We first met at Columbia University, where Josh was an undergraduate student and Javi a masters student in cultural anthropology. We met at an event on the intersections of queer identity and immigration (we’re nerds) and Josh decided to ask Javi out for a coffee. At first, Josh totally thought he was in the friend zone, but after three dates we shared our first kiss on Josh’s stoop after we got caught in the rain after a dinner out. Totally cliché, but it actually happened like that!
We actually proposed to each other! We had been living together for three years and talk about marriage came up a lot. We both knew it was something we wanted but were a little lost on who should propose and why one of us should have the privilege (or punishment) of proposing to the other. So we decided to go through the process of designing our rings together and getting them made at a local jeweler in Philadelphia, where we were living at the time. Once they were done, we cooked a nice brunch for two, popped a bottle of champagne, and exchanged rings and cards that listed the reasons why we wanted to marry each other.
We went back and forth A LOT on the location. We wanted something stylish and small (think Solange). Josh had studied abroad in Paris and it was the first place we traveled to together internationally. We were weighing all of our city options (Los Angeles, New York, Puerto Vallarta…) but Javi literally turned to Josh one day and asked him, “where have you always dreamed of getting married since you were a little boy?” The answer, of course, was Paris. Something about the city’s history, romance, and openness always spoke to us so we knew it was the perfect place.
Ultimately, it was for the romance. We made a decision early on that we wouldn’t care if no one wanted to come to our wedding; at the end of the day it was about us and celebrating our love for each other. We honestly did not think as many people would come but we’re so happy they did. The best part of doing a destination wedding was being able to show Paris to our loved ones through our eyes and hopefully help them create meaningful memories of their own.
After we chose Paris as our city, the style for the wedding really fell into place on its own. We started by looking at venues because we knew that the majority of Parisian venues had so much character that the venue would dictate a lot of the vision. We wanted an urban wedding, so that ruled out the gorgeous, but inconveniently located, chateaux in the outskirts of Paris. We were essentially between a boat on the Seine and one of several classic Parisian hotels.
We ultimately settled on the Plaza Athénée because everything about it resonated with our vision: its location in the heart of the city’s fashion houses, steps away from the Seine and the Eiffel Tower, its classic Parisian beaux-arts style, and its aura of elegance. We worked with our graphic designer to design a logo and color scheme that matched our desires (we loved dark navy and rose gold), but also would work well with the Hotel’s style.
Josh: My favorite moment during the wedding was sitting down for the dinner. The food was amazing and we had the perfect amount of guests— fifteen. It never felt too small or too big and I feel like everyone got to know each other very well that night. That night, over the best meal of our lives, it really felt like we all become one family. Plus, the wine felt like it was bottomless!
Javi: My favorite moment was the ceremony. It was an overwhelming feeling of joy to see all of our guests crying with us. I felt so moved to know that these people loved and supported us enough to spend thousands of dollars to make the trip to Paris. It was one of those rare moments where you feel so thankful for those who support and love you and all those people happen to be in the same room!
Also Javi’s cousin Maribel officiated our wedding and our friend Devyn Tyler, a professional actress, read one of her favorite poems for us. Both of their contributions were extremely meaningful to us.
Our planning-advice: Convenience is key! At first we only planned to do the cocktail reception and dinner at the Athénée and we scoured the internet for ceremony venues. We found a lot of amazing options, but all out of our price range. At the end of the day, the Athénée was able to offer us a great deal and it was extremely convenient for our guests— half of whom had never been to Paris– to only have one place to get to.
Also, a coordinator at the venue or at least at the destination is so, so important. We planned most of the wedding from afar. Javi was able to visit the Athénée once before we officially booked it. It turned out even more amazing than we expected, but the visit was really helpful in making us feel even more at ease. Josh was able to ask a friend in Paris to do the cake tasting and his feedback was helpful in improving our cake’s taste. However, the Athénée’s event coordinator, Koliane Oeur, did the bulk of the work. She was absolutely INCREDIBLE and we could not have done the wedding without her. She was extremely responsive to e-mails and went out of her way to make sure she understood what we wanted. It was certainly helpful that Josh is fluent in French, but without a strong on-location coordinator like Koliane, we don’t know how anyone plans a destination wedding!
At the end of the day, a wedding is about you and your future spouse– no one else. It’s easy to get carried away with the destination aspect of the wedding and want to create an amazing experience for everyone. However, it’s hard enough to plan a wedding, let alone be a travel agent for all your guests. We made sure to stay in constant communication with everyone via Facebook and text, but we also let people explore on their own and make their own mistakes.
Second Shooter: The Parisian Photographers
Shoes: Christian Louboutin
Shoes: Alexander McQueen
Apparel: Vince Camuto
Tuxedo and Mens Attire: Noose & Monkey
Ceremony Location: hotel plaza athenee
Photographer: Paris Photographer Pierre Torset