When we ask newlyweds to think back on what they wanted most for their big day — and we’ve interviewed hundreds of them over the years — the most common response is “For it not to feel like a wedding!” But in a monsoon of flower crowns and macaron towers, how do you see beyond the usual tropes and actually pull off a non-cookie-cutter affair? For the answer, we decided to interrogate the cool couples whose weddings we would actually want to steal — right down to the tiger-shaped cake toppers. Though we’re living in a moment in which group celebrations are either being called off or adapting to extreme social distancing, in many ways these pre-quarantine parties are just the escape we need right now.
Here, we spoke with Laia Garcia-Furtado, the features director at Garage magazine, and Jack Furtado, a filmmaker and director of facilities for the communications department at Adelphi University. Last July, they invited their friends and family to gather in a remote, southwestern town in Laia’s native Puerto Rico for their wedding. Bright, tropical flowers and floral prints set the mood, while tamarind- and guava-flavored pitorro flowed and Bad Bunny blasted. The evening ended with a bonfire and a leap into the Caribbean Sea.
Jack: We met on Tinder, and it fucking worked out, which is shocking. This was in 2015. For our first date, we went to Soda Bar on Vanderbilt and spoke until two in the morning. It felt like I had just met somebody who I had been friends with for a very long time.
Laia: We went on the second date the next day and our third date the day after that. It was just so natural. Everything is better when he’s around. We got engaged a couple of days after our third anniversary in 2018.
Jack: We went to one of our favorite places, Barboncino, and had pizza and wine. Then we walked to Grand Army Plaza, just as we had on our first date.
Laia: When we turned right onto Eastern Parkway, I knew that it was going to happen. He dropped on one knee underneath the arch. I was still carrying leftover pizza, and I started crying.
Jack: It was deserted at 11:30 p.m. It was just us, and it was really nice.
Laia: We knew from the beginning that we were going to get married in Puerto Rico, and we knew it needed to be on the beach. Puerto Rican weddings are party time, and I just wanted that.
Jack: A wedding is a six-hour party, and I wanted to keep that as central to our planning as possible — not get too caught up in the details. We wanted to be there to have fun and make sure our guests had fun.
Laia: I grew up in San Juan. Overall, I was really excited to have everyone come to the place where I grew up — to share this part of myself. Most of my friends hadn’t been to Puerto Rico, so it was like, If I’m making you spend money to fly and get a hotel, I just want you to have such a good time.
Jack: We spend pretty much every Christmas there. That’s the annual trip.
Laia: The wedding was at the Copamarina in the southwest part of the island in a town called Guánica. There are tourists there, but it’s definitely a place where Puerto Ricans go on vacation too. It’s a two-and-a-half- to three-hour drive from the airport in San Juan. We’d been there a bunch of times when I was growing up — my mom really loves the place. The ecosystem there is really different than it is on the rest of the island — very dry. There are cacti by the beach. It’s definitely not a place for first-time travelers to Puerto Rico.
Jack: The resort is very remote. A lot of people from my side of the family, and our friends, came up a week early and spent some time in San Juan before driving to the venue. We gave them a whole list of places to go and things to do while they were there. People definitely made the most of it.
Laia: I hired a wedding planner out of Puerto Rico — an incredible woman named Krizia Diaz. The wedding coordinator at the resort recommended her. Everything we brought in we found through the wedding planner, including this red flower that I knew I wanted. We sort of planned everything around them — the colors were red and blue and just very bright and tropical.
Jack: I wore a seersucker Thom Browne suit. They had seersucker white-and-blue and white-and-gray, but they didn’t have white-and-white, which was what I wanted to wear. So we had it custom-made by one of the tailors there. It was so baller. It was the most I’d ever spent on clothing, and probably will ever spend, but it felt extremely worth it. Having a super fashion-y wife, I was like, “Okay, I’ve got to step up to the plate here.” My family has commented on how my fashion has evolved just being in her orbit.
Laia: My dress was Jil Sander. This sounds like a really snobby story, but I was in Milan covering Fashion Week, and the Jil Sander show was really beautiful. I’ve never been a person who’s ever thought about weddings, but sometimes you see a white dress and think, I could get married in that. That’s how I felt when this white dress came down the runway. After I got engaged — honestly, it was after I knew that Jack had gone to see a ring — I began to think about dresses. I looked, looked, looked, and couldn’t find anything that I liked that I could afford. Then I remembered the Jil Sander dress and thought about how it would probably be on sale by now. So I went to the store on Madison, and they had it in my size and on sale. I bought it with a freelance check. It was sheer, so I tried a bunch of stuff on underneath but thought that a colored slip pulled focus from the dress. I ended up wearing one of the Margiela nude bodysuits underneath. We did a first look right in our hotel room.
