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 do you 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 a couple aligned by the fashion-photography world: Brooke Wall, CEO of artist management agency The Wall Group, and Jason Cannon, the founder of production company Velem. Their Catskills celebration weekend last August included fly-fishing, foraging, and birds of prey. (And, naturally, as The Wall Group represents makeup artists and hairstylists, a full team of them was available to the guests on the morning of.)
Jason: Our relationship started in New York City through work and the fashion world we live in, but our real bond was formed on weekends in the Catskills, fly-fishing in the mountains and spending time in that area. Which was why we wanted to have the wedding at the Beaverkill Valley Inn.
Brooke: The venue itself is an old fly-fishing lodge from the turn of the century, the early 1900s, which was then purchased by Larry Rockefeller, who’s maintained it. No matter where you go in the world, there’s connectivity, there’s access, you’re never shutting off. But up there, you have to. You’re forced to. The moment you step away from any kind of structure there’s no connectivity at all.
Jason: That was the point: Everybody come to the Catskills! We can enjoy this really wonderful weekend — swimming, fly-fishing, hiking, camping, fire pits everywhere … and there just happens to be a wedding as well. Originally we wanted to keep it small and intimate, but the guest list grew to a hundred. We needed to add on tents and portable bathrooms, luxury Coachella style.
Brooke: We had a massive tent for both days of the wedding.
Jason: We sort of flipped the traditional sequence: The big party — the dinner, the dancing, the toasts — happened first, on Saturday day into Saturday night, and then we did the ceremony on Sunday.
Brooke: For Saturday, I wore a J. Mendel jumpsuit. We had a dinner in the tent by Heirloom Fire. They slow-roasted everything on open flames: chicken, steak, fish, vegetables. We also did some incredible charcuterie and cheese. The food was all locally sourced, which we loved. And actually, another option we offered our guests for the weekend — in addition to fly-fishing lessons — was to go foraging with a local expert we found named Laura Silverman; she forages for ingredients like milkweed blossom with you, and then teaches you how to make cocktails with them like the “blossom dearie,” which is milkweed blossom, gin, lemon, thyme.
Jason: It was like summer camp for adults.
Brooke: All the flowers for the wedding were local, too. The florist, Hops Petunia, was awesome. She had mentioned that these big pale dahlias were in abundance that time of year — early August — and moss. We just wanted the décor to feel welcoming and simple and not too … tchotchke-d up.
Jason: Afterward we headed to a barn for the dance party, which was a lot of country and western and the Eagles; I’m a big fan of country music, being from Texas. Our first dance was “Islands in the Stream,” and our DJ, Abby Klein, put together this mix that started with a Feist cover, very slow for 45 seconds, and then went into the traditional song with Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.
Brooke: And there were fireworks. Cima Bue is — what is he called? A pyro artist? The way he does fireworks — it’s like you’re looking at a Renaissance painting; he paints the skies. He doesn’t want anyone to see him — the fireworks just happen. And the sounds, he’s really specific about the sounds of fireworks and the way they make you feel; he creates an orchestra.
Jason: For ten minutes he did this unbelievable sonic-driven fireworks display that was … it was so insanely amazing.
Brooke: Then everybody had to get ready for the ceremony the next day. We set up a suite where people could just go in and get glam on any level they want, light or heavy or whatever. When you go to a wedding, you want to feel good and you want to look good. We had a full team of three makeup artists, three hairstylists, and one manicurist come up and do almost every female guest. At first everyone was like, oh, no one’s going to need that! Then it was insane how slammed it was. Rebekah Forecast did my hair; I’ve known her since the inception of Wall Group. It was like having a sister doing your hair, you know? She was dealing with my hair as I was starting to walk down the hill — holding an owl.
Jason: Originally, Brooke said, I want to walk down the aisle with a falcon.
Brooke: I know it sounds weird. But as I mentioned, Jason and I spend a lot of our time in nature. Eventually, through a falconer, Tom Cullen, I met this owl named Boogie. And I fell in love with him. And my father isn’t alive, so I didn’t have him to walk me down the aisle. I ended up training with Boogie for four months, and learning how to release and catch birds of prey. J. Mendel — who custom-made a fern-patterned dress of theirs for me in silver-white — also made me a falconer glove to hold Boogie.
Jason: We were very nervous about rain because owls hate rain. A wet owl is not a good situation; if it’s even cloudy, the owl will not go for it. Thankfully it turned out to be a beautiful day, like 90 degrees. When I saw Brooke walking down the aisle with Boogie on her arm — nothing could have prepared me for that. The ceremony was heavily rooted in Buddhist tradition, and it was followed by a small little cake-cutting [cake by The Village TeaRoom Restaurant and Bake Shop].
Brooke: For the little cake, I wanted the flavor to be key lime pie, because Jason and I love key lime pie, especially in the summer. We also had Krug Champagne and charcuterie, and a jazz band, the Bee’s Knees, played. Everyone who wanted to stay could stay, and everyone who wanted to leave could leave — and we had Itsa Pizza Truck in case they wanted to take yummy pizza in boxes with them for the trip back to the city. We thought that could be a great way to head out.