It is often said that your first impressions are your most reliable resource, but quite often time can reveal the opposite. For Marlena and Jamel their first impressions left them both with feelings of uncertainty, wondering how the other was perceiving their relationship potential – and ultimately believing the other “just wasn’t into” them. As they would discover time would prove the opposite to be true, and their potential went far beyond interest. Love deeply took root as they became “virtually inseparable,” until a surprise proposal on the beaches of Cancun would demonstrate the absolute permanence of inseparability.
Read all about Marlena and Jamel’s love story and wedding experience in this beautiful country club wedding in New York, planned by MunaLuchi Coterie member Erganic Design.
Bride & Groom: Marlena & Jamel
Wedding Location: New York Paramount Country Club
Wedding Date: 9/24/16
Tell us how you met and all about the proposal.
He Said – It was one of the coldest winters in recent memory, and I was willing to go against my own rules of dating online and dating within my neighborhood. Marlena was living a few blocks away which made it easy for us to get together a few times that winter. After a few dates I was a fan. We had a lot in common, she was attractive, and overall just a cool person. But our chemistry was less than mind-blowing. I was fast losing interest because I thought she just wasn’t into me. But as the weather warmed, so did her feelings. She took a trip to Atlanta to visit her maid-of-honor (had a talk with her God-daughter), and when she came back things were just different. She moved into a new apartment, I helped her paint, she cooked me dinner, and we’ve been virtually inseparable ever since. In the beginning I told her if we made it through two football seasons we’ll know we made it, and 15 months later we were engaged.
She Said – During a brutal winter the weather eased up one Saturday and I was out having a great time with friends. Suddenly I remembered I had a date with “this guy” I met online. I was ready to cancel, but my friends urged me to go. “You never know he could be the one.” This was met with the deepest of eye rolls. An hour or so later I was sitting at the table with Jamel. Everything about his body language and face showed that he wanted to be there as little as I did. If you know Jamel, you know he’s not much of a talker. If you know me, you know I could carry on a conversation with a chair so we managed to get through the date. After our lack luster first date we started hanging out but it was pretty much platonic. I was certain he wasn’t in to me, but I enjoyed hanging out with him. Jamel was cute, easy to talk to, we got along well and liked a lot of the same things. As spring rolled around it was like someone turned on the lights. While talking to my 7 year old Goddaughter about “boys” (don’t ask, she’s been here before) it hit me…wait, I think I like this guy. When I moved in to my new apartment, I asked if he would help me paint. After hours of work, as we split a pizza while watching Game of Thrones, I casually offered to cook him a real meal to thank him for helping me paint. In my head I had already decided if this guy doesn’t give me a sign he’s feeling me when he comes over for dinner, I’m going to let this ship sail. He came over for a few days later and, as promised, I had a real meal prepared. About an hour in to dinner, with no sign of a shift from platonic to romantic, my impatience got the best of me and I blurted out “What’s the deal? Are you in to me or what?” Suffice to say he was in to me, we’ve been together ever since!
The Proposal – We like to spend New Years somewhere warm so we took a trip to Cancun December 2015 to bring in the New Year. We also have a tradition of writing our names in the sand anytime we go on a beach holiday. After we went out with friends on New Years eve Jamel suggested that we get up in a few hours and do our names in the sand early in the morning. As day broke we went down to the beach and wrote our names in the sand. When we were done writing our names I turned and asked Jamel if he wanted to grab breakfast. He had a strange nervous look on his face and said “not yet”. I was confused until he dropped down on one knee and simply asked “will you marry me.” I immediately burst into a full on ugly cry. It was absolutely perfect and very “us”.
What was wedding shopping like for you? My dress was from the Rosa Clara Two 2016 Bridal Collection. I opted to remove the straps which created a nice sweetheart neckline. The dress was a simple, romantic lace with a fit and flare silhouette. It had beautiful detailing and just enough of a train to add some drama. I was very nervous to try on wedding dresses, like many women I don’t fit in to one size, I am small on the top and curvy on the bottom. I was hoping the fit and flare silhouette that I loved would look good on me. My wedding planner suggested that I look for dresses at Designer Loft and I am so grateful she did. The team at Designer Loft made me feel so at home and comfortable. My consultant Katrina was amazing. She understood what I was looking for, pulled some dresses for me and also let me browse dresses as well. After I tried on the first dress that fit beautifully my nerves melted away. My dress was the third dress I tried on at Designer Loft. I was in love with it. Once I started the fitting, my Mom and I got to know the lovely ladies at Designer Loft including the owner who made sure that all my alterations were done in time for the wedding.
