When Emily first showed me Connor Studio’s image of Emily + Chester’s DAR library reception, I immediately fell in love. Their dinner among the book stacks ranks among one of my favorite creative uses of a venue. But look a little closer and you’ll see that there’s more than just novelty in E + C’s wedding. Their elegant nods to family were executed flawlessly — at once sweet, lovely and subtle.
I admire Emily’s outlook on wedding planning, always thinking, “How blessed I am to even be having this issue!” We find her positivity and priorities infectious. “To have found the man I love and then to plan a celebration with our family and friends — almost every part of it was such a joy. I did find being true to myself and not bending to all the opinions around us was a difficult part of wedding planning. I am fortunate to have a fiancé that supported me every step of the way and we were so happy with the choices we made.”
Did you decide to do a “first look”? Yes, we wanted to enjoy the wedding in its entirety. We felt that in order to do so, it was important to take all our photos before the wedding. It was so special — we met on the rooftop of the DAR and I have never seen a happier look on Chester’s face!
I was determined to find a dress with sleeves. I first went to a dress maker in Tennessee, near my hometown, who ended up on the evening news as the top business to avoid by the Better Business Bureau. So two months before the wedding, I cancelled the order and starting hitting local salons. I found a beautiful dress in Old Town Alexandria and the alterations department assured me I could have the perfect sleeves that I wanted and I did. I could not have loved my dress more! My veil was worn by two of Chester’s cousins on their wedding day. I have become such close friends with both of them so it was very special to have my “something borrowed” be the veil they both wore. We all had very different style dresses but the same veil looked perfect with each of our dresses.
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? My mother’s best friend read a letter on marriage written by Nancy Reagan when she was first lady of California. It was an amazing and very honest letter on the virtues of marriage. Since we are both staunch Democrats, I think everyone enjoyed that we chose Nancy Reagan for our reading.
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding. My favorite song at the wedding was unexpected. For the toast, my Matron of Honor sang “Thank you for Being a Friend,” the theme song to Golden Girls, which is a show she and I have watching together endlessly. The guests chimed in for the last verse. It gives me chills just talking about it!
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? My old boss, Congressman Lincoln Davis, officiated the ceremony. It was so personal to Chester and I. We both remember being surprised by how much the ceremony moved us. It felt perfect. The toasts being a part of the ceremony were also a special addition. The best man, both matrons of honor and my father delivered beautiful toasts that had everyone laughing and crying. The ceremony was absolutely wonderful and so true to who we are as a couple.
Aren’t Emily + Chester’s place settings perfectly lovely? At first glance, they’re another beautiful detail of the wedding, but to the newlyweds and their guests, it was a thoughtful way to honor family.
All of my favorite details of the wedding revolved around the place settings. I had the idea to have the menu printed on a linen napkin. Our wedding planner and stationary vendor made the dream come true. They were beautiful and a conversation piece throughout the evening. On top of each napkin was a sprig of rosemary, which we included to remember Chester’s grandmother, Ottie. She passed away three weeks before the wedding. She was a great Italian cook and we wanted to honor her with something she loved. Most of our guests were very close to Ottie and this gave them a personal reminder of her on our wedding day.
Describe your wedding cake or dessert: I love cake! It was the first vendor we picked for the wedding. We had three flavors in a six-tier pale yellow buttercream cake with red velvet cake with dark ganache and cream cheese, marble cake filled with caramel, milk ganache, vanilla buttercream and crunchies, white chocolate cake filled with two layers of cookies and cream and chocolate American buttercream. We enjoyed the top tier on our one-month anniversary instead of our one year — I couldn’t wait!
How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. We first met on March 5, 2007 in the Russell Senate Office Building. Chester had just been hired by Senator Bayh’s office and I was already working in the office. After a morning of orientation for Chester, it was time for a staff meeting that I led. It was that meeting that sparked Chester’s interest in me. After a couple months of working in the same office together, Chester decided to invite me on a mission with him to scope out homes and neighborhoods for his sister and family’s pending move to the Washington, DC area. After our search, we rewarded ourselves with what became our first date — dinner at the no-frills Capitol Hill haunt, La Loma.
Describe the proposal. We were in San Juan, Puerto Rico on our fourth anniversary of our meeting. I was not aware the trip was organized around a special date. At midnight, Chester proposed to me in our hotel room.
In what month did you get married? April
How many guests attended your wedding? 170
Describe your wedding flowers: The ceremony floral was a single French urn of dogwood, apple blossoms, snowball viburnum, white French tulips and open cut roses. My bouquet was made of English garden roses, vitality garden roses, white freesia, white and green parrot tulips, dusty miller and mint. The bridesmaids carried bouquets of pale yellow and cream, open cut roses, snowball viburnum, white ranunculus, double cream narcissus, mint and dusty miller. The bouts were comprised of a yellow garden rose bud, green hellebores and accented with weigela foliage and kochia. We had two different styles for the reception flowers, because guests sat in two different rooms for dinner. In the library, guests were seated at six long, wooden rectangular tables. We kept the library’s lamps on the tables, and in between them were ceramic urns filled with snowball viburnum, roses, ranunculus, mint, and lady’s mantle. There were also clear bud vases filled with white, cream and pale yellow tulips. In the O’Byrne gallery, there were two long dining tables with a gorgeous gold and lilac print linen. There were four lush, tall arrangements made of snowball viburnum, hydrangea, open cut roses, lilac, mint, weigela foliage, rosemary and passion flower. In between these four were smaller vases of the same flowers.
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? For me, being Southern is about being a gracious host and making people comfortable in your home or in this case, at your wedding. My mother is the best host I will ever know, so I wanted to make her proud by doing the same with our wedding. We created a hospitable environment by having the guest’s individual name on each program in calligraphy so they felt personally welcome. They were greeted with a champagne bar. At cocktail hour, we paid our respects to the South by having a Jack Daniels bar with various cocktails including Lynchburg Lemonade. At dinner, we served crab cakes and corn soufflé which reminded me so much of the corn pudding that I often ate growing up. I danced with my father to the Tennessee Waltz and my favorite song by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, “Islands in the Stream,” was played during dancing. We served late night cookies and milk and macaroni and cheese with BBQ on top.
What range did your wedding budget fall into? $75,000-$100,000
What is the one thing you are most happy you splurged on? Flowers. The flowers were breathtaking and gave the day have such a warm atmosphere and welcoming feel, which was everything I wanted.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Hire a wedding planner. No matter what your budget, it makes things 100 times easier. I plan events as part of my job, but I knew on my wedding day I wanted to focus on Chester, our family and friends. With a planner, I was able to and it was seamless. I honestly think hiring a planner is the key to a happy day that focuses on your love, not on the event.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you looking forward to in the future? Chester and I are looking forward to living in Washington DC, enjoying our careers and traveling.