This Couple's Multi-Cultural Wedding in Downtown Los Angeles Was Packed with Surprises
Colleen Clark and Pip Ngo met on the subway in Brooklyn. He didn't ask for her number but later wrote a missed connection ad on Craigslist. She didn't find the ad on her own, but because she'd told him where she worked, and he knew someone else at the company, Pip asked his friend to look up her email in the directory and forward the link right before Valentine's Day. Colleen was so touched by the thoughtfulness of Pip's post that she answered. They went on a date but didn't click, and he eventually moved to California.
Five years later, Pip (who works in film distribution and production) was back in New York for work and he and Colleen (who heads up Tastemade's travel channel) matched on Tinder. "Thankfully, I had better taste this time around and we started dating," Colleen says. They've been together ever since. About a year and half into their relationship, she moved to the West Coast to be with him, and seven months after that, Pip planned on popping the question a trip to Mexico City. But he got too nervous to travel with the ring and instead surprised Colleen when she got home from work—with lit candles and a big bouquet of flowers.
A little over a year later, on November 18, 2017, they tied the knot in front of 155 loved ones at The Ruby Street, a converted Arts & Crafts style church in east Los Angeles that had initially been renovated to be a music venue. Music ended up being a special part of the day, with meaningful songs throughout and a handful of surprise performances, too. The celebration was infused with aspects of his Chinese culture and her Irish roots, not to mention an eclectic menu of food—everything from noodles to churros—and flowers inspired by the California desert with a touch of tropical appeal.
Colleen's brother-in-law designed the wedding invites, which included graphic illustrations of some of the couple's favorite things: pretzels for her hometown in Pennsylvania, a four-leaf clover as a nod to her Irish heritage, a banjo (Pip plays), and palm trees to reference the Los Angeles locale.
Traditionally, Chinese families consult the astrological calendar to select the most auspicious day to get married, which is noted on the calendar with the character for double happiness. "I loved the idea that our wedding day would mean double the happiness for both of us in life—so we started joking that our wedding theme was going to be 'happy happy,'" Colleen says of the symbol that also appeared on her invites (and other elements at the reception).
The wording hinted at the fun to come, noting that "noodles, tacos, and surprises" would follow the ceremony, and that dancing shoes were required.
An Emotional Moment
Mid-morning, Pip arrived with his groomsmen and groomsmaids while Colleen's bridesmaids blocked the door. "He had to perform feats of strength, declare his love, complete challenges, and ultimately bribe his way in with red envelopes of cash," Colleen says of the moments leading up to seeing each other for the first time that day prior to the Chinese tea ceremony. "It was hilarious and helped alleviate my nerves to hear the silliness going on."
The couple then shared a quiet moment together to settle nerves and connect before the festivities of the day.
Dressed for Tea
For the Chinese tea ceremony, Colleen wore a cheongsam that her mother made her and black tassel earrings she scored at Zara.
The Tea Ceremony
The most important part of a Chinese wedding day is the tea ceremony, during which the couple serves tea to their relatives, thanks them for all that they've done, and receives good wishes and red envelopes of money to start their new life together.
All Dressed Up
Colleen's mother has a bridal tailoring business, so she grew up surrounded by dresses. "I think because I'd always seen so many of the same types of dresses, I had a hard time finding something that felt different and playful and fun and me," she explains. She shopped at a few boutiques before casually stopping in at one near her house that she hadn't thought to try before because she assumed the options would be out of her budget. "The first dress I put on zipped up perfectly and just felt right," she says of the wedding dress she ultimately chose: the Truvelle "Sierra" gown with a chiffon bodice and skirt embellished with a diagonal application of rose gold sequins. She added a veil made by her mom and a rose gold headpiece by Gadegaard Design. For jewelry, she sported Sara Golden earrings, a bracelet gifted by Pip's parents, and borrowed the bracelet she'd made for her sister to wear on her own wedding day. As for the engagement ring, it was her grandmother's. "It has 60 good years of marriage on it already so I feel lucky to have it," Colleen says.
The Bridal Bouquet
"I have loved protea since the first time I saw them on a trip to South Africa," Colleen explains of the flower that took center stage in her bouquet, made by Foxtail Florals. Since the couple was venturing to the same country for their honeymoon, it was a meaningful choice. Tropical greens, anthurium, and assorted roses rounded out the arrangement, which was tied with a mix of ribbons.
Siblings and friends stood by Colleen and Pip's side on the big day. Here, the bridesmaids were all smiles in their rose gold gowns from Asos. "I knew one or a few of my bridesmaids would be pregnant, so I loved that Asos had maternity dresses, were super affordable, and were delivered within a few days of ordering," Colleen says of outfitting her attendants—one of whom was indeed expecting. She chose a selection of blush and metallic dresses and asked each gal to order the one they preferred.
By His Side
The Ceremony Setup
For the ceremony, a pergola behind The Ruby Street was dressed up with tropical greenery, a few flowers, and vintage Chinese lanterns. Instead of going all out with the traditional Chinese red, they used other lucky colors like pink and gold throughout the day.
