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 talked to a couple whose passions made them very opinionated about wedding planning. Chaz Bryant is an interior design associate at Jonathan Adler, while Michael Bunting is the wine bar manager at Brooklyn Winery. Their winter 2017 wedding in Gowanus involved Edwardian florals, a ’90s dance party, and an interesting selection of wines.
Michael: Chaz proposed in November 2015 when Adele’s album came out. I was really emotional because I was listening to it all day. He came home and I was like, listen to these vocals!
Chaz: I had my grandpa’s ring from when he had passed, and I have worn it since, but I knew that I wanted to propose with that ring. I wanted it to be Michael’s. I was like, I have to do it now. I knelt down in our apartment. It was very us — casual and perfect.
Michael: We wanted to do something very New York so we divvied up the tasks. Food and beverage was mine — at the time I was the wine director for a restaurant group in Manhattan.
Chaz: I’m an interior designer. I was doing a lot of searches on Google, Instagram, and Pinterest. Luckily, one of my co-workers at Jonathan Adler had gotten married a year or so before us and she had looked at a lot of venues in Brooklyn. We loved 501 Union due to its atmosphere and unique back story: It used to be a tire shop! It’s a fun anecdote to share with the family.
Michael: It was already decorated in our style, with mid-century finishes and a color palette of black, brass, and cream. That took some of the pressure off because we had this cute idea that we weren’t going to use a planner. Thirty days out, I had a total meltdown. Luckily, we found Amy of Modern Rebel, who swooped in and saved our lives.
Chaz: We got married in February, so I didn’t want it to be light, bright, and airy. I wanted it to feel moody, almost like a speakeasy, or a mid-century jazz club. To complement the black and cream, we added richer greens and flowers. We worked with Suzanna, the owner of Stems Brooklyn, and truthfully I’m not good with flower names, but she said, “You have a very clear vision of what you want.” It was Edwardian and very romantic — the arrangements were spilling out of the vase.
Michael: We and the whole wedding party got ready together at our friend Alex’s apartment building.
Chaz: As we were getting ready, our wedding parties were having drinks, listening to music, and getting excited for the day. Michael finds the playful happiness in everything. I met him at a Pride party eight years ago, when I first moved to New York to work for Jonathan Adler. He had on cute shorts. And there was never a dull day from that moment on.
Michael: We had a “first look” at the Wythe Hotel.
Chaz: I remember being terrified for the photos. I didn’t even know how to smile at that point, like, “What do I do?” But our photographer Chaz Cruz was amazing and helped me calm down. We had brunch there and then we headed off to the venue while everyone else continued to get ready.
Michael: Our good friend Tashia officiated and the tone was all about love.
Chaz: We wanted it to be a celebration not only of us, but also our friends and family, so we thought who better to officiate than one of our best friends? We walked out to “Here, There, Everywhere” by the Beatles, which Michael’s parents love. It was an ode to them.
Michael: We had two readings. Chaz’s best friend Warren read a Maya Angelou poem. And then my sister, who is a biologist and professor, rewrote the “Love is …” speech. She added in the actual chemical reactions happening in your brain: “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is an increase in dopamine production in the ventral tegmentum of the mid-brain.” It was cute and funny.
We wrote our own vows — I worked on them for three weeks. I’d write them in a notebook and printed on them on little cards stashed in every pocket and bag so I could memorize them.
Chaz: When we kissed, I just remember turning around and seeing all of the faces, and the loudest eruption of clapping I’ve ever heard. It was surreal and I felt overwhelmed with love. We walked out to “Always Be My Baby” by Mariah Carey.
Chaz: We went into Pies ‘n’ Thighs for a date night and knew immediately it was right for our wedding.
Michael: We liked the idea of having a stylish setting but with comfort food. We started off with mini chicken and biscuits (everyone’s favorite!), meatballs, and a vegetarian-friendly grits dish. To drink we were luck that the venue had great wines. I didn’t want just a Napa Cab and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. They were all interesting varietals, like Albariño and Barbera.
Chaz: Music helped us create three different spaces in the venue. For the welcome, it was ’60s blues, then cocktail hour was ’70s funk, and dinner was atmospheric and chill. Michael and I created the playlists but the DJ from Scratch Weddings played some of her own stuff as well.
Michael: We did our first dance right away before dinner, to “Day Too Soon” by Sia.
Chaz: Michael said, “Please don’t dance away from me,” which I think I did because I was really feeling the song. It was one of my favorite memories of the wedding, because we had listened to our wedding music for six months and we knew that when it played, it was our moment. It was more beautiful than we even expected.
Michael: The dance party was the most important part of the event, so we wanted to make sure that people didn’t feel like they had to sit at the table. Dinner was served family-style: salads, fried chicken, pork, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts. It was a big spread arrived all at once.
Chaz: We did all the formalities like dances and speeches early on as to not interrupt the flow of the evening. Michael’s dad, my mom, and my uncle from Alabama spoke and then we danced with our moms.
Michael: After that, it turned into ’90s dance party with a mix of R&B and hip-hop. We had a very long “do not play” list, and a strictly no-requests policy. It wound up being a lot of Rihanna and very specific Beyoncé songs.
Chaz: For dessert, we had pies and doughnuts instead of a traditional big cake with the wedding topper. Cutting it would slow things down! We did have a small cake from Milk Bar but I wanted the party to continue. The cake was delicious and I wish I had more of it.
Michael: Apparently, my dad was going around to everyone and asking, “How much do I have to pay to keep this going?” They were like, “No, you can’t. We have to stop!” So we went straight to Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club on the other side of the Gowanus Canal.
Chaz: I do not play shuffleboard and by that point all the Manhattans had taken over, so I just hung out and enjoyed the moment. Then a group of friends unexpectedly threw us an after-after party at Mister Rogers in Crown Heights. They played all the music we loved and had brought food from the brunch earlier in the day. It was a lovely surprise.