A Modern, Flower-Filled Wedding in Washington, D.C.
Melissa Smith and Justen Knight met and started dating on the very same day. After connecting online while living in Chicago, they went on a blind date and never looked back. About a year and a half later, on a trip to Napa Valley with Melissa's family, Justen planned to propose in their hotel room, which had been prepped with rose petals and Champagne. Once Melissa realized that the room wasn't decorated just for fun, Justen got down on one knee.
"I was completely unaware of everything happening behind the scenes," Melissa says of Justen's plan. "We went to dinner with my family, then went back to our lodging at the Inn on Randolph—coincidentally called the 'Union Room.' I thought the Inn had just done something special—I didn't realize Justen had asked for their help. It wasn't until Justen said he had an important question to ask that I knew what was going on. I was so surprised and so over-the-moon that I shrieked for a good ten minutes after saying yes. I wouldn't remember things clearly if my sister, Chelsea, hadn't been hiding in the corner recording the video!"
On September 8, 2018, exactly three years and one week after their first date, the attorney and strategy operations manager were joined by 215 guests as they tied the knot at The Potomac View Terrace at the American Pharmacists Association, in Washington D.C. "The mood of the wedding was comfortable elegance," Melissa says of the overarching theme. "We love any excuse to pull out our black-tie, but we don't love the stuffiness that accompanies some black-tie affairs. We believe there is a place for Chicago hot dogs and Beyoncé dance breaks in your tuxedo!" That's exactly what they got—in addition to the outdoor ceremony of their dreams, which, thanks to their determined guests, happened despite the rain.
The Modern Invitation
Stephanie B. Design created the couple's modern invitation suite, which combined a sans serif font with calligraphy and square-shaped details. The marble pattern that would appear throughout the celebration was first introduced here, on the accommodations card. The stationery also showcased their future big-day's aesthetic (bright, clean, and modern) and color palette (white, rose gold, gray, and green).
Getting Glam in Style
Melissa and her bridesmaids got ready in matching Etsy robes monogrammed with their initials.
A Thoughtful Gift
Melissa gave Justen a silver Movado watch for the first birthday she shared with him. "I always wanted us to have 'matching' watches that we could wear on special occasions," he says. This was the perfect opportunity—he gifted his future bride a smaller, rose gold version.
Flowers and Lace
The bride chose a Sareh Nouri wedding dress after trying on a few dozen others; she ended up circling back to the "Gardenia" dress, which happened to be the fourth she'd considered. For her walk down the aisle, she carried a bouquet of white Phalaenopsis orchids, ferns, jasmine vine, mini green lotus, white garden roses, clematis, smilax, plumose, olive leaves, and sweet peas from Floral & Bloom Design.
All in the Details
"I loved the back of the dress—especially the cathedral-length train and plunging illusion back with floral appliqué," Melissa says of her wedding dress. As for the smaller details? The bride's "something borrowed" was her maternal grandmother's engagement ring, which she wore on her right hand. "She was such an important part of my life until her passing in 2007 and I feel like she put Justen in my life from above. When I finally met him and he told me his last name was Knight, I knew it was her doing. Knight was her maiden name," she explains.
When Melissa watched Carrie Bradshaw wear those iconic buckle-embellished Manolo Blahniks for her courthouse ceremony in the Sex and the City movie, she knew she had to have them for her own big day. Her bright sapphire pair was a great "something blue" option to splurg on.
Melissa also wore earrings from her work-wife and bridesmaid, Young Moon—they served as her "something borrowed." Her "something new" was a floral hairclip she bought on a whim. She popped the accessory in after her veil was removed post-ceremony.
Justen worked with Shah & Shah to design Melissa's engagement ring, which originally featured a radiant solitaire on a pavé band. When Justen presented the diamond to Melissa, he told her that they could work with the jeweler to update it if she wanted. She took him up on the offer and eventually, two radiant-cut side stones were added. "Justen caught me by surprise [with the proposal] so I never got a chance to tell him how much I wanted a three-stone engagement ring," Melissa explains. "I love what they represent—past, present, and future. I'm lucky to have such an accommodating (and generous) husband."
Melissa's pavé diamond wedding band matched her engagement ring. Justen was initially set on a platinum band, but changed his tune when he tried on a rose gold option (surprisingly, he really liked it!). The ring was later engraved with his and Melissa's initials and their wedding date.
Melissa's six bridesmaids wore different styles of rose gold sequined dresses by Revelry, while her two usherettes donned sparkling black gowns by the same brand.
The Ceremony Aisle
Two rows of greenery and white flowers lined the aisle and stairs of The Potomac View Terrace at the American Pharmacists Association.
"I rarely get to the point of tears, but I was so overwhelmed and happy when Melissa was walking down the aisle that I couldn't really hold back," Justen says of seeing his bride for the first time that day. "As soon as the car pulled up, there was a swarm of photographers, videographers, wedding planners, and other assistants helping her out and it reminded me of a princess being escorted by her posse. It was an awesome moment," he adds.
The bride walked down the aisle to an instrumental version of one of the couple's favorite songs: "Endless Love" by Lionel Richie.
After Melissa's father, Gerry, escorted her to the altar, he sat with her mother and smiled as they watched their daughter tie the knot. Their happiness, however, was twofold: The wedding date happened to coincide with the proud parents' own 39th wedding anniversary.
