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. Though we’re living in a moment where group celebrations are either being called off or adapting to extreme social distance, in many ways these pre-quarantine parties are just the escape we need right now.
Here, we talked to Amy Hufft, the head of global marketing and communications at Shopify, and Kourtney Howell, a clinical research associate in health care. Following a “terrible” engagement, they held a celebration designed by professional event producers last fall in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It included navy and black tuxes, an Amy-shaped piñata, and a dessert display of doughnuts dangling from iridescent umbrellas.
Amy: I actually wasn’t fully out of the closet at the time we met. I was doing the bisexual thing, and we just had an amazing conversation.
Kourtney: We met the Sunday after Thanksgiving 2009 at a lovely lesbian bar, the Cubbyhole. She inserted herself into a conversation I was having with a bartender, and she was easy to talk to. I was able to be open and honest and myself from the moment I met her. Ten years later, we went to visit Amy’s sister, who lived in Rwanda. The trip alone was exciting, but then —
Amy: I proposed. I proposed because I’m a control freak and I knew we were never going to get married if I didn’t do it my way. We were staying at this amazing lodge that only has 12 huts in the forest, and we were sitting on our deck looking at the mountains, and I think I said, “Will you maybe think about marrying me at some point?” I don’t know, it was terrible. But I had engagement rings for both of us — it just didn’t feel right for Kourtney to have a ring and me not. I wanted two rings that were the same but unique to each of us.
Kourtney: My engagement ring has black diamonds all the way around it.
Amy: And my diamonds are gray, a little bit softer than a traditional diamond. They were both designed by Anna Sheffield, and it turned out we got married the same day as her, October 19, 2019.
Kourtney: Fall in New York, that’s where we started. It felt right to have the wedding in the city where we met, during the season we both love. Dobbin Street was the very first venue we looked at. As soon as we walked up, I loved the outside of the blue building, and I loved the idea of having the wedding on the roof and the party downstairs, a one-stop-shop deal.
Amy: I’ve worked in event production for a very long time, so I had two event producers I used to work with, Andrew Barlow and Rachel St. Lifer, come with us to look at the venue. Dobbin Street gave us that outside moment with a move inside for cocktails and dinner, so you could have two different vibes. The ceremony was much warmer and fall-feeling. I wanted lots of florals but didn’t want it to feel foofy with too many pinks or roses or stuff like that. So we had a custom-built steel installation behind us covered in pampas grass, then Oriental rugs as the aisle, and tons of candles at different heights. Then I wanted a black-and-white-and-silvery feeling to the reception, and Dobbin Street has that bright-blue brick wall so we took that blue as our pop of color, in the florals around the bar and the font on the wedding materials, and in the Mylar backdrop to the photo booth. Inside, lining the tables, were tall glass cylinders rising up with candles floating in water, with big floral arrangements. Very dramatic, and kind of rock and roll. There was a point where Kourtney was like, “Remember, this is a wedding, not an event.”
Kourtney: I saw the documentary Suited on HBO about Bindle and Keep and how they dress the LGBT community and people who just aren’t comfortable going to your average tailor to get a suit. I knew as soon as we got engaged that’s where I was going to get my suit done. Amy and two friends came along with me to pick out the materials — I had no idea there were so many options going into this suit. I chose navy blue, even darker than navy blue, but not black, with a black satin lapel, suspenders, and a black bow tie.
Amy: I wore a black tux by YSL, which I think is the very first brand to ever make tuxes for women, like the Le Smoking. Then I wore a Haider Ackermann silk blouse underneath, a low-cut blouse, and black Miu Miu pumps with stones on them and matching earrings.
Kourtney: Amy stayed at the William Vale the night before and got ready there with her niece and sister. One of my really good friends, Julie, was staying there, so I got ready in her room. She kept me calm.
Kourtney: Amy said, “Come on, just a little mascara.” I said, “Absolutely not. I still want to look like me.” She said, “But the photos!” Also, I have glasses, so there’s no need for mascara. I was a sorority girl in college, so I’ve done the whole makeup thing, I did all that. Once I reached a point where I was completely comfortable with myself … I just, I’m not a makeup person.
Amy: Dani Levi, the makeup artist, who also does fashion shoots, said, “I have a Tom Ford’s men kit. Tell her that that’s all I’m using, and it’s only skin care, just for blemishes.” And once I told her that, she said, “Okay, that’s fine.”
