In Brides of Long Island’s Monthly “Mrs.” series, we profile some of our members’ unforgettable weddings. This month, we spoke with Deon Araya about how she kept some Nigerian traditions during her big day.
When Deon Araya met her husband Jason in eighth grade, they never imagined they’d one day be married. In fact, she says they never even dated in middle school or high school, just stayed good friends. Fifteen years later, the pair planned their wedding that honored their cultures in the most elegant night.
A Chance Train Ride
Deon and Jason sort of lost touch as they each went off to different colleges – him in Rhode Island and her upstate. In 2019, Deon took the LIRR home to Freeport. As she struggled with her luggage to cross Sunrise Highway, little did she know that Jason was working across the street from the train station. “When I got home, I had a DM from him on Instagram, asking if it was me running across the highway,” she said. “He had seen the whole thing! But that was how we reconnected.”
They started dating shortly after that encounter. And in January 2022, Jason proposed. “Since it’s very hard to surprise me, Jason prepped our family members with what to say to me leading up to the proposal.” They were supposed to be going out for his mother’s birthday, but when she got to the restaurant, no one was inside. “When I went upstairs, there was a line of rose petals and Jason was waiting at the end with balloons asking ‘Will you marry me?’” After he proposed, the birthday party turned into their engagement party.
Hit the Ground Running
Deon and Jason started planning their wedding immediately after they got engaged. “My parents are old fashioned and told us they wanted us to be married by the following summer.” So by the end of January 2022, they had booked the Watermill, a BOLI preferred vendor, for their Aug. 19, 2023 wedding. “We actually found the Watermill by chance. We were coming back from another venue, and I read a review of the Watermill online. They were able to give us a tour that day, and I knew when we walked in that was where we were going to be married.”
After booking the Watermill, Deon and Jason started looking for a photographer, as photos were the most important to them. When the original photographer they liked was booked on their date, they recommended Heather from Never There Yet Photography, a BOLI preferred vendor. “Heather is just a sweetheart. To me, she was more than just a vendor, she was like a friend on my wedding day – helping to calm my nerves and making me feel so comfortable.” Deon says that Heather also helped her choose the perfect location for their first look. “She pulled out old portfolios of hers to give us ideas. She was just so patient to make sure we were going to get the vision we wanted on our wedding day.”
As for the other vendors, Deon says she turned to BOLI for lots of reviews. “I relied heavily on BOLI to hear other people’s experiences and tips and tricks for the day of.”
A Joint Effort
Deon says that Jason was very involved in planning. “He was at every vendor meeting, and was just so supportive of the whole process,” she says. “Having him by my side, especially during the most stressful parts like the guest list, was such a relief.” She says they decided on color schemes and the vision for the day together. She believes that is what made their wedding day even more special – and successful. Coming from different cultures – she’s Nigerian and Jamaican and he’s Peruvian and Guatemalan – they were the first in their families to have a big wedding, so being on the same page always helped. Deon adds that if they ever disagreed on something, they were always able to find a middle ground. “For example, my husband is very into anime and he wanted to incorporate it somehow in our wedding,” she explains. “So we had a sign on our DJ booth that was from DragonBallZ. I have no idea what that game is about, but it was an easy compromise for us to come to.”
When it came to a theme, Deon says they went for a classy vibe – sort of a Great Gatsby feel. And it was important to incorporate her Nigerian heritage into the day – so they, along with their parents, changed into traditional African attire. “We also got re-introduced and paraded around the room while our guests threw money on us – which is a tradition in African weddings. It’s a blessing for your marriage.”
Special First Looks
In addition to their private first look, Deon also had a first look with her father. “My dad is a very stoic person, not emotional by any means. So, when I saw tears in his eyes as he saw me in my wedding gown, it was something so special.” And when she saw Jason for the first time? “We always live our life like a movie – so to us – it was such a movie moment that I’ll never forget.”
The rest of the day went so smoothly. Deon says she has her bridal attendant Christina and maitre’d Nick to thank for that. “I felt like if anything did go wrong, I never saw it thanks to them!” She says the staff at the Watermill was just fantastic – everything from making sure Deon and Jason had some private time in their bridal suite to ensuring their day was personalized in every way.
In addition to the fabulous service at the Watermill, Deon says her makeup artist Krystal was also amazing and had a calming effect. “We were running very behind. Krystal not only got my makeup done in 40 minutes, but it was the full glam effect that never smudged the entire night!”
Now that Deon feels like she can plan weddings as a side hustle (as most of us graduated BOLIs do), she wants other brides to remember to stay true to themselves. “At times, people can get criticized for how they want to do things, but honestly, you need to do what you want! It’s your day, you’re allowed to be a little selfish.” At the end of the day, though, she says the most important thing is to remember why you’re getting married. “You’re having this wedding because you’re marrying your soulmate – don’t lose sight of that.”
Venue: The Watermill, a BOLI preferred vendor
Photographer: Heather from Never There Yet, a BOLI preferred vendor
DJ: MC Phil and DJ Mclovin from After Hours
Florist: Dana from Feriani Floral Decorators
Hair: Ruth from RuthiesHairCafe
Makeup: Krystal from Luxe Beauty Brow
Invitations: Invitations by Samantha at the Watermill
Dress: Max Bridal, a BOLI preferred vendor
Bridesmaid Dresses: Revelry
Transportation: Sir Oliver