A Catholic service and a Chinese tea ceremony were the highlights of this multicultural wedding, which was filled with good-luck touches.
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A romantic overlook above the Potomac River was John's idea of the perfect proposal spot—but when he and Ivy, his then-girlfiend, arrived at the destination, a police officer was shooing people away from the restricted area. "John was dumbfounded," says Ivy of the unexpected turn of events. The pair made their way back to the car only to find the same officer writing them a ticket for parking in the wrong direction. Having noticed that John's hand had been his pocket all night—and therefore suspicious that the big moment was imminent—Ivy urged him to tell the officer what he was about to do.
"John slowly pulled out a ring pouch and told the officer he was planning to propose to me and didn't pay attention to the parking sign," Ivy says. "The officer snarled, 'And she knows about that?' John answered 'Officer, she knows everything.'" The police officer finished writing the ticket and told the couple it was for a dollar—and announced that he wasn't quite giving them permission to go back to the overlook, but that he wouldn't be back "for another 20 minutes."
"We ran back up in disbelief," says Ivy. "Not only did the incident somehow clear everyone off of a popular area, but we now have a ticket with the time and location of the place John proposed. It became the most intimate location with the best of the D.C. skyline at night. Life works in magical ways, you just have to believe." Shortly after Ivy tearfully accepted John's slightly-delayed proposal, the couple began making wedding plans together. "We felt blessed through the entire process and the wedding day," says Ivy. "The day was flawless and wedding planning was stress-free. Just as with everything else, we enjoyed the wedding-planning process because we did it together."
On August 18, 2018, the couple hosted a formal wedding at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, a historic church, for 88 guests—the perfect number, since eight is considered lucky in Chinese culture. While wedding planning, the couple says "thoughtfulness" was their number one priority—one that was a pleasure to implement with the help of planner Margo Fischer. "Having a planner such as Margo made it possible to translate our vision for the wedding into reality," says Ivy. "She was so experienced and so calm on the wedding day. It set the tone for a great celebration. We could not be more grateful for her."
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Stephanie B. Design created the couple's wedding invitations and associated stationery. Guests opened red envelopes calligraphed in gold to find die-cut invitations placed in delicate sleeves with Chinoiserie-patterned bands; the set was closed with red wax seals. The pair's Chinese zodiac signs were also incorporated.
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A lace illusion bodice was the focal point of Ivy's Ines DiSanto wedding dress. In fact, seeing his bride in her ball gown was the groom's most memorable wedding moment. "She bought the dress pretty early on…and used to catch me trying to poke through the garment bag," John says. "Finally seeing her, the cathedral, the music—the dress was 'her' and it was exactly what I envisioned."
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The couple chose to have their formal nuptial mass at Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, the fourth parish established in Washington, D.C. "John is Catholic, I am not," says Ivy. "As a Catholic requirement, we did a marriage-prep process that involved answering a questionnaire individually, regularly meeting with our official, Monsignor Jameson, to discuss the questions we had answered differently, and attending an Engaged Couples weekend, hosted by couples who have been married for years." And while the Catholic Church hosted it, "everyone did a great job making sure it was an open-minded atmosphere with no judgment and no religious expectation," says Ivy. "Both of us enjoyed the process and felt strongly that it is a must-have experience for any couple who is serious about their union."
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Ceremony programs featured red tassels and the same Chinoiserie pattern featured on the invitation suite.
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"Red is culturally significant, so I knew I needed a touch of red," says Ivy of her bouquet, which florist Holly Heider Chapple composed based on a description from the bride. "She surprised me on my wedding day with an explosion of colors in my bouquet. She even flew in peonies from Alaska. Peonies in August? We were thoroughly impressed."
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A Timeless Processional
"We both are fans of classical music, so we went to a session with the church's organist and selected the lineup with songs for the processional and recessional," says Ivy. The bride walked down the aisle to "Ave Maria" sung by the cathedral cantor—a special request from the groom.
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Guests waved custom flags by Stephanie B. Design at the happy couple as they exited the church following the ceremony. "The designs had the Double Happiness symbol we used throughout the invitation suite, and 'Baber,' our nicknames for each other," says Ivy.
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A Dazzling Reception Dress
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A Traditional Tea Ceremony
Before the reception, a Chinese tea ceremony was performed by the wedding couple and their parents. "This is a tradition at Chinese weddings. The newlyweds kneel as a sign of respect and bring tea to the parents to thank them for years of upbringing," Ivy explains. A lovely floral arch served as the memorable backdrop, which also featured a center embellished with Chinoiserie.
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Colorful wooden lanterns holding cake balls doubled as favors and décor.
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A Detailed Seating Chart
A framed seating chart, complete with illustrations of the couple's Chinese zodiac signs, was draped in greenery.
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The Astor ballroom at the St. Regis Washington, D.C. was the site for the couple's elegant reception. Vaulted ceilings with stately wooden beams set the stage for the affair, while towering windows flooded the space with light. Glass hurricanes sparkled with candlelight; colorful centerpieces of multiple heights defined the tabletops.
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White-on-white place settings, placed on clear chargers, were edged in gold and topped with circular menus. Place cards and napkin rings added a touch of red, while golden utensils tied the look together.
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The pair performed ;a choreographed first dance. "John had expressed interest in doing a choreographed dance," says Ivy, but John says he didn't campaign "too hard" for lessons. Before he knew it, though, they were learning how to do lifts and dips. The couple took their first married spin to "I Will Wait for You" by Louis Armstrong, since both the bride and groom are fans of swing jazz.
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A Traditional Chinese Dance
During the reception, Ivy gave a meaningful performance for her husband. "I did a traditional Chinese sleeve dance, a style that dates back to the Tang Dynasty in 700 AD, for John as a surprise," she says. "He had watched it once and thought it was the cutest thing. He used to imitate the sleeve at home and it always made me laugh."
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The wedding cake by Sweets by E was a delicious vanilla sponge with Bavarian cream filling iced in buttercream. The design drew details from the couple's invitation suite, from the die-cut shape of the invitations themselves, to the couple's Chinese zodiac symbols. A cascade of colorful blooms was the finishing touch.
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Photography, Abby Jiu Photography
Location, Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle (ceremony); The St. Regis Washington, D.C. (reception)
Event planning, Bright Occasions
Catering, The St. Regis Washington, D.C.
Flowers, Holly Heider Chapple Flowers
Videography, Paperboys Cinematography
Stationery and calligraphy, Stephanie B. Design
Cake, Sweets by E
Music, Northern Lights Dance Orchestra
Rentals, BBJ Linen; Select Event Group; White Glow Rentals
Bride's gowns, Ines DiSanto (ceremony); Rachel Gilbert (reception)
Bride's shoes, Christian Dior (ceremony); Christian Louboutin (reception)
Engagement ring, Jared
Wedding bands, Piaget
Hair, Iva Bella Salon
Makeup, Mimi B. Tran
Maid of honor's dress, Badgley MIschka
Groom's suit, Ermenegildo Zegna
Best man's suit, Hugo Boss
Transportation, Sunny's Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation (ceremony); Vintage Limos (reception)
Stage Covering, Fabrication Events