A Traditional Church Ceremony + Vibrant Ballroom Reception

Diana Tovt and Ivan Marnika

Photographed by: Richard Anthony PhotographyLocation: Garfield, New Jersey, United States

When Ivan Marnika, who attended Columbia University, decided to take a philosophy class at Baruch College – where Diana Tovt went to school – during winter break, he had no idea he’d meet his future wife. “He walked in, 10 minutes late, and we locked eyes,” remembers Diana. “He asked me for the WiFi login, and we took the train together that night where we exchanged numbers… the rest is history!” 

As Ivan began planning a proposal for his longtime love of 11 years, he knew that he would need to catch her off guard as a trip or fancy dinner would instantly give away the surprise. So, after a night of dinner and drinks, the couple went back to his apartment. Diana began changing into her pajamas, taking off her makeup, and preparing for bed as though it was a typical evening, when Ivan said, “not so soon.” He got down on one knee at that very moment, and Diana – who was officially surprised – of course said yes. 

Since the couple lives in Astoria, New York, and most of their friends and family also live in the Tri-State area, Diana and Ivan selected venues that were both special to them and convenient for their loved ones. The bride prepared for the big day at a hotel in Manhattan, which was recommended by the groom’s aunt and proved to be easy for Diana’s hairstylist and makeup artist to get to, the pair exchanged vows at the same Astoria church that Ivan’s family has attended for years, and the reception was held at a New Jersey venue less than 15 miles away from the sanctuary. 

On the late November day, the bride was gorgeous in a long-sleeve gown with intricate detailing and illusion details for the traditional winter ceremony. Though the service took place in a church, the couple made sure to incorporate floral décor that would marry the look of the ceremony and reception. The altar was flanked with arrangements of ivory roses, pink and blue hydrangeas, and fuchsia blooms to complement the jewel-toned theme they desired. The ends of the pews were adorned with similar florals and snowy ribbons and bows to create an even more romantic setting for the heartfelt vow exchange. 

As loved ones entered the reception space, they were in awe of the glamorous gold décor and stunning chandeliers, which were amplified with vibrant pink lighting to create an exquisite ambience. Guest tables were strewn with white linens and decorated with either tall arrangements of purple phalaenopsis orchid stems or luxe trumpet vases topped with compilations of roses, Hawaiian orchids, and hydrangeas in similar tones. “I think the mixture of arrangements did a good job of adding depth to the appearance of the room,” shares the bride. The newlyweds were seated atop tufted thrones on a raised stage at an ornate sweetheart table embellished with jewel-toned blossoms and floating candles. 

A sit-down dinner service was offered to loved ones, followed by slices of the newlyweds’ delectable wedding confection. The rest of the night was spent celebrating and dancing until 1AM. To honor Ivan’s background, a Croatian live band performed between hip-hop and dance music played by a DJ. “I think ultimately, we just wanted to make sure everyone had fun, which is not so easy to do when you have a wide range of guests with different ages and cultural backgrounds,” confirms Diana. “Having different types of food, beverage, and music options to appease as many people, versus sticking to a single theme, I think spoke to our flexibility as a couple.” 

Though the day flew by much too quickly, Diana and Ivan are thrilled that they have lasting memories of their special day. “Practically everybody told us that the day flies by quickly,” notes the bride. “The flowers, food, and music come and go, but it’s so important to be selective with your photographer and videographer. It’s the one thing that will help you relive those memories for the rest of your lives!”