FEBRUARY 13, 2023
VEERAH Brides: Samantha Yu
New Yorkers Samantha and Chris set out to make sure that their wedding reflects not only their personal journey, but also their passion for sustainability and mindful consumption.
Samantha Yu, an art department coordinator working in film and TV, and Chris Chan, an optometrist, both grew up in Queens, New York. Sooner or later, they were bound to meet. It turns out the couple shares a lot of things in common, from their values to the belief that sustainable living can be achieved even with the littlest steps. Our VEERAH Bride shares how their beautiful wedding turned out!
Samantha and Chris worked together to plan their sustainable wedding in the Hudson Valley, New York.
Please tell us about your love story!
We grew up in nearby neighborhoods in Queens and had a lot of mutual friends, but we didn't meet until I was in college and he was in grad school. It was through a local church fellowship, and we didn't really become friends until 3-4 years later while we had both been in a season of transition. We dated for about three years before becoming engaged in March 2021.
Chris had been planning on proposing for a couple of months, and the only thing he wanted to achieve was to completely surprise me (I have a reputation for ruining my own surprises!) He had really wanted to do it on a 24th of the month, as we both share that birthday. He had initially wanted to propose at a park we frequent at sunset, but there was rain in the forecast, so he had to switch plans. With the help of my family and friends, Chris snuck into my house before I got home from work and decorated my room. When I got home from the rain outside, I was so confused at the sight of all the lights and balloons. For some reason I thought that maybe I had agreed to let someone use my space for an event but forgot about it, until I saw him standing there with a bouquet of flowers. Chris definitely succeeded in surprising me, I laughed and cried out of sheer shock and got to celebrate the moment after with family and close friends.
Exactly four years after we started dating, we got married on April 29, 2022 at Red Maple Vineyard in West Park, NY in the Hudson Valley. We wanted the atmosphere and details of the wedding to be fresh and spring-like (our color scheme was dusty blue and sage), with an emphasis on sustainability. The way we approached it was that we wanted our dollars to make more impact beyond our wedding day. As a couple, we always liked to take weekend and day trips to the Hudson Valley for hikes and nature trails, so we thought it would be the perfect location to have our wedding.
"The way we approached it was that we wanted our dollars to make more impact beyond our wedding day," says Samantha.
Sounds wonderful! What was the planning process like?
Because my job is primarily about coordinating and working with vendors and suppliers to help the production create film and TV sets, the whole wedding planning process felt very much up my alley!
From the get-go, we had a conversation about how we both felt really unfortunate that a lot about the wedding industry feels so wasteful, both in terms of materials and finances. We specifically chose a venue that provided farm-to-table catering, and could not have been any luckier to get a date at Red Maple Vineyard. It was the first venue we toured and we completely fell in love with the property, the way they operated and provided everything for us, and their own intentionality in eliminating waste and giving back to their communities. I think finding this venue really set the tone for the rest of our planning process.
Samantha had a blast shopping sustainable brands for her ceremony and reception dresses, along with the attires of her entourage.
I found both my ceremony and reception dresses at a sample sale at Jenny Yoo NYC for sooooo cheap (and with pockets!!!) The groom and groomsmen’s suits were from The Suit Shop. My bridesmaids got their dresses through Azazie, where they can make dress customization for free, thus helping to eliminate any unnecessary fabric waste. The flower girl dresses and bridesmaids' accessories were from Nora Lee, Olive & Piper (purchased from their Seconds & Samples sale), and Birdy Grey, all female AAPI-owned businesses. And of course, when I discovered VEERAH, I knew I had found the perfect place to get my wedding shoes from!
I chose the VEERAH Florence heels because I loved the style and color of the shoes. The patterned interior soles were such a perfect match for our color theme, and the addition of the memory foam pads on important pressure points are such a game changer. I am not a heels person by nature, so having them and the add-on ankle straps were so helpful.
A perennial sneakers and athleisure wearer, Samantha was delighted to discover how comfy VEERAH Florence heels are!
All the elements, including their paperless "stationery" and their florals, were sourced and planned with intentionality.
We managed our RSVPs and sent Save the Dates and Invitations digitally through Paperless Post & WithJoy. A small batch of prints were ordered through Paper Culture for our older guests and also for family abroad who couldn't make it, and we designed and printed our own ceremony programs on seeded paper through Botanical Paperworks. We found a local florist who sourced seasonally and helped us transport our florals from the wedding to a local nursing and rehab home for donation after.
It was important to us to personally connect and resonate with each of our vendors and their work. It truly made the process so smooth and we feel really proud that we were able to assemble such an amazing group of vendors and companies to work with.
Social media savvy: Samantha managed to book their vendors through extensive searches on Instagram!
Were there any extraordinary challenges you had to deal with?
Because of all the delayed weddings and other newly engaged couples throughout the pandemic, vendors were extremely busy and difficult to find. Aside from our venue, many of the vendors we contacted initially had already been booked for an entire year out. So I abandoned Google, Wedding Wire, The Knot, and other wedding websites, and instead did a lot of extensive searches through Instagram tags. It was a lot of time spent searching, but we were so happy with every single vendor we hired to be a part of our big day, and truly we cannot imagine it without them.
