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 Kate Morgan and Justin Brammer, who met in architecture school. Kate went on to become a cake artist, and for their wedding last October at the Weylin in Brooklyn, she made not one but three sugar-flowered masterpieces. The night also featured an “undulating landscape of candlelight,” a Polish-inflected ceremony, and pulled-pork tacos in the cocktail-hour speakeasy.
Justin: We first met in grad school, at architecture school in Houston, then both moved to New York a few years later and had a lot of friends in common.
Kate: I moved to the city and realized that I hated how long it took to actually design a building. I just started to fall back on my love of cakes, so I became a cake artist.
Justin: I proposed in 2018, and Kate had an incredible eye for how the design of the cake would fit into the overall look and feel of the wedding.
Kate: We wanted an intimate wedding. I’m kind of shy, very shy, and neither one of us has a large extended family. We decided early on to be strict with the number of guests — 80 people — because we really wanted to be able to talk and celebrate with everyone. And I really wanted it to look amazing since we’re both designers.
Justin: The Weylin in Williamsburg may be known for its extravagant, expensive weddings, but their “intimate” wedding package was a really great deal for that incredible space. When we visited, it was just one of those places where you walked in and were instantly impressed. It’s from the 1870s, and was the Williamsburgh Savings Bank. The vault doors were still there, and it had ornate tiling and tall domes with lots of windows.
Kate: The lighting was amazing. You used the big, domed area for the ceremony, then you went into the speakeasy downstairs for dinner. The space didn’t need much because it had elaborate wallpaper and patterned floors, but I knew I wanted a lot of candles to create a mood. The richness of the Weylin’s architecture was part of the inspiration when I designed the cakes — the warm, lush tones in the ceilings and in the wall patterns helped influence the colors of the cake’s layers and sugar flowers, and there was a somewhat Baroque quality to the space that lent inspiration in the detailing of decorative elements and flower types on the cakes. The real flowers were little, wilder arrangements in tones of copper and dark purple.
Justin: They were from Rosehip, our neighborhood store. We didn’t give them specific flowers, just certain words we were looking for, like “alien” and “weird,” and that got them really excited. I wore a tuxedo from Brooklyn Tailors. I really like textured fabric, and one of my favorites is velvet. We made a custom suit with a very dark-green velvet jacket and black pants. The only thing we kept a secret from each other was her dress.
Kate: When we got engaged, I was like, “Oh god, I hate wedding dresses.” I’m very pale, so I always thought I looked bad in white, and I just hate the princess-y, spoiled-girl vibe of the big, sparkly gown. I like dressing boldly, and I was drawn to red, actually. I guess I feel that just because I can be a bit shy and may not always want to be in the spotlight, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a lot to say or that I’m boring! I am very attracted to sculptural forms and bold colors in my designs, and, by extension, in my clothing. I went to Vera Wang with my mom and I saw this flash of yellow. I thought, “I’ll just try it on and see.” It was stunning — that goldenrod, highlighter-yellow pop. I was a little nervous about it being too out there. I refused to show my friends for a really long time, but I was just thrilled with it. I loved it.
Justin: I got ready with some of my groomsmen at an Airbnb. And I actually had to deliver the cakes in person that day. For people who don’t know, it’s a bit of a task — wedding cakes! They’re very fragile and can actually be quite heavy. So, I got my groomsmen together, and we delivered them in the morning. We set them up and did the first parts of piecing them together on site. Kate came in later and finished them.
Kate: My specialty is sugar flowers. Initially, I was just thinking of baking one cake covered in sugar flowers. But then I kept having too many ideas, and got slightly carried away, so it ended up being one massive cake, one medium-sized cake, and one small one that was ours. It was kind of nice before the wedding to be able to focus on something that wasn’t like, “Is the whole day going to go wrong? Is it going to be a disaster?” I could control this, and in some ways, it was relaxing.
