“We actually met on Bumble!” actress Briana Henry-Bowers says. “I thought he was cute and his bio said he went to Juilliard, but was a ‘florist.’ I appreciated the humor and decided to go on a date with him after some encouragement from my gfs.” Kristopher “Kris” Lee Henry-Bowers has composed music for Mrs. America, Dear White People, When They See Us, and Green Book. He had just moved back to L.A. to do more film scoring, and Briana was his first Bumble date. “I honestly fell pretty hard, very quickly,” he says. “I think one of the early moments that got me was when we were walking down the street after Briana had just finished teaching a SoulCycle class. Suddenly, she stopped, took her jacket off—with only workout gear underneath—and put her jacket on a homeless man sleeping on the street. We had only been dating for a couple of months at that point, but in that moment, I really felt like, ‘Whoa, who is this woman? You better do everything in your power to rise to her level.’ ”
After composing for Green Book, Kris was attending a variety of industry events, and he used that to set the stage for a proposal. “He told me that there was an event that he really wanted me to go to with him—he made a fake flyer and everything,” Briana remembers. “Truthfully, I was burnt out from all of the events and asked if he really needed me there, which he confessed he did.” Briana’s mom talked her into going and buying a new outfit for the event, and she found a beautiful white jumpsuit. “I got all dolled up and as we were about to head out the door, I decided I wanted to try and paint my nails—silly mistake. I dropped the nail polish, and it shattered all over the ground, leaving little specs on the bottom of my white jumpsuit. I started bawling, my mom was on her knees trying to get the nail polish out, all while Kris was anxious to get me out the door.” They finally pulled up to the location of the event—a house that didn’t look quite like your average venue. When Briana walked in, she saw rose petals and pictures of her with Kris throughout the space. “He walked me out onto the balcony—we were in Malibu so it was beautiful!—and he dropped down on one knee. I was so in shock I’m not even sure I heard most of his proposal. As I said yes all of our close friends popped out from behind a wall where they had just watched the whole thing. I nearly fell to the ground, overwhelmed with emotion. To have this man that I was so in love with ask me to be his wife and then have our best friends there felt like a dream. He nailed it.”
From there, Briana and Kris started planning. They set a wedding date of June 6, 2020, which meant that when COVID-19 spread, they had to change everything. “Ultimately, we were able to make June 6 happen, but we had to cancel the entire wedding we had been planning for over a year with our wedding planners,” Briana says. “When COVID-19 started to really become a concern, we went to our planners and discussed what our options were. Our only choices were to change our date to December or get married next year.” They had wanted to marry at the Santa Lucia Preserve in Carmel, where Briana would wear Vera Wang among the redwood trees. They had been engaged for over a year, and didn’t want to wait until December, or longer. “Once we started to go into lockdown, we decided to cancel everything and play it by ear,” Briana says. “We figured we would continue to keep an open mind, and maybe just go to a courthouse to get married and celebrate at a different time. We reminded ourselves about the fact that while we were canceling our wedding, people were losing loved ones around the world. It was humbling. If anything, moving through that experience made us feel even more like a team.”
About two weeks before their original wedding date, they heard that one of Kris’s cousins, who had also had to cancel her wedding due to COVID-19, had a small gathering for which everyone got tested prior to the ceremony. “That’s when Kris and I realized that we may be be able to make this happen after all,” Briana says. “Kris suggested that we get married in the backyard of his studio. We had been spending a lot of time there since Kris is still currently working on projects, and had started to kind of fall in love with the place. It may not have been a redwood preserve, but there was enough beauty and nature to be able to enjoy the space.”
A couple of days after they decided to put this together, the George Floyd video went viral. “We were devastated at what we saw,” Briana says. “So the week leading up to our wedding was pretty difficult, to say the least. A lot of tears and conversations about triggering feelings for us as people of color. The rage the video sparked for us made us want to go protest immediately, but because we had just asked our guests to get tested we felt that wouldn’t be best for us to do quite yet. It was difficult feeling so upset about all that was going on while trying to hold space for this beautiful moment we wanted to share with each other. We joined the protests a couple of days after our wedding.”
Kris’s parents found a notary, and his cousin had a connection to a Superior Judge who was willing to marry the couple as long as they got tested and kept a safe distance. Even though everyone tested negative for COVID-19, Briana and Kris got masks for all of the guests to ensure everyone felt safe. Kris’s grandparents watched the ceremony from inside the house, looking out through a set of open windows.
In the lead-up to the wedding, Briana, Kris, and the bride’s best friend, Virginia, made a couple of trips to Home Depot to spruce up the backyard with flowers and plants. “It was a real DIY-type wedding, which honestly added to the charm,” Briana says. “I think that’s what made the day feel so full of love. Everyone that was there had not only gone out of their way to assure everyone’s safety with getting tested—which I think is a beautiful act of love in itself—but they were willing to risk themselves to hold space for our love.”
