London-based Filipino designer and newlywed John Herrera shares how he and his husband confronted the challenges of tying the knot post-quarantine.
You’ve probably heard the adage, “there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.” And we now know that as a matter of fact, because our very-own MEGA Young Designer’s Competition All-Stars 2013 Winner John Herrera proves it so. While the coronavirus pandemic has immensely altered everyone’s lives, regardless of what industry you’re part of, some part of you or your industry must have endured such great shifts and changes.
Although this may be, it’s not only our professional lives that have been affected by various levels of lockdown enacted by all nation-states; our personal lives were also compelled to adapt to the changing times—the so-called new norm. As it was a struggle we all experienced and are still experiencing, this couldn’t have been truer in John’s case, lamenting how it was truly difficult to fashion a silver lining amidst what is typically the happiest of news.
When the designer first met Carl Ellis after his show for London Fashion Week back in 2017, he was instantly captivated by his appeal. The designer shares to MEGA, “I remember seeing him at an after-party and thinking I have to meet this guy… [but] after having a conversation I realized how smart he is and I was smitten.”
But little did he know that this man, whom he somehow fell in love at first sight, would be his life-long partner through thick and thin. Their relationship didn’t set afloat the moment they met; rather it was only after John’s bridal show at the Philippine embassy in London that the two realized they value each other more than just friends. Come December 2018, they made it official.
Two years have passed and the couple decided to finally tie the knot. “It was supposed to be a simple wedding ceremony on April 18, [but] then the lockdown happened and it was postponed indefinitely. So, much has happened to us emotionally and professionally that we forgot about it actually,” he admits.
When the lockdown restrictions were being eased in London, they received an unexpected email from the Lambeth Town Hall saying they have resumed services and gave them the date. But here’s where the plot thickens: they only got the email a mere eight days before the wedding day.
Perhaps we can all agree that the quarantine brought by COVID-19 was never kind to anyone. Several innocent lives lost and businesses shut down, where many have suffered financially, emotionally, and physically, making it a test of true endurance. “The pandemic has been hard on us both, and I think as well as to a lot of people. Carl was made redundant in his job mid-pandemic and I had to close my boutique in Shangri La Plaza,” John details. But amidst all these challenges, the couple never despaired and remained hopeful, keeping in mind that together, they too can overcome these obstacles.
Lo and behold, in the middle of a great global crisis, John was fortunate enough to win a face mask design competition in Milan, Italy for a women’s NGO. “That winning design became the prototype for my face mask, which we produce in Manila and now sell in London,” he says. “It gave me a source of income during these challenging times and my employees as well back home.”
While they have enough savings for their big day, they still have the difficult task of preparing for their wedding. If most couples would usually take at least eight months of preparations, they only had eight days. So, without hesitation and wasting time, the couple rushed to Tiffany & Co to get their wedding rings.
“It’s a good thing we knew exactly what we want—the Atlas ring—because we’ve looked at them online,” John reveals. “After which, we ran to Selfridges and checked out Emporio Armani’s suit sale…and found the perfect suit for Carl.” And at that moment, the designer knew what he’ll wear—his very own design.
Finally, the last, and the most complicated problem was the reception. There was no restaurant that was willing to take in 25 people on such short notice. But thankfully, John had a light bulb moment. “I remembered seeing it on a documentary some time ago—a party bus!” he shares excitedly. “There’s a party bus company in London that drives around [the city] for wedding parties. [So], on the wedding day, we went around London for two hours—from the London Eye, Waterloo Bridge, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Tower of London, to the Houses of Parliament.”
It’s true that people come and go in our lives, but there are some who will always have a special place in our hearts. And these are friends who coalesce into our chosen family. Come to think of it, family isn’t always blood. It’s the ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.
For this special post-quarantine wedding, John and Carl were surrounded by family and really good friends who made their wedding day possible. That’s because Jahan, Carl’s friend, became their wedding planner who impeccably made the festivities smooth sailing for the entire day.
Then, John’s friends, Ghene Snowdon and Marco Pajo became the photographer and videographer respectively. And after they partied the whole day inside the iconic red double-decker British bus blasting 90s music with overflowing champagne, they were dropped off at the couple’s Brixton flat, where their wedding cake made by his friend, Niko Almontero of Pino Candy, was waiting, as well as the food they prepared the night before. Yes, believe it or not, they did their own catering.
Changing The Rules
“Ever since I saw Olivia Palermo change the rules of bridal fashion on her wedding a while back, I knew I was going to do the same,” John reminisces. So, for his wedding day, he didn’t opt for the quintessential black tie fit.
The designer wore a cashmere turtle neck inside his very-own label’s white neoprene trenchcoat, matched with twill pants. To complement his look, he wore a Vivienne Westwood earring and white Valentino chunky sneakers. As for his beau, Carl wore a classic tee under a gunmetal grey Armani suit ensemble adorned with a Vivienne Westwood lapel pin and finished with black Balenciaga leather boots.
Now, John has always been the type of man who’d always explore and venture beyond the box. He’s a designer who loves to get creative and never backs down on any challenge. Perhaps that’s why he has won many awards both locally and globally. But one thing that we know is for sure, John Herrera is and will always change the rules for the better.
Echoing his message to young LGBTQIA+ couples who dream of getting married one day: “don’t be afraid to change the rules. Be creative and have fun planning. Your guests will never forget your wedding if it is unique rather than stiff.”
Overall, what the wedding of John and Carl reminded us is love truly does win. You may encounter problems and have bad days in your life, but never ever forget that after every storm is always a rainbow. And once you experience that, make sure you have fun and live your life to the fullest.