When Taelor Pawnell connected with Aaron Fleming on OkCupid in 2017, she was fairly new to New York City. So, he promised to plan a date that neither of them had experienced before. “Our first date lasted hours exploring the Madame Tussauds Museum in Times Square,” Taelor shares. “It included awkward pictures with wax figures, a VR Ghostbuster experience, and making wax molds of our hands, all followed by a 11 p.m. dinner at Ruby Tuesday. It was the start of our New York love story—and we’ve been inseparable ever since.”
On New Year’s Eve 2020—“what I call the best day of the worst year ever,” Taelor says—Aaron orchestrated a sweet at-home proposal. Taelor had no idea it was coming. “He had been pushing for us to go all out to create a romantic dinner for ourselves, and offered for someone to come over and do my hair and nails. I said no to both,” she recalls. “Aaron catered in our favorite food and decorated our living room. I immediately forced us into cleaning mode afterward, but as I was sitting on the couch, Aaron got down on one knee and proposed. I was so surprised; I couldn’t say yes quick enough.”
Their vision for the wedding was glam, moody, romantic, and eclectic. “The planning process was wild,” says Taelor, a content creator and blogger. “It was full of stress, but I enjoyed sharing my journey and planning process on TikTok. My online family helped support me in a lot of the decisions, which made the process fun.”
The couple was budget-conscious, and saved money where they could. “The hardest part of the planning process was balancing our budget with my grand vision,” the bride shares. “Because I’m so detail-oriented, I often found myself focused on the small details and didn’t take enough moments to zoom out and look at the entire picture.” They selected Brooklyn’s The W Loft for its affordability and stellar views, and worked with a day-of rather than a full-service planner.
There were also plenty of DIYs, which luckily is Taelor’s forte. “We have a small business, Shop Stylish Sista, where we sell mostly stickers, and we knew we wanted to incorporate them into our big day. We created stickers of us as wedding favors, as well as a sticker escort wall. I created ‘AplusTae’ branding that we utilized throughout everything from drink tags to custom napkins.”
In the end, her grand vision was realized. Read on to see how it all came together on September 4, 2022, planned by Debbie Lucy at On-Time Event Planning Services and photographed by Haley Poling and Larisa Shorina.
“Being a creative director and sticker shop owner allowed me to design and print many things for our wedding,” Taelor says. “Our invitation suite was a labor of love, inspired by our mixed-metals wedding vibe and the New York city skyline. I designed and cut inserts that featured the skyline, used our favorite engagement photo as a vellum insert, got custom stamps with our branding, and embossed the envelopes. It set the tone and really got our guests hyped for the wedding.”
“It was important to me to look and feel like myself, so I opted for natural glam. I really wanted my dress to be the star of the show,” Taelor says. “I loved the idea of doing a romantic, modern take on the classic Hollywood glam waves.” She topped her hair with a Lelet New York crystal headband. “I love that headband so much I’ve reworn it countless times, because it adds that little extra to any outfit,” shares the bride.
“I had a very hard time shopping for a wedding dress that was my style and in my budget, being plus-sized,” Taelor shares. “I honestly thought custom was out of the question until I started researching different designers. When I found Princess of Elarose Sweet Weddings, I sent her every aspect of what I wanted my dress to include and she sent back a sketch of my wedding dress. I cried seeing that sketch was the first time, because I pictured myself at the altar as a bride. That’s how I knew it was the one.” The gown was a rhinestone-encrusted trumpet style adorned with organza bows, and brought all the drama Taelor was hoping for. She kept her accessories minimal and opted for a pair of Nike Air Forces 1s instead of heels.
Aaron wore a burgundy suit with silk-covered peak lapels from Suitsupply and customized it with personal details. “He got our wedding date [stitched] underneath the collar and customized the inside of the jacket with a floral pattern,” Taelor says. “He also wore ace of spade cufflinks as a nod to his gamer tag and dating profile name. And, we made sure to pin a picture of his late grandma to his boutonniere.”
It was a moment that felt like it was just Aaron and I, which is now a core memory in the controlled chaos.
