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 macaron towers, how do you see beyond the usual tropes and actually pull off a non-cookie-cutter affair? For the answer, we decided to interrogate the cool couples whose weddings we would actually want to steal — right down to the tiger-shaped cake toppers.
Here, we’ve talked with Jay Deshpande, a poet, and Candice Davenport, a marketing executive, two recent San Francisco transplants who miss New York so much they decided to head back east for their wedding this July. Everything about it was very New York: ceremony at City Hall, pastrami at Katz’s Deli, and pasta at an Italian café with friends — where Candice wore a bright-red Carolina Herrera dress that coordinated with the flower arrangements.
Jay: When I called up Katz’s Deli, we were in the cab on our way from getting married at City Hall on a Friday afternoon in July. I told them we were going to be about 30 people — our closest friends and family. They were, in classic Katz’s form, unexcited.
Candice: We had recently moved to San Francisco, and I was homesick for New York. I still am. We liked the idea of something informal, hectic, and delicious after getting out of the courthouse. We’d taken my parents to Katz’s a few years ago, and Jay had several memories of going there with his parents and friends. And the different parts of our heritage — Laotian, Jewish, Midwestern, Indian — all somehow come together in the love of pastrami and brisket.
Jay: When we got in there, they had set up two long tables in the back of the restaurant, and they brought out unending bowls of pickles and plates of meats and all of the breads. All of the pastrami and corned beef that was available to us. And then cheesecake, cheesecake, cheesecake.
Candice: I remember going into the bathroom and washing my hands next to somebody who was just having lunch, and there I am, in a veil and an Issey Miyake suit. (I’d always loved the idea of a suit.) I don’t even think people noticed, to be honest.
Jay: We had planned a more formal dinner party for the following evening, where I was going to wear black tie. For the ceremony and Katz’s, I found this Arjé suit online and then had work done by Tailors’ Keep in San Francisco. Friday evening, we were overwhelmed and exhausted and very happy.
Candice: We ordered room service at our hotel, the Standard High Line, and just talked about how crazy it was. We met in 2016 through a mutual friend who invited me to one of Jay’s poetry readings. I don’t think either of us intended for it to get serious, but it did. In June 2018, he proposed on our stoop in Fort Greene. It was about an hour before he had to get on a flight for Italy, where he was going to be for the whole summer.
Jay: I had this artistic residency at a castle in Umbria, and then we moved to California for a writing fellowship I’m doing. Being in New York for the wedding, it was a homecoming.
Candice: The next day was the fancy dinner for 80 people at Café Altro Paradiso in Soho. The food is phenomenal, and I’ve had good times there with friends. Once we confirmed that it was available, we didn’t really look elsewhere. The malfatti!
Jay: They have this one pasta called malfatti —
Candice: My friends and I call it “cloud pasta” because that’s just what it tastes like.
Jay: It was served family style. I don’t think we deviated at all from the standard menu they suggested to us. The malfatti was on it and a cacio e pepe, and there was a great burrata and veg salad.
Candice: Then there was a meat course, which was swordfish and steak. It was kind of tough planning from across the country, but I did hire a good friend of mine, Ana Popescu. She’s not a wedding planner, but she runs a production company and she does production for raves, awesome parties, and she’s got great taste. What I really needed was somebody who knew how to throw a party.
Jay: When we arrived, everybody turned and saw us and started cheers-ing, and it was incredibly emotional. Candice and I said a few words to thank people. And then: We had to have some poetry.
Candice: We had our friend Kirkwood Adams, who’s also a poet, read a poem we love — it isn’t romantic or a wedding poem at all. It’s really a super-weird poem, actually. But it’s meaningful to us.
Jay: It’s by Denis Johnson, and it’s called “The White Fires of Venus.” It’s about aliens and the apocalypse and loneliness. But I don’t know, it’s one of the most beautiful poems I’ve ever seen.
Candice: For my dress, I like white, but I honestly just wanted to wear something I thought looked good on me and I felt good in. And I wanted to choose something that maybe I wouldn’t have a ton of opportunities to wear in my life. A friend and I had a fun day of going to all these designer shops and saying, “Give me your fanciest dresses.” When I saw this red Carolina Herrera, I just loved it. It’s tulle, off-the-shoulder, sleeved, and tiered. There’s a sophistication, elegance, and sexiness to it. And red is a significant color in other customs too, like in Indian culture.
Jay: I’d had a tux before but never one that really fit me well. I wanted to get something that would feel more Italian. I liked the Armani for its silhouette, and the roped shoulder in particular. I had a bunch of alterations done at Tailors’ Keep to bring everything in just a little tighter.
Candice: We worked with Fox Fodder Farm for the flowers. They do the weekly flowers at Café Altro. I gave them a mood board and just said, “We want it to feel Italian. We want citrus,” and really that was it. I mentioned my dress was red, but I had no idea they were going to match my dress at all. That was not intentional! Those flowers were poppies, and they eventually followed us to our honeymoon, where we were among fields of bright poppies. We also had a handful of large arrangements in vessels that the restaurant already had by Simone Bodmer-Turner. We also had small table arrangements in additional vases by Yoon Young Hur, but we wanted to keep it minimal because there was going to be a lot of food. There were also free-lying branches and citrus, mainly lemons, that were used across the space.
Jay: Candice has a lot of friends who are DJs, so this great friend Private Panther DJ’d for us. We’d set up a board for him in one part of the restaurant, and after dessert of lemon tart, the staff moved tables out of the way and just created a dance floor. It was really the perfect size dance floor because somehow it managed to be crowded all night. Everybody was just dancing nonstop.
Candice: We gave him some songs — the playlist was described as funk, soul, and Latin bangers. I put “Despacito” on there twice as a joke, but then he did play it twice.
Jay: It was to emphasize how much she loves the song! It was fantastic to dance with her in that red dress. We also made all our friends sing along to this really weird Italian song we love called “A Mano a Mano,” and everybody was super into that.
Candice: We did a first dance to Otis Redding’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is,” and we danced for a part, then I danced with my father, then Jay danced with his mom, all in the span of one song.
Jay: Once the DJ’ing was done, we had cars take everybody up to Gagopa, a karaoke lounge in Koreatown. That started at 1:00 a.m.
Candice: We had Korean fried chicken and beer and sake there, and then we sang till 4:00 in the morning.