With summer on the horizon, wedding season is already underway in its usual full-force fashion. From beaches to ballrooms, the nation’s capital and its nearby destinations can play host to all types of festivities. So to help you find a little inspiration—or maybe just narrow down your options—we scoured the city for some of Washington’s most beautiful weddings and compiled the tips and tricks to pull them off.
Garden of delights: The Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center offers couples a variety of spaces for stunning photo ops. Here, Meaghan Cassidy and Ryan Dofflemeyer share a moment in the lower atrium’s indoor tropical garden.
LEFT: Armin Raoufinia and Shadi Baftechi wanted to offer their guests traditional Persian fare, such as tachin (RIGHT), and chef Ahmed Masouleh came through with an array of beautifully executed dishes.
After having known each other for close to 10 years, a reconnection in 2014 led to love for Shadi Baftechi and Armin Raoufinia, taking the pair by surprise. The couple started planning their wedding right after the engagement, but with Baftechi completing dentistry school in Boston, the planning fell to Raoufinia. “We knew from the beginning that we wanted something very special for our wedding—everything had to be unique, with out-of-the-box thinking,” he says.
When searching for a venue in Washington, DC, the couple chose The Ritz-Carlton (1700 Tysons Blvd., McLean, 703-503-4300) because of all the ways in which the staff could help them personalize the experience of their wedding. A top priority for them was a menu that reflected Raoufinia’s Persian heritage. The Ritz-Carlton was happy to oblige, with sought-after chef Ahmed Masouleh creating a custom Persian menu, including tachin, gormeh sabzi, bademjoon (served on an edible spoon!), and even a Persian tea station. “We asked him and his team to come up with unique presentations of each dish, particularly appetizers,” says Raoufinia. “We were so excited to have our guests try the food, and they delivered on all categories.”
LEFT: Couples are holding back frosting for an exposed, more naked look. This is a great alternative to the traditional wedding cake. (Cake by Great Cakes; greatcakes.net). RIGHT: Emily Ochsen schlager and Josh Furman celebrated their wedding at Sanderling Resort in North Carolina. Their beach-inspired place settings inside the pavilion.
Breathtaking beaches and beautiful sunsets make the Sanderling Resort (1461 Duck Road, Duck, NC, 855-412-7866) one of the Washington area’s most sought-after wedding destinations. A five-hour drive from DC, it is the romantic oasis couples long for without the stress or expense of a far-flung destination wedding.
For Emily Ochsenschlager and Josh Furman, the decision to host their nuptials at the Sanderling was easy: Ochsenschlager’s family has summered there for many years, and it’s where Furman proposed. With the demands of their jobs, the couple looked to the in-house wedding coordinator, Debbie Norris, and her team to tend to the details. “Debbie was a true godsend—I don’t think we would have had the wedding we had without her,” Ochsenschlager says. “She really thought of everything. I kept waiting for that one thing to go wrong, and everything went according to the plan. As a news producer, that is something that I can appreciate as both rare and amazing!”
To capture both the spectacular setting and the happiness of the day, the couple looked to photographer Genevieve Stewart. “[Josh and Emily wanted] amazing and creative images while thoroughly enjoying their wedding day,” says Stewart. “The couple’s trust in us allowed us to push our creativity to the max and achieve stunning images while at the same time leaving room for them to enjoy their day.”
Angie Hegazi and Brian Kearney, shown here on the National Mall, took advantage of the Mandarin Oriental’s stunning environs, including the garden lawn and the exquisite ballroom.
After a five-star engagement at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, Angie Hegazi and Brian Kearney knew they needed a wedding venue that reflected that same sophisticated feeling, but with enough space to host 245 friends and family. The Mandarin Oriental DC was the perfect fit: It exuded refined style, with an expansive garden lawn for the ceremony and a ballroom for the reception.
“We wanted our guests to have several options to mingle,” says Hegazi, “so we created separate seating areas throughout the ballroom. There were also sofas placed next to the dance floor, [so that] anyone who might be too shy to dance could still feel like they were part of the fun. We didn’t want anyone to have to wait to get a drink, so additional bars were added.” The bars were especially well-stocked: The couple offered a wine that Kearney had blended at their winery, Addax, in Napa Valley, for the wedding.
The Grand Ballroom accommodates 500 guests, so the trick was adjusting the scale. “To give such a large room a more intimate feel, white pipe-and-drape [sets were] used to fill in any gaps, and additional sitting areas surrounded the custom bar,” says the hotel’s director of catering, Marie Steffany.
