tradition was never their thing why start with a wedding

Tradition Was Never Their Thing. Why Start With a Wedding?

VOWS ART BASEL 1 5a84 facebookJumbo

Like so many couples before them, Constance Kelly Daniels and Emir Muhovic met at a bar. But they had taken very different paths to end up there.

Ms. Daniels, who goes by Kelly, was born and raised in Panama City, Fla.

Mr. Muhovic fled his home in war-torn Bosnia in 1992, when he was just 15. After spending some time in Germany, he immigrated to the United States in 2001.

Cut to the fateful night in August 2011 at a bar in Atlanta. Ms. Daniels, now 38, found Mr. Muhovic, 45, handsome, so she approached him. “I flat out told her, ‘I’m not trying to be disrespectful, but I do have a girlfriend,’” Mr. Muhovic said.

“When he said that, I just said ‘whatever’ and tried to be cute on the dance floor,” Ms. Daniels said, laughing.

The encounter had left an impression on both of them. When they ran into each other again later that year, Mr. Muhovic shared that he was now single.

“He remembered me,” Ms. Daniels said. “He asked for my number, and I said no this time.” Mr. Muhovic direct messaged Ms. Daniels on Facebook a few days later, and they began to connect.

On May 4, 2011, they went on their first date at a now-closed restaurant in Decatur, Ga., called Carpe Diem. They sat for hours sharing appetizers and stories about their lives. They met for a second date a few days later, and a third date the day after that. Since then, they haven’t been apart for more than a couple of days.

And yet they were hesitant to label their relationship for the first year: It was not until they attended a party with friends on Lake Lanier, outside of Atlanta, that things changed when Ms. Daniels heard a rumor going around.

“My friend came up to me and said, ‘Emir is telling everybody how much he loves you.’ So I ran over there and yelled ‘I love you’ at him,” Ms. Daniels said. “And the rest is history.”

Ms. Daniels holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. She moved to Atlanta in 2010 for a job with Cooper Carry, an architecture firm with offices in Atlanta. She is now a full-time artist and furniture maker under her own brand, Cosmic Creativ.

Mr. Muhovic graduated from Binghamton University in New York with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. He moved to Atlanta in 2004 and has spent his career in health technology, working with various start-up companies.

Inspired by Mr. Muhovic’s story as a refugee, Ms. Daniels decided to volunteer for the International Rescue Committee as a citizenship teacher. She is also an author of a citizen preparation textbook.

“Being lucky enough to be born in Panama City and a country not ravaged by war, I didn’t know anything about Bosnia’s history,” she said. That changed when she met Mr. Muhovic. “There’s a turning point when you understand that refugees are families just like ours,” she said. “It tore my heart up. Once you know better, it’s hard not to do better.”

She also created Citizenship Giveback, a charity that supports the I.R.C.’s mission to “help refugees, asylums, victims of human trafficking, survivors of torture and other immigrants thrive in America after fleeing their homes to escape war, religious and political persecution, or natural disaster,” according to its website.

Ms. Daniels traveled to Bosnia with Mr. Muhovic for the first time in 2019. “He’d never taken a girl home before,” she said. Before they returned in 2022, Ms. Daniels took Bosnian language lessons over Zoom with a woman in Sarajevo.

“Being able to speak Bosnian with his extended family, sitting around the table in the yard of his grandmother’s house where his mother was literally born, felt like a huge milestone for our relationship,” she said.

Mr. Muhovic was equally determined to win over Ms. Daniels’s family: Her father, Dan Daniels, likes cars, and Mr. Muhovic was determined to impress him by fixing up Ms. Daniels’s 1999 Toyota 4Runner. He took the engine out on seven different occasions before eventually enrolling in YouTube’s University of the People to learn about cars. He finally fixed the vehicle up and they were able to sell the car for $7,000 with more than 330,000 miles on it. “My dad is still beyond impressed,” Ms. Daniels said.

The couple discussed getting married for a long time.

“I never really wanted a wedding,” Ms. Daniels said. “I thought it would be so romantic to just get married at a courthouse, just the two of us. That was always my plan.”