The couple had a unique idea for photos: They rented a photo studio not far from the venue to get ready at and pose for artistic portraits. It’s also where they did their first look. “After the first look we shared our personal vows with each other,” Taelor remembers. “We also exchanged wedding bands, as we both engraved them with something special and kept it a secret from each other. It was a moment that felt like it was just Aaron and I, which is now a core memory that I really appreciated during the controlled chaos that is the wedding day.”
Their wedding party joined in for photos after the first look. “A huge aspect of pulling through our wedding theme was our mixed-metal bridesmaids’ outfits,” Taelor says. “I wanted to choose something that was not common and that allowed each of my bridesmaids to have a fashionable moment that showed off their unique sense of style.”
They kept ceremony decor understated to allow the skyline to shine. “We chose a thick arch with flowers in hues of purple to frame us,” Taelor says. “I also loved the idea of the chairs in a [semicircle] as a way to surround us in love.”
“As a child of a single mother, I did a lot of research on the tradition of a parent walking the bride down the aisle, and felt strongly that Aaron and I should walk into our marriage together, versus me being given away,” Taelor shares. “So, I walked myself down the aisle and Aaron met me halfway. Everyone absolutely loved it, so much so that our guests clapped when Aaron met me.”
They recited both personal and traditional vows during the ceremony. “I included a roses-are-red poem as a sequel to the poem I wrote Aaron asking him to be my boyfriend,” Taelor says. “Aaron’s vows were sweet, heartfelt, and, in classic Aaron fashion, funny.”
Just as she had with planning, the bride wanted to involve her social media community. “It was important to us to include our online family and friends, as they had supported us along the entire wedding journey,” she says. “We worked with LoveStream to live stream our wedding online. There was a live chat and virtual guest book for people to sign. At one point, there were more than 800 guests watching our wedding from all over the world.”
“I ended up tackling a lot more DIY projects than I originally anticipated. Although they were tedious, they played a key part in making our wedding special,” Taelor says. Her pièce de résistance was the escort board. “I drew and created stickers of every single guest and, with the help of my friends, we ironed on all 75 names and assembled them the week of the wedding. The sticker packs created an escort wall that I hadn’t seen done before and that really surprised our guests.”
Bud vases and disco ball flower arrangements adorned tables at the indoor reception. “Each place setting included a gold-rimmed charger, fuchsia satin napkin, custom sticker sheets of Aaron and I as a favor, and custom name tag place cards,” says the bride.
The menu was a nod to both the bride and groom’s culture. “I’m Black from the South, and Aaron is Black and Haitian,” Taelor shares. “Our wedding menu consisted of mini chicken and waffles, Haitian beef patties, and crab cakes as hors d’oeuvres. For dinner, we gave guests the option of a sweet chili jerk salmon, garlic roasted chicken, or vegan risotto.”
Upon making their grand entrance, the couple hit the floor for their first dance to “La Vie en Rose” by Louis Armstrong. Then, “after dancing with our moms, we both danced with our grandmas to ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ by Stevie Wonder.”
They pegged their favorite bakery, Buttermilk Bakeshop, to create a modern cake that would allow their unique cake topper—an ultra-realistic 3D scan of the couple created by Dopl—to shine. “We got a small two-tier cake and had a dessert table, as we’d heard a tip that not everyone eats the wedding cake.”
The couple repurposed their ceremony arch into a photo booth back on the terrace. “We added ‘Stylin’ and Profilin’’ on it, as a nod to my social name, Stylish Sista.”
“Because Aaron and his friends are gamers, we had a custom arcade cabinet created by Big Day Games at the reception,” Taelor says. “They had 16-bit versions of me and Aaron put into the game, where we fought zombies. It was so cool to watch everyone compete for the high score.”
After a sparkler exit, guests left the venue and the newlyweds stayed behind for a private last dance. “As the vendors started to break down and clean up the space, Aaron and I slow danced to ‘Pillows’ by Emanuel and recapped our favorite moments of day,” Taelor remembers. “The whole wedding day goes by so quickly—but in that moment, time stopped.”