
PHOTOGRAPHY: Trisha Jay Photography
VIDEOGRAPHY: Luxor Wedding Films
CUSTOM GOWN: Jean-Ralph Thurin
BRIDAL SALON: Jean-Ralph Thurin
BRIDAL MUA: Juicy Looks by Abby
BRIDAL HAIR: Yanniz Hair Den LLC
MALE GROOMING: Shaleira Smith
BRIDESMAIDS MUA: Shaleira Smith
STATIONERY: By Dami Studios NYC
CELEBRITY HAITIAN ARTIST: Mickael Guirand
CUSTOM SEATING CHART: By Dami Studios NYC
VENUE: The Park Savoy Estate
FLOOR WRAP DESIGN: By Dami Studios NYC
FLOOR WRAP: Shout
CUSTOM STAGE: Prestige Luxury Rentals LLC
CAKE: Palermo Bakery
CATERING: The Park Savoy
CULTURAL BITES: Breez Gourmet
TABLETOP: EBF Party Rental
CHAIRS & TABLES: Glam Party Rentals
LINENS & NAPKINS: Nüage Designs Inc.
BRIDAL HEADPIECE: Bridal Styles Boutique
BRIDE’S VEIL: Jean-Ralph Thurin
BRIDE'S SHOES: Aminah Abdul Jillil
BRIDESMAIDS DRESSES: Da Vinci
FLOWER GIRL DRESS: Monbebe Couture
GROOM’S ATTIRE: Billionaire New York
GROOMSMEN ATTIRE: Men’s Warehouse
LIGHTING PRODUCTION & ENTERTAINMENT: Lectro
DJ: Pulse Sounds
BALLERINA PERFORMANCES: Naiya and Maiya
MEGANN + MICHAEL
JULY 7, 2022
BY FINE ART STUDIO PHOTOGRAPHY
From their first meeting during Megann’s football game in the Legends Football League (LFL) in Philadelphia, PA, to a spectacular underwater proposal, this couple’s whimsical and romantic love story shows us what can happen when you choose the right team!
Megann and Michael’s sun-filled nuptials overlooking the Caribbean Sea captured by Fine Art Studio Photography were the picture-perfect bohemian glam wedding in Mexico that we needed.
Not only was their wedding an all-out boho glam affair, but the bride’s ceremony dress from Blini perfectly captured the beauty of the natural surroundings of their destination wedding. The stunning gown featured gorgeous pearl detailing, a fabulous formal train, and the sexiest high slit for added high-wattage glamour.
The couple’s incredible three-day celebration at their beachfront venue in Casa Malca Talum was designed by lead planner Magnolia Events and featured floral designs by Liz Alarcón who created the couple’s floral chandelier wedding arch and their enchanted fairy garden-inspired reception.
Advice for brides: Don’t forget to eat on your wedding night. Make sure your wedding planner puts a plate aside for you. I don’t remember even tasting that food past the tasting!
Ceremony entrance song: “Angel of Mine” covered by Jac Ross
First dance song: “You” by Jessy Powell Gifts for one another: I received a beautiful tennis bracelet, and Dwayne got the best gift of all: me.
Bridesmaids gifts: We gave our bridesmaids designer, sunglasses robes, Jimmy Choo lipsticks, and gold ankle bracelets. Groomsmen received a personalized football, socks, and designer sunglasses.
FLORAL DESIGNER: Liz Alarcón PLANNER: Magnolia Events VENUE: Casa Malca PHOTOGRAPHER: Fine Art Studio Photography
VIDEOGRAPHER: Fine Art Studio Photography RENTALS: Planner 1 Events, Red Carpet, MSM Rentals, & Gama Group ENTERTAINMENT: Drums in Paradise WEDDING PR: My Planner Journal SHOES: Jimmy Choo DRESS DESIGNER: Blini Official STATIONERY: Blossom Invitation WELCOME BAGS: The Creatiff One
KEYONA + STEVEN
NOVEMBER 19, 2022
PHOTOS BY TEMILOLA PHOTO
Text by Lily Taylor
When Keyona and Steven met in college, they would have never guessed what was in store for them in the future. Their first interaction was brief; “far from the beginning of a love story,” Keyona shares. The second time they met was a year later at an Atlanta Greek Picnic. They exchanged numbers, but neither of them texted until two years later when one of Keyona’s IG posts caught Steven’s eye. Once they started talking, they couldn’t stop!
