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A Summer Wedding at Mount Hope Farm in Rhode Island

By Shayna Seid | Photography by 

Joseph Laurin Photography

Danielle Dawkins, an incoming MBA candidate at The Furqua School of Business at Duke University, and Ryson Porter, who works in investment operations at a global investment management firm, met on the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel. “It wasn’t love at first sight, by any means, but there was something so refreshing and different about Ry,” Danielle says. “I wasn’t used to guys being so clear about what they wanted.”

After two years together, he surprised her and her family with a proposal at their lake house in Maryland. He wasn’t expressly invited, but he planned with her sister, Ayana, to arrive during a family photo session in the park. “I quietly approached the group then jumped in by saying, ‘Hey, can I get in on some on the next one?’” Ryson says. 10 seconds after he got down on one knee, it started pouring—a sure sign to the couple that nature was celebrating their engagement. 

Once the wedding planning started, the two quickly landed on throwing a non-traditional beach wedding. They wanted a tented space, and every venue that could accommodate that seemed to be a mansion or estate. “As a Black couple, given the history of some of the estates, we didn’t feel comfortable getting married in one of the mansions,” Danielle says. “Despite the ocean views, it just didn’t feel right getting married in a place with someone’s white ancestors on the walls—especially if we couldn’t verify the history and ideology of the family who owned the home.”

They finally stumbled upon Mount Hope Farm in Rhode Island with its beautiful private cove. They decided it was their venue before they even left the car. Initially, the couple didn’t want a summer wedding because they weren’t keen on the colors, but after they booked a date in August, they went evergreen and favored emerald, white, and ivory with gold accents. Danielle and Ryson took on coordinating themselves, with some help from Liana Cuzzone from their caterer, Russell Morin Catering & Events.

To meet at the altar, the groom wore a midnight blue tuxedo from The Black Tux, while Danielle found her look on Instagram. Scrolling through, she came across an off-the-shoulder dress from Israeli designer Gali Karten, but her heart sank when she found out no salons were carrying the label. After hours of searching, the bride found out that Dimitria’s Bridal in Chicago was doing their first Gali Karten trunk-show the following weekend, so she called her sister and mother, notifying them that they all needed to book flights. “The dress I chose was the first wedding dress I ever put on, and I knew almost immediately that it was the one,” she says. “We put in an order that day.”

Choosing shoes was almost as difficult as tracking down the dress. Danielle loves a statement heel but also needed something that wouldn’t sink into the grass outside during the ceremony. “Being a Black woman and finding a good nude sandal is pretty impossible,” she explains. Ultimately, a pair of lace-up Jimmy Choo sandals were a perfect match.

Another challenge was finding hair and makeup artists who knew how to do Black and multicultural beauty in the area. “Most of the vendors in Rhode Island didn’t showcase any people of color on their pages, so I didn’t feel comfortable booking them,” Danielle shares. She finally found May, who came up from New York after their trial to help the bride with her beauty prep. And for hair, she chose Boston-based Dominique Mitchell, a Black stylist with lots of experience. 

On the day-of, outside with a view of the bay, the bride walked down the aisle with her father, Fitzroy, to a string duo playing “Woman” by Mumford & Sons. Danielle’s family pastor from New Jersey officiated their ceremony, and the couple shared hand-written vows committing themselves to each other. Once announced as husband and wife, the newlyweds recessed to “A Good Night” by John Legend.

Under the reception tent, guests were served a family-style dinner of moromi miso sea bass and roasted forest mushroom filet mignon. Immediate family members, including the bride and groom, were seated at the head table under a hanging trellis by Exquisite Events and Robin Hollow Farm

The night’s entertainment was provided by East Coast Soul’s King Ensemble, who kept everyone moving all night long. Danielle and Ryson had their first dance to “May I Have this Dance” (Remix) by Francis and the Lights featuring Chance the Rapper. Two weeks before the wedding, the groom decided they needed serious dance help, and they were quickly taught some lifts, spins, and twirls by Kemar Bennett of Q Ballroom Dance“The highlight moment of dancing was the last song of ‘Shout’ by Otis Day and the Knights,” Danielle says. “Everyone was dancing and shouting until they cut the music off!”