Cleao and Ryan were just teenagers when they first met at a church event. Like many great relationships, they started out as friends then started dating during their senior year in high school. After leaving for college they continued dating into their sophomore year but eventually separated. “Our families remained well-connected and eventually one of his cousins was getting married and asked me to sing at his wedding. Ryan was his best man and I sang as the bride came down the aisle,” Cleao says. The pair romantically reconnected at the wedding and began dating once again.
Their Harlem Renaissance engagement session is a true reflection of their impending wedding. A picturesque background and era appropriate clothing brought their idea together beautifully. Captured by Shana Mitchell Photography, take a look at Cleao and Ryan’s stunning e-session.
Bride-to-be: Cleao P. Henderson
Groom-to-be: Ryan K. Martin
Wedding date: 09/03/2016
Wedding location: Kapok Special Events and Gardens – Clearwater, FL
Tell us all about the proposal!
At the time, I was living in Philadelphia and he was in Tampa. Dating, at this time in our lives, meant we would eventually marry, so the distance wasn’t of any concern for us. About 5 months after his cousin’s wedding, I was home in Tampa visiting for Thanksgiving. I was also celebrating a good friend’s birthday with a few friends who came to celebrate too. We all dressed in black and rented a private yacht to surprise her. Now, a week before this yacht party was to take place, Ryan’s mom invited me to come to her home for a cabaret party she was hosting. She wanted me to stop by and sing a few songs. I panicked because it was definitely something I wanted to do, but my friend’s surprise yacht birthday party was that same evening. When I shared this conflict with her, she assured me that the party would run late enough for me to stop in and she encouraged me to bring my friends afterwards. I was excited for the fun night ahead! I told my mom and dad about it and they were both wondering why they didn’t get invited to the cabaret. Secretly, playing me — I contacted Ryan’s mom to ensure it would be okay for my parents to come, also. She was completely okay with them attending and seemed excited that they showed interest in coming. Anyhow, fast forward through the yacht party, which was so much fun; Ryan, my friends, and I all went to the cabaret party afterwards.
It never registered that all of his family was present and my parents, little brother (who was home visiting from college), and a couple of my cousins were all there. I was in awe of the warmth I felt in the room and how we walked into a room with our families enjoying this event together — it felt amazing. I went to the mic and sang some songs, then later they asked Ryan to sing. I remember laughing because he didn’t even sing in private, so I knew he’d turn down the request. To my surprise, he agrees to sing… so, immediately, I felt like it was the twilight zone because he completely caught me off guard by going to the mic. They turned his absolute favorite Mos Def song, “The Beggar,” and he actually begins to sing!! He stops mid-se ntence of the first verse and it’s dark in the room, but bright enough for me to make out his silhouette. He’s posing with the microphone and I’m intrigued, waiting to see whether he’s going to finish singing in public. Then, he begins walking toward me and now I’m becoming confused and nervous because I have absolutely NO CLUE what’s happening at that moment. I see the lights from camera phones repositioning themselves in the dark and I’m getting more nervous by the second. Ryan’s standing in front of me and embraces me, so I hug him back — still very confused — and I hear him saying, “it’s now or never… we have to do it.” Then he gets down on one knee, everyone is screaming, and it’s still not clicking for me!! He apparently had to ask twice, but I honestly do not recall the first time he asked. I was in such shock with what was happening, how it was all happening, and it was truly taking a minute to soak in. When I finally understood that I was being proposed to, I completely fell apart, did the ugly cry, and said yes. Ha! It was an amazing night that matched our amazing journey we took to get here.
What did you do on your first date?
I would tell you that our first date was my senior prom, but Ryan would probably say something different.
What’s your favorite thing to do as a couple?
Travel, watch movies, and eat sushi.
How has wedding planning been so far?
It is A LOT but it’s going well so far. We are getting closer and closer to the big day, and I feel like I am really getting things done. Feeling accomplished.
Tell us what you’re looking forward to most on the wedding day.
I’m looking forward to saying our vows and our first dance as husband and wife.
Photographer – Shana Mitchell Photography