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 Heesun Huh, the head of design at premium denim line DL1961, and Brian Chu, the co-founder of A05 Studio, a design and fabrication firm in Red Hook. The aesthetically minded couple met in Brooklyn and married last July in the most “chill” Brooklyn venue they could find: the Wythe Hotel, where their matching Virgo tendencies focused on flowers, subtle Korean touches (Heesun was born in South Korea and emigrated to the U.S. as a teenager, while Chu grew up in New Jersey to Korean parents), and a special green suit.
Brian: We met on a dating app. She lived only a couple of blocks from me in Brooklyn —
Heesun: Literally one block and a half away.
Brian: — And we met at a bar on Valentine’s Day 2017. We’d had a mutual friend on the dating app, and it turned out I’d gone to grad school with her best friend from college.
Heesun: I asked my friend about him, and she doesn’t go off that often but was like, “Oh, Brian. I love Brian.” He was smiling really big when we met on the street. He looked very pure, in a way. Not that many guys would be smiling that big, and waving to you. He seemed like a genuinely nice person.
Brian: We had been living together for a year when I proposed. I set up our apartment for a nice dinner and prepared everything, and then just before dinner, I asked her.
Heesun: It was just a regular day, so I was hanging my coat in the closet, and I turned and he was kneeling down. It was no big surprise — we’d gone on a family vacation to Hawaii, and he had asked my dad for permission, and obviously that was supposed to be a secret, but my father told me ten minutes later.
Brian: For the wedding, I didn’t want anything too fancy or that screamed, “We’re trying way too hard.” We started out looking at smaller restaurants and bars because we wanted something chill, but once we set our guest list at 100 we figured a smaller restaurant couldn’t really accommodate it.
Heesun: I helped a lot with my brother’s wedding in Brooklyn several years back, so I knew a lot of venues, but I hadn’t helped with the budgeting — there are so many things happening with those empty venues, so many things you have to do, like get a liquor license or event license. We realized we wanted a proper wedding venue.
Brian: The Wythe Hotel hit all the marks: Brooklyn, chill, indoor and outdoor space, the food was awesome. And all the people we were in contact with were super responsive and super accommodating. They were by far the quickest to respond to us. You’re already in this frantic state, so a quick response just puts you at ease.
Heesun: Then I really fell in love when we did the tasting, because wow, their food was amazing. I think that was my happiest moment of the process. Brian and I are both Virgos, and Brian used to work in architecture, so he’s really detail-oriented, and I love planning and being a manager. It was fun!
Brian: Everyone commented on how awesome the flowers were. Every Valentine’s Day and every birthday, I send flowers to her office from Fox Fodder Farm, so we thought it would be great to have them do the flowers for our wedding.
Heesun: The first time he sent me flowers, I was so impressed by his taste, or his effort to find something that he thought was my taste. For the wedding, I asked for something unconventional, something with a strange twist. We focused on purples and greens. I really wanted smaller vases on the tables so it was more scattered-looking, and along the aisle we had more summery, big, tropical greens. I didn’t want anything soft — I wanted character. And I made the last-minute decision to put a flower in my hair. My mother passed away when I was in high school, and she’d worn a flower in her hair at her wedding, so I wanted some reference to her. The morning of, when I received the hairpiece, I was shocked because it really resembled what she’d worn, but I never shared any images with the florist. I didn’t even tell her about it! That made me really happy.
Brian: I wanted to wear something a little out of the ordinary, not your typical tux or navy suit.
Heesun: He’s very open to a lot of things. I mean, he went to art school, so maybe that’s why.
Brian: Heesun and I always liked the color green, and she particularly likes green suits for some reason. We found this suit from Theory, and my mom was like, “Oh, I don’t know about that,” but once I tried it on I knew straight away it was the right one.
Heesun: I first bought a dress that was ankle-length and all spangled. But then I showed it to my brother and mother-in-law, who’s a bit more conservative, and considering we come from an Asian culture, I think they were a little shocked that the dress wasn’t touching the ground. I really wanted to respect the family — throughout wedding planning I noticed that it wasn’t really about us that much, it was all for the guests. I didn’t want to offend anybody, so I made a late purchase and got a super simple, sliplike silk dress from Etsy, and a separate reception dress from Markarian.
