This Filipino-American Wore Carl Jan Cruz To Their Gorgeous Waterfront Wedding |
Weddings

This Filipino-American Wore Carl Jan Cruz To Their Gorgeous Waterfront Wedding

Simon Bonneau

Traditional Filipino desserts, a handmade hot pink bouquet, and a hot dog truck are just a few highlights from this family-planned, friend-filled celebration of queer love.

An 11 P.M. dinner reservation with friends at New York’s Mission Chinese Food first brought Cherish Anthony Iocovozzi and Silver Leon Cousler to a table together. Cherish, who goes by Cherry, had been a Brooklyn resident for nearly a decade, and Silver was living in Asheville. Six months later—on June 9, 2019, to be exact—they were hiking together in North Carolina on their first date.

“We went to Max Patch that day, an iconic hike outside of Asheville with the most stunning 360 mountain views,” Cherry remembers of falling in love with both Silver and the beauty surrounding them as they “feasted on sardines, dolma, cheese, and crackers.” The next day, the pair took a road trip to Dolly Parton’s theme park in Tennessee, better known, of course, as Dollywood. “Silver and Dolly share a birthday,” says Cherry. “We were glued together looking at Dolly’s collection of rhinestone costumes and size 5.5 marabou mules.” A second date on a rollercoaster felt especially next-level. “We took everything we could to the highest heights,” says Silver. “And Cherry convinced me to ride front row for the very first time.”

Cherry moved to Asheville the following January, and soon they were on another monumental hike. “We went to a waterfall called Rainbow Falls on the first gorgeous Sunday after weekends of winter rain,” says Silver of the “sweet feeling in the air” on March 7, 2021. “I had no plan to propose to Cherry that day, but I so happened to have the ring on me.” Gazing at the waterfall, it all became clear. “I knew it was the right time,” says Silver, who told their friend Devyn Vasques to document the moment as the couple inched toward the misty rocks. “There was every precaution in the world to tell us not to get closer, and before it got too dangerous, I asked, ‘Where is Devy?’” As Cherry glanced away, Silver seized the opportunity. “I slammed my knee into the soaking wet mud and exposed the ring,” they remember. “Cherry turned around and covered his mouth and started crying so hard. It was one of the sweetest moments of my life, it had me speechless. I think Cherry was waiting for me to say something and I finally asked, ‘Will you marry me?’ and we kissed with water spraying on our faces and backs.”

They chose the tenth of June as a wedding date to reflect that first hike, though their plans quickly overlapped with another major life event. Silver was in the process of opening Neng Jrs in West Asheville, the restaurant where they’re now chef, and Cherry—who created the wine program—works as a server. So Cherry’s mom Kim ended up stepping in as wedding planner, working with his sister Emma to create spreadsheets, meet with vendors, and share ideas. With every task, “my mom would find a way to make it happen,” says Cherry. “We could not have done it without her.” Silver agrees, describing Kim as their “MVP” and “one of the most thoughtful people I have ever met.” The week before the wedding, everyone was pitching in to help. “My dad and I ran around town borrowing things from neighbors, my parents orchestrated the entire setup of the venue, friends cooked us an incredible rehearsal dinner and lunch on our wedding day,” says Cherry. “I’ll never forget how special it felt to be working so closely.” A family friend, Gina Berchin, even took over the logistics on the day of the ceremony so that the family could celebrate together.

Dressing for the day was straightforward for Silver. “I always knew I wanted to wear a barong, a traditional Filipino men’s shirt,” they note. After connecting with designer Carl Jan Cruz, who Silver had been following on Instagram, they began devising their own bespoke riff on the design. “I had seen a look Jeremy Pope wore at the Met Gala designed by Phlemuns, and several different Filipino classic looks that eventually dictated the removable train in addition to the barong and trousers,” says Silver. After just a few exchanges, “I opened the package sent by him and his team the day of the rehearsal dinner, and it was so devastatingly perfect—it fit like a glove.” Still, Silver managed to blank on an essential detail. “On the day of the wedding, I realized I forgot to bring special underwear,” they laugh. “Before I knew it, one of my best friends in my wedding party had brought me a special white lace thong with the word ‘Love’ spelled out—I could not believe the timing.”

