Images: Ryan Rayburn and Michelle Silberberg of George Street Photo & Video
Stef & Joe were one of those dream clients. Insanely kind & nice, super type-A and organized, planning a classy but FUN wedding, and oh, also drop dead gorgeous. The ONLY thing wrong with them was their unfortunate college alma mater (just kidding you guys!). They planned a perfect early spring wedding at one of DC’s best wedding venues, Carnegie Institute for Science, and I was lucky to get to be their day-of coordinator. Their choice of lavender and succulent details were the perfect match for the venue and time of year and their wedding was just SO fun. Not even a fire alarm going off IN THE MIDDLE OF THEIR CEREMONY could wipe the smiles from their faces. Ah – you guys are going to love this one as much as I loved working it ;) Enjoy.
The write-up from bride, Stef (which is making me blush and I SWEAR I didn’t tell her to write this ;)
To set the stage, I should start by saying that I never thought I would be the bride who submits her wedding to a blog (until I knew that a blog as rad and unique as Capitol Romance existed, that is!)! :) I was initially so intimidated at the thought of planning a wedding and the whole industry because I thought I would have to adhere to stuffy, traditional customs and follow a cookie cutter format. I was worried that who we were as a couple would get lost in the fray of putting on such a huge and potentially expensive event.
However I was so pleasantly surprised to find throughout the course of planning my wedding that this was not the case AT ALL! I actually LOVED planning my wedding with my husband Joe so much more than I ever imagined, and couldn’t have been more pleased with how our day turned out. During the planning process, I was delighted to discover that so many couples, more than ever, are embracing their creativity and individuality as couples, and focusing on meaningful experiences for their friends and families. That is exactly what we wanted to do. I was even more delighted to find blogs and vendors in the wedding industry IN WASHINGTON DC like Capitol Romance who support, encourage and embrace non-traditional creative weddings!
My husband Joe and I got married this past March in Washington DC. We decided to get married in DC because, even though we both originally hail from the wonderful state of Michigan, we have fallen more and more in love with our nation’s capital since we moved here four years ago. I had always dreamed of living in DC, and came to pursue my master’s degree at Georgetown. Joe bravely moved with me without a job.
Fast forward four years later and we couldn’t be happier together here – living in one of DC’s liveliest areas with our adopted cat Kulu (she rocks), and loving our careers and life together. This is the place that we have truly grown together as a couple, and thus chose to get married in this special setting. And indeed Washington ended up being the perfect backdrop for our wedding – we love so much that this city is historic, worldly, romantic, and smart, with a touch of classic glam.
Our approach to our wedding overall was to try to keep things simple, meaningful, and focus on the experience for our friends and family. Though we did have some help from our parents, we also tried to be as budget conscious as possible, especially considering we were getting married in a pricey city. We also largely wanted to do the planning ourselves. For us planning our wedding really was a labor of love between my husband and me, with each of us playing an equal role in making the day come to life.
We also could NOT have done it without Capitol Romance as our day of coordinator! Bree and her team were absolute rockstars who ended up doing MUCH more than just pulling off the day of coordination and helped guide us throughout the process.
So the planning process for us started after getting engaged in Dubrovnik, Croatia, in the summer of 2013. The next order of business for Joe and I was to pick a venue and date. It can be challenging to find venues in DC because many of them either cater to absolutely huge events (convention centers, etc) or are very small. We were trying to hit a sweet spot somewhere in the middle of about 130 guests, AND also not completely break the bank in renting a space (totally possible in a city like DC!).
—> CLICK INSIDE FOR SO MUCH MORE OF STEF & JOE’S GORGEOUS CLASSY, DC THEMED WEDDING <—
The first – and what would turn out to be the only – venue that we visited was the Carnegie Institute for Science. Situated just north of the White House, the Institute was founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1902 as an organization for scientific discovery. His intention was for institution to be home to exceptional individuals—“men and women with imagination and extraordinary dedication capable of working at the cutting edge of their fields.” We loved the venue because its grandeur neoclassical façade is very representative of DC architecture, and also because of the ideals Carnegie stood for – philanthropy, the spreading of knowledge, peace, and education.
