Real Couples // A Caribbean Love Story in NYC: Jason + Sylvia

I (Sylvia) am a Garifuna-American born and raised in Brooklyn, NY by a single mother who migrated from Belize, CA. I have a older sister and younger brother whom I am very close with. I am devoted to my family and cultural community. I work as a trauma-focused therapist/Mental Health Clinician for the City of NY. I love what I do on a professional level, but I am a big kid at heart and try to enjoy what life has to offer.

Jason is the oldest of 5, born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago. He works as a International Freight Forwarded and enjoys the very simple things in life. When he is not working you can find him listening to soca music and working on his handmade kite. He's a humble man of few words and always has a smile on his face.

I met Jason on a online dating site; when I saw his gorgeous profile pic I jokingly said to myself, "Hmmm, he could be my future husband." I read his profile and decided to message him but he ignored me. He continuously checked my profile but would not respond to my message. Eventually he messaged me back and we began chatting. After about two weeks or so Jason asked me out but my schedule was so busy because I was in my entering into my second year of graduate school. Eventually I agreed to a date and we went mini golfing at 9 AM! We dated for about 3 months. I had my guards all the way up because he was just too nice... a complete gentleman overall, but he seemed too good to be true. I came up with every excuse possible—school was too overwhelming, I didn't want to settle down; however Jason assured me he wouldn't be a distraction and to trust him and trust my heart. His kind heart and consistency essentially broke my walls down, and I allowed myself to fall in love. He would tell me randomly I would be his wife... just wait.

We went on a 7 day Caribbean cruise to celebrate my birthday and graduation from grad school. On the 6th day on the beautiful beach of Barbados, Jason got down on one knee and proposed. I later learned that he had my engagement ring tied to his swim trunks for the past three days trying to find the best time to propose... the ring swam in the ocean of St. Maarten, Antigua, and St. Lucia!

My engagement ring came from Brilliant Earth: the 18k Cordoba round cut. My band is a simple classic band. Jason's ring came from the Blue Nile, a matte finish tantalum band.

For the wedding, we were on a budget and didn't want to exceed 9k. We wanted a space that would allow us to put a twist on the traditional wedding receptions. Being from the Caribbean we wanted specific food, entertainment, music, etc. We were referred to Liberty palace by a friend. It fit very well in our budget, was close to home and allowed us to bring both of our backgrounds together without any hassle.

The ceremony was done at my church; I have been attending St. John The Baptist Roman Catholic Church since I was a young child. Receiving most of my sacraments there, I had to get married there. 

I along with my mother and matron of honor got ready at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge the day of the wedding. What made this venue stand out was its location; the NYC skyline and the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. I wanted my bridal photos to be spectacular and represent my love for Jason.... like a breath of fresh air. 

Our couples photos was done in the Brooklyn Bridge Park. Jason and I both love being out doors, and the Brooklyn Bridge Park was where we went on our 4th date.

I wore a ivory satin trumpet-style Victor Harper gown with custom made ivory suede shoes by Aminah Jillil Abdul. Jason wore semi-costumed tailored blue tuxedo. There wasn't much conflict when it came to my dress—I bought it about 8 mths prior to our wedding. Jason, on the other hand, had a specific look he wanted.

Every song we used for our special day reflect our love for each other and our love for music. Originally, I had a gospel song that I picked out my processional song years prior to even meeting Jason. "All I Have to Give" by Mali Music guided me through some of the most difficult moments in my life, and I felt it was thee best song to walk to the love of my life. But about a week before the wedding I was listening to random songs on YouTube and came across the song "Why I Love You" by Major. As I listened to the words I began to cry uncontrollably as Jason slept next to me because it literally spoke the true words that I felt every time I thought of or looked at Jason. We ended up using the gospel song as out recessional song, which was even better. 

Our first dance was a tough one. We wanted something that represented our love and taste in music. We picked Bob Marley "Is This Love." However, the tempo was a little bit too fast and it was a little difficult to actually have a slow dance to. A friend suggested we listen to Corrin Bailey Rae's rendition and we were sold. We were able to dance to our choice, a song that expressed the words that we both felt for each other.

The song we used for our cutting of the cake was "Sincerely" By Alaine, a reggae artist. The chorus once again reflected our love for each other: "Sincerely in love with you with you I've found what I've been missing. Turn my world around and I'm sincerely in love with you. My true emotions when your near me. Honestly I'm yours sincerely..."

Our wedding ceremony was pretty simple. We opted for a ceremony that incorporated a non-Catholic and Catholic short mass ceremony. It consisted of 2 readings from the Bible and the gospel read by my mother, my sister, and the priest. We exchanged vows and a prayer was said over us by all present. Our officiant was the priest of my church. I think one moment that I loved the most was Jason and I being ourselves, always smiling and playing, being big kids. A family member captured us playing thumb wars before exchanging our wedding vows.

