When we ask newlyweds to think back on what they wanted most for their big day — and we’ve interviewed hundreds of them over the years — the most common response is: “For it not to feel like a wedding!” But in a monsoon of flower crowns and macaroon towers, how to see beyond the usual tropes and actually pull off a non-cookie-cutter affair? For the answer, we’ve decided to interrogate the cool couples whose weddings we would actually want to steal — right down to the tiger-shaped cake toppers.
Here, we talked to Helena Barquet and Fabiana Faria: The pair fell in love working at a Chelsea gallery, went into business opening a store of their own — the Lower East Side homewares wonderland Coming Soon — and, finally, this past Valentine’s Day, said “I do” at the top of the Empire State Building.
Fabiana: We were home watching When Harry Met Sally when — I don’t know how it came up — we wanted to see what color the lights of the Empire State Building were that night. We went to the building’s Instagram page.
Helena: Fabi went on her phone and was like, “Oh, they’re having a contest to get married on top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day.” And right then, we just decided to enter.
Fabiana: I didn’t think we would actually get picked. They ask you to send a photo of yourselves and write your love story. We met while working together in a gallery in Chelsea; after a few months, we did a pop-up in the Hamptons and that’s where it started to get romantic. We left the gallery in 2012, and opened our store Coming Soon right after that. I never thought too much about marriage, growing up and being gay. When we opened the store, that was very committal and final in my mind. Once we opened it, it felt like we were married. We had to sign documents. You couldn’t just run away.
Helena: We found out we won the Empire State Building contest a month later. At first we were like, “Ew, wait — is it going to be us in a joint ceremony with like 14 other couples?” But no, it was just us. And then we had to plan our entire wedding in basically two and a half weeks.
Fabiana: We already had my wedding ring. Before we got engaged — I proposed on Valentine’s Day of 2018 — I didn’t want to do a traditional engagement ring. I had it designed by our friend, Suzannah Wainhouse. She’s an artist now, a painter, but she used to make jewelry and we’d sell it in the store. Helena always loved her jewelry. It was big and chunky.
Helena: I would have this period in which I kept her pieces out at the store, and then all of a sudden I’d be like, that’s long enough — if nobody’s bought it yet, I should have it! I wanted to keep all the jewelry.
Fabiana: We got the final product, and it was really big, heavy, and fat. Suzannah did this incredible, beautiful ring, but it wasn’t practical to use. So then we went to Anna Sheffield, who’s amazing, another friend of ours. She was like, “Don’t worry, we’ll just slice it, on this angle!” She sliced the engagement ring, and it was enough for me to have a wedding band out of it. It turned out to be exactly what we wanted. We wanted to be able to stack the rings. And then Helena’s wedding band, we also got from Anna Sheffield.
Helena: I also already had my wedding dress. We had originally planned on getting married in Iceland, but then the venue fell through; back in September, I had bought a Champagne-colored dress with green feathers at Opening Ceremony ($2,000). It was by Dries Van Noten — that’s the first designer I ever remember, like, saving all my money for; to have something of his, and I still have it. And then, after ten years of wanting a pair of Margiela Tabi shoes ($1,160), I was finally like, I’m getting married! I’m buying these shoes!
Fabiana: For me, I only had three weeks to go suit-shopping. I knew that I wanted to wear Gucci, and I’m lucky in that my cousin is married to a menswear stylist — her name is Shala Rothenberg. She had a guy at the Gucci store. He pulls out this suit that had tigers on it ($3,500), and I’m like: What? I have to have that. Helena and I were both born in the year of the tiger.
Helena: A week before the wedding, I tried on my dress and discovered that, because it has this, cape, it wasn’t going to fit with the armholes of any of my coats. So I found this Jil Sander coat ($2,000) on super sale at NeedSupply.com, a favorite shopping site of mine. Also about a week before, we actually went up to the Empire State Building, to sort of do a walkthrough — and I realized how windy it was. I started thinking, “Oh, I should probably put something in my hair.” We normally work with Brittany Asch from BRRCH for flowers; we do a lot of things with her here at the store and she’s like, a flower artist. I sent her photos from a Rodarte show where they did all these floral things in their hair. Their fashion shows are so inspiring and beautiful. That was all Brittany needed from me — otherwise, the next time we heard from her was when the hairpieces arrived at 8 p.m. the night before.
