Real Wedding: Jessica and Fred

A holiday love story, a cocktail reception, and a bride who wore black.

Jessica and Fred with their daughter, Cece, on their wedding day on June 1, 2013. All photographs by Bonnie Sen.

When it came to their wedding, Jessica Harris, an event manager, and Fred Gregory, a project manager, knew they wanted an intimate wedding that felt more like a New Year’s Eve cocktail party than a traditional ceremony. The couple, who have been together since 2010, had their hearts set on the essentials: Champagne, plenty of hors d’oeuvres, and someone to kiss at the end of the night. After all, the couple, who are also parents to 16-month-old Cece, got engaged on Christmas Eve, so a joyful holiday-inspired fete was the perfect way to go—even if the wedding actually took place in June. Fred’s brother-in-law, Eddie Skeens, served as the officiant at the small ceremony, which was held at the historic Athenaeum in Old Town Alexandria. “Fred and I wanted to feel connected with everyone there, so we decided to get married right in the middle of our cocktail party. Eddie encouraged everyone to grab a drink and find a comfortable spot from which to view the ceremony,” says Jessica.

The bride admits that selecting a dress was the hardest part of planning. “I wanted an evening gown with a little drama, and I knew a traditional white gown would not meet the requirement. I ended up taking a large leap of faith and ordering a dress online, which surprisingly paid off. The gown was gorgeous, and I look forward to wearing it again this winter at one of DC’s black-tie events,” says Jessica.


Photographer: Bonnie Sen

Wedding Venue: The Athenaeum 

Bride’s Gown: TheCelebrityDresses

Bride’s Necklace: Jojo Loves You

Groom’s Tux: Calvin Klein, Men’s Warehouse

Hair/Makeup: Glynn Jones Salon

Event Planner: Allison Ruyak, Allison Ruyak Weddings

Cake: Carolyn Taylor, Taylor Made Cakes

Wedding Cake Flavors: Chocolate cake with hazelnut ganache and buttercream frosting

Cake Toppers: Wish Daisy

Wedding Cocktail: St. Germain cocktail

Caterers: Emily and Megan, Occasions Catering

Florist: Nick, Amaryllis

Wedding Flowers: Coral peonies with green hydrangea. “As luck would have it, the coral peonies this year were legendary, so there were lots of them throughout the decor, offset by metallic elements and natural tones for a beautiful blend of sophistication, elegance, and celebration,” says Jessica.

Biggest Surprise of the Wedding: “Just as the ceremony was winding down, three voices started to sing. And then more people started to sing, and then a group stepped forward from among the guests singing ‘Seasons of Love’ from the musical Rent. It was amazing—I have never been so surprised! Fred spent two months working with the Noctonals on this song, just for me,” says Jessica.

Invitations: Creative Start Design

Napkins: The Stationery Studio

Matchboxes: For Your Party

Drink Stirrers: Em for Marvelous

First Dance Song: “Rainbow Connection” (Muppets version with Kermit the Frog)

Favorite Decor Details: “The custom-built frame for the ceremony backdrop—it perfectly blended the artistic space of the Athenaeum with the feel of our wedding.”

Wedding Theme: Cocktail reception

Four Words That Describe the Wedding: Intimate, personal, party, friends

Honeymoon Spot: Dublin, Ireland

Where the Couple Currently Live: Falls Church