Real Couples // An Interracial Cuban-Chinese Wedding: Kelly + Michael

Michael says: Kelly is my partner, in every possible sense of the word. She's smart, empathetic, dedicated, and inspiring. Her love for her family, for her Cuban heritage, and her strange pride in being from New Jersey is infectious. Her drive for self-improvement is admirable and slightly intimidating. She has the most amazing laugh, even though her sense of humor isn't shared by anyone else in the world. She is physically tiny but has the presence of a giant. Kelly is fiercely independent and self-reliant, and yet remains warm and generous. She makes me a better person every day.

Kelly says: Michael is a cerebral (nerdy?) guy with an unexpected warmth and a smile that is entirely disarming. He is a man of integrity, who believes in doing what's right, and not just what's easy. He is fiercely loyal, as evidenced by his irrational yet unwavering support of the Niners. He is absolutely crazy about his (very) large Chinese (by way of Hawaii) family. He looks damn good in a suit. I'm so lucky he's stuck with me for the rest of his life.

Ours is a classic boy-meets-girl story, and begins where so many happy relationships do: United States Federal Civil Procedure.

It's the first day of law school in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In one chair in the last row of Hutchins 100 sat Kelly, from Union City, New Jersey, fresh off two years working at a law firm in New York. In the chair immediately to her right sat Michael, of San Jose, California, not-so-freshly trying something new after five years of teaching.

Kelly and Michael were study partners first, then friends, and then best friends. She talked him through a breakup. He listened to her stories about dating in New York. Law school trudged on. She got a job in New Jersey, and he got a job in California. Romance seemed unlikely.

Then she visited him in California for one glorious week, and he fell in love. She remained unsure. They returned to Ann Arbor for their last year of law school and spent most of their class time talking to each other. They went together to brunches and dinners, Michigan football games and music concerts, and he fell more and more in love, while she played coy about her own growing feelings.

Then, one night in December, he took a deep breath, picked up some flowers and some chocolate, went to her apartment, and told her he loved her. He didn't pick the best time; she had several finals over the next four days. Her answer: denied on all counts.

A month later, she reconsidered, and showed up at his apartment with the same flowers and chocolate he had given her. He was overjoyed. They took trips together, graduated together, and studied for the bar together. He went to California, and she went to New Jersey. A year later, he switched jurisdictions, and moved in with her in Jersey City, New Jersey.

In April of 2016, they were ready to join as co-parties. At Wellesley College (Kelly's alma mater), by Lake Waban, on a rainy and beautiful day, he got down on one knee and presented her with a ring.

***

When we first started planning our wedding, the only thing I knew was that I wanted a Cuban Salsa band and a DJ. We couldn't have been happier with how things turned out. Cubanoson played the old school Salsa songs that I and my family loved and got Michael's family, many of whom have never Salsa-ed before, out on the dance floor. DJ Bryan Festa was a great MC and worked with Cubanoson to flawlessly mix-in 90s hip-hop and dance music. Some of our favorite moments were seeing all the people we love, grandmas and grandpas included, tearing it up on the dance floor. Our ceremony was simple, sweet, and secular. We asked Michael's Aunty to officiate, and included two readings: excerpts from Justice Kennedy's majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, and Frank O'Hara's poem “Having a Coke With You.”

Michael's father passed away many years ago, but we still wanted to have his presence at our wedding. Our table numbers and place cards were homages to him. Instead of a number, each table was marked by a book or a piece of music that Michael's father loved.

The morning of the wedding, we had a simple, short Chinese tea ceremony for immediate family and grandparents. We served tea to both sides of the family, but we didn't want things to be too formal. We asked our loved ones to come in comfortable clothing, so everyone could get together and relax while we showed our respect to and for them.

Words by Kelly, the bride, as told to Amber Marlow. Photos by Meera Mohan-Graham of Meera Graham Photography

 bride at the pre-wedding tea ceremony
 groom tying bowtie
 bride and groom getting ready together
 bride getting into her dress
 bridesmaid champagne cheers
 bride and groom's first look
 bride emotional during their first look
 bride and bridesmaid
 bride being walked down the aisle by both parents
 bride smiling during wedding ceremony
 groom grinning during wedding ceremony
 secular civil ceremony
 ring exchange at secular ceremony
 first wedding kiss
 recessional
 post-wedding blissful moment between the bride and groom
 bride holding a hankerchief and the groom's hands
 first dance
 Wedding festivities
 bride and groom dancing to salsa

VENDORS

Band | Cubanoson
DJ & MC | Bryan Festa - Elegant Music Group
Flowers | Rosalba Flowers
Cake | Palermo's Bakery


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MEERA GRAHAM PHOTOGRAPHY

Meera Mohan-Graham (Meera Graham Photography) is a documentary wedding photographer in Missoula, Montana. She's committed to capturing how moments and people feel, not just the way they look. She serves couples who are best friends, and authentic people who do things your own way.

Meera loves getting to know you reeeeeeallly deeply and well, loving the sh*t out of you (her words!), helping you both find your happy, and ultimately creating images that tell a story about who you are and what matters to you. No pretending, no posing, no imitations: just the real stuff.