Steven always told Keyona he wouldn’t propose on a holiday or birthday. Using this to his advantage, he decided to surprise Keyona by proposing on her 31st birthday! As they walked through Central Park after having drinks and taking in the city skyline, Steven stopped at Bethesda Terrace. Enjoying the view of the lake, Keyona had no suspicions, so when she turned around to see Steven on his knee, she was shocked and overcome with happiness.
Keyona and Steven held their wedding in North Carolina, the bride’s home state. Their boho chic wedding featured lovely mauve, green, and neutral tones and whimsical florals, which perfectly complimented the bride’s, groom’s, and wedding party’s gorgeous attire. They made priceless memories celebrating their love and danced the night away with family and friends.
First dance song: “So Amazing” by Luther Vandross
Favorite menu items: Braised short ribs
Advice from the Bride: Be in the moment, the day goes by fast. Do not get distracted by the little things. Enjoy every moment.
BRIDE'S DRESS: Casablanca Bridal
BRIDAL SALON: New York Bride and Groom of Raleigh
BRIDE’S HEADPIECE AND/OR VEIL: Amazon
BRIDE'S SHOES: Mischka Badgley
BRIDESMAID’S DRESSES: Jessica Angel – Dazzle Couture
CAKES/DESSERTS: Delectable Cakes LLC
CATERING: Rocky Top Catering
CEREMONY VENUE: The Distillery
EVENT DECOR/DESIGN: De’Veilope Events
ENTERTAINMENT: DJ Milliano – AAM Entertainment Group
EVENT PLANNER: De’Veilope Events
FLORALS: De’Veilope Events
GROOM'S ATTIRE: Dapper Couture custom suits
GROOMSMEN ATTIRE: Dapper Couture custom suits
HAIR: The Glam Experience – Amber Marie
LIGHTING: De’Veilope Events + (up lighting provided by DJ for reception)
LINENS: CE rentals
MAKEUP: Amber Lynne
PHOTOGRAPHY: Temilola Photo – Temilola Ajibulu
RECEPTION VENUE: The Distillery
RENTALS: CE rentals
STATIONERY: The M Design Shoppe
VIDEOGRAPHY: 3rdiphotography – Najah Baker
BAR SERVICE: Artful Libations
CAR RENTAL: Carolina Classic Car Rentals
DAHLIA + TAVIN
FINEST PLAYA MUJERES
MAY 5TH, 2022
PHOTOGRAPHED BY LINDA MCQUEEN
Tavin and Dahlia first fell in love with each other’s company and soon after, each other’s hearts.
After meeting in 2015 on her first week on the job, Tavin knew Dahlia was special. She shares, “Every time Dahlia walked into the room, [she] took my breath away… she had me wrapped around her finger early on.”
During that first week working together, the pair bonded over open and honest conversations. Discussing everything from their families to their sexualities, and the hardships they’ve faced, their talks were brave and boundless. These shared moments of curiosity and vulnerability ultimately led them to jump from friendship into love.
Tavin knew Dahlia was “the one” when her brother, Vaughn, lost his battle with brain cancer. During this incredibly difficult time, Dahlia relentlessly stood by her side. At the funeral, Tavin’s feelings were further affirmed when she heard her brother speak to her, saying: “She is going to watch over you for me. Make sure you treat her right.”
Tavin recalls, “As his voice faded away, I felt the tightest embrace from behind me followed by the sweet notes of fragrance lingering in the air. As I looked up, I saw Dahlia holding me with tears in her eyes, saying 'It's going to be okay; I got you.'.”
From then on, Tavin knew Dahlia was her person, and on a surprise trip to Dahlia’s homeland, Jamaica, Tavin equally surprised Dahlia by asking her to spend forever with her! Without hesitation, Dahlia said yes!
The beautiful brides said “I Do!” in a traditional and elegant destination wedding at the Finest Playa Mujeres in Mexico. Their picture-perfect day was truly a gift from God!
"The best memory of our wedding is having all our family traveling from all over the world meeting us in Mexico, the smiles that we put on each other's faces as we watched one another walk down the aisle, and most of all, our warm heartfelt vows that we wrote to each other." - Tavin and Dahlia
Bridesmaids gifts: Bridesmaids received a beach tote bag which included a robe, slippers, bride squad bathing suit, custom visor with the bridesmaid name, and a custom towel for the beach being that it was a destination wedding.
