The details are up for debate—they knew they met 13 or 14 years ago in the Atlanta art and music scene—but one thing’s for sure: bridal salon owner Gabrielle Lee and filmmaker Raymond Carr were meant to be in each other’s lives forever. Though the couple remained platonic friends for years, a clandestine night out changed the course of their relationship forever.
“[Someone] asked me why I wasn’t dating the incredibly good-looking and kind guy that just swooped in to save the late night, and well, I just didn’t have a good answer,” Gabrielle says. “So many things clicked and I realized he had been my person for a lot longer than either of us still care to admit. Raymond and I shared a first kiss that night outside the bar and it was pretty much game over after that.”
Both Gabrielle and Raymond agree that they most likely met at Atlanta’s Carroll St. Café, which made it the perfect place for him to propose in February 2021. “We ordered our go-to meals and took wine glasses outside to the courtyard to wait in the fresh air,” she recalls. “I talked about the sweetest bride we helped that day who brought tears to my eyes while Raymond fumbled around with his pockets, finally getting on one knee and nervously babbling about the ring and about how much happier I made everything. There were tears and yeses, and then a few regulars came from around the corner with Champagne and well wishes.”
Eight months later, the couple returned to the cafe with 60 of their favorite people to become husband and wife. As the founder of The Sentimentalist—a bridal salon in Atlanta—Gabrielle has helped brides create their dream day. But, when it came to her own nuptials, she wanted to host a party that reflected her and Raymond.
“I always envisioned something late-night, in a crowded restaurant with high fashion, lots of candlelight, plenty of levity, and an epic dance party,” she says. “Something sentimental and memorable, not too serious, but still so romantic.”
With a little help from Kristine Cooke of Simply Charming Socials, the day was everything the couple had imagined: the perfect happily ever after to their dynamic love story. Read on for an intimate look at the day, as photographed by Jeremy Harwell of Harwell Photography.
We made every move intentionally, to reflect us and nothing else.
From the moment Raymond and Gabrielle got engaged, they knew they wanted to have a wedding that was completely on their terms. “We didn’t feel beholden to do anything ‘expected’ or even just simply out of necessity,” the bride shares. “We made every move intentionally, to reflect us and nothing else.” The couple kicked of the festivities on the right foot with these pared-back-yet-personable invitations from Ashley Buzzy of Press Shop.
Carroll Street Cafe is a homebase for the couple and their inner circle—so it was only fitting that it played an integral role in their special day. “I wanted the event to feel like one of the great art parties we attended while dating—a pop-up performance space in a public area that one could only use for a wedding if they didn’t care about the rules,” Gabrielle explains. “That was us and I wanted to find a space to do us justice.”
Hours after the couple got engaged, Gabrielle slipped on some sidewalk stairs—breaking her leg and shattering her ankle. This required a lengthy recovery in the process. Though she wanted to sport heels on her special day, hitting the dance floor was much more important. She said that she ultimately opted for a pair of studded combat boots, which had the “presence and attitude” that she needed.
The groom looked dapper in an ivory silk dinner jacket and tuxedo pants from Guffey’s of Atlanta. Rounding out the look was a set of custom set of gold cufflinks and crystal collar chain from Hushed Commotion.
One of the couple’s favorite parts of the day was their first look, which lasted two hours. “We met just across the street from the venue, at the historic Oakland Cemetery for a few shots in the iconic—and, yeah, maybe a little morbid—Atlanta skyline spot,” the bride shares.
We leaned into a classic shape, reminiscent of a ballet waltz gown.
As the proud owner of a bridal salon, Gabrielle wanted to stray away from the typical white gown. Instead, the bride stunned in a black silk moire gown, made in collaboration with Elizabeth Dye. “She was my first boss in the industry and has been a dear friend and mentor ever since,” she says. “We’ve also carried her collection since day one and it’s a constant inspiration. She’s the queen of colorful bridal and her silhouettes are truly vintage-inspired, so we leaned into a classic shape, reminiscent of a ballet waltz gown.”
Of course, the first look fun didn’t end at the big reveal. “We then took a short joyride to some of our favorite city spots, with [photographer] Jeremy Harwell close behind,” Gabrielle adds. “A longtime girlfriend of mine brought out her 1963 Mercury Comet convertible to drive us around the city and eventually to our venue.”
