This Couple Followed Their Flower-Filled Church Wedding with a Modern, Upscale Dance Party That Lasted All Night Long
Richelle Parham met Sam Jones III in Boston in 1996. "We dated for about nine months, then broke up for 12-plus years," shares Richelle. But they found their way back to each other in the end: "We got back together and have been together ever since."
When it came time to plan their nuptials, they had a single vision: "We wanted to have a huge celebration for our family and friends. We wanted them to have the time of their lives and dance all night long," says the bride. Two key pieces came together to make this dream a reality: They decided to host their celebration for their 230 guest at the Four Seasons Baltimore ("It's a beautiful property on the water in my hometown of Baltimore," shares Richelle) and brought Jeannette Tavares of Evoke Design & Creative into the mix. "Jeannette and I talked every day for a year," Richelle says of the "phenomenal" planning process. "I like to say that Jeannette took our vision and not only understood it, but super-sized it."
The resulting event—which started at the historic Union Baptist Church in the heart of Baltimore—was absolutely larger than life. Best of all, though, it drew the couple's loved ones from all corners of the globe, something that was incredibly impactful to both the bride and groom. Sam saw the true beauty of this during the reception: "As Richelle and I danced, I saw different generations with the dances of their era. I saw people from our respective board rooms, graduating classes, and from humble beginnings. I saw Detroiters, Angelinos, Londoners, New Yorkers, and Baltimoreans. African American, Hispanic, Indian, Islanders, and white folks each bringing their experiences to share in our celebration. Everyone, including us, was the better for it."
Welcome to Baltimore
Amber Renee of Naked Blu Design Studio designed the couple's custom invitation suite. The case-made turned edge folio set featured a combination of printing methods—including engraving, blind embossing, and thermography—and was mailed in a hand-wrapped leather gusset envelope. A "strong, equally balanced" monogram was positioned at the top of the main card for a personal touch; gold accents seen under the envelope's flap was a nod to Sam's fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, and an insert card was printed on the bride's favorite shade of purple.
Ultimately, the suite was a preview of the event to come: "The invitations were reflective of our modern, luxe style and incorporated many of the colors that showed up in florals, tablescapes, and other accoutrements at the wedding and reception," says Richelle.
The couple's signature logo was seen again on the welcome bag, which was stuffed with a myriad of quintessential Baltimore goodies, including UTZ potato chips and Berger cookies.
Bride in Blush
"I probably wasn't a typical bride," says Richelle. "We got engaged in July, but I didn't look at wedding dresses until October." It didn't take long, however, for her to find her blush Romona Keveza gown; she opened the pages of a bridal magazine, and there it was. Obtaining the dress was more of a process: Unfortunately, the garment wasn't yet available for purchase (it was still on the runway at the time).
After a fruitless search in Beverly Hills, the bride tried the opposite coast. While in New York City four weeks later, she called the designer's showroom on a whim—and was able to make a short-notice appointment. They had her dress at the atelier, and when she put it on, everything fell into place. "I loved it and loved that it was a pale blush and not white," she shares, adding that she opted for a few customizations. "I knew that I wanted it to be strapless (instead of one shoulder) and after a few days, we received approval to have the dress made for me, strapless."
Sparkle and Slide
The bride completed her look with a custom 10-foot veil, also by Romona Keveza, crafted from Swarovski floral embroidered lace. "My man of honor, Frank L. Fleming, surprised me and reached out to the salon to add an additional 24 inches to the veil. It was his gift to me," says the bride. Sparkling Renee Caovilla sandals and an opulent mix of diamond jewels from her dear friend Priti Patel of Priti Design Co.—including a diamond tiara, choker necklace, encrusted hand bracelet, and classic studs—completed her ensemble.
Of course, Richelle also wore her custom cushion-cut engagement ring, also by Priti Design Co., on her wedding day; the bauble features love knots on either side and is inscribed with the words, "Beautiful Lady."
Frank, Richelle's man of honor, also helped cull Sam's look; he wore a custom, modern morning-suit inspired tuxedo by Devon Scott. "He wanted to meld elements of two of his favorite suits into the design of his tuxedo, hoping to create a timeless, regal silhouette," explains Richelle. Under his dark gray jacket, composed of a mohair-wool blend and an Italian silk lapel, the groom donned a white shirt and black silk satin bow tie. Black Salvatore Ferragamo shoes and stainless-steel cuff links (the design and build of which honored his career in aerospace)—and later, his Priti Design Co. platinum and meteorite wedding band—were the final touch.
