The first time Doreen Ho and her husband Rex Surany locked eyes, it was during lunchtime on the first day of high school. The couple’s mutual acquaintance (and eventual best man) invited Ho and her friends to sit at the “boy’s table,” a table filled with instruments and music and Weezer and Radiohead. Ho accepted and swapped seats to meet the musical group, Surany included.
“I remember thinking that Rex was a really cool, original dude,” Ho says. “He marched to the beat of his own drum. And he was such a talented musician! He started a 13-piece funk band in high school; they were called Shottafunk and they rocked.”
Although the duo flirted throughout high school, it wasn’t until Surany moved to New York seven years ago that they started dating. Once together in the Big Apple, they continued to pursue their shared interest in culture, with Ho at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Surany working as the principal bassist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and an adjunct professor at The Julliard School. To get away from the city on weekends, they retreated to the Hudson Valley to reconnect with nature and enjoy the inherent serenity of the region.
“Early on in our relationship, we drove up to the Hudson Valley for a weekend getaway and fell in love with the nature, beauty, and quiet of the surrounding landscape,” Ho recalls. “We made it an annual tradition to visit every fall.”
While the couple relished the chance to explore the hidden corners of the Hudson Valley, one of their favorite places to return was Storm King Art Center, where Ho’s aunt used to take her and her brother when they were children.
Now, Storm King is unforgettable for both of them.
“In October 2017, Rex proposed to me there, at the top of a hill overlooking Maya Lin’s Wavefield,” Ho says. “It was a beautiful moment, and I loved that the proposal was so private and in a place that Rex knew was so special to me and so special to us.”
With their shared love for the Hudson Valley in mind, the newly engaged duo began scouting the region for beautiful, natural locations. Farms, vineyards, and old estates were all top of mind, as was food, which the pair knew needed to be top-of-the-line in order to impress the food aficionados among their family and friends. After walking the grounds at a handful of venues in the region, they fell head over heels for Red Maple Vineyard in West Park.
“We loved that it was a family-owned vineyard, and that their roots were also deeply engrained in the Hudson Valley,” Ho says, noting that the husband and wife who run the space met at the Culinary Institute of America. “We loved that the menu was farm-to-table, and the vineyard had both the feeling of expansive, wild landscape while also feeling cozy, rustic, and intimate.”
The night before the big day, the couple and their wedding party hosted a rehearsal dinner at Boitson’s in Kingston. A magical evening from the start, it became even more special when Ho opted to wear her grandmother’s qipao – a traditional Chinese dress that had been in the family for more than 40 years. Although her grandmother passed away a few years prior, wearing the qipao brought sweet memories back to light.
Ho and Surany said “I do” on June 7, 2019. A perfect summer day in the Hudson Valley, it began with the thing that united the couple in the first place: music. In the hours leading up to the ceremony, Ho and her bridal party sang along to a five-hour playlist, while Surany sipped a little Hudson Whiskey and slipped on funky, patterned socks with his groomsmen.
At the ceremony, personal touches abounded. The couple’s mutual friend served as the officiant, delivering a moving ceremony that painted the picture of their relationship.
“She wove in the history and preservation of the Hudson Valley and brought in examples and quotes from Thomas Cole and the Hudson River School painters,” Ho recalls. “She spoke to the importance of creativity, nature, and community, which are all symbolic of what the Hudson valley represents and what we eternally hope to represent as a couple.”
On the arm of her father, Ho walked down the aisle in a floral lace gown from Dreams by Eddy K. She found the gown in BHLDN’s New York City showroom after trying on 30-plus others. The dress of her dreams, it charmed with details like a champagne pink slip and a pop of pink under the train. To complement the vintage feel of her outfit, she donned a 1930s-inspired hairpiece, simple drop earrings given to her by her mother, and sparkling floral wedges from Anthropologie. The wedges, she adds, were a saving grace when it came time to traverse the vineyard’s grass-covered hills and stand up to four hours of dancing.
Of course, music made its mark on the day, too.
“Since music brought us together and, being that Rex is now a professional musician, the music for the ceremony and reception were especially important to us,” Ho notes. Opting for a variety of genres, the couple featured everything from Bach by a classical guitarist to Aretha Franklin and James Brown at the reception. The playlist was a hit, and guests lost track of the hours as they moved to the rhythm and the minute hand slowly ticked its way around the clock.
A breathtaking day from start to finish, it came together so perfectly because Ho and Surany knew exactly what they wanted. When it came time to plan the aesthetics for the wedding, they worked hand in hand with Dennis Nutley of The Green Cottage in High Falls to bring their visions of an organic, slightly wild English garden to life.
“I remember telling him I wanted my bouquet to look like I had just swept my hand through the garden and picked up whatever bounty was there,” she says. “He knew exactly how to match the flowers with respect to the venue. He nailed it!”
Also critical for the wedding was the sense of calm that Ho mastered during her days as an event planner at The Met.
“On the day of, I had the peace of mind that we had done everything we possibly could in terms of planning and that whatever would happen was out of control at that point,” she explains. “There was a great sense of relief in letting go of control, perfection, etc. so I could focus on marrying the man of my dreams!”