Modern Flair Meets Rich Tradition at This Asian-American Wedding at The Foundry in Long Island City, New York
Both first-generation Asian-American immigrants, Rosalee Celis, hailing from the Philippines, and Soe Naing, born in Myanmar, faced unique challenges in the United States. Rosalee reminisces, “Like many first-generation immigrant children, it was difficult to maintain our Asian identity while assimilating to the American culture.” Their paths crossed in the vibrant city of Singapore during a college study abroad program. “We met because of chopsticks,” Rosalee laughs. Their first encounter, intertwined with an ice-breaker game, became an unforgettable memory. “We optimized the six months we had in the country and bonded over trips to historical museums, botanical gardens and Singaporean Hawker Centers,” Rosalee remembers.
Their connection deepened as they navigated the challenges of long-distance, cross-country moves and their first jobs. Together, they explored the world, raised their beloved dogs, and created a home filled with love and shared dreams. “During the pandemic, we had spent every minute of every day in each other’s presence for over a year, but that only made our relationship stronger,” Rosalee reflects. After nearly a decade together, the two got engaged. “Although we would have loved a fun story to match how we met, my husband’s marriage proposal was expected instead.” Their love story had already been written through countless moments of support, understanding, and growth.
Newly engaged and exceptionally inspired, the pair embarked on their planning journey. “The ultimate wedding inspiration for my husband and me was our identity as a modern Asian-American couple.” They imagined a wedding that would blend authentic decor and modern features. “We had a vision to include Asian-inspired decor but maintain a modern and sophisticated aesthetic.”
Rosalee found her dream dress in a mermaid-style design by Galia Lahav. “My dress featured a plunging neckline and low back,” she describes. The gown’s 3-D florals made Rosalee feel like a “walking floral installation throughout the reception,” tying in beautifully with the floral theme of their wedding. Soe chose a “dark-grey suit to contrast from the beige suits of the groomsmen.” The color not only added a stylish distinction but also bridged the black accent colors of the wedding party and was intended to make the white phalaenopsis orchid boutonniere stand out. Additionally, “All the ties worn by the groomsmen and close family featured subtle logos of Soe’s favorite soccer team!”
When their big day arrived on a sunny spring day, the couple prepared to meet at their stunning altar. A cascading collection of white blossoms in an asymmetrical pattern served as the backdrop for their vows, flanked by low candles, winding green vines and suspended greenery overhead. As for the script, the lovebirds had a clear idea. “We opted for a non-religious ceremony script that emphasized cultural symbols from the Philippines and Myanmar,” Rosalee describes.
The bride and groom participated in a few specific customs. “We included the practice of wrapping a veil around the shoulders of the bride and groom (a representation of unity) and placement of an infinity cord over our necks (a representation of our infinite love),” Rosale shares. The bride and groom wanted the smallest members of their wedding party to showcase their cultural heritage. “Our flower girl and ring bearer wore traditional Filipino attire purchased from small Filipino business owners,” explains Rosalee. “The flower girl wore a ‘Filipiniana’ dress with hand-painted white flowers, and the ring bearer wore a ‘barong’ identified by its sheer embroidered fabric.”
“Per our Asian culture, we first paid respects to our parents by recognizing them within the first speech of the night during the ceremony,” says the bride. “We thanked our parents for their journey to fulfill the ‘American Dream’ and asked them to see our wedding as a product of their hard work.” Their speech also highlighted the significance of food in Asian culture and the representation of two homes becoming one through serving Burmese and Filipino dishes during the reception.
With the talk of delicious food, guests were excited to move into the reception space and get seated for dinner. The dim-lit room featured simple orchid centerpieces, delicate votives, soft blue linens and a cloud-like floral installation with white-and-yellow blooms overhead. Orchids became a common theme in the floral design, from the ceremony to the reception. These flowers held a special place in their hearts as they symbolized the origins of their relationship. “One of our first dates was a visit to Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay which featured a variety of orchids,” shares the bride. The floral designs focused on minimalism and negative space, allowing the natural beauty of the surroundings to shine.
The reception table settings were intentionally designed to evoke a sense of family dinners (Cóllectives by Diana expertly designed and planner the entire thing!). Rosalee adds, “An abundance of candles filled the tabletops to emphasize the intimacy of our wedding.” The stationary design played a significant role in elevating the details of their wedding, blending both Asian and modern elements seamlessly. The newlyweds provided a delectable menu that, from appetizers to desserts, including the cocktail hour hors d’oeuvres, showcased the rich flavors of Asian cuisine. “Our wedding cake was also a custom flavor containing pandan cream, a signature flavor of Singapore, to honor the roots of our love story,” Rosalee recounts.
Regarding advice for other couples, Rosalee and Soe keep it simple. “Don’t be afraid to ask for customization from your vendors – particularly from your florist and caterer! Incorporating as many personalized and cultural elements into your wedding makes the night uniquely yours!”