Sam's teenage sons, Samuel IV and Matteus, served as his best men; they were resplendent in charcoal gray velvet peak lapel jackets with black tuxedo trousers, white shirts, black silk satin bow ties, and tuxedo loafers.
All of the men and boys wore deep purple calla lily boutonnières as a nod to the big-day color palette; they also matched the bride's bouquet, composed of the same flowers.
At First Glance
The couple's wedding planner and event designer Jeannette Tavares of Evoke Design & Creative called in a favor from a friend so Richelle and Sam could have their first look in their private residence at the Four Seasons Baltimore. "I wasn't nervous, but I was definitely eager to see him in his tuxedo. I kept saying, 'Yoo-hoo!' as I walked closer and closer to him. Finally, I reached him and just laid my hand on his shoulder," Richelle shares of her approach towards her groom, who was waiting for her on the balcony.
"I had to adjust my eyes from the detail of the city to Richelle's stunning visage and detail of her beautiful dress," shares Sam. "I thought the beauty of Baltimore was beyond the balcony—until I saw the beauty of Richelle next to me."
Richelle and Sam opted to skip traditional bridesmaids and groomsmen ("I have known since I was a young girl that I did not want bridesmaids," says Richelle. "I have the most amazing and wonderful girlfriends in my life, but I wanted them to be a part of the fun."). Beyond Richelle's man of honor, the rest of their entourage consisted of the "very special kids in our lives," she explains.
Into the Church
"We picked the Union Baptist Church in Baltimore because it's my family church and is a stunning property; my Mom's family have been members for close to 70 years. I was raised in that church and so was my Mom," says Richelle of the couple's ceremony venue. The church is on the National Register of Historical Places—and is beautiful, with wooden beams and stained-glass windows, as-is. "We wanted to add to its beauty by using an all-white vision," she says. "We wanted it to feel whimsical, yet modern."
White roses and orchids composed the majority of the floral décor; at the entrance of the aisle, two modern arrangements served as focal points, while the altar's table was covered with cascading blooms. "We also lined every pew with spilling white bouquets of white roses," says Richelle, adding that "Jeannette and her team at EVOKE really brought our vision to life."
Here Comes the Bride
Richelle made her aisle debut to Force MD's "Tender Love," played by a string quartet and pianist William H. Sydnor.
At the Altar
She was then joined by both of her parents, who escorted her towards the altar. "It was important to me to have both my mom, Kathleen, and dad, Richard, walk me down the aisle," she says.
During the couple's religious service—officiated by both a Baptist minister (Reverend Alvin Hathaway, Sr.) and an Episcopalian priest (Father Darryl James)—the couple recited their spin on hand-written vows: They delivered "You Are" statements, which summed up the qualities they love about each other. At the end of the vow exchange, they recited another set in unison.
The service's musical components were just as personal. "They were an important clue to who we are as a couple," says Sam. "We swayed to a range of African-American spirituals, to the traditional Lord's Prayer, and the more contemporary sounds of Bebe and CeCe Winans. Father Darryl James even broke into an impromptu song from the pulpit that fit the spirit and energy of the day. The singing was matched with strings and, of course, the Church's organ. The musicality of the ceremony gave a hint as to how the rest of the day would treat our guests."
After recessing back up the aisle to Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed," performed by soloist Joseph Eldridge, the newlyweds hosted a small reception—with assorted passed appetizers and a cupcake tower—at the church for guests not attending the party at the Four Seasons.
Onto the Cocktail Hour
"Our cocktail hour was designed around Samuel IV and Matteus," says Richelle. "They each had a cocktail station dedicated to them! From the signage down to each food item—it represented them and us!" Matteus' station was all about cheese (house-made cheese pizza, truffle mac and cheese, and artisanal cheese boards were all on offer), while Samuel's was taco-centric with all the fixings (Mexican street corn, prime beef sliders, and French fries were also served there).
The Rollex Band provided the interlude's entertainment: a jazz trio that got everyone on their feet ("There was a lot of dancing at that cocktail party!" says Richelle).
