One Couple's Bold, Colorful Wedding at the New Jersey Shore
Jenny and Maria met the old-fashioned way—through pals while hanging out at a local bar. They were friends for many months before things took a romantic turn. After a few years of dating, Maria (an urban planner) and Jenny (a certified rolfer with a holistic bodywork practice) were at a farm-to-table dinner they attended annually. The traditional night out was the perfect setting for Maria to pop the question. "I knew I wanted to do it outside—somewhere beautiful and removed from our regular lives," she explains.
Maria found Jenny by the edge of the property, petting a horse she'd met the year prior. "It's hard to remember what I said exactly because the whole thing had such a surreal, slow-mo feeling," Maria says. But she does remember slowly and awkwardly sinking down onto one knee, and mid-sentence, asking Jenny to marry her. "We had been together for a number of years, we were living together, and certainly both anticipated being together for the rest of our lives," Jenny says. "And yet, despite all that, it was still somehow such a shock to me when she proposed. I was totally stunned and overwhelmed!"
The engagement lasted three years. The brides knew they wanted to wed but neither was very keen on planning the big day. They'd go through phases of checking out venues, taking a break, and starting up again, considering places as near as their native Brooklyn and as far as Portugal. Then a friend suggested The Asbury Hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Located about an hour outside of the city, the beach town checked a lot of the boxes on the couple's list. "It's an up-and-coming food destination, has lots of music venues and history, a nice beach, and is queer and dog friendly," Maria says. On August 26, 2017, with help from Jove Meyer Events, the brides made things official, with 125 loved ones and a whole lot of color. A streamer installation was the dominant aesthetic element, and the bright and multicolored details followed—including Jenny and Maria's ensembles and the flowers that graced the reception.
Fourteen-Forty designed the custom invitation suite, which was part modern, part beachy. The invite was a play off the multi-colored streamer installation by The Color Condition that would hang in the center of the reception room. And the brides' pup Rita, made an appearance on the response card, as well as coasters (shown here).
Crazy About Color
Maria tried on a lot of suits but nothing fit well. "It's not easy to find a gender-neutral suit in a small size," she explains, so she went custom. She sent The Tailory photos of suits she liked (initially thinking she'd go pink or floral) and then reviewed swatches. Knowing the style and color of Jenny's outfit helped Maria curate her look. The couple chose to be involved in each other's outfits from the very beginning and also got ready together on the big day. "Jenny is my #1 fashion consultant," Maria says. "I couldn't imagine keeping my outfit a secret."
Jenny knew she didn't want white or anything too tailored for a bride. In fact, she originally imagined wearing something colorful and patterned. After hitting up several department stores, she ended up in Rachel Comey's boutique to check out a specific dress. She tried on a bunch of things that day, and when she slipped into this emerald jumpsuit, she knew it was the one. Earrings scored on a pre-wedding trip to Greece added another fun pop of color.
Jenny sought sartorial advice from her best friend, and they shared a joint Pinterest page as she worked on her ensemble. The pal pinned blue Sam Edelman slides early on. "After buying and returning a few other options, I circled back to them—so simple and crazy inexpensive," Jenny says. "They fit perfectly and were so comfortable. I knew I could wear them all night."
Maria spotted her Gucci loafers early on and fell hard. "I sort of built my whole outfit around the shoes (and Jenny's jumpsuit)," she says. "I also liked that they highlighted my feet tattoos."
Photographer Amber Gress suggested some portrait locations, including the boardwalk (where there was actually a mermaid parade taking place), in town (where a surf music festival was happening), and in the hotel. The couple's beloved dog Rita, wearing a tuxedo collar, joined them for a few formal shots. "Everything unfolded in such a magical way," Maria recalls. "Everyone walking by kept congratulating us and telling us how great we looked." Adds Jenny, "I could not stop smiling. My face hurt. Everywhere we went we ran into family and friends. It was the most amazing feeling."
The couple wanted a tangible, symbolic representation of their union that they could hang in their house post-wedding. Jenny and her friend found inspiration in old ketubahs and homed in on some key design elements, and added in some details that were meaningful to the couple. Jenny's friend then painted the traditional Jewish marriage license with text that was modified to suit the couple, including a poem by Mary Oliver called "Wild Geese."