For Cherry, the wedding day attire unfolded even more unexpectedly. “I had a hard time planning and coordinating a look,” he says of eventually deciding to book a shopping trip in New York with his sister, best man, and best friend. After exploring stores from Diesel to Rick Owens and Nordstrom, they ended up at Dover Street Market. “The last dress I touched was this incredibly simple Jil Sander linen dress with subtly architectural sleeves and a high neckline that reminded me of something a monk would wear—it fell perfectly flat on my chest and shoulders, was slightly sheer, and you could see the gestures of my tattoos,” Cherry says. He felt comfortable, beautiful, and immediately realized this was the right dress. Devy, a jewelry designer and seamstress, assisted with a custom pair of baby blue gloves, while Sara Jane Whatley helped with beauty, and best man Ren Cook, and best friend Matia Emsellem (who styled both Cherry and Silver’s hair for the day) arranged a long white veil with dogeared bows on either side of Cherry’s head. “I made my bouquet myself with bells of Ireland, hanging amaranth, one single hot pink peony, and hot pink ribbon,” says Cherry, whose “something borrowed” came in the form of his mother’s diamond studs, a gift from his dad on one of their anniversaries.

“As a trans man, I felt some pressure to go for a more traditionally masculine look for my wedding,” says Cherry. “Once I started shopping, I just felt more drawn to more feminine garments, and I wanted to follow that feeling. In my mind, the dress I landed on is a masculine one, historically referencing monasticism, while challenging current understandings of what it means to be masculine. We see men in dresses in media more often now, and usually, they are straight cis men. That is beautiful in its own way. I found specialness in my choice to wear a dress as a trans man. I wasn’t falling into the gendered expectations of my at-birth gender assignment—rather, I was taking the culmination of all my gendered experiences and creating a vision that made me feel comfortable, handsome, beautiful, and sexy.” The couple wanted their wedding party to feel free to express themselves as well. “We give no parameters except ‘look fabulous,’ and they didn’t disappoint at all,” says Cherry. “There were pearl headdresses, slip gowns, vintage Gaultier, Bottega puddle boots, mesh, slicked-back gelled hair—just pure fabulosity.”

The ceremony was held at a friend’s house on Tybee Island, GA, and the couple arrived at the bluff by boat (and captained by another family friend) to guests waving and running along the water’s edge. “My dad was not able to make it to the wedding because of his compromised health, as was diagnosed with ALS six years ago,” says Silver of walking down the aisle with their mom, a moment that inspired the first of many floods of tears. “She is my best friend, and it made all the sense in the world to be able to do this with her support.” Cherry followed with both of his parents to the sounds of “La Vie En Rose” played by their harpist. “Cherry’s hair tails flowing as he got closer to me felt like an extension of his spirit,” says Silver.

Ronika McClain, who introduced them, officiated the ceremony, and the couple recited their own vows written on scratch paper. “We also had our dear friend Spike Thompson bless our rings, and our union, with her own words and the words of James Baldwin,” says Cherry. “Standing on the bluff of a river I had been swimming in since childhood made me feel at home.” As they kissed for the first time as a married couple, “In The Stone” by Earth, Wind & Fire played, and a little choreography came naturally. “During the ceremony, all of the fears I had pushed themselves aside—it was a moment in time I was able to be truly present and speak on my love with Cherry with confidence,” says Silver. “We had practiced ‘the dip’ at the beach a couple of months back, and not since, but somehow executed it that day effortlessly.”

For the reception, friends Sadie Mae Burns and Anthony Ha cooked dinner for everyone and served up a Lowcountry-style raw bar, prime rib, wedge salads, and summer vegetables. “My Tito Marc held us in prayer before we had our delicious meal,” says Silver. “And my Tita Tess made traditional Filipino desserts like Puto, a rice cake with different flavors, and my favorite Cassava cake.” Cherry filled guests’ glasses with a double magnum of Les Foulards Rouge “L’Octobre,” and toasts were made by his dad, Silver’s mom, and their best friends. The couple danced to “Doctor’s Orders” by Carol Douglass, before music by Alexander Bebe Lopez brought everyone to the dance floor. “I think dancing was my favorite part of the night,” says Cherry. “My dad, Kevin, has arranged for a hot dog truck to arrive around 10 p.m., that was the icing on the cake!”

The next day, friends set up camp on the back river side of Tybee Island Beach. “Everyone kept asking me if I felt different,” says Cherry. “I did, and I still do.” Silver seconds that motion: “Everything since the wedding has felt like a life upgrade.”

This post was originally published on Vogue.com

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