Bridesmaids/Groomsmen gifts: Groomsmen – Engraved money clips. Bridesmaids – Personalized decorative compacts, robes, and slipper pouches.
Favorite item on the menu: Cocktail hour – Mushroom Arancini with romesco sauce. Dinner – Miso glazed black bass. Dessert – mini pie station.
First dance song: Michael Jackson – “The Lady In My Life”
Did you incorporate any culture into your wedding? We are both African American and family is extremely important us and an important element of our culture. The idea of family and our village was a recurring theme in our ceremony. In addition, the groom’s sister recited a traditional African libations toast to honor our ancestors that came before us. And the bride’s brother lit a unity candle and shared an original poem.
What is your best memory from your wedding?
She Said – Our first look before the ceremony. I could not get to Jamel fast enough, I was so excited to see him. When I finally got to him everyone else around us melted away and it was just us. One of the few moments we had to ourselves that day. A second would be when I came down the aisle with my Dad. He was so nervous about the hand off to Jamel. I told him “don’t worry Dad it will go smoothly.” When we got to the alter before the officiant even asked “who gives this woman away” Jamel shot down to get me. My Dad put up his hand as to say “not yet Jamel.” There was a lot of laughs from our guest and it broke everyone out of any nerves.
He Said – Standing at the altar waiting for Marlena to come down the aisle. I was nervous and excited, and jumped the gun. She looked so beautiful I was in such a rush to receive her from her father that I didn’t wait for our officiant to ask the famous question “who gives this woman away?” Dad wasn’t quite ready to let go and let me know he had a few more seconds before she was mine (the picture of this moment is a fav of mine too) Close second was the “Dappered Den”. When we booked our planner she sold me on the idea of a man cave. The cigar roller and whiskey tasting were awesome. But what I didn’t expect was having all the men assemble and pass on jewels about the value of family, fatherhood, and being a husband as I start this next chapter in my life. It was a powerful experience to have a patio full of black men in tuxedos putting arms around me and “ushering me into manhood” as one guest put it. Our Uncle Charles encapsulated the moment when he quoted the movie Glory “We men ain’t we?!”
What is the best wedding advice you can give to engaged couples? When we started the planning process we were under the impression that this day was about us, but soon learned it’s not. I say this sarcastically but let me clarify. Your village that has raised you and been part of your life are going to be so excited about this joyous event. They will want to talk about it, be involved, and play a part in the process. You can get lost in that and start to feel like the day is about everyone else except the Bride and Groom. Our advice would be to remember what really matters: your relationship, your bond and your love for one another. Weddings are important, your union should be celebrated, but it is one day. The marriage is far more important and is what has to stand the test of time. Your engagement and the planning process can be overwhelming but is such a special time. Don’t lose sight of each other. Communicate, keep your date nights, take a lovers weekend trip if you can, do thing that are just for the two of you and keep it all in perspective. When the big day gets here it will fly by so fast. Enjoy every second of it. You have spent a lot of time planning this day, but don’t sweat the small stuff. Focus on the people and the feeling. Make an effort to register those special moments – your first look, your Mom helping you in to your dress, a laugh with the bridal party before you walk out, your first dance, etc. Finally know that it is virtually impossible not to have a great time on your wedding day. It will just keep getting better from there. It’s the beginning of so many milestones to celebrate together as a couple and newlywed life is amazing!
Wedding Planner : Erganic Design
Photography : Petronella Photography, 2nd Shooter: Kanayo Adibe
Videography : Vesa Studios
Hair: Glamour by Shaniqua
Make up : Shaleira Smith
Music : Energy Entertainment
Mancave: The Dappered Den
Design, Floral & Decor: Erganic Design
Day of Stationery: Erganic Design