The flower girl tossed eucalyptus leaves down the aisle. "I grew up in Northern California and the smell of eucalyptus really brings me back there," Jenny says.
The ceremony took place in a private outdoor space, after Jenny and Maria entered together to the festive sounds of "La Valse d'Amelie" from the Amelie soundtrack. Their officiant wrote a beautiful service that included details about each of the brides, a selection of Jewish traditions, and a Leonard Cohen quote. Some of the duo's closest friends held the chuppah. Jenny and Maria each read words they had written—outlining why they had chosen each other and vows they had penned together. At the conclusion, the newlyweds recessed to "Golden Khasene" by Isle of Klezbos.
Jenny and Maria agree that the ceremony was the most memorable part of the day. "It was such an intense and incredible experience to happen with the support of our families and friends," Maria says. "I can't even count the number of people who commented on the giant smile I had the entire ceremony looking at Jenny."
Cocktail hour took place not far from the ceremony. Guests enjoyed New Jersey oysters from the Barnegat Oyster Collective, braised octopus salad, tomato tartlets, and other tasty bites. With temps around 80 degrees, the big garage doors on the reception room stayed open all night.
Made to Match
Matchboxes were foil-stamped with a drawing Maria made with Jenny back on their first trip together to Southeast Asia, and then placed on high-top tables during cocktail hour.
The Seating Chart
Jenny mapped out the seating chart, based on a Mandala that Maria had photographed in India. Jenny planned for everyone at each table to have the same color—which become more apparent once they were seated. "Unfortunately or fortunately, it was so beautifully made that everyone left their cards and didn't take them off!" Maria says.
The group moved inside for the reception, with a rainbow streamer installation by The Color Condition anchoring the area. "The room is very neutral, and Jenny and Maria wanted to bring fun into the space, so color was the way to go," says event planner and designer Jove Meyer, who recommended the vibrant canopy over the dance floor.
The linens and chairs were pale and neutral to let the ceiling artwork, colorful flowers, and vases be the main event.
Vases from Josephine Heilpern of Recreation Center graced the tables, holding dahlias and zinnias in bold hues. Jenny and Maria have coffee mugs by the same artist and wanted to incorporate her designs into their big day. They stumbled across a local flower grower and ordered 16 buckets of blooms, which were then arranged in similar color groupings and set among tea lights and taper candles. The petite arrangements packed a punch but also left room for the family-style platters of food—including salmon kebabs, grilled skirt steak with summer herb chimichurri, New Jersey tomato salad, pearl couscous, and roasted peewee potatoes with pesto and Pecorino Romano.
Pops of Color
Some tables boasted clusters of blooms in peach and red, others in orange and yellow, and a few arrangements grouped pink and purple. The taper candles were kept neutral.
Dancing the Night Away
Though the couple opted out of a first dance, Jenny and her dad took a spin on the dance floor to "Highwayman" by Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson, a song that reminded her of her childhood. Then the brides were hoisted up in chairs as everyone did the hora. "I'm Greek, so circle dancing is in our blood," Maria says. "It felt like a natural combination of our combined Greek and Jewish cultures."
Guests grabbed cups of sake to go before heading home. Maria saw them on Instagram and thought they'd be great, since she and Jenny wanted a favor that was either edible or drinkable. "We loved the packaging and that they could be enjoyed that night or saved for later," Jenny says. The couple had traveled to Japan the year before and the sake cups were also an appealing reminder of their trip.
Photography, Amber Gress
Location, The Asbury Hotel
Event planning and design, Jove Meyer Events
Catering, cake, and dessert, Cardinal Provisions
Oysters, Barnegat Oyster Collective
Videography, NST Pictures
Stationery and Calligraphy, Fourteen-Forty
Music, James Mulry
Officiant, Amelie Davidson
Maria's suit and shirt, The Tailory
Jenny's jumpsuit, Rachel Comey
Lighting, Universal Light and Sound
Photo booth, We Love Photo Booths
Custom ceramic vases, Josephine Heilpern of Recreation Center