We asked Danielle & Karima to tell us their story and a beautiful tale is what we got, so we just had to share.
“A Love Like Denim”
Wedding of Danielle & Karima McKenzie
July 19, 2015
Ceremony & Reception at The Palace
Love At First Sight… Maybe the Third
I, Danielle, had spotted Karima at a couple of different events in New Jersey; one being a basketball games where she happened to be the assistant coach and another time at a local bar for a mutual friend’s birthday party. But it was the third time, when I had locked eyes (and a smile) with her in Miami Florida, May 2011, during Sweet Heat Gay Pride Weekend at the All White Attire Affair, that I decided I was not going to walk away without making some form of contact. Needless to say, a smile and photo bomb by her in one of my candid pictures, was the closest I got that night.
I was scheduled to be on a plane back to New Jersey the next day. I arrived to the airport only to see that my flight had been canceled. It was a cancellation sent from heaven as I now had just one more chance to see this beauty.. Shall she attend the final party of the weekend, I was willing and ready to make my move. So that night I headed out with a hopeful heart, and once again, there she was. At that time I had only known her as the girl with the pretty brown skin, hazel eyes, and cute smile- especially when her cheeks would blow-up like a chipmunk. By the end of the night she would know me as Danielle, I would know her as Karima, and upon settling back in New Jersey we would contact one another and head out for a lunch date.
September 22, 2012… New Beginnings
For almost a year and a half, Karima and I courted. We had gone to Miami again for Sweet Heat Weekend, to California for Dinah Shore Weekend, celebrated each other’s birthdays and holidays (going above and beyond to make each other feel appreciated), and was on the search for a church home. We supported each other’s aspirations, extra curricular activities and job social functions, and challenged one another to grow personally and spiritually each day. I absolutely adored her!
Patiently I awaited the day we would be referred to as a “couple”. Over that year and a half, I had also come to learn that Karima was definitely one who did things at her own pace on her own time, but with such care and strategic planning so that she could make sure things were “juuuuust riiighht”.
On September 22, 2012, Karima set a date for us to go to dinner. In torrential down pour, she still found a way to be romantic as she presented me with white roses on our drive to The Crabhouse Restaurant. Karima explained to me that the color white meant new beginnings. I simply told her how beautiful they were and how I was excited to eat my favorite type of food…Seafood! Nearing the end of dinner Karima pulled out a paper rolled scroll style. I unraveled the scroll and it was a poem addressed to me. You see, Karima always had a way with words. Although working in the field of education daily she was poet deep down inside. But it was the last five words of the poem that left me breathless. In old school style she had written, “Will you be my girlfriend?” With excitement in my voice I said “YES”!
May 3rd 2014… Danielle Said “Yes”
We had been working so hard: Karima buried in her new career as an Athletic Director and I busy with work and sorority life. A vacation to our favorite city was much needed. We decided to go back to our meeting grounds of Miami for Sweet Heat Weekend once again. When we touched down Miami Karima told me that she would be taking me on a special date during our stay; following that statement was “We are going to do something you’ve never done before”. I remember laughing sweetly, saying “okay”, and cringing inside as I wanted to ask every ten minutes for the next 24 hours, “Just what kind of date is this going to be?!”
On May 3, 2014 I was charged with being ready at 6:30 p.m. on the dot in my all white dress. I gave some resistance to wearing all white as I had planned to wear this dress for the All White Attire Affair. Karima promised me that I would not get my dress dirty and that I had to be dressed in the case we did not return to the room before heading to the affair. Famous for never getting dressed quickly, on this day the “Time-Gods” were on my side. I was dressed by 6:20 p.m.!
As we were walking out the door Karima turned and pulled out a large silver gift bag from the closet. Typically I am very nosey… but she surely got one on me that time. I could not stop grinning nor asking “Can I open it, can I open it”. She assured me that I would open it but just not in that moment. PATIENCE! We entered the lobby of the hotel and through the glass door I saw a white Stretch Lincoln Navigator. I said, “Oh wow, some folks are headed out in style Karima” as I continued to look for our cab. She laughed and said, “Those folks are us”. Completely in shocked, and just feeling loved beyond measure, we climbed in the limo, popped the champagne, and headed to the luxury hotels of Miami Beach.
