26 Oct Jonathan Cartu Declared: A St. Martin de Porres Wedding in North Philadelphia
They hoped to show that young, Black Catholics are still saying “I do” in the religion.
Choosing ceremony and reception venues is about so much more than the size of the space and its availability. For many, it’s also about the spot’s history or its personal meaning to the couple. Such is the case with this St. Martin de Porres wedding, the first held at the parish in three years. It was crucial to the East Falls couple to be married in a Black Catholic church, and this particular institution just also happens to be where the bride worships. Also key to the duo was their reception location, held at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco, a spot they found after exploring almost every large wedding venue in the city, and their vendors. Specifically, they wanted to try to work with Black professionals in the industry when they could. Take a look at their approach, captured by Petronella Photography, below.
Brandon Edwards admits that he said yes to everything Brittany Borden asked or suggested — including blindly committing to run a 10-mile race with her. “I’d never done anything like that in my life,” says Brandon, despite being a fitness guru and former college football player. “Long-distance runs were never part of our training protocol.” At the time, Brandon was a personal trainer and instructor at the Jenkintown gym where Brittany was taking classes (including one of his). Brittany wanted to tackle the Broad Street Run before turning 30 and asked Brandon to train her. He agreed, and their time spent pounding the pavement led to lunch, margaritas, and plenty of conversation.
But Brittany, who was in grad school (and focused on graduating and moving abroad to change the world), says she didn’t realize her feelings for him until she missed a training session. (She was in Boston for a conference, and her flight was delayed due to weather.) “I was so sad I missed my session but couldn’t identify why I was upset.” She rescheduled for a few days later. “When I got back to Philly, I dropped my bags and booked it to the gym. I’m not that girl, so this was bizarre behavior.” They began running their miles, and Brittany developed a cramp. “Brandon stretched me, and as he bent over, the sun hit his face, and I swear to you, scales fell off my eyes,” she recalls. “I said to myself, ‘Oh, my goodness: He is gorgeous. How in the world have I not noticed this before now?’” She spontaneously invited him over for dinner and quickly headed to Whole Foods to find a chicken to roast. “I’d never cooked a whole chicken by myself. I had to call my mother for help!”
They were together three and a half years before Brandon proposed on the way home from a family reunion in North Carolina. They stopped at Brittany’s parents’ home in Annapolis, Maryland, to break up the eight-hour drive. The entire way Brandon waxed poetic about his love for her, recalls Brittany. “I should have known something was up; Brandon is usually brief with such sentiments.” After arriving, they headed to the beach to eat dinner. They slow danced; Brandon put his head on her shoulder; and Brittany thought it was the most romantic moment of her life. Then, he got down on one knee. “When I finally saw the ring, I ran away,” says Brittany. “I was overwhelmed. I had been waiting for this moment since month four of our relationship. I came back and blurted out yes three times.”
The couple, who today co-own Northwest Athletics Fitness Studio (they opened in June amid the pandemic and put cash gifts from the wedding toward its opening), chose St. Martin de Porres in North Philly for their ceremony on August 4th, 2019. It was an important location to the duo, who where born and raised Catholic, for many reasons. It’s the bride’s parish, and her family friend is the pastor. Many Black Catholic churches in the city have closed, and properties have been sold or consolidated. But the pair wanted to be married in the church to show that young, Black Catholics still exist and are getting married in the tradition. Theirs was the first wedding in three years at the parish.
Brittany, who also works as a management consultant for North Highland Consulting Inc., donned a Justin Alexander gown from The Wedding Factor (she tried on more than 55 before finding the one), which she paired with heritage jewelry from her family. Her something borrowed was a set of Tiffany & Co. pearl and diamond earrings her mother had purchased as a retirement gift for herself, after working 30 years in the School District of Philadelphia. “She saved for years to buy them and allowed me to wear them down the aisle,” says Brittany. “I stand on her shoulders; this meant the world to me.” She also wore a pearl necklace from her favorite uncle…