Red and purple African diaspora wedding
Jeanelle and Jane’s wedding vibe was Afro-Diasporic or Pan-African, a mash-up of Ghanaian and African-American culture. They wanted to highlight traditions and iconography that were facets of their upbringings. Jane’s parents are immigrants from Worawora, Ghana (West Africa), while Jeanelle’s family was one of many Black American families who migrated from Alabama to California.
Jeanelle and Jane were committed to hiring women-owned and people of color-owned businesses, and estimate that about 90 percent of their vendors fell into either one or both categories.
Jane and Jeanelle got married in Sacramento, California after a nine-month engagement (they both proposed). They got married at an art gallery and their first dance was to “Love Ballad” by L.T.D. Their wedding also featured a cannabis bar for guests over 21.
How did you meet?
It was a Tuesday night—August 25, 2015, to be precise. Jane, of course, doing too much was juggling attending a New Leaders Council Sacramento board meeting and a Black Lives Matter rally in support of Black trans women. Late, per usual. Jeanelle, being a young radical, was in these streets! As Jane scoured the rally to find who was the lead organizer, the two locked eyes. That night, Jane requested to be Jeanelle’s friend on Facebook, and Jeanelle slid in Jane’s DMs.
Within a week’s time, the two went on a froyo date, attended another community event—Black August—together, shared their first dance poolside at a house party, rescued Jane’s car that was confiscated by “the man,” and Jane witnessed one of Jeanelle’s signature cuss outs of rude employees because a bartender tried to play Jane to left. By late September, the two knew they were meant to be and began merging their lives; Jane began washing her clothes and leaving her dog at Jeanelle’s apartment. Their love felt familiar and inevitable.
Their (fur) children, Afro Kahlo and George Washington Carver, even took a liking to each other. (Although, admittedly, it took Afro more time as well as bribes.) Afro and Carver quickly became “pawmates,” crystallizing Jane and Jeanelle’s relationship and budding family.
Tell us about the proposal.
“Per “traditional lesbian values,” Jeanelle and Jane began casually discussing marriage and children, their hopes and dreams, Black futures, early in their relationship. Go figure, but those discussions made it clear to them that their ideas for the future seemed brighter together.
Following the 2016 election and inauguration of #45 though, the world around them felt a little different, a little darker and a little uncertain. With a country in freefall with injustices, heinous crimes, and the normalization of white supremacy at a high, Jeanelle and Jane’s love for each other often felt like the only thing that brought them solace and peace. Moreover, with the orange fool trying to overturn laws and policies left and right, the two worried that they might not have the opportunity to legally marry each other in a nation that seemed to be quickly regressing.
In the summer of 2017, Jeanelle and Jane began planning a getaway trip to Italy for that November. They reckoned it’d be great to take a break from the United States, but also a romantic place to announce they were taking a big step in their relationship.
In Italy, Jeanelle and Jane had the chance to travel around the country visiting Rome, Venice, Florence and the rest of the Tuscany region. They saw some brilliant sights but were eager to find the right spot to make it official.
Jane was adamant about visiting Venice as the city may be underwater within the next generation. Jeanelle and Jane arrived at a very damp, murky, gloomy, and overpriced Venice. Honestly, the city overall was trash, but that’s another story! They spent the day meandering through tiny shops, across bridges, and through tight alleys. (If you ever are in Venice, check out our Senegalese brother Moulaye Niang’s glassblowing shop Muranero. Another highlight of this trip was the bread—word to Farini! OMG, did Jane and Jeanelle stuff their faces with focaccia made for the gods!)
During their last night in Venice, after being rained in, Jane and Jeanelle spent their time posted up in their rustic hotel room, trying to stay warm and dry and watching from their window the pedestrians, who dared venture outside, get blown and thrust into the waters of the Adriatic Sea. It was then that they just talked with the rain hitting their window and the wind howling —sharing their fears and their hopes for the future, sharing their commitment and unconditional love for each other—and proposed to one another unveiling their custom rings.
Jane and Jeanelle both said “yes” that evening, and spent the rest of their night munching on Italian chocolates and binge-watching and critiquing Netflix’s She’s Gotta Have it.
Describe your wedding attire. What was the wedding shopping experience like for you?
Jeanelle and Jane’s style was definitely Afro-Diasporic or Pan-African. Living in Sacramento, it was difficult to find local West African or African-inspired designers, especially with access to fabrics or able to blend aspects of American wedding attire with Ghanaian wedding attire. However, with the help of their wedding planner, Jeanelle and Jane were introduced to Theresa Nartey, owner and head designer for Sacramento-based, Teeza’s Creation. Ms. Theresa is a Ghana native, experienced seamstress and current fashion design and production student at Sacramento City College. She and her daughters sewed most of the wedding attire and accessories by hand.
