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 who married last December in a possibly haunted house on Long Island. Annie Correll, a Ph.D. candidate in art history, and Eric Osman, founder and CEO of direct-to-consumer stroller start-up Mockingbird, worked with the venue’s Rebecca vibe to stage a celebration “like the biggest dinner party we’ve ever thrown” — with touches of Sleep No More. Beer pong and Domino’s pizza followed.
Annie: We didn’t want a ballroom. We just wanted it to feel intimate, even for a large wedding of 200 guests. A larger wedding not in a ballroom narrows down the venue search.
Eric: I’m from Westchester, she’s from Chicago, and we met at WashU in St. Louis. We wanted this to feel like the biggest dinner party we’ve ever thrown, with people from all those places in our lives sitting around and chatting with candles lit.
Annie: I looked at a lot of old houses in New York and the surrounding areas. Hempstead House reminds you of the house in Rebecca — the interior is lined alternately with warm wood paneling and cold gray stone, with these massive carved stone fireplaces in every room that we were actually able to light.
Eric: A really rich guy built it as his mansion outside the city. You could have a very Game of Thrones-y wedding there if you wanted to. We were able to use the whole first floor, a reception area flanked by two library-ish rooms on either side. And there was a second floor where Annie and her bridesmaids could get ready.
Annie: We put some furniture and poufs in the lounge areas, and then we had a bunch of little things tucked around the lounge, notes and ticket stubs and pictures of us as kids. You know in Sleep No More when you can open the drawers and there’s stuff in there and you feel like you are touching other people’s things? We wanted it to feel like people were coming, if not to our actual house, to an actual dinner party. All of our grandparents have passed away, so we had photos of them on their wedding days in vintage-y frames. We did oyster shell name cards. We wanted everything to be tactile. Plus, there have been reports that the Hempstead House is haunted so we thought it would be exciting if a ghost showed up. The house itself just generated this very cinematic atmosphere that we wanted, so we didn’t have to add much to it.
Eric: Since our wedding was going to be in the winter, I got excited about wearing a black velvet tux from Indochino. I’m a very conservative person and so my version of taking a risk is a little bit of texture. My dad gave me a black jacquard bowtie to have a little bit of pattern as well.
Annie: I was really proud that he chose the jacquard bowtie, so he had all these shades of black. In Dutch art, they have this obsession with black — Frans Hals used 27 shades of black. I tried to encourage him to be the groom a little bit. It’s okay to step it up from what he would usually wear. My dress — there was a specific Vera Wang one that I wanted — felt very wintery, too. It had sleeves and a collar. I didn’t want anything super white. I liked that the gold felt different. And it had all of these amazing sheer layers of tulle, with pleated parts that stuck out from the back of the dress. The first time I tried it on, I say this in the best way, I felt like a figure skater. I came to find out that Vera Wang does design amazing things for figure skaters.
Eric: I thought she looked like a queen. She wanted to fit with the whole theme of the wedding and she nailed it. The fact that it wasn’t white was cool. The sleeves were cool. She had this tiara on. As usual, all things I never would’ve thought of but that looked so great — and felt so her.
Annie: Obviously, wearing a tiara is a princess-y thing to do, but when I found this one by Emma Katzka it was a more fun take on that. I initially was going to wear my hair in a low bun but at the last minute changed it to a high bun because I’m a short person and it elongates me. My hair person, Sally from Boho Hair Salon, made this amazing updo with texture that was amazing, like a punk rock princess. I wore red velvet pumps by Jimmy Choo and a red lip — initially I’d tried on a red wedding dress that I loved, but I knew Eric is more of a traditionalist, so I incorporated red in these other ways.
Eric: Everything about the imagery, the look, the aesthetic, and all the planning was so Annie. I’m the card writer of the family, if you will, so I think the ceremony is an area where I felt like, okay, I really want to have my stamp on this. Annie’s Catholic and I’m Jewish, and we knew we weren’t going to do a rabbi or a priest because it would feel too one-sided. We wanted something mutual and special. Our friend Rosa texted us jokingly, like, “Imagine if I married you?” because she’s half Catholic and half Jewish. And then we were like, wait. Rosa’s an incredible public speaker. She knows us both really well. It fit.
