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 photographer Delaine Dacko and her husband, Michael David, a project manager in digital tech. They were married this past April in Brooklyn and Queens on a day that started with smuggling a dog into a church, peaked with a Ric Flair robe, and ended with freestyling on a street corner.
Delaine: I’m a photographer, and I started out shooting a lot of weddings. I still do from time to time. I’m a romantic. But I’m not a showy person. The idea of walking down an aisle, people looking at me — oh God.
Mike: Delaine also hates surprises. She pointed me in the right direction of the type of ring she wanted, but I didn’t tell her when I was getting it. It was in 2017, a year after we first met on OkCupid, and I told her I was helping a friend move when really I was flying up to Syracuse to meet her dad and ask for her hand. I flew back, and the next day at brunch, I put on a Syracuse hat.
Delaine: He’s always shitting on the SU orange. I said something like, “You hate the SU orange. Why are you wearing that hat?”
Mike: Then I showed her pictures of me and her dad. She was so confused. And in that confusion is when I proposed.
Delaine: I started crying: You went to see my daddy? The most important things to my father is tradition, very traditional stuff. Any gift to my family is a huge gift to me. The ring was a gold band with silver swirlies — a very ’40s vibe to it.
Mike: At first, Delaine didn’t really want a big wedding. She would have been really happy with just going to City Hall.
Delaine: Also, the money! But Mike talked about how he pictured our friends and family all coming together. And those are my favorite weddings to shoot: when it’s just the closest friends and family there with these two people. So we ended up with a guest list of 115 and it was the greatest investment I’ve ever made. We estimate it was $43,000, which was about $10,000 over our original budget. No regrets.
Mike: She thought of the Metropolitan Building in Long Island City as a venue because she follows a bunch of photographers on Instagram and saw a shoot there. As soon we walked in, we both knew that this was it. It feels like you’re in an old French estate, with these chandeliers and bookcases.
Delaine: It lured us in. It’s very … I don’t want to say “haunting,” but … It was $7,000 for the space, which includes their collection of vintage furniture. I called up Nick Jones and Justin Davis, good friends of mine; I worked at Club Monaco corporate for several years, as a project manager on the design team, and they were on the visuals team. Now they’ve started to design weddings here and there. I was like, “Listen, guys, I’m not like a bridey-bride. I don’t need white and lace all over the place.” I kept saying, a plain garden vibe, lovely but sort of broken a little bit. I was word-vomiting on them. They chose and arranged all of our florals, designed mood lighting via garden lights and disco balls, styled unique cocktail moments using vintage furniture from the Metropolitan Building — everywhere you turned, there was something special to look at, something to start a conversation [$3,500].
Mike: We knew we would have the ceremony at the church we go to in Park Slope. There’s little garden area on the corner, where we had our first look.
Delaine: St. Augustine is a very Gothic-style church. It’s just unreal, so beautiful. We’re both Catholic, and when the relationship got serious, we started going to St. Augustine pretty regularly. I try to find that peace on Sunday mornings; it’s a way of restarting, reenergizing. And at this particular parish you get the most open-minded version of the faith. That’s why we return, over and over.
Mike: I adopted my dog Stanley a month before I met Delaine, and he was a big part of me actually getting in good with her. He’s the love of our lives. We wanted him in the church but you can’t bring dogs or any animal in. So basically we had our friend sneak him in in this huge duffel bag and sit in the back. As soon as we said “I do,” he started barking. The priest was like, “What is going on?!” and our friend had to pick Stanley up and run out.
Delaine: The ceremony was over at 2:30 p.m. and the reception wasn’t until 5, but we thought of it as a chance for people to just walk around and enjoy the neighborhood.
Mike: Delaine gave the guests recommendations for coffee and some midday snacks around Park Slope, like Hungry Ghost. Then we had to get folks from Brooklyn over to Long Island City for the reception — I was thinking about a party bus, but they’re so expensive! I signed up for Uber Events, and that came out to about a $600 expense because not all of the guests used it; some just naturally carpooled.
