Jumping The Broom: I’m Breaking Down My Wedding To Help Other Black Brides Plan Theirs Too
Courtesy of Joi-Marie McKenzie

It was just a normal Saturday; the day when I became engaged.

I was supposed to be getting my hair done in Harlem. But the more than one hour trek from my Queens apartment to my faithful Uptown hairstylist seemed like an odyssey journey my body could not take.

Instead, I laid in bed, stared at the ceiling and hoped to spend the rest of the day resting. You see, I was physically exhausted. And if you’re one of my friends, you might even say I’m always exhausted. And you’d be right.

I had just started a new job at ESSENCE magazine, a lifelong dream come true, all the while planning a book tour for my memoir The Engagement Game, and trying to adult — pay bills on time, walk the dog, check in on friends and line sisters and family. It’s a lot. Did I mention I had just moved too?

But my now-fiancé reminded me that we had a book party to attend. And he was right, we couldn’t miss it for the world. So I dragged myself out of bed and trekked to Manhattan to support a dear friend and her new children’s book.

Courtesy of Joi-Marie McKenzie

“Want to go to the Frying Pan? It’s nearby,” he suggested.

The Frying Pan, which could be described as a bar on a docked Coast Guard lightship in the middle of the Hudson River, was our very first date spot, and I lit up with excitement to return nearly three years later. (He’d later tell me that he thought my excitement indicated I knew what he was about to do. I had no clue. I just really like the view.)

When he ordered an entire pitcher of mojitos I definitely side eyed him. Who’s going to drink these drinks? (I later assumed he was desperately trying to calm his nerves.) But when he suggested we go to a nearby pier to take photos — I never turn down a photo opp — I jumped at the chance.

He posed me. There I stood staring out at the Hudson into New Jersey with the sun hitting the water just right. I stuck my hip out as I normally do completely unaware that when I turned around he’d be on his knee, asking him to marry me while holding a little blue box.

Courtesy of Joi-Marie McKenzie

Don’t judge me but I’ve always practiced how I’d react when I got engaged. I always thought I’d cry — one of those emotional movie-worthy over-the-top type cries. But I didn’t. Instead I jumped in excitement, repeated, “Are you serious? Are you serious?” and yelled like a banshee. I jumped so much that his iPhone, which was supposedly recording the whole thing fell. (So it only captured the audio, but I love that more.)

I yelled so loudly the boat beside us, holding 200 or so bargoers, began cheering. Cheering just for us. For our love. It was epic.

So with no make-up on, and no edge control, I became engaged to the most thoughtful man in my life.

And thus begins our road to the altar. Our road to jumping the broom.

But what should you know before you pick a venue? What should you look for in creating your stationary?

When Body and Soul Director Charli Penn approached me to write a column about wedding planning I was initially hesitant. I had already shared much of how my fiancé and I met in my memoir. And I was afraid of over sharing and opening up our very precious relationship to the world for judgement. And my relationship means too much to me to sacrifice it for content.

But I became a journalist to serve; and after thinking about it, I want to share our wedding planning journey with you in order to help current and future brides figure it all out too.

I recently sat down with Ciara and asked her for advice as I embark on this wedding planning process. She told me, “Enjoy the phases because that’s all apart of your growth with your partner.”

Courtesy of Joi-Marie McKenzie

“Enjoy the moment. It’s really special and it’s definitely something to look forward to when you and your partner become one,” Cici added.

But what should you know before picking a venue? What should you look for in creating your stationary? (If you’re like me, you’ve never even had your own stationary. Like OMG. We’re adulting!) What should you know about picking bridesmaids? How should you prepare mentally (and emotionally, lawd!) ahead of getting married? What are the best beauty treatments to try before you get married so you can glow on your big day?

I’ll talk with experts and share with you all I’ve learned about wedding planning. First step, ladies and gentleman, get a wedding planner. A professional one (Not your cousin, unless your cousin is a professional wedding planner!). I didn’t have a problem choosing mine since she’s one of my very dear friends, Yodit Gebreyes Endale, the owner of Favored by Yodit Designs & Designs.

In my next column, she’ll help us break down what to look for in a wedding planner, what benefits they provide and which benefits they don’t; and most importantly for some brides how you can save if you have a tight budget.

Stay tuned!

Joi-Marie McKenzie is ESSENCE’s senior entertainment editor. She’s also the author of her debut memoir, The Engagement Game: Why I Said ‘I Don’t’ To Marriage and ‘I Do’ To Me, out now.