Brian: We got ready in the same room at the Wythe, with friends and my parents and everybody together.
Heesun: Our officiant was Neil, the dad of Brian’s business partner, Conor. We’re so close with Conor’s family that we once went on a trip with them without Conor there. Neil calls Brian “my other son.”
Brian: Heesun hit it off with him when they first met. He’s this crazy guy straight out of Ireland, so I thought it would be pretty cool to have him officiate.
Heesun: Neil’s a pretty funny guy and I love him.
Brian: Neil’s very organized, and he laid everything out and wrote emails with things highlighted and in bold, like, “Here are the options. Which way do you guys want to go?” So we picked and chose. What we definitely wanted to include was a mention of Heesun’s mom, and the family we had coming in from Korea. The one traditional Korean thing I wanted was, before the official seal, you go around to each other’s parents and bow and pay respect before the “you may kiss the bride.” We wanted to keep that portion in.
Heesun: They gave us a few choices for a signature cocktail during cocktail hour, and Brian and I each had our favorite one and kept arguing about it, and this is one of those areas where I felt so grateful for the Wythe staff. They said, “Okay, I’ll let you guys have both.” Brian had a Skyline Sour and I had a Penny Lane. We went with a cheese plate and charcuterie board. We went a little conservative on food at the cocktail hour because we’d been to so many weddings, Brian and I both, where food gets wasted. You see them eat all of the cocktail food and then no one touches their entrée. The Wythe’s food doesn’t deserve that treatment.
Brian: The ceremony was in the alleyway garden area, the cocktail hour was in the lower portion facing the street, and the reception was in the main event hall. As soon as everyone sat down, we had our first dance, then Heesun and her dad, and my mom and me.
Heesun: We chose a Black Skirts song from Korea. I don’t even know how we stumbled upon it, but the lyrics talk about a boy from Busan going to Seoul — I’m from Seoul, Brian’s family’s from Busan. The perfect song!
Brian: After the dances, we had our first set of speeches, from Conor and Heesun’s friend Green, and then we had our main course, and then our second set of speeches from my friend Dave, my older brother Chris, and her friend Seo Young. A funny aspect of the speeches: I am an avid scuba diver, and I got Heesun into scuba diving, and I talk about it all the time to my friends, until their ears bleed. In all of our speeches, literally every single one from my friends and hers talked about how I’m obsessed. My scuba-diving friends and instructors came to the wedding, and they were these random middle-aged white guys in the back nodding their heads like, Yeah, we’re those guys everyone’s talking about. We’re his scuba-diving guys.
Heesun: We had a starter of beet salad, and then three choices of entrée: chicken with polenta, braised beef, and arctic char. At weddings in Korea, they usually serve galbitang, which is a beef-rib soup. We didn’t mention this, but then we had the tasting and one of the dishes was this delicious, slow-cooked braised rib with barley rice, like risotto style. It resembled galbitang, and as one of the choices, all the Korean adults signed up for that one.
Brian: The dancing was at the opposite end of the bar, in the space near the patio. We had kind of retro pop, and some K-Pop. Got to have the K-Pop.
Heesun: Our DJ was a completely white guy, but we started with Korean and Japanese pop from the ’90s, then by the end it was the fun dance music everyone wants to hear, like the Soul Train vibe. My friends and I love “Dancing Queen,” and I think all the adults were enjoying that.
Brian: We didn’t have a cake-cutting portion, we just handed out slices while everyone was dancing. The cake was awesome — it was a crêpe cake from Lady M. As it wound down, obviously all my friends were like, “We’ve got to go out!” It was the middle of Williamsburg on a weekend night and some of them had flown in from L.A. But we were way too tired.
Heesun: We went up stairs, the two of us, and cleaned our room. That was very chill, very us. We’re not big partyers. We had a wedding favor, a T-shirt with the first syllables of our names embroidered in Korean. Some guests said, “Oh, if you turn it 90, it looks like ‘BK,’ like Brooklyn.” Okay, we’ll take that.