When Joanna Tzu-Hsuan Huang and Gabriel Lomboy Marcial met at a charity fundraiser on March 31, 2015, they bonded over music—which would become a central theme in their wedding five-and-a-half years later. “We struck up a conversation and found that we shared an appreciation for classical music, which turned into a fun but intense debate over artists we enjoyed listening to,” Gabe recalls.
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At the end of the evening, Gabe wasn’t ready to say goodbye. “I felt like we had sparked a connection I didn’t want to let go of, so I caught her before she left, gave her my number, and told her to get in touch if she wanted to continue our conversation,” Gabe remembers. The feeling was mutual because Joanna texted Gabe that same night. A few days later, they went on their first date. The rest was history.
In September 2019, Gabe planned a couple’s trip to Mexico. Although he presented the getaway as a birthday celebration for Joanna, Gabe had another agenda. “We were engaged during a twilight boat ride through the mangrove forest near our resort,” Gabe reminisces. While Gabe was getting ready to pop the question, Joanna’s back was facing the photographer, who was hidden in the back of the boat. “I had to think on my feet to get Joanna to turn completely around, and when she finally did, I dropped on one knee, and our photographer was able to jump out of the back to capture the moment,” he shares.
Joanna and Gabe started tackling the wedding planning process as a team, along with help from their wedding planner, Michelle Elaine of Michelle Elaine Weddings. “We’d split up and divide the work, then regroup on a roughly weekly check-in,” Gabe explains.
As they were starting to make headway on designing their big day, a global pandemic halted their progress. Then, Joanna pushed pause on all wedding activities to grieve her father’s sudden passing. Ultimately, the couple decided to postpone their wedding to 2021. “That was a difficult time—between the loss I felt, and the uncertainty and anxiety around the date,” Joanna shares.
Despite the setbacks, Michelle made the process as seamless as possible. “She was such a fount of knowledge, and it was helpful for us to have a thought partner who could brainstorm with us early on, and then help us edit and rein things in when we needed a reality check and had to commit to a decision,” Gabe notes.
On November 20, 2021, Joanna and Gabe swapped vows at the Weylin in Brooklyn, New York with just 100 guests. “We wanted our wedding to celebrate all the things that brought us together in our relationship and present them in a way that would be familiar but elevated for those closest to us,” Joanna illustrates. Read on to see how their vision came to life, planned by Michelle Elaine Weddings and photographed by Branch & Cole.
For glam, Joanna wanted a “sophisticated and timeless” makeup look that was versatile enough to carry her from the ceremony to the after-party. Since the bride had multiple outfit changes throughout the day, she selected a hairstyle that was easily adaptable. “I decided to go with a low braided bun to start as it would help show the detail and work with the high collar on my chi pao,” she explains. “The amazing Emily Valerio from Brushed With Honey Beauty arranged the bun in such a way that it was easy to take the bobby pins out to let the bottom half out as long wavy curls for the reception dress.”
It was a quiet moment that I realized, ‘This is it,’ and observed the change in my posture and confidence level.
Joanna sported a sparkly lace fit-and-flare gown with a plunging neckline, a sheer bodice, and an illusion back from Berta for the ceremony. When the bride went wedding dress shopping, she wasn’t completely sold on any of the ensembles she tried on until she stumbled upon the Berta number. “It was a quiet moment that I realized, ‘This is it,’ and observed the change in my posture and confidence level,” Joanna recalls. “What I realized is that there can be a vision or even a fantasy toward how you want to look, but if it doesn’t inspire confidence in yourself, that can become a distraction no matter how gorgeous the gown is.” The bride paired her glittering gown with white Aquazzura heels and her mother’s engagement ring.
For the special occasion, Gabe donned a navy sharkskin wool tuxedo with peak lapels and a twill tuxedo shirt with a semi-spread collar—both made-to-measure by Proper Cloth.
The groom accessorized with gold cufflinks that referenced the soot sprites from Spirited Away, a Japanese animated movie produced by Studio Ghibli. “It’s a little bit of an Easter egg since Joanna owns a soot sprite keychain, and it was a talking point for us when we first started dating,” Gabe says. The pair also spent many nights watching Studio Ghibli films while they were dating, so the movie holds a special place in their hearts. To complement their modern-yet-vintage wedding aesthetic, Gabe also donned a stainless-steel Tudor watch.
Sharing a first look in Brooklyn Bridge Park surrounded by nature was a no-brainer for the couple. “We’d been waiting since the pandemic postponement,” the couple notes. “We didn’t want to wait any longer than we needed to on the day of!” Carving out some alone time on the morning of their wedding day also helped ground them. “Being able to share a quiet moment together in the park was a welcome reprieve from the busyness of the day,” they illuminate.
At first, the couple thought they wanted to host a destination wedding. “But, as we started to explore, we kept finding ourselves drawn back to New York venues because so much of our relationship involved things we enjoyed doing together around the city,” Joanna admits.
