“We are featuring the beautifully detailed wedding dress worn by Orange Is the New Black’s star, Danielle Brooks. The dress was designed by Oluwagbemisola Okunlola, an extremely talented African designer from London.”
( Vogue.com )
“What was supposed to be just another game night turned into night I will remember forever,” Danielle Brooks remembers. The actor, who is known for her role in the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black and received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Sofia in The Color Purple on Broadway, had decided to throw a party with a friend who worked at a gym at the time. “It felt like a good idea for us two single ladies to invite over some good-looking prospects she had met while working there to play some Mafia and Taboo,” she remembers. Dennis Gelin was invited by a friend of a friend who also worked at the gym. “He rolled in mad late, like two to three hours late,” Danielle says. “When all of us heard the door ring, the group decided to play a trick and grill the next person who walked in the door. I opened the door and everyone gave him the death stare. As the host, it felt a bit harsh for someone I didn’t know to get playfully grilled, so I decided to quickly greet him with a smile and asked to take his coat. He smiled back.”
As everyone was starting to leave for the night, Dennis really made an impression when he asked if he could take out Danielle’s trash. “I was so taken aback because there had been at least 10 guys in the room, and no one had thought enough to ask such a thoughtful question,” Danielle says. “I perked up and said ‘Why yes, thank you.’ And then we proceeded to talk. He kept complimenting me on my dimples and how beautiful I was. I was drawn in by his smile and beautiful rich skin. I remember asking him, ‘Do you have kids, are you married, do you have a job?’ ”
He answered all of her questions. “It was like music to my ears,” she says. “A brother with a clean slate, has his own, and is thoughtful. Jackpot. I quickly slid him my phone to exchange numbers. As he was getting ready to take out the trash, he asked me where the trash room was. It was the easiest room to find, but I just had to spend more time with him, so I decided to show him the way.”
When Dennis left, he told Danielle he was headed to the Poconos to do renovations on his family’s guest home in the morning. “I made sure to tell him to be safe as he was driving there that night,” Danielle remembers. “And then, while getting ready for bed, I heard my phone ring. I was confused on why anyone would be calling me around 1 a.m.”
“On my drive, all I could think about was Danielle’s Southern voice and brilliant smile,” Dennis admits. “I eagerly looked forward to our next encounter. During my journey, an act of divine intervention took place as I accidentally butt-dialed her. I was at the time and still am to this day, so glad that it happened because we talked for hours and an instant bond between us formed. The rest of my journey was like floating on cloud nine.”
The next afternoon, there was a knock at Danielle’s door. She opened it to discover a man holding a massive bouquet standing on her front steps. “My heart started to flutter,” she says. “I could feel it. At that moment, I said to myself, ‘If this card says ‘From Dennis’ I have found my husband.’ Sure enough, I opened the card, and it said, ‘To Danielle, Thank you for an amazing night. See you soon. Dennis.’ This man had gone above and beyond. He had flowers delivered to my house, and we hadn’t known each other for more than 24 hours. In that moment, I knew this was a man who was going to always love and appreciate me. I had found someone who wasn’t going to take me for granted, someone who knew my worth.”
Dennis proposed two and a half years after they started dating—just before Danielle’s parents’ thirty-fifth wedding anniversary—and the two started planning their wedding a year later. The couple, who live in Brooklyn, chose Miami for their wedding location because they knew it would be warm as well as relatively easy for those traveling internationally to attend.
Overall, the planning process went smoothly until about a month out. “Everything was going pretty well until Omicron hit the country,” Danielle says. “It was a bit too late in the process to turn back, so we added extra precautions with required PCR tests and rapid tests the day of the wedding. I have to say our wedding planner, D’Concierge, was out of this world amazing. He never panicked and kept us levelheaded during the ups and downs.”
Even though there were changes in regards to the weekend’s logistics, the bride’s creative vision for her wardrobe was unwavering. “I always knew I was going to have two dresses,” she says. “We thought it would be best to do a first look reveal so that we could go ahead with bridal party pictures and not hold up our guests after the ceremony. I decided to wear Christian Siriano for the reveal. We have been friends ever since my career first began.” The designer ended up creating a three-in-one dress for his longtime friend that went from princess gown, to body-con dress, to a pants look that would finish off the night on the dance floor.
“It was also important to me to highlight a Black designer,” Danielle says. “I feel like when it comes to the wedding process, Black creatives aren’t highlighted enough. Alonuko gave me the dress of my dreams. She flew all the way from London to make sure it arrived. I knew I wanted her one-of-a-kind, flesh-toned mesh with custom embroidery and a big huge skirt. Wearing her dress made me want to get married every day, I loved it so much.” Danielle’s stylist, Kelly Augustine, gifted her with a pair of Chanel earrings the morning of the wedding that paired perfectly with her dresses, and her shoes were by Nina. Dennis and his groomsmen all wore custom suits by Garcon Couture.
The wedding started just a few moments before sunset at the historic Alfred DuPont Building, and Danielle’s hometown pastor, Pastor Baldwin, was the officiant. Broadway performers Jeremy Pope and Amber Iman performed renditions of “A Thousand Years” and “We Will Never Break” as the groom and bride walked down the aisle. The couple’s two-year-old daughter served as the flower girl. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the building,” Danielle says. During the service, the couple performed a wax seal ceremony, where they melted wax and sealed love letters that they’ll open at their one-year anniversary. “We cried the ugly cry, and laughed hard,” Danielle says. “Dennis and I did our personal handshake and jumped the broom in honor of our ancestors. It was definitely a night to remember.”
After the service, guests mingled during cocktail hour and found their names and table numbers for dinner via chocolate truffles wrapped in gold. The theme for the reception was Chocolate Love. Wedding planner Darryl Moore of D’Concierge Wedding worked to make the space feel like guests were dining in a box of Godiva chocolates with decor in a palette of jewel tones and gold.
During cocktails, the newlyweds took more photos, and then the bride changed back into her Siriano dress to head to the reception. Decisions were made at every turn to ensure that everyone’s health and safety was a top priority. For example, waiters carried napkins alongside hors d’oeuvres that had each food’s name printed on them to avoid any shouting and the subsequent spreading of germs. Michael Makes Scents also created hand sanitizers for every seat.
“The food from CJ’s Masterpiece catering was superb,” Danielle says. “[That said,] our wedding party started to dance before the first course even hit the table. The party was lit and everyone felt safe because of our COVID measures. We ate phenomenal cake and drank tequila until it literally ran out at the bar. You could feel that after two years of being in a pandemic we all yearned for moments to create memories together, and we are glad we could provide that. The room was flowing with love, joy, and togetherness.”
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