Couple’s elegant and effortless wedding in California strives for an “Elegant & Bougie Cookout” vibe with gorgeous forrest backdrops and lots of love!
“Effortless elegance,” “Natural Charm,” “Black & Bougie,” “Jesus Loving Black People,” and “Black Joy!!!” were just some of the vibes Terrance and Shani wanted for their outdoor wedding.
Overall, their wedding hit all the marks! Their ceremony reflected their faith, commitment to God, and to each other, while their food and drinks reflected the type of restaurant the couple aspire to own one day. And, of course, there was SO much joy!
On their wedding day, “you couldn’t tell who was on who’s side of the wedding, which made for an epic time for everyone!”
For more on their love story, details from their elegant and effortless wedding, and more – keep scrolling below.
- Couple: Terrance McKinney & Shani Carter McKinney
- Occupations: Shani is an Advisor & Leadership Fellow to the Chief of School of [LAUSD] and Terrance is a Technical Recruiter for a Restaurant Technology Company [Toast].
- Wedding date: September 2, 2021
- Wedding location: Malibu Lake Lodge, Agoura Hills, California
- Theme: Natural Charm
- Total time Together: 3.5 Years.
- Total Time Engaged: about 18 months
- Current City: LA; before that Boston for 2 years; before that Long distance in NYC & Chicago.
- Wedding guests: Less than 70 people (with a few last minute no shows); all attendees were required to be Vaccinated & get negative COVID Tests.
- Bridesmaids: Shani’s Howard University besties
- Groomsmen: Terrance’s 2 older Brothers
- Flower Girl: Terrance’s Niece
- Officiant: Shani’s childhood Pastor
- Gifts for their bridesmaids and groomsmen: They gave cards, hugs, and a few souvenirs from their honeymoon. Since all of their family flew into California from the East/South/Midwest, they arranged a beach day at Zuma Beach the day after their wedding. For them, “That.. Day….Was.. Heaven…”. Overall, they’re more about creating joyful moments, and that in itself was a gift for everyone.
- Gifts for one another: Shani gave Terrance the Cartier watch he always wanted. Terrance gave her pearl earrings to match the bracelet her mother gave her (which was the original pearl necklace her late father gave her mother on their wedding day).
- Wedding Colors: Hunter Green
- Food: served outside, family style; roasted Leg of Lamb and grilled snapper.
- Crowd favorite appetizers: oxtail ravioli
- Ceremony entrance song: Stand By Me, Benny Martin version
- First dance song: Fall For You, Leela James
How they met…
While Terrance was visiting New York City for work, a mutual friend set the pair up for a blind date.
“Shani and I met for coffee that same week,” Terrance recalls, “and our first conversation lasted for several hours.”
After being long-distance and solidifying their friendship, within a few months they “knew where [their] train was headed.”
Terrance planned to propose to Shani at an important place for them: Miami.
During their long distance phase, the couple traveled between Chicago and New York city, but Miami was actually the first destination they visited together outside of their respective cities. The state also holds a special spot in their hearts because it happened to be where Terrance first said ‘I love you.’
While celebrating Shani’s 30th birthday, Terrance insisted on making a quick stop before dinner.
Shani recalls, “The car stopped a few blocks short of the restaurant and Terrance guided [me] onto the beach.”
As they walked onto the beach, she immediately spotted a beautiful picnic. Still, she didn’t know it was actually for them. Terrance had actually strategically placed the set up in the same spot he professed his love.
As they got closer, he surprised Shani when he suddenly dropped to one knee and asked her to marry him!
It was a moment they’ll never forget!
Wedding style, attire & shopping experience…
Planning a wedding during a pandemic is not an easy feat.
“Ugh,” Shani says, thinking about the wedding process. “It was during the pandemic so speaking for both of us, it was more of a challenge than our favorite part of the process.”
Like many people in the world, the pair had also been very secluded during the pandemic and in terms of venue-shopping, “[they] weren’t trying to visit too many places.”
Nevertheless, everything did come together for these two. As “Natural Charm” was the theme for their wedding, they both wanted to “dress to impress, but also wanted to appreciate being in the mountains and [the] greenery around [them].” Creating “elevated but not overstated” looks was essential for them and they ultimately wanted to let nature shine.
So, for their color story and decor, they embraced green.
Terrance says, “Green was the only color and I was very happy when I was able to work with an LA based Tailor who customized everything to my liking.”
“Shani had been looking for her wedding dress for over 6 months across 3 states, and coupled with being a detailed planner by profession/ she had a very clear idea of what she was looking for,” he adds. And “When she [finally] found her dress, (again with an LA based company), it was an easy, straightforward process with subsequent fittings.”
For Terrance and Shani, faith and family is very important to them.
“We’re both Black, and both of our families’ roots are from the south (Raleigh NC as well as Birmingham & Selma AL), and our faith in Christ has always been at the center of our relationship.”
