Go Inside 'SluttyPuffin' Creator Michael Mendieta and Whitaker Irvin Jr.'s Newport Wedding
At first glance, you might not recognize Michael Mendieta's name—but you certainly know his memes. The 32-year-old writer and creative director is the mastermind behind SluttyPuffin, a viral meme account that's racked up nearly half a million followers on Instagram. The pop culture connoisseur is a self-proclaimed CMO (that's "chief meme officer"), thanks to his innate understanding of internet humor…the kind you'd only understand if you're "chronically online," as some say.
On Thursday, September 14, 2023, Michael married his partner Whitaker Irvin Jr., 38, the CEO of a sustainable energy company. The "modern Great Gatsby" nuptials took place at Rosecliff Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island—and we have your first look at their wedding here.
While the SluttyPuffin account is mostly dedicated to memes, followers often get a glimpse of Michael's personal life through Instagram Stories and the occasional face-baring in-feed moment. Take, for example, his engagement announcement shared in August 2021. After matching on a dating app in Boston in 2020, Michael and Whitaker took their fast connection long distance. (At the time, Michael was in the area on a month-long break from New York City while Whitaker was based in Park City, Utah.) After four dates in a row and a trip to New Orleans, Michael moved in with Whitaker in a matter of months.
The following year, while on a trip to Rome, Whitaker dropped to one knee in front of Castel de Sant'Angelo, a towering rotunda across from the Vatican. It was somewhat of a surprise for Michael; After they arrived in Italy two days late because of flight delays, they had no time to spare before dinner reservations that night. On the way to the restaurant, their car pulled over to the side of the road where a violinist was serenading them. "Whitaker led me down to the water, and he proposed," Michael remembers. "I was so shocked."
He popped the question with a vintage ring featuring a 1950s gold band and a 6-carat Columbian emerald. Mere minutes after becoming fiancés, Amber Mark's song "HEAT" played out from speakers at a nearby restaurant—an important detail that would later come into play on their wedding day.
Michael returned the gesture by proposing to Whitaker at Marble House, one of Rhode Island's renowned Gilded Age mansions. "I think he was also shocked, because earlier that day, he said something to me like, 'We should just pick up a band or something for me to wear,'" Michael recalls. "And then, boom, I proposed with his ring." (The ring in question is a custom band made of six Ceylon sapphires and platinum, created by Baranof Jewelers in Park City.)
Given their ties to the New England area—not only is it where they got engaged again, it's where Michael grew up and Whitaker attended school—setting their sights on a Newport wedding venue felt like a natural decision. "We got married at Rosecliff Mansion," Michael says of the historic estate, noting it was the very first venue they toured. "I wanted something that had that old-world, European-style venue and this was the perfect place to get that look (without having to go back to Rome!)."
Since Rosecliff was undergoing renovations at the time, Michael and Whitaker (proud members of The Knot's Most Influential Weddings crew of 2022) enjoyed a "beautiful and long" two-year engagement. When the wedding week finally arrived in September 2023, 135 of the couple's nearest and dearest arrived in the coastal town for a weekend of events.
Michael's inspiration for the big day was "something like a modern Great Gatsby." (A fitting descriptor, considering the 1974 movie of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel was filmed at Rosecliff.) "I wanted the whole wedding to have an old-meets-new feel."
The grooms enlisted the help of Ashley Lynn of Ashley Lynn Events to make their larger-than-life vision a reality. With an "end of summer" aesthetic in mind, they incorporated elements of lush greenery and minimal gold accents to enhance the natural beauty of the Gilded Age mansion.
Although they kept additional decor pieces to a minimum so as to not take away from the venue, the couple intentionally splurged on floral arrangements, courtesy of husband-and-wife duo Bowen and Elizabeth Daly from BeGrowCo. "Our florists are flower farmers and designers," Michael explains. "We wanted the flowers to feel super organic, like they were growing out from the tables and the floor. They achieved this style perfectly."
Those exact floral arrangements, along with specific rooms in their wedding venue, served as the inspiration for their paper goods, which they sourced on The Knot. "Most of our stationery was green or white with gold accents. I wanted it to be an extension of the room (which was gold and white) or an extension of the flowers (which were green)," Michael muses. "The Knot made it so easy to get inspired for our stationery—it was actually one of the easier planning tasks."
