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 spoke with Monica Wong and Eric Frommelt, a couple of graphic designers who fell in love at work in the dot-com era. Seventeen years later, their hesitations about the institution of marriage notwithstanding, they finally decided to exchange vows in November 2018, and had one of the very first weddings at a new farmhouse venue in Hudson Valley. Per their professions, the aesthetic was carefully curated, with 3D-confetti invitations, a reversible-sequin dress, and a neon sign spelling out their wedding hashtag.
Monica: I am pretty sure it was all me, that it took us this long to get engaged. My parents are divorced, my mom raised us, and she wasn’t a traditional mom. So I’m not traditional. I didn’t see how it could make a difference to the relationship. I didn’t see it as something necessary.
Eric: I proposed in 2010.
Monica: We started dating in 2001. We met working as designers at a creative agency in New York, in the dot-com era; we were playing Foosball in the afternoons and hanging out every night after work. The first time we held hands, his hand felt right. He proposed nine years later.
Eric: We’re both designers and we both know each other’s taste, so I knew what I was doing.
Monica: The diamond wasn’t one of those sticking out ones, which I loathe. I don’t know how people wear those in the winter with gloves, or getting caught on everything. This one is inset and kind of shaped like an eye, and the band is super modern, silver and asymmetrical and twisted; he got it from the Clay Pot. After the proposal it took us a long time to get to the wedding, though, and I feel bad because again I think that was me. I had mixed feelings because again, I don’t really believe in marriage.
Eric: We also did long distance a couple of times — she lived in Hong Kong, I was in New York, then I lived in L.A. for a year, then she was in Hong Kong for another year. When we reunited in New York, we started talking about wedding plans.
Monica: Also, both of his parents had passed away, and that got me thinking about my parents. Everyone says weddings turn out to be really about everyone else but you. I felt like it would mean a lot to my dad, mean a lot to Eric, and so I started dabbling online.
Eric: From a brand perspective, we did some exploratory illustrations that we could use for wedding invitations and signage and all this stuff. We designed all that stuff collaboratively, which was fun. The save-the-dates, the invitations, and the website were all visually consistent, your first cue that you were going to a party, not a conservative wedding. That then carried into the table setting, the menus.
Monica: Yeah, we are aesthetically and creatively driven. It’s very important to us. Eric created an illustration of modern confetti, and the colors of the flowers came from there, and the background of the photo booth, and the hanging paper lanterns, and the chopsticks and chopstick holders. It was all 3D confetti, to give that whole party feel.
Eric: We had 60 people, including ten children. I wore a simple black suit from J.Crew. I bought it for the occasion — I don’t wear suits very often.
Monica: I was conflicted about my dress. I’m originally from Hong Kong, even though I’ve lived in New York most of my life. Hong Kong’s super Western so everyone gets married in white, but traditionally in Chinese culture, red is the happy celebration color. I didn’t know if white was right for me, and I entertained the idea of red, but I don’t wear that much color in my daily life. I searched like crazy online and found this Galvan Salar dress with reversible sequins — cream on one side, gold on the other, so you could make any pattern you wanted. It had a racerback, which I thought was too casual, so I altered it to a more open, low-cut back. Then, it still needed to feel like a wedding dress, so I got a cape made on Etsy.
Eric: We got ready together. She shared every dress she tried on throughout the entire process, so I knew exactly what she would be wearing. That wasn’t a big surprise. The ceremony was in the greenhouse.
Monica: I had been following what weddings prior to mine did with the venue space for inspiration. I saw a flower frame placed behind the couple at one of the weddings, and thought something like that would be great, because it’s not a fixed structure, and it would give us a “green” backdrop. I found a frame on Etsy and thought I might be able to decorate it myself, because I took a flower-making class. But of course, on the day of, I had no time to do anything. My niece decorated the entire arch. But because I had been practicing applying the greenery at home before the wedding, I got the idea to hang a laser-cut felt cutout on the arch — I bought it in Hong Kong, and it was in the shape of the traditional character for weddings, which means “double happiness.”
Eric: As we were walking into the greenhouse, we had to go single file through the door, and I was behind her and my foot came down and …
Monica: … he stepped on my cape as we were walking down the aisle, and it ripped off. Some people saw it but nobody gasped. I just threw it in the air, like, “Oh, well.”
Eric: The officiant was a friend of ours, Julia. She’s living in Austria right now but she flew in for the wedding.
Monica: We really wanted it to be personal, not some stranger. And we didn’t want some script, word for word, how weddings are always officiated. So we Googled examples and then worked together to tweak the language for the tone we wanted — not too serious. Julia’s down to earth and funny. But she was on top of it. She took her job very seriously.
Eric: There was a moment where we mentioned my mother, who passed away a few years ago and loved Monica. There was an acknowledgment about her not being with us, and that was very nice for me.
Monica: I regret not getting married sooner, especially so that Eric’s mother could have been a part of it. Right after we finished our ceremony with a kiss, I was excited, happy, relieved, but also honestly overwhelmed. Then the cocktail hour was in the barn, while they transformed the greenhouse into a dining space.
Eric: I’m not a cocktail person, but there were two signature cocktails. The food was fantastic, all catered by the venue. I left most of it up to Monica, because she’s the food person in our relationship.
Monica: I wanted to incorporate some of my Chinese heritage, specifically Hong Kong, Cantonese food, so I actually gave the venue recipes, tweaking what I found online. For the hors d’oeuvres, there were barbecue pork meatballs, for example, and these lettuce cups that are a part of Hong Kong cuisine. For dinner, I didn’t want a buffet, because that felt too casual to me. The way I grew up, a lot of Chinese food is served family style and you share all the dishes, so that’s what we did. After dinner, Eric and I walked around to talk to everybody at their dinner tables, and then we cut the cake.
Eric: Monica’s sister is a fantastic cook, and she made our cake, hazelnut with cream-cheese frosting. It was beautiful. We did the cake-cutting and I think a lot of people wanted more from us but, again, we’re not very traditional, we didn’t want to do this stuff. We did it for the family.
Monica: No, no, no, no sweetheart table. We hate the spotlight. I planned the seating chart and it was kind of a U, with us sitting with everyone. We moved the arch with the Chinese symbols behind where we sat for the dinner, and had a neon sign made that said “Fromomo,” our wedding hashtag, which is a combination of his last name and the nickname for Monica, Momo. We weren’t sure we were going to do a first dance, but my husband really wanted to play hip-hop so we did “Crazy in Love” by Jay-Z and Beyoncé. Before the song even ended we were like, “Come! More people dance! Come to the dance floor!” We had the DJ say it, too, “Come join us!”
Eric: We put probably too much effort into the music. I knew I wanted a DJ because I like electronic music, I like to dance. I told him, DJ Perry Levy, I wanted a lot of hip-hop and New Order and then a few obscure things, and he said, “That’s probably not a good idea,” and he was right. We had a dialogue with him — “Do you like this? What do you think of that?” — and he put together a really good set.
Monica: There wasn’t an after-party — we’re all older, and tired — but we stayed for as long as we had the venue. As gifts, we had wooden chopsticks with Fromomo engraved on them, in those handmade confetti-fabric chopstick sleeves.