In Brides of Long Island’s Monthly “Mrs.” series, we profile some of our members’ unforgettable weddings. This month, we spoke with Tamara Simpson Agbeyegbe about planning two weddings in 14 months during her first year of medical school!
When Tosan proposed to Tamara in May of 2021, she had to hit the ground running with planning, as she was moving to Chicago with him so she could attend med school that August. That only gave her three months to book the big vendors for not one but two weddings she planned to have in July 2022! But she and Tosan tackled the planning head on, and had the best wedding weekend that celebrated not just the joining of their families, but honored Tosan’s Nigerian cultures and traditions.
A Trip Down Memory Lane
When Tamara headed up to visit her former teammate at Yale University in May of 2021, she figured she’d just be reminiscing during a girls’ weekend. Little did she know that Tosan had planned an elaborate proposal in the campus yard where they met! Tosan didn’t miss any details, inviting her friends and family members, including her brother from California. As Tamara walked through the yard, a friend or family member would pop out to hand Tamara a gift until she met Tosan at the end of the path. She says he was standing there in a rose petal heart with a table full of memories of their relationship. “It was really beautiful and over-the-top,” she says. But it was perfect.
Race to Plan
After they got engaged, Tamara says they hit the ground running before she started medical school. “I had to get most of the planning done so I didn’t have to do a lot while I was in school,” she explains. They toured a bunch of venues first, but fell in love with Giorgio’s, a BOLI Preferred Vendor. “They are just stunning, I couldn’t ask for a better place.”
Next up, she chose her wedding dress from Bridal Reflections, a BOLI Preferred Vendor. Choosing a DJ was easy for Tamara, as she used the same DJ that her family has used for the last 30 years. In fact, Tamara says it was the same DJ company that DJ’d her mom’s wedding! She also booked her hair and makeup artist – which were also easy to find because they are the same ones her sister used at her own wedding three years ago.
With the bigger vendors booked for her American wedding, Tamara was able to focus on medical school by the fall of 2021. She says that Tosan helped by creating spreadsheets to coordinate the payments and put together a timeline. In addition to Tosan, Tamara leaned on her sister, who gave her advice on wedding planning. “She was able to tell me the things she wished she would have spent more money on and the things she said you don’t need to spend money on.”
Planning the Nigerian Wedding
Tamara says that because Tosan is Nigerian, they had two weddings. By January 2022, Tamara and Tosan consulted with his family to plan the Nigerian wedding. “It was really special to learn the different ceremony pieces and the traditions,” says Tamara. “It was really great to embrace his culture and represent it well.” At times it was overwhelming she says, but she leaned on Tosan and his family to help. “My husband took the reins. He organized me getting my dresses in Nigeria!” Yes, that’s right. She had to get two separate dresses made for her Nigerian wedding – and they were custom-made in Nigeria! “I sent my measurements over. I would take calls at weird hours because of the time zone.” In the end, the dresses were beautiful. “They were so colorful. I couldn’t believe it. I had to put so much jewelry on,” says Tamara. “And I had to put a headwrap on.”
Tamara says the Nigerian wedding was held at North Shore Beach Clubhouse – and it was more of a do-it-yourself wedding. “I had one planner – I used my cousin’s event planning business,” says Tamara. She adds that while she had a different photographer and videographer for the Nigerian wedding, she used the same hair and makeup artist for both weddings.
Tamara explains that since she was the last girl to get married in her family, her mother wanted to go over the top with her wedding! “My mom and my sister were like ‘we have to top everything we’ve ever done.’”
So, what did those over-the-top things include? To start, their guest list included over 200 people at her American wedding, and 120 people at her Nigerian wedding. Guest list aside, the entertainment at Giorgio’s included a caricaturist, violinists, a keyboard player and aerialists. Yes, aerialists! “My sister had ballerinas, so I couldn’t have that!” says Tamara. “The aerialists were in hoops and doing flips and spinning around. I couldn’t believe it! They were stunning.”
