Fashion writer Cortne Bonilla and James Oliva, an audio engineer and musician, first matched on Bumble. “I don’t know why I swiped, at first,” Cortne admits. “His profile only contained a black-and-white side profile image and a barely-there bio that read: ‘Trapped in the void.’ Yet, I did.” They set a first date at a ramen spot in Brooklyn. “As I hopped out of my Uber, I saw him, tall and in head-to-toe black like me, leaning against the building. We both sighed a breath of relief as we locked eyes, and that first date lasted hours before he walked me all the way home.”
After around three-and-a-half years together, James surprised Cortne with a proposal in front of her mom in Atlanta. While at a cute breakfast spot, James suddenly appeared. “He flew down just to propose in front of my mom, who can’t travel too often because of her lupus and got down on one knee fresh off a flight,” Cortne recalls. “She knew the entire time, and I was completely shocked. It was the perfect intimate moment.”
Once engaged, the pair knew they’d tie the knot in New York City, where they fell in love—specifically Dumbo. Dumbo Loft, with wood columns and its setting on a cobblestone street, was the perfect romantic venue for their September nuptials. Cortne successfully took the planning reins and hired a month-of coordinator, Taylored Events & Co., to assist with logistics, and Olivia Avers Photography was behind the lens, capturing every special moment.
The night before the ceremony, the couple and 30 loved ones attended the rehearsal dinner at The Osprey, hosted by James’s parents. The Olivas also filled welcome bags with treats that represented both sides of the families—“think, Italian cookies, plantain chips!” Cortne exclaims. The bride wore a white Bernadette minidress with Neous cream slingbacks and a Simone Rocha bag, while the groom rocked a linen shirt from Zonarch.
The next morning, Cortne and her bridesmaids got ready at the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge with makeup artist Jamel Thomas and hairstylist Rachel Polycarpe. “My mom and I wore coordinating vintage Christian Dior silk nightgowns I had found for us, from 1950!” Cortne shares. Then, the bride slipped into her Rick Owens Aphrodite dress, perfected with some hemming from Alteration Specialists. “It was both edgy and classic.”
Thanks to social media, Cortne found her Ofrenda Studio veil, and they graciously sent the cathedral-length style from Mexico City. And to complete her bridal ensemble, Cortne held a bouquet of orchids from Hanato Floral Design and put on gifted earrings from her favorite brand, AGMES. “Once the dress and earrings were paired, I knew I wanted to add to the sculptural tones with dome-shaped, silver, organic rings from Lie Studio, Kinn, and Monica Vinader,” Cortne says. “My fingers were fully stacked.”
Following the all black dress code, bridesmaids complemented Cortne well in dark dresses of their choosing. The mother of the bride stunned in a one-shouldered Bernadette dress. James embraced his tried-and-true all-black uniform, this time in the form of an Armani suit and Prada loafers. Groomsmen also wore black loafers—an homage to James’s love for a driving loafer.
On September 22, 2023, “I entered through the doors with my older brother Justin on my arm, the first person I asked to walk me down the aisle after our father passed away,” Cortne shares. “I walked down to my favorite love song, ‘Angels’ by The XX, and thought that I would cry, but instead, I had a huge smile plastered on my face once I laid eyes on James. Tears dripped down his face but he was also smiling.”
Cortne and James exchanged heartfelt vows, as their friend, Clint, officiated the ceremony. Once announced as married, the two gleefully walked back down the aisle to “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)” by Stevie Wonder.
Wanting to give their guests a true New York experience, Cortne and James served Margherita pies from NYC Pizza Truck and drinks from The Flair Affair at their reception. “I wanted them to really dig in and enjoy the meal,” the bride says. During dinner, toasts were given by James’s father and best man and Cortne’s sister, who sweetly started hers with, “You were always my baby sister, but now you’re my best friend.”
The newlyweds had their first dance to “You Give Me Something” by James Morrison, followed by a mother-daughter dance to “By Your Side” by Sade. More action on the dance floor followed with Underfloor Music playing New York classics like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald and old-school songs by Ciara, Prince, and Montell Jordan. “No one, including my three nephews, stopped dancing until the staff were halfway finished cleaning up,” Cortne recalls.
As the reception slowed down, servings of three different flavors of wedding cake by Cortne’s sister, Nicole Thibou, were passed out: vegan coconut yuzu, black cherry Amaretto, and chocolate espresso Gianduja. The couple said their goodbyes before heading back to the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. “Because the hotel is sustainable, we were actually able to donate our unused decor to them,” Cortne shares. “Candles, vases, and table linens—it felt very full circle, as a family that likes to repeat outfits and donate clothing!”