This past May, just as Chanelle Doryumu and Ben Kalfas were set to wed in Brooklyn, the skies opened up over their outdoor ceremony, dumping rain on the bride and her father just as they made their way down the aisle. But according to Chanelle and Ben, the downfall was a windfall in more ways than one. “I was upset for maybe two minutes,” recalls the bride. “But then Ben and I really pulled together and decided it was all going to be more than fine. And our guests took their cue from us and clicked into this amazingly positive mindset.”
Meanwhile, the couple’s planner, Viva Max Kaley of Viva Max Weddings, and the team at their venue, 99 Scott, clicked into problem-solving mode. The 217 guests were quickly ushered inside for an earlier-than-expected cocktail hour while an alternate—and equally gorgeous—ceremony set-up was assembled indoors. “We really ended up with the best of both worlds,” says Ben. “We got the traditional processional with the bridal party outside and Chanelle had that special moment with her dad, and then inside we got to walk down the aisle together, with the DJ playing The XX and everyone cheering.
It didn’t hurt that they’d all had a few drinks in them by that point!”
Keep reading for look at both stunning ceremonies, as well as the Brooklyn wedding reception that followed, all as captured by Veronica Rafael of A Heart String.
The invitations were designed by Washington, D.C.–based Mariko Iwata of Miks Letterpress. Like many aspects of the wedding, they were a balance between modern-minimal and traditional-romantic, mixing a simple layout with a more whimsical font.
Chanelle’s persimmon-hued loungewear, which she wore for hair and makeup before slipping into her gown, fit right in with the orange and ochre color palette of her bridesmaids dresses. “It’s funny because I didn’t consciously plan that,” says Chanelle of the impeccable color-coordination. “I’ve only more recently started wearing more color, after years of a black, neutral, and denim wardrobe. But I do love a lewk!”
Chanelle’s ivory and white silk faille ball gown—with a pleated skirt, scoop neckline, and an open back—was designed by Amsale. “I went into dress shopping thinking I wanted something super nontraditional,” she says. “After a lot of shopping around, I thought I had decided on a skirt/top combo but just to make sure, my mom suggested we do one last appointment. As soon as I put on the Amsale gown, I didn’t want to take it off. It was a dress that felt as though it would be timeless, but at the same time it was so clean and modern.”
The bride spent quality time with her father before their soon-to-be eventful walk down the aisle.
The groom looked classic yet stylish in a tailored green suit made by Bindle & Keep in Brooklyn.
The bridal party—which included Ben’s sister, Dana; Chanelle’s sister, Ashley; and four of her closest college friends—picked out their own dresses within a prescribed orange-centric color palette. Chanelle requested that the bouquets, by Taylor Patterson of Fox Fodder Farm, be “organic and bold.” Says Chanelle: “I wanted something that wasn’t your typical bouquet. I didn’t want all white flowers, and also didn’t want anything too rustic or farm-like.”
The processional took place outside, in venue’s courtyard, which was decorated with giant green palms. Chanelle was escorted down the aisle by her father, Casely Doryumu. “As soon as my dad dropped me off under the chuppah, it started pouring rain,” she says. “In retrospect, it really was fortuitous, not just because my mom started yelling 'showers of blessings!' but because the weather was much colder than expected for mid-May. Ultimately, moving indoors made the whole thing feel that much more intimate.”
Once the rain started, the potted palms and the chuppah were moved from the courtyard to the reception space. The traditional Jewish wedding canopy, made with a prayer shawl sewn by Ben's grandmother, was a nod to his heritage while the kente cloths draped at each corner represented Chanelle’s family. Her parents gifted them to the couple at a Ghanian engagement ceremony they hosted in Accra last January. The dramatic hanging floral pieces, from Taylor Patterson of Fox Fodder Farm, gave the lofty space—which had already been set up for dinner—a cozier feel.
“Family and friends were seated at as many chairs as we could move back into the main room between tables, and the rest stood or sat at tables,” explains the bride. “Though we lost the ‘reveal’ of the room, everyone was genuinely really happy and the love was palpable. Surprisingly, most people said the late-breaking rain change made the wedding that much more fun!”
