In a true Hallmark moment, Katrina Oluremi Bello Debela and Samson Mazengia Debela met on Valentine’s Day in 2015. She was out with two girlfriends, he was out with four friends, and by the end of the night, they were sharing NY slices on the Lower East Side. After a few months of back-and-forth texting—both, to this day, unsure of who was to blame—they went on their first date in April, and, as Katrina puts it, “essentially never stopped dating after that.”
“We had a lot in common in our upbringing as first-generation kids and realized we had lived in all of the same cities from college to present day,” she says. “We recounted times that we were definitely in the same room without realizing it. All in due time, our paths finally crossed and we haven’t looked back since.”
They got engaged in South Africa in 2018, and after realizing a wedding upstate New York was slightly out of their intended budget, began to consider a destination abroad. Their first choice? Mexico! “We love the food, culture, and it would be a suitable flight for our families that live on opposite coasts of the country,” explains the bride. But the real question was where? Samson and Katrina, a “very obsessive review-reader,” began their research, scouting venues from beach resorts in Puerto Vallarta to boutique hotels in Cabo, before realizing “something was still missing.”
At this point, Samson, who had visited Mexico City on vacation the year before, made a suggestion: What about a wedding there? They then stumbled on Proyecto Publico Prim online and fell in love “almost immediately,” says Katrina. “It just felt like us—the greenery, the beauty in the decay of the walls, the natural light that poured in. It felt unique and open-ended enough to create our own special celebration.” One trip and site visit later, it was booked for a February 20, 2020, date.
The couple created their own invitation suite, which featured photos by Christopher Nechodom, and were printed by The Copy Specialist. They also made wedding merch (totes and t-shirts) featuring a custom wedding logo, inspired by the Mexico 1968 Olympics, which Katrina says “was a total hit.”
Katrina's bridesmaids all wore pink robes as they got ready together. The bride's shoes, which were ultimately hidden under her dress, coordinated with the color palette. "My shoes were nude pink Nike Cortez’s," Katrina says. "I had the Nike swoosh embellished and bedazzled and it was still one of my favorite decisions—comfort first, always!" Her earrings were pearls by Kate Spade and her tennis bracelet was from her mom."
Katrina's ballgown was by Viero Bridal. "I felt it as soon as I put it on," she says of finding the one. "I tried on a lot of dresses and had just figured that 'you know when you know' feeling was a myth but I felt it with this one. I felt classic and modern and most importantly beautiful! it made me feel regal!"
"I wore a headband birdcage veil by Pronovias—I didn't want a long veil so this beaded headband was perfect for me," says the bride.
"I had a really beautiful moment with my mom and my sister right before the ceremony started in a room upstairs where I was finishing/re-reading my vows," recalls the bride. "My mom prayed over me and blessed my marriage and it was the beginning of my emotions and happy tears flowing. "
Samson wore a burgundy three-piece wool suit that was made custom by Suit Supply Made-To-Measure in New York’s Soho.
"Figure out what you want, what is most important to you—and execute those things. Everything else, let it flow," advises the couple. "You can't allow yourself to get too caught up in the details."
"We both have an affinity for hosting so the planning process was actually pretty fun and seamless for us," Katrina says. "We wanted to make our best effort for the wedding to be a reflection of us as a couple. Every decision we made for the venue, ceremony, dress code, décor, food, music, wedding favors, and even impromptu karaoke at the end of the wedding night was a reflection of us."
Katrina's bridesmaids wore shades of pink and red. "I wanted to be cognizant of the fact that everyone’s body and what they like is different," she explains. "I wanted my girls to be able to show up as themselves." The groomsmen, meanwhile, wore matching black suits and black ties and even accessorized with burgundy pocket squares and gold tie bars.
The bride's father, wearing full Nigerian agbada, walked her down the aisle. "We used music from the soundtrack of 'If Beale Street Could Talk' for the processional," she says. "The movie is a depiction of James Baldwin’s classic book and such a beautiful example of Black Love."
"The music made me so emotional because it almost swells in its dynamics," Katrina recalls. "I was a happy teary-eyed bride when I walked down the aisle with my dad. That moment when the doors opened and we started walking will forever be engraved in my memory. It’s such a moment." Once at the altar, Samson sweetly wiped away her tears away before they exchanged vows.
"We chose to write our own vows and to wait to share them with each other until the ceremony," Katrina says. "We both included 'always, in all ways' in our vows."
The ceremony took place indoors, inside a room with teal textured walls and floor-to-ceiling windows at the front of the room. A natural focal point, they decided to use the wooden-framed panes as the altar and had green and white flowers added around the borders of the windows.
The newlyweds danced down the aisle together to "Let’s Stay Together" by Al Green.
A seating chart directed guests to the dining area, which was set in a square with string lights up above. The staircase leading up to the space was the bride's favorite design element.
Wooden tables were dressed with palm fronds and neutral flowers. "We wanted it to feel like there were these beautiful lush green plants that had grown naturally in harmony with this beautifully engineered, aged, and classic venue," Katrina says.
The couple danced to "Get You" by Daniel Ceaser for their first spin as husband and wife. Neither loves cake they ended the night with bit-sized treats and churros on the dancefloor—a perfect ending to their weekend in Mexico!
Venue Proyecto Publico Prim 30
Planner & Floral Design Lum Eventos
Officiant Erika Rose Santoro
Bridal Gown Viero Bridal
Hair & Makeup Natasha Bello Kosoko of Glow by Tasha
Rehearsal Dinner Attire Nicole Miller
Reception Dress Solace London
Groom’s Attire Suit Supply
Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands Red Velvet Luxe
Invitations Christopher Nechodom; The Copy Specialist
Photography Kelly Giarrocco