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 with two guys who have worked for two guys who know how to throw amazing parties. Anthony Rotunno assisted former Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter for many years (and is now a senior editor over at Strategist), while Duncan Goodwin manages the reservation department and all social media for Keith McNally’s restaurant group. They married in the woods upstate, then celebrated with platters of pasta at — where else — a McNally restaurant, wearing Ralph Lauren suits and socks they picked up at Stop & Shop.
Duncan: We met when I was working at the J.Crew men’s shop. I went up to him and said—
Anthony: “I wouldn’t buy it. It bleeds out in the wash.” I was looking at an indigo-dyed T-shirt.
Duncan: I was a terrible sales associate.
Anthony: This was May 2011. We learned there were so many weird connections in our lives. We grew up 30 minutes from each other — him in northern Westchester, me in southern Dutchess County. He had previously dated a guy I worked with in my first job at a video store in my hometown. Our dads worked at IBM at the same time, and have mutual friends. There was just something about Duncan that felt very safe and very right, and always has. But I was never sure that I wanted to get married.
Duncan: But when Donald Trump got elected, we were like, huh — if there’s a chance that we might lose the ability to get married, we should do it now. In the chance that this could get taken away from us. We started talking about it in early 2017.
Anthony: There was no engagement ring. Neither of us wore any jewelry to signify that it was happening, but we told our parents and our siblings and started laying the groundwork. We had been together for six years at that point and some people thought we might never get married, so our families were both very excited — I think they secretly had hoped there would be a wedding.
Duncan: I really wanted to get married at my parents’ house, because my parents got married at their house. It was a processing plant for an iron mine. My grandparents bought it in the 1940s and turned it into a house, so my mom was raised there. There’s a quarry in the woods out back where my parents had their ceremony. Originally, we were thinking we’d have everything there, which would have been logistically insane. Tony has a really big family.
Anthony: I love their home. I love them. I love the history behind it. It made sense for me, because I felt like a wedding meant church, but obviously, the Catholic church and gay marriage don’t intersect in a Venn diagram. We went through a few scenarios before we ultimately ended up what we wanted: an intimate ceremony in the quarry with just family, and then a reception at a different site—
Duncan: A big dinner party where we’ll eat a lot and drink a lot and dance a lot. We knew we wanted it to be one of the McNally restaurants. We’ve had special moments at a few of them, like our second Valentine’s Day was at Pastis, and the first birthday of mine we spent together was at Minetta Tavern. And we love Morandi. It’s beautiful. It’s the right size, big but not so big it doesn’t feel personal. And who doesn’t love Italian food?
Anthony: Since we’ve gotten married, that’s my biggest piece of advice. If it works for the size of your party, get married in a restaurant. They cover the food, the drinks, the appetizers, the décor for the most part. There’s something very glamorous about being served and having everything taken care of. It’s all brought to you. All of it was handled through the restaurant. We didn’t need a planner because we were dealing with one contact. The folks at Morandi bent over backward, and I don’t think it was just because it’s owned by Duncan’s employer. They do that for anybody.
Duncan: I knew what I wanted to wear from the start: a white tuxedo. A friend of ours works for Ralph Lauren and took us up to the mansion on Madison Avenue. It was a really fun experience — they give you Champagne and measure you and all that. It’s not like you’re just going to J.Crew and picking out a shirt, you know?
Anthony: I remember seeing him looking in the mirror when he tried it on and just being like, “Wow!” It’s crazy what a suit with that price tag makes you look like. I really wanted to wear a double-breasted suit for whatever reason, but when we went to Ralph, the only double-breasted one they had was velvet, which was not the vision. They had a really beautiful midnight blue suit that I ended up wearing. It was terrific, I loved it. I felt like a million bucks. You only get married once, so we totally splurged. The whole ritual of going there, getting fitted, trying them on, felt very indulgent. Very New York, in a way. Not to be like woe is me, but I just never thought it would be happening. It was very surreal and very exciting. I have vivid recollections of those dressing rooms, which is surprising because of the amount of Champagne they offered. We wore all Ralph, down to the shoes, except I had ordered these no-show socks for us in black and navy from Japan, and they didn’t arrive in time. So we bought no-show socks from a Stop & Shop grocery store in Westchester.
