Freelance writer and brand strategy consultant Gabriela Lester-Coll first met Jason Hardy at a New Year’s Eve party in New York City during their freshman year of college. “Jason doesn’t remember that encounter because he had a girlfriend at the time and pretended other girls didn’t exist,” laughs Gabriela. “I was smitten from day one, but bummed to learn he was taken.”
Fast forward to “move in” week sophomore year, and Gabriela is helping a friend unpack his things into a suite in his new frat. “Mr. Jason Hardy was there doing the same thing—but he was single this time! We talked and flirted and cleaned and unpacked and flirted some more.” At the first party of the semester a few nights later, he asked her to run up to the suite with him to get some more beer (good one Jason!), and that’s where the two had their first kiss.
Seven years later he proposed. “Jason played ice hockey growing up, and he very clearly remembered me telling him back in our early years of dating that one of the first time I knew I loved him was when I saw him dancing around a frozen pond on ice skates,” says Gabriela. “It was February, and we were living in Fort Greene, and he suggested we go to the rink in Prospect Park for the day. He was being so weird and quiet—I almost said no because I didn’t want to be around his weird energy, but we hadn’t been skating in a while, so I gave in. After we skated for a bit, our song—‘Home’ by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros—came on, and he slid down on one knee and said things that neither of us remember.”
From the get-to, Gabriela and Jason knew they wanted to get married on the beach in Puerto Rico, where her family is from and where they relocated to a month after getting engaged. “I wanted something that blended our life together and our styles—tropical but also urban with a touch of boho,” says Gabriela. “Also, because our friends and family were making the trip down from the states, we planned a whole weekend for them, hosting a Friday night welcome fiesta on the beach and a Sunday recovery pool party up in the hills with a gorgeous view of town. Our goal was for each of these venues and vibes to feel very unique and highlight a different part of our new hometown.”
As is often the case, Gabriela’s dress search wasn’t quite so straightforward. “I tried on a lot of dresses—too many, some may say! I always assumed I wanted something long sleeved and super boho, but when I finally went to try on dresses, I found myself leaning towards ones that were a little more . . . exposed. I didn’t know this was going to be the case, but I wanted to feel sexy on my wedding day! There was no teary-eyed, this-is-the-dress aha moment, but once I tried on my dress by Liz Martinez, I knew I couldn’t wear anything else—it felt special, and it felt like me in a way that all of the others dresses didn’t.”
Once she had her dress, Gabriela planned looks for the rest of the entire weekend. She wore a hand-embroidered floor-length ruffle dress that she found in Old San Juan for salsa dancing on Friday night, a silk Rebecca Schone skirt and crop top with a floor length lace kimono for the first dance at the reception, and a Réalisation Par dress late night. For jewelry and shoes, she looked for pieces that were bold, chunky, and beachy, and that she knew she would wear again.
Meanwhile, Jason had a super specific shade of light blue-ish gray that he wanted to wear, and after lots of searching, he finally found it three months before the wedding at Bonobos. “He also decided to go sock-less at the wedding, which he thought was very cool,” laughs Gabriela.
On January 17th, it was finally time to tie the knot. After a few days of clouds, crazy winds, and on and off again showers, a dreamy pink and purple sunset set the perfect stage in the background. “Our ceremony was funny, sacred, beautiful, collaborative, far from perfect, and a special blend of laughing and crying,” Gabriela remembers. “There was cheering as each person walked down the aisle, high-fives all around, and my wonderful 18-month-old flower girl getting so excited by the energy that she put down her petals in the middle of the aisle and started clapping with everyone. There was also an awesome swell in the water that night, so there were people surfing in the background, surfers walking by, and even the occasional wave coming in and wetting our feet and my dress . . . ”
Gabriela’s brother was the officiant, and he actually cried the entire time. But before that, one of her closest friends kicked everything off with a meditation. “Starting the ceremony with Erin’s meditation was one of the best decisions we made because it not only calmed and centered me and Jason, but it also put all of us—wedding party, friends, family, etc.—in the same present, loving place,” says Gabriela. The couple then led everyone in community vows.
The reception, which Rincon Events produced, was a giant dance party—primarily to 90s hip hop, thanks to the bride. The evening commenced with a few toasts from parents and close friends; then there was the regular line up of dances, and everyone hit the dance floor. There was a jungle-themed photobooth with giant animal masks that the bridesmaids put together, disco ball goblets for drinks, and a carrot cake that was devoured before the bride and the groom ever even had a chance to get a slice. For food and drinks, there was rice and beans, veggie empanadas, tuna poke, salads, mofongo, fish tacos, roasted chicken, and yucca fries all served family style, and cocktails were made with fresh squeezed watermelon, orange, parcha, and pineapple juices. “Oh and Jason and I jumped into the pool in the middle of the party because there was a pool at the venue so . . . we had to!”