A Classic, Black-Tie Wedding in Ireland
Ramsey Ratcliffe and Charles Stewart met in 2014 when they were both working on Capitol Hill—but it took Charles two years of courting Ramsey for her to agree to a date. Just one short year after they became an official couple, he was ready to pop the question—but first he had to figure out how to surprise Ramsey, who suspected a proposal was coming.
Ramsey certainly wasn't expecting the moment to happen during a girlfriends weekend, when two of her best friends were visiting from Los Angeles; she had a busy weekend planned for the group, including a SoulCycle class on Saturday morning. "I was incredibly annoyed that everyone else cancelled at the last minute," says Ramsey. "I rushed home to get ready for a full day of brunch and D.C. sightseeing, but when I arrived home, I found the house empty." Well, not completely empty. Instead, Ramsey came home to white roses, a bottle of Champagne, a playlist of favorite songs, and a handwritten note from Charles, instructing her to be "dressed to impress." At 4 p.m., a car service brought Ramsey to Dumbarton Oaks, a historic park in Georgetown, where Charles was waiting to propose.
Ramsey, a wedding planner, and Charles, who works in corporate communications, spent the next year and four months planning an intimate destination wedding at Ballyfin Demesne in County Laois, Ireland, prioritizing quality over quantity. On June 30, 2018, the couple welcomed 55 family members and friends to the beautiful Irish countryside for a weekend of outdoor activities culminating in an elegant black-tie wedding. "We wanted it to be an amazing weekend with friends where we just so happened to get married," says Ramsey. "It was just that and so much more."
A self-described "neutral gal," Ramsey wanted her big day's colors to reflect her personal aesthetic, starting with the stationery. "One of my favorite compliments was that our invitation suite looked like our house," she says. Using a palette of white, light gray, gold, and blush, Cheree Berry Paper incorporated architectural elements from the wedding venue into the stationery's traditional design.
Tasty Irish Treats
Guests were welcomed with branded bags filled with locally-sourced snacks, a small wooden cutting board, custom slippers, and a personalized emergency kit.
A Weekend in the Country
It was important to Charles that their destination wedding take place somewhere meaningful. In honor of his family's Irish roots, the couple chose Ballyfin Demesne in County Laois, Ireland. "Ballyfin is the most incredible property either of us have ever seen," Ramsey says. "We can't wait to go back for anniversaries to come!"
A Romantic Dress
Ramsey had her heart set on a wedding dress with long sleeves and lace. After trying on more than 100 options, she landed on the Monique Lhuillier "Sistine" gown. The bride loved how it combined a classic portrait neckline with the modern look of plunging sweetheart neckline. Ramsey wore her mother's diamond-and-pearl drop earrings and an elegant Monique Lhuillier veil.The bride's bouquet by Porter and Ives was a mix of peonies, garden roses, lily of the valley, and sweet pea in muted tones of white and blush with hints of greenery.
The Finishing Touch
Ramsey paired her lace gown with classic Jimmy Choo satin pumps with embellishments.
Ramsey's bridesmaids included her two sisters-in-law, a college friend, and two friends from D.C. They all wore identical white Katie May dresses with spaghetti straps that offered a striking contrast to the bride's detailed gown. Her young flower girl looked beautiful in her white dress with a blush sash by Pepa and Company and a charming floral crown.
A Last-Minute Switch
Originally, the couple planned to exchange their vows on the side of Ballyfin, which had more of a "garden feel," explains Ramsey. However, they decided to move to the front of the estate after realizing during the rehearsal the bright sun made it impossible to see each other. "I'm so glad we did," says Ramsey. "Abby's ceremony photos are amazing!"
The programs were also designed by Cheree Berry, complete with a sketch of Ballyfin on the front cover. Tied with a silk ribbon, they were distributed to guests on silver trays by greeters at the ceremony.
Guests were welcomed to the ceremony with a glass of Champagne from the years Ramsey and Charles were born. Opting out of a traditional harp or string quartet for the processional, the couple chose a Dublin-based a capella group, The Key Notes, to perform selections by their favorite mainstream artists such as Vance Joy and Mumford & Sons.Ramsey and Charles also passed on a religious ceremony, instead asking a close family friend to officiate. "We both loved that he spoke from the heart and that his words were a surprise to us and our guests," says Ramsey. In front of 55 guests, the couple exchanged personal vows they wrote together.
The newlyweds kicked off cocktail hour in the gardens with a Champagne tower.
In addition to all that Champagne, Ramsey and Charles offered two specialty cocktails, which were named after their D.C. neighborhood. The "Shaw Standard" was a Belvedere martini with a splash of Dolin vermouth; the "Fifth Street Fizz" featured gin, Lillet rose, St. Germain, and (of course) a Champagne topper.
Ramsey spent a year collecting vintage crystal bells for a "Bells of Ireland" escort display. Following the cocktail hour, guests were asked to find the bell with their name and table assignment, which were calligraphed on vellum tags. The ornate bells doubled as keepsakes for their attendees, who then surprised the bride and groom by ringing them during the meal so they would kiss!
A Fancy Dinner
At 8:30 p.m., dinner was served in the State Dining Room at two long tables covered in custom white velvet tablecloths. Each place setting included gold and white Christian Lacroix china, gold flatware, and a monogrammed hemstitch napkin tied with a silk ribbon. The couple included vintage crystal knife rests to bring a European element to the fine dining experience.
Mini menus topped with delicate bows were displayed on each guest's bread plate. The couple wanted their wedding dinner to showcase their passion for food and wine, so they served a five-course meal with wine selected by Ramsey's step-father, "a true wine connoisseur."
A Cake Trio
After dinner, the party moved back to the front steps of the estate. Ramsey and Charles took their first married spin to "The Days That Are to Come" by James Vincent McMorrow after hearing it a month before their wedding. "We were both nervous about our first dance as neither of us like to have all eyes on us, but it was actually one of our favorite moments," says Ramsey. "Everything else melted away into the background, and it was just us in that moment."
Ramsey's favorite moment occurred when she, Charles, and their guests danced under the stars in front of Ballyfin. "Suddenly, the saxophonist began playing to lead our guests to the late-night underground dance club," she explains. Everyone danced to music from the EDM DJ and sax combo, Cafolla and Engel, until 4 a.m.
Photography, Abby Jiu Photography
Location and Catering, Ballyfin Demesne
Event planning, Ramsey Stewart for Lauryn Prattes Events
Flowers, Porter and Ives
Videography, Elysium Productions
Officiant, Michael Borden
Stationery and Calligraphy, Cheree Berry Paper
Cake, Cupcakes and Counting
Bride's gown, Carine's Bridal
Makeup, Sarah Keary
Bridesmaids' dresses, Katie May
Flower Girl dress, Pepa and Company
Transportation, Allied Coaches