First dance song: “Sent from Heaven” by Keyshia Cole
Groomsmen gifts: Groomsmen received their favorite NBA team duffel bag which included a custom jersey, matching team slides, a custom towel, custom pair of sunglasses, trunks, and a picture of them and me when asking if they will be a part of my wedding.
PLANNING & DESIGN: Toni Antrobus of Herkreations ASSOCIATE PLANNER: Ellie Simpson BRIDE’S DRESS: Deobridals BRIDE'S SHOES: Christian Louboutin HEADPIECE/VEIL: SuReina Bridal SUIT DESIGNER: Garçon Couture PHOTOGRAPHY: Linda McQueen Photography VIDEOGRAPHY: Luxor Wedding Films MAKEUP: Roshay Brown BRIDAL STYLIST: Stacie the Stylist ACRYLIC DETAILS: Design35newyork STATIONERY: Oda Creative WEDDING
CAKE: Lovely Layers Cakery FLORALS: NYC Flower Project/ Monaco Flowers RENTALS: Dezibel Event Productions ENTERTAINMENT: Everet Sound CEREMONY & RECEPTION VENUE: Finest Playa Mujeres
"Your wedding day is the most beautiful and priceless moment you can ever have. That feeling of butterflies and tears of joy you receive just know it is the best feeling especially when you are about to marry your best friend, soulmate, and last of all, your PERSON" - Tavin and Dahlia
TIFFANY + DANE
NOVEMBER 12, 2022
PHOTOGRAPHED BY REEM PHOTOGRAPHYText by Marie D. Smith
And just like that, the internet wins again and is the perfect matchmaker, this time with Tiffany and Dane!
After meeting up IRL and deciding to become a couple, while Dane was deployed to Japan, the pair’s relationship continued to flourish and they knew that they wanted to spend forever together. During a magical outdoor evening in the Big Apple, Dane popped the question and the two spent a romantic evening celebrating their engagement with excited friends and family.
With wedding planning next on the horizon, both Dane and Tiffany felt it was important to honor their Caribbean heritage by infusing elements such as food, wedding favors, music, and more into their four-day wedding event.
Luxury Wedding and Event Planner, Shikima Hinds, and Photographer, Kareem Virgo, collaborated with the couple to capture and bring all the gorgeous elements of their outdoor wedding to life. Guests were treated to a stunning ceremony under a perfect Jamaican sky seated beneath a softly draped linen wedding tent to watch Tiffany walk down the aisle in a spectacular gold Brides by Nona gown.
Their stylish destination wedding was nothing short of perfection and added to the tropical beach background that crowned an already beautiful day with an added touch of magic.
Wedding flowers: Roses, hydrangeas, and phalaenopsis orchids.
Favorite items on the menu: Coconut Red Thai and Kaffir Lime Fresh Catch.
Bride/groom gifts: Rolex Watch, 8 Ct. Diamond Tennis Necklace
First dance song: “Even More” by MAJOR. Advice for brides: Do not skimp. This is an important day and the love is in the details. Finding unique ways to personalize the wedding experience makes for lasting memories for both you and your spouse and lasting impressions for your guests.
BRIDE'S DRESS: Brides by Nona
BRIDE’S HEADPIECE AND/OR VEIL: Su Reina Bridal
BRIDE'S SHOES: Renè Caovilla
BRIDESMAIDS DRESSES: Brides by Nona
CAKES/DESSERTS: Cakes by Noida
CATERING: The Cliff Hotel
CEREMONY VENUE: The Cliff Hotel
WEDDING EVENT DECOR: Tai Flora Luxe
EVENT DESIGN: Shikima Hinds Events & Concierge
ENTERTAINMENT: Elite Media Concepts, MAJOR., Silver Birds Entertainment
EVENT PLANNER: Shikima Hinds Events & Concierge
FLORALS/DECOR/LINENS: Tai Flora Luxe
LIGHTING: Elite Media Concepts & Tai Flora Luxe
GROOM'S ATTIRE: Eaden Myles Clothing Company
GROOMSMEN ATTIRE: San Marko
HAIR: Janel Sealy Smith and Anetris Henderson
MAKEUP: Alaina Saulsberry of Color Du Jour
PHOTOGRAPHY: Reem Photography
RECEPTION VENUE: The Cliff Hotel
STATIONERY: By Dami Studios
VIDEOGRAPHY: Elite Media Concepts
HOOKAH CATERING: Harlem Hookah
FIREWORKS: Fireworks & Explosives Effects Ltd.
