The love story between Shirley Muland and Alexis Houssou began with a real estate transaction. “Alexis wanted to launch a project in New York,” recalls Shirley Muland. “A kind of Soho House, but dedicated to music, with recording studios, and he wanted to buy space with investors. As I was working in real estate investment at the time, a mutual friend, Antoine, put us in touch.”
Each as a couple at the time, Alexis Houssou and Shirley Muland became friends, even if the young entrepreneur's project did not see the light of day. And then six years later, when their respective stories have just ended quite painfully, they fall in love. “Our relationship took a bit of time to develop because Alexis, being one of my closest friends so far, I was afraid of losing him if things didn't work out between us,” says Shirley Muland . “Also, I was living in New York and he was living in Paris, and of course the distance was another deterrent. But against all odds, I didn't lose a friend: I even gained a best friend and the most incredible partner. What started as a professional relationship turned into a friendship and then into a love affair.”
Alexis Houssou, a Parisian founder of a venture capital fund (HCVC), asked Shirley Muland – strategy, influence and communication advisor for brands – in marriage on March 7, 2020, during a weekend in Lisbon . “It was so romantic,” says Shirley Muland, “at sunset on a boat going down the Tagus. I didn't understand what he was trying to do, and when he got down on his knees, I thought he was falling off his seat! I helped him up until he finally said, “Stop, I'm not falling, I'm just trying to tell you something”. We recorded everything on video. It was my first time to Portugal, and I immediately fell in love with Lisbon and the surrounding towns. At the end of the weekend, we decided that Portugal would be the place where we would get married.”
The couple thankfully didn't have to postpone or limit their wedding due to the pandemic. Not easy, however, to plan an event abroad. “We got engaged in March 2020, we started planning in May 2020 for a wedding in the summer of 2021, but we quickly became concerned about the feasibility of all this in the midst of a health crisis” says Shirley Muland. “We therefore decided to suspend preparation for several months in order to have more visibility on the situation.”Alexis Houssou and Shirley Muland took over the project in November 2020 and called on Joana Antunes for the decor, styling and production. coordination.
The civil ceremony on August 24, 2021 was followed by a three-day celebration at L'And Vineyards which began with a welcome dinner on the first evening. “Alexis and I share different backgrounds and have friends from all over the world, so we decided to throw a party celebrating our roots and asked our guests to wear an outfit reflecting the place they call home ”, explains Shirley Muland. “Alexis' mother is from Normandy and his father is from Benin, Africa. I was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I grew up in Paris and have lived in New York for 12 years, and our friends come from all over. In a world where our differences often divide us, we wanted to honor everyone's heritage and culture. It was also a way for us to break the ice between our guests.” To honor their African heritage in their outfits, Alexis Houssou and Shirley Muland wore bespoke wax prints by designer Angela Peralba, whose brand (and boutique) Awaxland is based in Paris.
Shirley Muland has always been a fan of fashion. From an early age, his mother made him discover the essential designers of the 90s: Mugler, Christian Lacroix, Dior period John Galliano, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Claude Montana and Paco Rabanne, among others. “Alexis, on the other hand, doesn't care about brands as long as it's clean, sleek and well cut,” she explains. "That's something I love about him, his simplicity and the fact that he's down to earth, being the complete opposite of me." Their respective wedding attire reflected their image well.
“For my wedding outfits, I was inspired by Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and stylist Danielle Goldberg, who are among my style icons,” explains Shirley Muland. “I admire their minimalist, clean, timeless but always sexy style. An elegance, something cool by nature… I love it. They both wore very simple white Calvin Klein dresses for their big day, they looked gorgeous. That's what I was trying to embody for my wedding: simple, timeless yet sophisticated.”
Shirley Muland knew exactly who to turn to for her dress: Galvan London. “You can't go wrong with a Galvan dress, whatever the occasion,” she says. “They make pieces that are simple, yet sophisticated and sexy – and truly timeless. You instantly feel good in a Galvan room, and if there was ever a day I wanted to feel that way, it was my wedding day!”
