The laid-back affair was all about family.
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Years after they played a couple on stage for a theater class at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, Jaquita Ta'le and Carlton Byrd fell in love in real life. "Years later" is the key phrase—when the now-couple first crossed paths at a college party, Jaquita "found [Carlton] annoying," (a detail that Carlton conveniently does not remember), especially when he attempted to teach her the "A-Town Stomp" dance moves. All that changed when they coincidentally ended up in the same class the following semester. Their friendship blossomed after they started attending class together (and, of course, became closer as co-stars). Ironically, they didn't start dating until they were out of college—they both relocated to Los Angeles, California—in 2013.
Two years later, Carlton casually popped the question on his couch after returning home from a friend's film premiere. They were talking about the future and, "he disappeared into the next room and returned with a ring that his mother gave him to propose with," says Jaquita. They were married the following year—on July 16, 2016, they exchanged vows at the Hermann Grima House in New Orleans with just 80 of their closest family and friends. From the start, the couple was looking for a low-maintenance, simple event. "We didn't really get our plan together until February and we got married in July. Ours wasn't a huge production, but was perfect for us," they said.
Jaquita's maternal grandmother's attendance at the wedding made the event that much more special. "My wife's grandmother willed her way through cancer to be present for the wedding. If this was an anime, her power level would be infinite," says Carlton. Her grandmother hadn't flown on a plane in years, but she mustered up the courage for her granddaughter. She passed away a month after the wedding—so being able to celebrate that "big occasion with her meant, and continues to mean, the world to me," says the bride.
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Originally, Jaquita and Carlton planned to marry in Los Angeles, since they both live there. But a New Year's Eve spent in New Orleans changed it all. They both fell in love with the city's electric vibe. When they found the Hermann-Grima House, a historic residence that was built in 1831, they were captivated by its elegant, slightly-rustic architecture. It was the perfect venue for their "Art Deco goes tropical" theme proposed by their wedding planner, Clark and Kelly.
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An Art Deco-Inspired Wedding Dress
Since Jaquite chose not to have a bridal party, dress shopping became a special mother-daughter activity. Her mom spotted the "Tara" gown by Theia at the Lovely Bride shop in Pasadena, California, and she immediately knew it was the one for her daughter. Jaquita admired the dress's Art Deco-style, silhouette, and beading, all of which made her look and feel regal.
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Jaquita, the artist she is (she's an actress and writer!), did her own hair and makeup for the big day. "It was important to me that I still looked like myself," she says. She even wore the same rose gold nose ring she wears every day.
She polished off her bridal look with a pair of diamond earrings—a gift from her paternal grandmother—and an embellished feather comb by A Stich in Time (the atelier was also responsible for Jaquita's wedding dress alterations).
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The official symbol of the wedding was the succulent. The couple wanted a piece of home worked into their wedding day, so they shipped a bunch of succulents from Los Angeles to New Orleans. The bride chose an expressive bouquet with a mix of tropical greens, succulents, white delphinium, and other large blooms; the clutch was held together with a natural wrap.
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"We didn't have any traditional bridesmaids or groomsmen, but somehow our friends managed to wear complementary colors of red, burgundy, teal, and emerald," said Jaquita of her accidental bridal party.
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A Bike Taxi Ride
Jaquita and her father, Osayande Ta'le-Sekani, took a fun bike taxi to the Hermann-Grima House after they finished getting ready. Friends and family cheered them on as they departed for the ceremony site.
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The First Look
Carlton was in awe of how beautiful his bride looked. "[The] most memorable moment was probably every man's favorite moment, seeing my wife in her wedding dress for the first time," he explains. The last time they had seen each other was at their rehearsal dinner the night prior at a nearby restaurant, Atchafalaya. "There are no real words to describe the feeling of seeing each other in our wedding attire. Pure joy," the couple says.
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Jaquita's 93-year-old maternal grandmother wouldn't let cancer stop her from attending the wedding; the couple mutually agree that her attendance was what made the event special. Sadly, she passed away just the following month.
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A Special Officiant
At most weddings, the father walks the bride down the aisle to give her away. Jaquita's dad, however, went the extra mile and officiated the ceremony, which wasn't religious, but still honored their faith.
The bride fiercely strutted down the aisle solo to the Muppet's "Somebody's Getting Married."
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To keep guests cool during their outdoor ceremony, Jaquita and Charlton provided raffia fans, which rested under the small program cards. The favors proved useful in the soaring 90-degree heat—many attendees used them throughout the balmy reception, too, after working up a sweat on the dance floor.
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Carlton's big-day ensemble consisted of a light gray Zara suit—he promptly slipped out of the jacket (it was just too hot!) during his walk down the aisle, which he took to UGK's "International Playas Anthem."
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The couple exchanged hand-written vows, which were accompanied by the "tears, laughter, and cheers from our families and friends," says the groom.
As for the ring exhange? Jaquita opted for a unique band with conflict-free opals (her birthstone!) and diamonds from Wwake. Carlton also wanted a non-traditional ring: With three built-in bands made from patina cooper, spalted maple, and antler (all ethically-sourced), his Stag Head Designs ring was the clear winner.
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Jaquita and Carlton shared their first married kiss after the bride's father declared them husband and wife—at last.
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A Tropical Reception
The couples Art-Deco-meets-tropical theme was enunciated during the wedding reception, which took place at Broussard's, a local eatery known for its Creole-meets-classic-French cuisine. Clark and Kelly adorned guests' tables with tropical greens and succulents, which made guests feel like they were, in fact, attending a beachy destination wedding.
Highlights from the menu included coconut rice with grilled pineapple and red chili butter, as well as fried Creole-spiced catfish bites. The guests dined in the outdoor banquet area just in the back of the restaurant.
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Shortly after the bride slipped into her short, easy-to-groove-in reception dress, she, Carlton, and their guests moved on to the dancing portion of the evening, which kicked off with Juvenile's "Back That Thang Up." This was one of Carlton's favorite tunes of the night.
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Bust a Move
Carton's nephew stole the spotlight when Ghost Town DJ's "My Boo" came on.
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A Magical Event
When asked to describe their wedding day in one sentence, both Jaquita and Carlton say, "magical—not quite a sentence, but the most truthful. Our wedding was pure magic."
Part of that magic? One of their wedding gifts—Jaquita's parents framed the picture and program from their joint play at NYU, where they first became friends. "Can you believe they kept that after all this time? Who knew we'd end up getting married one day?"
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Photography, Hannah Pickle
Event planning, Clark and Kelly
Flowers, Luna Vicini
Stationery, Wedding Paper Divas
Donuts, District Donuts
Rentals, Able Music
Transportation, Bike Taxi Unlimited