The Carnegie Institute also had a diverse offering of spaces where we could host the wedding’s events – a beautiful high ceiling rotunda surrounded by marble columns where we could have a 360 degree ceremony and then later dancing; a fancy wood paneled room for cocktails; and a classic ballroom for dinner setting that wasn’t too large or overwhelming. The institute and what it stands for was perfect for us– beautiful, historic and meaningful, without being too stuffy.
The date we eventually settled on was March 7, 2015. March was fitting not only because it’s my husband’s birthday month, but we are also HUGE college basketball fans (Go Spartans!) and love the madness of the NCAA tournament every March. It’s such a special time of year when winter is over and the excitement of warmer weather is in the air!
Since our wedding was in early March, I wanted to have a color palette that was transitional between the seasons, though slightly tilting more towards spring colors (especially since green is my favorite color!). We went with a ‘dusty’ palette of sage, lavender, light grey, and other neutrals, which was inspired by my love of succulents and lavender. I especially love lavender from my travels to the Mediterranean where it grows wildly and smells so wonderfully therapeutic and amazing. And succulents are such weird, cool little cactus flowers; who doesn’t love them and all their various shapes and sizes?
It ended up being fairly ironic that I wanted to highlight the transition to spring when a huge snow storm hit just a few days before the wedding. Washington DC has a more temperate climate (well, at least compared to Michigan!) and generally pretty light snowfall. So we were hoping and expecting that the weather gods would be kind to us on our day. As the day approached, the weather was looking pretty good and even spring-like. However, out of the blue, a massive snow storm developed over DC on the Thursday before the wedding! I had remained a calm, relatively stress free bride up until that point…
The bridesmaids wore long Dessy gowns that were identical in style, but different shades. To try to go with the dusty, muted shades of succulent and lavender, I chose two shades of slightly different earthy, muted green and a light grey in the same color palette. I admit I agonized a bit too much over the color choices, and it was a bit of a risk to try to match these colors, but I was determined to be true to my favorite color palette and pull off a more unique palette. In the end I’m so happy with how the look turned out. The earthy greens and grey paired perfectly with the understated dusty dried lavender bouquets. The groomsmen wore navy suits with black ties and shoes.
Though some of our guests’ travels were disrupted, everyone luckily made it on time to the wedding, and definitely made for interesting travel and survival stories. And in the end our wedding day ended up being a beautiful spring-like, sunny day (despite some lingering snow on the ground). We won’t soon forget that crazy unexpected snowfall though in March, which would end up being DC’s last snowfall of the year. Our wedding really did usher in the transition to spring!
Seeing all of the meticulously planned details of our wedding (more on those below) come to life was so breathtaking, however, the most memorable moments were a result of the meaningful ways we incorporated our family and friends throughout the day. For example, I chose to have a ‘first look’ with my Dad prior to Joe seeing me for the first time, which was one of the most special moments of the day. I won’t forget the few quiet moments we spent together before the craziness of the day descended upon us.
I then next met Joe for our first look outside on the front steps of the Carnegie Institute. I was so anxious and excited when I gathered my dress up and hopped in an Uber, with the help of my sister Chelsea, to go meet him. I’ll never forget how we were both nervously giggling seeing each other for the first time all glammed up for the big day. It was so calming to be with only him for a moment and remember that the day was really about the two of us, and let the weight of the coming events sink in.
One of the most important elements, if not the most important element, of our wedding was our ceremony. We designed the ceremony ourselves, including writing our own vows, and Joe’s dad officiated the ceremony for us. We also each had both of our parents walk us down the aisle. It was both comforting and meaningful to work with Joe’s dad to design the ceremony in the months prior to the wedding. He really understood and took to heart the various messages that we wanted our ceremony to embody. Three important ideas that we conveyed through our readings were marriage as an equal partnership (becoming one but maintaining individual identifies), marriage as a journey (tied in nicely with our love of travel) and the importance of support from family our friends. We chose a reading on marriage equality from a Massachusetts Supreme Court decision, an excerpt from The Alchemist, and an excerpt from Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road.” Each of the readings were performed by our family members.
Because our ceremony was setup in a round 360 degree setup, we were (literally) completely surrounded by our friends and family. A truly special moment was when Joe’s dad asked everyone to stand and recite a community pledge together in support of our marriage. I remember vividly looking around trying to take in every second of those moments, feeling the presence of our loved ones around us and seeing the joy and happiness on everyone’s faces.
