Who says weddings have to be (yawn) cookie-cutter? Definitely not these brides! Meet eight confident couples who decided to nix tradition and make their own rules at the altar.
This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of ESSENCE
I Wore A Jumpsuit
Brandy Wilkerson and Christopher Jones Married: October 13, 2018 Location: Houston Stay True To Your Style: "I knew that it would be impossible to move freely during my reception in a dress, and being able to do that was important to me. I didn't want a hassle with a train. My wedding planner, Audi Brown, introduced me to fashion designer Pedram Pasha Taheri of Pedram Couture. Pedram brought my vision to life. After speaking with him, I knew I wanted to wear pants so I could dance. The jumpsuit [he created] was stunning yet super comfortable. Best decision I ever made!"
I Wore Gold At The Altar
Shantrelle and Tony Lawson Married: November 19, 2016 Location: New Orleans Defy The Norm: “I was almost 40 when I got married, and convention was never my thing,” says Shantrelle. “Using my favorite movie, Coming to America, as a reference, I wanted the vibe to give off diasporan royalty without being kitschy or too literal. Once I saw the design for my navy and gold invitations, I knew there was no way I could get married in a white dress. That would be too ordinary. So I thought, What about gold sequins and ostrich feathers? A bit much? Maybe. But when you come from the school of doing the most, too much is never enough. The fabric was sourced in India and designed by Nene L.A. Shiro, a talented designer based in New York City.” Celebrate the Culture: The affair was total Nigeria meets Nawlins! In fact, their nuptials hashtag was #jollofandjambalaya. “Our wedding spoke to Black excellence by giving a nod to my nuanced experience as a Yoruba priest and southern African-American woman born and raised in New Orleans while also acknowledging Tony’s West African roots,” Shantrelle says. “I think many people are under the impression that in a diasporic relationship, the couple would turn more to Africa for inspiration. Yet our culture as African-Americans is just as rich, layered and important as traditions there. Ultimately, we wanted to create something magical, something authentic and something that was a damn good time.”
I Didn't Have Bridesmaids
Kiersten and Julien Saunders Married: September 5, 2015 Location: New Orleans Do Them a Favor: “When we started planning, we’d just finished paying off a debt in order to save for a major home renovation, so our money mind-set had transformed,” says Kiersten. “Traditional wedding party costs weren’t something we felt comfortable passing on to our friends, especially since we were already asking them to travel. Beyond cost, we realized how much time having a wedding party would add to the day. Instead of a traditional rehearsal dinner, we hosted a welcome reception at an arcade bar so everyone could meet before the big day. It was lit.”
My Wedding Dress Cost Less Than $100
Teryn and Corey Bryant Married: August 29, 2013 Location: Decatur, GA Get Your Dress for Less: Fashionable yet frugal bride Teryn scored her lace tunic dress for just $40 at mass retailer H&M just two days before her wedding. “I didn’t give much thought to what I would wear that day,” she says. “I just wanted to be comfortable and feel pretty. It felt right. I spent more time worrying about my hair and makeup.” Just Do It: “Initially we wanted a destination wedding, but our premarital counselor suggested we have something small and intimate with just us and then include family and friends later,” says Teryn. “We loved the idea of a wedding that would just focus on our love. On a whim we got our marriage license the next day. I wanted to walk down the aisle to ‘Yellow’ by Coldplay, so we hired a pianist willing to learn it. The song inspired our wedding colors. My mother was our only guest. It was simple but perfect.”
We Got Married In A Pizzeria
Alicia Gill Freemyn and Keondra Bills Freemyn Married: March 14, 2017 Location: Washington, D.C. Dare to Be Original: Alicia and Keondra tied the knot on a Tuesday (Pi Day), the morning after a blizzard, and exchanged vows in a pizzeria where the owner officiated their ceremony. So it is not much of a surprise that the disruptive duo opted to take a Lyft to and from their nuptials. “We weren’t sure how this day would go, but it was calm, fun and quirky—a lot like us,” shares Alicia. “We are grateful for who was there and for those who sent love from afar. And we are glad to be on this journey of love and service to ourselves, each other and our communities.”
We Got Married On A Wednesday
Shaina and Timothies "TJ" Danzey Married: March 28, 2018 Location: New York City Buck Tradition: “I’m not one who enjoys wedding planning,” admits Shaina. “I was in grad school and I work in public schools, so I knew our wedding needed to fall during spring or summer break. We invited our 40 closest family members and TJ’s youth pastor to marry us. We knew our family would make it no matter what day it was, so we scheduled our wedding for sunset on a Wednesday, packed our bags on Thursday and spent my spring break honeymooning on a private island in Belize beginning that Friday morning!”
We Got Married In My Parents' Backyard
Nicole and Ronald Jennings, Jr. Married: October 7, 2017 Location: Atlanta, GA Home Is Where the Heart Is: “Whenever my now husband and I went to visit wedding venues, we left disappointed,” recalls Nicole. “They were either too glam, too rustic or too trendy. I would go to my parents’ house afterward and complain to my mother. Finally she asked, ‘Why don’t you just get married here?’ And so that’s what we did. Our theme was Golden Time of Day, and we got married at sunset. All of our guests had candles, and my bonus baby, James, lit my candle. My parents’ driveway was our aisle, and my dad, who had just gotten a hip replacement, walked me down the aisle with his crutches. We were able to support a lot of new Black owned businesses, and our vendors felt like family. Even though we had to push the wedding up a day because of a hurricane, we still had about 100 guests.”
We Splurged On A Nonstop Honeymoon Instead Of On "I Do's"
Amirah and Jarrell Cook Married: August 16, 2012 Location: Las Vegas See the World: “We wrote a list describing who we wanted to be and what type of life we wanted to live together,” says Amirah. “Being well traveled was a common goal. We knew we wanted to experience the world together before adding to our family, so we set out on an adventure with the hopes that it would be an incredible start to an interesting life. We were more focused on our marriage than on the wedding. The wedding was a formality. We made sure it was all about us and didn’t invite anyone. I wasn’t interested in wondering if my aunt wanted salmon or chicken on my wedding day. The ceremony was about celebrating the start of our life together. Initially we wanted to travel for three years, but the more we saw, the more we wanted to see. We’re in our sixth year of traveling now and have visited many places, including Bali, Florence and Tokyo. For us, home is a person rather than a location. As long as we have each other, we’re home.”