Earlier this year, the couple was driving through the mountains and began to have an “active, thoughtful conversation about our future,” Ms. Daniels said.

Over the last few years, the couple had started a tradition of traveling to Art Basel in Miami Beach, Fla. While talking on their drive, Ms. Daniels and Mr. Muhovic pieced together their ideal wedding.

In November, they approached James Earl Pierce, a graffiti artist in Los Angeles who goes by Jimmy Paintz, on Instagram.

Some of Mr. Pierce’s art was borne of loss. “I was experimenting with painting smiley faces at the time, and my mom needed me to fly with her to the Philippines,” Mr. Pierce said. When she died on the flight as they touched down in Hong Kong, he found himself stranded in the city, distraught with grief. So he sprang into action, and thousands of graffitied smiley faces appeared all over Hong Kong that week.

“It was my way of masking my sadness,” he said. “But I started to realize that as people noticed my art, it was helping a lot of other people.”

Binge more Vows columns here and read all our wedding, relationship and divorce coverage here.

When he returned from Hong Kong, Mr. Pierce started painting his smiley faces all across Los Angeles. He labeled the project Seeds of Happiness to reflect his hope of spreading bubbles of positivity through art.

Ms. Daniels had come across Seeds of Happiness via Instagram. Mr. Pierce’s art and shared Filipino roots (Ms. Daniels’s mother, Cindy Daniels, is from the Philippines) resonated with her immediately.

When she learned Mr. Pierce was going to be showing at Art Basel, the couple reached out and asked Mr. Pierce a question he’d never encountered.

“Will you marry us at Art Basel?”

On Saturday, Dec. 3, at exactly 3:33 p.m., he did just that.

In front of 30 or 40 passers-by, Mr. Pierce, who was ordained by American Life Ministries days before, officiated the wedding of Ms. Daniels and Mr. Muhovic in front of his Seeds of Happiness in the SCOPE art show.

No family or friends were present — which is exactly how Ms. Daniels and Mr. Muhovic wanted it.

“Most weddings are about friends and family — it really should be about the bride and groom,” she said. “This was perfect for us.”

“There’s nothing traditional about us,” Mr. Muhovic said. “It suited us really well.”

The couple got ready together at their Airbnb in South Beach; Ms. Daniels did her own hair and makeup, and wore a nude-colored dress she rented for the occasion, along with a sheer beach cover-up. They put on their engagement rings for the first time, drank champagne, snacked on cheese boards and threw a ball for their dog, Cosmo.

They arrived to SCOPE a little before 3:33 p.m. — and buzz started to build as onlookers began to realize something special was happening.

“All eyes were on us, but I honestly couldn’t hear anything outside of where we were,” Mr. Muhovic said. “It almost felt like an isolated, soundproof area. I was so hyper focused on Kelly. It was such a surreal feeling that even within a large group of people, it just felt like me and her for that moment.”

“I love my boo’s sense of humor, laughter and your caring nature,” Mr. Muhovic read from his vows. “I promise to love you and care for you through the good and the bad times.”

“I truly can’t believe this life is mine, that I found a partner as kind, reliable, hilarious, and protective, yet gentle, as you — and handsome as hell,” Ms. Daniels read. “In these nearly 12 years, you’ve empowered me, believed in me and treated me as an equal. I’m convinced there’s no better human on Earth than you.”

Then Mr. Paintz said, “By the authority vested in me by a website on the internet, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.” Mr. Muhovic obliged.

When Dec. 3

Where Seeds of Happiness exhibit, SCOPE art show, Art Basel Miami Beach, Fla.

Lucky Numbers Mr. Muhovic chose 3:33 p.m. as the time of marriage because he thought three seemed like a lucky number.

Post-bridal Party Ms. Daniels said no friends or family knew the wedding was happening until several days before. The couple’s parents were elated. Two of their closest friends, their unofficial maid of honor, Mary Chamberlain Iocovozzi, and best man, Vince Velazquez, arrived the following day to celebrate with the couple.

Immortalized on the Blockchain The couple “minted” their wedding vows, marriage license and key photographs from the occasion as nonfungible tokens on the Flow blockchain, along with Mr. Pierce’s work.