An Elegant Wedding at Academy Mansion on New York City's Upper East Side

Planned by the couple

Updated 10/28/19

 Photo by Samm Blake

When Cindy Pan sat down for her interview to join the managing board of Columbia University’s student newspaper The Spectator, she was prepared for an "ordeal." “It’s a painstaking process, with ten to fifteen members of the old board peppering you with questions,” Cindy explains. She aced the interview—and caught the eye of board member Colin Sullivan. They got to know one another at parties for the paper’s staff and soon began dating.

Seven years later, in August 2017, Colin proposed in the Brooklyn apartment they share. “I don’t remember what either of us said—just the feeling of excitement and love,” Cindy recalls. “I love that it was just the two of us, completely simple.” 

It was just the two of them when it came to wedding planning, too, with each taking on responsibilities for their celebration and consulting each other along the way. “We’re a team in everything we do and trust each other as partners,” Cindy explains. “And it allowed us to curate each element of our wedding and put more of our budget towards creating our vision. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it!”

Read on to see Cindy and Colin’s elegant September celebration in Manhattan, as captured by Samm Blake of The Wedding Artists Co.  

Invitation detail
 Photo by Samm Blake

Colin and Cindy designed and sourced all of the paper products for their wedding themselves. For their invitation suite, “Colin illustrated the architectural components of our venues and the maps, and I hand-lettered the rest,” says Cindy. The invitation’s motif incorporated the two “C’s” of their first names, as well as the infinity symbol and the number eight. “The luckiest number in Chinese culture,” adds the bride. 

chinese tea ceremony
Photo by Samm Blake 
chinese tea ceremony
Photo by Samm Blake
tea ceremony
Photo by Samm Blake

Prior to their ceremony, the couple held a traditional Chinese tea ceremony with their families. “We treasured the chance to slow down, serve our family tea as a sign of respect and gratitude, exchange gifts as a symbol or prosperity, and hear the advice they had for us,” says Cindy. 

The bride and her mother
 Photo by Samm Blake
bride and grandmother
 Photo by Samm Blake

During the tea ceremony, Cindy wore a traditional qipao dress, which she and her mother had traveled to Shanghai to shop for. There, they worked with a tailor who created the bride’s bespoke dress from fabric embroidered with peonies, an auspicious flower in Chinese culture that’s said to bring good fortune.

The bracelets Cindy wore on her wedding day also held meaning. “My grandma had two bracelets made from the gold of old family rings—I wear mine every day and my mother wears the other,” says the bride. “I also wore two turquoise enamel bangles from my grandma and Colin’s mother’s gold bangle with lapis beads. Then, right before the ceremony, Colin surprised me with a gift of a thin rose gold Hérmes bangle.” 

bride getting ready
 Photo by Samm Blake
bride in wedding dress
Photo by Samm Blake

Cindy worked with a designer in Shanghai to create her custom silk gown. “I sketched what I had in my mind and worked with the dressmaker via video calls. “When it arrived I was nervous but it was beautiful and just right for me.” She visited a local tailor to have it fitted. “And I could tie the bow in back myself, adjusting the shape and length as I liked.”

bride with statement earringss
Photo by Samm Blake
Gucci shoes detail
Photo by Samm Blake 

“I wore three sets of pearl combs tucked in my hair for a total of nine pearls—another auspicious number,” says Cindy. Other accessories included earrings by David Neale of the Golden Smith that featured eight blossoms total (“another chance to incorporate a lucky number”) and “Ophelia” sandals by Gucci (“I loved them the second I saw them!”)

wedding dress
Photo by Samm Blake
bride
Photo by Samm Blake

The bride completed her look with a bouquet by Flora Voca that included peonies, garden roses, and anemones. 

bride with bridesmaids
Photo by Samm Blake

The bride worked with the same Shanghai dressmaker who created her wedding gown to make bespoke dresses for each of her bridesmaids. Cindy gifted each woman a thin gold bangle with a card that read: “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the others gold. A circle is round, it has no end, that’s how long I know we’ll be friends.” Instead of bouquets, bridesmaids wore corsages on their wrists.

groom
Photo by Samm Blake 

Colin donned a classic black tux with peaked grosgrain lapels. He paired the tux with velvet smoking slippers and a boutonniere of peach lisianthus. 

first look
Photo by Samm Blake
first look
Photo by Samm Blake 
bride and groom
Photo by Samm Blake

The couple did their first look in the courtyard of their wedding venue, Academy Mansion. “It’s as if you’ve stepped back in time,” says Cindy of the Upper East Side building, completed in 1920. "We loved its architectural grandeur and the achingly beautiful courtyard, which feels vaguely old European.” 

