Special to South Florida Times
Media executive Oscar Joyner and actress Alem Gola wed Oct. 9 in a day-long multicultural celebration presided over by Bishop T.D. Jakes, with special performances by award-winning artists Yolanda Adams, Eric Benet, Tamia, Mike Phillips and Doug E. Fresh.
Joyner, President of Reach Media Inc. and executive producer of the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show, and Gola, a TV and film actress, hosted more than 350 guests at the historic Plymouth Congregational Church and a series of receptions and concerts at The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.
The couple met three years ago in Washington, D.C., during the National Urban League’s annual conference and have traveled the world together. Last year, Joyner proposed to Gola in front of the fountains of the historic Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco. As he videotaped her describing the scene, he dropped to one knee and asked her to marry him.
The weekend’s wedding activities, designed and produced by The Design Group of Miami, were rich in culture and showcased elaborate floral displays, including more than 60,000 roses and a Who’s Who of celebrities, business executives and civic leaders.
Gola, of Columbus, Ohio, wore a custom-designed gown by Monique Lhuillier. Joyner, son of media personality and philanthropist Tom Joyner, wore a Tom Ford tuxedo.
The bridesmaids wore traditional Ethiopian fine cotton handmade dresses. The groomsmen wore black tuxedos with red vests, which complemented the red-and-gold embellishments of the bridesmaids’ dresses.
The newlyweds received congratulatory messages from President Barack Obama and U.S. Senate candidate Congressman Kendrick Meek.
Besides the elder Joyner, special guests included fitness guru Donna Richardson Joyner, legendary R&B great Eddie Levert, National Urban League President Marc Morial, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Congressman Kendrick Meek, NBA basketball great Alonzo Mourning and his wife Tracy, comedian Kym Whitley and Budweiser senior executive Johnny Furr.
Sybil Wilkes and comedian J. Anthony Brown of the Tom Joyner Morning Show also participated in the festivities, along with comedy writers and former Tom Joyner Morning Show personalities Myra J. and Ms. Dupre.
Other performers included saxophonist and Hidden Beach Records recording artist Mike Phillips, Coco Brown, DJ Dee Wiz and the popular Ethiopian singers Behaliu Agonafir and Yehune Belay.
In a unique multi-ethnic and multi-denominational ceremony, Plymouth Congregation’s the Rev. Dr. Thomas R. Niblock introduced internationally renowned Bishop T.D. Jakes of The Potters’ House in Dallas, Texas, who presided over the ceremony. Ethiopian Pastor Abba Zekarias Gebrehiwot, speaking in his native Amharic, led the Quieba Kudis, the 'Holy Oil Blessing" and the Kabba, a ceremony that involved the placing of red-and-gold-trimmed robes and crowns on the bride and groom.
The bride walked down a 150-foot white carpet runner adorned with white rose petals in a sanctuary where the air was permeated with the fragrance of roses and irises. As she entered the sanctuary, church organist Dr. Robert Heath and saxophonist Mike Phillips played a soulful, but regal, organ and saxophone rendition of Mendelssohn’s The Wedding March.
As part of the ceremony, Grammy Award and Dove-winning gospel singer Yolanda Adams performed a moving rendition of The Prayer. As the newlyweds jumped the broom, an African tradition symbolizing sweeping away the old and bringing in the new, the bride's brother and cousin celebrated the marriage by playing the kebero, double-headed conical drums played to traditional Ethiopian music.
Following the ceremony, the guests were treated to an Ethiopian High Tea Brunch at the historic Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. At an evening reception, guests dined al fresco on the second-floor terrace of the hotel overlooking the lush golf course.
Punctuating the tables were four-foot tall wrought iron centerpieces adorned with gold-rimmed hurricane candles and accentuated by red, fuchsia, and yellow rose encrusted spheres.
The newlyweds were seated in a 12-foot-tall custom-designed gazebo completely covered with jewel studded roses.
R&B singers Eric Benet and Tamia surprised the bride and guests, performing amidst an excited crowd waving sparklers in the night air.
Wedding planner Dionne Anderson and Creative Director Jean Augustin and their team of event designers and culinary specialists are credited with producing one of South Florida’s most luxurious destination weddings this season.
Robinson & Turner/A Turner Archives. Marital Bliss: Oscar Joyner and Alem Gola pose in front of the Biltmore Hotel after their Oct. 9 wedding in Coral Gables.