Real Couples // A Jovial Urban Wedding in Brooklyn, NY: Andrei + Starsha

I (Starsha) am a filmmaker, producer, and event coordinator from NY. I also get to dabble in graphic design and photography. Some call this freelancing (and I do too), but it's also really just being a hustler. I'm a mother to the most wonderful and spunkiest two year old, Zora. I'm the new wife to my partner of 8 years. We all migrated to Chicago and couldn't be happier! It's negative 25 with windchill today! Andrei just started his PHD in Musicology at the University of Chicago. He spent most of his 20s as a chess teacher in elementary and middle schools around NYC. He was born and raised in Brooklyn. He might be terribly addicted to picking up abandoned books off the street.

Andrei and I met at a "horsewarming party" (or at least that was what the Facebook event was called). One of my best friends from Sarah Lawrence was moving in with her boyfriend, Andrei's friend from his youth. They threw a housewarming party in Lefferts Garden. It was a blistering hot day in the dead of summer, and earlier that day I helped a friend move a used air conditioner (read: heavy) from a tiny East Village apartment to her apartment in Bushwick. I could feel a "throat thing" coming on and was really tired, but mustered up the energy to go to the party. I laid on the couch for the first hour I was there when three boys walked in and the music stopped and everyone looked at them in 20 seconds of silence. Not really, but I did become upright embarrassingly fast once I spotted him: Andrei, the man I was going to marry. I accidentally exclaimed out loud, "WHO IS THAT?" He and is friends immediately went to the fire escape because it was unbearably sweaty inside and I followed them. I introduced myself immediately. I ultimately had to leave the party early before having the proper chance to declare my desire to marry him one day or at least get in a kiss. But I told all of my friends before I left—middle school style—to "tell that boy I like him." And they did!

I basically had forgotten about Andrei until my horsewarming friend told me to contact him a few weeks later. I nervously created a FB message, edited by my 7 other friends as we all lazily ate chips and drank gatorade margaritas in MaCarren Park. So really, my friends asked Andrei out for me. And after a few internet exchanges and some scary prolonged silences, we made it to a first date a few weeks later. And even after being 40 minutes late to the first date, Andrei wanted to see me again! He asked me out before the date was even over. Smitten would be an understatement. We moved in with each other one year later, and then we became two people who loved each other in the way that you do when you have to live through life with all of its realities and complexities. It is a good strong love, a practical love with a side of passion.

Andrei proposed to me on Mother's Day. We had been together for 7 years and had already had a kid together, so it was expected! Andrei got me an antique Czech ring from Etsy. Andrei is Czech! I don't usually wear rings, so Andrei had to figure out how big my ring finger was all by his lonesome. 

We got our wedding bands from Amazon (PRIME THANK YOU) because we were broke! We got them a day before the wedding. I think we both had more of a romantic wish for these, but having a toddler doesn't make it easy to get things done. You can only do what you can do!

I reluctantly had to wedding in NYC because all of both of our family and friends live there. We were working on a smaller budget, so choosing a venue in the city was almost impossible. Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture was close to Andrei's parents house and had a garden feel that I wanted. We wanted something a bit laid back and something that felt a bit more green. I wanted as much outside as possible.

Choosing the processional music was really fun for Andrei and me. I think it was this process that finally got us both on the same page as far as figuring out what this day was to us. We had a lot of ideas, but ultimately chose "Sunday" from Sunday in the Park with George by Sondheim. I've always been in love with musicals, but didn't really appreciate Sondheim until I tried to convince Andrei that he could like musicals as much as I did. Sondheim is smart and complicated enough to be interesting. It was the perfect choice for us because it is symbolic of the melding of our interests. It's a beautiful song. It's the point in the musical when all the chaos becomes harmony. Andrei transposed the song to fit a violin, drums, bass, accordion, and bells. The instruments were played by our close friends, some of which were in Andrei's bands through his high school, college and post college years.

The ceremony was very laid back. The officiant was Andrei's dad, who had officiated Andrei's brother's wedding as well. I think they'd like it to be a tradition for his siblings. Andrei's dad said a few words about both of us. We both read our own vows and repeated the traditional vows. We chose not to say "Man and Wife." It was short and sweet.