Joe and I had also written our vows together before the wedding. We had some sentences that were identical, but also had each personalized several sentences for the each other. It was a moment unlike any other to stand surrounded by all of our loved ones and read my vows to Joe, and then hear him recite his vows to me.
Some of the other elements that we wanted to incorporate included our love of travel and some more ‘DC’ elements. And though our venue was more on the formal side, we didn’t want the wedding to feel at all stuffy and thus worked to incorporate less traditional elements, cultivate a fun, light atmosphere, and not over–decorate the space.
Travel is one of our huge passions as a couple and so we found ways to integrate this throughout the wedding. Working for the World Bank, I travel internationally very frequently for my job (and in fact am writing this from my hotel room in Jerusalem where I am currently on assignment). Plus my husband and I travel on vacation internationally as often as we can afford to. So for example, we used a vintage globe as our guestbook and incorporated our favorite Italian and French wines into our beverage selection. I also speak French and am a bit of a francophile. So naturally I walked down the aisle to Edith Piaf’s ‘La Vie En Rose.’ It was also a must for me to have French macarons as a part of our dessert table. The day before the wedding I treated my bridesmaids to a Parisian themed luncheon at a local French restaurant called Chez Billy Sud. Because of our intense love for pizza and Italian food, we hosted the rehearsal dinner at our favorite neighborhood pizza restaurant. We also had some of our outdoor photographs taken at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which was built in the French Second Empire style and looks totally Parisian, which was precisely why I selected it as a photo location. I was so happy with how those photos turned out!
We also had fun incorporating some Washington DC elements into the wedding. Our venue was already very DC-esque so we felt like it was best to keep it simple. We did DC themed welcome bags for our guests (including an extensive guide to the city that we put together based on our favorite sights and restaurants), and also chose a DC related wedding hashtag. “TheHarringtonians” is a play on words with his last name (Harrington) and the term coined for Washington residents – “Washingtonians.” We also decided to name our guest tables after some of our favorite locations in DC (with the head table being the White House of course!). My friends from graduate school fittingly sat at the Georgetown table, while our raucous college friends sat at the Adams Morgan table, and our grandparents sat at the Supreme Court table.
When it came to flowers, I was initially overwhelmed by all the choices that are on the market for flowers. However Bree at Capitol Romance connected us with an amazing young woman, Emily, who started her own floral business, called Loveblooms. Overall I wanted the look and feel of the flowers to be elegant, but very natural with lots of greenery. My bouquet had succulents, dried lavender, eucalyptus, and light purple roses, wrapped with lace from my mother’s wedding dress. My 6 bridesmaids carried simple dried lavender bouquets with satin wraps (in an effort to make them more suitable for a ballroom setting and less ‘rustic’). Even though lavender is perhaps seen more at summer or outdoor weddings, I was gung ho about having this incorporated in the wedding since I felt it was representative of me as a bride, and to bring a unique element to the indoor setting. The groomsmen’s boutonnieres were made from large succulents and bits of tried lavender. We went for centerpieces that were less formal and more’ undone’, as well as a long head table runner with lots of greenery and succulents throughout. Even though we were in a ballroom, I wanted to incorporate natural elements that made guests feel like they were experiencing the transition to spring.
I also totally love how our looks as bride and groom turned out! We didn’t even fully plan on it, but several people commented that our look was very ‘House of Cards’-esque. I was completely enamored with my gown, a champagne lace mermaid style with scallop straps by Mori Lee. The look was completed by a long cathedral length veil with lace scallop lace trim, and I added the blusher from my mom’s veil. I also wore my mom’s earrings. I searched long and far for the perfect shoe and found it finally just in the nick of time – gorgeous pale mint Badgley Mischkas with beautiful jewel detail on the back. Joe wore a custom navy tux with black trim by Indochino and looked absolutely dapper. I gifted him some Michigan State cufflinks, and he gave me a beautiful bracelet to complete my look. Both my sister and my bouquets were wrapped in lace from my mom’s wedding dress.
Another extremely memorable family moment took place rather spontaneously during the first dance with my dad. The song was wrapping up, and we motioned to have my mom, Joe, and my sister Chelsea join us on the dance floor to all dance together. We then waved over Joe’s brother Pat and sister in law Erica to join, along with Joe’s parents. The result was one giant group hug and dance between our two families in the middle of the dance floor while everyone watched. I am tearing up now a bit just thinking about it because really represented both of our families coming together as one, and the love that we already have for each other. I know that it can only grow stronger.
