Home » A Retro Wedding at JFK’s TWA Hotel in New York City

A Retro Wedding at JFK’s TWA Hotel in New York City

by Staff

It was October 2013, and it was a meet-cute for the ages. “We met on the dance floor at a club,” Anthony Zimmer and Joseph “JJ” Hartmann say of their first encounter. “Anthony spied JJ, thought he was cute, and motioned for him to come over and dance. JJ had to leave early and his phone was dead, so Anthony made him memorize his name so he could look him up on social media.”

The plan succeeded. The two connected via social media shortly after and, six years later, took the next big step. “We got engaged in Iceland in May 2019,” the couple shares. “We were on the last day of our vacation and had spent the day hiking and driving around the western part of the island. We rented a little cabin for that night.” They continue, “JJ asked Anthony out onto the deck and told him that he wanted to travel with him forever and proposed—and Anthony accepted and bawled his eyes out.”

Back in New York that very same month, the ribbon was cut on the TWA Hotel, a retro venue in Queens near JFK airport. Originally the terminal for now defunct airline TWA, built in 1962 by famed architect Eero Saarinen, the hotel is an homage to the ’60s and a celebration of the jet era—perfect for two grooms who love to travel. Anthony and JJ quickly booked the venue for an October 2020 wedding, but it wasn’t to be. “The hardest part of planning was having to switch our wedding day,” the couple remembers. “The pandemic forced us to switch from an October date to a June date. It was a little stressful to get all of our guests on the same page, but the hotel was wonderful in handling all the logistics of venue and room changes.” 

Anthony and JJ worked with the hotel’s event coordinator to hammer out the details, and on June 25, 2021, they finally hosted their 135 guests for a celebration worthy of the wait: a travel-themed wedding with a touch of nostalgia. Read on to see all the retro homages and DIY details of the big day, planned by the grooms and photographed by Hannah Jan Photo.

Besides the TWA Hotel’s events coordinator, the grooms didn’t hire a wedding planner. Instead, they channeled their own creative energy into various wedding projects—starting with the invitations. We designed all the printed materials ourselves,” Anthony and JJ share. “We made our website and designed our save-the-dates, change-the-dates, and invites, the table settings, flowers, and name cards.” 

“We visited the TWA Hotel shortly after getting engaged, for a staycation for JJ’s birthday,” the couple says. “We mused, ‘Wouldn’t this be an amazing place to get married?’ We love traveling together and the retro, nostalgic vibe of the TWA Hotel was the perfect fit.”

Both grooms donned dark navy tuxedos from Suitsupply for the occasion, paired with standard bow ties and cufflinks. And, when things went awry, they rolled with the punches: “We were going to wear boutonnieres, but the flower shop messed up and made corsages instead. So, we went with pocket squares.”

We wanted to feature the beauty of the venue and highlight our travels together.

“We wanted to feature the beauty of the venue and highlight our travels together,” share the grooms. “It was also important to us to keep things rather simple to enable us to enjoy our day instead of getting bogged down by minutia.” They picked the right venue for a minimalist affair. The hotel’s iconic architecture speaks for itself. 

We didn’t have a specific color scheme, but everything in the hotel is red and white so we based the color of our tuxedos and our flowers—birds of paradise—on what would be complementary to that,” share the grooms.

Opting not to use an official wedding planner, the couple enjoyed the planning process and took their time. “It was quite easy,” they admit. “The hotel handled catering and the bar, and we handled planning everything else. We played our own music and chose or created our own decor—so we were able to plan most things at our own pace.”

Before the ceremony, guests enjoyed cocktail hour in the hotel lobby, which features the gorgeous sweeping ceilings designed by Eero Saarinen.

In keeping with its color scheme, the hotel provided retro red chairs for the outdoor ceremony and once again, the grooms were not deterred when things didn’t go as planned. “We had a backdrop, but it was windy and it got knocked over, so we decided not to use it,” they remember. Instead, they embraced one major existing showpiece: a 1958 Lockheed Constellation—a type of historic flyer originally commissioned by TWA owner Howard Hughes—dubbed Connie. (Once a passenger jet, the plane has been refurbished into a unique cocktail lounge for the hotel.)

Following their parents, Anthony and JJ walked down the aisle together, hand in hand, to a tune fitting their travel theme: “Oh, What A World,” by Kacey Musgraves. 

We wrote our own vows and picked all music that we like and represents who we are.

The ceremony was touching and personal.We wrote our own vows and picked all music that we like and represents who we are; we also wrote the ceremony script,” the couple tells us.  They incorporated a quote from the famed 2015 Supreme Court ruling that declared same-sex marriage constitutional nationwide.

The grooms shared a kiss and a hug after “I do”—and for their celebratory recessional, selected another on-theme song: Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth.” 

As [the ceremony] was visible from the lobby of the hotel, many people stopped to watch.

“The ceremony was out on the tarmac behind the hotel and in front of Connie,” the couple remembers. “As it was visible from the lobby of the hotel, many people stopped to watch. Guests of the wedding saw—and some captured video of—people cheering as we ended the ceremony with a kiss.”

The reception was held in the Constellation Ballroom, with place settings and linens provided by the hotel. “The centerpieces were vintage postcards from places we had visited, and the name cards were designed to look like little boarding passes,” the couple explains. But the florals? Those were an ode to New York—or at least the way they were sourced was: “Our flowers were birds of paradise that we purchased at a bodega!”

Selecting the menu was one of the easiest parts of planning for Anthony and JJ. “We had a tasting at the hotel and they had an extensive menu—but we both agreed on the dishes pretty easily,” they share. “In addition to hors d’oeuvres, we had a raw bar and French fry bar. For the main meal, we had three courses in addition to cake.”

The grooms didn’t create a signature drink—but that didn’t deter guests, who loaded up on martinis and other colorful cocktails. 

In the moment, he was so sweet and sincere that I felt like we were floating above the dance floor.

Both grooms agree their first dance as newlyweds—to Tim McGraw’s “It’s Your Love”—was one of the most special moments of the day. “I didn’t think much of these dedicated dances, but JJ was so adamant that we have one and had a song picked out from the get-go—‘It’s Your Love,’ an ode to our country upbringings,” Anthony remembers. “In the moment, he was so sweet and sincere that I felt like we were floating above the dance floor like in the movie ‘Casper,’ all eyes on us. It was so moving, I’m sure we will never forget it.”

JJ and Anthony even handled the music for their reception. “We played our own music and curated a playlist for dinner and for dancing,” they say. They did take special requests in advance—resulting in another memorable moment.

“JJ’s mom had just had surgery on her knee and was in a wheelchair for the wedding,” the couple explains. “Per her request, ‘Little Willy’ by Sweet was on the playlist. When the song came on she was wheeled out to the dance floor and stole the show with her dance moves and enthusiasm. Everyone was dancing in a circle around her, singing at the top of their lungs, and taking turns wheeling her about.” Other guests waved rainbow flags in celebration. 

The four-tier Funfetti cake with lemon curd filling and white frosting from Buttercookery Bakery was one of their easiest planning decisions. 

After a perfect night and one last kiss, the couple soaked up summer before heading to the Galapagos Islands for a honeymoon a few months later. Looking back, they wouldn’t change a thing. “It may be a cliche, but don’t sweat the small stuff,” Anthony and JJ advise other couples. “At the very least, your family and friends will be with you to celebrate your love. That’s what you will remember—not what you had for dinner or what the centerpieces looked like.”

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