Ceremony Location: Plymouth Congregational Church Coconut Grove, FL; Reception Location: The Biltmore Hotel Coral Gables, FL; Event Design: Jean Augustin, THE DESIGN GROUP North Miami Beach, FL; Event Planner: Dionne Anderson, THE DESIGN GROUP North Miami Beach, FL; Production: THE DESIGN GROUP North Miami Beach, FL; Wedding Film: UTOPIA VIDEO PRODUCTIONS Miami, FL
Their three- year love affair began when Oscar Joyner, President of Reach Media Inc. and Executive Producer of the nationally syndicated “Tom Joyner Morning Show,” spotted an Ethiopian woman as he was shopping for a lapel pin at the National Urban League Annual Conference in Washington, DC. “It was love at first sight,” he said. He walked over to make her acquaintance, but Alem Gola, an up and coming actress and an executive assistant to the president of the National Urban League, just saw another man in a suit trying to get her attention. She chitchatted, gave him her work number and went on, not taking him seriously.
Determined to get to know her, he extended his stay for an awards banquet dinner where she blew him off, again. So, after he learned of her desire to become an actress, he offered to come to New York, a week later, to take her to see “The Color Purple.” All week, he tried calling, but she never returned his calls. On the evening of the play, she finally answered. “I’m in Manhattan, on my way to Brooklyn to pick you up,” he said. “This guy was serious,” she remembers thinking. So, with some encouragement from her roommate, she went. Little did she know that one day he would become her husband.
That evening, they rode around New York and talked until the wee hours of the morning. They recall their first kiss, but differently. Oscar recalls a peck whereas Alem recalled a full blown kiss, which caught her by surprise because: “I didn’t think he had the guts,” she said. Since the day they met, the longest time they have been apart has been four weeks. Oscar knew early on he was in love, but Alem needed months to be sure he was serious and waited a long while before she professed her love to him. She knew that time had come when she witnessed how he treated his mother. “He goes on dates with his mother,” she said. For that reason, the actress finally realized she had won her Oscar.
For two years, everywhere Oscar traveled, he invited Alem to join him. Their travels abroad have included trips to Dubai, Brazil, Rome and Ethiopia where Oscar met some of her relatives. In the summer of 2009, Oscar received an invitation to the 20th wedding anniversary celebration of Magic Johnson and his wife, Cookie, in Monaco. He told Alem the event would be a huge party and a great networking event. In the midst of her planning, Oscar got word that Magic and Cookie cancelled the event, due to the recession. Oscar never told Alem and the two traveled to Morocco, nonetheless. During their trip, each time Alem asked where all their friends and the celebrities were Oscar told her they were in a secure location to avoid paparazzi.
As the couple took a tour of the Monte Carlo town square, Oscar was videotaping the sites asking Alem to describe the gorgeous settings. Consequently, they stood in front of the fountains of the historic Monte Carlo Casino and he got on one knee, but she just figured he was working a different angle. Instead, he popped the question: “Will you marry me?” Alem stopped talking and looked at him as he pulled out the engagement ring. “I just lost it,” she said.
Due to Alem’s heritage, Oscar knew he needed to meet her family especially because the Ethiopian family tradition is that marriages are arranged unlike the American custom where the father’s permission is asked. Therefore, Oscar needed to travel to Ohio. He made his way to Columbus and since he had met a couple of Alem’s brothers, a year earlier, they laid the groundwork by translating for their parents, who spoke very little English. After that visit, Alem’s dad grew fond of Oscar and the two were ready to be wed.
The time had come and on October 9, 2010, in Coconut Grove, FL a luxurious multi-ethnic and multi-denominational ceremony took place at Plymouth Congregation Church where Rev. Dr. Thomas R. Niblock introduced internationally renowned Bishop T.D. Jakes who presided over the ceremony alongside Ethiopian Pastor Abba Zekarias Gebrehiwot, who spoke in his native language of Amharic. During the ceremony, he led the "Quieba Kudis", known as the 'Holy Oil Blessing" and the "Kabba"—a ceremony that involved the placing of red and gold-trimmed robes and crowns on the bride and groom.
The groom was donned in a Tom Ford tuxedo as he watched his bride draped in her custom designed gown by Monique Lhuillier walk down a 150-foot white carpet runner adorned with white rose petals in a sanctuary where the air permeated with the smell of roses and irises. As she entered the sanctuary, church organist Dr. Robert Heath and saxophonist Mike Phillips played a soulful, but regal organ and saxophone rendition of Mendelssohn’s “The Wedding March.” “I never felt so many emotions in 60 seconds rush through me,” Alem said. As she walked down the aisle she remembers, “The first person I saw was him and I was nervous, but when I saw him, it calmed me.”
The bridesmaids wore traditional Ethiopian fine cotton handmade dresses and the groomsmen wore black tuxedos with red vests, which complemented the red and gold embellishments of the bridesmaids’ dresses. As the ceremony came to a close, Grammy Award Winning songstress Yolanda Adams serenaded the couple. To march out of the church, the wedding party as well as the bride and groom exited to traditional Ethiopian drums played by relatives of the bride.
Following the ceremony, the guests were treated to an Ethiopian High Tea Brunch at the historic Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. At an evening reception, guests dined al fresco on the second floor terrace of the hotel overlooking the lush golf course. Punctuating the tables were four-foot tall wrought iron centerpieces adorned with gold-rimmed hurricane candles accentuated by red, fuchsia, and yellow rose encrusted spheres.
As they entered the reception, both the bridesmaids and groomsmen’s attire was custom made with Ethiopian fabric hand-selected by the bride and her mother, during a 3-month trip to Ethiopia. The newlyweds were seated in a 12-foot tall custom-designed gazebo completely covered with Jewel studded roses while the wedding party sat at custom-designed 8 -foot rounds alongside the gazebo. Finally, R&B singers Eric Benet and Tamia surprised the bride and guests, performing amidst an excited crowd waving sparklers in the night air.
Wedding planner Dionne Anderson and Creative Director Jean Augustin and their team of event designers and culinary specialists produced one of South Florida’s most luxurious destination weddings. The weekend’s activities were designed and produced by The Design Group of Miami which were rich in culture and showcased elaborate floral displays, including more than 60,000 roses, and a Who’s Who of celebrities, business executives and civic leaders. The next evening, Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Joyner packed their bags and embarked on their honeymoon where they stayed in a private villa in Montego Bay, Jamaica, for nine days.
> Written by Paula Goins
Copyright 2014 Grace Ormonde Wedding Style Magazine