Sleek Escort Cards
Guests found their seating assignments on abstract acrylic black cards, placed on a gold stand wrapped in lilies and orchids.
Richelle recalls seeing the ballroom for the first time as one of the most memorable moments of the celebration. "It was one of the most spectacular spaces that I have ever seen," she shares. Jeannette and the EVOKE team created two distinct looks throughout the reception space. The first was translated on antique mirror-topped rectangular tables, which were surrounded by black velvet dining chairs and set with smoke wine glasses and three chargers. They were also the floral focal point of the space; purple blooms, placed in glass cylinders, arced over the center of the tables, while black calla lilies housed in bud vases added depth.
As for the second? Round tables were covered in black linens and encircled by round half-couches and velvet eggplant chairs. A black-and-gold chandelier defined the centers and illuminated colorful florals below.
The duo skipped on-table napkins, opting for a unique, experiential service, instead: "The fabulous staff of the Four Seasons Baltimore approached each table with black trays and placed napkins on each of our guests' laps—an EVOKE favorite!" says Richelle.
The bar—backed with lush florals and sparkling disco balls—corresponded with the light-up dance floor.
Make an Entrance
Richelle and Sam made their reception debut with Samuel and Matteus, before segueing into their first dance. They took a spin to Luther Vandross' "So Amazing," performed by Rollex Band. "Our first dance was so fun because we did it 'Sam and Richelle style,'" says the bride. "I am known for pretending I have a mic in my hand, so at one point in the song, when the band was singing, '…and it's so amazing, amazing,' I brought out my imaginary mic and sang right into it—but then I shared the mic with Sam who got his own solo time."
The dance party, facilitated by Rollex Band, that followed was epic—and that's putting it lightly: "Sam and I curated our song list to include fan favorites that kept everyone on the dance floor. At one point, we had to beg everyone to take their seats to eat dinner!"
Following a delicious meal catered by the venue, including grilled beef tenderloin filet and butter poached lobster tail, the couple debuted a surprise dessert experience: an ice cream room, complete with a loaded toppings bar.
The bride changed into a bespoke rose gold jumpsuit by Ella Pritsker Couture for the after-party: "Ella and I searched for the shimmering rose fabric for the fun, sexy, comfortable jumper. The result was nothing short of spectacular; the sequined two-piece jumpsuit was fully lined with luscious silk charmeuse."
The after-party's theme was a spin on the groom's last name—"Keeping Up with the Joneses"—and the event itself lasted until 3 a.m. The dance floor remained full to the very, very last moment, thanks to DJ King Tutt.
Photography, Greg Finck
Ceremony Venue, Union Baptist Church
Reception Venue and Catering, Four Seasons Baltimore
Church Reception Catering, Catering by Stanley C. Dukes
Event Planning and Design, Jeannette Tavares of Evoke Design & Creative
Event Production and Flowers, Birch Event Design
Invitations, Amber Renee of Naked Blu Design Studio
Day-of Paper Products, Saima Says Design
Officiant, Reverend Alvin C. Hathaway Sr.; Pastor Union Baptist Church, Father Darryl James
Bride's Gown and Veil, Romona Keveza
Bride's Reception Jumpsuit, Ella Pritsker of Ella Pritsker Couture
Bride's Jewelry, Engagement Ring, and Wedding Bands, Priti Patel of Priti Design Co.
Bride’s Shoes, Renee Caovilla via Neiman Marcus
Hair, Quentin Harris of Salon O at Stevenson
Makeup, Tanya Owens
Flower Girls Dresses and Shoes, Nordstrom
Ushers and Ring Bearer Attire, J.Crew (suits), Bloomingdales (shirts), Zappos (shoes)
Groom and Man of Honor's Attire, Devon Scott
Groom’s Shoes, Salvatore Ferragamo via Bloomingdales
Man of Honor's Shoes, Bergdorf Goodman
Best Men's Tuxedos, Suitsupply
Best Men's Shoes, Saks Fifth Avenue
Music, Elan Artists (ceremony and reception), Rollex Band (cocktail hour and reception), DJ King Tutt (after-party)
Cake, Cake by Jason
Rentals, Borrowed Blu, Party Rentals
Transportation, Moises Nunez of State to State VIP
Lighting, Atmosphere Lighting