Meet 11 Of New York City's Most Unconventional Brides

Photo: Courtesy of Danny Ghitis/The Lovely Lens.
Like many women, I have been to a lot of weddings — so many, in fact, that I even wrote a book, Save the Date: The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest, about my varied wedding attendances: from low-key City Hall nuptials with a dive bar afterparty to the destination wedding in Jamaica where I confronted a nemesis from my past.

The thing about weddings? They are never the same. They come in all shapes and sizes — and like jellybeans, it seems like there are more flavors than ever as people get married later, pay for events themselves, and exercise new control. Couples are making weddings exactly what they want, regardless of what’s been done in the past. As that happens, certain traditions give way to new rituals and the unconventional wedding becomes a legitimized, beautiful, better-than-ever thing — even if your great-aunt in Idaho can’t possibly understand why you’re forgoing cake to serve pie.

The following 11 weddings are varied, even in the way they veer from convention: Some offer unusual themes or unexpected decor; some are startling in their budget-friendliness, or with the ease and speed with which they were put together; some are updated meldings of religions and cultural traditions. Others are, quite simply, just what the bride and groom wanted (A movie theme? Cat theme? Okay!). Not everyone needs a wedding party clad in identical gowns or suits; not everyone cares about a fancy white dress. What these brides and grooms breaking the stereotypes do care about is doing it their way — and, of course, love.
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Photo: Courtesy of Michelle Ocampo.
Sara & Mark, Carroll Park
“I didn’t have $20,000 or $50,000 to spend on a wedding, and it always struck me as really absurd to spend that type of money, anyway. A tip I’d heard from a friend was to just say I was having a party when I looked into venues, not that I was getting married — and I did that. It was also a matter of not wanting to get sucked into the whole idea of ‘you have to do this.’ I didn’t want to be told what I had to do or that I was doing something wrong.

“We got married in Carroll Park in Brooklyn; it cost a $25 park permit. We used the city itself as the backdrop. Just after we took our vows, a Mr. Softee truck went off, and some SNL actor walked into the park.

“We had a daytime cocktail party at this restaurant on Smith Street that’s no longer there, Robin des Bois. It had great decor, which meant I didn’t have to spend time thinking about flowers or centerpieces. I got my dress at Kimera on Atlantic Avenue — it was a $450 custom-made silk dress, not white, but champagne with a Chinese silk print at top. My $300 'wedding' ring (I didn’t get an engagement ring, because why?) was just a pretty one I found at Swallow on Smith Street. My bouquet came from Key Food! And afterwards, we went to the Zombie Hut and bought everybody pizza.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Erica Berger.
Kara & Marc, City Hall
“We got engaged while on vacation in Italy and planned our entire wedding on a boat ride to Capri in less than an hour. The ceremony at City Hall was just the two of us, my close friend from college, and a photographer. We didn’t let our families come to the ceremony. (We had both been sort of prepping them for years not to expect a wedding.) Instead, we had them come for the weekend, put everyone up at the same hotel, and did a tiny fake ceremony at our apartment. We paid for everything ourselves. I didn’t have a bridal shower; we don’t need somebody else to buy us gifts.

“I got my non-white wedding dress on Net-a-Porter. My friend, who is a writer and a stylist, told me, ‘I think you should get a Victoria Beckham.’ So I ordered it, liked it, and showed it to my husband — I tried it on for him, which is sort of against the rules, I guess. I also wanted something more editorial than the typical wedding beauty look. I found a company called White Rose Collective to do my hair and makeup, and they were great. ”
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Photo: Courtesy of Danny Ghitis/The Lovely Lens.
Brianna & Jon, t.b.d. Brooklyn
“We just wanted to have the most awesome dance party with all of our favorite people. t.b.d. is a bar we go to a lot and my husband thought it would be great to get married in the backyard. It was the simplest thing that we did. We got married in front of the Greenpoint sign.

“We didn’t want to spend a million dollars on food. The woman who owns the bar told us they were going to start doing a seafood boil, so we went with that: trays of crab, shrimp, and clams.

