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 Lisa Nicole Rosado, the founder of We Are Women Owned, a community and events platform for small, female-owned businesses, and Brian Edelman, a software engineer. They met in an elevator in New York City and tied the knot last June, nearly a decade later, among a field of purple lupines in Iceland with close family and friends.
Brian: I moved to New York City in August 2010, and by September I was in a show. I played the imaginary friend of a character, and Lisa played a nurse.
Lisa: We rode up in the elevator together to the rehearsal room, introduced ourselves, and found the room together. He claims that during the table read, I was giving him eyes, which I was not.
Brian: She was definitely giving me eyes.
Lisa: I can assure you, I was not.
Brian: I was probably continuously staring at her while she glanced in my direction once or twice. So, of course, I was like, Oh, she totally wants me.
Lisa: He was wearing this ridiculous T-shirt that he still has to this day. It says “I’m” above a picture of Christopher Walken’s face, and then below it says “On sunshine.” At that moment, I just knew he was going to be my boyfriend.
Brian: It would be a long time before I’d see her again since we didn’t have any scenes together, so I looked her up in the cast directory and asked her to coffee.
Lisa: We’ve both since steered away from acting, but it’s what brought us together. In 2016, he proposed.
Brian: Whenever I plan something, she figures it out a week before it happens. I can’t ever surprise her. We used to make some videos for Birchbox, for her blog, so I knew I wanted to put the ring inside one of their boxes, because she wouldn’t expect it to be there.
Lisa: I had a fashion, beauty, and lifestyle blog for a number of years and would walk people through getting a box every month. The day he proposed, we were filming and had just gone through our boxes when I was like, “And that’s it.” And he said, “No, it’s not.”
Brian: It kind of looked like a piece of trash because I’d wrapped it so quickly in tissue paper. At first, she really didn’t notice it.
Lisa: A ring from Catbird popped out and he got down on one knee.
Brian: We knew we wanted to take our time with planning, because she was in the process of starting her business and I was switching careers at the time. There was a lot of chaos in our lives. We decided we didn’t want a big, traditional wedding. You could buy a house for the amount of money you pay — it’s highway robbery in a lot of respects. On the other hand, we didn’t want a courthouse situation, either. We wanted our ceremony to be something between “big” and “courthouse.”
Lisa: I’ve been a maid of honor once and a bridesmaid four times. It’s just so time-consuming and takes so much of your energy and emotions — not to mention the drama and money.
Brian: We went to Iceland years ago and fell in love with it. I think part of it had to do with the fact that it wasn’t New York. It was all sweeping vistas with lava rocks and giant mountains and waterfalls every ten feet. It felt like another world, and it was just nice to feel expansive — like I could spread out mentally and physically because there was so much free space. I don’t know how it came up, but we landed on wanting to elope there.
Lisa: It ended up being such a special place for us. Shockingly, everyone was pretty okay with it.
Brian: Originally, it was just going to be us. Then, we felt like we should bring our moms. I worried about mine because my sister had a real elopement on a beach and was just like, “Only we’re going and we’re not inviting anyone.” I didn’t want my mom to miss two weddings.
Lisa: Our moms said, “Oh, Iceland? Okay.” When we’d planned our trip years ago, my mom didn’t understand and asked about the location. All we had to do was come back with our pictures, and she was like, “Oh my God. This place is magic.” And it is magic! So we pulled for Iceland.
Brian: Then we expanded it to include a few more people. We didn’t want to ask anyone to make that trip, because it’s a big expense, so we ended up having 11 people there, including the photographer and videographer.
Lisa: I reached out to Jenny MacFarlane because I saw that, even though she was based in New York, she’d photographed a lot of weddings in Iceland. Honestly, she became more than our photographer. She gave us so much valuable information, made sure we got our papers in order, and helped with the process of finding an officiant. Plus, on the day of the wedding, she scouted a location in the middle of nature for the ceremony with the videographer, Carlo Timothy, near where we were staying.
Brian: The venue wasn’t figured out until ten minutes before the wedding. We’d set up an Airbnb for our stay 15 to 20 minutes from Reykjavík, where the weather rarely cooperated. It could rain at the drop of a hat or be freezing in the middle of summer, so we needed a nice Airbnb in case we had to have the wedding inside. In the end, it wasn’t necessary, because we ended up having beautiful, sunny weather. I think it rained for five minutes the entire six days we were there.
