It’s a DMV love story, how Debbie and Chris met. The year was 2010. He was then a student at the University of Maryland, College Park, she was enrolled at Howard University in D.C. Debbie was invited by a mutual friend to an event on the College Park campus, and when Chris set his eyes on her, he had to speak.
The two talked and laughed with one another on that fall night, eventually exchanging numbers. They would become close friends, frequently spending time together before becoming best friends and then, more.
“We’ve been inseparable since the day we met, and he is honestly my best friend,” she tells ESSENCE. “I cannot see myself doing life without him.”
Chris feels the same way. “I knew I found the right one when it felt weird when she wasn’t around,” he says. “When I started to feel this way I knew I found the person that complemented my personality and would add value to my life.” Eleven years after they met on campus, he decided to make things official, asking for her hand with a rooftop proposal in Baltimore, surrounded by family and friends.
Nearly two years later, “the jetsetters” had their loved ones meet them, dressed to the nines, near Lisbon, Portugal where they tied the knot on April 22, 2023. Lovers of Portuguese art and culture, they incorporated it heavily into every aspect of the celebration of their love, from the invites to seat placement, photography, food and more. And they were innovative, leaning on black and white details to provide some edge. The end result of their planning, their creative choices, and more than a decade of love, can be found in the stunning photography done by Stanley Babb to capture the momentous occasion. It was a day and night to remember.
“From the music to the string quartet, the natural backdrop, the horse and carriage, our close families and friends being present, gosh, it was such a beautiful day and definitely a dream come true,” says Debbie.
Check out the unforgettable memories made as the couple, whose story began in the DMV area, solidified their bond all the way over in Southern Europe for this week’s Bridal Bliss.
“I knew I found the one because I felt so comfortable around him,” Debbie says. “We’ve been inseparable since the day we met, and he is honestly my best friend.”
“I knew I found the right one when it felt weird when she wasn’t around,” says Chris. “Choosing Debbie is by far the best decision I’ve made in my life.”
In a unique move, Debbie had her bridesmaids wear white gowns. As for the guests, they were asked to wear black, and most obliged. “I went back and forth between white and black. I ultimately chose white because I thought my bridesmaids would look beautiful walking down the aisle. It also complemented the white floral decor,” she shares. “Having them wear white also served a nice contrast to the mostly black attire our guests wore during the wedding. Everything flowed so nicely!
Chris is captured sharing a joyous moment with his groomsmen, who all wore black.
“I’ve always dreamed of having a European destination wedding,” says Debbie. “We chose Lisbon, Portugal, because the city has a young hipster vibe, while still retaining a classical European style. Lisbon has some of the most beautiful scenic views. Not to mention their food and culture are both amazing.”
If you’re wondering how Chris popped the question to Debbie, it was quite the surprise. She thought she was simply attending her cousin’s bridesmaid proposal dinner at a rooftop bar and restaurant so that she could be a part of a wedding party. She would soon find out that she would be planning her own wedding when Chris, and both their families, showed up to witness her say “yes.”
Both Debbie and Chris were pleased with one another’s looks when they hand the chance to see each other gussied up for the big day before walking down the aisle.
The beauty is seen with her veil down, preparing to make her way to her soon-to-be husband.
Guests were in awe as she made her way down the aisle with her father in front of a picturesque backdrop that included beautiful Portuguese architecture.
“For the color scheme, we decided that guests would wear black because we thought it would add to that chic classy edge we were aiming to achieve,” the bride says of their color scheme.
Debbie and Chris sealed their new union with a kiss.
The couple pose for one of their first photos as husband and wife.
“When deciding on a theme, we knew we wanted a cross between chic, modern, and classic, with a bit of edge, while also incorporating our love of Portuguese culture and architecture,” says Debbie, who is pictured in a horse and carriage with Chris in Sintra, Portugal after their ceremony.
What the wedding party’s ensembles lacked in color, the background for their portraits certainly made up for as the sun shined on the gorgeous greenery at their venue, Tivoli Palácio de Seteais.
As mentioned, black and white were the couple’s colors for their big day, providing some edge to their celebration. To offset some of the black, “We incorporated white flowers to bring serenity to the decor,” Debbie says. “We didn’t want everything to look dark.”
While women often change into a second outfit for receptions, both Debbie and Chris swapped ensembles for their untraditional final looks. “I worked with Khris Aiyeh, who was my stylist and designer through my wedding journey. He was able to curate and create the gown I envisioned,” says the bride. “What he delivered was a shimmering silver, gun-metal gown with applique from various fabrics. My favorite detail on the gown was the ruffle organza. The second gown definitely sealed the deal for my final wedding look. It was the final masterpiece!” As for Chris, he matched Debbie’s fly. “I looked for a jacket that was bold and would complement my wife,” he says. “I chose heavy embroidered details on my jacket to make it stand out from the customary tux.”
“It’s so hard to choose! I had so many unforgettable moments, but I would say my favorite moment was our outdoor ceremony,” says Debbie. “The weather turned out absolutely perfect.” For Chris, his joy came from watching all of the people he loves come together for a good time. “My favorite moment was the second half of the reception when the party began. At that moment, I realized that all the hard work that went into planning this wedding paid off, and I was happy with the result of the day as a whole,” he says. “Partying with my wife, friends and family, and just having them enjoy themselves at the end of the night was a great feeling. I wanted to make sure everyone had as much of a good time as I envisioned they would.”
Fashion Stylist/Second Look: @kingaiyeh
Floral Production: @decorelle.eu
Paper and Signage: @sugartaylorco
Reception and Catering: @fslisbon