What started as a friendship in high school for Brooklyn natives Nia and Shakeel was solidified as a union between husband and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Luke, on May 8, 2021. It had been a journey of more than 15 years for the couple to make it down the aisle. They met in high school and were good friends, choosing to attend Howard University together. It wasn’t until their senior year of college that their friendship organically developed into a romantic relationship and the pair moved permanently together to DC. Shakeel decided to take their relationship to the next level when he asked for Nia’s hand on New Year’s Eve 2019 in a romantic rooftop proposal (more on that in a bit!).
All that being said, it was also a journey for the couple to finally get to say “I do.” The Covid-19 pandemic turned wedding plans for most couples around the country upside down. For the Lukes, their wedding date changed, as did the number of people who could attend their nuptials.
“The pandemic was very tough planning a wedding,” Nia tells ESSENCE, lauding their planner for saving the day. “When we said ‘Yes!’ to our venue, we just knew we would be hosting 250 of our family members. The pandemic hit and everything was different.”
When the couple was finally able to jump the broom last month, doing so in a peaceful vineyard in Virginia after a year of chaos in front of 100 family and friends, it was everything they wanted and more.
“This vineyard made our dreams come true,” she says. “I relive our wedding every day.”
Check out the event images from a love more than 15 years in the making and learn more about how everything came together perfectly for Nia and Shakeel.
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On New Year’s Eve going into 2019, Shakeel surprised Nia by popping the question on the rooftop of Brooklyn’s Dumbo House, with a stunning view of the Brooklyn bridge. The perfect place for the natives to take their relationship to the nex level.
“I was told by a friend to check upstairs out. When I went to the rooftop on the elevator, it was quiet and no one was outside. I thought it was a mistake until I peaked out the elevator and saw candles, flowers and a photographer,” Nia says. “It was magical and unforgettable.”
The Many Faces of the Venue
The couple picked Morais Vineyards in Bealeton, Virginia for their venue. The grand ballroom can seat about 250 people and has gorgeous Palladian style windows, which showcase a view of the actual vineyard outside. There is also a pond, a gorgeous pergola, and the vineyard acquired a glass atrium purchased from Disney that the wedding party took photographs in front of.
“The location was tranquil, scenic and breathtaking,” she says. “Everything I wanted for my guests on my wedding day.”
Emerald green with black and gold accents were the colors Nia wanted to go with for her big day. Aside from the velvet and satin green fabrics, and the white flowers, the black candelabra centerpieces were the bride’s favorite.
Not pictured are other fun additions to the venue, including a cigar bar, a photo booth, and the bar, which was covered in white rose petals.
The Bridal Gown
The bride’s gown was beautiful, but heavy. It was an over 25-pound beaded dress with each bead applied by hand in Albania. It was designed by the bride’s mother (pictured), but made by Albina Dyla. Nia says she communicated with the company via chats, email and phone calls to get the dress perfect,” and her tailor Kieu helped to make sure it fit like a glove and that the 10-foot crystal train sparkled.
The Groom in Velvet
As for the groom, Shakeel wore a custom velvet emerald green Indochino tuxedo with calf hair Salvatore Ferragamo loafers. He looked sharp alongside his groomsmen.
The Untraditional Cake
It’s not very often you get to see not only a black wedding cake, but also one with a different flavor in every slice! This five-tier dream was made by Le Cake Boutique and included vanilla with buttercream, red velvet, chocolate mousse and a chocolate bottom.
The First Dance
The man over the music, DJ Chubb E. Swagg, made the event a special one. He attended Howard at the same time as the couple and DJ’d many parties they attended. The first dance was done to Anthony Hamilton’s “The Point of It All,” which can be heard in the couple’s wedding video. The DJ followed it up with a medley of hits from Brooklyn artists, including Biggie, Pop Smoke and more.
Advice for Brides-to-Be Looking to Jump the Broom
Nia says if she could give any advice, it would be to “Make an email account specifically for weddings. This is very important even if you have a wedding planner. This helps you keep your wedding plans organized, it prevents your workday from being distracted by wedding emails and you will never miss an email.” With the right name for it, the email account can be used for sending out Christmas cards or other events a couple might host in the future.
“It shouldn’t be something you get rid of after the wedding,” she says. “Give access to your wedding planner and trust me your life will be easier.”
Steel Pan Party
To help honor Shakeel’s Trinidadian roots, the couple made sure to have a live steel pan (or steel drum) player present at the venue’s courtyard during cocktail hour. Everyone enjoyed a premium open bar alongside the music, with a “His” Moscow mule drink and a “Hers” spicy margarita for guests.
The Bridal Robe
Before the nuptials began, Nia looked lovely in her bridal robe as she got done up for the big day.
The Second Dress
The bride showed up and showed out at the reception after changing out of her bridal gown into this very unique and fabulous dress.
The couple initially planned to tie the knot in New York City, where they’re from, but it ended up being the epicenter for Covid-19 early last year, so they pivoted and waited. Things started looking up in March of 2021, so Nia and her planner, Khadijah, came up with multiple plans based on the easing of public health restrictions. The plans were A for 100 people, B for 50 people, and C for 25 guests.
“It was a very stressful time because more than half of our guest count had to watch virtually,” Nia says. “May came around and the gathering restrictions were increased to 100 indoors just in time. The wedding was intimate but beautiful. I loved every moment.”