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 spoke with Charan Morris and Miyo Tubridy, two New York City public schoolteachers who met on the night of an Obama debate in 2008 — and stayed together for a decade hence. They finally tied the knot last summer on a Thursday evening at a Spanish restaurant in Williamsburg, with flowers inspired by the African fabric of Charan’s suit (which, incidentally, the dry cleaner nearly ruined two weeks before the wedding), a processional performed by a blues singer, family-style dishes of vegetarian fideua for dinner, and no one but them for the after-party.
Miyo: Our mutual friend Doreen invited me to a poetry reading in Queens. Charan walked in the door to perform, and I was like, “That’s your friend?” I felt compelled to talk to her. It was the night of the second Obama-McCain debate, October 7, 2008. We had so much in common. Oh, you’re a teacher, too? Oh, you’re into this type of social justice education, too? You live in Harlem, too? We rode the train from Queens back to Harlem together and fell into deep conversation, and she asked me, “How are you growing in your life right now?”
Charan: Miyo asked me out at my birthday party two weeks later, which was a huge deal for me, that she made the move. I had just been in and out of situations in which people expected me to play more of the male role — open the doors, pay for dinner, initiate things.
Miyo: I made it clear pretty early that I wanted to get married, that marriage was something I had always wanted, and she made it clear that she was never interested in that. But as we got further into our relationship, she realized it was important to me. And so I wanted the proposal to come from her to me. We’d been together nine years when she finally did.
Charan: I timed it to her birthday in 2017. I contacted a bunch of friends and relatives and asked them to write either a happy birthday message or a blessing for our marriage on a Post-it and take a picture of it. Then I printed the Post-its on origami paper, folded them up and put them in a nice box with a ring at the bottom.
Miyo: At my birthday party, I opened this big beautiful box, and inside were all these gorgeous origami cranes in shades of purple and gold, colors that I love. They were notes, and I started to read the notes, and I started to notice they’re saying things about our relationship. And then I was like — she’s not doing this right now?! It was an amazing moment.
Charan: We wanted to make sure the wedding felt like us, and we wanted to be really present and not just going through the motions.
Miyo: I wanted a venue in a more natural setting, out in the woods, and Charan was like, this is not my thing. I am a city person. We came together to describe the aesthetic we were looking for — something like urban industrial rustic chic. A paradox!
Charan: Miyo was the one who found MyMoon. When we visited, off a little side street in Williamsburg, it felt like New York faded away. The space is gorgeous — a wooden vaulted ceiling, warm lighting, pops of color on the banquet seating. They were reasonable with pricing in a way that other venues were not, to be honest with you, at $23,420 for ceremony, reception, and catering. When we estimated the costs for other venues that were all-inclusive like MyMoon, or required rentals and outside catering, we thought this was the most cost-effective package for the experience we wanted to have in New York. We decided to have a Thursday wedding.
Miyo: Partly that was because it was a little less expensive, and there was more availability, and we wanted to have more events on Friday and Saturday.
Charan: Friday we’d have a sunset cruise, Saturday a picnic in Central Park …
Miyo: MyMoon just fit the aesthetic we were looking for — a beautiful space that was urban but natural at the same time. There was an outdoor patio and deck, with planters that created an oasis. We didn’t want to spend a lot of money on the décor. And we liked that they were all-inclusive, because we didn’t want to deal with the headache of rentals. It’s a Spanish restaurant, and they had a really wide menu you could choose from.
Charan: We also appreciated the food tasting. We got to invite two friends and sample every single item on the catering menu and pick what we wanted, so we felt really good about the food there, like the Spanish croquettes with pine nuts and currants, the flatbread with zucchini, chèvre, and spicy honey. We both have sweet tooths.
Miyo: For my dress, I didn’t want to spend an enormous amount of money. I found out about BHLDN, and a salesperson worked with me to find this regal Champagne dress that fit so beautifully; it flattered my shape.
