When Derek saw Tessa for the first time he was immediately captivated by her beauty. They only dated for a short time in college until graduation came and their career paths took them in vastly different directions. Years later, they reconnected in person and it was if nothing had changed. Tessa and Derek knew they were meant to be together forever.
Read all about Tessa and Derek’s once in a lifetime romance as well as their modern and regal wedding with a splash of African culture in Ontario Canada. The days was beautifully captured by MunaLuchi coterie member Samantha Clarke Photography.
Bride & Groom: Tessa & Derek
Occupations: Lawyer & African History Teacher and Digital Marketing Analyst
Wedding date: September 10, 2017
Wedding location: Paradise Banquet Hall, Ontario, Canada
Tell us how you met and all about the proposal. We met at Oakwood University a HBCU in Huntsville Alabama. Tessa is from Canada and I’m from DC but we were both sent there by our parents. I first saw Tessa at a Friday night worship service at Oakwood University. I was sitting there minding my business and then I saw her walk right down the middle of the aisle. It was as if everything stopped; I had tunnel vision. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before. I was paralyzed by her beauty and everything else blurred, just like in the movies. Her presence impacted me greatly. In a weird way I felt like I knew her history and culture just by the way she walked. It was very familiar to me. I decided that whenever I saw her again I had to speak to her. So like most Oakwood students, I attended the Saturday night basketball game and when I saw Tessa there, I approached her. We dated for a short time and then it was time for graduation. We stayed in contact over the years while Tessa was going on to practice civil rights law and I was developing my love for teaching African History. When we reconnected years later in person, the magic was still there. We dated for 9 months before I proposed outside of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. Of course Tessa said Yes!
What was wedding shopping like for you? It took a while for me to find a dress. I knew the style I wanted and knew I would know it when I saw it. One day I happened to stumble across Camelia wedding gown boutique online and the 2nd dress I tried on was the one! My wedding dress was a jewel crusted mermaid style with a long train and gold lace trim. It fit perfectly with our wedding style which was modern with a splash of African Royalty.
Did you incorporate any culture into your wedding? We incorporated several African themed traditions into the wedding:
1. Tasting of the 4 elements. The West African Yoruba recognize that marriage does not promise a state of euphoria or peace on a daily basis, as every married couple knows. In their tradition, couples participate in a tasting of the four elements of life: bitter, sweet, sour, and not – as well as water to cleanse the palate, as a way of demonstrating the fullness of experience that each married couple will meet with over time. We tasted cayenne pepper which symbolizes hot passion, lemon which symbolizes sour disappointments of marriage, vinegar which symbolizes bitterness and honey which symbolizes the happiness and bliss associated with marriage. We then said our vows with the knowledge that together we can stand strong before whatever comes our way.
2. We had Yoruba busts of ourselves in traditional Yoruba headwear.
3. A ceremonial dance was performed by Ngoma Ensemble, a child dance group in Toronto.
Bridesmaids/Groomsmen gifts: The bridesmaids received robes
Gifts to one another: Derek received a Boudoir Shoot book for Derek and Tessa received her Mother’s watch.
Favorite item on the menu: Dessert was our favorite part of the menu. We especially loved the freshly made funnel cake fries.
First dance song: “Luv” by Tory Lanez
What is your best memory from your wedding? Our best memories from the wedding were the vows we exchanged and the tasting ceremony.
What is the best wedding advice you can give to engaged couples? Make sure that the wedding reflects you. Don’t get too busy to have quiet time together and dream up what is most important to you. We decided on the tasting ceremony during a 2 hour phone conversation during the busy week before the wedding. Though there was a lot going on around we made time to reflect on what we felt was one missing element. It is now our most treasured memory and a big hit and a favorite with the guests.
Photography: Samantha Clarke Photography
Wedding Dress Designer: Spohia Tolli
Wedding Dress Salon: Camelia Wedding Gown
Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Beautbride
Hair: Simone Finch
Bride’s Makeup: Neo’s Beauty
Bridesmaids’ Makeup: Trop Belle Makeup
Shoes: David’s Bridal
Ceremony and Reception Location: Paradise Banquet Hall, Concord, Ontario, Canada
Wedding Planner: Most Unique Events
Day of Coordinator: Akisha Andrews