The newlyweds wrapped up the weekend with a next-day brunch in the light-filled gallery, complete with floor-to-ceiling windows and an outdoor terrace.
The RiverView Ballroom offers 270 degrees of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Potomac River, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, and Old Town Alexandria. The “infinity” ballroom, a $25 million addition, offers 16,000 square feet of indoor-outdoor event space with a nautical inspiration to reflect the water it overlooks. Colossal capacity: The space can accommodate up to 1,000 guests for a sit-down dinner or 1,614 guests for a cocktail reception. 201 Waterfront St., National Harbor, 301-965-2300
The dream team: Greg Blake and Michelle Hollingsworth’s interior designer, Roberta Nock, worked with Rosanna Smith from Bella Villa, Becky Armstrong from Middleburg Events Studio, and Jenn Pineau of Nature Composed to transform the Goodstone Inn into the venue of the couple’s dreams. “These highly creative and talented women were able to execute our vision for a magical, fairy-tale wedding,” says Hollingsworth.
For menu-minded couple Greg Blake and Michelle Hollingsworth, the Goodstone Inn was an easy choice for their wedding day. “Greg and I consider ourselves foodies and didn’t want to compromise our passion for delicious food on our wedding day,” says Hollingsworth. “We had been to Goodstone Inn for dinner on a miserable rainy weekend long before we were engaged. Despite the weather, we were impressed with the food, attention to detail, and beautiful property.” In addition to a top-notch catering service, she says, they loved the idea of having their families and closest friends stay on the property the entire weekend.
“From the moment you come up the driveway of Goodstone, it feels like you’re in a fairy tale,” says Hollingsworth. “The feeling we were going for was romantic, elegant, but comfortable, with elements of places, people, and things we love most.” On-site coordinators helped work out all the details, from accommodations to beverage service.
As for the space, the couple called on the expertise of their interior decorator, Roberta Nock, to design each site, from their cocktail hour by the pool to the reception in the woodsy garden. The couple wanted a “sophisticated and rustic” vibe, says Nock. “Vintage vignettes, blooming walls, chandeliers, a library bar, and author-themed tables all channeled the couple’s passion for antiques, art, and vintage books.” In the end, it was the perfect setting. “Honestly,” says Hollingsworth, “it was everything we’d hoped for and more.”
FROM LEFT: The bride and groom share a private moment; the reception’s décor utilized a modern black-and-white palette; guests wait to witness Settimi and Nelson exchange vows in the Altitude ballroom.
Located just steps from the White House and the Washington Monument, the W Washington DC (515 15th St. NW, 202-661-2400) combines historic views with a chic, contemporary aesthetic to make your DC wedding unforgettable. The landmark building, constructed in 1917, blends a Beaux-Arts exterior with a stylish, modern interior.
Theresa Gloria Settimi and Vidal Joubert Nelson envisioned a clean, classic vibe with an of-the-moment sensibility for their wedding, and they turned to events director Elise Kolle, founder of Pinkboxe Weddings and Events, to help execute their vision. “Anyone who has visited the W hotel in Washington, DC, knows the cool vibe the hotel exudes,” raves Nelson. “The lobby is so chic, with the colorful political portraits on the wall and the black-and-white décor. For a historic building, the inside could not be more modern and sleek.”
Details such as die-cut calligraphed table numbers and a classic white-on-black tablescape were combined with the hotel’s swank décor for a cohesive look that had just the wow factor the couple was hoping for. To incorporate elements of DC into their wedding, Settimi and Nelson used handscripted escort cards featuring the city skyline as well as delicious favors from the local dessert institution District Doughnut (749 Eighth St. SE, 202-750-1955). Together with the unparalleled views of the Mall, these small hometown touches had a big impact.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MOSHE ZUSMAN PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO/HEADSHOTDC.COM (COUPLE, FOOD); EMILY SUZANNE MCDONALD/GETTY IMAGES (COCKTAIL), BY GENEVIEVE STEWART (atlantic), BY GREG GIBSON/GREGGIBSON.COM (MALL, GARDEN LAWN, BALLROOM), BY JODI & KURT PHOTOGRAPHY (goodstone), BY PAOLA NAZATI PHOTOGRAPHY/PAOLANAZATI.COM (washington monument)