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 Hayley Anthony, a UX designer, and Kayla Hanson, a software engineer, who married this past June after meeting in 2016 at a reading series hosted by a small press focused on trans topics. Their wedding-planning philosophy was simple: Find great people, and trust them to do a great job. The resulting celebration, coincidentally held over Pride weekend in New York, was just the colorful, vibrant, intensely emotional event they’d been hoping for.
Hayley: We knew that we wanted our wedding to be for the girls and the gays, as they say — colorful and queer and relaxed and inviting. We met in the summer of 2016; we were in the same friend circles and it was about six months before we really started dating.
Kayla: That December, I remember we came home and told your roommate and their partner that it was official. They threw up their arms and said, “Finally!”
Hayley: Kayla proposed to me in May 2022 at Jacob Riis beach after a bike ride. We were doing our final warm-up before the Five Boro Bike Tour, and my family was in town — ostensibly to do the ride with us, but they knew she was proposing. Our friends were down there waiting, too.
Kayla: Rule of Thirds was the first venue we saw in person. We had eaten at the restaurant years before we knew they did events, and we knew the food would be fantastic.
Hayley: It’s Japanese-inspired modern cuisine, a restaurant on one side and a wedding venue on the other. We had a short list of venues mostly in Brooklyn, and it was the prettiest one.
Kayla: It’s very open and full of air and light, and they have tons of beautiful greenery throughout. The natural materials and fibers make it super inviting and comforting. When we saw the space in person, it just clicked. They had a good date available, and we made the decision that day.
Hayley: We found craftspeople whose work we enjoyed, and then said, “Go, you have the freedom to do your thing.” We weren’t trying to nitpick.
Kayla: Like, we didn’t really know what we wanted with florals until we saw Dru’s work at FloraModa. We were drawn to her portfolio.
Hayley: Bright, vivid, saturated color. We wanted reds and greens and life and energy, and unconventional blooms and decorative fruit. We did specifically request peonies, because they’re a favorite of Kayla’s and match the big tattoo on her back. For our dresses, we couldn’t decide if we wanted to wear white, wear colors, do the same thing, do different things …
Kayla: We went to all the same shops together.
Hayley: When we went to bridal boutiques, they said, “You’re a little bit late to get something majorly adjusted. Try to find something off the rack that fits.” You shouldn’t be shopping for your June wedding in February. In the interest of trying things that were colorful, we also went to Bergdorf. I didn’t really vibe with any of the stuff, but Kayla found this gorgeous Oscar de la Renta dress.
Kayla: A cornflower-blue gown made entirely of lace flowers. From the moment I tried it on, I was in love with it and couldn’t think about anything else.
Hayley: I did end up finding something by Justin Alexander that was an incredible fit from the start. I took it to Tailoress Atelier and stood on the pedestal and they said, “Well, the beading needs a lot of repairs, but there’s something we can do to the fit that would make it better.” So my approach to a dress was: Wait until the last minute, and buy one that already fits. It was gorgeous when we bought it, it was gorgeous the day of, and I haven’t looked at it since we put it away, but I assume it’s still gorgeous.
Kayla: We consulted with both of our mothers and a bunch of friends about the options. There were lots of beautiful dresses, but the heart knew what it wanted and in the end, it was an easy decision.
Hayley: We never even attempted to not see each other’s dresses. We got ready together, at the Ace Hotel in downtown Brooklyn, where our families were staying. It was very casual; the only nod to not seeing each other was we were in separate rooms as we got our makeup done and put on our dresses. There was a moment where we did get to see each other, finished.
Kayla: My favorite moments were definitely during our ceremony. There was so much energy in the room.
Hayley: Our officiant was our friend, Cat Fitzpatrick. We selected her for a few reasons: As a publisher and an author, she’s done many events and can command an audience. As a poet, we knew she would construct a ceremony that was meaningful. And as a friend who has a long experience with queer marriage, she would have special insight. Of our close gay friends in New York, not many are married and none had a ceremonial wedding.
Kayla: Cat’s script was so beautifully written, and delivered so much laughter throughout.
Hayley: We should say how Cat invoked the ceremony: “We’re here in the spirit of gay sex and communism.” That was a joke throughout; how, when you think about it, a marriage is the smallest possible unit of communism, of collective decision-making and shared resources for the common good.
Kayla: We wrote our own vows, and Hayley’s were beautiful.
Hayley: Cat was indispensable at helping us come to grips with what it was we were trying to promise each other. It was the most powerful moment of the entire experience for me, at least. People would ask, “Does it feel different to be married?” I think they all expect the answer to be, “Ha, not really.” But the thing that makes it different is the vows we said to each other.
Kayla: It really felt like the energy from that moment kept echoing all weekend long.
Hayley: It’s at once the heaviest promise I’ve ever made anyone, but at the same time, lighter than air. There was a cocktail hour after the ceremony. They gave us a few signature cocktails to choose from, and we did a Toki Highball, a simple whiskey drink that tasted good. Nothing fancy.
Kayla: Everything at dinner was family-style, which I loved. We had a Berkshire pork tonkatsu, grilled fish, and a vegan mushroom stew. The pork tonkatsu was phenomenal.
Hayley: We had the tuna thing that you ate with the nori.
Kayla: Yeah, it was a raw-tuna build-your-own hand-roll appetizer, as well as some karaage and this really fantastic salad.
Hayley: Our first dance was to “The Only Exception,” by Paramore. The first half of the dancing was mostly modern pop that was pretty familiar to everybody. As it went on, it sort of shifted more into club music, with an emphasis on trance and EDM.
Kayla: DJ June played all night, and did a great job bringing everyone out after our first dance. There were beautiful speeches from both of our families — parents and siblings, and three from longtime friends. We asked the friends a couple weeks out to think about their toasts, since we did not have a wedding party.
Hayley: We didn’t have a cake. We had Italian wedding cookies, which are a Midwest thing, I guess — a midwestern Italian thing, which is what my family is. And the venue served something …
Kayla: They served a cake! But it wasn’t like we did a custom-ordered wedding cake from a bakery.
Hayley: The wedding took place on Pride weekend, which was by chance rather than design. But it did mean that there were fantastic opportunities to continue partying. We moved those who were willing and able to a queer rave in a Bushwick warehouse.
Hayley: About a quarter of the guests came. All the trans girls, the soccer boys, all the college boys …
Kayla: People danced all night. Having so many of our people there on one night was really a once-in-a-lifetime moment. I’m looking forward to going back [to that warehouse] for our anniversary.
More From This Series
- A Cobble Hill Wedding With an Air of Goodfellas
- In the City That Never Sleeps, a Wedding That Never Ends
- A Newark Wedding With No Fewer Than 3 DJ Sets