Two of my close family friends are also incredible singers who are pursuing their singing careers in New York. During the reception, they performed a live rendition of Elvis’s ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love.’ Their gorgeous voices blew everyone away. I grew up with these two since we were little girls and hearing them sing has ALWAYS made me tear up. Having them sing for Joe and me on our wedding day was truly magical.
Since making sure our guests had a blast was one of our key objectives, we also hired a ‘Slow Mo’ video booth. At first it seemed like a bit of a splurge to have this add on, but it ended up being hands down one of our favorite parts of the wedding. It really broke the ice amongst our guests and was SO RIDICULOUSLY FUN to watch everyone acting crazy on the screen and then seeing their videos played back in real time. The final reel can be seen here: https://vimeo.com/122396390 :)
Our music was another favorite element and we had such a blast picking out songs meaningful to us. We were also quite obsessed with our DJ, Chris Styles. We first met Chris Styles through his weekly gig as house DJ for the acclaimed Nike Training Club, a bootcamp held every Monday night at the Nike store in Georgetown. Each week as we were put through the exhaustive boot camp, Chris’s creative mixes and energy stood out instantly. We were thrilled to find he was available (and within our budget!) for our wedding. We loved crafting the playlist with him, and his mixes kept everyone on the dance floor all night. For example we incorporated one of our favorite bands, Lord Huron, into our cocktail mix. We also chose ‘At Last’ for our first dance, but specifically picked the Beyonce version, not only because we love her but because she sang this song for Barack and Michelle Obama’s first dance at the Presidential Inaugural Ball.
Dancing wildly with all our friends in the round rotunda (with pretty cool purple uplighting I might add) was another highlight. It was SUCH a blast to witness all of our closest friends and families grooving out on the dance floor! A great moment during the dancing was when our DJ played our college fight song. My husband and I both attended Michigan State University at the same time, though it wasn’t until after graduation that we met at a tailgate amongst friends on a beautiful fall day in East Lansing. Many of our close friends and families are all Spartans, so it was such a blast when our fight song was played and everyone gathered on the dance floor, their voices echoing off the high marble ceilings.
The night closed out with a memorable sendoff down the majestic front steps of the Carnegie, where all of our guests gathered to wish us well. Because we weren’t allowed by the venue to have sparklers, we came up with an alternative to have our guests wave American and Washington DC flags. It was such a fun way to end the night, both for us and our guests!
I have to admit that I wanted very much to be a ‘DIY’ bride who had the patience and talent to meticulously design and assemble gorgeous crafts that could be strewn about the venue. Through this process I learned that I didn’t necessarily have the patience, skill or time to pull off the various beautiful crafts I found on Pintrist. I must say that I (triumphantly) did craft my own welcome chalkboard sign (which alas was not photographed- probably for a reason ;), and DIY’d all the paper products and signage (aside from our invitations). My dad even chipped in by creating escort card holders out of wine corks that Joe and I have collected over the years.
But in the end, it wasn’t until afterwards that I realized that even though we didn’t DIY many crafts, my husband and I basically DIY’ed our entire wedding experience. We were intimately involved in crafting every detail of our wedding in total partnership together so that it was a representation of us and our lives together. True, we hired amazing vendors who helped us pull off our vision, but we worked in painstaking detail to not only find the vendors that represented us, but then to implement our vision with them side by side. And in particular, crafting our entire wedding ceremony from scratch is by far the DIY product that I am most proud of! :) And in the end, that’s what made the day so perfect for us – it was a result our labor of love together. I couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out.
Vendors —-> Photography: Ryan Rayburn and Michelle Silberberg of George Street Photo & Video | Venue: Carnegie Institute for Science | Day of Coordination: Capitol Romance Wedding Coordination | Catering/Rentals: Purple Onion | Videography: Mark Jung of George Street Photo & Video | Floral Design: Love Blooms | DJ: Chris Styles | Videobooth: SlowMoParty | Makeup: Lindsey Clark |Hair: Ruthie Heidenblad | Invitations: Old City Press | Dress Shop: Global Bridal (loved them – local and budget friendly so thought I’d mention!) | Brides Dress: Mori Lee | Grooms Tux: Indochino