the wedding files

A Vibrant Chinatown Wedding

The grooms celebrated their love, their shared culture, and the community they’ve built in New York City.

Photo: Shore & Wave
Photo: Shore & Wave

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!” Gathering with old friends and eating mini grilled cheeses in formalwear to celebrate love feels more special these days than ever, even downright miraculous. And the betrothed have never been less attached to the old wedding handbook — or the need to please their great-aunt. So in a flurry of pampas grass and perfectly mismatched-to-match bridesmaid dresses, how do you pull off a non-cookie-cutter affair? For the answers, we decided to interrogate the cool couples whose weddings we would actually want to steal, right down to the tiger-shaped cake toppers.

Here, we spoke with Dominic Sonkowsky, an urban planner, and Harry Trinh, head of creative at the nonprofit Welcome to Chinatown. It was around their shared heritage that their October wedding day revolved, as they whisked guests to events across Chinatown, from a tea ceremony to a Cantonese banquet, plus several photo sessions, a restaurant for dinner, and a cocktail bar to close things out. The outfits, food, and décor were all modern interpretations of Chinese culture, and guests were encouraged to wear outfits that reflected their own backgrounds while celebrating the couple. 

Harry: We wanted to shave off all the things that felt procedural or prescribed. We didn’t have a cocktail named after our hypothetical dog or cat. We didn’t have a first dance with a fog machine.

Dominic: We wanted it to be a reflection of the community that we’ve built in New York, in Chinatown.

Harry: A celebration of our culture as Chinese Americans, while remixing it in a way that made sense with our perspective and queerness.

Dominic: Most importantly, we wanted to have fun.

Harry: We met on Tinder when we were both in undergrad. I was a senior at an art college called MICA in Baltimore, and he was a sophomore at Swarthmore outside of Philly.

Dominic: I remember details. It was December 4, 2015, our nine-hour first date. We met in Chinatown for lunch, then went to the Barnes Collection, then — against the advice of my friends, in a stranger’s car — on to Longwood Gardens, a botanical garden in the Philly area. I asked, “So, when will I get to see you again?”

Harry: Our second or third date, in January 2016, I was hosting a Lunar New Year party and just threw Dominic into a big pool of my friends. I’d never really shared a boyfriend with my friends before. I think I knew, very subconsciously, I really like him and I feel very proud. 

Dominic: We had talked about getting married for a long time, but there wasn’t really any engagement moment. In 2022, we decided, “Okay, yes, let’s do it.”

Harry: Our goal, from a venue perspective, was to do everything hyperlocal to Chinatown, within walking distance. We started out with a tea ceremony and brunch in this beautiful event space, Sommwhere. Our dinner was at Jing Fong, which was one of the restaurants my parents used to take me to on trips to New York. My nonprofit worked with them, because they were one of the businesses that got hit pretty hard during COVID. We became regulars and friends with the staff because we were seeing each other at least once a week.

Dominic: And we had a nightcap at Round K by Sol, which is a cocktail bar at night and a Korean coffee shop during the day. For our clothes, we worked with DAWANG, a brand that puts a streetwear twist on traditional Chinese clothing.

Harry: The founder is Daisy Wang, who was another connection from work. Suits had felt stuffy and not us, but on the flip side, it was hard to find traditional wear, because I’m only five-foot-four, and my husband is five-eleven. The lengths were all very wonky, and shopping online from an overseas vendor didn’t feel right.

Dominic: I wore a Chinese-style white shirt with a French workwear jacket. We both had embroidery, a motif of two Mandarin ducks. One, it’s a traditional symbol for marriage, because Mandarin ducks stay together their whole lives. Two, we wanted a deep New York cut, and there was this Mandarin duck in Central Park that everyone went crazy over in 2018. I think the Cut called it the Hot Duck.

Harry: I wanted a more flowy interpretation of a Tángzhuāng, which is like a long robe. I’d tried on a few in the past, and because I don’t have very broad shoulders, they just made me look like a silky pencil. So my outfit was a two-piece with longer, wider sleeves and flowy pants to emulate that robe look without it being a robe.

Dominic: The day of, we got up on five hours of sleep and were greeted by our photo-and-video folks, Shore & Wave. They were absolutely wonderful, but it was very early. We headed over to our barber, Tyler Wu at 12 Pell, for our hair and makeup. We had planned to get to Sommwhere before our guests, but we were running late and made an unintended grand entrance. Everyone started clapping.

Harry: Sommwhere is a white box with these beautiful plastered walls. It was a great space to drop in color. For florals, I worked with Monineath Pen at Dirt & Co., who I met through my barber. We stayed away from bright reds because we knew the textiles we were wearing and other ceremonial pieces would be bright. I wanted to go for dark burgundies, dark greens like moss in interesting textures and abstract arrangements.

Dominic: Traditionally, a tea ceremony is the couple kneeling to serve tea to older family members sitting in chairs above them. But we wanted to be inclusive of everyone attending, so we also sat and served tea down to the younger folks.

Harry: We have a lot of young cousins. We just flipped roles, and they came to us on the pillows. It was a more playful version of a ceremony, because there were kids as young as 5.

Dominic: It was very chaotic and unscripted, but also fun, because people either hadn’t done a tea ceremony before, or — like our parents — hadn’t done one in 30 years. We muddled through and it was great. After that was a dim sum brunch catered by Jing Fong.

