Only a love like the one Jessica and Henri Fulgence share could have carried them through some of the darkest times leading up to their beautiful wedding in Queens, New York.
Prior to their engagement in 2017, their year was filled with loss due to the passing of Jessica’s brother and my mother. “Henri stood by my side through both back-to-back tragedies,” Jessica told ESSENCE exclusively. “He made sure that I didn’t fall apart or lose myself in the grieving process. He was consistent and steadfast.” Thankfully, Henri had the blessing of Jessica’s mother for the proposal and the ring before she passed. He even proposed on a day significant to his mother-in-law’s memory.
It’s always darkest before the dawn, though. Thanks to the help of their wedding planner, Victoria Lartey-Williams of Victorious Events NYC, their ceremony fell beautifully into place. The couple’s dream wedding incorporated nods to their respective African and Haitian traditions. The five-hour reception was so lit, guests didn’t want to leave. Best of all, the couple found an artistic way to honor those they’ve lost.
There’s simply no way to not fall in love with this Fulgence’s love story. Scroll through the gallery for the best moments from their modern elegance-themed wedding.
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A Proposal Of The Highest Honor
Four months before Jessica's mother passed away, she had been Henri's most trusted confidant while ring shopping. Unfortunately, Jessica's mother wasn't able to witness the engagement. However, he decided to honor her by proposing to Jessica in her honor. In front of a crowd of their closest family and friends, Henri got down on one knee and asked Jessica to marry him. "It's a day I will never forget," she remembers.
When You Know, You Know
"When I first laid eyes on my future wife and after getting to know her I just knew that there must be something there," said Henri. "I didn’t know what it was or how it would play out, but I saw a future with her. True love can come at the most unexpected time in your life."
The Bride's Way
"Being a bride was everything I dreamed it would be and more," Jessica told ESSENCE. "We have so many wonderful family members and friends that stepped up to the plate to help us. The constant love and prayers that we received was such a blessing."
This Is Why I Love You
"What I love the most about Jessica is her compassionate approach to things," says Henri. "She’s thoughtful and she made me learn things which I would never bother to think about."
Ready For Forever
“Although I wish my late mother could have been there to experience this special day with me, I was surrounded by so much love," Jessica said. "Everyone played a huge role including my Godmother and Mother-in-Law by giving me encouragement, advice and prayers.”
Dressed To Impress
"My gown was a form fitting, embellished trumpet style Berta dress with hand beading and a sweetheart neckline. It was a light champagne color and I was able to wear it throughout the wedding day because it wasn't too heavy."
Inspired By Someone Special
"My mother and I bonded around the time of her illness and looked at Serena Williams's wedding photos. We both loved all the designer dresses that Berta made. I had the opportunity to meet the one and only Berta Balilti. I didn’t cry until I got to try on my own custom Berta dress. It’s a totally different feeling than when you’re trying on a sample."
Keep Calm And Say "I Do"
Despite some challenges with planning, family and emotional hurdles, everything fell perfectly into place the day of the wedding. "People were surprised and said that I’m the calmest bride they had ever seen."
Henri and his groomsmen catch a vibe before the ceremony.
Jessica walks up the grand stairs of the ballroom to meet her husband-to-be.
Light Of My Life
"No matter the type of mood I’m in, Henri is able to brighten my day," Jessica says. "He didn’t want anything from me but to allow him to love me."
All Eyes On Us
I’m an introvert when it comes to being the center of attention," Henri admits. "But I’ve got to say our wedding day was one of the happiest moments of my life."
Angels All Around Me
Jessica walked down the aisle with her eldest brother Jude to a Burundian song called "Malaika" by Nyashinski. The word 'Malaika means angel in Swahili and my husband chose this song because it was his late grandmother's favorite song," she says. "I fell in love with it as soon as I heard it."
Tears Of Joy
Henri gets emotional seeing his bride come down the aisle.
When Two Become One
Henri and Jessica symbolized the covenant of marriage and their two lives becoming one with a unity candle lighting
Amen To That
"I finally realized that my prayers had been answered when God sent Henri my way."
Make It Last Forever
That feeling when you get to spend your life with your best friend.
"Instead of bouquets, my bridesmaids carried circle rings with white flowers," said Jessica. "I saw that this was a modern trend in African weddings. I loved it and wanted to bring that element into our wedding."
Gone But Not Forgotten
As a tribute to those they'd lost in the planning process of their wedding, Jessica and Henri reached out to Anne Castro for a family portrait of their late relatives. It included Jessica's late brother and mother, as well as Henri's grandmother and great-grandmother. "They are all depicted standing behind both of us to show that their prayers and support have played a major role in our lives," the couple tells ESSENCE.
Overcome With Love
The perfection of the portrait brought Jessica to tears!
"Jessica and I had similar trials in life," says Henri. "Some ups and downs. But I kept coming back to this realization that she was the one for me. She brought me pure joy. But more importantly, she made me a better man."
The couple's dinner menus were cut in the shape of Africa to represent Henri's Burundian heritage, and some were shaped like Haiti to represent Jessica's culture.
Cultures Coming Together
"We loved how the dancers paid tribute to our cultures by telling a story through their movement and song choices," the couple says.
Henri and Jessica hired Casa Brazilia to perform traditional Haitian and African dance routines during the reception.
Wave Ya Flag
The couple credits their DJ MikeMusic for fusing both their cultures in the ceremony. "He had experience performing at both Burundian and Haitian weddings and he did not disappoint," Jessica says. "He played afrobeats, kompa, hip hop, reggae, everything! He kept everyone on their feet."
Desserts For All
The couple takes a slice of their stunning 7-tier white cake, which had elegant gold scroll detailing and gold roman numerals of their wedding date. The chocolate and red velvet filling was a hit!
Dance For You
Henri surprised Jessica with a choreographed dance to the classic "Can You Stand the Rain" by New Edition.
"At the end, he got down on one knee and removed the garter. I loved it!"
Jessica's Advice To Brides
"For those who experienced a loss before or during the wedding planning process, remember that you carry a piece of them with you always. Know that they are at peace and smiling down on you from above on how well and how far you’ve come."