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Real Weddings

Real Wedding: Jessica & Drew Ginsberg

A cancellation opened the way for this couple to marry at their dream venue—the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

By Valeria Boucas Photographs by Kurstin Roe.

Jessie and Drew had been dating for five years when, after a stressful week at work for Jessie, Drew took her on a stroll through Eastern Market to pick up supplies for a picnic he had planned at Yards Park. It was there that he popped the question. Drew had a photographer secretly capture the moment, and then a tearful engagement photo session ensued.

Jessie, a planner by profession, immediately got to work sorting out the details of her wedding. She had fallen in love with the traditional elegance and grandeur of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, but when she inquired about availability, she was disappointed to learn there were no openings until 2015. It wasn't long, however, before another couple canceled and Jessie and Drew were able to lock down a wedding date—September 6, 2014. Though Jessie initially thought her job as a planner would help her through the process, it became increasingly difficult to narrow down vendors since she knew all the options available. Still, she and Drew knew they wanted their wedding to be a reflection of their relationship. They had met six years prior as servers at California Pizza Kitchen, and they decided to host their rehearsal dinner at the Crystal City location.

Though both expected to be nervous on the day of the wedding, when the day arrived they felt a sense of calm "knowing that everything felt right." They planned a ceremony that reflected both their faiths—Catholicism and Judaism—and they chose not to see each other before they walked down the aisle, so they held hands on either side of a screen barrier as they signed their ketubah. Jessie and Drew asked guests to remain unplugged so everyone could really relish in the moment without worrying about their phones and sharing images on social media. The night ended with a sparkler send-off, and the couple continued the party at the W's P.O.V.

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Real Weddings

Real Wedding: Taylor & Whit Varner

This Virginia celebration was enhanced by the natural beauty of its vineyard setting.

By Valeria Boucas Photographs by Robert Radifera.

Taylor and Whit met in Charlottesville, Virginia, when Taylor was a senior at the University of Virginia and Whit had just graduted from Mary Washington University. Mutual friends introduced them one night at Biltmore Bar and Grill, a nearby favorite. A year later, Taylor moved to Richmond for dental school, but the couple's love only grew stronger. They made countless drives up and down Highway 64 to see each other, and four years later, they got engaged.

Taylor and Whit say the foundation of their relationship from the very beginning has always been love and laughter. They were together for seven years before they tied the knot and are more in love now than ever before.

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Real Weddings

Real Wedding: Sarah & Andrew Heck

A rainy first date bloomed into lasting love for these college bandmates.

By Valeria Boucas Photographs by Rebekah Murray.

Sarah and Andrew met at the University of Maryland in August 2005. Both were members of the Mighty Sound of Maryland Marching Band—Sarah as captain of the dance team and Andrew as a drum conductor. As band director Dr. L. Richmond Sparks kicked off the season, he remarked, “You’ll make lifelong friends here—and if history is any indication, a handful of you will end up getting married to people in this very room.” Everyone laughed. Little did Sarah and Andrew know it would be true for them.

Despite their time spent together at UMD, it wasn't until years later during graduate school at Georgetown University that Andrew asked Sarah on a date. They enjoyed a long day together, drinking red wine in solo cups at the National Sculpture Garden’s jazz concert series, going to a Nationals baseball game, having a post-game drink at a bar on nearby Barracks Row, and finally trying—and failing—to make it to their favorite live Motown music spot in DC before last call, and consequently getting caught in the rain. Undeterred and still able to hear the music from outside, they salvaged the moment by dancing in the street.

Over the next two and a half years, Sarah and Andrew had many adventures together. Then, one bright, sunny morning in April 2013, Andrew lured Sarah back to the National Sculpture Garden—this time, to ask for her hand in marriage. They walked to the edge of the garden fountain where they sat that very first night in 2010, and just as he was about to pop the question, Sarah blurted out, “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Andrew assured her he did, then dropped to one knee. They tied the knot in Georgetown the following June.

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Expert Advice

5 Cake and Wine Pairings for Your Wedding

Experts from Salamander Resort & Spa and Greenhill Winery share pairings that will please the palate on your big day.

By Valeria Boucas The Nutella Cup cake at the Salamander Market is the perfect year-round flavor. Photograph by Nathan Mitchell.

When it comes to planning a wedding, few decisions are as delicious as choosing a wedding cake. We tapped Salamander Resort & Spa's executive pastry chef, Jason Reaves, to give us the skinny on the five most popular wedding cakes he makes. The Middleburg, Virginia, retreat is popular not just for its bakery, but also for its scenery—it sits on a beautiful tree-lined road with views of the Bull Run Mountains.

To go with Reaves's top five cakes, we asked David Greenhill of nearby Greenhill Winery to select a wine that best suits the flavors of each. See them all below, arranged by season.

For a spring/summer wedding:

Lemon Zest cake. Photograph by Katie Stoops.

