Moving inside the historic venue maintained this celebration's elegance. And the escort card alternative and first dance song selection were particularly meaningful.
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Abby Phillip and Marcus Richardson met in 2011 at a party hosted by mutual friends on a rooftop in Washington D.C.'s Chinatown neighborhood. Neither of them knew many people there so they ended up chatting. They spoke about their love of languages, music, travel, and food. "We were creating an awesome connection, when suddenly another woman interrupted," Marcus recalls. "I was like, 'Whoa, her friend is trying to save her from me,' and we went our separate ways." It turns out that Abby didn't even know the person who interjected. And because of the interference, they left the party without exchanging contact information. About a month later, the same friends threw another party. "I didn't expect to ever see him again, but part of me hoped he might be there," she says. Luckily, he was, and the pair started dating a week later.
Five years later, the couple had just moved to a new apartment and they decided to host their families for Christmas. That's when Marcus (a management consultant for a cybersecurity company) asked Abby (a White House correspondent for CNN) to marry him. She said yes, and two summers later, on May 26, 2018, they tied the knot at an intimate wedding.
Abby had been to Anderson House before and she's always loved its garden and the intricate and ornate interiors. The historic home in the heart of the city provided an elegant backdrop for the black-tie affair—even though rain meant the festivities would occur completely inside. The guest list topped out at 90 loved ones and the celebration boasted many personal touches. The venue's antiques from all over the globe mirrored Marcus's childhood living in Europe and Asia and the couple's shared wanderlust, the menu nodded to their upbringings, and they used their seating assignments as a moment to have their guests join them in an ongoing tradition.
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Guests received tote bags stuffed with bottled water, gummy bears, chocolates, and jalapeño-flavored potato chips—all treats the couple felt represented them.
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The First Look
The rain plan for the pair's first look was just as lovely as the original one—they met in a stunning hallway in the Anderson House. "Standing there, my heart pounding, I was so nervous," Marcus says of waiting to see his soon-to-be wife. "Then I felt a tap on my shoulder, I turned, and I was floored. Abby was glowing perfection and I was speechless. I had her do a spin as I looked on and just smiled, beaming from ear to ear."
As they hadn't seen or spoken to each other since the night before (something they're not accustomed to), Abby couldn't wait to see Marcus. "I wanted to tell him everything that had happened that day," she says. "To hold on to him as we entered into a really big moment that we had planned together for so long. I was so happy but not at all nervous about the act of actually getting married. I was very ready for that part."
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Marcus selected a navy blue Max Davoli Baroni tuxedo, tailored by Geoffrey Lewis Custom Tailors with a black shawl collar. He rounded out his ensemble with a shirt and bow tie from Suitsupply, a vintage Gucci watch once owned by his father, and a pair of Magnanni shoes.
Abby had no idea she'd end up wearing a strapless dress—in fact she had told herself she didn't want one. But when she went shopping at Carine's Bridal Atelier and tried on about a dozen gowns, the only one that made everyone with her gasp was strapless. The Monique Lhuillier wedding dress also elicited feelings in Abby, who says she felt elegant and glamorous. The ball gown featured a deep sweetheart neckline with an asymmetrical lace overlay and a low back. Her accessories were just as lovely. She chose an Untamed Petals headpiece and Aleksa Karina veil that matched her tulle skirt.
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Marcus gave Abby a diamond necklace on the big day.
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Program fans had pink tassels as a nod to the Oriental influences of the venue, and also in anticipation that it would be a warm spring day.
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The Bride's Entrance
"My most memorable moment was watching Abby descend the staircase with her parents," Marcus recalls. "It was a magical moment. So often you see brides walk down the aisle, so seeing her come down these large, ornate stairs in her gorgeous dress made the moment very real and very special." The trio entered to the classic Canon in D by Pachelbel and surprised guests—who thought the processional would be from behind them and not down the stairs.
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Because of rain, the ceremony moved inside to the Cannon Room of the Anderson House. The non-religious service was officiated by Abby's friend, who was her mentor during her undergraduate years at Harvard University and is an ordained minister. The bride and groom exchanged personalized vows, a friend read "The Art of Marriage," and Marcus's younger sister read Maya Angelou's poem "Touched by An Angel."