Fabiana: I wanted some kind of crown, so for mine she tied together laurel leaves that were spray painted gold. It was Brittany’s crazy season — around Valentine’s Day and Fashion Week — but she made it happen for us.
Helena: It’s amazing how many things can fall into place when you don’t have much time. At the last minute I realized I needed “something old”, and I pulled out these earrings I’ve had forever, by Delfina Delettrez, probably like one of her oldest things that she’s ever designed since she started her business in 2007. I decided to wear just one; it just seemed to work perfectly with the green feathers of my dress. And Fabi loves the color green.
Fabiana: The wedding time was 7 a.m., before the Empire State Building opens to the public. Our first look was at 5 o’clock in the morning. We had our photographer iO Tillett Wright and his girlfriend Rachel in the room, because Rachel was doing our hair. It was really special. I kinda like getting up that early. I used to surf, so it reminds me of that. It was a gorgeous day.
Helena: We’ve both known iO since before we were a couple. He’s been one of Fabiana’s best friends since she first came to New York, so that was really special. We were surrounded by only our closest friends and family — we didn’t have a choice; the maximum number we could have up at the Empire State Building was 15!
Fabiana: We were able to invite about another 50 people for the reception — we rented out Air’s Champagne Parlor in the West Village from 10 a.m. to 1 or 2 p.m. Ariel Arce, who owns the Champagne Parlor, bought a lot of things that are in the parlor now from our store, the big rose mirrors and all the sconces. That’s how we met her. Right before the wedding, she wanted us to hire us to help her design her new spot, Niche Niche. We were like, don’t pay us, but … let us have our reception at the Champagne Parlor? She was like, Of course! It was funny, because everyone who went, said, Oh my God, did you guys decorate this? No, it just looks like this! And again, we love Champagne. Every time we say it was at a Champagne Parlor, everyone looks at Helena and laughs. Like, of course you found a Champagne place.
Helena: We loved the idea of basically Champagne and oysters, which we got from Air’s. And then the other thing that we love a lot is Russ & Daughters; we eat it for dinner all the time, We knew how easy their catering is, and again, we were dealing with Valentine’s Day and at this point it was like a week before the big day. So we ordered basically our favorite things from Russ & Daughters and it was great.
Fabiana: Really New York-y. We did the different sable and salmon and all that, some crudite, the egg salads, their cold fish salads.
Helena: We didn’t bring in flowers or other décor — just a playlist for some music. And we didn’t have any speeches, either; everyone was really excited to be there and just catching up and talking.
Helena: The cake was very simple, no colors, just white. We got it for $250 from M&W Bakery on East Broadway in Chinatown, because it’s our local bakery. It’s not a place where you can get too complicated with the orders, so I just walked in and said, “Can I have a vanilla cake?”. They asked what I wanted on the inside; I said vanilla. They asked how many tiers, and that was the first time I ever thought about tiers. I said, “Three!” Three’s a good number, a lucky number.
Fabiana: Instead of a girl and a girl, we put two tigers on the cake that we bought for $12 each on Amazon.
Helena: Even though we’d ordered all this food that I love, I actually wound up eating nothing, not even the wedding cake. So after the reception ended we stopped at our store and then went to Scarr’s Pizza, which is across the street.
Fabiana: We got home in the late afternoon, and then it was time for our ring tattoos. The tattoo artist Minka Sicklinger is our friend — she agreed to come to our house, and we worked with her to design a ring tattoo above the knuckle. Since we’ve been dating, I feel like it’s been really in style to wear rings on that part of the finger, and Helena said something nice, that it was like rings on a tree, and as time passes the tree gets more rings.
Helena: My first tattoo! We knew that if we weren’t doing it that day, we’d never get around to it. And it felt really intimate, having them done in our house. Part of the prize we won included the presidential suite at the Grand Hyatt. We gave the suite over to Fabi’s sister and her kids. She lives in Mexico, and so we went over there after the tattoos to see the kids and say goodbye. We just needed a little face time.
Fabiana: We ordered lobster rolls from Grand Central Terminal, from the Oyster Bar. Then we went to bed at 11 or so. I mean, we’d been drinking for 12 hours. It had been this romantic, classic New York wedding in some ways, but also weird — we got married at 7 in the morning. Which was kind of perfect. I always like to throw a curveball like that.