Meg Smith was the couple’s photographer, and Charlotte and Daughters was the florist for their original wedding. “When that all fell apart, Kris and I reached out to both of them to tell them that we would keep them posted on what we may try to come up with in the coming months, and they both expressed that they were down to adjust to whatever we may do. I don’t think either of them imagined it would be decided just days before the wedding! But they really rallied for us.”
Because of the pandemic, Briana’s dress fittings were canceled, so she wasn’t able to wear the Vera Wang wedding gown she’d originally chosen. “There unfortunately wasn’t enough time to get it done before the June 6 date,” Briana explains. “So I turned to the internet and looked up a bunch of different dresses that would ship quick and wouldn’t need any alterations. I wanted to feel beautiful and confident on the day, so I ordered two dresses, and the one I ended up choosing was by Shona Joy. The wedding we were having now was much simpler, and I think the dress I ended up wearing fit the vibe of the day much better.”
As for hair and makeup, Briana mostly did it herself with some help from her bridesmaids. “I accepted early on in the week that the more open minded I allowed myself to be, the better I was going to feel,” she admits. “Getting rid of expectations of looking perfect or wearing exactly what I wanted was not as important as what was actually going to be taking place that day. I wanted to feel and look like myself.” She wore a bracelet that her best friend had gifted her, a ring from her mom, and vintage pearl earrings. “Every piece of jewelry I wore meant something important to me,” Briana notes. Her shoes were from Cult Gaia—which she calls “some of the most comfortable heels I think I could have chosen.”
Right before the lockdown, Kris had just started working out with a trainer to prep for the wedding and soon found himself 25 pounds lighter. “A week before the wedding, I did a quick search to see who could deliver a tux the fastest and Givenchy had an overnight option,” he remembers. “I bought a tux from them and an Alexander McQueen shirt that would come in two days. The next day, I got a call saying my tux wouldn’t be ready until June 8 or as late as the 10th! Thankfully, the woman I spoke with, hearing that it was for my wedding, was able to work her magic, and my tux arrived the day before the wedding.”
On the day of the ceremony, the love was palpable. “We all had been waiting for this moment for so long,” Briana says. “And since we hadn’t been around other people because of COVID-19, it made it incredibly special to be sharing space with so many people we loved.”
The ceremony began with the bride and groom’s fathers saying a few words. “Kris’s dad prepared a beautiful speech about marriage and what he hopes for us,” Briana remembers. “My dad unfortunately couldn’t attend because his job had really exposed him the weeks leading up to the wedding, and he didn’t feel comfortable hopping on a plane and coming to see us. So he prepared a speech that was played after Kris’s father spoke. He wrecked me. I was already feeling pretty sentimental about him not being able to be there on the day, so having him at least be there virtually, saying all of the things that he knew I needed to hear before sharing this huge moment with Kris was really special.”
During the ceremony, the couple read the vows they’d written themselves. “Of course Kris’s vows were combined with a song he had written for me for this moment,” Briana says. “Somehow, he wrote a song based on the notes that used the letters of my name, another moment that totally wrecked me and I think everyone around us.” The judge then had the couple exchange rings, and they were pronounced husband and wife.
The reception was full of picture taking, Champagne drinking, and laughing. “Truthfully, I think we were all on a high from just being around each other,” Briana says. “Getting to hug and cry and catch up in person was a special moment I think for everyone that was there.”
“These last few months have really shown us as humans what is important in life,” she adds. “When planning a wedding, it is so easy to get caught up in what could go wrong and what will be ‘less than perfect.’ But when everything goes wrong you start to see what really matters. If you have found someone that is worth spending the rest of your life with, that is the win, that is the thing you want to stay grateful and grounded in.”
With that feeling no doubt in the air, guests sat on the front deck eating vegan pizza, french fries, and cupcakes—laughing about the day and reminiscing about the past. Eventually, the first dance happened, but not until 1 a.m., after everyone had left. “We were packing up some things to go and decided to take a moment out on the front deck under the moon and dance to our song, Billie Holiday’s version of ‘I’ll Be Seeing You.’ We stood there dancing, taking in everything that had just happened and just held each other. I’m not sure that first dance could have felt any more perfect or romantic than it did.”
After the reception, the newlyweds went home and watched a video of the ceremony taken earlier that day by one of Kris’s groomsmen. “It felt like we were watching a fake fairy-tale wedding,” Briana jokes. “It was nice to get to relive it without the nerves and stress, just the two of us plus our pup on the couch, shoving leftover pizza in our mouths. It was more intimate than any wedding reception I think we could have actually had. Our hearts were at peace.”
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