Justin: I honestly wasn’t worried. She’s very experienced at making these flowers, and she’s very good at it. It’s really nice when she’s making sugar flowers — it feels like an artist’s workshop in my apartment.
Kate: I got ready at our apartment, which was close to the venue, in an effort to make myself comfortable. I didn’t have a maid of honor, but I had five friends up there with me — more traditional than I thought I would have. I gave them a range of color options, but they all ended up wearing similar shades — burgundy, oxblood — when they chose for themselves. Then, I went to the Weylin early and applied all of the sugar flowers to the cakes in full hair and makeup. I spent about 30 minutes placing them, and then I was able to relax a bit and get into my dress.
Justin: The original cage elevator of the building was still there and still operable, so we set it up where I was waiting at the top, and she came up in the elevator and we saw each other. It was one of the nicest moments of the day.
Kate: It was a secular ceremony, and our mutual friend Kyle officiated. He’s a college professor, so he’s fantastic at public speaking. He knows us both very well — we actually all lived together for two months. Weird roommate overlapping situation.
Justin: People post their entire ceremonies online, so we read through them, took different parts from different ones, and made something customized for us. We put the script together, Kate and I, and had Kyle fill in his personal touches.
Kate: Justin’s family is Polish, so we took a Polish tradition — one in which the family presents bread, salt, and wine to the new couple — that usually happens at the reception, and we wrote it into the ceremony so that our parents had more of a role in it.
Justin: The cocktail hour was then in the speakeasy bar downstairs. We had Champagne and a plate of hors d’oeuvres with us while we signed the marriage certificate, and Kate got her dress bustled. We hired Fig and Pig, who were great; they took all of our requests to heart.
Kate: We had a big cheese-and-meat table and passed appetizers like pulled-pork tacos and vegetarian spring rolls. The specialty cocktail was a French 75, and a full bar was available.
Justin: Dividing the speakeasy and the dinner space was a giant swinging door, which was closed during cocktail hour. It swung open for dinner, and everybody moved into that room and it closed. We thought to add in a moment of theatricality after dinner by having the doors swing open to reveal the two of us having our first dance under the glimmer of the disco light.
Kate: Dinner was plated on three long tables. I wanted it to be like a dinner party where you could just relax, talk to each other, and drink a lot of wine. I didn’t want weird, tall centerpieces where you can’t see each other. We really wanted to create this kind of romantic and undulating landscape of light in the ceremony room under the domes — Rosehip used a variety of candle votive shapes and heights throughout the circular ceremony space, and reused them afterward in the reception area to create a perimeter of light around the room. We started out with sunchoke soup. Then, there was a braised short rib with bok choy, Arctic char with salsa verde and potatoes, and a vegetarian lasagna was an option, too. All of our parents spoke — but they were limited to under two minutes.
Justin: The sunchoke soup was my favorite thing. Our first dance was to “How Deep Is Your Love?” by the Bee Gees. We had a DJ, Dan Arlein, who was recommended to me by a friend. We didn’t have to give much direction — just a list of songs that we liked. He knew how to get the party moving.
Kate: My husband loves Prince and David Bowie, and any dance-y, upbeat vibe, really. I changed into a yellow sequined minidress by Retrofête because you just couldn’t dance in that wedding dress. We sort of arranged the room around the cakes I made: a white cake, a vanilla cake with rose-flavored buttercream and raspberries, and a chocolate–passion fruit cake. While I did save some money by doing all of the labor for the baking and the sugar art myself, a large portion of the cake’s cost was the overhead and ingredients. I only wanted to use really, really good quality ingredients — high-fat French butter, Valrhona chocolate, and good Tahitian vanilla — so you could get the best-tasting cake.
Justin: We had an after-party at our local bar, Basik, which our friend and neighbor owns. A decent amount of people came, including all of our friends from out-of-town and people of all ages.
Kate: It was just very comfortable. It was nice to have those normal touches throughout the day.