Bring out the trumpets! Can I have a drumroll please? The socialite wedding of the year occurred over the Columbus Day weekend, and after this celebration, the holiday will never be the same again.
The event was held at the Oheka Castle in Huntington, N.Y., high on a hill that overlooked the Long Island Sound—all once part of the vast estate of the late Harry Fox. Nothing about this day could have been better. The sun shone brightly upon the guests, who were seated in the gardens where the sacred nuptials between Candice Sherrie Cook and Harry Simmons III were occurring. It was officiated by the groom’s sister, the Rev. Kandace Simmons, and the processional was accompanied by a trio of harpists and included the seating of Esther Pender, grandmother of the bride, and the seating of Betty Ann Cook and Sharon E. Simmons, mothers of the bride and groom, respectively. The father of the groom was the late Harry Simmons Jr. Yellow roses were placed in the seat beside Sharon to represent his place in spirit. Next came the groom and his best man, J.L. Osei Mevs, followed by the groomsmen, Syed Ali, Duke Amponsah, Steffan P.G. Christie, Vincent Langston Harris, Nehemiah McCombs, Aundre Oldacre and Benjamin Wanzo. The bridesmaids, all 18 of them, were adorned in black, sleeveless, one-shoulder strapped gowns with a split and carried small white bouquets. The bridesmaids included Cassandra Ching, Fatima Cody, Courtney Coleman, Rashida Edwards, Bettina Goolsby, Christy Harris, Mia Khabeer, Candice Langaster, Aisha Langfor, Sarah Langford, Kia Lowe, Fonda Martin, Meca Mohanned, Tara Pasha, Jana Taylor, Simone Ward and Andrea White. The flower girls were Nadia Langaster and Sunnai Pasha, the ring bearers were Jaxson Brown and Owen Mevs, the ushers were Zachary Bodine and Floyd Wood and the hostess was Adriana Ching.
The bride—dressed in a strapless form-fitting gown that bustled out at the waist into layers and layers of ruffled organza from her tiny hips to her ankles and looking like a vision from heaven in a gold-trimmed, cathedral-length veil, which served as a train—was escorted down the aisle by her father, P. Martin Cook. She was truly a vision of loveliness.
The ceremony was nontraditional yet symbolic, as the officiant had the couple pour their individual glasses of water into a pitcher, which represented the two individuals joining together as one. Readers included Brandi Colander, Diane Stratford and Judge John J. Ellington from Soperton, Treutlen County, Ga.
The bride hails from Atlanta. She graduated from the University of Virginia and is an attorney. While in Georgia, she had worked for Ellington, who had only glowing things to say about Candice Cook, such as how he called her “B&E,” short for “bright and early.” He said how other clerks referred to her as “the one who has a halo over her head.”
Though new age, the ceremony still held all of the sanctity of the marriage ritual, as there was the declaration of intent and the blessing and exchange of rings. The couple exchanged vows to one another that they had written themselves. Candice Cook professed that how, in an imperfect world, where nothing is perfect, it was their love and devotion for one another that made their approach to life perfect. Harry Simmons told Candice Cook that she was his dream girl and that it is a dream from which he never wants to wake up. It was all so touching. The officiant pronounced them man and wife and told her brother that he could kiss the bride, and so he did.
Little did the guests know what was in store for them once they returned inside the real-life castle, where the ceilings were high and the rooms were huge. It was more than a reception, and more than a party; it was a feast of gigantic proportions. The cocktail reception was held in a room the perimeter of which was covered by food stations. There was a seafood gumbo station, pasta station, carving station with ham and tenderloin, jumbo shrimp, gumbo seafood with dirty rice (OMG! Dee-lish). All of the food was tastefully prepared, seasoned and served. I couldn’t get enough. I went back for seconds, maybe even thirds, which is rare for me. Had I known what was next, I would have slowed down a little; it was all so good.
Guests were soon led into the dining room. The room was alit with silver-colored linen tablecloths and napkins. The harpists had retreated and were now replaced by a band that was out of sight. Immediately, following the traditional first dance, everybody got up. The only time everyone stopped dancing was to watch the band perform a song and dance number that was worthy of a place in a Beyoncé concert. Yes, they were that good. It was like church; I was moved to another level, an otherworldly experience—so much so that it took me a while to reconnect back to Earth.
By this time, dinner was served (yes, it was served by a bevy of waiters and waitresses who attended to the guests’ every need, wish and desire). Needless to say, the champagne flowed like water and whatever was your pleasure, it was there, all top-shelf.
Dinner consisted of good old Southern comfort food: fresh whipped potatoes and carrots, along with a choice of baked chicken, filet mignon or Chilean sea bass. Although I wanted all three, I stuck with the filet, though I’m sure if I asked, I could have had a tasting of all three choices—it was that kind of party.
Toasts were made: Sharon Simmons wished the couple a beautiful life and hoped that they would keep themselves open to all the universe had to offer, and Betty Ann Cook went around to every table thanking guests for coming, when it should have been the guests thanking them for hosting the grand wedding of a lifetime.
Things did get solemn for a moment when the bride and all of her Delta sisters gathered in the middle of the dance floor to sing their Delta songs. A chair was placed in the middle of the circle where Candice Cook sat, surrounded by her Delta sisters. She clearly and unabashedly sang a solo. The girls joined in the chorus as they performed what was obviously their tradition.
With all the food that had already been presented, it was only hoped that guests saved some room for dessert, for in yet another room were desserts—more than the eye could behold in one glance and more than one can imagine. It was all there, set up for the taking. The wedding cake was at least seven tiers high, alternating between red velvet and vanilla cake. Then there was the variety of cheesecakes, sherbet, chocolate mousse, ladyfinger cakes, cannolis, chocolate covered strawberries, brownies and cupcakes. You name it, they had it, and I couldn’t believe it. Was I stuffed? Yes, I was.
The love that was shared, commitments that were made, vows that were exchanged, joy that was felt, wishes that were sent, good time that was had and memories that were made were all to last for a lifetime. To Harry and Candice, the best of everything life has to offer and the faith to see it through.
Until next week … kisses