“We also didn’t have a bridal party, but everyone involved was a close friend. One of our best friends married us; a friend played the guitar while we walked down the aisle; the DJ was a friend I met in Boston in 1999; the wedding coordinator and makeup artist were friends; my best girlfriend made our invitations. Even the dress was designed by my friend, who used to design wedding gowns. We went to The Bridal Garden, a non-profit where they sell samples and gently-used gowns. It’s the only place I went. We cut four feet off of the dress I found. I wanted a very ‘60s-style wedding, and we really just wanted everyone we loved to be involved.”
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Mary & Nick, City Hall
“Even if we had thousands of dollars to plan and two years, we would have done exactly what we did. A lot of times, people think going to City Hall is an aberration from tradition, but my mom grew up in New York City and her parents got married at City Hall in the ‘40s, so it’s a family tradition for me! I love that even though I never met [my grandparents], our ceremonies took place in the same place and our paperwork was filed in the same building.

“I hate shopping for clothes. I was going online and looking at dresses, and I reminded myself, 'This is a happy moment, why are you stressing yourself out?' I opened my closet, and there was a blue and purple print summer sundress that I had for a few years from L.L. Bean (Maine roots represent!). It turned out to be perfect and I still wear it all the time. We talked about rings and neither of us wanted to wear one. So we didn’t have rings — or attendants, either.

“We did have a weekend of awesome fun — we took our immediate families to City Hall, then came up to our apartment and had a cake that we made. We went out to dinner and the next day, we had an open house and later went to a baseball game. The only things I lost out on were having to spend a lot of money and getting stressed out.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Anna Beeke.
Jaime & Tanner, Housing Works
“I never really daydreamed about my princess wedding. I only wanted to do the parts that felt meaningful. So the white dress didn’t matter; I didn’t want my dad to give me away because of what that represents; and I didn’t need ladies in waiting. Every time my mom would call me the bride, I’d be like, ‘No.’ I was lucky that our families were really open-minded. My dress was a green evening gown and it had pockets.

“We had no wedding party, we didn’t process, we just walked up there. Housing Works is a bookstore that does catered events and weddings every weekend, so they have a caterer and a coordinator — that part’s not that non-traditional. We did pie instead of cake for dessert. We had toasts and my dad finished his with a Klingon wedding blessing.

“My husband and I combined our last names to make a new one: His was Ringerud, mine was Green, and we became ‘Greenring.’ I really like the idea of a future for couples that could be anything.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Jaya Saxena.
Jaya & Matt, Metropolitan Building
“There’s always balancing what your family wants and what you want to do. We didn’t get married on a barge with ten people, but we did a pretty good job at looking at what the expected wedding looks like, what of it makes sense, and what can we do without.

“We had our best friend marry us in a ten-minute ceremony. (We had the bar open before the ceremony.) We had no wedding party. We didn’t do a bachelor or bachelorette party, either. The night before the wedding, we went to this big barbecue restaurant and invited everyone.

“My mom got my bouquet flowers at a bodega that morning — I don’t think she spent more than $20 — and 30 minutes before the photos, the coordinator arranged them and wrapped them in ribbon. I walked down the aisle alone; I balk at the ‘being given away’ imagery. Instead, we had our parents, grandparents, and siblings walk down the aisle ahead of us as the procession. I liked the the idea that this wasn’t about our families bringing us together; that it was something that had to do with the two of us. So we walked down alone and walked out together.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Emily Mclintock.
Emily & Elizabeth, City Winery
“We had [our ceremony] at City Winery in Soho; there’s a room called the Barrel Room that they turn into this cool, funky event space. [Elizabeth] and I danced up the aisle together to Bruno Mars. We both wrote our vows — six of them were funny, six serious. We had no bridal party and we didn’t do a first dance or have a cake. Our table was our closest friends and our parents sat at a different one.

“I had bright red Kate Spade shoes (I’m a shoe person; I had to do something that would make a statement) and a white wedding dress, and Liz had on a white jacket and black pants — her shoes were purple Cole Haan wingtips.

