Timing is Everything
Joan & Jay

Joan and Jay’s relationship spanned 11 years and covered three continents before they finally decided to tie the knot.

By Melanie Brooks
Photography by Amy Salerno Photography   

Joan Chen, from Great Neck, New York, and Jay Ostis, from Yarmouth, Maine, met in San Francisco, California, while they were temping for a law firm. After a mere two months of dating, Jay traded San Francisco’s white-collar world for the whitewater-rafting world of central California.

Over the next four years, through moves to Chile, Italy, New York City, and Charleston, South Carolina, Joan and Jay flitted in and out of a long-distance relationship. “Toward the beginning, I really didn’t think we’d keep in touch,” Joan says. “But time passed and our relationship continued to grow.” The couple frequently talked on the phone and visited each other every few months, no matter where they were living at the time.

It was after Joan finished graduate school in upstate New York in 2002 that they decided it was now or never and Joan moved to Seattle to be with Jay. The move was a wise decision—they’ve been together ever since.

Getting married wasn’t high on either one of their priority lists, but the couple did want to get wed before they had children. After seven years, the time had come.

“I actually started doing some research on eloping in Hawaii,” Joan says. “But I worried we would regret not having a wedding with our friends and family around and the photos to go with it.” The couple chose photographer Amy Salerno to capture their special day and clicked with her immediately. “It’s not just that her photos were great,” Joan says. “She was just so great to work with. To this day, everyone in my family says how wonderful she was whenever we look back at the photos.”

With both of their families settled on the East Coast, Joan and Jay started planning a Maine wedding at Jay’s family’s home on Westport Island. “It was the place where my mom spent her summers as a kid, where my grandparents retired, and where I spent many summers with extended family,” Jay says. “It’s where we still get together yearly to be with our family.”

The week before the wedding was gorgeous with sunny skies and warm weather. Knowing full well how the weather in Maine can change on a dime, Joan and Jay had a Plan B to their outdoor wedding—and they nearly had to use it.

“We thought we were going to get rained out,” Jay says. “So my brother got all the chairs set up under the tent for us to be married there.” But the guests weren’t having it. “My friend Brit came over to convey that the slight misting was nothing to worry about and that everyone was still excited for us to get married outside—so we decided to go for it.”  Brit hurried back to tell the guests that they were going to ditch the tent for the ceremony and a giant cheer arose from the tent. “The weather held out and we had a beautiful ceremony,” Jay says. “The informality and improvisational aspect of it made it more intimate and special.”

To keep the intimate feel, Joan and Jay asked a family friend to perform the service. “That was really nice because I always felt it would feel odd to have a stranger marry us,” Joan says.

Joan walked down the aisle in a traditional white tea-length gown, but nodded to her Chinese heritage partway through the reception by changing into a traditional red Chinese dress. “It’s called a qi pao,” Joan says. “Red is a lucky color for Chinese people. It’s very common for Chinese-American families to have both an American white dress and a Chinese red dress.”

The reception was bustling with dance moves as Jay, Joan, and most of their friends and family love to dance. “We knew we absolutely wanted to have very dance-friendly music,” Joan says. “I always find it kind of sad when I’ve gone to other weddings where there are a lot more people in chairs than on the dance floor because they’re too shy to get up and dance. Our guests weren’t shy at all and that was awesome!”

The couple spent the days after their wedding with family and took a daylong hiatus to nearby Boothbay Harbor for their honeymoon. Joan and Jay did go to Hawaii five months after they got married for what they call their “babymoon.” Joan was pregnant at the time and the couple wanted one last vacation together before they had kids. The Seattle-based couple welcomed their daughter, Olive, on July 12, 2010—exactly 10 months after their wedding day.    

In Her Words
We asked the bride more about their special day. 
Here’s what Joan says . . .

I’m so glad that . . . we decided to have the wedding instead of eloping.

One of my favorite moments was . . . our first dance. We had taken a couple of dancing lessons and danced to "Let's Stay Together" by Al Green. I think everyone was kind of surprised that we actually had somewhat of a choreographed dance. It wasn't perfect, but I'd say we pretty much rocked it.

I didn’t realize . . . how much fun I would have. I thought there'd be some stress, and I dreaded being the center of attention all day, but those didn't end up being issues and I just had a great time.

My advice to other brides is . . . splurge on the shoes that you're going to be comfortable in. I didn't heed this advice and had trouble keeping my heel from coming out of my shoe all night, especially walking in the grass.