Delaine: We shot with Chellise Michael, and she finished our post-ceremony photos in time for us to walk in at the end of the cocktail hour. Mike and I love quoting movies together, and I was like, “What if we play the audio from that part in Coming to America before the wedding where the guy sings ‘She’s Your Queen’?” We got that clip, and then it faded into the Axel F. theme song from Beverly Hills Cop with Eddie Murphy. Then Mike had this idea, because he loved wrestling as a kid —
Mike: One of my favorite wrestlers from back in the day was Ric Flair. Ric Flair would walk in with these absurd robes, feathers, studded, and do his strut. I was like, “I need to get that for our entrance into the reception.” At first she was like, “Oh, that’s ridiculous,” but then she got into it and she bought me a robe. She encouraged it!
Delaine: I found a replica of one of the robes on eBay. I basically wouldn’t let him not follow through with it. He enjoyed the showmanship of that moment so much. We executed it perfectly. Our DJ was DJ Colleen of Sugartown Industries, and we found her at Union Hall at a friend’s birthday where we were dancing song after song. She just spoke our language.
Mike: Then we did our first dance to Sam Cooke, “You Were Made for Me.” She’s a big Sam Cooke fan.
Delaine: I found our caterers, the Pixie and the Scout, out of Crown Heights, through a friend of mine. It’s a husband-and-wife team, and they both worked with Dan Barber at Blue Hill. They make vegetables taste unbelievably good.
Mike: We went with family style, so people could get a taste of everything. Folks were trading plates over tables, like, “Oh, we really love the salmon. Are you guys going to have more of that salmon?” “Can we swap for some of that beef?”
Delaine: I’m Ukrainian and Irish and Mike’s Haitian, so both sides like to eat.
Mike: One of my things about weddings is that I know that speeches can go long. I told my dad we weren’t really going to do speeches, and he said, “Well, I wanted to say something,” and I said, all right, but just you. No one else. He gets up and gives a speech at dinner, and as he ended it, “Does anyone else have anything to say?” I shot him a look. My sister goes, “I’ll go up and say something,” and I said, “After you, that’s it! Just give the mic back to the DJ and come back!”
Delaine: His sister made me cry. She said, “I never had a sister, but if I had to come up with one, it would be you.”
Mike: The caterer recommended how many bottles of hard liquor to get for about 115 people, six to eight one-liter bottles. For some reason, I thought she meant six to eight cases and I was like, Man, this is expensive. I dropped it off and she said, “Holy cow!” Oops. But she said, “No worries, you’ll probably get a bunch back and you can sell it back.” Midway through the night, everyone’s mentioning, “Hey, those pours are coming pretty heavy.” My mom and dad are getting down in the middle of the floor. They never dance like that! The next day, all the hard liquor was gone. It was just our beer cases left.
Delaine: We had a cake from Wild Flour [$1,100]. There was one tier of vanilla Champagne and one tier of Funfetti. Both layers were lined with honey-lavender buttercream frosting, and the outside had that slightly naked look with almond buttercream. It was finished with a few flowers picked by Davis-Jones. We didn’t cut it, though.
Mike: We thought that was a bit cheesy. We basically had it stored in the corner. We really just wanted to focus on having fun.
Delaine: I wanted it heavy on the dancing, and very light on the traditional wedding-reception vibe. Our after-party was at the Springs in Greenpoint. Everyone cabbed over or took Uber Pools.
Mike: We had booked a table, but folks just got too drunk. Folks were tapping out, like, “We cannot go to an after-party.” Which was great! About 30 of us closed out the evening.
Delaine: I was very tired. But it was lovely.
Mike: What was great was that in front of the bar, a friend and I were just freestyling. Chellise came to join us and brought her husband, who is also a DJ, and he jumped in to freestyle. I love old-school hip-hop and so does Delaine, and that is an old-school thing to do, freestyling on a corner in Brooklyn. That’s the way it ended.