Before the wedding events began, Michael and Whitaker shared a private first look at their nearby rental. "I simply walked down the staircase and stood next to Whitaker," Michael shares of the simple moment, adding that they used this extra space to their advantage. "We chose to stay the week in a venue that could also be photographed so we could take family pictures before the wedding. That saved us a lot of time in the long run."
When it came to attire, the grooms wore custom suits that were "tailored to perfection" by Bespoke Custom Clothing in Salt Lake City. Whitaker opted for a Dormeuil blue paisley worsted wool and silk design, while Michael selected a Dormeuil green and black worsted wool and silk ensemble—both of which gave off an iridescent glow. "We loved that our suits looked almost black from far away, but up close, you could see the details," they share.
As the ceremony began, Michael was escorted down the aisle by his parents, and Whitaker was accompanied by his mother, both to the tune of Henry Mancini's "Lujon." In lieu of a wedding party, the couple stood alone at the altar as they recited their own vows. (Looking back, Whitaker says "staring at Michael's eyes as he read his vows" was his favorite memory.)
After officially becoming husbands, Michael and Whitaker left to sign their marriage license while a quartet of violinists from Naavi Strings transitioned the guests to cocktail hour. As if the venue wasn't beautiful enough, a vibrant pink and blue sunset cast a gorgeous, golden glow over the lawn as guests sipped champagne and Aperol spritzes (and captured sky pictures for the 'gram).
The food was inspired by some of the couple's favorite cuisines, like fresh seafood (a nod to Newport) and po' boy sandwiches (in honor of their early trip to New Orleans). "We wanted the food to be local with lots of inspiration from the surrounding sea," the couple says of their menu selections.
Then came one of the biggest delights of the night. Amber Mark—whose song coincidentally played after the couple's Italian engagement—performed "Waiting" for the grooms' first dance. Despite her close friendship with the couple, Michael still calls the experience "mind-blowing," adding that it was his favorite memory of the day: "Having Amber sing our first dance song was so magical."
Reflecting on their planning journey, one of the best tips Whitaker and Michael learned was on a trip to Guatemala with The Knot. "The biggest learning we took away was to do all of the wedding programming back-to-back. Once you get the dance floor going, do not stop," they suggest.
Following speeches, the grooms indulged in their wedding cake: a red velvet confection that followed Whitaker's grandmother's family recipe. "Sin Desserts worked so hard to get the science of the cake right," Michael shares. "Since the recipe is old, some of the ingredients have changed but they were able to perfect the cake." Using Michael's grandmother's wedding cake cutter from 1944, the grooms sliced into the sentimental sweet treat, which was covered in hyper-realistic sugar flowers.
From there, DJ Sheldon of Epic Entertainment Boston kept the dance floor full (and the energy high) by queuing everything from groovy '70s tunes to modern hits.
Rather than invest in a photo booth, Michael and Whitaker placed polaroids and disposable cameras on the reception tables for guests to snap memories throughout the evening.
After the final song—Daft Punk's "One More Time"—the guests exited to the tune of "My Way" by Frank Sinatra. It was, in a word, "perfect," according to the newlyweds.
Looking back, there was one snafu that instantly became a cherished memory for the couple. "The 1964 Rolls Royce we rented broke down right as we turned to enter the driveway of the venue," Michael recalls. "Whitaker had to jump out to help push it to the mansion! Luckily some amazing strangers jumped off their bikes to help us push it up and get it off the road. My first thought was, 'What an amazing story this is going to be for our kids.'"
Whitaker Irvin Jr. and Michael Mendieta's Wedding Vendors
Wedding Venue: Rosecliff Mansion, Newport, Rhode Island; Photographer: Kindred Weddings; Videographer: JL Films; Planner: Ashley Lynn Events; Florist: BeGrowCo; Officiant: David Raynal; Groom's Suits: Bespoke Custom Clothing; Accessories: Breitling; Shoes: Allen Edmonds; Engagement Ring: Baranof Jewelers; Wedding Bands: Tiffany and Co.; Grooming: Jessica D' Amore, Indy Rouge; Invitations: The Knot; Place Cards: The Knot; Menus: The Knot; Rental Equipment: Peak Event Services; Catering: Blackstone Caterers; Cake: Sin Desserts; Music: Epic Entertainment Boston; Violin Quartet: Naavi Strings; Transportation: Limos of Newport, Newport Travel Trolley Tours; Registry: The Knot