When Kristina Nolte moved to New York in May 2015, her friend set her up on a date with a NYU student who worked at a music studio, Alex Kahn. The pair met for a drink in Brooklyn and hit it off right away. A little less than three years later, the couple got engaged in February 2018 at their home in Los Angeles. “Al and I had been apart for a few weeks. When he came back home from traveling, he surprised me by putting on 'The Book of Love' on our hifi and got down on one knee,” Kristina says, “We went out for sushi and hand-pulled noodles to celebrate!”
When the couple moved to Philadelphia in 2019, Kristina had her eye on a church that was undergoing renovations to become a boutique hotel for a venue. When they were able to meet the owners of The Deacon and see its modern and colorful design, they knew it was the right venue for their August 14, 2021 nuptials. “The location actually has a lot of history too—it was the first African American Baptist Church in Philly and they tried to honor that throughout the design of the space,” Kristina says, “We also knew we wanted to have a more unique wedding weekend where all of our friends could stay with us onsite—which the Deacon provided!” They invited 120 guests to The Highlands in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, for their outdoor garden ceremony followed by dinner and dancing at The Deacon.
The couple wanted their day to be fun, eclectic, and almost completely untraditional. “Whenever possible we tried to throw out the playbook,” Kristina says. Ahead, see all the bright decor details, the couple’s musical performance, and of course, the drag show at the reception, coordinated by Polka Dot Events and photographed by A Bitter Orange.
It wasn’t like anything I had ever seen. It was pink and cool and fit almost perfectly.
Kristina’s vision for her wedding day beauty look was elegant and colorful. On a trip to New Orleans with her mother and Alex’s mother, she wanted to stop in Century Girl Vintage to look around. She immediately spotted a vintage pink ball gown with a silk bodice and tulle skirt. “It wasn’t like anything I had ever seen,” she says, “It was pink and cool and fit almost perfectly.” She accessorized her look with asymmetrical pearl earrings from Serendipitous Project, pink Loeffler Randall shoes, and a veil from Sash and Veil.
For beauty, Kristina’s hair stylist, Mack Stylist, gave her dramatic Hollywood waves to go with her bold makeup look. Her nails were painted with clear polish embellished with geometric designs in pink, orange, yellow, and lilac as a nod to the seating chart she made. Although Kristina and Alex didn’t have a wedding party, Kristina asked her friends to wear bright colored dresses in their color palette.
Alex wore an electric blue Indochino suit paired with a pink pinstripe shirt and purple bow tie. He accessorized with Doc Martens and his custom wedding band, which incorporated part of his late father’s wedding band. “Al is pretty low key in terms of prep, but he was a little concerned about his hair. Fortunately, our wonderful hairstylist jumped in to help him make sure his curls stayed tame,” Kristina says. Alex didn’t give his guys any direction on what to wear, but they were by his side while he got ready for the big day.
After Kristina and Alex shared a quick first look at the hotel, they headed out to take some photos together before the ceremony. They walked around Philadelphia and snapped a few shots together before heading to the ceremony venue.
Kristina’s vibrant textural bouquet stood out in each frame.
The couple chose to have their ceremony at The Highlands because of the beautiful gardens. “I always wanted to get married outside in the trees,” Kristina says. Stone walls surrounded the gardens and provided a unique backdrop. Guests found Mexican fans at their seats as a nod to the bride’s Mexican heritage.
Kristina and Alex’s wedding ceremony started with carefully selected pre-ceremony music including the couple’s favorite retro love songs of the '50s and '60s. The couple’s friend Mike played "Book of Love" by the Modern Lovers—the song Alex proposed to—for the ceremony processional. Kristin decided to walk down the aisle by herself to symbolize her independence. “I’ve been supporting myself since I was in college, and I didn’t think it made much sense for me to be passed off to Al,” she says, “I decided to marry him, so I gave myself away.”
The wedding ceremony began with a five-minute meditation. “We are avid meditators,” Kristina says, “Al has been doing this twice a day for at least seven years.” They also incorporated sound bowls to represent them coming together in unity.
We both put so much heart and soul into our words. Everything was intentional.
Kristina and Alex’s ceremony also included readings the couple selected from philosophy books on love and the Jewish tradition of smashing glass. The pair exchanged vows they wrote themselves underneath a lush floral arch. “We both put so much heart and soul into our words," Kristina says. "Everything was intentional. I felt so special, loved, and honored to get to share the secret space of our love with our family and friends.”
The couple stepped away with their photographer A Bitter Orange to take portraits in the floral-filled lobby before joining their guests in the celebration.
The couple definitely put their own personal touch on the event design. They wrote notes for each and every guest on watercolor paper the bride created. They also carefully selected small buttons as favors that had a photo or symbol to represent how they knew the person. Kristina even hand painted acrylic signs that hung off banisters with each guest’s name and table assignment. The seating chart was framed by a balloon arch that the bride put together with help from a friend.
The reception decor featured yellow gingham tablecloths, single bud vases, orange taper candles in retro glass holders, and citrus fruits and berries strewn across the tablescape. The bride designed menus with bold colors and fonts for the dinner and bar.
Kristina and Alex’s wedding cake featured their dog, Lo, painted on the top. The red velvet cake had cream cheese frosting that was also textured around the sides.
The couple served vegan food the entire wedding weekend, so their dinner was curated by Miss Rachel’s Pantry, a local vegan restaurant. The meal began with appetizers including mushroom tartlets and a vegan charcuterie spread. They offered stations for the main course, including Italian, Asian, and Southern food. “Since I’m from Texas, I begged for some biscuits and white gravy and it was hands down my favorite part of the meal,” Kristina says. “Drooling thinking about it!”
Kristina danced with her father to “Color My World” by Chicago and Alex shared a mother-son dance to “Child of Mine” by Carole King.
Instead of a first dance together, Kristina and Alex decided to put on a musical performance. Together they sang “Sharp Cutting Wings” by Lucinda Williams.
The couple’s performance wasn’t the last of the evening. The couple’s friend Denny sang “The Sound of Love,” a song that he wrote with the groom. Kristina changed into a vintage pink sequined gown found at Happy Isles and made a grand entrance dancing to Denny’s song before the traditional hora.
The couple’s friend Michael, also known as Mischa Kinks, performed a drag show which the couple said, “brought the whole dance floor up ten notches.” They concluded the evening with late night karaoke. The pair offers words of wisdom to couples planning their wedding. “Try to time box it! Wedding planning can take over your entire life and it’s overwhelming,” they said. “Try to nail down some of the bigger picture details early and stick to them.”
Ceremony Venue The Highlands
Reception Venue The Deacon
Planner Polka Dot Events
Bridal Gown Designer Century Girl Vintage
Bride’s Jewelry Serendipitous Project
Bride’s Veil Sash and Veil
Bride’s Shoes Loeffler Randall
Hair & Makeup Mack Stylist
Bride’s Second Dress Happy Isles Salon
Groom’s Attire Indochino
Groom’s Shoes Dr. Martens
Floral Design Texture Florals
Music Dash Speaks
Catering Miss Rachel’s Pantry
Cake Crust Vegan Bakery
Photography A Bitter Orange