Lemon Zest

Vanilla sponge cake layered with fresh raspberries and zesty lemon curd

Pair it with: 2009 Greenhill Sparkling Blanc de Blancs

"The Greenhill Sparkling wine is made with 100 percent Chardonnay. It's produced in the traditional Méthode Champenoise fermented in stainless steel, and aged for 22 months in barrels before undergoing its second fermentation in the bottle. The creamy mouthfeel and grapefruit flavors make for a perfect balance."

Tres Leches cake. Photograph by Salamander Resort & Spa.

Tres Leches

Vanilla sponge cake soaked in “three milks,” layered with whipped cream and fresh berries

Pair it with: 2013 Greenhill Seyval Blanc

"This is a French-American hybrid grape. This wine is off-dry yet crisp and fresh, and exudes components that are perfectly balanced with a conglomerate of citrus, exotic, and stone fruit aromas. Mandarine, lychee, peach, and apricot are most apparent, with hints of almond and plumeria flowers."

For a fall/winter wedding:

Pumpkin chip cake. Photograph by Katelyn James.

Pumpkin Chip

Chocolate chip pumpkin spice cake layered with ginger crème

Pair it with: 2013 Greenhill Viognier

"Feminine, fresh, and crisp, the stainless steel-fermented Virginia Viognier, with its pale-gold color, expresses aromatic fragrances of wild flowers, jasmine, and crème brûlée. On the palate, flavors of apricot, peach, and a tinge of lemongrass are rounded out by raw honey notes and baking spices with an intense, long finish."

Caramel Apple cake. Photograph by The Observatory.

Caramel Apple

Apple spice cake layered with cinnamon buttercream and sea salt caramel

Pair it with: 2013 Greenhill Chardonnay

"This wine is aged for 11 months in French oak before seeing the bottle. Aromas of hazelnut and brioche toast linger with light buttery notes and flavors of pineapple, fig, and apple. The enriched mouthfeel and texture is persistent and refreshing."

For a wedding any time of the year:

Reaves’s Nutella Cup

Devil's food cake with Nutella (chocolate-hazel­nut) crème and dark chocolate pearls

Pair it with: 2010 Greenhill Philosophy

"This rich, dark, and bold wine exudes strong aromas of wood, earth, and tobacco. Philosophy’s flavor profile is musky and rich, with strong tannins, structure, and roundness of body that bestows a smooth, long finish."

Find Valeria Boucas on Twitter at @valeriaboucas.

Wedding News

Photos: Arlington County's First Legal Same-Sex Marriage Ceremony

Jennifer Melsop and Erika Turner tied the knot in Arlington Monday.

By Valeria Boucas Photographs courtesy of Pop Wed Co.

Same-sex marriage was legalized in Virginia on Monday after the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in the case overturning the state's 2006 ban on gay marriage. Virginia officials started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples a few hours after the Supreme Court announcement, clearing the way for Jennifer Melsop and Erika Turner to become the first same-sex couple to say "I do" in Arlington. Maggie Winters of Pop! Wed Co. shared photos of the historic moment with Washingtonian. Now we can really say Virginia is for lovers.

Find Valeria Boucas on Twitter at @valeriaboucas.

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Real Weddings

Real Wedding: Cara Gavagan & Nathan Schwarz

These childhood friends married in front of the loved ones who watched them grow up together.

By Valeria Boucas Photographs by Jessica Shepard.

Cara Gavagan and Nate Schwarz grew up around the corner from each other in Clifton Park, New York. They were in the same kindergarten class, and their families were close; they even attended the same church. But despite all the life overlap, the two never dated. After finishing college at Clarkson University, Nate ended up working as an engineer in Richmond, Virginia, while Cara went to Catholic University in DC. One weekend Nate offered Cara a ride home to New York—the most time they had ever spent together alone—and something clicked.

Still, it wasn't until more than a year later, at Nate's brother's wedding, that they decided to officially get together. A year after that, Nate was transferred from Richmond to DC and shortly thereafter, they were engaged. Having already known each other for more than 20 years, the pair were thrilled to tie the knot in front of the family and friends who watched them grow up together.

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Real Weddings

Real Wedding: Erica & Tyler Holley

These former colleagues tied the knot against a backdrop of fall foliage.

By Valeria Boucas Photographs by Ali Caudill.

Tyler and Erica met at work in 2008—Tyler had just returned from a year-long teaching job in China, and Erica had recently moved from New Jersey to Northern Virginia. They were instant friends, constantly talking and joking around at work. Tyler “was immediately interested,” he says, but he waited nearly a year to ask her out. 

After three years of dating, Tyler proposed to Erica at their apartment, surrounded by hundreds of candles and flowers. They were married at the beautiful Westfields Marriott on a pleasantly sunny and crisp fall evening. The 20-minute ceremony took place outside, in front of lush fall foliage and 175 of their closest friends and family. Between their emotional first look and self-written vows, the silly photo booth, and the late-night snacks of popcorn and homemade Italian cookies, “we wanted to keep the day simple and classic, but most important, meaningful and fun,” says the bride.

Since the wedding, the couple has moved to Alexandria and added a new member to the family: a Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Enzo.

