The famed baker's reception featured five different wedding cakes.
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Ace of Cakes star Duff Goldman's April 2018 proposal to Johanna Colbry was the definition of impromptu. The lauded pastry chef's decision to pop the quesiton was born out of an everyday task—he was shaving his head—but once it struck, he could barely hold it in. He proposed just a few hours later, after an Easter dinner with Johnna's relatives (he asked her mother for permission first!). Since their engagement wasn't planned, Duff hadn't purchased a ring. Instead, he did what any chef would: He knotted a small piece of butcher's twine around Johnna's left ring finger—she kept the string on for weeks and still has it to this day—and promised her forever.
Forever arrived on Saturday, January 19, 2019, when Duff and Johnna invited 250 of their closest family and friends to their wedding, which was planned by Mindy Weiss and took place at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles. The celebration's organic, natural décor helped transform the evening into a true night at the museum—the party's color and floral palette both referenced their venue's many exhibits, many of which were open to their guests for a majority of the event. They brought those exhibits to life, too, with a petting zoo full of farm animals. As for the other stand-out moments? The epic wedding cakes (plural!) were a highly-anticipated highlight—several of the confections, all of which were created by Duff and his team at Charm City Cakes, were suspended from the ceiling installation-style; the ocean-inspired desserts trailed sugar sea glass and were topped with sugar bubbles. In some ways, it was the museum wedding's feature exhibit. Another standout? The guest list, which included major players, like Top Chef's Bruce Kalaman and Alex Guarnaschelli, from all corners of the culinary world.
Epic wedding cakes and petting zoos aside, the laid-back couple's favorite part of the day was officially being able to call each other husband and wife, something that made any planning road bumps feel trivial. "At the end of the day you're marrying your girl," Duff told Martha Stewart Weddings exclusively. "There's going to be some food there—that's cool—family will hang out, but, honestly, everything else is just gravy."
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Duff and Johnna's mutual love for animals informed their choice in venue, wedding planner Mindy Weiss explains. "When they walked into the Natural History Museum, not only did they feel, instantly, that this was the location, but they also found humor in their guests being surrounded by wild animals," she says. The resulting floral décor was an extension of the museum: "We brought in flowers that were saturated with color and yet still very natural to mimic the foliage of the museum's background."
The couple trusted their event designer, completely, when it came to their big-day décor. "Mindy put it all together—she knows what she's doing," notes Duff, who says trusting vendors is one of his biggest takeaways from the planning process.
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Johnna's "Rowena" BHLDN ball gown, which she first came across online, was a winner upon first glance. "It was actually the first dress I sent a picture of to my mom when I started looking," recalls the bride, who later discovered that the gown, complete with a sweetheart neckline, corset bodice, taupe horsehair ribbon, and voluminous skirt, looked exactly like a Vera Wang number she'd put in her dream box years ago. She gave a few other BHLDN options a chance but knew the moment she put the garment on that her search was over. "It's so fun to wear! It made me feel like a princess. This is something I plan on doing once—I may as well feel like a princess marrying my Prince Charming!" the bride says.
The bride's maid of honor, Alexandrea, and her bridesmaids, Kate, Molly, and Jordan (a mix of friends and family), wore burgundy convertible dresses from Lulus.
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Duff wore a black tuxedo from JoS. A. Bank—which was a big deal for the groom. "Anyone will tell you, I'm informal. Getting me into a tux took some persuading," he joked. He did, however, find a way to break up his ensemble's formality—Converse sneakers.
The groom finalized his big-day look with cuff links from two of his favorite people: his father and Johnna. He wore one of his dad's cuff links ("It's made out of coins from the City of David, which are 4,000 years old," he explains) on his right wrist and one from Johnna on the left.
His best man, his brother Willie, and groomsmen—his friend and sous chef, Geof, and Art, the goalie from his college hockey team—also wore tuxedos. Oxblood ties and vests separated their looks from the groom's.
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The duo's interfaith service, which began at 6:30 p.m., was held in the main foyer—guests sat around the iconic, life-sized dinosaur fossils positioned in the middle of the museum. A simple greenery arch, comprised of monstera and palm leaves, anchored the space.
