Erika Graves and Bradley Cameron had been together for roughly six years, and engaged for more than two, by the time they set off on a five-month road trip from Oakland, Calif., to New York and back in April 2021.
Despite everything they had learned about each another in all that time as a couple, their time on the road together “made us feel even more connected,” Ms. Graves, 31, said.
She served as the primary planner, while Mr. Cameron, 33, who goes by Brad, did most of the driving in their Honda CR-V. They stayed at rental properties in many of the places they visited, which included Joshua Tree and Palm Springs in California; Sedona, Ariz.; Taos, N.M.; Austin, Texas; Charlotte, N.C.; Pittsburgh; and Portland, Ore. Their itinerary also featured visits to Glacier National Park and Yellowstone.
While they enjoyed the beauty of many of the destinations, it was Birmingham, Ala., that really surprised them as a favorite for its food and historical awareness.
“The way they recognize the, quite frankly, atrocities that have happened in their city is remarkable,” Ms. Graves said, mentioning the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute as an example.
“They don’t sweep it under the rug,” added Ms. Graves, whose grandfather, Earl Graves Sr., in the 1970s started Black Enterprise, the first magazine dedicated to highlighting and empowering Black business people and entrepreneurs. Her father, Earl Graves Jr., is the current chief executive.
She and Mr. Cameron initially met after matching on the dating app Hinge in February 2015. But later that month, when she canceled their planned first date hours before it was set to take place, he never expected to hear from her again. (Ms. Graves, who was about to depart on a trip to Japan with her parents, called the date off because she felt overwhelmed with packing and preparation.)
When she reached out a few weeks later after returning from her travels, Mr. Cameron said he was “pleasantly shocked.” Then living in Manhattan, he soon set a second first date with Ms. Graves, who was living with her parents in Chappaqua, N.Y. In March 2015, they met at the Mexican restaurant Tacombi, in the Flatiron district, for tacos and margaritas — two pitchers, to be exact.
Both had graduated from Boston College with bachelor’s degrees in sociology, but their paths had never crossed as students. “We were uncovering all these similarities” while chatting, Ms Graves said. “Our interests, our studies in sociology, our focus on social justice, especially in the education field.”
“I had never had a first date that was that seamless, where the conversation was just flowing,” she added.
Days later, they met up for live music and dancing at Cafe Wha in Greenwich Village. “It was like we’d known each other a really long time,” Ms. Graves said. “And I was surprised, Brad can really dance. He has a lot of rhythm.”
Their relationship progressed quickly. By May 2015, Ms. Graves had signed a lease for an apartment in Manhattan near Mr. Cameron’s place in Murray Hill. They would meet for morning walks along the East River before heading to work; at the time, she had a job at a nonprofit organization and he at an educational technology company.
In their first year together, the couple got to know each other’s inner circles. Mr. Cameron introduced her to his three college friends who were also his roommates, and Ms. Graves introduced him to her fraternal twin sister, Kristin Graves, with whom she shared her apartment. Each also met the other’s parents.
Ms. Graves said she felt immediately embraced at a family wedding she attended with Mr. Cameron in North Carolina, and during a weekend visit to his parents’ home in Pittsburgh.
He was equally comfortable spending time with Ms. Graves’s parents in Chappaqua and at their vacation home in Sag Harbor, N.Y., as well as with her sister and two brothers. While Ms. Graves said she never felt pressure from her parents to only date Black men, she did feel it was important for Mr. Cameron to be fully comfortable in what she described as a “pro-Black space.”
“Something natural in any type of interracial relationship is asking how will any family embrace difference,” she said. “You do have reservations about how they are going to perceive you, whatever it may be.”
What’s special about Mr. Cameron “is his level of humility and learning of different perspectives and backgrounds,” Ms. Graves added. “He listens.” Recalling conversations between her parents and the couple about their future children, Ms. Graves noted that Mr. Cameron acknowledged “that if we have a Black son, there’ll be things that he doesn’t understand about being a Black man in America.”
