As a self-professed cynic, Valerie McLaughlin was not expecting to fall in love with Andy Lee on their first date. “The feelings I had for him really took me by surprise,” she says. Andy says it only took that date to know she was the one: “I was so memorized by Valerie that night that I was totally oblivious to the fact that we closed the Soho House bar.”
The two continued to date and spent many hours exploring Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood on Valerie’s Vino scooter. A few years into the relationship, in October, it was during one of those famous scooter rides that Andy decided to propose. A complete surprise to Valerie, who recalls that it was “just an ordinary Wednesday night,” he picked a quiet, little park to pop the question. “He made a beautiful speech,” Valerie says. “I was still wearing my helmet and couldn’t wipe away my tears.”
“I FELT SO INCREDIBLY HAPPY AND BLESSED THAT I WAS MARRYING MY SOUL MATE.” ANDY LEE
In order to make their Halloween-themed wedding—think old, romantic and haunted—a reality, the couple booked Long Island’s Hempstead House and hired visionary Maya Kalman of Swank Productions to plan the event. Two nights before the wedding, the couple hosted an intimate rehearsal dinner for 25 family members and friends. The quaint, Italian Williamsburg restaurant was lit only with candles and jack-o’-lanterns to tie in with the All Hallow’s Eve theme. It was at dinner, says Valerie, that her soon-to-be in-laws made her feel so special: Andy’s father christened her with a Chinese name, “Weiina, and said that now I am a daughter to them.”
Although an unseasonable nor’easter hit the day of their wedding, it only added to the feeling of being tucked away in a haunted mansion. “I had this feeling of calmness,” Andy says. “I felt so incredibly happy and blessed that I was marrying my soul mate.”
Even with unfavorable weather, almost all of the couple’s 160 guests managed to be there. As they arrived, a creepy butler greeted them while an organist played spooky tunes. The couple hired Blood Manor—a production company that puts on professional haunts—and the actors, dressed as zombie-like creatures, never broke character as they mingled with guests throughout the night.
Fog machines and centerpieces of spell books, glittery skulls and black candelabras added to the haunted ambiance. “With its chipped gargoyles, torn wallpaper and overgrown garden, it is far from your typical pristine wedding hall,” says the bride of the Hempstead House’s imperfections that she loves.
Following the ceremony, guests were led upstairs for a haunted walk while they sipped drinks such as Dracula’s Kiss, The Headless Barman and Transylvania Tea. For the reception, Valerie changed into a black ball gown and The Hudson Project band opened the dance floor with a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The newlyweds shared their first dance to “Only You,” of which lines from the song are also engraved on their wedding bands.
Leaving behind the ghoulish fun, the couple headed on an Asia-Pacific honeymoon where they explored Shanghai, Beijing, Cambodia and Bora Bora for two weeks.
Location: Hempstead House, Port Washington, NY; Cake: Nine Cakes, Brooklyn, NY; Caterer: Creative Edge Parties, New York, NY; Event Planner and Design: Swank Productions, New York, NY; Floral Design: Cornucopia Flowers, New York, NY; Ceremony Gown: Angel Sanchez; Reception Gown: Monique Lhuillier
Photography: Mel Barlow and Kate Diago for Mel & Co., Brooklyn, NY