After the couple’s first look-turned-photoshoot, Raymond and Gabrielle met their family and walked over to their ceremony in Atlanta’s Whisper Park.
Since the ceremony started after dark, the couple placed small votive candles in every nook and cranny. “The inspiration was loosely inspired by the Phantom’s descent deep beneath the Paris Opera House,” the bride shares. “When we walked around the corner to see the fiery secret space, I gasped at the transcendence. It was the Christine Daaë moment I couldn’t have dreamt of.”
The bride walked down the aisle to an a cappella version of Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend.“ “Yeah, we know. It’s a breakup song,” Gabrielle says. “But for us, it’s a ‘break-up with everything else but you’ song. It’s the song Raymond would play on his DJ nights at Carroll Street whenever I walked in the bar, the song that kept me afloat after my divorce, and actually, a song Elizabeth Dye introduced me to during long days of heartbreak and wedding dress slingin’ at the English department. It’s odd, but it’s our song. I can’t hardly describe what it was like to hear the acapella version being softly sung from the park while we approached.”
Raymond kept me so calm and smiley that I was able to keep myself together and still truly enjoy the moment
With their friend Tarik—who is also the bartender of Carrol Street Cafe—presiding over the ceremony, Gabrielle and Raymond felt comfortable to recite personalized vows. “I haven’t been the best with vulnerability since knowing Raymond, so I really wanted to gift him a hearty dose of heartfelt mushy romance,” she shares. “We wrote our own vows. I thought they would feel impossible to read aloud, but Raymond kept me so calm and smiley that I was able to keep myself together and still truly enjoy the moment. It was emotional, but joyful.”
The couple exchanged wedding bands—courtesy of Worthmore Jewelers—and sealed their marriage with a kiss.
Kristine Cooke of Simply Charming Events took the reins on the reception, transforming the cafe with antique lounge furniture, velvet linens, and moody accents. “We swapped out all the bar art with antique mirrors. Philo Floral brought hundreds of red roses and carnations onto the wall and mirrors behind the table, sprinkling in the occasional lily or spray of white baby’s breath,” the bride adds.
Though Carroll Street Cafe took care of the cocktail hour, catering company Craft & Curation delivered with a mouth-watering dining menu of Southern classics. Highlights include fried chicken, pulled pork, collard greens, and macaroni and cheese. “She even included a personal pan of banana pudding, topped with cookie chess pieces, and folded with fresh whipped cream,” Gabrielle shares. “It never made its way to the dinner table but came out at around 3 a.m. in the lobby of the iconic Hotel Clermont. We grabbed plastic forks from the coffee cart and created one of our favorite memories with a handful of late-night friends stunned by the magically appearing banana pudding.”
“[There was also] an epic arrangement to hang from the end of the bar,” Gabrielle explains. “We kept the dance room in a metallic party mode: disco balls, gold fringe, strings lights, and colorful lighting.”
I wanted our wedding day to be a collection of our favorite things, not just a collection of expectations and obligations.
The newlyweds managed to sneak away to take some extra pictures with Harwell. “I wanted our wedding day to be a collection of our favorite things, not just a collection of expectations and obligations,” she shares. “Driving around Atlanta, music up and top down, taking pics at our favorite landmarks with Raymond in that suit was downright magical.”
The night was filled with well wishes and toasts from their inner circle. “We only did what we wanted, invited who we wanted, participated in the traditions we wanted to, and that’s what made the night so magical,” the bride shares.
After dinner, Gabrielle slipped into a stunning marigold gown from Tara LaTour and joined her husband for their first dance to Gallant’s “Weight in Gold.” From there, Mike Stazny rocked the night with a lively playlist.
Though Gabrielle and Raymond had a clear vision since day one, the bride says their dream day wouldn’t have been possible without a team of committed vendors. “Hire professionals and let them do their thing—it’s liberating,” she says. “It was our sixth year together and my ninth in the Atlanta wedding industry, so most of the vendor selection was done before it started,” she shares. “I knew that I could stress over vendor selection forever, so instead I just booked people I enjoy working with—quickly and decisively—and then I didn’t look back.”