"I really didn't want to cry during the ceremony," Abby says. "But after Marcus's vows, I was really emotional. By the time we were officially married, the moment just really hit me hard. After all the months of planning, we were finally married. I cried tears of joy and it was an amazing feeling." The string trio played a jazzy rendition of "Isn't She Lovely" as the newlyweds recessed smiling from ear to ear.
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Cocktail Hour Fun
Abby honored her parents, who hail from the island of Trinidad and Tobago, by having a steel drum band play during cocktail hour. "It made for a really joyful time as guests mingled and danced before dinner." Guests could also wander through the house (which is also a museum), snack on appetizers that nodded to the groom's southern roots and the bride's West Indian heritage, or sip on the signature cocktail which was called a "Bitter Sweet Bourbon Street" (a mix of bourbon, simple syrup, aromatic Thai bitters, absinthe, and vermouth served over ice and garnished with a cherry and lemon twist).
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Guests found their seating assignments written on blue Chinese take-out style boxes. It was a nod to the fact that for nearly every big occasion (anniversaries, promotions, new apartments, etc.) Abby and Marcus celebrate with a bottle of wine and some Chinese take-out. As this was the biggest occasion of all, they invited their guests to participate in the tradition.
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What's Your Fortune?
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The reception took place in the venue's grand ballroom, where long tables were set with glowing taper candles and low floral arrangements.
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Pretty in Pink
Though the bride's bouquet only included white flowers, the centerpieces were done in shades of pink, peach, and soft blue. Sweet Root Village designed the arrangements using peonies, roses, ranunculus, snapdragons, spray roses, and tweedia.
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A Floral Accent
To create a focal point in the room, the mantel of the fireplace was decorated with flowers and greenery.
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Monogrammed napkins tied with delicate ribbon and gold flatware gave the evening a luxurious feel.
For dinner, guests ate halibut with a flavorful basmati rice and sumac- and chili-rubbed chicken breast.
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The head table's place cards were displayed on petite bud vases.
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The First Dance
"Our first dance song was really special to us because of how unexpectedly it came to be our song," says Abby. One of Marcus's favorite songs is "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys, but Abby always thought it was too uptempo to dance to during the wedding. After they got engaged in December 2016, the bride and groom went to New York to celebrate and saw the Tony Award-winning production of "The Color Purple" with the original cast and starring Cynthia Erivo. A few weeks later, during a performance at the 2017 Grammys, Cynthia Erivo and John Legend sang a new rendition of "God Only Knows" as a duet. This time, it was slower. The minute they heard it, it was obvious: this was their song.
During dinner, Abby's bridesmaids surprised her by arranging an impromptu performance by one of her college choirmates. He sang an a capella rendition of "What a Wonderful World," a song that had also played during the ceremony.
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A Change of Clothes
Abby chose a blush-and-gold embroidered Theia dress with pearl straps for her reception dress. "It was so comfortable and elegant," she says. "When I tried it on, I felt like it really said 'married woman,' which was the look I was going for after the ceremony. Plus, it was great to dance in."
Marcus also changed his outfit. "I wasn't going to let her have all the fun," he says of slipping on a Ralph Lauren Purple Label ivory dinner jacket. "Once I put it on I felt like James Bond," he adds.
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Photography, Elizabeth Fogarty
Location, Anderson House
Event planning and design, Cristina Calvert Signature Weddings
Catering, Occasions Caterers
Flowers, Sweet Root Village
Videography, Sok Vision
Stationery and monogram, Stephanie B. Design
Cake, Couture Cakes by Sabrina
Reception dress, Theia
Hair and Makeup, Demetress Valentine Glam
Bridesmaids' dresses, White Runway
Groom's tuxedo, Geoffrey Lewis
Groom's dinner jacket, Ralph Lauren Purple Label
Transportation, Reston Limousine
Custom fortune cookies, Fancy Fortune Cookies