With door to door service we arrived to Eden Roc Hotel. We walked to the restaurant of the hotel where Karima then requested the presence of Riley; who would end up being our host for the evening. We followed Riley through the restaurant and pass the pools onto the walkway of the hotel’s private beach area. I couldn’t help but to think about just where was this Riley guy leading us. We had passed all the food areas and now here I am standing at the brink of sand with heels on. Karima then turns to me smiling, takes a pair of my flip flops out of her bag, changes my shoes for me, and then hand in hand we followed Riley down the path of sand onto the beach. And there, before my eyes, was a table set for two, under a tent, embellished with orchards, pink and white roses, and Moroccan lanterns which would later be lit as the sun had completely set during our time out there. I began to cry immediately expressing to Karima that she is just so good to me and asking what had I done to deserve such a date. She simply said “You just being the woman you are is why you deserve this date”.
Still, I was clueless as to what was really coming my way. Karima was known for expressing her language of love through extravagant and well planned dates for us. But who would have known that this date would have changed my life forever.
Nearing the end of our six course meal, right before dessert came out, Karima asked me “Are you ready to open your gift”. With pure joy I shouted “yes” and she moved her chair around to be seated next to me, and then handed me the large silver gift bag. Shuffling through the tissue paper I pulled out a heavy square object which was wrapped in white satin with a white bow. I quickly unwrapped the bow and satin and there it was: a beautiful hand-made scrap book. I could still smell the shellac on this piece of art. Karima knew I adored hand-made items and that it was common for me to start scrap books and collages but rarely did I ever finish.
Before opening the cover I read the words that graced the cover of the scrapbook, and then, at that moment, I knew where this all was headed. Rewind back to when she presented me with the white roses, asking me to be her girlfriend, she had explained to me that white meant “new beginnings”. Fast forward to this day, where we were dressed in all white, and I had unwrapped my scrapbook which was tied with a white bow and wrapped in white satin. And there on the cover of the scrapbook, spelled out in wooden letters, read “Love is the beginning of Forever”. I thought to myself what other beginning could there be for us. My heart began racing as I turned the front cover and tears of joy ran down my face. The pages of the scrapbook captured highlights from the day we met, to special moments in our lives as two people in love, who adored one another, and two people who cherished each other’s acts of love.
As I arrived to the back of the scrapbook Karima began to lower her body to the sand from out of her chair. I turned the last page, Karima was bent on one knee, and there it was. In the back cover of the scrapbook was a square whole cut out where the ring was snuggled. Karima took the ring box from the out of the back cover of the book, gently held my left hand, and spoke beautiful words (words neither of us remember because we were both so lost in the moment). She opened the box and before she could even pop the question I was already saying “YES”. On my finger was this beautiful victorian designed ring and in my heart was pure joy. God had truly blessed me.
I thought our night had come to an end as we were told by Riley that our limo had returned. We walked about 30 feet down from our table and there, between two beach- chair sheds, was yet another surprise. A white sheet, with white rose petals, two floral arrangements set in the sand, chocolate covered strawberries, and small white lights that illuminated small white picture frames with passages that spoke of how Karima felt about me, were laid out just for us. Five minutes into me expressing how honored I felt that she would chose me to spend the rest of her life with, I was surprised again. A young lady walked up from the water of the beach and began to sing to us. She was singing our song: No One Else by Amil Larrieux. The tears swelled in my eyes once again as we were serenaded by her beautiful voice.
Karima and I sealed this priceless night with a prayer; a prayer of sincere gratitude for this moment and the days to come. We then headed out to the All White Attire Affair and danced the night away. We danced as if no one watching; as if the night was made for us.
It’s Not Over Yet… May 4, 2014
Karima and I returned back to New Jersey on May 4, 2014. On this day her nephew was scheduled to have a birthday party, or so that is what Karima told me. After landing in New Jersey we stopped at my grandparents home to tell my family the story of the engagement. We then rushed home so that we could get dressed for her nephew’s 5th birthday party. While Karima was dressing, a close friend of mine had come over to congratulate me. I had rambled on about how happy I was and how I now needed to plan an engagement party. She simply said to me, “One step at a time”.
