This Couple's Intimate City Hall Wedding Was "Very New York"
Makeup artist and hair stylist Morgan had gone on a few dates in the year she'd lived in New York before she found filmmaker Jon-Paul on a dating app. "Needless to say, dating in New York City is interesting," Morgan laughs, but from their very first date, she knew she'd found someone special. "We stayed out talking for a good six hours. He called me a car and gave me a kiss goodnight—I knew then it was going to be something!"
A little more than two years later, in May 2018, Jon-Paul proposed in a field of yellow flowers at the New York Botanical Gardens. "The idea from the beginning was to ask her somewhere amongst nature," he says. "She turned around to see me on one knee and we had a good cry." Morgan loved how private the proposal was ("It was just him and I," she says. "It was perfect!"). Two months later, it was no longer just the two of them; Morgan and Jon-Paul found out she was pregnant in July, and began planning an intimate—and very New York—wedding.
"We decided to keep it small with a quick turnaround for our nine guests," says Morgan; they invited their parents, two of Morgan's aunts, and three friends. On September 21, 2018, the couple met at New York's iconic City Hall for an afternoon civil ceremony, which was followed by a portrait session that took them all over the city. Later, they treated their guests to dinner and dancing on a Bateaux New York sunset cruise around Manhattan with views of the skyline and the Statue of Liberty. "Our wedding was truly a reflection of us," says Morgan. "Our lives are just beginning and we are starting a family—I'm very lucky to have such an inspiring man on my side."
"I was never a girl who had a clear vision of her wedding day," says Morgan. "If anything, I thought I would get married on a mountaintop in a field of wildflowers." When she started shopping for a wedding dress, she found one contender early on, but it didn't fit the city ceremony she had planned. "It was beautiful, but more for that mountain setting—and not for a newly pregnant woman." The embroidered Cynthia Rowley maxi dress with three-quarter bell sleeves was a find Morgan calls "serendipitous." "I loved the silhouette and structure," she says. "The detailing of the dress is beautiful and very me, and I thought it to be perfect for the setting as well."
Morgan chose metallic Cole Haan heels for their comfort factor as much as their style. "It took some time to find the right shoe to complement the dress and withstand the day and its many locations," she says. "These were one of the last pairs I ordered and the only size left. They were perfect and comfortable; I wore them all day and all night." She added sparkle with two pieces of heirloom jewelry: Diamond earrings that had belonged to her grandmother, on loan from Morgan's godmother for the day, and a diamond heart pendant. "This was the first necklace my grandfather ever gave to my grandma," she says. "This was given to me many years ago, and I wear it often."
Morgan carried a loose, natural bouquet with bright blooms in shades of pink, blue, yellow, white, and orange from Stems Brooklyn.
Jon-Paul wore a gray-blue suit that he'd purchased for his best friend's wedding a few years before. Though he ordered a purple tie for his wedding day, it still hadn't arrived with only hours to go. "After getting my nails done the day before, I ran from shop to shop in Cobble Hill in search of a plain black tie—not an easy find!" says Morgan, who finally found a workable solution at Barneys. "In the end it all worked out, and black was the way to go." He also wore his father's wedding band, which he had stretched to fit at a local jeweler.
Their First Look
The bride and groom planned to meet at City Hall around 1 p.m., after getting ready separately in the morning. "We happened to pull up at the exact same time, in front of awaiting guests on the sidewalk," says Jon-Paul. "We ran toward one another and embraced—she looked so beautiful. Perfect timing, all by chance."
Signed and Sealed
After applying for their marriage license ahead of time—New York has a 24-hour waiting period before you can actually tie the knot—the couple filled out final paperwork at City Hall before their ceremony.
The Waiting Game
In the waiting room, the couple drew a number and waited with their guests—and other eager couples—for their turn to tie the knot. "We wanted to not have been caught up in all the planning, stressing, money, huge guest list," says Jon-Paul. "We wanted to connect, chill, enjoy the day, and enjoy the moment. This was it!"