Once they finalized their decision to say “I do” in Brooklyn, the duo searched for venues that felt “quintessentially old New York.” “I had been to Weylin a few years ago for a conference and remembered being drawn to its Beaux Arts architecture and domed ceilings,” Gabe reflects. “So, when I came across it again in our research, I was captivated by the idea of transforming that space for our wedding.”
Joanna’s bridesmaids all wore velvet convertible dresses in rose hues from Micah. “We knew we wanted jewel tones for the wedding party, and the velvet fabric helped introduce subtle color change in different lighting,” Joanna notes. “The convertible dresses also allowed each bridesmaid to find a style that flattered them and that they felt most comfortable in.” To brave the chilly fall weather, they wrapped themselves in blush faux fur shawls.
The groomsmen dressed themselves in navy tuxedos with shawl lapels by The Black Tux. Each member of the groom’s squad buttoned up plain front tuxedo shirts, but the best man (Gabe’s brother) set himself apart in a pleated bib shirt.
The bride and groom said “I do” on a round stage, surrounded by lush blooms in white, pink, and gold tones and beneath a hanging floral installation in the same airy color scheme. Guests sat in a circular format, facing the altar from every angle.
Joanna’s mother walked the bride down the aisle while a piano quartet played “House of Woodcock” from the movie Phantom Thread.
Her wrapped bouquet of dahlias, garden roses, ranunculus, lisianthus, and sweet peas also accompanied her walk toward the altar. To honor her father, Joanna incorporated a handkerchief into the floral arrangement. “He always had one ready for me whenever I got teary, and I felt he would have wanted me to carry one,” Joanna remarks. “We always joked that he would likely cry at my wedding, in which case we would have both carried a handkerchief.”
During the ceremony, the duo exchanged personalized promises. Joanna integrated a quote from The Alchemist, a book they read when they first met, into her vows. “We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share,” the quote says. “It is a little parenthesis in eternity.”
Before reciting her vows, Joanna asked Gabe to pause and look around the room. “In those moments that we made eye contact with our family and friends, it was a great reminder of all the love and support present in the room,” Joanna expresses. “Our family and friends also felt acknowledged and invited to be present in the moment with us.”
After locking lips, the newlyweds snapped a few photos before heading into the reception.
“Our reception décor was modern and elegant, but we also wanted to get a little ‘avant garden’ in some of our details to give it an artistic flair,” the couple says. An assortment of high and low floral arrangements painted in orange, pink, and purple stood in the center of marble tablecloths. Orange taper candles bordered the centerpieces. The pair had each place set with orange napkins and navy menu cards.
After making their grand entrance, the newlyweds performed a Viennese waltz to “Merry-Go-Round of Life” from Howl’s Moving Castle, another Studio Ghibli movie. “For our first dance, we wanted to do something that felt as special and elegant as the venue we were in and lived up to the moment,” Joanna states. “As a waltz, this [song] fits perfectly.”
A huge moment of pride for Gabe was delivering a welcome address in Mandarin to Joanna’s family members, who live in Asia. Even though he started practicing the speech three months before the wedding, once Joanna’s family arrived a week before the big day, they ended up reworking the content. “I was anxious about how I would do given the changes, and two of my groomsmen helped coach me through some dress rehearsals going into the reception,” Gabe reveals. “In the end, it turned out great. The updates helped, and Joanna’s family was very warm and appreciative of the gesture.”
Since music is such an important part of the couple’s love story, they put on their own musical performance. The duo played “La La Land Medley” from the musical La La Land together on the piano. “Prior to becoming a software engineer, I was a music teacher,” Joanna explains. “Gabe and I also both played piano outside of secondary instruments. So, we thought it would be a nice surprise for our guests and a gesture of gratitude to our parents who supported us on our music learning journey.”
The couple changed into traditional ensembles for the reception. Joanna clad herself in a red and gold chi pao, and she wore the same heels that her mother wore at her own wedding reception 40 years prior. Meanwhile, Gabe dressed himself in a red and gold brocade shirt.
Then, it was on to dress number three for the bride. Joanna shared another special dance with Gabe in a satin off-the-shoulder gown.
Joanna reserved the fourth and final gown for the cake cutting ceremony. The bride changed into a long-sleeve, off-the-shoulder dress featuring beaded accents. She topped off the outfit with a sparkly tiara and diamond studs. The groom changed back to his original attire before slicing into their sculptural confection with Joanna.
After dancing the night away to a specially curated playlist with all of the couple’s favorite tunes, the newlyweds jetted off to the Maldives and London for their honeymoon. Looking back on their big day, Joanna and Gabe had such a blast, not only because it perfectly captured their relationship and interests but also because they savored the celebration. “On the day, it really does go by very quickly,” the couple conveys. “Remember to intentionally build in pockets of time to take it all in.”