Harry: It was the mainstays: shrimp dumplings and shrimp rolls, shumai, these amazing salted egg-yolk steam buns. We had really cute bunny-shaped desserts of coconut jello. You typically cut the starch of dim sum with a more earthy pu-erh tea; we sourced ours from Grand Tea and Imports, a small shop in Chinatown.

Dominic: That afternoon, we had photo sessions with friends.

Harry: We had family photos during the tea ceremony, so we selected some of our closest friends and had little moments through the neighborhood. We asked everyone to dress in regalia that represented their own culture, so we had friends in a qipao and a kimono and a barong.

Dominic: We went to the Little One, a dessert spot, then to the Welcome to Chinatown space. At Columbus Park, we took photos with Harry’s friends from his hometown of Richmond, Virginia, and my Swarthmore friends; then on to Wing on Wo and Doyers and Pell Streets to take photos with our New York friends. In the public places, we were definitely getting onlookers, a lot of aunties and uncles watching. It was cute.

Harry: It’s still a novelty to see traditional Chinesewear roaming around the streets, and when they recognized it was for a wedding, you could feel their positive energy. For dinner at Jing Fong, we had a very classic Cantonese wedding banquet with peking duck, typhoon shelter prawns, fish maw soup.

Dominic: One of my favorites was pumpkin coated in salted egg yolk. The room was decorated with paper lanterns; Harry had sent a couple of them to our families and asked them to paint the lanterns with Chinese blessings for our marriage.

Harry: I wanted an evening garden-party vibe, with a smattering of paper lanterns all over the ceiling so it feels like you’re in someone’s backyard. We started off the evening with a lion dance by the New York Chinese Freemasons. That was our sort of replacement for the first dance, because Dom and I did not want to dance in front of our friends. Throughout the night, we also had the AAPI Jazz Collective play Canto-Mando pop songs in a jazz composition.

Dominic: And we had a drag queen, Emi Grate.

Harry: They’re from Burma, and they’d told me they were going to take up singing again, and I was like, “Cool, do you want to use our wedding as a guinea pig?” We chose these five songs — our moms’ favorites, and the favorite song of an aunt I was very close with who passed away — and Emi worked with a Cantonese linguist to learn the lyrics and pronunciation. It was crazy!

Dominic: Because neither of us are particularly fond of wedding cake, we had a tower of egg tarts.

Harry: Dinner ended around 10ish, and we went over to Round K by Sol. We had four specialty cocktails there, and an instant-noodle bar with this decadent assemblage of toppings, like grilled pork belly, blanched bean sprouts, green onions, and marinated shiitake mushrooms.

Dominic: We underestimated the number of people who would come to the bar, because we had marked it “optional,” but it was jammed. We were a little worn-out so we actually stayed outside, with a table set up there. It was an “Okay, we can relax now” moment.

Harry: One thing we wish about our wedding is that it went a little slower. All these pieces coming together in all these places with all these people we love — I wish we had more time to take it all in!

Harry and Dominic’s wedding day began with a tea ceremony at Sommwhere. Photo: Shore & Wave
Harry worked with Dirt & Co. on a textural, jewel-toned floral design that would offset the brighter reds of the day. Photo: Shore & Wave
The table was set for a dim sum brunch after the ceremony. Photo: Shore & Wave
The couple knelt on pillows to serve tea to their parents. Photo: Shore & Wave
They then flipped the script and had younger family members on the pillows as well. Their friend Alan, left, MCed the ceremony. Photo: Shore & Wave
“Both of our families said, ‘Don’t feel too pressured to do all these traditions unless you really like them,’” Harry recalls. Photo: Shore & Wave
The brunch, catered by Jing Fong, featured shrimp dumplings, steam buns, pu-erh tea, and more. Photo: Shore & Wave
There were also bunny-shaped desserts; 2023 is the year of the rabbit. Photo: Shore & Wave
They worked with Daisy Wang, the designer of the fashion brand DAWANG, to create their wedding clothes, which were modern twists on traditional Chinese formalwear. Photo: Shore & Wave
Both looks included embroidery of Mandarin ducks, partly inspired by Central Park’s famed “hot duck.” Photo: Shore & Wave
During a break in the middle of the day, the newlyweds took photos with different groups of friends around Chinatown. Photo: Shore & Wave
Guests were encouraged to wear clothing traditional to their own cultures. Photo: Shore & Wave
Dinner followed at Jing Fong. Leaves and lanterns across the ceiling evoked a backyard party. Photo: Shore & Wave
Harry sent lanterns to family members and asked them to paint blessings for their marriage. Dominic’s parents added photos of the couple to theirs. Photo: Shore & Wave
The meal kicked off with a lion dance that wound around the tables. Photo: Shore & Wave
Dinner was a classic Cantonese wedding buffet. Photo: Shore & Wave
Entertainment included the Burmese drag queen Emi Grate … Photo: Shore & Wave
… as well as the AAPI Jazz Collective. Photo: Shore & Wave
The couple first met in undergrad, where they kept up a long-distance relationship despite attending schools in different cities. Photo: Shore & Wave
In another nod to Chinese tradition, loved ones wished the couple well with messages on red satin cloth instead of a guest book. Photo: Shore & Wave
As they don’t love cake, the pair ended the meal with a tower of egg tarts instead. Photo: Shore & Wave

More From This Series

See All
A Vibrant Chinatown Wedding