Did you incorporate any culture into your wedding? If yes, tell us more.
Jeanelle grew up in Oakland, California, and Jane in Brooklyn, New York, so they wanted to bring in the nostalgia of the 1990s and a chill-on-the-block urban feel from the outset of announcing their wedding. To create this vibe, they used their Save the Dates to pay homage to one of Jeanelle’s favorite childhood films—Spike Lee’s Crooklyn. The main character of the film, Troy—a young, Black, strong-willed girl—really resonated with Jeanelle as a kid growing up in the Bay. To create a logo for their wedding stationery and signage, Jeanelle and Jane tapped Outrò Creatives, a Sacramento-based social media marketing and graphic design firm, to put their own twist on A Tribe Called Quest’s logo from their iconic 1991 album, Low-End Theory, which came out the same year Jeanelle was born.
To incorporate aspects of a traditional Ghanaian wedding, Jane and Jeanelle bought wax print fabric in bulk and found a local Ghanaian designer to create Jeanelle’s wedding dress, Jane’s tuxedo jacket, second outfits for both Jeanelle and Jane, and accessories for their bridal parties and close family. The same wax print fabric was used all throughout the venue as well as in their decor, like a table runner, pillows. To cultivate a vibe of Third World solidarity, Jeanelle and Jane encouraged their guests to wear Afro-diasporic attire themselves or attire native to their own mother culture.
For their wedding entrance, the couple chose to go with traditional West African drumming for Jane and a selection from an up-and-coming Black southern musical group, Tank and the Bangas, for Jeanelle. The bridal parties came down the aisle first along with the sage bearer (instead of a flower girl) and ring bearer, followed by Jane, and then Jeanelle with her nana/grandmother, Jeane. To close the ceremony, Jeanelle and Jane decided to “jump the broom” using a broom adorned with their wax print fabric and cowrie shells. Leveraging the industrial and rustic features of our venue, the Brickhouse Gallery and Art Complex, to simulate the feel of “concrete jungles” that they grew up in, Jeanelle and Jane added comfy chairs to create urban yet elegant “stoops” and other spaces for our friends and family to kick it in style after the ceremony.
They provided their guests with an assortment of West African foods (Ghanaian and Nigerian) catered by Oakland-based The Jollof Kitchen, as well as frozen margaritas, edible cannabis treats, and more. Music was provided by DJ Lady Char, who spun a mix of current hits as well as 90s and 00s R&B and hip hop including Bay Area classics, New Jersey and Baltimore Club, Crunk and Afrobeats. Finally, for our wedding favors, each guest received whipped shea butter and suya spice (a West African peanut-spice rub), both handmade with love by Jeanelle and Jane.
What is your best memory from your wedding?
Jeanelle: Walking down the aisle with my Nana; staring at my partner, while simultaneously catching a glimpse of everyone that was in attendance. We both cried while mouthing the lyrics to “Themeparks” by Tank and the Bangas, which was my ceremony entrance song.
Jane: Definitely when all our guests sang the Golden Girls theme song during toasts from our bridal parties. One of Jeanelle’s best friends mentioned they referred to themselves as the “Golden Girls,” which tickled everyone. We just went with the flow at that point; it was one of the best group karaoke sessions ever!
What is the best wedding advice you can give to engaged couples?
Planning a wedding is one of the first tests in your marriage. Be sure to plan early, be organized, communicate honestly with your partner, be willing to ask for help/support (but don’t be a rude Bridezilla!) and remember to create space for couples’ time throughout the planning.
Gifts for your wedding attendants: Prior to the wedding, Jeanelle and Jane sent everyone in their bridal parties a box, which included some homemade whipped shea butter made by Jeanelle, a book that selected specifically for each bridal party member based on their personality/interests, palo santo wood, a personalized bookmark created by Jane, and a magnet with the Ghanaian flag on it. During the rehearsal dinner, everyone in Jeanelle and Jane’s bridal parties received pre-rolled cannabis to commemorate full legalization of cannabis in California and hopefully the beginning of the end of the War on Drugs. They also received handmade clutch purses (for female/femme presenting folks) or bowties and pocket squares (for male/masculine presenting folks) that were made from the same wax fabric as our wedding attire.
Gifts for one another: Taking our exhausted yet happy selves to Fiji!
Planners & Servers: Table Top Concepts
Officiant: Minister Asher Ounzumba Kolieboi
Music and Lighting: DJ Lady Char
Food: The Jollof Kitchen
Cake & Desser: SpiderMonkey Art and Cakes
Makeup: Glam With Rubi
Rings: Skalet Family Jewelers
Alaina Leary Lavoie
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