My friend had left and there Karima stood dressed and ready to go. I knew I needed to hurry by this point but more-so I wondered why Karima was so nicely dressed for a 5 year old’s birthday party. Confused I began to panic as I didn’t want to be under-dressed nor did I want to be overdressed. I asked if I should wear white yet I didn’t have white to put on. I asked if I should put on my favorite black pants and Karima shouted “No”. Pressed for time I threw on a lime green knitted dress and peep-toe laced boots and headed out to the door; definitely feeling over-dressed. As we headed out the door Karima said “Make sure you bring the scrapbook”. I made her promise that if someone wanted to see the book that she would take them to the car to see it for I did not want the attention to be on us rather than her nephew.
In the car I asked, “Where is this party anyways?’”. She stated, “At some American grill bar place called Fire & Oak”. I said, “Fire & Oak, thee Fire & Oak in Jersey City. This is going to be one amazing 5 year old birthday party”. We arrived to Fire & Oak and stated that we were there for the birthday party. We followed the hostess to a back area and just as we walked pass the partition I was surprised yet again. There stood our family members and friends (including those who we’d had just seen), all dressed in white, yelling out “SURPRISE”. Karima had planned, and pulled off, yet another surprise… our engagement dinner party. Another night to remember; a night filled with love amongst those who knew us best.
A Vintage Vision… A Love Like Denim
We found ourselves in love with old love: the love our parents shared and the love our grandparents shared. The softness and warmness we bore at heart was same soft and warmth aura we wanted to bring to the environment of the bridal shower and wedding. We had also grown to love a song entitled Denim by singer Frank Ocean. In this song he speaks of having a love like denim, a love that withstands the wears and tears, a love that lasts. Lace, Mason Jars, Baby’s Breath, Mercury Stained Glass, Bird Cages, Pearl, Tea- Carts, Tulle, Burlap, Jute, Doilies, Aged Paint, Wood, Vintage Skeleton Keys, Chalk Boards, Marques, and of course Denim, were just a few of the MUST HAVES for the bridal shower and wedding.
Planning and designing were two thing I enjoyed doing. I had planned and designed a few large events in my lifetime including Karima’ Surprise 30th Birthday Party, my Bollywood themed 25th birthday party, and a Fundraising Luncheon for my sorority. Therefore we wanted to add our personal touch to the wedding and bridal shower as much as we could.
First on the agenda was finding a venue which would melt our hearts the second we arrived… and The Palace did just this. From the Old Library, to the ceremony balcony set with flowers and black rod iron gate with the trees in the fields in the background, to the high ceilings with beautiful chandeliers, to the gold crested fireplace, to the glass doors draped with velvet leading out to the terrace, we could not help but to feel that this was definitely the place for us. Now it was time to get to work!
Second…What we were going to look like. Karima and I both decided to wear Ivory but kept what our attire would look like a complete secret. Our bridesmaids wore different styles of dresses in shades of rose and blush; some included a beautiful grey and light sequin embroidery at the top (a mixture of Alvina Valenta and Waters Designers). The bodice of my dress was layered, asymmetrical cut chiffon with gradually crinkled chiffon and tulle cascaded down to the bottom of the dress (Enzoani: Gloria) My make-up, by MAC artist Khrissy, and soft side-braid and pin-up, by hair-stylist Chavon Claybook, owner of Bombshell Salon in Newark, New Jersey, matched the soft look of my dress. I had made my own hair comb with a little bling, baby’s breath, and a small piece of pink lace. And then there was Karima… whom I had to keep a huge cheesy smile for during the first impression because inside I was moved to tears at just how beautiful she looked. Guillermo Molina, of Guillermo Couture in New York City, had created a 4-piece work of art. Karima wore tapered pants down to her ankle with a detachable train which blew wide as she walked. Her haltered top was embellished with small translucent and pearl beads. After the ceremony she removed her train and out on the a-line blazer with low buttons that matched the pants. IT WAS PERFECT! Sticking with a soft and romantic look, Karima wore natural toned make-up and a soft side braid pinned into a bun, a look created by, Aleetha Clanton, owner of The Glass Slipper Wedding. We carried the blush color down to our nail art which included small rhinestones and pearls: compliments of Asialee Sample of A-List Salon. And while both of us had bridesmaids on our side we decided to include bridesmen, dressed in soft-grey suits with matching blush and primrose ties, to escort some of the bridesmaids down the aisle. A great addition!
