Real Wedding: Jenny Tegelvik & Alexis Mwanza
July 11, 2015
Frances and the Portland Company
Nine-thousand miles away from home, Jenny Tegelvik found true love. The California native was working in the south-central city of Mbuji-Mayi, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the President’s Malaria Initiative when she met Alexis Mwanza, a local doctor training nurses and laboratorians on how to prevent and treat the disease. “He was ambitious and organized, with an absolutely contagious smile,” Jenny says. After 10 days together, Jenny returned to her temporary home in Kinshasa, the country’s capital, but her heart remained in Mbuji-Mayi. Their relationship blossomed over the miles with phone calls, and a little more than a year after their introduction, Alexis proposed at the Kinshasa botanical gardens.
The couple’s first wedding celebration was an African ceremony on a sandbank in the middle of the Congo River, complete with traditional music, food, and dancing. Following the rituals of the Baluba tribe, a friend negotiated Jenny’s dowry with Alexis’s family. “We requested palm wine, a sculpture from the Kasai region, African -fabric, and the wedding ring. A perfect compromise between two very different cultures,” Jenny says of the gifts for her and her family.
Soon thereafter the bride and groom traveled to Maine—the halfway point between California and the Democratic Republic of Congo— for their stateside fete, a 40-person affair steeped in Jenny’s Swedish heritage. Aboard the 74-foot cutter Frances, the couple recited their vows overlooking Casco Bay. Back on dry land after the ceremony, guests crisscrossed the Old Port to the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club for appetizers such as pickled herring and gravlax. The party culminated at the Portland Company, an industrial-style waterfront event space. “Danish cheers of hurrah hurrah and a Swedish princess cake stood strong for my Scandinavian roots,” Jenny says.
Now settling back into life in Alexis’s home country, the couple is grateful to have had the opportunity to celebrate their two very different worlds. “Me and my Jenny…we shall show everybody that love can win everywhere and every time,” Alexis says.
Jenny put her complete trust in her longtime best friend, florist Tara Huston, to design centerpieces that she would love sight unseen.
The guests and the happy couple threw vibrant confetti into the sea breeze once the vows were exchanged.
Jenny’s bridesmaids selected their cheerful dresses to suit their personalities.
The couple hired a three-piece band specializing in Cuban dance music, which reminded them of the Congolese rumba.
“I chose colorful flowers because that’s how our relationship feels—bold, bright, and wild in the African sun of the Congo,” the bride says of her wedding palette.
Bride’s Dress Caroline DeVillo, Nordstrom
Cake Simply Scandinavian Foods
Catering Aurora Provisions
Cocktails Portland Hunt & Alpine Club
Flowers Fawns Leap
Lighting The Event Light Pros
Menswear Hugo Boss
Music Primo Cubano
More from Jenny and Alexis's Wedding
Getting married? Start and end your wedding planning journey with Boston Weddings' guide to the best wedding vendors in the city.