Lisa: Some of our friends and family got ready with us in the house, which I really enjoyed. I found my hair and makeup artist, Eva Hrönn Hlynsdóttir, online a month before, and I picked out flowers a few days before the wedding. We found a florist, Sandra Thórisson, and I explained to her what my dress looked like. When I say it was chill, it was very chill.
Brian: I got my suit at Men’s Wearhouse. It wasn’t bespoke, but they custom-fit it off their templates. There was no pomp or circumstance to it — very similar to Lisa’s experience.
Lisa: I didn’t want anything poofy. I’ve always loved the 1920s and 1930s Art Deco era and wanted it for the look. I’d had this dress saved on my phone for years, and I knew it was well over $20,000. However, over the course of time, all of that stuff became much less important to me. We’d been together this long — we just wanted to get married. I went to BHLDN, tried on a variety of dresses, and picked one that ended up being under $1,000. In the end, the least expensive one I tried on was the one I liked the most, which never happens.
Brian: We were just hanging out with family and friends, drinking Champagne and bourbon, and it was so chill, like, Wait, am I getting married today? Nobody was running around like crazy, I wasn’t nervous at all, and then suddenly we were getting married. Jenny had found this place a three-minute drive away with flat terrain for the older folks to walk on with us. It was in a field of lupines, an invasive species brought to Iceland in the 1950s — just the most beautiful purple weeds.
Lisa: A lot of people in Iceland hate lupines, but they’re just so beautiful. They look like lavender. It was June 1, and everything was lush, in bloom, and green — a lot more green than when we’d visited in the past.
Brian: Our officiant, Elías Bjartur Einarsson, was younger than we were at the time — about 23 or 24 — and a local. Everyone fell in love with him. We didn’t have strong feelings regarding the ceremony since we’re not very religious. Several weeks before the wedding, we had an hour-long call with him over Skype, during which he asked us a bunch of questions. He had a whole questionnaire he wanted us to fill out.
Lisa: I was so impressed because he wrote this whole script about our relationship based on that conversation. He exceeded our expectations and was just so awesome. We did our own vows, but we didn’t get the chance to write them until the night before because we weren’t sure we even wanted to do them. I ended up staying awake into the wee hours of the morning.
Brian: Elías included some information about Lisa’s grandmother that was very touching. It had Lisa, her mom, and her sister crying. That portion had been written into the ceremony because that day was also the anniversary of her grandmother’s passing.
Lisa: Everyone in my family was like, “Can we take him home? I can’t wait to go back to Iceland.”
Brian: The ceremony was around 3 p.m., and then we had a photo shoot with Jenny and the videographer. We drove 45 minutes to a national park and captured some images along the way whenever we saw a lake, waterfalls, horses, or a place where they filmed a Game of Thrones scene.
Lisa: The next day, we continued traveling all around the country, taking photos on the black sand beaches and near the gorgeous waterfalls. We also got to see the goats and horses running around. That time of year, the sun never fully sets — the sky is just a bit darker or a lighter shade of blue.
Brian: The night of the wedding, we got back and went into Reykjavík for dinner around 8 p.m. We were pretty hangry by the time we got there, but it was worth it. We’d googled restaurants and ended up choosing Caruso for the ambiance and the reviews we’d read online. They were super-helpful leading up to it and even let us visit a couple of days beforehand. Overall, they were so nice and excited to see us.
Lisa: The restaurant served Italian food, and it was shockingly delicious. We wanted a place that could accommodate everyone’s diets and preferences. It was quaint, everything inside looked antique, and there was someone playing guitar. There weren’t any speeches at dinner — maybe a toast but nothing formal — and there was no room for dancing. We got out close to midnight, but you couldn’t tell because of the sun.
Brian: We arrived for the wedding on May 28 and left on June 3 for Paris, so we were in Iceland for about six days and then stayed in Paris for seven. The whole thing was basically a honeymoon, but Paris was technically the honeymoon. A couple of friends stayed there for that week as well, while Lisa’s dad flew in for a total of 24 hours just for the wedding.
Lisa: Later in the summer, in August, we rented out a space at the Arlo Hotel in Soho and invited everyone we could think of who couldn’t make it to the Iceland wedding. There wasn’t a ceremony, but we did a cake-cutting and filled in the gaps in terms of people’s usual wedding expectations in a very casual way.