“We just love New York and everyone who knows us is like, ‘You’re so New York,’ so everything was city-themed: the save-the-dates, the of my best friends lifted a whole bunch of coasters and we didn’t even get any.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Joshua Simpson.
Kate & Josh, Old Stone House
“We each had a member of the opposite sex in our attendants. I had a bride’s gentleman, who wore a navy blue suit, and [my husband] had a grooms lady, who wore the hottest gray suit and looked awesome. I told the women, ‘Get a navy blue dress that is not a prom dress, I don’t care what shoes.’

“The Old Stone House was perfect. It was ten blocks from our house. I didn’t want a plated dinner. I knew Daniel Delaney of Delaney Barbecue through a mutual friend; we’d eaten there a bunch. I emailed and talked to their coordinators and we got really lucky. We also had pie instead of cake. We didn’t do a traditional cake-cutting; there were some things where I was like, 'I don’t need to do this.' Non-New York friends would ask questions and I’d say, ‘That’s not what I’m doing.' I wasn’t hiring a calligrapher, and there’s a tradition of the bridal portrait I didn’t do. I think they’re lovely, but I didn’t do them.

“A couple months after the wedding I kept thinking, 'I have so much free time.' What was different? I realized I wasn’t planning a wedding!”
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Photo: Courtesy of Book of Love.
Natasha & Doug, The Green Building
“We really wanted the wedding to be a reflection of us as individuals, as well as us as a couple. Our interests are so varied. Melissa McNeeley, our wedding planner, asked, 'What are you guys into?,' and we were like, 'We love broccoli; we love cats!' I really absolutely love cats, and Melissa really embraced it — though she did stop us from having the cats at the ceremony. (But it was great to have that quirky part of our personality expressed.)

“My husband really loves marching bands. We got the Hungry March Band to come and do a parade around our neighborhood. After we said our vows, the doors opened and the band started playing, and we danced up the street. The whole neighborhood came out.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Dette Snaps.
Dor & Josh, Museum of the Moving Image
“We met through film Twitter. Both of us are averse to cheesiness and inauthentic emotion or pretext. We knew from the start we wanted to [have our wedding] at the Museum of the Moving Image and we wanted to take advantage of it being in a movie theater — the name of our 'movie' was Dial M for Marriage. We held it on a Monday, because the venue is closed then. We had a red carpet, a step-and-repeat, and candy and popcorn set on VCRs we’d spray painted gold. (Josh is a filmmaker and his movie is about the history of the VHS.) The actor from Gremlins performed the ceremony. Josh wrote his script and we exchanged VHS copies of The Ring.

“For the first dance, we hired a choreographer and learned the dance from the end of Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion. We love the movie and we love the idea of taking a totally absurd premise and following through with it as if we were dead serious. We practiced for like seven hours.

“I was around a size 14 or 16 when looking for dresses, and I realized early on that there was not going to be enough of a selection for me to consider a white dress. I bought a red one I just loved. Late in the game, I got an appointment at Kleinfeld, and I found one that I liked. Then, three weeks before the wedding, we were rehearsing our dance and as I’m leaping and turning around, I realized that both dresses were mermaid dresses, so I had to get another. The only thing that sucked was that I had to spend time changing. I wore the red first, then changed to the first white dress, then the dance one.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Tanveer Badal Photography.
Nadia & Josh, Dante’s Catering
“Ours was a Muslim/Jewish/American wedding. Josh actually converted — that was my father’s one condition. They wanted him to wear the traditional outfit for the man and I said no. I wore a lehenga instead of a white dress, but it wasn't the customary red; I had it in cream and blue. We did the whole walking down the aisle thing. We had a Muslim ceremony first with an imam, then transitioned into a civil ceremony officiated by my husband's grandfather, and he did the stomping on the glass thing, too.

“It was totally a multicultural wedding. With the Muslim marriage, you’re supposed to hand out sweets after the ceremony, and my dad got dates and Middle Eastern goodies to leave on all the tables. We had Italian cookies from a bakery we like, and we had a friend of the family cater the wedding with Indian-Chinese food. We didn’t have one big wedding cake; we got four individual cakes from a bakery we love.”

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