An organic proposal led to Amber and Joanne bringing to life their garden wedding day in Maryland. Amber and Joanne chose to go with a brunch wedding, spoke their own written vows and played lawn games with their loved ones in celebration.
Your engagement came naturally. How did it happen?
We were laying in bed one night, talking, and somehow the topic of marriage came up. We discussed whether we wanted a DJ or a band at our fantasy wedding and began searching the internet for a band out of curiosity. And, we found one that was perfect for us. The only hitch was that they were based out of North Carolina, several states away.
On a whim, Joanne emailed the band to see if they would be willing to play at a Maryland wedding. When we woke up in the morning, we had a reply from the band: name the date, and they would be there. And, so, just like that, we had a wedding to plan.
A few months later, Joanne made it official. She told me that her cousin wanted to meet in Washington, DC, by my old apartment, for brunch.
Despite my many (unknowing) attempts to derail the plans, we took a cab into DC and got out near the entrance to an alley. We walked in, and near a beautiful rainbow, “LOVE” mural was a vase of flowers and a card reading “Amber.” In shock, I picked up the card and opened it to find a question mark. I turned around to Joanne, who was down on one knee. After I said “yes” to Joanne’s question, music started playing (Bruno Mars’ “I Think I Wanna Marry You”), and friends and family came from around the corner with champagne.
Joanne had even flown out our Colorado-based wedding photographer to capture the proposal.
After toasts, we went out to a gorgeous French café for more champagne.
What was the inspiration behind your wedding day?
We knew we wanted a venue where we could be outside and where our guests could play lawn games. We only looked at two or three spots before our search landed us at Oxon Hill Manor. It’s a beautiful historical mansion with gardens and a reflecting pool, but it was also reasonably priced because the county owns it.
Because Joanne has two (amazing!) kids from her first marriage, we knew we wanted something kid-friendly and casual. A brunch wedding seemed a natural choice.
We didn’t do much in the way of DIY. Instead, we found many reasonably priced and talented artists through Etsy. We primarily relied on Etsy artists for our paper goods.
We worked with the fantastic JCRprints to design a fantastic wedding newspaper, which incorporated our program, brunch menu, and more. And, we created a bar menu with Rubi and Lib, which featured our specialty cocktail named after our dog “Meanie” and beers from our hometowns. If there was one large DIY project, it was probably creating the items for, and stuffing, our welcome gift bags. Fortunately, my aunt is very creative and was able to tackle that project for us.
Talk to us about your experience finding the perfect wedding dresses.
I went wedding dress shopping all over– New York City, Milwaukee, and spots all over Maryland– but I knew I had found the dress for me when I saw it on the Pronovias website.
I called every store in DC, Maryland, and Virginia that carried Pronovias, but the closest store I could find was in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.
After that, we were on a mission to find an outfit for Joanne. We were concerned about one of us looking dingy if our whites didn’t match, so we thought the best solution was for her to head to the Pronovias flagship store in New York. She quickly fell in love with separates there. While it was sometimes challenging to go back to Ardmore and New York for our respective fittings, Joanne showed up for her fitting in New York only to find out that her top was still in Spain! In the end, it was well worth any stress. I only have the best things to say about Elizabeth John’s!
Talk to us about the big day!
Joanne and I slept in different hotel rooms the night before the wedding, and we got ready in separate suites. I had made us a wedding mix so that we could listen to the same music while prepping.
An amazing coordinator from Candy + Co Events ran between both suites, passing messages and presents between us, and keeping us all on track. Once we were ready, we walked separately to a tiny park overlooking the Potomac River for our first look. After a few shared moments together, the little ones ran up, and we started our family photos. Then, the wedding party took a shuttle together over to the venue.
Meanwhile, our guests started to arrive at Oxon Hill. They were welcomed with a coffee or Irish coffee and our wedding newspaper program. Once we arrived, Joanne and I hid up in the bridal suite until it was time to walk down the aisle. Joanne walked first, with her father and son, then I walked up with my dad and step-dad.
The ceremony itself was beautiful. Our friend Beth Henries officiated, who Joanne played soccer with in high school in Massachusetts and who I went to law school with, in New York.
Beth mixed precisely the right amounts of humor and sentimentality. We had two readings. The first was an excerpt from the decision that legalized gay marriage- Obergefell v. Hodges, the second was part of the poem “Resignation” by Nikki Giovanni.
We also read our own vows, with lots of tears!
After the ceremony, our guests began cocktail hour around the reflecting pool, while we locked ourselves away in the bridal suite for a few special moments alone together. After about 15 minutes, we joined our guests for cocktails.
Then, it was time for brunch! After our first dance, guests enjoyed a brunch buffet of cream cheese-stuffed French toast, goat cheese quiche, a rainbow of fruit, and much more. Our friends and family shared some beautiful toasts, then people danced and played giant versions of Jenga and Connect-4, along with cornhole and ladder toss. In place of a photo booth, we had a fantastic fashion illustrator draw pictures of our guests.
At one point, my uncle came up to me and told me to look around. Everyone was engaged in an activity, laughing, happy. It was such a beautiful moment to take it all in.
Once the wedding ended, there was a small break to allow our guests to change and relax a bit. Then, we had an after-party at a dueling piano bar. Late-night pizza and drinks…then off to bed!
Do you have a stand out vendor?
It’s incredibly challenging to pick just one standout vendor!
We look at many of them as friends, rather than vendors. Our photographers, Kenz & Nick, were with us from the beginning of the proposal, our engagement shoot, the wedding, and several celebrations along the way, so we love them.
We also check in with our fantastic wedding coordinator, Candy, as our whole family fell in love with her. I have plans to meet up for coffee with our incredible calligrapher after shelter-at-home is over.
I could go on! It truly felt like everyone went above and beyond to make our day perfect.
What does marriage mean to you?
I am not embarrassed to admit that I have always wanted to find my person. I wanted it for a long time, with my whole heart. It took us a while to find one another, but meeting Joanne was so worth the wait. It means everything to me to have a partner to share life with, to ease one another’s burdens with, and to double the joy and laughter with.
Photographer Kenz & Nick
Accessories Olive + Piper
Bridal Boutique Elizabeth Johns Ardmore, Pronovias NYC
Cake Fluffy Thoughts Cakes
Catering Design Cuisine
Ceremony & Reception Venue Oxon Hill Manor
Cinematographer Shutter & Sound Film
Desserts Sugar Shack
Engagement Rings Soho Gem
Entertainment Back Porch Orchestra
Event Planner & Stylist Candy + Co Events
Fashion Illustrator Cris Clapp Logan
Florist Steelcut Flower Co.
Flower Girl Outfits The Little Kitten (Etsy), Kids Dream
H&MU Laura Blackwell, Stephie Garcia, Jeff Enriquez, Natoshia Mossen
Page Boy Outfits Gap Kids, Toms, Mini Swag (Etsy)
Prop & Furniture Hire Something Vintage
Robes Seline Lounge
Shoes Bella Belle Shoes
Signage Lynn Theresa Events
Stationery Printer Cards & Pockets
Transport Limos Inc.
Veil ieie Bridal
Wedding Favors Pashminas from Etsy, Rescue Flats
Wedding Party Outfits Adriana Papell, Steve Madden
Rings Soho Gem, Marrow Fine