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From the Archives: Wedding Gowns Fit For a First Lady

As mistress of the manor, our bride dons the gowns of the season with grace and style.

By Kate Bennett

For an ideal Washington wedding gown, there’s nothing more suitable than classic silhouettes and a touch of glamour. In our Winter/Spring 2013 issue of Washingtonian Bride & Groom, we chose to highlight Washington's bridal fashion in “My First Lady.”

To showcase the dresses, we shot presidential scenarios at the Anderson House in DC. See the rest of our First Lady dress picks below.

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Expert Advice

Q&A: Solidcore Owner Anne Mahlum Shares Her Get-Fit-Quick Tips

How to whip yourself into shape for your walk down the aisle.

By Valeria Boucas Solidcore's secret: the Megaformer Pilates machine. Photograph by Studio3877.

There's a reason Anne Mahlum has dubbed herself chief motivational officer of Solidcore, the fitness studio she founded less than a year ago in Adams Morgan. Mahlum has made it her mission to get people in top shape using a patented machine called the Megaformer—and guests who sweat through the 50-minute sessions are seeing results. The in-demand fitness center now has two other locations in addition to the original, which the First Lady is known to frequent.

We asked Mahlum how a bride-to-be can get in shape for her big day if she only has a few months to spare before she heads down the aisle. Like any mindful fitness guru, Mahlum offers ways to tighten up without over-exerting your body in harmful ways. Read on for her tips.

Photograph by PopMotion Pictures.

Design a routine for a bride-to-be with only, say three months, to tone up before she walks down the aisle.

1) Solidcore three times a week. We will give you a safe, total-body workout where it is impossible to be bored or to plateau.

2) Interval training (running/biking/rowing) three days a week (pick a day to double).

3) Rest two days a week—walking is fine, but if you don’t let those muscles rest and rebuild, they won’t change.

4) Drink lots of water—10 to 12 glasses a day.

5) Live actively—walk to work, go for bike rides. If we work out for an hour a day, but then just sit and sleep the other 23 hours, the math doesn’t work out. Move your body as much as you can.

6) Cut out the processed food, especially sugar, and any liquid calories. Eat real food, and eat consistently. I’m not a big calorie counter, and my days vary between 1,800 and 2,400 depending on my level of activity. I very much believe that the food you put in your body is more important. However, if you are committed to the workout regimen above, don’t eat fewer than 1,800 calories a day—your body will go into starvation mode and you will not lose weight or see your body change.

What mistakes do you see people making with their workouts?

I have been extremely active as long as I can remember, and have had many ups and down with my weight and the shape of my body. What I have learned is that you can make substantial changes in your body in 9 to 12 weeks by eating right and by not just exercising, but doing the right type of exercise.The biggest mistake I see people make when they are trying to change their body is they do cardio and that’s it—and to make matters worse, the cardio is not intense, it’s 30 or 45 minutes on the elliptical machine. The fastest and most efficient way to change your body is through resistance training. Your body needs to build muscle to burn fat.

What was the turning point for you to launch your own fitness center?

I have been working out since I was 16 and never came close to results I've seen since starting the Lagree Method. Pre-Solidcore, I was lifting at the gym on my own, running, and doing boot camps. I was in shape, but not the type of shape where you work out without a shirt on. I had never heard of using slow, controlled, resistance-based movement as a workout option before, and frankly, it sounded easy and something “fun” to do—after all, I’m a marathoner. The only impact is your bodyweight—no jumping, no pounding. I thought, "Okay, really, how hard or effective could this be?" It was SO intense. My muscles were burning and shaking all through class, and the next two days, I was sore in all the right places—my abs, oblique muscles and inner thighs. I realized how much of my body I wasn’t challenging and how this method was everything I never knew existed. I was just hoping the results were going to be as good as the burn, and they are.

Find Valeria Boucas on Twitter at @valeriaboucas.

Real Weddings

Real Wedding: Dara & Alex Santos

Leesburg's Thomas Birkby House provided the classic backdrop for this intimate celebration.

By Valeria Boucas Photographs by Audra Wrisley.

Alex and Dara's road to the altar wasn't without a few minor bumps along the way. When they first met, Alex says, Dara played hard to get—and when he finally mustered up the nerve to ask her out, he was so nervous he suggested a group date at Bluemont Winery so he could have some moral support from his friends. Luckily, his plan worked, and he and Dara hit it off. 

Soon afterward, their budding relationship was put to test when Dara had to juggle two graduate classes in six weeks plus her full-time job. Recognizing Alex's support throughout, Dara realized all she wanted was to spend every moment with him when it was over. Eight months later, they moved in together. 

Three years after that, Alex proposed to Dara at the Jefferson Memorial, surrounded by beautiful cherry blossom trees. As they began planning their wedding, they discovered their perfect location in Thomas Birkby House in Leesburg. "The outdoor terrace reminded me of my grandma's backyard, where she spent many summers drinking root-beer floats and catching lightning bugs as a child," says the bride. Now that their wedding dreams have become a reality, the couple's new focus is expanding the family with a furry friend they plan to adopt from their local animal shelter. 

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