Our decoration of both the ceremony and reception hall was simple and elegant. Our color theme was navy blue, gray, and ivory. We didn't want anything too extravagant, just very simple and classy. We had about 21 tables that featured high and low white and blue hydrangea centerpieces on top of a satin gray runner.

What stood from the beginning of our reception was the surprise that was given to Jason. Prior to us announcing our wedding date we tried to get Jason's grandmother and his father to fly in from Trinidad. Unfortunately they weren't able to obtain a visa. Unbeknownst to Jason we were able to get his grandmother to come in and she arrived 3 days prior to the wedding with his cousins. Before entering as Mr. and Mrs. I told him to peek in and listen to what the wedding hostess announce Jason's grandmother flying in. Seeing the excitement on his as tears of joy and happiness rolled down his face brought joy to my heart. 

Our sentimental and heartwarming toasts was done by my matron of honor/bff, Jason's brother/his best man, and both of our mothers. Another highlight of our reception was the cultural dance piece. The cultural dance group that I am a part of, Chief Joseph Chatoyer Garifuna Dance Company, performed with singing and live drumming. This went along with traditional dancing that united both of our families despite the difference in culture.

Our cake was another highlight of the night. We went with a bakery on the lower west side of NYC called Empire cakes. We had two different flavors one was a passion fruit filling in vanilla cake and a Dulce de leche filling cake vanilla cake which everyone still talks about to this day. The décor of the cake was a buttercream frosting that faded from white blue. It was sooooo tasty, and our new favorite bakery!

We hired DJ Whogenie, and she was fantastic. She played all of the music that we requested, and she got the crowd jumping and dancing from the beginning to the end of the reception. The reception was simply phenomenal.

Our food was food that is enjoyed throughout the Caribbean. It consisted rice and peas, stew chicken, calalloo, Trinidad street food, a vegan dish called "doubles," and much more. We also had a sweets table that incorporated sweets from both Belize and Trinidad (fudge, tart, sugar cakes) along with old school candy from the 90's (Charleston Chew, Now-or-Laters, and Super Bubble, just to name a few!)

Our night ended with lots of hugs and excitement. It was a day I would relive over and over. We had family fly in from the Caribbean, the West Coast, and south east to share in the love and happiness we have for each other. We reconnected with family members we haven't seen in years and connected with new members.

We flew out the next day to Tobago for our honeymoon and received so many pictures and videos. We greatly appreciated it because the day felt like such a blur.

Words by Sylvia, the bride, as told by Amber Marlow. Photos by Debbie-Jean Lemonte.

 Caribbean NYC wedding sylvia's shoes and necklace on table
 Caribbean NYC wedding sylvia having makeup done
 Caribbean NYC wedding sylvia in dress sitting by window
 Caribbean NYC wedding sylvia on balcony
 Caribbean NYC wedding sylvia on balcony overlooking river, veil blowing in breeze
 Caribbean NYC wedding sylvia posing in front of reflective window
 Caribbean NYC wedding couple at altar during ceremony
 Caribbean NYC wedding jason putting ring on sylvia
 Caribbean NYC wedding couple kneeling to be prayed over
 Caribbean NYC wedding couple laughing with guest after ceremony
 Caribbean NYC wedding couple leaving church holding hands
 Caribbean NYC wedding embrace in garden while laughing
 Caribbean NYC wedding embrace under brick arch
 Caribbean NYC wedding kiss in park while holding kites
 Caribbean NYC wedding embrace on path under bridge
 Caribbean NYC wedding jason kissing sylvia's cheek
 Caribbean NYC wedding couple on dance floor while guests watch
 Caribbean NYC wedding couple dancing
 Caribbean NYC wedding cutting cake
 Caribbean NYC wedding sylvia laughing with guests on dance floor

VENDORS

Photography | DAG Images

Wedding coordinator | Shani Hannah

Wedding planner | Dhourglass Event Services

Preparation venue | 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

Wedding venue | Saint John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church

Reception venue | Liberty Palace Banquet Hall

Florist | Diya Flowers by Shanta

Catering | Aunt Wendy's

DJ | DJ Whogenie (Ms. Janelle)

Dancers | Chief Joseph Chatoyer Garifuna Dance Company

Wedding cake | Empire Cake

Transportation | Reliance Group

Makeup | Stephannie Samuel

Hair | Shoshannah the Loctician

Sylvia's ring | Brilliant Earth

Jason's ring | Blue Nile

Sylvia's dress | Victor Harper

Seamstress | Blossom Brides

Sylvia's Shoes | Aminah Abdul Jillil

Jason's Suit | Suit Supply


 Debbie-Jean Lamonte Dag Images

DEBBIE-JEAN LEMONTE

Debbie-Jean Lemonte is a professional wedding, lifestyle, and portrait photographer based in the NYC-metro area. After graduating with a degree in Dance and Psychology, she focused her passion for both studies and infused it with her love for art, thrusting herself full-time into learning photography. 

Within a short time, her photography has been featured on NBC News, Vanity Fair, Teen Vogue, The Cut, Refinery29, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, and DapperQ, to name a few.