GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A love of art is one of many interests that TaLawnda and Sidney Bragg share. So when they looked for a spot for their wedding, they checked out the Grand Rapids Art Museum.
The familiar place suddenly looked different in the bride’s eyes.
“I could just see myself walking down that glass staircase in my wedding gown,” TaLawnda said.
They changed their wedding date so they could book the museum for their big day.
The Braggs met through an online dating site, blackpeoplemeet.com. They quickly found out they share so many interests, friends and connections, they wondered why they had never met before.
TaLawnda, an internal medicine physician with Spectrum Health Medical Group, has belonged to Renaissance Church of God in Christ in Grand Rapids for 15 years.
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When she met Sidney, he was living in Southeast Michigan, serving as an elder in a church in the same denomination.
They had countless Facebook friends and friends-of-friends in common. She grew up in Inkster, and has relatives in Southeast Michigan. Sidney has relatives in Grand Rapids.
“We kept finding all these connections,” TaLawnda said. “It was more and more confirmation that our paths were meant to cross, even though it was in an unconventional way.”
Within 10 months of their first phone call, they became engaged at Grand Haven State Park.
Sidney, a sales rep with AT&T, relocated to Grand Rapids. He continued working in ministry, becoming an elder in TaLawnda’s church.
After their wedding June 28, 2014, they settled into a home on Grand Rapids’ Southeast Side.
They both love to travel. In the past year, they have visited Mexico twice, Niagara Falls, Toronto, New York and a number of other places.
Close to home, they like to visit local parks. And the Grand Rapids Art Museum — which is special to them for more than one reason now.
“Whenever I go there, even when I go there for art, I relive the moment,” TaLawnda said.
They figured Michigan weather in June was as reliable as you could get. They planned an outdoor ceremony, with a Plan B to move inside if it rained.
It did rain. But the rain stopped just in time. The chairs were dried. Ten minutes before the ceremony was scheduled to start, the sun came out. Suddenly, it was a perfect summer day.
Besides the glass staircase, the Grand Rapids Art Museum had a sophisticated, modern feel that the couple liked. They also liked the downtown setting.
“We had lots of family and friends that traveled several miles to share in our special day so we wanted it to be like a vacation getaway for them,” TaLawnda said. “Grand Rapids has a beautiful downtown with lots of activities to enjoy.”
What they splurged on
The couple went all-out with the flowers and the wedding cake.
“The aroma that filled that place was incredible,” TaLawnda said. “And the wedding cake totally matched the florals.”
They also splurged on videography, at the recommendation of their wedding planner, Chic and Pretty Events.
They ended up with a documentary of their day, created by TruVision Studios, that includes the moment the minister announced, “I would like to present to you today, my brothers and sisters, the Rev. Mr. and the Dr. Mrs. Sidney Bragg Jr. Let’s give God a hand.”
“The actual day went so fast, it was great to replay it and relive the special moments,” TaLawnda said.
Where they saved
The couple decided to have only nonalcoholic beverages, for personal and religious reasons, and that saved thousands of dollars. For the toast, sparkling cider was poured for the guests.
What made the wedding special
“Having family and friends there to share in the moment,” TaLawnda said.
As planned, TaLawnda and Sidney entered the reception by walking down the long glass staircase.
When they left, they passed lines of guests holding sparklers. This led to a horse and carriage that gave them a ride across the Grand River and around downtown before dropping them off at the JW Marriott.
Strangers on the street waved and cheered and shouted congratulations as the wedding couple went by.
“It felt like a fairytale,” TaLawnda said.
Sue Thoms covers health care for MLive/The Grand Rapids Press. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.