The bride and groom back detail
Photo by Samm Blake 
The bride, escorted by her parents
Photo by Samm Blake 

The couple invited 90 guests (and five kids who made up the couple’s “Flower Troop”) to their 5 p.m. ceremony, which was held in one of the mansion’s stately rooms. “We kept the ceremony décor simple, with just a few bud vases on the mantel and small floral arrangements on side tables.” To honor the memory of Colin’s mother, one side table also included a vase of roses from her garden. Cindy, escorted by her parents, processed to “Moon River,” performed by four musical family and friends of the couple. 

ceremony
 Photo by Samm Blake
first kiss
Photo by Samm Blake

One of the day’s memorable (and funny!) moments happened when Colin got stuck in one of the mansion’s bathrooms right as the ceremony was scheduled to begin. “It was a warm day and an old house, so the heavy wood door on the restroom expanded and was very, very stuck,” Cindy remembers. “We joked that we’d have to exchange our vows through the door, but luckily someone got the site manager and he managed to get the door open.” 

The couple exchanged vows they’d written themselves during the ceremony, officiated by Colin’s brother. “The most special reading was my grandmother’s of a poem composed by my great aunt to celebrate our marriage,” says Cindy. “She’s a former literature teacher in Shanghai and a truly beautiful writer.” 

ceremony exit
Photo by Samm Blake
Couple closeup
Photo by Samm Blake 
Couple recesses down the aisle
 Photo by Samm Blake

After making it official, the newlyweds recessed to a recording of Matt and Kim’s “Daylight.”

Couple leaves the ceremony
 Photo by Samm Blake

Cocktail hour followed in three of the mansion’s upstairs rooms. “Choosing Academy Mansion meant we had to bring in every stick of furniture,” says Cindy. “We couldn’t rent every piece without hurting our budget, so we brought some of our own furniture from home. Some guests were laughing when they realized why the set up felt a little familiar.” 

cocktail hour with chinese lanterns
Photo by Samm Blake
lanterns at cocktail hour
Photo by Samm Blake

The courtyard was decorated with Chinese lanterns and string lights. “It was so magical to gather around for toasts just as the sun was setting,” says the bride. 

flower mantlepiece
Photo by Samm Blake
dinner
Photo by Samm Blake

Dinner was held in the rooms just off the courtyard, where guests were seated at long, stately tables dressed in simple, light-gray linens. “We love the warmth of a good dinner party,” says Cindy. The menu included black cod, filet mignon, and raviolino stuffed with herbed New York goat cheese. “For my grandmother’s table we served two whole red snappers, symbolic of abundance and good luck,” says Cindy. 

guests at dinner
Photo by Samm Blake
melted candlestick
Photo by Samm Blake

Small arrangements and footed bud vases dotted the tables, lit with tapers held in brass candlesticks Cindy sourced from eBay and Etsy.com. Menus also served as place cards, with guests’ names hand-lettered by the bride.

first dance
Photo by Samm Blake

The couple performed a choreographed first dance to “Wedding Song,” by the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. Guests danced to live music from the band Hot Club and took turns in the Gifbooth, before the party moved downtown to NoMad Bar. “It’s special to us because we’ve had our anniversary dinner there every year, and they are always so thoughtful,” says the bride. “We walked in, and the whole bar started cheering! It was an amazing moment, a fun, happy way to end the night.”  

Wedding Venue: Academy Mansion || Day-Of Coordination & First-Dance Choreography: The Privilege is Mine || Bride’s Earrings: The Golden Smith || Bride’s Shoes: Gucci || Bride’s Jewelry: The Golden Smith, Lelet, Hermès || Bride's Hair: Andy Tseng || Bride's Makeup: Anny Chow || Groom’s Accessories: David Yurman || Bridesmaids’ Hairpins: Luna Bea || Flower Girl Dresses: Baby Fillbach || Ring Bearer Attire: Little Dashing Darling, mimiikids || Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands: Lisa Linhardt || Floral Design: Flora Voca || Invitation Letterpress: Radix Media || Music: Hot Club of Flatbush || Catering: Ryan Brown || Rentals: Patina || Gifbooth: The Bosco || After-Party Venue: NoMad Bar || Videography: Ricky Goncalves || Photography: Samm Blake of The Wedding Artists Co.

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