Before their ceremony began, the couple played a curated list of some of their favorite gospel songs (including artists like Kirk Franklin, Whitney, Sunday Service Choir, etc.). They loved being able to share that part of themselves with their guests. They also were very intentional about praying prior to their ceremony and also before dinner. Another detail included their wedding programs, which were “reminiscent of ‘church fans'” and was “a nod to [them] both growing up in the black church.”
Terrance recalls, “We received comments from both our Christian & non-Religions attendees on how beautiful the ceremony was… Another hallmark was having a married couple that both Shani and I respected from both our families recite scripture/poems that we selected.”
Favorite memory from their wedding…
As BIG foodies, it was all about dinner for these two!
“We loved being able to actually enjoy dinner and connect with so many of our loved ones.”
They also put a lot of effort into planning the food, design, and hospitality aspects. An interesting element of their wedding was actually the choice to have one single table instead of more traditional seating.
Because of this, they were “…very intentional with who [they] sat next to each other and [they] think all of [their] guests appreciated meeting someone new that shared something in common.”
Highlights of their wedding…
Terrance and Shani have SO many highlights from their wedding – it’s hard to choose!
For one, they absolutely loved their photos by The Hendrys. They can’t rave enough about the photographs from their big day and the timeliness in which they received them.
“We got all [our] photos in less than a week (is that normal?!), and the candid moments are going to bring joy to our families for decades.”
Another thing the pair loved about their wedding is what they called “Seat at the table.” The idea they’d had since they first began dreaming of their wedding was having a “single table with all of [their] guests.” Since they never wanted a huge wedding to begin with (and on top of that the pandemic and relocating to LA), it gave them the ability to keep their wedding party small enough to pull this off.
For their flowers and decor, Shani took the reigns on this one and chose all white flowers (excluding roses). Working with floral designer, The Velvet Poppy, the couldn’t be happier with the outcome – it was simply breathtaking! Also, as Hunter Green was their only color, the addition of greenery and herbs really made their vision flourish. And, since the couple plan on “making waves in the food/hospitality space,” Rosemary was added into their arrangements and table settings.
Lastly, family was the major highlight of their day. Surprisingly, while they’ve been together for 3 years, their “mother’s and most of [their] family and friends [had] never interacted or met in person.” However, if you witnessed their day, you wouldn’t have even noticed!
“We introduced our families at the start of the pandemic with virtual cooking classes. It was a great way for our families to mingle and they were so happy to finally meet in person. It was truly a joining of families.”
Advice for other engaged couples…
Their best advice for other couples is to savor the moment and don’t stress out abut the little things that might go wrong.
“It will go by fast, and they’ll be a few hiccups, [but] don’t let anything or anyone ruin the day.”
Also, try to be on time. The couple admits “their ceremony was delayed a bit, and in hindsight that would’ve been time [they] could’ve spent mingling…”
So, “if you can,” Terrance says, “start on time to maximize the party times.”
Terrance didn’t hold back on bragging about his wife (nor should he! She’s stunning!).
“She’s clearly gorgeous from photos,” he says, “but she’s also the most brilliant woman you’ll meet. She went to Howard for UnderGrad and has 2 Masters from Harvard (Urban Planning & MBA). Before completing her MBA she worked at an acclaimed firm in NYC and worked on some pretty impactful projects.”
“My flex is that I married this beautiful black brilliant woman!” Terrance says, smiling.
He adds that he’s “the one who has a passion for food/hospitality (The pineapple cufflinks are a nod to that), and [that he’s] focusing on a lot of Equity in the industry right now in [his] career.”
Their “couple flex” is a list of accomplishments they’ve achieved together over the last 18 months. Check it out!
- Both pivoted careers (Him: HR, Her: MBA/Startup/Education)
- Moved Cross Country into new home (Boston to LA)
- Purchased said home in LA
- Survived Pandemic
- Planned the wedding of our dreams
- Just getting started…. We’re both really ambitions & try to stay humble/grounded as much as we can. Our family & faith are big factors into why we’re ready to tackle the world together and see no reason why we can’t do anything we want. Our wedding weekend was a manifestation of the love & joy that we hope to imprint on on the world in on a much bigger scale in some way.
When finding vendors to support, the couple were primarily targeting black-owned, LGBTQ owned or otherwise allied businesses.
Looking for more elegant & effortless wedding inspiration?
- Photography: Sarah & Darren Hendry The Hendrys
- Wedding Coordinator: Flawless Weddings Events
- Cake & Dessert: Mwokaji Cakery
- Caterer: Chef Cordelia
- DJ: Extreme DJ Service
- Flowers: The Velvet Poppy
- Hair & Makeup: Diamond Beauty Hair and Makeup
- Transportation: Swoop
- Venue: The Lodge at Malibu Lake
- Tuxedo: Tru Tailor Co.
- Dress: Le Marriage Couture