The Christian part of the ceremony was officiated by a very special guest—the bride's grandfather, Reverend Nolan Williams. Duff's friend and business partner, Richard, performed the Jewish part of the service; Richard's wife, an opera singer and cantor, sang the Jewish blessings. After they were officially pronounced husband and wife, the couple recessed back up the aisle to "La Rejouissance."
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Duff and Johnna brought the museum's many animals to life come cocktail hour. Guests were invited to visit a petting zoo, complete with an alpaca, a mini horse, goats, sheep, bunnies, and pigs, on the South Lawn. "It set the tone for the rest of the evening," Duff says.
Inside in the African Mammal Hall, food stations—including a cheese bar and warm pretzel table—were set up for snacking.
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Set in the North American Mammal Hall, the reception featured long, wooden tables, which encouraged guests to sit family-style; the tables were topped with Italian linens and left un-set to accommodate the newlyweds' food station menu.
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Rectangular banana-leaf centerpieces were another nod to the venue's natural qualities—and made subtle, but eye-grabbing statements on reception tabletops. Black pearl roses, scabiosa, plum anemone, dark red ranunculus, tess garden roses, gravillea, black calla lilies, agonis, and black anthirium added color to the greenery-centric arrangements.
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Street Food Style
Guests bounced between four comprehensive food bars during dinner, which served L.A. street tacos, southern barbecue, loaded baked potatoes, and a selection of Italian foods (including pizza!). The meal was prepared by Contemporary Catering.
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The couple took their first married spin to "Crazy Love" by Van Morrison.
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A Night at the Museum
The Dinosaur Hall and Gem and Mineral Hall wings remained open for guests' late-night perusal, something that was particularly special to the younger attendees. "We wanted kids at the wedding, and we wanted them to feel comfortable," says Duff of this experiential component.
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A whopping five cakes rounded out the couple's dessert hour. The main confection—an ocean-inspired treat suspended from above—actually consisted of a series of chocolate and chocolate-peanut butter cakes, adorned with sugar sea glass and bubbles and surrounded by edible leafy sea dragon cakes, which reminded Duff of Johnna. "They're gentle, graceful, and sweet," he says.
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The duo also served a traditional white six-tier, also inspired by the bride. "It's piped to look like the lace on Johnna's dress," explains Duff of the red velvet and brown-butter buttercream confection. The cake's top tier, however, might have been its sweetest. "It's actually a surprise for Johnna on our one-year anniversary," he says. "It's gonna be good."
Two sheet cakes—pumpkin chocolate chip and carrot—were also offered, alongside a chocolate and vanilla sundae bar with all the fixings: cookies, brownie bites, sprinkles, almond butter sauce, banana foster, and whipped cream. "There weren't a lot of vegetables involved in this meal," jokes Duff, who sent his guests home with cookies in Chinese takeout boxes as the result of a party-wide pot luck; the couple's invites asked all attendees showed up to the event with two-dozen cookies in tow.
As for the cake design process? Duff, who was heavily involved in all of the above creations, gave his future bride and her mother the classic experience. "I didn't want Johnna and her mom to miss out on designing and tasting the cake just because I'm the cake guy," he explains.
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The Groom's Cake
The final cake wasn't a cake at all—it was created entirely out of meat. The base tier, made out of Johnna's favorite meatball, was followed by meatloaf, lamb schwarma, and Pennsylvania scrapple (the groom's go-to!) layers. The "cake" was frosted with mashed potatoes and topped with bacon roses.
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Into the Future
As they approached the beginnings of their lives together, both Duff and Johnna took some time to think about what the wedding-planning process meant to them—and offer their best advice to couples currently going through it. "If you find yourself obsessing and getting stressed about one specific aspect, take a step back. At the end of the day you're getting married. Everything else isn't a huge deal, I promise," says Duff. For Johnna, communication is key: "Stay super open and honest with each other so you can figure out how to work together now and in the long run—this is really your first test."
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Photography, Amy and Stuart Photography
Venue, Natural History Museum
Event planning, Mindy Weiss Party Consultants
Catering, Contemporary Catering
Flowers, Gilly Flower & Events
Cake, Charm City Cakes
Rentals, Town and Country Event Rentals
Bride's dress, BHLDN
Groom's attire, JoS. A. Bank
Bridesmaids' dresses, Lulus
Makeup, Tara Staton
Lighting, Daylight Events