This California Garden Wedding Was All About the Jazz
Chaya Crowder met Braxton Cook in 2012 at a '90s-themed party thrown by Chaya's twin sister, Chelsea, who was the vice president of the National Society of Black Engineers at Columbia University at the time. Chaya was also a student there, and Braxton studying at Juilliard.
Their proposal took place six years later in Paris, France, at Café Tournon. "Braxton chose this café because it was a place where James Baldwin frequently wrote (I'm a huge James Baldwin fan!) and it is the place where Duke Ellington first took the stage in Paris (Braxton is a jazz musician)!" the bride explains. Braxton's band, The Marquis Hill Blackett, surprised the couple by approaching their table while playing a Duke Ellington song—as Braxton got down on one knee to pop the question.
Since Chaya wasn't a bride-to-be that had her wedding all planned out, the couple worked with designer Erica Estrada to pull together their ideal celebration—a purple-themed affair that was, naturally, all about the jazz music—for 200 guests during an outdoor ceremony. They chose a historic property in French Camp, California, as their venue; the locale was once an old processing mill, which was built in 1873 to manufacture chicory to be used in coffee. "I knew I wanted to get married outside and show people the beauty of the delta in Northern California," Chaya says of their venue choice. The duo did just that when their ceremony and reception unfolded on September 21, 2019, a day chosen as yet another nod to music: the Earth Wind & Fire song, "September."
Chaya and Braxton were drawn to their venue for its vineyard vibes. "Vineyards tend to have strict rules regarding alcohol, and I knew I certainly wanted alcohol, so this converted chicory mill gave us that same feeling and was surrounded by gorgeous agriculture," Chaya explains. The fact that they could host their ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception in the same place sealed the deal.
A Nod to Meghan
Chaya was inspired by Meghan Markle's halter reception wedding dress while hunting for her own. After a few failed attempts in New York, she planned a day of shopping in San Francisco with family and friends. Although she didn't find her gown right away, she overheard women in one of the stores talking about Marina Morrison Bridal Salon. "I called and they said they closed in an hour but if I could be there in 30 minutes, I could take a look," Chaya says. She spotted a lace halter Elizabeth Fillmore dress hanging in the shop, tried it on, and knew immediately that it was the one.
The bride accessorized her look with diamond earrings (a bridal shower gift from her mother), along with a veil designed by Sara Gabriel; this was a present from her godmother, and served as the finishing touch. As for her bouquet? The arrangement featured pale purple roses, clusters of burgundy flowers and berries, and tons of greenery.
Bridesmaids in Purple
Using the wedding's all-purple color scheme as a guide, Chaya asked each of her bridesmaids to select their own dress. "I wanted people to feel confident in what they wore, and I wanted the dresses to be something they may wear in the future," the bride says.
Welcome to the Ceremony
Guests were welcomed to the outdoor ceremony via a clear acrylic sign, adorned with greenery and flowers.
The service space, protected by plenty of trees, was defined by several flower-filled planters, rich with pink-and-burgundy tones.
Here Comes the Bride
Braxton recorded a song with his friend, vocalist Peter Collins, to be played during the processional. Chaya made her way down the aisle with her mother and father on either arm; her stepdad waited for them at the end of the aisle so that the three of them could give her away together.
Time for the Vows
A large tree, flanked by florals on both sides, served as the ceremony's focal point. The couple's non-denominational Christian service was officiated by Pastor Kevin Ross, who helped the couple write their vows. Chaya and Braxton also included some of their own words, inspired by their experience in premarital counseling. Braxton's father also said a prayer at the start of the ceremony.
While guests enjoyed cocktails and cigars, Chaya and Braxton stole away with their photographer to pose for portraits around the grounds.
Jazz All Around
Braxton's friends formed a jazz trio and played during the interlude. The couple offered two signature cocktails, a spicy margarita and an old fashioned, along with passed appetizers during that time.
The pair hired Nestor Castillo to roll cigars for celebrants during the outdoor cocktail hour.
The Seating Chart
Attendees found their table numbers on a transparent seating chart at the entrance to the reception space.
The Reception Details
The couple's reception unfolded inside the venue's River Room, where brick walls and exposed ceiling beams created an industrial vibe. Round tables were set up throughout the space and paired with Chiavari chairs.
On the Tabletops
A nod to the purple color scheme, lavender velvet napkins were placed on top of gray linens from La Tavola, which were covered in a subtle pattern. Tall metal candle holders were placed around each centerpiece; they offered that "wow" factor, but didn't prevent guests from talking across the table during dinner.
Table for Two
Chaya and Braxton sat at a small round sweetheart table that was topped with the same linens. Their table had a larger centerpiece that incorporated the same vibrant purple, pink, and burgundy florals seen in the two statement wall arrangements just behind them.
The couple's wedding cake had four tiers; the top three layers were semi-naked, while the base was covered in gold edible glitter. The confection was placed on top of an intricate embossed metal cake stand.
The First Dance
Braxton is lucky enough to know a lot of musicians, and he asked his childhood friends, Grace Weber and Ben Lusher to sing Daniel Caesar and H.E.R.'s "Best Part" for the couple's first dance.
Photography, Elizabeth Warrick
Event Planning and Design, Erica Estrada
Videographer, Jamel Love
Bride's Gown, Elizabeth Fillmore; Marina Morrison
Bride's Veil, Sara Gabriel
Bride's Makeup, Imany Barnett
Groom's and Groomsmen's Suits, Generation Tux
Groom's Accessories, Hugo Boss; Saks Fifth Avenue
Music, Elite Entertainment California; Javier Santiago; Grace Weber; Ben Lusher
Cigar Roller, Nestor Castillo
Rentals, La Tavola Fine Linen
Photo booth, Paparazzi Photo Booths
Engagement Ring, Bario Neal
Wedding Bands, Bernard James