An Intimate New York City Wedding at Strand Book Store

These grooms found the perfect place to celebrate their love story

Grooms together

Photo by Aaron and Whitney Photography

Tom James and Dustin Ngo’s relationship began with an adventure. The grooms were both students at Yale University (Tom was an undergrad, Dustin was getting a graduate degree in physics) when they went on their first date, a hike to New Haven’s East Rock. Years of adventure and discovery followed, culminating in two exciting announcements on February 11, 2016: the discovery of gravity waves and Tom and Dustin's engagement!

After trying to plan the wedding themselves (and successfully nailing down their venue, caterer, and photographer), Dustin and Tom realized they needed an additional set of hands. They turned to Amy from Modern Rebel & Co. to finalize the vendors and details of their June 17, 2017, wedding in the Rare Books Room at the Strand bookstore in New York City. “The Strand embodies all of the things we love about our relationship,” says Tom. “It’s a warm, intimate space full of stories, knowledge, and adventure.” They invited 69 guests—and their Maltipoo, Captain, of course!—to join them in the bookstore for a casual, cozy celebration inspired by a ‘60s library. Aaron and Whitney Photography was there to capture the moment as Dustin and Tom began their own story.

Groom tie close-up
Photo by Aaron and Whitney Photography
Groom tie close up
Photo by Aaron and Whitney Photography

The grooms looked sleek in coordinated Thom Browne suits. Tom wore a dark gray suit with a light gray tie, while Dustin wore a light gray suit with a dark gray tie. Each wore a pin instead of a boutonniere: Tom’s was a Buddha shared by a group of close college friends, while Dustin’s was a pin from Yale Graduate School.

Grooms with dog
Photo by Aaron and Whitney Photography
Dog in carrier
Photo by Aaron and Whitney Photography

The couple’s Maltipoo, Captain, was a great sport, tagging along from the subway ride to the ceremony all the way through the reception. “She ended up falling asleep on top of one of the tables during the dance party,” says Tom.

Grooms near bookshelf
Photo by Aaron and Whitney Photography

“It’s so rare that so many people who love each other get to all be in the same room, so we kept the design simple in order to really focus on that feeling,” Tom describes.

Grooms during ceremony
Photo by Aaron and Whitney Photography
Grooms kissing at ceremony
Photo by Aaron and Whitney Photography
Grooms during recessional
Photo by Aaron and Whitney Photography

The couple wrote their own vows, with Dustin’s referencing a quote from Carl Sagan. “Despite ‘the vastness of space and the immensity of time,’ we are in awe of the fact that we managed to find one another. We each have half of this quote engraved in our wedding bands,” Tom says.

Instead of a single outfit, the grooms asked their wedding party to pick their own leather jacket or bomber, and wear whatever they wanted underneath. “We wanted whatever they bought to be part of our wedding party to be something they would wear again and again,” says Tom. “Mixing our suits with their leather jackets gave our wedding party a punk band vibe!”

Book table number
Photo by Aaron and Whitney Photography
Book table number closeup
Photo by Aaron and Whitney Photography

Carefully curated stacks of books were topped with arrangements of white blooms, thistles, and greenery. The table numbers were fittingly designed to look like vintage library catalog cards.

Grooms hugging during reception
Photo by Aaron and Whitney Photography
Grooms laughing
Photo by Aaron and Whitney Photography

For dinner, guests dined on a home-style Chinese menu that included Peking duck sliders, jumbo shrimp with XO sauce, pan-fried white tofu with mushrooms, and braised noodles with king crab.

Grooms during first dance
Photo by Aaron and Whitney Photography

Who says a bookstore has to feel like a library? A DJ and string lights gave the space a party atmosphere!

Chocolate wedding cake
Photo by Aaron and Whitney Photography

Dustin and Tom’s cake from Baked NYC was totally indulgent: Layers of chocolate cake were soaked in salted caramel, then filled with a caramel-chocolate whipped ganache. A rainbow and two penguins added an extra hint of the grooms’ personality.

“As the wedding ended, Tom and I wandered through Union Square Park, where we found a group of his friends waiting to sing to us,” says Dustin. “We ended up hanging out in the park and singing until it closed—and then continued the concert on the sidewalk!”

Wedding Team

Wedding Planner: Modern Rebel & Co.

Venue: Strand Book Store

Grooms’ Attire: Thom Browne

Wedding Bands: Macha Jewelry

Floral Design: Brooklyn Blooms

Paper Products: Etsy

Catering: Red Egg


Entertainment: 74events

Photography: Aaron and Whitney Photography

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