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We got married on top of a Los Angeles warehouse!

By Nola Sarkisian-Miller


Longtime lovebirds Emily and Jay combined gritty industrial with big-city flash for their artsy Los Angeles wedding.

THE COUPLE: Emily Bradley, 30, and Jay Kelly, 30

THE DAY: September 17, 2005

THE PLACE: Downtown Los Angeles

MAPPING IT OUT: For years, longtime lovebirds Emily and Jay had discussed incorporating their hybrid love of attending art shows in gritty industrial spaces and artist lofts and the big lights, big-city energy of New York into their dream wedding. "We wanted a wedding that embraced urban beauty," Emily says. Their twilight engagement in December 2004 on the rooftop of hipster hangout, the Standard Downtown LA Hotel, in the rarified air, sealed the deal and the theme. Their plan was to marry and celebrate at an artist's loft. Finding such a space with a big enough roof, however, was daunting. Instead, they opted to split the event's locations with the wedding taking place at a working warehouse rooftop and the reception inside an artist's loft.

THE COUPLE AND THEIR ATTENDANTS WORE: The bride wanted to design her own dress, but amid the challenges of planning a non-traditional wedding, she decided that it was more important to check off something concrete from her to-do list. She wore a lace Monique Lhuillier gown with a black satin sash, the first gown she tried on while dress shopping. Her grandmother's broach was pinned to the sash. The groom donned a black Prada suit. "We didn't want to do the tux thing - it just didn't feel right for the setting," Emily says. The couple gave their bridal party sartorial carte blanche as long as the selections were black. The three bridesmaids wore black cocktail length dresses and the three groomsmen wore black suits with graphic print ties.

SAYING I DO: The wedding ceremony held court atop a nine-story shoe warehouse. To reach the roof, the 175 guests navigated a path lined with red rose petals and battery-operated candles in hurricane vases (just say no to flames and cardboard), a pleasant visual distraction from the ceiling-high stacks of shipping boxes. A noisy freight elevator transported them to the alfresco event, where a view of downtown's twinkling skyline awaited. Creating a setting of casual intimacy on a barren rooftop wasn't easy to pull off, but guests knew no differently as they sat on dark wooden benches with white pillow tops and sipped champagne from the bar while the DJ collective, Dublab, spun mellow, jazzy sounds.

IN STEP WITH TRADITION: The couple chose to adhere to most wedding ceremony formalities, some with minor twists: Emily's father walked her down the aisle to the moody tune of "Midnight in a Perfect World" by DJ Shadow played on a guitar by a friend; the bride's childhood Catholic priest flew out from San Francisco to officiate although the couple wrote their own vows; and instead of throwing rice at the newly married couple, guests showered them in white orchids.

GETTING ARTY: More lounge-style cocktail shindig than stuffy reception, the wedding's reception-cum-artist exhibition was held in an artist's loft where guests dined on tray-passed hors d'oeuvres, such as Chinese chicken salad with chopsticks, and sampled from the sushi bar. Surrounding the guests were the 10 pieces of art suspended gallery-style on the walls. Even the four-tier, square-shaped cake on a bamboo pedestal slipped by the guests' dessert radar; many mistook the confection for a work of art. In all, it was a milieu designed for guests to mingle at their leisure, Emily says. "We didn't want a sit-down dinner where people have to be at a table making small talk with people they didn't want to spend the evening with."

GARTERS ASIDE: As a matter of principle, the couple dispensed with a number of reception customs, such as the bouquet and garter tosses as well as the hand-to-mouth cake feed. Another no-no was the "cheesy, engagement photo" at the reception entrance, Emily says. Instead, the pair collected wedding photos of their guests, scanned them, printed them in black and white and framed them in different sizes for a table-sized display, honoring their friends and family. "We definitely knew this was about more than us, and really about the people who got us to this point," Emily says.

THE COMPLICATION I: "Both locations didn't come through until two months prior to the wedding and that was a little scary," Emily says. "It's not like dealing with a hotel and getting the person on the phone easily. This was a first wedding for both places." Prior to mailing invitations, the couple sent out save-the-date cards, noting the event was scheduled for somewhere in downtown Los Angeles.

THE COMPLICATION II: Shuttle buses ferried people from hotels to the events. One bus didn't follow plan. "One of the shuttles went to the reception first," Emily says. "We were fighting the sun and thought we may say our vows in pitch black, which was a concern." Luckily, the misguided driver corrected the error in time for the sunset wedding.

RED BULL NIGHTS: The wedding's personal touches, driven by Jay's talents as a collage artist, impacted the couple's beauty sleep. "There was one night the week before the wedding we pulled an all-nighter," Emily says. They were furiously assembling their own programs (complete with descriptions of the artwork), matching shuttle bus signs, handwriting personal notes and compiling CD's - one with pre-event upbeat tempos and one for post-event relaxation - for their guests staying at the Standard hotel.

WEDDING BONUS: All that hard work now has more than one payoff. After devoting a career to corporate event planning, Emily has struck out on her own, launching her own event-planning business, Unscene Inc., which includes weddings. She's already working on two weddings. "Planning a wedding involves so much research and typically that gets lost after you get married," Emily says. "Now I get to use that knowledge."

PEARLS OF WISDOM: Not to give in on what you want. Second-guessing may lead to future remorse, the couple believes. "It got really tough and at some point we wondered if we should just get married at a hotel," Emily says. "Now, we're so grateful we didn't give in. We had exactly the wedding we always wanted."

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