The Bride Took Harvard Classes So She Could Create Most of the Details at This Brooklyn Botanic Gardens Wedding
Most couples DIY a few things for their big days: a favor here and a program there. But for their Brooklyn, New York, wedding, Grace Truong and John Lu truly went above and beyond. "I've always loved making things and learning new ways to be creative, so our wedding was the perfect opportunity to try my hand at some DIY projects," Grace says. "I was in my last year at Harvard Law School and Harvard School of Public Health when we started planning, so I wanted to make the most of all the resources my university had to offer."
In the midst of getting a graduate degree from the prestigious university, Grace also signed up for workshops at the Engineering School's Active Learning Labs to learn laser-cutting, 3D printing, and woodshop to craft signage for her wedding. As for the invites? Those came from teaching herself Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, then taking a free letterpress course on campus.
Not only did her newly-learned skills give the couple the chance to make their big-day details ultra-personal (for example, Grace illustrated their monogram to include one rose for every year the couple had been dating), it also helped them bond before gathering 208 of their loved ones for an outdoor ceremony at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens on August 10, 2019. "I remember it was 2:30 a.m. the day before our wedding, and I was sitting in our living room, bleary-eyed and exhausted from melting wax seals onto each place card," she says. "I looked up at John, who was meticulously trying to thread a tassel through a tiny eyelet on our menus. With a furrowed brow and a look of complete concentration, he finally got one threaded—only to realize he had over 200 more to go. I burst out laughing because I was so thankful to have had him as a teammate throughout the whole process. Each step was another opportunity to learn more about each other, discover new ways to work together, and make more memories to laugh about in the future."
Made with Love
To make their custom invitations, Grace taught herself Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop on Harvard's library computers, then took a letterpress crash course at the university's on-campus Bow & Arrow Press. The result? A monogrammed invite pressed onto thick cotton paper, a details card with a modern version of the Chinese "double happiness" symbol, and a reply card with an illustration of their venue, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. A dusty rose envelope sealed with gold wax held it all together.
The pair knew they wanted their wedding to be in New York, the city where they live, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden was the first venue they visited. "It's a lush, floral-filled oasis in the middle of a bustling city," Grace says. "I've always loved the organic, personal feel of having an outdoor wedding surrounded by natural greenery."
From Me to You
One of the couple's important pre-wedding rituals was a gift exchange. The morning of the big day, John gifted Grace a pair of Tiffany & Co. pearl earrings, and she gave him VIP tickets to see Manchester United, his favorite team, play in their old stadium.
Tea for Two
The festivities began with a traditional Vietnamese tea ceremony, where Grace wore a red and gold "ao dai" wedding dress and crown-like headpiece. "My mother escorted me to the ceremony, where my husband and I paid respects to our elders by serving them tea," she says. Then, her mom gave her a carved gold bracelet and necklace she'd been saving since the day Grace was born.
It's a Guy Thing
To celebrate John's heritage, he and his groomsmen participated in Chinese "Gatecrashing Games," a series of challenges for the men to complete before John could meet his bride at the altar. "My bridesmaids set up an impressive (and intimidating) list of physical and mental challenges for the groomsmen centered on the theme 'characteristics of a good husband,'" Grace says. After an hour of grueling tasks, including a human pyramid, a few riddles, and a musical performance, the groom and all of his good men finally passed the test.
Classic and Cool
For his walk to the altar, John wore a custom tuxedo from Suit Club and cuff links from his dad. A blush ranunculus boutonnière finished the look.
Grace's silk Sareh Nouri wedding dress was the first she tried on at Kleinfeld, and she immediately got the feeling that it was "the one"—she loved the bateau neck, fitted waist, and dramatic cathedral-length train. "I knew that I would be able to look at the gown for years to come and still fall in love with it every time," she says. Still, her mom didn't want to cut the dress-shopping experience short, so Grace tried on 48 more dresses at other boutiques. "As I was about to look for the 50th dress, my mom stopped me and said, 'It's the first one, isn't it?' And we rushed back to Kleinfeld," she says.
