Real Weddings

A Formal Wedding at New York City's American Museum of Natural History

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Photo: Brian Finke

When Jordan first spotted Jessie in 2004 at a Princeton University tailgate party, his friends told him she was way out of his league. "She was a sophisticated senior, and I was an immature sophomore," says Jordan, now 27. Still, she felt a spark. "He was cute and funny," says Jessie, 29, a registered dietitian. "But I was about to graduate and move to New York. The timing wasn't right." They stayed in touch, but things didn't turn romantic until Jordan's senior year, when he called Jessie to tell her he'd accepted a job at a private-equity firm in New York. "That night we went out and had our first kiss," he says. "My wear-down method worked!"

In 2011, after dinner at their favorite restaurant, Cafe Cluny, Jordan dropped to one knee on the sidewalk and asked her to marry him. Her answer: a resounding yes. "We just balance each other out—he's a risk taker, and I'm more serious," she says. Both, however, are huge animal lovers, which made choosing the American Museum of Natural History as their site an easy decision. Says Jessie, a Manhattan native, "We wanted something quintessentially New York but still unexpected."

american museum of natural history wedding photos

Photo: Brian Finke

And with the help of planners Jung Lee and Josh Brooks of Fete, "unexpected" became the theme of the night. Instead of kicking off the March 3, 2012, celebration with a ceremony, 270 guests converged on the Akeley Hall of North African Mammals for a pre-vow cocktail hour amid dioramas of elephants and cheetahs. Roaming through the crowd: the bride and groom. "I wore a navy-and-black tuxedo, so I was practically incognito," she says.

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Photos: Brian Finke

During the cocktail hour, a herd of oryx kept watch over the bar. Guests sampled cocktail franks (shown), ahi-tuna sliders, chickpea falafel, sushi, seared duck, and mini lobster rolls.

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Photos: Brian Finke

Guests sipped bubbly in front of the gorilla diorama. The bride wore a strapless Oscar de la Renta ball gown and carried a lush, white bouquet of parrot tulips.

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Photo: Brian Finke

Each of the nine bridesmaids carried a vibrant bouquet of parrot tulips and wore a cashmere shell and custom silk evening pants or a taffeta skirt in a different shade of blue. "We gave the outfits to them as gifts," says Jessie.

american museum of natural history wedding ceremony

Photo: Brian Finke

The ceremony was held in the Powerhouse Room where the couple exchanged vows by a mirrored wall of candles. The recessional? A string version of Jordan's favorite song, the Journey anthem "Don't Stop Believin'. "

american museum of natural history wedding photos

Photo: Brian Finke

One of Jessie's favorite moments? "After the ceremony, Jordan and I were whisked away in a golf cart with a 'Just Married' insect sign!"

american museum of natural history wedding bug mural

Photo: Brian Finke

Guests located their seats courtesy of a huge bug mural: Each insect illustration was printed with a name and table number. "Everyone took photos of the wall all night," says Jessie (here pictured in the Stella McCartney tuxedo she wore to the pre-ceremony cocktail hour).

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Photos: Brian Finke

Next up: dinner and dancing in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, under the museum's iconic 94-foot blue whale. But the real action was on the dance floor, where wall-to-wall revelers rocked out to '80s and top-40 tunes. "Some even climbed up on ottomans, which made for some very interesting moves," says Jessie.

Tables were covered in a mix of centerpieces, including six-foot-tall camellia branches. "The ceilings are very high, so the tall centerpieces helped create a more intimate atmosphere," she says.

Centerpieces of pincushion proteas added a pop of color to the tables.

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Photo: Brian Finke

Guests' names were calligraphed in pearl ink on dark gray menu cards designed by Fete.

Aptly, guests sat down to either "land" (short ribs and filet mignon) or "sea" (Arctic char and crab cakes) entrees.

oscar de la renta wedding gown

Photo: Brian Finke

Jessie found her wedding dress during an Oscar de la Renta trunk show at Bergdorf Goodman. "The gown caught my eye as soon as I arrived," she recalls. "It was the first gown I noticed, the first one I tried on."

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Photos: Brian Finke

The cascade of fondant rose petals on the white wedding cake was inspired by the bride's gown. The cake-cutting song was "Good Life," by One Republic.

"Jordan's friends were so into the music. You just saw a sea of men in tuxedo shirts in front of the band," says Jessie.

The band unplugged at 1 a.m., but the celebration didn't end there. Buses whisked everyone to the West Village for an after-party at The Darby, an exclusive supper club. "All night, we felt as if we'd been transported somewhere magical," says Jessie. "We didn't want the evening to end."

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