Duncan: We all slept under the same roof in Somers the night before, Tony’s family and my family, and in the morning, Tony’s mom and sister made a big breakfast for us all together, then we had the ceremony in the quarry. The town justice, a friend of my family, officiated. His cousin happened to be Tony’s parents’ high-school principal. Just another one of these small world things.
Anthony: It was just our parents and our siblings and their significant others. It was 20 minutes, by the book. We decided that since our wedding was atypical in many other ways, we didn’t want to get too crazy with different renditions. We did traditional vows, my dad gave a reading from the Bible. I was crying half the time. It was lovely.
Duncan: I mean, I always cry at weddings, so at my own wedding? Yeah. This was at 1 p.m., so we were done by 1:30 p.m. and a van took us back to the city. We got a pretty big room at the Bowery Hotel and we all got ready there. There wasn’t a ton of down time.
Anthony: It was a nice little hub. We had a makeup artist, Elizabeth Lerman, come for our female relatives. Then we had a cocktail hour-and-a-half at the restaurant, with dinner at 8. Another thing about Morandi is it has a fabulous patio. We had the wedding in mid-May and were banking on beautiful weather, and we got it. So half the guests were splayed outside. Waiters were passing around Aperol spritzes and Champagne. It was so nice to have the indoor-outdoor element.
Duncan: We were there to greet people as they came in — 138 guests. There was a charcuterie station, an oyster station. I know there were fried olives, and some bruschetta, but it was such a blur. I’m the kind of person who over-eats passed apps, but I didn’t eat at all because we were saying hi to everybody.
Anthony: The restaurant looks so nice, with the lamps with paper shades on the wall, perfect lighting, so we just brought the flowers. I used to live on the Lower East Side and there’s a wonderful woman named Joy, who has Joy’s Flower Pot. We met her a couple of times and talked about the centerpieces — we didn’t want them too big because the tables were going to be full of food. Morandi has big urns of faux flowers in dusty blues and pinks, then white and green. We figured we would follow that rustic country vibe. We gave Joy a color palette of dusty pink, white, and green, and she did a great job. They added that glamorous touch. It’s a blessing and a curse to have had the privilege of going to the Vanity Fair Oscar party for my job, because now I can’t not have these little touches, you know?
Duncan: There were four courses, traditional Italian, with an appetizer, a pasta course, an entrée, then dessert. It was a ton of food — asparagus salad and fried artichokes and burrata to start; then mushroom ravioli, rigatoni cacio e pepe, pici al limone, and tagliatelle Bolognese; then sea bream and chicken stew and Sicilian meatballs. It was nice to have that big, long meal, a moment to really sit and relax. We got up and went to different tables and actually talked to people.
Anthony: We had a seating chart and arranged down to a T. That’s, again, Vanity Fair. To me, that’s very important. I don’t want to just give people a table number; I want to give them assigned seats. I want to know that Uncle Jim is next to Aunt Whatever. In between courses, we asked ten close friends or family members to give 90-second toasts. My sister and brother, Duncan’s sister, my sister-in-law, one of Duncan’s oldest friends from childhood. The last friends spoke right before dessert, then we had dancing.
Duncan: We had a first dance to “You Make Loving Fun” by Fleetwood Mac. For music, we just gave our DJ, Joe Moore, songs not to play. No Michael Jackson, no Bruno Mars. We said, basically, any era is fine as long as it’s a song people know and will dance to. We don’t want a deep cut, we want top 40 from all decades so people dance.
Anthony: We didn’t do an official cake, just the desserts: tiramisu and ricotta fritters and a chocolate hazelnut torta. It was a thing where we were like, “Ahh, we don’t need to spend the money on that. We can put it elsewhere.”
Duncan: Yeah, I don’t eat dessert. I wasn’t going to get a cake. Dinner went a bit longer than we thought it was going to, so we were there until 1 a.m. I knew I wanted to go out after, but I was maybe not in a state to go out after?
Anthony: A friend of ours walked down to Joseph Leonard and told them to save seats at the bar for the grooms, and then waited for an hour, and had a drink, and no one showed up! We just never made it. And he came back. Despite many people’s best intentions, we did not go to an after-party. The night ended with us with my sister shoveling us into an Uber and taking us back to the Bowery Hotel. The next morning, we took our siblings and their significant others to brunch at Balthazar, as a big thank you for everything they did.