A personal challenge that I encountered was on September 1, 2021, the ground floor level of my house in NE Queens was flooded from sewage back-up due to the torrential downpour brought on by Hurricane Ida. I had to temporarily stay with friends for about two months while the home was gutted and renovated. During this time, I had lost a hair and makeup artist I was hoping to hire due to a scheduling conflict. I was very worried I would have a difficult time finding a new team, while having to deal with a lot of post-flood cleanup and FEMA applications. Luckily, we were still seven months away from the big day, and had a bit of extra time to try and find a replacement. Chris supported me a lot throughout this time to reassure me that we would be able to work things out, and that even if things end up a bit unlike what we had initially hoped for, the bigger picture of the wedding day would still be ours.
Adding to the stress of wedding preps, Samantha's Queens apartment was flooded. Thankfully, Chris was with her through it all.
Speaking of which, please take us through your big day!
For decor we opted for a simple and minimalistic table setting, having small arrangements and bud vases on alternating tables, accompanied by some candles I made in repurposed yogurt jars. We repurposed arrangements made for the ceremony arch and wine barrel toppers for the sweetheart table.
We attended a tasting at our venue about five months before the big day, got to try so many amazing foods, and selected 8 different hors d'oeuvres, 2 entrees, sides, and our signature cocktails. Our hors d'oeuvres had an array of vegetarian and gluten and dairy-free options. They had provided a "duet plate" dinner, which meant our guests didn't have to choose between the meat and fish options and got both (but had the option to opt for only meat, only fish, or a vegetarian entree) — everybody got the best of all the worlds. The venue also put together a fresh farm-to-table station that included local Hudson Valley cheeses and meats, and other things sourced from their farms.
Red Maple Vineyard brought so much character already to our wedding; we really didn’t bring much of our own things in. In lieu of a stationary photo booth, we also opted for Instax Polaroid cameras and films so that our guests could take them around the grounds with them for the different backdrops and spaces offered by the venue. Our wedding favors were maple syrups and hot sauces made by the venue, with all the ingredients sourced straight from their trees and farms.
"We wanted the atmosphere and details of the wedding to be fresh and spring-like, with an emphasis on sustainability," says Samantha.
I wish that people understood how easily some ethical and sustainable practices can be worked into our everyday lives, it just requires a little bit of practice and unlearning, especially being saturated in such a consumeristic culture. You don't have to immediately shift to a 100% sustainable lifestyle in order to make a difference, but if you think about it with broader strokes, everything can be repurposed to something else, and we don't really always need to have the newest bright and shiny things. Taking time to do a little research on the companies you are purchasing from also goes a long way to making us pause and contemplate how we treat the resources we have available to us.
What would be your favorite moments of that day?
It's kind of crazy how fast the day goes—it feels both like a blur but also some details are very much living vividly in my memory. Aside from getting to see so many family and friends after being separated by COVID, my favorite moment of the day was getting to sit at a private table on a patio that the venue sets aside for their couples. About 10-15 minutes before the end of the cocktail hour and the staff ushers guests into the reception barn, the couple gets whisked away to have this private moment where a pair of all of our selected hors d'oeuvres and signature drinks are served to us. It was maybe the time alone together that we got that day, without even the photographers.
One of their favorite moments was getting some alone time together with hors d'oeuvres and drinks, sans any photographers.
The night then continued and ended with a lot of dancing and celebration, and I was happily doing it all in my VEERAH Florence heels! It had taken us a long time to select our first dance song, but we finally landed on “Take the World” by Johnnyswim. We took dance classes for about two months with a local studio (mostly so that we don’t look completely clueless on the dance floor), but I think it turned out to be one of my favorite things that we did in prep of the big day. The rest of the night was accompanied by endless dance music, everything from “We Don’t Talk about Bruno” (a big hit with our 2-year-old nephew), to the “Electric Slide,” and all the other dance floor favorites: Bruno Mars, Beyonce, etc.
Non-stop dancing fun calls for comfortable shoes! And Samantha's VEERAH Florence heels in Champagne Blush delivered.
Another one of our favorite details is our guest book. I collect postcards, it’s my favorite souvenir to get on travels, and over the years friends have made a habit of bringing me a few from their own travels. It was nice for the guests to have the ability to grab a postcard and pen with them to different parts of the venue to write, and also for some to see the very same cards they had given me years ago, and it was the perfect way for us to make use of the things we already had handy and held a lot of meaning to us.
Their guestbook reflected the couple's love for traveling, and Samantha's penchant for collecting postcards.
Did you get to go on a honeymoon? And how’s married life so far?
We had really hoped to fly back to Taiwan to see extended family we haven’t seen since the start of the pandemic and to also hold a banquet there. But due to continued COVID restrictions, we couldn't make that happen this year and instead went northward to Banff in Canada, one of the most unreal places in the world. Seeing the crystal clear blue lakes—seriously, felt like we were standing over a painting! It reminded us just how much more we should continue to make decisions with mindfulness and intentionality towards sustainability.
Married life thus far has been a joy. We really enjoy cooking together for meals, and of course, spending time with families and friends. A lot of things we inherited from other places for our wedding decor, we were able to pass on to our friends getting married next. I lived by myself for a while before getting married, and though I thoroughly enjoyed that season, it is really nice to get to share a space and life with a companion. We know there are going to be lots of milestones and "firsts" coming up, and we can't wait to celebrate them all together.