Thinking back to how Cheri met Tracey, she looks at is as “luck” — beginner’s luck, specifically. She was dipping her toe in the online dating pool for the first time. The pandemic had just taken a hold of everyday life and she knew that quarantining in her new home of Philadelphia (where she’d relocated for work) without any handsome prospects to interact with for an unidentified period of time would be unpleasant. Soon after creating a profile on Match.com, she connected with New Jersey-based Tracey and life changed — not just because of the virus.
“No more than a week or so of being online, I get this handsome guy named Tracey reaching out ‘welcoming’ me to Philadelphia,” she tells ESSENCE. “I thought to myself, look at this charmer with the bright smile, welcoming me to Philadelphia and he doesn’t even live in Philadelphia!“
It didn’t take long for them to hit it off but it did take a couple of months for them to finally get to meet in person. With it being the very beginning of the pandemic, restrictions were strong and fears were high due to uncertainty. After a boatload of FaceTime and Zoom dates only, going into Memorial Day weekend last year, Cheri got creative to make their first in-person date a memorable one.
“Tracey wanted to dress up and go to a restaurant but the pandemic was not having it,” she recalls. “I thought to myself, what can I do to plan an epic pandemic dinner experience? I called a friend of mine who is a chef to put together a menu, reached out to musicians I knew and we worked together to convert my home into a restaurant with live music. Tracey came in and was blown away. We have been inseparable ever since.”
As the months passed, Cheri and Tracey got closer, pandemic be damned. They had their first date at the end of the spring and by fall, they were in love and he was trying to figure out when and how to propose.
“It became crystal clear to me in September that Cheri was going to be my wife,” he says. He chose to pop the question on New Year’s Eve 2020. On May 22, 2021, a year after their first face-to-face date, they said “I do.” It wasn’t an easy process planning the event with the ever-changing COVID restrictions, and the couple went through five versions of their big day. In the end though, the result, a unique, very Black celebration highlighting a number of Black vendors and culture at Philly’s National Constitution Center, was everything they wanted and more.
“It was truly a reflection of Black excellence,” Tracey says with Cheri adding, “Our wedding was elegant, regal, intimate and beautiful.”
No lies told, here. But if you’d like further proof of the greatness of Cheri and Tracey’s nuptials, with dancers, a horse and carriage, menus shaped like the African continent and more, see the photos from their special day below.
“There were several things that happened along the way that made me realize I had found ‘the ONE,'” Cheri says. “The way he quickly integrated me into his life, introducing me to family and friends. The way he professed our relationship so early, by introducing me as his fiancé. How open he was to discuss finances and the future, which always included me. How vulnerable he was with me. His quiet strength and confidence; he allowed me to be me but was strong enough to help me look at things differently. And the way I felt every ounce of love he feels for me by the way he handles me, touches me, protects me, provides for me and respects me.”
How the Groom Knew He’d Found the One
For Tracey, in addition to Cheri’s confidence and the amazing surprise birthday soiree she threw for him, he knew he’d met his person after they took their first road trip together amid the height of the pandemic.
“We took a road trip from New Jersey to Asheville, North Carolina and then went on to Louisville, Kentucky. Being able to be on the road together with all of the stresses and discomfort that can bring exposes who a person really is,” he says. “For the most part, nothing changed. She was the same. We actually had a disagreement about something, but the way we handled it brought us closer together. After that trip, operation proposal was in the works.”
There were a number of holidays he could have chosen to pop the question, including her birthday. “Planning is not my forte, but I wanted this to be special,” he says. Tracey chose New Year’s Eve, asking for Cheri’s hand at a popular restaurant she got reservations to for the holiday. “We ordered drinks and appetizers and Tracey went to the bathroom. When he got back, he was a bit nervous and used the phrase we use when we need to have a serious conversation with each other, which is ‘Baby, you know I love you right?'” she recalls. “I was thinking, is this man about to say, ‘I am not ready for this relationship’? Well, quite the opposite! He came around to my side of the table and got on his knee and told me how much he loved me and wanted to share his life with me and asked me to be his wife.”