A Customized Ceremony
Though the bride and groom are both Christian, they ultimately decided against a traditional ceremony. They did, however, want there to be spirituality and gravitas woven in. They asked Judge Tanya Chutkan, a United States District Judge, to officiate, and for Justen's godmother, Betty, to read a piece religious scripture.
The couple made sure to take a mental note of the moment. "Justen and I received a piece of advice from a coworker to stop and appreciate small moments throughout the wedding day. While the judge was giving us her sage marriage advice, Justen squeezed my hand and I knew that meant it was time for us to look out and snap a mental picture of our guests. It gave me chills to be so in sync with Justen in that moment and to feel such warmth and love from our guests," recalls Melissa.
Nixing the Rain Plan
Due to persistant rain, the couple's outdoor ceremony almost didn't happen—and it likely wouldn't have it if wasn't for the couple's guests. "Much to my surprise and despite persistent drizzle, every single one of our guests and our judge made the decision to pull together, share umbrellas, and allow us to have our dream ceremony on the steps. The fact that 215 people sat in the rain, some without cover, with smiles on their faces to support us was truly special."
Jumping the Broom
After exchanging vows and sealing the marriage with a kiss, the newlyweds took part in the African American tradition of jumping the broom.
Melissa and Justen chose "Hornpipe Water Music" by Handel for their recession down the steps.
On their wedding day, the happy couple felt particularly fortunate for their strong relationships with their new families. "It makes us both very happy that we each get along so well with our new in-laws," the grooms says. Here, the duo posed with Justen's parents and brother.
Justen, who wanted to wear something a little less traditional than a typical black formal wear, got his gray tuxedo at Enzo Custom. The jacket was then embroidered with his initials and the wedding date under the collar. He accentuated the ensemble's lightly-patterned fabric with black lapels and pants.
Indoor Cocktail Hour
The rain just didn't want to let up, so the cocktail hour was moved inside the venue's main hall. Jazz music filled the air while guests sipped on bourbon cocktails, which included the celebration's signature drink: a maple-cider bourbon concoction.
Passed apps, like Korean beef ribs on sticky rice cakes, tuna poke on nori crackers, and mini Maryland crab cakes, circulated courtesy of Occasions Caterers.
A Grand Seating Chart
Since the bride and groom met on a dating app that involves swiping right to find your match, their planner, Jeannette Tavares of Evoke Design & Creative, cleverly applied that concept to their wall of escort cards. Guests had to swipe their tile to the right to reveal their table number.
Guests ventured to the Potomac View Terrace on the venue's rooftop, where smilax vine lined the ceiling. Set with a mix of long glasses tables and linen-covered rounds, the space was aglow with candlelight and filled with green and white blooms.
In the Round
The room was carpeted to allow for the tables' sharp design to really pop. Black ghost chairs added a modern touch and another layer of texture when combined with the round table's shimmery linen.
At Each Seat
Each guest received a personalized menu outlined with their name, meal selection, and wine pairings. The first course was a pear salad with whipped ricotta and arugula served with assorted biscuits and rolls. For the entrée, guests had their choice of crispy fried chicken with a corn soufflé and summer vegetables (a nod to Justen's southern roots), beef short ribs with tomato marmalade also served with summer vegetables, and a vegetarian option of mushroom agnolotti with a sweet corn flan.
Their First Dance
As a nod to their favorite musician, the newlyweds shared their first dance to Stevie Wonder's "Knocks Me Off My Feet." The sign behind the dance floor was a reference to the bride and groom's newly-shared name. "Our planner, Jeannette, is a pun-lover and had lots of fun thinking through ways to incorporate our last name into everything we were doing," Justen explains. "The sign was a clever nod to the (K)night that marked the beginning of our new life together and all the fun we were going to have in celebration of that."
DJ Ryan Kersey kept everyone dancing by navigating the crowd through old-school R&B and soul music into current hip-hop. When "The Wobble" by VIC played, just about everyone hit the dance floor.
A Stately Cake
"I make a carrot cake with browned butter and cream cheese frosting that Melissa and her family really enjoy, so we gave that recipe to our caterer to have them replicate it for our guests," Justen says of the three-tier confection. The dessert was finished with marbled fondant to match the duo's color scheme.
A Lasting Impression
A couple of weeks before the wedding, Melissa was scrolling through Pinterest and saw a post about personalized temporary tattoos for bachelorette parties. "I thought it'd be a great addition to our party," she says. "I submitted a picture for a mock-up to StylinTats and the rest is history." She only bought 50, thinking that they'd appeal mainly to the younger guests. Little did she know that everyone would love them, including Justen's aunts! They had multiple people over the age of 60 ask for extras.
Another fun surprise at the reception? The late-night snacks. "Mini Chicago dogs because I'm from Chicago, mini North Carolina pulled pork sandwiches because Justen is from Durham, North Carolina, and French fries with cheese sauce because that's the best food ever," says the bride.
Photography, Lisa Zeising of Abby Jiu Photography
Event planning, Jeannette Tavares from Evoke Design & Creative
Catering and Cake, Occasions Caterers
Flowers, Floral & Bloom Designs
Videography, Monachetti Weddings
Stationery, Stephanie B. Design
Music, DJ Ryan Kersey
Bride's gown, Sareh Nouri
Engagement ring and wedding bands, Shah & Shah
Makeup, Carl Ray
Bridesmaids' dresses, Revelry
Flower Girl dresses,
Groom's tuxedo, Enzo Custom
Menswear, The Black Tux
Lighting, Atmosphere Lighting
Temporary tattoos, StylinTats