Mekia Cox wanted to make sure that her wedding to longtime love Britt Leach was as personal as it was sentimental, and judging by behind-the-scenes photos the actress recently shared with The Knot, she definitely achieved just that.
Cox, 36, and Leach, 37, said “I do” before 130 of their closest friends and family at Miami’s Samsara Gardens, and the pair incorporated personalized details into everything from their invitations to the decorations to the post-wedding traditions, ensuring that they were making the day all their own.
When we asked the Once Upon a Time actress how she would best describe her Julie Vino gown, she responded, “Me, myself, and I.”
“That dress represented everything that encompassed who I am,” she says. “It was unique, elegantly designed, and most importantly, it was comfortable. I cannot thank Julie Vino enough for that dress. She truly made this little Island girl’s dreams come true.”
Here, The Knot has exclusive details about all the other elements of Cox’s big day, from butterflies to Caribbean-inspired hors d’oeuvres to Leach’s insistence on incorporating stars into the wedding as much as possible.
When it came to figuring out where they wanted to exchange their forever vows, Cox already had the perfect spot in mind. “We have a tradition in my family of going to the Redlands every year on Christmas Eve Day to buy the most amazing sticky buns ever made,” she tells The Knot. “Afterwards, we’d stop by a close friend of the family aka ‘Uncle Phil and Aunty Karen’s’ house. Uncle Phil owned a nursery business and had a knack for gardening and building in his backyard. Every year we’d go back and a new section had been added.”
For someone who plays a princess (Princess Tiana on Once Upon a Time) onscreen, choosing a dress in which to get married off-screen was a tough task. Luckily, Cox tells us, she connected with Julie Vino, whose Spring 2018 collection was entirely inspired by the romantic city of Venice.
The gown, which was, by Cox’s description, topped with “a pearl-crested bodice nestled in sheer fabric,” also featured a high, detailed neckline and narrow capped shoulders. The skirt was a “layered chiffon with a thigh-high split to show off a little leg occasionally.” Vino also provided Cox with a veil, lightly edged with lace. In order to best show off her gown’s high neck details, Cox opted to sweep her hair up into an elegant updo, inspired largely by her Princess Tiana character.
THE COLOR SCHEME
Cox’s love for neutrals, contrasted with bright, colorful blooms, dictated the palette of their wedding day.
“My entire closet consists of neutrals, so I figured, why not have the bridal party reflect what I like?” she says. “So I asked the girls to go neutral with their dresses, and I let them pick their own dresses. I wanted to make sure they had something they could wear to other events or occasions rather than a dress that would sit in their closet.”
Leach’s look similarly reflected mellow neutral tones; the groom wore a blue DKNY blazer with a grey Ralph Lauren vest, coupled with grey pants from Kenneth Cole. He and his groomsmen wore matching maroon ties, pocket squares and socks for a tiny pop of color.
The theme that Cox and Leach went for was “Caribbean chic,” and they implemented the laid-back-but sophisticated vibe in their choice of decorations and blooms. Cox and her bridesmaids opted for tropical flowers for their bouquets, and the flowers themselves consisted of small palm fronds.
The couple also worked to incorporate stars into their wedding, since Leach, Cox says, “is a sucker for stars … they were also in both of our vows.” The centerpieces at the reception echoed these decor elements as well, with “tall elephant ears, philodendron leaves and palm fronds” covering the tables, as well as glass lanterns and floating candles hung throughout the venue.
In keeping with tradition, Cox and Leach led their family and friends in releasing butterflies to honor “those who have gone before us,” with the sounds of Mariah Carey’s “Butterfly” sung by Deone D’Alessio in the background. For the setting itself, the ceremony was set up with all the chairs in a semi-circle in a scenic garden environment; the aisle was flanked with glass cylinders filled with palm greenery to pay respects to the Caribbean chic theme.
“My godfather escorted me down the aisle,” she says. “After my father passed at age 17, I knew the best person to represent him that day would be my godfather. He has been an integral part of my life since birth, literally, because I was born on his birthday.”
In keeping with the Caribbean theme, Cox and Leach naturally had a smorgasbord of delicious food to keep their guests well-fed and dancing all night. Hors d’ouevres included coconut-crusted shrimp with a pineapple chili dipping sauce, salted codfish fritters, skewered beef rolls with spring onion soy, ginger chicken satay with a coconut peanut sauce, and vegetarian West Indian pumpkin soup shooters with coconut cream.
For the main course, guests were presented with a salad of heirloom tomatos and avocado, airline curry chicken breast with Jamaican curry sauce and a citrus soy-glazed salmon with traditional Jamaican rice, all with a side of red peas and Caribbean-spiced grilled vegetables.
“You can’t have a Caribbean wedding without some rum so we had a four-tier cake, two layers of rum cake and two of chocolate (for the non alcohol lovers),” Cox tells The Knot.
“Take all the help you can get,” Cox says, citing her busy filming schedule as a challenge in the wedding planning journey. “My mother always says it takes a village. I happened to have an amazing group of family and friends that were all willing to help out in some way. My mother helped with the invitations, flowers, etc. My cousin did the photography. My aunt handled the cake and some florals. … There is absolutely no way my wedding would have been anywhere near where it was if it weren’t for the help of these people.”
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