A Blending of Cultures

A Blend of Cultures


At a beautiful outdoor wedding in Westchester, one couple brought together African-American, Jewish, and Asian traditions in a very personal ceremony—two ceremonies, actually!

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By Andrea Barbalich

Photography by Mira Mamon



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Above: Gabrina and Malik Pearson share a special moment after their wedding at the Hammond Museum & Japanese Stroll Garden in North Salem.


Gabrina Schneider and Malik Pearson logged a lot of frequent-flyer miles in their search for a place to get married. They flew to Anchorage, Alaska, where Malik is from, and to Las Vegas, where Gabrina’s mother owns a home. But they couldn’t find anything they liked in either location.


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Above: They “jump the broom” to bless their marriage.


Feeling the pressure (they’d gotten engaged in November 2005, this was September of 2006, and they wanted to marry in the summer of 2007), Gabrina looked online for venues near their home in New York City. When she read a description of the Hammond Museum & Japanese Stroll Garden in North Salem, she thought it sounded interesting. She took a friend with her to see it and immediately fell in love with it. Malik visited the site shortly after and agreed completely. “It struck a chord with us,” she says. “It was a small museum with a beautiful garden, and we thought it would be cool to have the ceremony outside.”



Above: Their 125 guests enjoy music from a violin and cello during the outdoor ceremony.


The couple—she’s a 35-year-old counselor at John F. Kennedy High School in the Bronx, he’s a 34-year-old real estate attorney in Manhattan—booked the Hammond for June 16, then began the search for all their other vendors. 121 Restaurant at the Hammond handled the event coordination and menu planning. They hired Forever in Bloom of Mount Kisco as their florist. They wanted a DJ who had an extensive background in many different types of music, from salsa to classic R&B, and they found one with On the Move Productions from the Bronx. Gabrina ordered her ivory lace dress at RK Bridal in Manhattan.



Above: The happy bride relaxes at the reception.


And with the dress, a red theme began to take shape. Gabrina’s Allure Bridals gown came with a cream sash. But she wanted a red accent instead, so she swapped the cream sash for a dark red one. She decided on red and purple for the flowers (red roses, dark purple orchids, and dark red calla lilies), and event coordinator Kris Beal suggested scattering red rose petals amid the white chairs and on the tables at the reception.



Above: Vows were exchanged on the island in the garden’s pond. Right: Gabrina beams in her ivory lace gown by Allure Bridals.


With the other major decisions made, the couple turned their attention to what mattered most to them: the ceremony. They wanted Gabrina’s stepbrother and Malik’s sister, Nicole Pearson, to perform it, but they were concerned about the legality of that. (The two could’ve become ordained ministers online, a popular option for couples who want to be married by close friends or relatives who are not judges or clergy members, but they still had concerns.) So they decided to wed a few days before their wedding day at City Hall in a small ceremony performed by a justice of the peace. And then, on their wedding day, Nicole and Doug would “marry” them at the Hammond.



Above: Gabrina beams in her ivory lace gown by Allure Bridals.


They wrote the ceremony themselves, incorporating aspects of Malik’s heritage (he’s African-American) with Nicole’s (her father is Jewish). They decided to do the jumping of the broom, an African-American tradition, as well as the blessing of the wine and the stepping on the glass, both Jewish traditions. In addition, they included a Chinese tea ceremony that would involve their parents. They also wrote vows to each other, without sharing them in advance. (They turned out to be almost identical.)



Above: 121 at the Hammond Museum made the elegant vanilla cake with chocolate ganache.


The ceremony, which took place on a tiny island in the garden’s pond, began at 6 pm. “I thought I was going to be so nervous, but I wasn’t,” Gabrina says. “I loved it and enjoyed myself so much.”



Above: White linens and red candles graced the dinner tables.


The cocktail hour, featuring mini crab cakes, porcini mushroom croquettes, and tuna tartare, was held outdoors in the garden area. Guests enjoyed dinner—a “seated salad” followed by a buffet—under a tent on the museum grounds. For favors, the couple gave their 125 guests chopsticks engraved with their names and the date—a perfect choice for a wedding at a Japanese garden.



Above: The parents of the bride and groom took part in a Chinese tea ceremony during the wedding.


“The evening just went by so fast,” Gabrina says. Afterward, at the Sheraton in Danbury, Connecticut, the hotel where they and their out-of-town guests spent the night, one more cultural tradition awaited. The couple had intended to dance to “Hava Nagila,” a Hebrew song of celebration, but the night slipped by without doing it. So back at the Sheraton, in the hotel’s sports bar, someone noticed that “Hava Nagila” was available on the jukebox. Gabrina’s stepbrothers Lee and Doug Israel dropped in quarters, and a group of friends lifted the couple up on chairs, as the custom requires.



Above: Gabrina and Malik savor the moment.


“We couldn’t believe it was on the jukebox,” she says. “And I will never forget how they played it and lifted us up. It was very touching and very nice”—one of many touching moments during a very meaningful, very personal celebration.



Above: Seating cards in the wedding’s signature red color hang from branches. This page: 



Gabrina & Malik’s Wedding Sources


Location: Hammond Museum & Japanese Stroll Garden,

28 Deveau Road, North Salem

, (914) 669-5033, hammondmuseum.org. Caterer: 121 at the Hammond Museum, North Salem, (914) 356-0590, 121caterersatthehammond.com. Florist: Forever in Bloom, Mount Kisco, (914) 241-1963. Gabrina’s Dress: Allure Bridals, ordered from RK Bridal, New York City, (800) 929-9512, rkbridal.com. Hair and Makeup: Luisa (hair) and Jacques (makeup) from Shear Bliss Salon, the Bronx, (718) 884-9700 Reception Music: On the Move Productions, the Bronx, (917) 406-0288. Photography: Mira Mamon, (646) 427-3925, miramamon.com.



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