Why They’re Heading Out On An 11-City Wedding Engagement Tour

Antoine Kinch and Shaunte Otey in a photo shoot for their wedding-engagement tour. (TE & TOINE FACEBOOK PAGE)

Antoine Kinch and Shaunte Otey in a photo shoot for their wedding-engagement tour. (TE & TOINE FACEBOOK PAGE)

Sure, their 11-city love tour might be a tad excessive. But it’s also a reflection of a generation of African Americans who’ve truly gone global.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

An abridged version of this article was published at The Root on February 14, 2015.

Antoine Kinch hopped onto an ottoman in a swanky New York City rooftop lounge to toast his fiancee and thank their family and friends for making it out to celebrate his and Shaunte Otey’s wedding engagement. Antoine, a 37-year-old engineer, spoke giddily about how he was marrying a longtime friend and a woman whom he at times refers to as a “unicorn” because he still can’t believe that she’s, well, real. Why? Shaunte, also a 37-year-old engineer, is black and—the adjective that makes her oh so surreal—fine. 

“True”—one of Antoine’s engineer friends blurted out midtoast—“not a lot of cute, black female engineers,” he quipped, while everyone laughed. Antoine finished his speech and reminded everyone to use the hashtag #TeAndToine when sharing photos and video from the party on the InstagramTwitter and Facebook accounts specifically created for their wedding-engagement tour.

Yep, you read that right: their tour.

If you’re a friend or a relative of the soon-to-be Kinches and you missed their New York City gathering in January, no worries, you can catch the smiling duo this Valentine’s weekend celebrating with loved ones at another fabulous engagement party in Oakland. And if trekking it to the West Coast proves to be too burdensome, don’t fret, the pair are taking their love celebration overseas at the end of March, where their Italian brethren and sistren can nimble on prosciutto and olives, perhaps, at their engagement festivities in Milan. A couple of days after that, Antoine and Shaunte will be wining and dining with comrades in Munich, Germany, and then it’s off to the Czech Republic to clank beers with their acquaintances in Prague.

I hope the literary equivalent of jetlag hasn’t got you pooped because we’re not done yet. Where were we? Oh, right—Prague. After that, the newly engaged and their Parisian friends will be noshing on croquet-monsieurs, perhaps, at a fine eatery in France towards the beginning of April. And then it’s off to partake in an authentic Sichuan cuisine at wedding engagement gatherings in Beijing and Shanghai.

engagement city guide

Antoine Kinch and Shaunte Otey in signage for their wedding-engagement tour. (TE & TOINE FACEBOOK PAGE)

Sometime in May, they’ll resume the U.S. leg of their tour in the nation’s capital, a stone’s throw from where Shaunte grew up in Virginia. After Washington, D.C., the lovebirds are promising to nail down dates for tour stops in Los Angeles and Chicago.

At this point, some of you are probably furrowing your eyebrows at all the pomp and circumstance of the whole shebang and wondering what possessed them to go to such lengths—literally—for the engagement. (“All he did so far was buy a ring, take a knee and y’all already taking a victory lap?,” wrote one of my editors after seeing their itinerary, which is mocked up like a faux movie poster.)

But during an interview with The Root to commemorate all things “love” this Valentine’s Day weekend, Antoine and Shaunte talked about how their endeavor is equal parts a reflection of the digital times that we live in, where social media is used to document special occasions in people’s lives; the euphoria they feel as late-30-somethings having found “the one” in each other; and, just as important, a natural extension of their lives as travel junkies.

Antoine and Shaunte are proud members of Nomadness Travel Tribe, an online resource for black travelers. The engagement tour was a perfect way to tout their identities as African-American nomads of sorts—a lifestyle that has gained a lot of recognition in recent months because of the online spaces popping up to commemorate the trend.

Shaunte Otey and Antoine Kinch (Facebook)

Shaunte Otey and Antoine Kinch (Facebook)

“Individually, we have had such lives on different coasts and friendships in different pockets,” Shaunte explained. Antoine added that since everyone they know probably won’t be able to make it to the wedding, he and Shaunte thought: “Instead of them coming to us, why don’t we go to them?”

They’ve both already shown signs of a nomadic existence, living and working in the U.S. Antoine grew up in New York and has lived in Boston; San Jose and Oakland, in California; Philadelphia; the state of Maryland; and now Raleigh, N.C. Shaunte, a Virginia native, has lived in Los Angeles and San Francisco and also has a spot in Raleigh. Their passion for traveling has taken them to Brazil, Peru, Turks and Caicos, the Netherlands, Italy, Cape Verde, India, Equatorial Guinea, Mexico and Aruba—just to name a few.

“You’re on the road too much. You travel too much. You’re not going to settle down,” well-meaning loved ones would tell Shaunte, advising her to “sit still” if she wanted to snag a man. Then she attracted her match in Antoine—a guy whom Essence named one of its most eligible bachelors in 2012.

However superfluous the tour may seem to some, it knocks down stereotypes about how black people are rigid, unadventurous and don’t travel. Plus it’s nice that Antoine and Shaunte—middle-class African-Americans from working-class roots—clearly have the coin to luxuriate and explore the world alongside fellow avid travelers.

Shaunte said she and Antoine receive messages from hopeful people who had given up on love, and people who are only now making space in their schedules to start seeing the world. But for Shaunte, as she begins her journey with Antoine, there’s no time like the present.

“It doesn’t make sense to save all of your money until you’re dead,” she said. “I want to experience all that this life has for me.”

She added: “Life isn’t promised.”

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