RECEPTION JUMPSUIT: Ryan Patros
FAVORS: Wray and Nephew
TRUST AND TENTING: Starlight Production
BRIDAL PARTY ROBES: Vtabi
AISLE RUNNER: The Original Runner Co.
"Our celebration was 4 days of festivities with countless unforgettable memories. On the wedding day, my favorite memory was walking down the aisle. It felt like an out-of-body experience. When I was at the end of the aisle, the beauty of it all took my breath away: our closest family and friends all dressed in white, the ceremony tent with all the flowers, the beautiful backdrop of Jamaica that looked like a painting, and my love waiting for me at the end of the aisle."
DONNESHA + DEMARCUS
BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA
NOVEMBER 12, 2022
PHOTOGRAPHED BY MARQUEZ FOTOS
Text by Linda Wallentine
Agirl walks into a bar…
“We met on a Saturday,” Donnesha recalls, smiling. “As I walked up to the wine bar, DeMarcus was walking up as well and he said, ‘You are short.’ We both started laughing because it was accurate. I’m 4’11 and he is 6’3.”
Looking handsome in a red and black striped shirt with black pants, Donnesha was intrigued by this mystery man. DeMarcus was equally smitten by Donnesha who was equal parts sophisticated and sexy in her black jumpsuit. He took the moment to introduce himself and they sat at the bar together. They talked for two hours!
“We were really interested in each other’s lives,” Donnesha shares. “We were both professionals, familyoriented, single, and highly ambitious. It was a breath of fresh air to have a genuine conversation with someone without them trying to impress you or make their own life seem better than it actually was.”
Their genuine connection gradually blossomed into love, and on their one-year anniversary, DeMarcus surprised Donnesha by proposing to her at the wine bar where they first met. The couple marked the official beginning of their lives together in an elegant southern wedding with 200 guests in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They couldn’t imagine a more magical day!
Bridesmaids' Gifts: Jewelry, purses, champagne flutes, and robes.
Groomsmen Gifts: Lapel pins, watches. socks and cocktail glasses.
Gifts for one another: A watch and pearl set.
Groom’s entrance song: An instrumental version of “Tom Ford” played by the violinist.
Bride’s entrance song: “You and I (Nobody in the World)” by John Legend.
First dance song: “U Move, I Move” by John Legend featuring Jhene Aiko.
"Expect the unexpected on your wedding day and DO NOT let it get you down. You are only doing this once and it will still be magical."
COORDINATOR: Occasions by Audi Brown
PHOTOGRAPHER: Marquez Fotos
WEDDING VENUE: Louisiana’s Old State Capitol
RECEPTION VENUE: Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center
CAKE: Nina Bakes Cakes
FLORIST & DECOR: Floraeventi
DRESS/VEIL: Ese Azenabor
TUXEDO: Fellow Menswear
HAIR: Hair by Priss
VIDEOGRAPHY: Studio87 Visuals
FIREWORKS: Pyromania Fireworks, LLC
BRIDESMAIDS DRESSES: Bella Bridesmaids
GROOMSMEN ATTIRE: Men’s Wearhouse
CAKES/DESSERTS: Nina Bakes Cakes
CATERING: Hilton Baton Rouge
ENTERTAINMENT: Universal Language Band/ DJ Neff
RENTALS: Mélange Event Rentêrie
STATIONERY: Isabella Invitations
TAMARA + KARIS
OLD CITY PHILADELPHIA
VOW RENEWAL: FEBRUARY 18, 2023
PHOTOGRAPHED BY BIANCA DAVIS PHOTOGRAPHYText by Linda Wallentine
Tamara and Karis commemorated their love in an intimate vow renewal in Old City Philadelphia (the city where they first fell in love!), 18 years to the day of their wedding anniversary.
Looking back on their first nuptials, Tamara recalls, “If you saw us that day, there was no indication that Karis and I had gotten married, other than our ridiculously silly smiles and our marriage certificate.”
They were young, broke, but most importantly, in love – and that’s all that matters! However, this time around, the couple wanted their “We Do Redo” to be perfect. And since Tamara is a full-fledged florist and event planner of her company, Lush Meetings & Events, she had to pull out all the stops!
