Chi + Jesse
I first noticed Jesse at a friend’s rooftop party on Memorial Day 2005, but I decided he was gay, possibly born again and had a strangely high voice. He got interested in me at another friend’s party on another rooftop on the Fourth of July, but I didn’t consider him a romantic possibility for obvious reasons, and also because I was chasing a chef. That didn’t work out, however, and as the summer went on, I realized that Jesse was straight, possessed no strong religious leanings, and had a totally normal voice.
Late at night after a night-before-Labor Day party (that featured no rooftop but did involve a fire escape), we finally hooked up. The next afternoon we rode our bikes to Battery Park and spent the day lounging in the grass, reading the paper, watching the boats sail by, and talking about our families. Pretty soon, we fell in love. On Mother’s Day 2012, almost seven years after that first rooftop, Jesse proposed to me in the Palace Gardens below the Prague Castle.
We embraced, drank the warm bottle of Champagne he’d been carrying around all day from the hotel minibar, then found a dingy jazz bar where we drank the world’s vermouthiest martinis in celebration. We went on from Prague to Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest feeling as light as air, talking endlessly about where and when and how we’d get married.
A few months after our return, we’d settled on a barn in Bridgehampton the next summer. But in August, I learned that my mom, who’d been battling cancer for five years, had only a few months left. Jesse and I both knew immediately that we would have to change our plans so that she could be at our wedding.
Around Labor Day I had the idea to hold our ceremony on a sailboat in the Hudson—partly in memory of that first date in Battery Park—and from there a plan fell into place for a full day with multiple locations around Lower Manhattan.
We chose October 6 for our date, giving us less than a month to plan. The compressed schedule forced us to be decisive without over-thinking things, and we benefited from our talented, resourceful, generous friends, without whom our day would have been impossible.
My friends at Apiece Apart and their incredible pattern-maker Sheila helped me produce my dream dress and Jesse got a green Dries Van Noten silk wool suit through work connections.
We met at South Cove, near the southern tip of the island, and strolled up the Esplanade (which would be submerged during Hurricane Sandy just a few weeks later), feeling like celebrities as tourists, joggers, fishermen, and a group of Boy Scouts smiled, took pictures, and offered congratulations. At the North Cove Marina, we boarded the 1929 schooner Shearwater and set sail with about 45 close friends and family members.
In front of the Statue of Liberty, Jesse and I held hands to Cat Power’s cover of “Sea of Love,” and then we had a simple Episcopal ceremony during which our mothers read the same passage from Song of Solomon in Korean and English. We read each other poems by Neruda and Rilke, said our vows, then kissed as George Harrison’s “If Not for You” played, the sun burst through the clouds, and buoy bells on the river chimed like we were at church.
Suddenly, the wind picked up and the boat rocked and rolled like an amusement park ride for awhile. Then things calmed down, allowing us to drink our champagne and eat the delicious Korean hors d’oeurves prepared by my mom and aunt Emo.
After returning to the marina, we all walked through downtown Manhattan to the South Street Seaport where we had an amazing family-style dinner for a larger group catered by Vinegar Hill House at the just-opened Mast Brothers Chocolate shop there.
The cake was a show stopper—banana rum with coffee ganache and a miso-pumpkin seed daquoise, covered with a gorgeous cascading flower arrangement by Fox Fodder Farm (who also created my flower crown and bouquet, as well as the corsages and boutonnieres).
We were about to leave for our big dance party when one of our guests came running in to tell us that another wedding party was releasing lanterns just outside our event space. We released a lantern of our own and posed with the other newlyweds. It was one of those wonderful, spontaneous New York moments.
From there we went to the Wooly in the Woolworth Building a few blocks north—where the decorations were by Confettisystem and the DJs were our friends—and danced the night away with our nearest and dearest. My mom had gone home to bed by then, but she had a ball, which was the happiest part of one of the happiest days of my life.
Pics by Tim Hout