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 Annie Greengard, a program officer at the JPB Foundation, and Emory Lee, the senior vice-president of business development at Insight Civil Engineering. After meeting online, the couple considered having their June 2018 wedding in Emory’s birthplace of Hawaii, but instead stayed closer to their current home in Brooklyn, bringing in Hawaiian-inspired touches like a sunset-colored flower wall and a matte gold ring textured like a sandy beach.
Emory: We purposefully picked the beginning of Pride Month for the wedding, joking that we were kicking off Pride. That’s why I loved our planner, Modern Rebel, because they said, “Okay, let’s plan your ‘love party.’” They are very on top of the vernacular, like gender-neutral pronouns.
Annie: Emory proposed to me first in New York, nearly four years after we first met on OKCupid. The ring is by Claire Kinder, and it’s a band that comes to an interesting geometric point. A few weeks later we went to Hawaii, to this special beach where Emory surfed when living there before coming to New York. I proposed there with a matte gold ring by Luana Coonen that’s designed to have a texture like the sands of that beach. We thought of doing a destination wedding in Hawaii.
Emory: We had talked about potential locations before the proposals even happened. We’d seen enough places that when we got to Brooklyn Winery, we knew that was it. They had the delicious gastropub food, they were very experienced, and they had it down to a science.
Annie: As opposed to a lot of the spaces in Brooklyn that are very raw and a bit industrial, Brooklyn Winery has a really warm feeling: a lot of wood, a plant wall, a beautiful atrium so you have a feeling of being inside but with outdoor elements. We talked with Amy at Modern Rebel about bringing a Hawaiian tranquility and beauty into the space.
Annie: The colors of the flowers were peaches and pinks and some darker, like a deep magenta. Sort of like sunset colors. Our florist, Molly Oliver, doesn’t ship things in, she gets everything locally. We told her we had this dream of a flower wall, and up until the day of the wedding we thought we’d end up with a flower curtain, like strands, and we were psyched about that. But when we got there, she’d really made a wall. It was this amazing element that transformed the space. Apart from the flowers, we saved money on dressing up the space because the winery’s already so beautiful — we didn’t feel like we needed to rent flatware or other kinds of décor. So much is included in the winery. Once you bring in flowers and musicians, you’re pretty much good to go.
Emory: My suit was from Bindle & Keep, and Rae Tutera is the tailor who helped me pull it together. Ray is a really special person — they’ve made another suit for me — and they have given me a lot of guidance in terms of finding a wardrobe that feels right for me as a nonbinary and gender-nonconforming person, but also a trans-masculine identified nonbinary person. The fabric is a midnight blue because I didn’t want to go with black, and I had my dad’s initials sewn into the cuff of my shirt.
Annie: The suit was fire. I’d never seen Emory in a tux and it was next level. I wasn’t so sure about a first look; we got ready together at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge up until we changed clothes separately. So we did have a “first look” in the suite, but it was a little different because we had gotten ready together up until that point. It was a really nice moment. I had never really envisioned myself in a wedding dress, but I had difficulty finding a non-white dress that would live up to Emory’s tux. I searched for local designers doing interesting things and found Lakum on Instagram. I picked their Margot dress [$4,000], but they did embroidery on the top based on another shirt of theirs.
Emory: Our friend Jordyn Lexton officiated — a really close friend of Annie’s from childhood who also identifies as nonbinary trans-masculine person. We share our journeys with each other, and they’re a big source of support for me. They spent five or six months meeting with us to go over themes of the ceremony and it was completely customized. Jordyn’s incredibly talented with words and is a very emotional person generally, and is able to trigger that reaction in other people.
Annie: We wanted it to be really special and really intimate and really queer. They crafted this beautiful narrative of who we are, how we kind of came to be, but also infusing a lot of humor — like for me, they said, “Together, as awkward teens we would navigate the swells of coming into our own queerness: we congregated at Stargate Diner, on basketball courts (or, in your case, benches), in countless sleepovers.” I think everyone was really captivated by it. We worked with Jordyn to craft shared vows, tenants we want the relationship to live up to, and we repeated, “We do.”
Emory: I felt very, like, acknowledged in who I am as a person and as a partner to Annie. I think there were a lot of friends there from a long time ago, old friends who I haven’t kept up to speed and who just knew me as a gay person, a lesbian, you know? I thought I would feel weird or embarrassed because these were things that people who thought they knew me well might not have known. I had a second coming out at age 33 — in addition to coming out at age 15 as gay — as transmasculine/gender nonconforming. It took some courage, but I was comfortable with Jordyn basically sharing this information openly during the ceremony which, I think, made it even more personal, and emotional, on a very different level. It really ended up being very beautiful. A lot of people crying.
Annie: Emory’s sister presented us with wedding leis, similar to the ones their parents had worn at their wedding. There was a cocktail hour, though I didn’t get to eat anything. They had a whole charcuterie set-up, mini grilled cheese, a salmon poke, gazpacho, a mini tostada. People were blown away by the food.
Emory: We were outside with our photographer Erica from Clean Plate Pictures the entire time. We zoomed back inside and the winery had already shifted the ceremony room into a dining room. It’s like magic, how they turn it around.
Annie: It was a sit-down meal served family style, filet mignon and fried chicken. We did not have a first dance or any kind of pre-planned dancing — that was one of the things we felt wasn’t really us. We wanted to just get people on the dance floor as soon as possible.
Emory: My stepfather and Annie’s father were the only two people who spoke. We got up and went around to all the tables to say hello to folks.
Annie: The music vibe was like Pride, very dance-y and upbeat. We gave our DJ, Alicia Walters, some must-plays and don’t-plays, and trusted that she understood no misogynistic music or artists.
Emory: It was a little Motown, moving up through the ’80s, and then once the first Robyn song came on it was like the dam broke loose. Everyone went bananas. I have never sweat that much in my entire life.I had to ditched the tux blazer and rolled up my shirt sleeves. It was so fun! They ended everything at 11 p.m., but the last song was “Heaven Is a Place on Earth.”
Annie: There was no cake-cutting — neither of us are that interested in dessert, but we did cupcakes and snowballs from Wild Flour. Then the winery supplements your dessert with brownie bites.
Emory: There was no formal after-party, but the DJ said, “If you want to keep celebrating, they are going to Metropolitan Bar around the corner.” So we did just that. We just let them know we were coming, and they were really sweet and gave us a complimentary bottle of champagne.
Annie: We were just really happy to be with our friends for a little bit longer.
Emory: When Annie first sent me the OkCupid message — it was on Christmas Day in 2014 — it was my first ever online date. Was it the algorithm? Did I just get lucky? I’m sure there are a lot of variables, but I will say, I spent a lot of time answering the like 300 questions OKCupid gave you. My mom and my sister said, your profile might be a little long.