We had to set the tone for our wedding day by ensuring our invitations fit the theme. No invitation created by a printing company felt personal enough therefore we decided on hand-made invitations. While I have hand made invitations before I knew that 180 invitations with lace, ribbon, and tea-stained paper, was going to be a bit much. On Etsy I came across a shop from Colorado, LeFrench Chateau, owner Mademoiselle Norina. I had explained to her our vision and sent her picture of what we had in mind and she created an invitation, by hand, far beyond what we could have expected. It included a pink tea rose, typewriter lettering, a lace wrapping, tea-stained ribbon, vintage rose stamping, and pocket built behind the invitation for the response card, directions, and housing accommodations. We wanted our guests to prepare themselves to walk into The Palace feeling as though their taking a step back in time based on décor but with excitement in their hearts as they were about to witness the union of two self-less women in love.
At the entrance of West Side of The Palace we had a black tea cart draped with lace, where an old typewriter, a couple of mason jars with baby’s breath, a candled, and a picture of us from our engagement photo shoot, were placed up-top. We had decided to use a vintage rental company, Bits & Pieces Vintage Rentals of Newark, New Jersey, to bring in key pieces for décor, including the black tea cart. Bits and Pieces made our seating chart as well which stood 6 feet tall at the entrance of the Old Library which was our cocktail hour space. A 6 foot wooden wall was built, where the words, A Love Like Denim, were spelled out using actual jeans. Then the names of each guest, by table, were placed upon a 4x12 rose pink cotton paper, mounted on a sheet of denim. The entire wooden structure was then draped with lace recycled from the lace tablecloths from our bridal shower.
For the ceremony we wanted to keep it simple but romantic with our own touches. We’d taken four different size wooden crates and white washed them with white antique paint. The crates were placed at the alter, two on each side of, with pint-sized green and gallon-size clear mason jars placed up-top them. The Mason Jars were filled with white and pink hydrangeas and draped with a string of pearls. In the space between the crates, where we would stand, we used a vintage rental company to create a backdrop. Bits & Pieces Vintage Rental had taken two white, aged, wooden doors, and draped them with ivory lace we had bought from a Central Fabrics in East Orange, New Jersey. In between the doors hung a grapevine chandelier, we’d purchased from SaveOnCrafts.com, garnished with strands of pearls and baby’s breath. In the hall before entering the balcony we had small table which held our DIY wedding wands and DIY fan programs in a vintage rose designed basket. We looked forward to walking down the aisle, standing before our officiant and friend, Reverend Latisha West, as well as family and friends, to make our vows, complete our Unity Cross, exchange our rings, and be blessed in prayer.
In the Old Library, on the bar, we placed a lighted marque which read “BAR” along with the wired antique faucet. We’d made a framed sign as well reminding our guest to take pictures and share them on Instagram at #McKenzieLOVE2015, which turned out to be a hit!
Entering into the ballroom we wanted a feel of enchantment. No tables center pieces were to be identical as we decided to go with three different styles of arrangements. We used and assortment of gold candelabra’s as the main piece on some tables, some tables had hurricane vases as the main pieces, and other tables an assortment of mason jars and milk jars. Baby’s breath sat up-top the candelabras and hurricane vases. But again, while these were the main centerpieces on the tables, each table was adorned with mason jars filled with succulents, pink spring roses, hydrangeas, and dusty miller. Our florist, Brandywine Floral Design of East Brunswick, did a phenomenal job of carrying out our vision and utilizing all of the bird cages which we spray painted copper, silver, or gold, mercury stained hurricane vases & votives which we stained ourselves, and mason jars we had either spray painted copper and mercury stained or embellished with lace, burlap, twine, and pearls. Our DIY table numbers were a hit as well. Using a 7 inch piece of wood, metal house door numbers, crystal door knobs, and vintage metal keyhole appliqués.
The wedding wands and handmade fan programs were not the only things our guest walked away with. As favors we chose to give brass vintage skeleton keychains. We ordered plain 3x4 muslin bags to place each key in. To personalize the bags we customized our own rubber stamping embossing it with the following: Love is the master-key that opens the door to happiness… Danielle & Karima 7.19.15…#McKenzieLOVE. We stamped each bag ourselves using a tea stained brown ink. On the reverse side of the bag, in blush, we used a rubber stamp to place the scripture: 1 John 4:19- We love because he first loved us. We had both given each other the key to one another’s heart but had it not been for putting God first we would not have been blessed to share such a beautiful day with our loved ones.
