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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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Features

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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Real Weddings

Real Wedding: Cheryl & Philip Twu

This beautiful DC celebration had a cherry blossom theme.

By Valeria Boucas Photographs by Katelyn James.

Philip and Cheryl met in 2011 while he was finishing up his PhD at Georgia Tech and she was working as a consultant in DC. After a few dates at the Reston Town Center and dinners at Toki Underground and Zaytinya in DC, they realized they were really hitting it off. From their love of travel to their ability to make each other laugh until their sides hurt, they had a truly special connection. Because their relationship started off as long-distance, Philip and Cheryl spent a lot of time on the road, traveling every other weekend to Atlanta, DC, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and even Taipei and Hong Kong.  

Still, when it came to the wedding, they decided to have it in DC, in April when the cherry blossoms were in bloom—and they couldn't have asked for a more beautiful Saturday to hold the celebration. Their vendors and the hotel staff worked very hard to transform the already amazing Crystal Room in the Willard InterContinental into something out of a fairy tale. Philip and Cheryl also made sure the celebration reflected their fun-loving personalities—including catwalking down the aisle to Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy" and breaking out into the Harlem Shake in the middle of the first dance.

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Engagement Session

Engagement Photos: Tara Parekh and Jeff Simpson

He had her dress up under the guise of a work party, making her picture-perfect for the proposal.

By Valeria Boucas Photographs by Jessica Latos.

Jeff Simpson works at Jacobs Engineering, a company that has works to restore historic buildings. He told Tara they were going to an awards dinner for work on the evening of August 28, 2014. Jeff had his boss leave a fake voicemail on his phone telling him about the event and explaining that he could bring a plus one. "I had overheard the voicemail (how convenient) the day before the event and was so excited to attend because the Capitol is one of my favorite buildings in DC," Tara says.

That morning, Tara took a dress with her to work to change into for the night's festivities. She rode the Metro over to the Capitol and met Jeff at the Cannon Office Building where they took the underground tunnels through to the Capitol. "In the rotunda, we took some photos of each other, and Jeff brought our Go Pro, so we took a short video too," she remembers. Then, Jeff took Tara to the Speaker of the House's office (John A. Boehner) to allow special access outside. They went out on the balcony and Tara leaned over the railing to look for the Jacobs logo on one of the construction trailers Jeff told her to search for. "I kept looking but I didn't see anything, and when I turned around to ask him where the logo was, Jeff was on his knee with a ring box in his hand," Tara says. "I was stunned, to say the least, and I could not stop smiling. He got me so good!"

Real Weddings

Real Wedding: Teresa & Mark Del Rosso

The groom proposed with breakfast in bed on her birthday morning.

By Valeria Boucas Photographs by Havar Espedal.

Mark and Teresa met in October 2012 at a time when they'd both "had enough of the dating scene." Both had been previously married and shared in the upset of constantly meeting the "wrong" people. But when a mutual friend introduced them, they felt instantly drawn to one another. The physical attraction was strong, but they both knew that finding someone good-looking wasn't enough for a lasting relationship. When Mark asked Teresa to dinner, she was hesitant but hopeful, and agreed to go. Two nights later, he picked her up in Foggy Bottom outside her office, "looking dapper in his tailored suit" as Teresa remembers, standing in the rain with an umbrella, ready to open the car door for her.

As they sat down for dinner at Corduroy, they were so enamored with one another that 45 minutes passed before they had even placed their order. At the end of the night, Mark looked at Teresa and asked her to be his girlfriend. "But you just met me!," was her reply. Mark knew he really liked her and she, uninterested in seeing anyone else, said yes. The next day, Mark flew to Germany for business and called Teresa every night he was gone. They were inseparable after that, and eight months later, on Teresa's birthday, Mark proposed over breakfast in bed. 

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Real Weddings

Real Wedding: Jen & Kevin Brady

Four years after their first date, he proposed on the steps of her favorite monument, the Jefferson Memorial.

By Valeria Boucas Photographs by Liz & Ryan.

Kevin and Jen have always loved Washington, DC, but it was a long road before they eventually tied the knot in the District. After finishing her residency in pediatric dentistry at Children's National Medical Center, Jen took a job in her home state of New Jersey, while Kevin stayed in Washington. Jen visited Kevin whenever she could, and the pair had fun exploring DC's parks and museums and discovering new restaurants to enjoy. Eventually, Kevin eventually moved to New Jersey, where he finished law school; but even though they were finally in the same city, the couple found themselves still visiting DC several times a year. 

On one such visit, four years after their first date, Kevin proposed on the steps of Jen's favorite monument, the Jefferson Memorial. He had photographers Liz & Ryan (who would eventually shoot their wedding) there to secretly capture the moment. Jen and Kevin celebrated their engagement with dinner on the rooftop of the Kennedy Center that night. 

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Real Weddings

Real Wedding: Maimuna Ahmad & Qasim Rana

Nine years after this couple's first dance at prom, they danced together for the first time as husband and wife.

By Valeria Boucas All photographs by Jennifer Cody.

Maimuna and Qasim met in the fall of 2001 as members of the Muslim Student Association at their high school (both went on to be president of the group). They were not fast friends, however. In fact, they could barely stand each other at first. It wasn't until three years later when Qasim began driving Maimuna and her friends home from school every Friday—in what they all called the MSA bus—that they started to get along. They wound up going to prom together as friends and finally started dating a year after that. Exactly nine years, 11 months, and 17 days after their first dance at prom, the couple danced to their first song together as husband and wife. The rest is history. 

Editor's note: An earlier version of this post contained the incorrect photos. We have corrected the mistake and apologize for any confusion.

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