Annie: The three of us sat down several times throughout 2019 and she asked us questions, and we told her what we were looking for — we didn’t want it to feel like it could be a ceremony about anybody else but us.
Eric: It’s freeing to write your own ceremony, but then so intimidating not to have any structure to work with. It was bullet points, like, start by thanking everyone for being here, then talk about us and our relationship, then for the most part just left it open for Rosa to inject her own Rosa flair.
Annie: We had this bottle of wine from when he came to visit me in Florence, when I moved there right after college graduation. We had been saving it to age it, because we are big wine collectors, ha — our single bottle of wine. Rosa, Eric, and I toasted with that bottle during the ceremony.
Eric: The cocktail hour was in the side rooms while they got rid of the chairs and turned the ceremony area into a dance floor. It was a lot of finger foods. I remember butternut squash soup shooters, some Thai shrimp thing, Andouille sausage in a blanket. There was a Croque Monsieur bite, steak on something, a croquette.
Annie: We got to pick ten hot hors d’oeuvres and have two stations from Philip Stone Caterers. We did a meatball station because that’s one of my favorite foods, and a Long Island duck station, which was appropriate because we were on Long Island. We picked two cocktails, a maple-walnut old fashioned because that’s something we make at home, and a spicy blood orange margarita.
Eric: Annie took the brunt of the stress associated with all the planning — I really didn’t do my equal part as a partner to help in the planning process, and that’s one of my only regrets from the whole thing. I wasn’t worried about what the day-of would look like, since I knew she was behind it, and had been working so hard on it. My main fear was just that if something little went wrong, knowing Annie had mapped out every little thing to such a great extent, I was a bit worried it would really throw her off and hamper her enjoyment of the wedding.
Annie: A thousand little things didn’t go as planned! Half of our oyster shell place cards got lost in the mail and didn’t show up until a couple days before the wedding, then some of them came cracked or misspelled. I made a ridiculous decision to hand-make all of the popcorn and brownies for our welcome bags, which ate up a ton of valuable time — the list goes on. If I were to do it over again, I would get a planner. Event planning is hard work! But that said, our florists, Faye + Renee, did a massive amount of work for us in making the space feel exactly the way that we wanted, coming with us to our rentals appointment for our tables and place settings, looking through the many inspiration pictures I maniacally sent them in the months and weeks leading up to the wedding.
Eric: After the ceremony, we walked down the stairs to our first dance and saw the tables with their moody flowers and fruits spilling over, the fireplaces lit with the Duraflame logs I’d lugged back from the grocery store. It was awe-inspiring. Then we had both of our dads give a speech, and our best man and maid of honor.
Annie: Before dinner, my mom gave a Catholic blessing and Eric’s dad did the Jewish blessing of the wine and the challah. Then there was a citrus salad, grapefruit and some orange in it. The entrée, we did short rib or mushroom polenta, and then another was this sea bass in lemon saffron sauce, and the last was a vegetarian dish, a vegetable napoleon.
Eric: I really wanted a DJ, Annie really wanted a band. We said, “Alright, let’s just do both.” They would alternate between different sections. We’d given them a Spotify playlist and said, here’s a bunch of stuff we like. Anything the band could play, we had them do it; anything they couldn’t, we had the DJ do.
Annie: We did a cake-cutting, which is harder than it looks. It is hard to cut through a cake. We were really excited about our cake. Ashley from Sugar Lane Cake Shop did an amazing job. There were two flavors: chocolate with cinnamon buttercream and dark chocolate ganache, and then rose cake with honey buttercream. The cake itself was this work of art, black buttercream with all these fresh flowers that matched the flowers on our tables.
Eric: We ended at 11 p.m. and said, “There’s buses if you want, or there’s an after party,” and we transitioned to the side room. We had the DJ going with a middle school dance theme, late ’90s and early 2000s songs, like Blink 182 and “All Star.” There was a beer pong table and we had Domino’s ordered in.
Annie: The after-party was, for me at least, the most purely fun part of the night. Looking around at all of the people that we had danced stupidly with in high-school gyms, frat basements, and sticky bars, and seeing that we were dancing around just as stupidly at this beautiful, historic home — it made me so happy! I didn’t leave the dance floor one time.