Target, Michaels, and A.C. Moore had become our markets for mason jars of all sizes. We had ordered candles for the votives of all sizes from QuickCandles.com as it appeared this site gave us quality candles for less. G&G Distributors is where we bought lace ribbon,burlap ribbon, satin ribbon, and an antique wire faucet and bicycle statues. We used lace and burlap ribbons to wrap around mason jars and to create the pillows for our ring box. We white-washed backless wooden frames of all shapes and sizes to give them rustic look. We then faintly spray painted gold glitter on the frames and placed lace on the back of them; TaDa! Lace frames. We had crème and rose colored satin ribbon which we used to make our own wedding wands; which we made a sign at the entrance of the ceremony balcony asking guests to take one and wave it after we’d kiss and been presented as the McKenzies.
We had bought 22 wire bird cages from our local Family Dollar. Each bird cage was spray painted copper or rose gold. We wanted to ensure each table had a bird cage, including our sweetheart table, with an arrangement of baby’s breath in each one. We’d also bought numerous picture frames from the dollar store, which we spray painted either copper, silver, or gold, and had filled each frame with pictures from our engagement shoot at Liberty State Park in Jersey City. Highlights from the engagement photo shoot included us taking pictures on the old freight trains, Empty Sky- The 9/11 Memorial, and at the gates of the Central Railroad Station of New Jersey. Jenifer Studios did an amazing job with capturing details in the background, portrait photos, and candid moments, all while even forming a bond with us during the engagement photo shoot and the wedding day. Inside the West Ballroom we also had a memorabilia table were there were more pictures from the engagement photo shoot as well as candles and antique treasure boxes filled with floral arrangements. We’d placed slabs of wood on the table to elevate the certain pictures and flowers to give a multidimensional look.
Once you entered the West Ballroom there was a 20x24 picture of Karima and I placed on a beautiful rod easel. On each side of the easel were rustic wooden chairs. Set to the left of our sweetheart table was the wedding cake which we had designed. The cake included layers of silver and rose gold metallic beading, blush lace print on the icing, a layer of ruffled fondant to give an aged look, and gold/brown dusted sugar azaleas cascading down the side. The cake set set on a crème rosette tablecloth which we bought online. The rosette tablecloth for the cake table matched the blush tablecloth on our sweetheart table. Set to right of our sweetheart table we had two large vintage trunks: one gold and one rusted black. They were draped with lace with a bird cage and candles cascading down from trunk to trunk. We took advantage of the fireplace set behind us setting rustic green bird cages, three vintage metal marques with lights that spelled out “D&K”, and the lace picture frames up-top the mantel. We wanted to ensure that we used every space possible in the ballroom.
Prior to our entrance skit entitled “Karimio & Dannilette”, we decided to show our engagement video filmed by cinematographer, Jon Rola of Rola Cinemas, from Pennsylvania, which was shot at Liberty Park as well. Thanks to our magnificent entertainment company, Absolute Celebrations out of Woodbridge, New Jersey, we had two HD screens set to the left and right of the DJ booth as well as four screens which created one huge picture set behind the DJ booth, to premiere our video. In the video we spoke of how we met, what we loved about one another, what we looked forward to on our wedding day, and what A Love Like Denim Meant. The engagement video was priceless and we looked forward to the masterpiece Jon would produce from the wedding.
Karima and I entered the ballroom with bang after our skit, dancing our way onto the floor; she from the door of the ballroom and I from the balcony down the stairs. We mastered our dance routine and smiled sweetly as our monogrammed initials were beamed onto the dance floor. The intelligent lighting and purple uplighting illuminated the room. And there we were, hand in hand, amongst our dearest family and friends, living out the moment we had planned so diligently for: extremely happy, absolutely blessed, and ready to live out our love like DENIM.
Flowers: Brandywine Floral Design
27 W Prospect Street, East Brunswick, NJ
Vintage Rentals:Bits & Pieces Vintage Rentals
137 Walnut Street, Newark, NJ
Cinematography: Jon Rola-Rola Cinema
Photography: Jenifer Studios
6 Ridge Rd., North Arlington, NJ
Entertainment (DJ/ Photo Booth): Absolute Celebrations
302 Amboy Avenue, Woodbridge, NJ
Hair & Make-up:
Bombshell Salon: Chavon Claybrook
31 Clinton Street, Newark NJ
The Glass Slipper Wedding: Aleetha Clanton
Nails: A-List Nail Salon (Asialee Sample)
23 Dodd Street, Bloomfield, NJ