All About Them
The couple exchanged vows in front of the City Hall Clerk, who Jon-Paul describes as someone with a "big smile and soft voice—a total gentleman." They didn't second-guess their choice to keep the ceremony brief and low-key. "It was straight to the point, quick, real, and what we wanted," he says. "This was about our commitment to one another, and the declaration of that love. We wanted this moment to be just about us; it was."
So in Love
Morgan remembers the moment she and Jon-Paul said "I do" as her favorite of the day. "I looked around at all of our guests and saw how happy everyone was for us, and how happy I truly felt," she says. "I look back at our photos and there was nothing but love and smiles all around. I waited a long time to find him, and I'm sure glad I did."
Around the Town
After the ceremony, the couple and their photographer, Katherine Marchand of Wilde Scout, set out for a walk through the city that left the newlyweds with an unforgettable portrait experience. "So much of what Morgan and I enjoy is exploring a new neighborhood, local cuisine, being spontaneous, being curious," says Jon-Paul. Morgan agrees: "We were really able to capture our lives in New York in a weekend," she says.
Enjoying the Moment
They stopped for photos in Chinatown, Little Italy, and at striking spots along the way. "We had a plan, but we also let things happen organically," says Morgan. "One of the many beauties of living in New York are the random moments you stumble upon."
Lucky in Love
On their way through Chinatown, the couple checked in at one of their favorite shops. "We have bought tons of things there, perfect for small gifts—decorative fans, miniatures, lanterns, toys, doo-dads, knick-knacks," says Jon-Paul. "We were greeted with hugs and kisses and big congratulations."
Dancing in the Street
While on the boat for their dinner reception, Morgan and Jon-Paul were called to the dance floor for an impromptu first dance to "It Had to Be You"—but before that, they took a quick spin to another classic on the streets of Little Italy, where the Feast of San Gennaro festival made for a colorful backdrop. "We walked past the famed Ferrara Bakery on Grand Street, a man sat on a stool and sang Sinatra, and we danced in the street in front of him" says Jon. "With a round of applause from café diners and passersby, we were off to our next location."
The newlyweds also paused to play classic carnival games at the San Gennaro festival; Jon-Paul won a plush green frog that he promptly gifted to his bride.
Strangers and Friends
Though they had invited just nine guests, Morgan and Jon-Paul ended up celebrating with many more: As they traveled around the city, plenty of strangers stopped them to offer their congratulations. "All along the way [were] well-wishers, and congratulations being shouted by foreign tourists, local shop owners, and even a few carnival barkers," says Jon-Paul.
Sips and Snacks
Morgan and Jon-Paul's guests joined them for part of their trek around the city—a treat for the out-of-towners, who mostly traveled from Boston and Chicago. "We had a selection of snacks, cake, and various treats we grabbed while we navigated the streets as a group," says Jon-Paul. "We had cake and cocktails atop the Bowery Hotel with a 360-degree view of the city from the tallest building around. They got to see this amazing city in so many different perspectives!"
Planning a small, intimate ceremony gave Morgan and Jon-Paul exactly the type of wedding they wanted—a goal the bride recommends to other couples, too. "I think it's easy to get carried away," says Morgan. "Know that there are no rules. Our wedding was very New York, totally us, and absolutely perfect."
Only in New York
After their cityscape portrait session, the newlyweds and their guests set off for a sunset cruise around Manhattan on the Bateaux New York, a three-hour tour that included a full dinner, dancing to a live jazz band, and complimentary drinks. "Because most of our guests had not spent much time in New York, we wanted to give them a real New York experience," says Morgan. One highlight: "The Captain was kind enough to let us on the upper deck alone for an up close and personal view of the Statue of Liberty," says Jon-Paul. "Our guests couldn't stop remarking on how unique and special the whole experience was."