“That humility and understanding was so important to my family,” Ms. Graves said.
The ability to have such honest dialogues, Mr. Cameron said, “was a good sign that this relationship was going to be something meaningful.”
“It just felt very natural,” he added.
In August 2016, a year and a half into dating, the couple moved in together, renting an apartment in a brownstone on a tree-lined street in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Three years later, in August 2019, they relocated to Oakland after Mr. Cameron enrolled in a five-year, clinical psychology doctoral program at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, Calif. Ms. Graves, who by then had begun her current job as a program manager at Google, was able to transfer to the company’s San Francisco office.
Six months before moving to California, they became engaged on a February 2019 trip to Cambodia. Mr. Cameron proposed the evening before the pair was set to watch the sunrise over the temple complex Angkor Wat, and they spent the night celebrating before departing at 3 a.m. for the excursion.
They originally set a wedding date for May 2021, but pushed the event to 2022 because of the pandemic. Quarantining was lonely and challenging for the two, who had arrived in Oakland only months before lockdowns went into effect. Without many friends nearby, they relied on each other for company, taking drives together down the Pacific Coast Highway and hiking in the Redwood forests.
After returning from their cross-country road trip in August 2021, they moved into their current home in Oakland and soon turned their focus to wedding planning. From the start, Ms. Graves and Mr. Cameron knew they wanted it to take place in California’s Napa Valley. As an interracial couple with friends and family from all different backgrounds, they also wanted their nuptials to showcase vendors from diverse backgrounds, explaining that it was important for the event to reflect their reality.
“My grandfather championed Black business, and it brought back that legacy,” Ms. Graves said. “We were really intentional about picking vendors of color and highlighting amazing talent and their work.”
Added Mr. Cameron, “This theme of family, community, and belonging is central to our relationship and how we bonded.”
The couple worked with the planner MaKela Allen of Cole Drake Events, who is biracial and helped them identify and hire other vendors. They included the photographer Chi-Chi Ari and the jeweler Bernard James, who are Black; the stationery designer Ji Kim-Fung of JK Design, who is Korean; and Brown Estate, the first Black-owned winery in Napa Valley, which supplied local wines.
On May 7, Mr. Cameron and Ms. Graves were married at the Estate Yountville in Yountville, Calif. Ernest Miller, Mr. Cameron’s mentor and his former high school teacher, who was ordained a Universal Life minister for the occasion, officiated at the ceremony before 200 vaccinated guests.
After the couple exchanged their own vows, their officiant asked those in attendance to make a collective vow to the newlyweds.
“Do you, their family and friends, promise from this day forward to encourage them and love them; to give them your guidance; and to support them in being steadfast in the promises that they have made?” Mr. Miller asked. The crowd responded in unison, “We do.”
At a reception that followed, attendees enjoyed Tacombi-inspired spicy margaritas, slices of New York style pizza and a cake from bakers Malaka Wilson-Greene and Erica Freeman of Two Chicks in the Mix, who are Black.
Later, the newlyweds and their guests hit the dance floor in the venue’s winery barrel room, which had been transformed into a nightclub-inspired lounge with music provided by the D.J. Eddie Sumlin of Dart Collective, who is African American.
“To see our family and friends enjoy a special part of our new home was exactly what we wanted,” the bride said, reflecting on their wedding day. “It just meant the world to us.”
“It was not missed on our guests the intentionality behind the vendors we chose,” the groom added. “I’m hoping other couples will know that there are these vendors out there that they can partner with that do an amazing job too.”
On This Day
When May 7, 2022
Where The Estate Yountville in Yountville, Calif.
Family Legacy Every place setting included a note from the couple that explained their intentional choice of vendors and acknowledged the bride’s family’s commitment to showcasing Black excellence.
Late Night Bites Before the wedding ended, the newlyweds gave guests a true taste of California by having snacks from In-N-Out Burger passed out on the dance floor. “It was the perfect ending to the perfect day,” Mr. Cameron said.