Charan: I don’t fit the femme-butch dichotomy, so trying to find an outfit was quite challenging. I spent a lot of time just googling stuff. I found Naana Badu-Pettigrew of Badu Basics on Instagram, and it was my first time having something made from scratch out of a concept in my head. I knew I wanted a tuxedo pant look, tapered with a zipper at the bottom. I wanted angles and asymmetry. I spent a lot of time with Nana talking about fabric and pattern — it had a little bit of an African print going on, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t wearing something that would be inappropriate for its black cultural purpose. The crazy, absolutely nuts part is, two weeks before the wedding, I sent it off to the cleaners after my final fit and … the dry cleaner ruined my suit. Everything shrank, so it was an inch or two inches shorter than it was supposed to be. You just sort of go into a calm, because you can’t do anything. Naana and the tailor, Assane Sene, worked together to redo the entire thing in a week. You wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.
Miyo: I knew about the colors a little bit because her designer saw my dress and took photos so she could select a fabric to complement it. We got ready separately at the Wythe Hotel, and we didn’t have bridesmaids, but we’d each chosen two friends to support us getting ready and throughout the day. The photographer, Tara Beth Robertson, positioned us back to back and — what’s a day when you’re ever going to be that glammed up, that beautiful? It was a precious and fun moment.
Charan: I was completely floored. I mean, she was gorgeous. We also asked the florist, LaParis Phillips at Brooklyn Blooms, to use the African fabric of my suit for the colors in the arrangements that she made. She also incorporated it into the broom for the African-American tradition of jumping the broom. And she put it in my boutonniere and Miyo’s bouquet.
Miyo: Our friend Chaney Sims is a blues singer, and we asked her to sing our processional, Sade’s “By Your Side.” She sang with a guitarist, Yako Prodis, and we walked in too quickly, we were so excited, and so we just stood there holding hands and gazing into each other’s eyes, taking in all the people gathered around us, as she was singing with her beautiful voice.
Charan: We had co-officiants — Doreen, who introduced us, and Tynisha, who I met through an all-queer-women-of-color cabaret.
Miyo: They helped us devise this invitation for community blessings. Anyone who felt moved to speak could stand up and be a part of the ceremony.
Charan: The ceremony was on the deck space, but a couple of steps down from the deck was this other courtyard with wooden stools and benches, and that’s where the cocktail hour was.
Miyo: People were served two kinds of sangria, because that’s what MyMoon does. I love sangria, so I was like, yay!
Charan: We sort of assigned a friend of mine, and Miyo’s brother, to be the “hosts” of the reception, and we went straight into speeches — my mother spoke, my sister, Miyo’s parents, our wedding squad members, our “hosts.” And there was eating, family style. In addition to the flatbread appetizer, there was a vegetarian fideua — angel hair pasta with wild mushrooms and a lemon aioli — and entrees of roasted chicken, pan-seared salmon, and a vegetarian terrine.
Miyo: We had the dessert display up during dinner, in this sort of salon on the side of the dining room. As part of their all-inclusive package, they had almond cakes and other delicious desserts, then we had a donut tower from our favorite place, The Doughnut Project, and we brought in a red velvet cake topper from Make My Cake in Harlem. After the dinner and toasts and cake cutting, they cleared away our little sweetheart table, and that created a dance floor.
Charan: Our first dance was to “Best Part” by H.E.R. and Daniel Caesar.
Miyo: You know, we’re a lesbian couple, a queer-women couple, and we wanted women singing. She sings the first part of the song, but we didn’t want Daniel Caesar singing, so we cut it there and had the DJ, DJ Duggz, mix in Janelle Monae. For the rest of the music, I requested merengue, “Suavamente” by Elvis Crespo. There was Cardi B, there were some throwbacks.
Charan: We danced until it was time to go, basically. Even though that night ended, we still had the rest of the three-day wedding weekend to go.
Miyo: I would have loved an even more rocking, longer dance party, but it was a long day. It was a Thursday, so the New Yorkers, some of them actually had to work the next day; they were fine to be out early. We went back to our hotel, got in the tub, and had some more Champagne.
Charan: Exhausted yet joyful! After almost ten years together, I felt a renewed feeling of being in love.