Jack: There are photos that show the complete look of shock on my face. She looked gorgeous. It was awesome.
Laia: I let my bridal party choose whatever they wanted — basically just “tropical colors” — but because I’m addicted to The RealReal, I still sent them dresses. My friend Meghan wore a pink Rachel Comey dress that I saw on the site, and my friend Tavi wore this really pretty, floral, green Marni dress that I’d originally liked for myself, save for the fact that it wasn’t my size. It was perfect for her.
Jack: The officiant was probably the easiest decision of the entire wedding. Laia and I both come from Catholic backgrounds, but we didn’t want that to dominate our wedding. We didn’t want a priest, and our wedding planner knew this woman, Antonia Mari. We chose her because when we met, she said she’d officiated a wedding in a cemetery, and we were like, “Okay, you must be pretty chill if you’re willing to officiate in a cemetery.”
Laia: She’s this really cool lawyer, and she told us that she had been bullied by the legal community for officiating that wedding. We told her we wanted a secular service with little mention of God, and she understood that very well. The ceremony was beautiful.
Jack: She had us close our eyes and think about what we loved about each other and what we were thankful for so that we could hold on to that for the rest of our lives.
Laia: We had the cocktail hour right there, adjacent to the ceremony. We served our guests some good, fancier Puerto Rican dishes while we separated from the group to take pictures.
Jack: Our guests mingled and hung out. I think our signature cocktail was a mango and rum drink. We had put together a playlist for the cocktail hour on Spotify. There are pictures of Laia and I dancing in front of the water during that time to Kacey Musgraves’s “Golden Hour.” Spacey Kacey, you’ve got to love her.
Laia: The escort cards for guests to find their seats were attached to bottles of a Puerto Rican moonshine called pitorro. Pitorro is a thing you drink at Christmastime, generally. When you visit people’s homes, everyone has it, and they make it in different flavors. The OG way to make it is very alcoholic and it really fucks you up.
Jack: We wanted to kick things off in a fun way.
Laia: My aunt and uncle gave it to us as a gift. We purchased the bottles, they provided the pitorro, and we spent an afternoon before the wedding filling and labeling each bottle. They were tamarind-flavored and guava-flavored. For guests who were sober, and for children, we filled them with juice.
Jack: Then dinner was plated. When we’d visited the hotel in March before the wedding, the staff laid out all of these options for us to eat. We chose a pork dish and a fish dish, mahi-mahi.
Laia: There were meat, fish, and vegetarian options, and a really good soup to start. We also served gelato, passionfruit, or mango.
Jack: There were a couple of speeches — two of my groomsmen and two of her bridesmaids. My buddy did a whole bit where he said, “I’m going to speak from the heart,” then proceeded to pull a heart out of his jacket and roast me for five minutes.
Laia: The DJ, Big J Music Services, was great. I just wanted dance music, but I wanted it to be really varied. I was like, “We need salsa for my parents and fun disco music, and Puerto Ricans love Bon Jovi, but also we want to listen to Bad Bunny.”
Jack: Seeing an entire Puerto Rican contingent react to Bad Bunny was definitely a highlight for me. Any Bad Bunny song just resulted in utter chaos on the dance floor. Our first dance was to Rihanna’s “James Joint.” The whole Anti album holds a very special place for Laia and me.
Laia: I think the album came out right at the beginning of our relationship, and Jack loves Rihanna, so yeah. Two of his friends from childhood are musicians, so they played it on a saxophone and trumpet. Around 10:30 p.m., we had a live band, Un Solo Golpe, come in. They played on hand instruments and did call-and-repeat songs. It’s like what Americans do with the “Electric Slide” choreography. It was just a half-hour of dancing and yelling, and everybody really joined in — it wasn’t just the Puerto Rican part of the party. At 11 p.m., we brought out chicken soup for people, which was good to help combat hangovers the next day.
Jack: Then we had a bonfire, which … talk about having no foresight. We’d just spent two hours dancing and going nuts and drinking heavily, and you do not want to sit in front of a huge fire after that.
Laia: It was so hot in front of the fire. Who would want that?
Jack: It was 105 degrees at midnight, so we got a picture in front of the fire, then a bunch of people just jumped into the ocean. They kept the pool open all night for us, and we just drank and swam until probably four or five in the morning.