In early 2014, China McGee and Daniel Macena were both in the market for new jobs in advertising, and wound up at the same firm. “I actually conducted Daniel’s interview,” China recalls. “Needless to say, he made an impression!” Three months after Daniel got the job, the couple headed out on their first date. Two-and-a-half years after that, Daniel surprised China with a trip to New Orleans for New Year’s Eve. After ringing in 2017 together and ordering a leisurely room service breakfast, they decided to commemorate their trip in a leather-bound journal they share. “We each wrote a few haikus, then had the other person read them,” says China. “When I got to Daniel’s last poem, it was his proposal!”
The pair of creatives gave themselves a year-and-a-half to plan their wedding in Long Eddy, New York, setting the date for July 7, 2018, and inviting 115 loved ones to join them. “We chose Handsome Hollow for its natural beauty,” she says. “The elegant barn, lush fields, and ceremony site surrounded by towering trees make an incredible statement without trying too hard.” They kept their vision clean and minimalist, letting the organic setting truly shine. That said, they did still ask many of their friends and coworkers to put their skills to good use, and hired Pierson of Eager Hearts Photography to capture every detail of the celebration. Keep reading to see China and Daniel’s highly personalized and special day, below!
China’s former art director stepped in to design the paper suite, using line drawings and clean fonts to tie together the save the dates, invitations, and welcome notes.
“I’d tried on a lot of dresses, and always felt like something was missing,” says China. “This dress had everything I was looking for, plus details like the detachable overskirt that I didn’t even know I wanted!” The modern Justin Alexander design featured an open back, cut-out sides, and a flowing overskirt that took the silhouette from sleek to soft.
To complement the clean lines of her wedding gown, China carried a dramatic bouquet of king protea, Queen Anne’s lace, and lots of textured greenery.
Daniel’s custom AyeHommes suit was paired with a mandarin collared shirt. He had the pants hemmed high to show off his black monk strap shoes, accented with creamy suede and patent leather.
As guests arrived for a ceremony in the woods, they picked up cones (made from pages of the couple’s favorite books!) filled with white rose petals.
Daniel’s sister’s boyfriend, hip-hop violinist Marvill Martin, accompanied the ceremony, playing instrumental versions of the couple’s favorite songs from Hamilton. The couple’s charismatic former boss officiated, and even wove lyrics from “I’ll Be There For You/You’re All I Need to Get By” by Method Man and Mary J. Blige into his commentary on the couple’s relationship.
“After we read our vows, our officiant had us turn to face our guests as they repeated words of love and support for us. It was incredibly moving to have them participate in such an emotional moment,” China recalls. After, they did the traditional jumping of the broom.
A close friend is a beverage director and sommelier, so he helped craft the pair’s signature cocktails. His combined dark rum, black walnut bitters, and burnt vanilla syrup, while hers paired mescal, tequila, and ginger beer.
Instead of numbering the tables, China and Daniel named each after a song that reminded them of time spent with the guests who were seated there. The head table was, fittingly, called “Love on Top.”
Inside the barn, long wooden tables were accented with high arrangements of tropical greenery and pops of fuchsia from bright orchids.
Between the taller arrangements, single blooms were tucked into modern bud vases.
The night’s menu included chilled carrot soup, braised flageolet beans with tomatoes and a chèvre and sourdough crouton, mustard- and white wine–braised chicken, and salade niçoise with local trout cakes. “We worked with our lovely caterer, Early Bird Cookery, to create a family-style menu inspired by flavors of the French countryside,” says China. Wedding cake was replaced with sweet potato bourbon bread pudding and apple tarte tatin.
Looking back on their big day the bride has this advice to share: “Daniel and I approached designing our wedding the same way we approach projects for work, assembling inspirational briefs to direct our vendors,” says China. “In the process, we realized there is a lot we didn’t know about planning a wedding, so we made sure to give our team the space and freedom to do what they do best–create.” (Sounds like a great idea to us!)
Day-of Coordination: JCM Planning || Venue: Handsome Hollow || Bride’s Dress: Justin Alexander, from The Bridal Garden || Bride’s Shoes: LK Bennett || Bride’s Jewelry: J.Crew || Hair: Tinika Sadiku for Swivel Beauty || Bridesmaid’s Dress: David’s Bridal || Groom’s Attire: AyeHommes || Engagement Ring: Ben-Dannie || Wedding Bands: Tiffany & Co. || Floral Design: Tierra & Flor || Paper Products: Johari Huggins || Catering: Early Bird Cookery || Bar: Cask and Rasher || Ceremony Music: Marvill Martin || Reception Music: DJ Gambit Bronson || Rentals: Events Unlimited Tent and Party Co. || Transportation: Rolling V Specialty Transportation || Photography: Dacia Pierson of Eager Hearts Photography, The Wedding Artists Co.