Makeda and Raoul's love story began with a little motherly intervention. The two met in 2008 through their mothers, who are close friends and neighbors. "In December of that year, I got an official introduction during an unannounced visit to the Culley's (Makeda's family) home," recalled Raoul. Makeda had just completed a 5K run a few hours earlier and was reasonably tired. She wasn’t excited about another one of her mother's introductions and shared that with her mother. On her way down Raoul overheard Makeda expressing how she felt about it. Unbeknownst to her this well dressed; handsome gentleman wasn't what she expected. "She greeted me with the sweetest smile and everything I over heard on her way down to meet me vanished from memory. We spoke for about 15 minutes before exchanging information," said Raoul. The two began texting that night and phone conversations soon followed. After hours of phone time during that weekend, Raoul suggested that they meet in Brooklyn Heights after work. They went to a local bar called Floyd's where they played Bocce Ball and threw back a few cold lite drafts. On the way home Raoul took her to a West Indian food spot. The following morning Makeda told Raoul that the food made her sick, and he apologized profusely and offered to cook her dinner that night. She agreed and that night she sat at Chef Raoul's table. Years later the happy couple are still creating fusion dishes and special moments together in the kitchen. Check out their romantic outdoor engagement session, captured by Fabio Fistarol.
Bride: Makeda Culley, 33, Assistant Research Scientist
Groom: Raoul Brown, 38, Photographer
Place of residence: Queens, NY
Engagement Shoot Location: Top of the Rock, Park Avenue, The Helmsley Building and Tudor City.
Wedding date: 7/23/16
It's December 26th, 2014 and Makeda and I are about to board a plane to San Francisco to spend the remainder of the holidays with her family, who I've been in cahoots with for the past 2 weeks.This was my first visit to San Francisco, so we spent the day sightseeing. This also helped to calm my nerves and subdue Makeda's suspicions. My nervous energy had her spider senses on high alert, which promoted her to boldly tell me "I know you're up to something." At dinner that night we discussed our plans for the following day; it was suggested and agreed upon that we see the coastline. On December 27th, 2014 we stopped at a few picturesque locations, but none compared to Pfeiffer Falls in Big Sur State Park. As we approached the falls my inner voice began screaming " THIS IS IT, LET'S DO IT." I remember thinking wow.... it's crowded. Keep it together and remember your speech. She's going to love it. After giving the signal, everyone got into positions. Katherin took my camera and whispered you got this brother. Daniel, Susan and Grace kept Makeda back from my line of sight as I prepared. We waited for foot traffic to dissipate and walked towards the edge. After 5-6 shots I forgot my speech and spoke from the heart. I don't remember much of what I said; Makeda later said it was great. I do remember how beautiful she looked, how surprised she was, the crowd cheering as tears ran down her face.
From the Groom: Walk us through the behind the scenes of creating this special proposal.
Honestly I was a nervous wreck. I didn’t know where to hide the ring as we stood in check-in line at JFK. At that point I was still struggling with if I should do it on the plane or with Makeda’s family in California. I wanted it to be special and the plane thing has been done; so California it was. After meeting up and spending the day with her family in San Francisco we agreed to visit the coastline the following day. I remember being nervous all the way up to the moment I popped the question. The night before I couldn’t decide which of my three outfits to wear. The big day… the plan was to approach the day as we did the previous day; sightseeing, stopping and taking family and landscape photographs. When we got to Big Sur State Park I knew that was it. Hiking through the Redwoods I almost did it. I’m glad I waited… when we got to the Falls I knew that was it, the light was perfect. She was perfect and I was nervous... Looking back on it now, I can’t help but smile. Women always say I don’t know why men get nervous… It’s a lot to explain… Makeda later told me I didn’t wait for her to say yes.
What makes your love special?
The simplest way we can explain this is… the combination of who we are together and as individuals. How we see, care, trust, love and respect ourselves and each other. Outside of God we always put each other first.
What was the theme of your shoot?
Empire State of Love…. A New York love story.
Were there any memorable moments during the shoot?
Makeda: My most memorable moment was when Raoul took me by the hand and began singing as we started slow dancing on the lower deck of observation tower.
Raoul: We were on the lower observation deck at Top of the Rock and Fabio our photographer was above us on the upper deck photographing us as I noticed how happy Makeda smiled at me. I walked over took her hand and started singing as we slowed dance. When we stopped a crowd had gathered above on the upper deck taking pictures and video and congratulating us.
What are you most looking forward to about your wedding?
I would have to say our first look and the exchanging of our vows. I can’t wait to see Makeda in her dress. The entire process has been a secret. We can’t wait to see our guests who will be coming in from New York, Florida, Virginia and Trinidad & Tobago to celebrate our joyous occasion.
Have you started planning your wedding?
Yes we have… Raoul & I are in the final stages of our Vermont Farm Wedding. Thank you to all our family, friends and vendors for helping in making this vision a reality. We are truly excited about our big day and can’t wait to party with all our guest.
Congratulations to the happy couple Makeda and Raoul! We wish you a wonderful wedding and marriage.
Photographer: Fabio Fistarol
Makeup Artist: Shaleira Smith
Stylist: Jonella Brown
Dress: Rent the Runway