Food is a big thing for us. We like eating, we care if food tastes good. Andrei and I throw dinner parties on a regular basis. We decided to make the main dishes and order our sides from Fette Sau. We prepared and pre-cooked chicken, ribs, and portabello mushrooms the day before. On the wedding day, we had a griller finish off the dishes before serving. We ordered potato salad, pickles, and green beans for the sides. Ovenly has a special place in my heart and is often where my friends and I will treat ourselves to coffee and cookies. I ordered a ton a of dessert from them. We had a few cakes, some gluten free, and cookies and bars. We also had my favorite ice cream, Jeni's. It is a company based in Columbus, Ohio.

Since we were working on a budget, we decided to get most of our serving dishes from thrift stores around Illinois and Ohio. We used bamboo plates and utensils to go with our picnic theme. We used plastic cocktail cups to save on glasses. It worked in keeping the vibe light. We also knew there would be a ton of kids and didn't want to make it hard for the staff to clean up broken glasses everywhere.

We planned on having blanket areas for the adventurous guests to sit on, but it rained before the wedding and would have been very unpleasant. I splurged on heavy wooden picnic tables that happened to be amazing. They were beautiful and I'm so glad I used them. But boy, were they heavy to move around. Thank you to all of my friends and family who helped with that!! 

I chose Persephone Floral Atelier because I had the good fortune of knowing the owner, Mary Simmons, but also because I felt like she had the same aesthetic as me. I knew that as far as decor went, flowers were really going to be my priority. Mary and I chose the bud vases and lanterns for the tables. I ordered fans in case it was too hot to function. The flowers were ordered from Queens County Farm and were what were in season. Mary chose a lot of orange because I wore a gold dress. We also went the flower district in Manhattan and got bags full of vine to place around the tent. The "greening" of the tent is one of my favorite elements of the wedding. She also made the most beautiful flower crowns. I LOVED the flower girl petals too. So gorgeous. 

I was also extremely happy with the altar. I knew I wanted a wooden altar. Andrei's parents spotted the wood branches on the streets of Park Slope. They were being thrown away by a person who just decided she didn't want to keep them around anymore. She couldn't find a use for them. This was probably the luckiest and most harmonious find that could have happened for the wedding. One man's trash... IS ANOTHER MAN'S ALTAR! Thank you, strangers.

Words by Starsha, the bride, as told by Amber Marlow. Photos by Corey Torpie.

Jovial Brooklyn NY Wedding Chairs in front of Branch Altar
Jovial Brooklyn NY Wedding front of brooklyn society of ethical culture building
jovial brooklyn ny wedding floral arrangement
jovial brooklyn ny wedding zora having flower crown put on
jovial brooklyn ny wedding starsha having hair done and flower crown put on
jovial brooklyn ny wedding starsha and her daughter zora doing makeup
jovial brooklyn ny wedding starsha and andrei in front of trees on cobblestone path
jovial brooklyn ny wedding starsha walking through door
jovial brooklyn ny wedding starsha smiling and posing with hands together
jovial brooklyn ny wedding zora showing starsha and andrei her handheld fan
jovial brooklyn ny wedding starsha hugging member of wedding party
jovial brooklyn ny wedding tent hung with vines over picnic tables
jovial brooklyn ny wedding arrangement of paper fans
jovial brooklyn ny wedding ceremony
jovial brooklyn ny wedding starsha, andrei, and zora leaving ceremony newly married
jovial brooklyn ny wedding record collection


Photography | Corey Torpie Photography

Venue | Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture

Wedding coordinator | Stephanie Gatton Events

Florals | Mary of Persephone Floral Atelier

Staffing | Events by Parties ‘N’ All

Desserts | Ovenly | Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

Catering (side dishes) | Fette Sau

Starsha's dress | Saks Fifth Avenue



Corey Torpie is a Queens-based photographer with a background in photojournalism. Torpie's work focuses on the multifaceted and complex identity and experience of communities and living in New York. Her dedication to community matters and enrichment through photography has led her to teach with the International Center of Photography (ICP) at The Point in The Bronx and with Lantern Community Services in Brooklyn. She has been photographing weddings for 10 years.