Grace's Designs by Ahn bouquet included an organically arranged collection of dahlias, garden roses, ranunculus, lisianthus, and sweet pea accented with seasonal greenery and hand-tied with a silk ribbon.
"Honestly, I was feeling pretty nervous," John says of their first look in front of the lotus pond at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. "Once I saw Grace for the first time in her wedding dress, I knew that everything was worth it." They also had a built-in cheer squad: "Our bridesmaids and groomsmen watched and cheered from afar as John and I saw each other," Grace says.
Grace shared a spreadsheet of more than 60 blush dresses in varying cuts, lengths, fabrics, and price ranges for her bridesmaids to choose from. "Some of them chose directly from that spreadsheet, others drew inspiration from it, and one even had her dress custom-made," Grace says. "To me, the most important thing was that they wore something that they genuinely felt beautiful in and enjoyed wearing."
Not wanting to outshine the garden's natural splendor, the couple opted for an asymmetrical floral arch that climbed up from the ground and featured hydrangeas, dahlias, garden roses, lisianthus, stock, and orchids.
Keep It Cool
Grace made all of the event's acrylic signs—including the one that welcome guests to the service—during a workshop at Harvard.
A Musical Moment
As the bridal party entered, a string quartet played "Concerning Hobbits" from The Lord of the Rings—John's favorite trilogy of all time.
Grace and her dad entered to "Can't Help Falling in Love" by Elvis Presley. "We had to walk through a rocky path and cross a small creek to finally emerge through bushes of tall reeds for our entrance walk down the aisle," she says. "There was literally a sign on the path that said, 'Caution! Rough terrain ahead.' I was wearing four-and-a-half-inch stilettos! My dad joked that the challenging path was an apt metaphor for even the best of relationships, but that he would always be there to hold my hand and guide me."
Let It Flow
Clearly, the ceremony made John emotional. "Seeing Grace walk down the aisle was truly a special moment for me," he says. "It was special not only because I was genuinely excited to get married to the love of my life, but it was also because I had the pleasure of sharing that moment with 200 of our closest friends and family."
We Did It!
Following their non-religious ceremony officiated by a friend from college, the newlyweds walked through rose petals to "Everything" by Michael Bublé. "We were surrounded by so much love and joy in that moment," Grace says. "Seeing our closest friends and family celebrating our new life together was overwhelming. I absolutely could not stop smiling."
Instead of attending their cocktail hour, the couple squeezed in an extra practice for their first dance.
In lieu of signature cocktails, the pair served up signature bubble teas: black tea latte, grapefruit yakult, and oolong matcha tea latte.
Guests gathered for dinner in the glass-domed Palm House, where white tapers and sprawling centerpieces decorated tables.
Pink-and-white blooms defined the tabletop arrangements, which were arranged in compote vessels.
The bride tackled yet another DIY for the reception: Each place setting included a name card with a personalized inside joke for each guest, a pun-filled menu, and a wedding-themed crossword puzzle. The couple threaded them together with blush silk tassels.
The flowers on the couple's brown sugar graham cake from Patina Events matched the buds in Grace's bouquet.
While John may have gotten his go-to trilogy song during the ceremony, Grace got hers come the reception; the couple performed a choreographed number to "Can I Have This Dance?" from the bride's favorite movie series, High School Musical.
Photography, Bashful Captures
Venue, Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Event Planning, Clariel Francisco Events
Catering and Cake, Patina Events
Flowers, Designs by Ahn
Videography, Live Picture Studios
Stationery, Czar Press; Cards & Pockets
Music, 74 Events; Alexandra & Ensembles
Bride's Gown, Sareh Nouri
Bride's Accessories, Wedding Atelier veil; Tiffany & Co. earrings; Badgley Mischka shoes
Hair and Makeup, Truly Happy Beauty
Groom's Suit, Suit Club