Tamara says Giorgio’s made poutine for one of the cocktail hour stations. “It’s a Canadian dish. It was great to have that at the wedding,” she says. Tosan grew up in Canada, and his family still lives there. And their signature drink? A special margarita with drink toppers that featured the crest of their residential college where they met and lived at Yale.
Honoring a Culture & Traditions
Tamara and Tosan had their Nigerian wedding on July 16, and their American wedding on July 17. “It was back-to-back days of just wedding chaos,” says Tamara.
Tamara says she had to learn different traditions for the Nigerian wedding. “It’s a union of two families. It’s his family asking for my family’s blessing for me to enter their family.” She says for the first half of the wedding, she’s hidden away in a separate room, while each family dances into the reception. Once each family has entered, the groom enters with his groomsmen and they ‘inspect’ him “to make sure he has all 10 fingers and 10 toes,” she says. “A lot of the traditions that are played out and are not as serious.” After the inspection ritual, the groom’s parents give a gift to the bride’s family – which included wine and a basket of fabrics from Nigeria.
Next, the groom has to ‘identify his bride.’ Tamara explains that her bridesmaids are sent into the wedding wearing veils and holding fans in front of their faces, while Tosan had to declare them ‘not his bride.’ “Finally, I come out with bridesmaids doing a dance,” she says. After saying a prayer with each family, among other ceremonial things, she says there’s a big dinner and dancing. “There are Nigerian dances that we had to teach our bridal party. And it was fun to watch my family wearing traditional Nigerian outfits to surprise me!” Tamara says her family really embraced the Nigerian culture.
The Union of Two Cultures
The day of their American wedding was also just as perfect as the Nigerian wedding. From the beautiful aerialist performances and delicious food, to the MC who kept the party going all night and the ‘money dance,’ everything was just perfect for their wedding weekend. What is the money dance? “In Nigerian culture, you bring dollar bills to events like weddings, and you shower the bride and groom,” explains Tamara. “Any time we were dancing, you see the money flying over our heads. Usually, the kids gather it and put it away. There were piles of dollar bills around us. It was cool.”
“My MC was the highlight of my wedding,” says Tamara. She says he specializes in multi-cultural fusion weddings. From the start of the wedding, he asked where everyone was from. He would name different countries from around the world, and someone cheered at every single country, says Tamara. “He just kept the party going. He’d pass around the mic. He incorporated Nigerian culture into the wedding in so many cool aways.” There was never a dull moment!
Plan Early & Incorporate Your Partner
When it comes to advice for other Brides of Long Island, Tamara says planning early is key. “Get the venue as early as you possibly can! I remember that was the most stressful thing.” She also adds that leaning on your partner for support and help will keep your stress level lower. “I would do the work to find the vendors, and Tosan would keep me organized! Any questions I had about payments or contracts, Tosan had an answer!”
“And just enjoy it!” She says it can definitely be hard at times, as she would get overwhelmed while planning both weddings and juggling medical school, but it’s important to not stress out and know that everything will work out.
Traditional American Wedding Vendors:
Venue: Giorgio’s Baiting Hollow, a BOLI Preferred Vendor
Photographer: 456 Weddings Studios
Videography: 456 Weddings Studios
DJ: DJ Legend LLC Jerry Cummings
MC: Kofi Williams
Florist: Ritz Walton Wedding Collection
Makeup: Pure Glamour
Officiant: Rev. Dr. Daris Dixon-Clark – First Baptist Church
Invitations: Marry Me Magazines
Dress: Bridal Reflections, a BOLI Preferred Vendor – Ysa Makino
Bridal Jumpsuit: Jovani Fashions
Bridesmaid Dresses: Bridal Hive
Cake: Dortoni Bakery
Tuxedos: Suit Shop
Traditional Nigerian Wedding Vendors
Venue: North Shore Beach Clubhouse
Makeup: Pure Glamour
Photographer: Aida Malik
Videography: Ebi Agbeyegbe
Decorations: Kim’s Pop of Flavor
Decorations: Dan’s Unforgettable Creations, a BOLI Preferred Vendor
Bride’s Dress: Made Pieces
Groom’s Agbada: TDA Couture