“We wanted it to respect both of our families’ traditions without being too overtly religious,” says Chanelle of the ceremony, which was officiated by a close family friend and father of one of her bridesmaids. “We honored both Jewish and Christian traditions but put our own spin on readings like the seven blessings, during which we had friends recite a combination of literary passages, traditional blessings, and short readings." The couple also recited both traditional vows and handwritten vows, which they read to each other in a funny moment during the ceremony.
"When Mickey, our officiant, pulled out our vows, true to form, Ben’s were on a tiny piece of paper, and mine were essentially on a scroll. Everyone laughed," Chanelle says.
Even the signature cocktail, a blood orange and mezcal margarita they dubbed the “Chanjarita” was in keeping with the sunny color scheme. “Our friends are still talking about it,” adds the bride.
“We let the orange, red, and pink menus sit on top of the plates as a complement and pop of color,” Chanelle says. “The table numbers were made in our secondary palette of blue and a greenish/taupe color, just to add something a little different.” Both were designed by Chanelle’s friend, Yelena Avanesova.
“I was looking for decor unlike other things I'd seen at weddings,” says Chanelle of the reception’s one-of-a-kind aesthetic. Accordingly, she sought inspiration from everywhere except the bridal world. The neon strips running down the tables were a nod to both Dan Flavin—one of her favorite artists, for whom neon was a signature medium—and Solange Knowles. “I happened upon this breathtaking image of an amber neon strip down a long rectangular table from a listening party she had thrown for 'A Seat at the Table,' ” Chanelle explains.
“That album is really meaningful to me.” It was the couple's florist who came up with the idea of using split papayas and other tropical fruits as a decorative element. The bride describes the resulting vibe as a “literal concrete jungle.”
Chanelle calls out her father’s “heartfelt and beautifully written speech” as one of the highlights of the reception. “He’s not a hugely talkative person,” she says, “so it took us by surprise, in the best way.”
The couple entered the reception and went right into their first dance, "River" by Leon Bridges. After the requisite mother-son and father-daughter pairings—the latter to an African High Life tune that inspired Chanelle’s dad to—in her words—“seriously break it down on the dance floor,” the party erupted into a spirited hora. “My parents had never seen one before, and we’ll never forget the looks on their faces as our guests hoisted them up in the air,” says the bride. “We joked that with everything our respective families were bringing to the table, it was essentially a Ghanaian bar mitzvah.”
“Betsy at Nine Cakes outdid herself,” says Chanelle about their tiered wedding confection, which featured lemon and chocolate layers, buttercream icing with a color-wash finish, and a cascade of fresh citrus. "Also, it was the TASTIEST cake," adds the bride. "I didn’t get to eat it at the wedding, so I had some as soon as we got back from our honeymoon and it didn’t disappoint!"
“It was my Diana Ross look,” says Chanelle of the Nili Lotan ivory silk slip dress and white ruffled tulle Razan Alazzouni jacket that she changed into for the dance party, which raged until 11 p.m. and was capped off by a delivery of McDonald’s hamburgers and cheeseburgers for all the guests. The genesis of that idea? “I hadn’t had McDonald's in a really long time with the wedding dieting,” says Chanelle. “And I was like, 'Oh man I can’t wait until the wedding is done and I can just house a McDonald’s cheeseburger!' ”
Ceremony & Reception Venue: 99 Scott || Wedding Planner: Viva Max Weddings || Bride's Dress: Amsale || Bride's Shoes: Celine || Bride's Earrings: Laura Lombardi || Groom's Attire: Bindle & Keep || Makeup: Jane Meng || Hair: Rachel McCants || Wedding Stationery: Miks Letterpress, Yelena Avanesova || Floral Designer: Fox Fodder Farm || Rentals: Broadway Party Rentals || Favors: For Your Party || Catering: Real Food Catering || Cake: Nine Cakes || Makeup: Jane Meng || Ceremony Music: Phi Unit || Lighting: Brooklyn Audio Works|| Photography: A Heart String ||