Choosing a beautiful brownstone mansion on Strawberry Street in Old City Philadelphia, the pair incorporated their love of travel with nods to one of their favorite destinations: Europe. With the help of her
mom and sister, Tamara created an essence of the French countryside with hundreds of lush flowers and greenery. From garden roses to lavender, and Tamara’s favorite, orchids, the venue was transformed into a beautiful Parisian paradise. Tamara’s guilty pleasure for luxury fashion was also infused through their attire and even in their cake by KMT Cakery – an exact replica of a Yves Saint Laurent shopping bag!
Other highlights of their vow renewal included custom-crafted cocktails, timeless decor, and reading each other's vows out loud to one another. Tamara shares, “We had never exchanged vows, not even love letters really, so this simple act was very emotionally moving for us.”
Ultimately, their second time saying “I Do” was a testament to their teenage love and a beautiful representation of their grown-up love, today. Cheers to the Bride and Groom!
EVENT PLANNING, DESIGN, FLORALS, & DÉCOR: Lush Meetings & Events
PHOTOGRAPHY: Bianca Davis Photography
HAIR (BRIDE): Zoe Sky Salon
MAKEUP: Ira Anthony Beauty LLC
HER 1ST LOOK (WHITE DRESS): June Pillow Mini Dress from Akira
HER 2ND LOOK (BLACK SET): Nina Tulle Skirt Set from Fashion Nova
BRIDE’S BELT: Yves Saint Laurent Chaine Et Baton Buckle Belt In Crocodile-Embossed Leather
BRIDE’S SHOES: Yves Saint Laurent Opyum Heels
WEDDING RING: Gucci Crystal Double G Ring
NECKLACE: Gucci Crystal Double G Necklace
HAIR (HIM): Modern Clean Cuts
HIS SUIT: Tates Menswear
GROOM’S BELT: Salvatore Ferragamo Belt
GROOM’S WATCH: Movado Watch
GROOM’S SHOES: Crocodile Leather Loafers by Mezlan
DESSERT TRIFLES: Monet Anise Catering
CAKE: KMT Cakery
COCKTAILS: Kitty On Top Bartending
INVITATION STATIONERY & MENUS: Chelsey Ayres (Artist)
CALLIGRAPHY TRANSCRIPTION OF THE VOWS & PLACE
CARDS: Callie By Allie
MIRRORED DESSERT TABLE: Vision Furniture
CHINA DINNERPLATES & IVORY NAPKINS: A to Z Party
COOMA + JARED
LIVE! CASINO & HOTEL MARYLAND
SEPTEMBER 24, 2022
PHOTOGRAPHED BY TUNJI STUDIOText by Linda Wallentine
After a chance meeting at a college party in 2011, Cooma and Jared's lives were forever changed (and unbeknownst to them, forever entwined!).
Cooma recalls, “From across the room, I couldn't help but notice this handsome tall dark-skinned black man, who was just my type. He had a confident demeanor and an infectious smile. I was immediately drawn to him, but I was too intimidated to make a move.”
Later that night as Cooma and her friends were figuring out where to go next, she turned around briefly and heard someone say, "Oh, so I get the overthe-shoulder?". She looked back and of course, it was Jared! They struck up a conversation and after an hour of talking, Cooma bravely asked for Jared’s number. They’ve been inseparable ever since!
Following a surprise winter-wonderland proposal on a staycation at National Harbor, Jared and Cooma said “I Do” in a beautiful wedding at Live! Casino & Hotel in Maryland. Their nuptials were an elevated and bohemian affair with chic details, including a neutral color palette and pampas grass accents, with luxury chairs, grand floral arrangements, and candelabras.
The couple also blended their cultures (Cooma’s Ghanaian roots and Jared’s Black American background) by hosting a traditional Ghanaian wedding a few days prior to their American wedding and jumping the broom.
“It was a day that I will always cherish and remember,” Cooma shares. “And I am grateful for every moment.”
Wedding flowers: Roses and Pampas Grass
Favorite item on the menu: Peppercorn Steak
First dance song: “Here and Now” by Luther Vandross & “Adiepena” by KiDi Advice for brides: It's easy to get caught up in the planning and stress of the day, but at the end of it all, what matters most is the love that you share with your partner. Take a deep breath, enjoy the moments, and trust that everything will come together beautifully. Remember that this is just the beginning of a lifetime together, so savor the day, but also look forward to all the amazing memories that are yet to come.