The bride and her parents walked down the aisle while her friends performed the Lord Huron song "Ends of the Earth." "The lyrics always touched me," Colleen says. "I spent so many years on the road alone as a travel writer and one of the greatest joys has been getting to now share those adventures with my best friend. So I knew it was the song that I wanted to walk down the aisle to. It also held special meaning for us since we dated long distance for so long." She also had some of the lyrics engraved on Pip's wedding band.
The couple's friend officiated the ceremony, which also featured a priest friend offering prayers and a family unity candle lighting. Colleen's pal recited the missed connection ad that Pip had written for Colleen all those years ago, her parents sang the song they had sung at her baptism, her sisters sang "A Life That's Good" by Lennon & Maisy, and her friends handled the rest of the music—Colleen's favorite part of the service.
Generations of Love
Pip's parents, who have been married for 31 years, happily looked on during the ceremony. His father had some advice for Colleen—to be patient, particularly during NBA playoff season when Pip schedules everything around Warriors games. But in all seriousness, "Watching the way my parents are with each other and their family is the best advice I could ask for," Pip says.
To bring a bit of their Celtic heritage to the wedding, Colleen's parents surprised everyone with a bagpiper. Right after Colleen and Pip kissed, he stepped out and started playing. "When he burst out of nowhere and gestured for us to follow him up the aisle, and all we could see were the faces of everyone we loved grinning ear to ear, it was the most memorable part of the day," Pip says.
Colleen's nephew and her best friend's son and daughter—who served as ring bearers and flower girl—shared some fun with the happy couple.
Guests enjoyed lobster dumpling shooters, tuna tartare in miso-sesame cones, and risotto balls. And when they got thirsty they hit the bar, where the drinks on offer were penned on fresh leaves courtesy of the couple's florist. The signature drinks were inspired by the bride and groom's last names—a "Ngojito" for him and a "Clark and Stormy" for her.
Instead of traditional paper escort cards, Emilee Sutherland of Tasteful Tatters baked and customized fortune cookies that were tucked into paper bakery bags with guests' names on it. After tearing apart their bags, guests broke open cookies to find their table assignments inside the cookie, with silly fortunes printed on the back.
Colleen says that picking out the table settings was one of the most fun parts of planning the big day. The self-proclaimed design nerd explains that the first decision she made was to calligraph chargers made from planter dishes. They used those and tropical greens as inspiration for the rest of the palette and elements. Long tables and bistro chairs were set inside The Ruby Street's indoor space.
The Dinner Tables
Blush pink napkins were folded and tucked under every other plate with knotted napkins in between. Hobnail glasses added texture and wooden laser-cut table numbers were a modern touch. Centerpieces were a mix of tropical greenery, protea, and other pink and peach flowers.
Colleen and Pip were eating at a taco truck as they tried to plan a way to make their families happy on the food front on the wedding day. That's how they came up with the idea to serve street food at the reception. Chinese take-out boxes customized with a sticker and the couple's "happy happy" symbol were stuffed with garlic noodles and red braised pork. There was a Mexican al pastor spit and a table dishing out fried chicken and waffles with bacon jam, too.
For late-night sweets, they were able to convince a vendor from L.A.'s piñata district to fry up delicious churros.
Another Fun Surprise
Halfway through their first dance (to "Can't Help Falling in Love" by Elvis), the newlyweds surprised everyone by having lion dancers burst in. The full team of drummers and dancers made for an elaborate performance.
Colleen really wanted a neon sign for their apartment and admitted to using the wedding as an excuse to buy one. "I only wanted to splurge on décor pieces that I could actually use again," she says. At the reception, it was backed in foliage and used as an unofficial photobooth backdrop as guests paused in front of it to snap pics on their phones.
Disco ball-style cups with crazy straws were set on the couple's sweetheart table. The duo was lured outside by their planner to take a few photos with sparklers while her sisters set up for one more surprise in the evening.
One More Performance
Colleen's sisters performed a hip-hop montage about the bride and groom's relationship, playing on Pip's last name. It included such gems as "If you don't Ngo, now you Ngo," "Ngo Diggity," and "She said, she said, she said, said Ngo."
"I was lucky enough to marry into a family that's really good at surprises," Pip says. "Watching the evening unfold as a competition of who could come up with the more awesome surprise was hilarious."
The Wedding Cake
Colleen's pastry chef sister whipped up a vanilla bean cake with vanilla buttercream accented by golden brush strokes. She topped it with gilded nods to the bride and groom—a pretzel for her and a fortune cookie for him.
Photography, Nicole Leever Photography
Location, The Ruby Street
Event planning, Tasteful Tatters
Flowers, Foxtail Florals
Videography, Kenny Ngo
Cake, Katie Clark
Lion dancers, Immortals Lion Dance
Hair and Makeup, Brooke Rodgers
Bridesmaids' dresses, Asos
Groom's suit, Reiss
Groomswomen's suits, Zara
Lettered signage, SheWildflower
Churros, Gloria's Churros, 353-604-8135