Take a look at the accessories and small details that were a part of the bride’s big day! The stunning invitations were from By Dami Studios based in NYC.
A Royal Arrival
Cheri and her bridal party arrived to the National Constitution Center with help from a horse and carriage. A royal entrance for a queen!
Riding in Style
Tracey looked cool (colder than ice really) as he headed to his wedding in his vintage Mercedes Benz.
The pair chose to say “I do” in a place with lots of history — both Philly and specifically, the National Constitution Center.
“The National Constitution Center with its regal staircase, floor to ceiling windows and rooftop fit our aesthetic beautifully,” Tracey says. “The NCC has been a place for debate and education around the Constitution. Presidents, political dignitaries have spoken at the NCC and we thought it the perfect place for our ceremony.”
“The ‘theme’ of the wedding was our ‘Journey to Syphax’ (the groom’s surname is Syphax). Cheri loves to travel and we visited many states during our dating process. We wanted our guests to be on the trip with us through our journey,” Tracey says.
“Our wedding invitations were a globe with the words ‘Adventure Awaits,'” Tracey says. “Each table marker was a different city we had visited during our dating process. Our menus were the African continent because we were visiting Ghana on our honeymoon.”
The Bride’s Favorite Moments
“There were so many moments from me overlooking the attendees from the top of the staircase, to seeing the candles in honor of my parents and me making eye contact with Tracey,” Cheri recalls. “I think one of the memorable moments of the wedding was Tracey’s haste in wanting to kiss me. He really was anxious for us to be married and it was so cute. He also surprised me with an additional diamond band in honor of my deceased parents. My mother died the week prior to our wedding and all of my guests were trying to keep it together but that took the wind out of the room. It was a reflection of who my husband is and what I mean to him. It was so touching.”
A Dance for the Groom
“Cheri knows me so well,” Tracey says. “I LOVE disco, especially Donna Summer. She surprised me during the reception with a dance group who came in and danced to a medley of some of my favorite Donna Summer songs. It was so unexpected, but so Cheri from a perspective of thoughtfulness, creativity and the element of surprise. I really cut loose during that performance.”
Let Them Eat Cake
The cake followed the couple’s decor, which was all about a journey. It featured a map of the globe and was the perfect treat for an already sweet day.
It’s a Party
Give the bride some room on the dance floor! Cheri and Tracey were able to celebrate their big day with 78 guests. “Our wedding planning was heavily impacted by COVID. We had about five iterations of plans for the wedding, everything that included outdoor only and approximately 50 guests, another outside/park venue, and we got close to indoor with no dance floor,” Tracey says. “We had approximately plan A-F. As usual though, Cheri was always optimistic that we would have the wedding we desired and we did. Cocktail hour on the rooftop, indoor dinner with a DJ and the amount of guests that were invited.”
The wedding wasn’t the only way Cheri and Tracey celebrated their love.
“Other elements of our wedding weekend was our Kentucky Derby-styled brunch to honor our visit to Kentucky. Our brunch was at Akwaaba Inns, a Black, female-owned bed and breakfast in Philadelphia,” Tracey says. “‘Akwaaba’ means ‘Welcome’ in the Twi language, so another parallel to our trip to Ghana. We had a Black chef, cigar roller, live band and mobile bar at the brunch. It was truly a reflection of Black excellence.”
What the Future Holds
“The journey continues. We are settling in to married life but nothing is ever simple with us,” the couple says. They are building a home and pursuing their passions, with Cheri’s Leader and Lover podcast and Tracey working on his second book (a follow-up to 2012’s From the Block to the Boardroom).
Their Hopes and Dreams
“Our hope is to continue to grow, evolve and be in marital bliss,” the couple say. “We also hope to inspire as many people, especially Black women, to know that love is waiting for you. We are optimistic and inspired by the future possibilities. Stay tuned.”