EVENT PLANNER: MasterPlan Events PHOTOGRAPHY: Tunji Studio VIDEOGRAPHY: Maxwell Jennings | BRIDE'S 1ST & 2ND DRESS: Valdrin Sahiti
BRIDE’S ROBE: Saadia Sanusi | BRIDE’S HEADPIECE: Collier Accessory | VEIL: Valdrin Sahiti BRIDE'S SHOES: Aquazzurra | BRIDESMAIDS DRESSES:
Saadia Sanusi CAKES/DESSERTS: Fluffy Thoughts CATERING: Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland | CEREMONY VENUE: Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland
FLORALS: Everything Luxe Décor | ENTERTAINMENT (DJ): DJ Akuaa ENTERTAINMENT (MC): Fresh Impressionz | ENTERTAINMENT (360 BOOTH): Dab inc ENLARGED BRIDE & GROOM PHOTOS: Haddad Events | FLORALS FOR BRIDAL ROOM: Assembly by K GROOM'S ATTIRE: Eaden Myles |
GROOM’S SHOES : Magnanni GROOMSMEN ATTIRE: Eaden Myles | HAIR : Lavoure HAIR EXTENSIONS: Jenti Hair HAIR (GROOM): Da’Cari Abraham
\ LIGHTING: The LightSource Company | LINENS: Select Event Group MAKEUP (BRIDE): Makeup by Pnang | MAKEUP (BRIDESMAIDS): Freestyle on the Beat MONOGRAM DESIGN: Black Frame Creative | RECEPTION VENUE: Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland | RENTALS: Select Event Group | STATIONERY: Etsy
T'KIYAH + CHRISTOPHER
T'Kiyah and Christopher’s waterfront wedding at the Half Moon Celebration Center in Norfolk, Virginia, was a dreamy affair.
Set in a stunning black and white themed floor-toceiling glass windows ceremony space, T’Kiyah’s entrance was preceded by charismatic flower men who set the energy high for the couple’s I Do’s. At the altar, the pair exchanged vows that brought tears and laughter.
A lively sunset reception followed with pops of yellows and luscious floral details. Highlights of the evening included an aerialist, a live band, Greek Hymns and Strolls by their respective Sorority (Women of Delta Sigma Theta) and Fraternity (Men of Kappa Alpha Psi), and an unforgettable New Orleans-style first-line parade through downtown Norfolk.
Their over-the-top wedding with endless entertainment makes sense for this creative pair who first met through the events industry. At the time, T’Kiyah (a Wedding Planner and Owner of TKO Events), was living in Florida while planning her mom’s 50th birthday celebration. Searching on Facebook for ‘best DJs in Florida,’ all the reviews mentioned Chris “DJ Cee Kay.” T’Kiya shares, “It started off as business and here we are 6 years later – NEWLYWEDS!”Text by Linda Wallentine
Ceremony entrance songs: Chris - “Rain” by Kanye West & Sunday Service // T'Kiyah - “First Time” by Teek
First dance song: “Stuck on You” by Kem Bridesmaids/Groomsmen gifts: The ladies received classic diamond Chanel brooches, Uggs slippers, wedding day jewelry, and mini crossbody bags filled with mints and gloss! The guys received a gift bag full of a variety of Jimmy Choo, Tom Ford, and Gucci travel colognes, Cuban cigars, a cigar cutter, a torcher lighter, bow ties, and a personal airplane bottle. Gifts for one another: They decided not to do gifts but T'Kiyah gifted Chris with a new Ipad because he's been talking about getting one FOREVER!! She loves spoiling him!
Advice for brides: HIRE A WEDDING PLANNER. Be specific with your vendors You only have 1 shot to do this, so do it big, or don't do it at all!
VIDEOGRAPHY: Optikool illusions ENTERTAINMENT: Cee Kay Soundz, LLC DJ Showout LIVE BAND: CJ Baker Entertainment AERIALIST: Visual Artistry Entertainment
STATIONERY: Ten23Designs | Dolled Out & Planned Up Events RENTALS: Elegant Occasions by Krista Capital Productions Group VENUE: Half Moone Celebration Center CAKE: Cake Couture Boutique CATERING: East Beach Catering BRIDAL SUITE DECOR: HL Event Designs BRIDE'S DRESS: Lena Berisha BRIDESMAIDS' DRESSES: Albert Montris HAIR: Hadassah Artistry MAKEUP: Lucid Beauty MUA NAILS: Top Notch Tiips BRIDAL ASSISTANT: Style By Angela GROOM'S TUX: Kashmere Bespoke
GROOM'S HAIR: Tress Assured GROOMSMEN TUXES: Dapper Couture