Kourtney: Cover up that little zit on my wedding day, that I was fine with.
Amy: Dani was able to slip that concealer in once Kourtney was comfortable. Sadly, no mascara, though I tried to push for it!
Kourtney: Amy’s friend and my friend as well, Sunil Desai, officiated the ceremony. Amy used to work with him and he’s officiated weddings before, and he’s well-spoken and calming and encouraging. He sent us homework questions to answer together, and then questions to answer separately, and send back to him so he could work on what he was going to say during the ceremony. Neither of us wanted the traditional or churchy feel.
Amy: Then my nephew, who was 10 at the time, read a passage from The Velveteen Rabbit, about the meaning of the word “real” — that real is when you love something so much it comes alive for you.
Kourtney: I read my vows first because I knew I was going to panic the entire time. When it came down to the moment, even though I was nervous, I was talking to Amy and talking about her, and that made me comfortable. Though I don’t think my left foot stopped shaking. For cocktail hour, guests remained up on the top of Dobbin, then there was also a courtyard downstairs serving drinks. There was a fried pickle, because I insisted. I love a pickle. It took three tastings before they got it right, and it was a hit.
Amy: We had Pinch do our food. The way they serve things, the presentation is interesting and architectural. There was “steak frites,” which was really a little piece of beef with a potato crisp wrapped around it. And a little grilled-cheese bite, a mini lobster roll. We had two specialty cocktails, a spin on a Manhattan, and a pear-ginger-vodka drink.
Kourtney: We called it a “perfect pear,” and once I tasted it I was like, Oh yes, this drink is going to cause good trouble. It was too easy to drink.
Amy: We hung out, had cocktails, took pictures, then disappeared. The beauty of having the two producers who do events for a living was there was a run of show, like clockwork, and they knew how to move things along. We disappeared into a small bridal suite, and then there are stairs that descend into Dobbin Street for the reception area, and once people were inside and had drinks, the DJ played the Bee Gees “More Than a Woman” and we came down the stairs ourselves. We transitioned right into our first dance, to “Bloom” by Paper Kites.
Kourtney: Amy didn’t want to have a first dance, but it was actually one of the few traditional things that I wanted to do. It was like, “We’ll do this real quick and we’ll be done with the torture of all the attention being on us.” The presentation for dinner was amazing, as far as the little butters and bread and all that. There was a shared Brussels sprout salad, then the option of either a filet or branzino.
Amy: Then we each had a family toast and a friend toast. My brother and sister and sister-in-law got up and it was really more of a roast and it was hilarious. For the music, we had a DJ. I wanted the DJ to be female and I wanted her to be cool. My friends gave us a selection of people and we went through her agent — her name’s DJ MAAD. We had a call and gave her a list of things we wanted — ’70s disco, ’80s pop, ’90s rock, and the current stuff like Lizzo — but said, “Use this as an inspiration, not a mandate.”
Kourtney: There wasn’t a cake-cutting. Amy and I aren’t cake people. When I told my mother and sister we weren’t going to have a wedding cake, their reaction sucked out all the oxygen in the room. “How do you have a wedding without a wedding cake?” I thought it was just them, but then we mentioned it to some friends and another one said, “It’s okay, I’ll bring my own personal-sized wedding cake. I’ll have it delivered.” Apparently, people like wedding cake!
Amy: We did passed desserts. Pinch does a lot of fun stuff. The waiters came out holding big, iridescent umbrellas open with hooks, and apple-cider doughnuts were hanging from the hooks. They had chocolate ice cream and strawberry gelato on spikes. Tiny carrot cakes came out floating on balloons. Then we did late-night food — hot dogs with mustard; lo mein in Chinese noodle containers — because once people are drunk they need something in their stomachs.
Kourtney: We had a photo booth, with a backdrop of a neon sign that said GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS, and with random hats and huge cutouts of our cat, Chloe, and a piñata that looked like Amy. As everybody left, they stopped to take a photo in the booth. One of Amy’s friends from business school said, “I can take care of the after-party.”
Amy: She planned it at the Counting Room. There was a DJ, and everyone kept dancing until God knows when, but at 3 a.m., we snuck out without telling anybody. We did one of those, “Meet me outside, and don’t say good-bye.”