Last summer, Shirley Muland and Galvan designer Anna-Christin Haas both attended a mutual friend's birthday party and hit it off. “In October 2020, I went to the Galvan store in New York to try on dresses,” Shirley Muland recalled. “I ended up buying the Mayfair dress. It is in silk satin, with an asymmetrical neckline and an incredible silk belt, which cascades down the back. It's very elegant, and it's an investment. I know I'm going to be able to put it back outside of the bridal context, and that's what makes Galvan special: their dresses can be worn again and again.”
Shirley Muland, who opted for a simple dress, wanted a more elaborate veil. “Since my mother and my sisters could not attend the fittings of my dress in New York, we went together to Pronovias in Paris,” says Shirley Muland. “I chose a long tulle veil with a thick edging of scalloped white Chantilly lace.”
Laura Martel, a friend of the bride, is in charge of fine jewelry at Chanel, and she lent Shirley Muland some jewelry for the occasion. “Thanks to photos of my dress, she sent me several options,” says Shirley Muland. “I opted for a pair of earrings from the Camélia Précieux collection in white gold and diamonds, and the matching necklace to go with my evening dress. These pieces are stylish and fit perfectly with the overall look I wanted.”
One of Shirley Muland's clients, French beauty brand La Bouche Rouge, offers a bespoke lipstick service, Nicolas Gerlier, the company's CEO, offered to create custom shades as a gift of marriage. “One of my favorite makeup artists, Harold James, helped me design the shades,” she explains. “We opted for two shades. For the ceremony, a nude pink which we named Ceremony, and a red rose for the party, which we simply called Party.”
On site, Shirley Mulanda called on makeup artist Miguel Stapleton to create a natural look. "I didn't have a lot of guidance to give, I just let it go, and it was perfect," she says. Hairstylist Lilia Costa created a smooth, classic updo for the occasion.
The ceremony, like the rest of the wedding, was perfect and simple. “Being a churchgoer, I always wanted to get married in church,” says Shirley Muland. “I was raised Catholic but became a Protestant at 16. There was no Protestant church near our wedding venue, so we had to drop that idea and ask a pastor to officiate there.”
The service was held in the afternoon, in the middle of the hotel garden, facing the lake. “Since we were each missing a relative for the ceremony, we decided that Alexis' father would walk me down the aisle and my mother would walk Alexis down the aisle,” says Shirley Muland. From the first violin notes signaling the start of the ceremony, the little girls of honor (the nieces of Alexis Houssou, Salomé and Joséphine) descended the aisle throwing rose petals. “They looked adorable in their matching dresses, shoes and flower crowns…real little angels,” says Shirley Muland.
“Alexis and I were proud to have been so relaxed throughout the event,” summarizes Shirley Muland, “until the moment a car came to pick me up to take me to the entrance of the hotel! There, I began to be overwhelmed by a wave of emotions that I had not anticipated. But when I saw Alexis waiting for me in the aisle, all that stress disappeared. I instantly lit up, and I felt very present throughout the ceremony, while remaining very emotional. I was so happy to see all of our friends and families here with us after all these months of planning and uncertainty. I felt grateful to stand before Alexis, finally about to become his wife.”
Once husband and wife, the young couple signed their marriage certificate and joined the guests who were waiting to congratulate them, cocktails in hand. A saxophonist played while the couple posed for photos - and when Beyoncé's song Single Ladies started, Shirley Muland knew it was time to throw the bouquet. “I didn't expect what happened next at all,” she said. “A fierce battle between my mother and my sister Cynthia, who did not want to let go of the bouquet! But Cynthia ended up winning. It was surprising and hilarious at the same time!” Dinner followed, with touching speeches by family members. Shirley Mulandy then put on a second Galvan dress, and the dance party continued until 4 a.m.
Translation by Jean-Marc Masala
Article originally published on Vogue.com
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