Forget Mason Jars: This Leesburg Celebration is the Future of Barn Weddings

Barns can go glam, as evidenced by Cate Brandon and Michael Bonistalli’s “Gatsby meets Virginia farmhouse” celebration, planned by Roberts & Co. Events and photographed by Reneé Michele Photography

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Though Cate had already cancelled her account, the couple of weeks she had left before the membership ran out gave Michael the time to reach out. He’d never gone on a date with anyone he’d met through the service before, but after an initial phone call (which lasted three hours!), the two decided to meet up in Cleveland Park for a five-hour date at a roof deck bar and the zoo. 





During their three-year relationship, an annual trip to the National Zoo’s ZooLights festival became tradition. When they returned to visit the attraction once again, they paused by the rattan elephant to take their picture, like always. This time, as they got into position for a photo, Michael got down on one knee and asked Cate to be his wife. 






For their June wedding, the pair completely transformed a rustic barn event space in Leesburg into a “Gatsby meets Virginia farmhouse” experience, including draping, chandeliers dripping with greenery, calligraphy by the bride’s mother, and a wall of tea lights. After the cocktail hour, a brass band led the guests through the woods to the stunning barn reception. 


In place of cake, the newlywed shared pies packaged in jars, and for favors, sent guests home with bags of flavored popcorn. Following their send-off, the bride and groom departed with plans to honeymoon on the West Coast and in Hawaii. 


Ceremony Venue: Dahlgren Chapel at Georgetown University | Reception Venue: Murray Hill | Photographer: Reneé Michele Photography | Event Coordinator: Roberts & Co. Events | Bride’s Gown: Monique Lhuillier, Carine’s Bridal Atelier | Groom’s Attire: J. Crew | Hair Dresser: George at the Four Seasons | Makeup Artist: Carl Ray | Florist: Holly Heider Chapple | Caterers: Occasions Caterers | Transportation: Point to Point Limousines, Attache Executive LLC | Music/Entertainment: Bachelor Boys Band | Invitiations: Elli | Antique furniture: Paisley & Jade| Bentwood Chairs: Party Rental, Ltd.

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Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.