Before Marrying at the Willard InterContinental, This Groom Was Awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama

Carsen Zarin and Florent Groberg wed in November of 2018 in Washington, DC.

In November of 2015, President Obama presented retired Army Captain Florent(Flo) Groberg with the distinguished Medal of Honor for his selfless acts during his service in Afghanistan. Three years later the war hero married Carsen Zarin at the Willard InterContinental Hotel.

Carsen and Flo were so close to never meeting each other. Carsen was stuck at the office getting some last minute work done on a Friday night when her colleagues left for a nearby happy hour. Meanwhile, somewhere off in a Bethesda apartment, Florent was begrudgingly avoiding his friend’s invitation to grab some drinks. Eventually, both dragging their feet, the two ended up making their way out to meet their friends, and–as fate would have it–that was the first night they met. Even though Carsen left that first night without giving her contact info to Flo, he managed to grab her number from their mutual friend. The very next day they planned their first official date.

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InterContinental The Willard Washington D.C. Wedding
InterContinental The Willard Washington D.C. Wedding

“Flo was incredibly gregarious–the life of the party. He kept everyone entertained for hours, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The laughter was non-stop,” says Carsen about her first impression of Flo.

Flo, who was born in France, chose a local DC French restaurant for the couple’s first date. In true French dining fashion, the couple didn’t sit down to eat until nearly 9PM. Carsen swooned at the sound of Flo speaking in his native language. She was even more impressed when he quickly befriended the one other couple in the restaurant that night.

“We had somehow befriended the only other diners in the restaurant and we all shared our desserts. That’s just the thing about Flo, he could get strangers to pull up a chair and eat with us like they’ve been buddies for years,” says Carsen.

Under the guise of a fancy work event two years into dating, Flo got Carsen all dressed up and took her to the United States Botanical Gardens. After a bit of meandering through the gardens, Carsen became suspicious. Flo positioned Carsen, got down on one knee, and asked her to marry him. Overwhelmed with emotion, the word “yes” stumbled out of Carsen’s mouth several times before Flo could finish. They celebrated their engagement together over a bottle of bubbly and, later that evening, continued the celebration with long distance friends and family that Flo had secretly invited for the occasion.  

The couple opted for a longer engagement. While treasuring the time, the two crafted their special day. All of the elements for their intimate ceremony and tasteful reception came together another two years later.

Carsen and Flo’s wedding wasn’t confined to a specific theme, but if you looked with a careful eye you could see hints of French inspiration everywhere. They snuck a French reading into their ceremony and decorated the whole space in floral arrangements adorned with fresh fruits including grapes and figs. Handed out in oversized woven baskets guests relished in the dinner menus, which were wrapped in freshly baked baguettes. Then, towards the end of the evening, a specialty late night snack stand offered made-to-order crepes.

InterContinental The Willard Washington D.C. Wedding
InterContinental The Willard Washington D.C. Wedding

After the reception, the couple jetted off to an unsurprising honeymoon destination–France. They spent the first half in Cote D’iviore traveling through Cannes, Nice, and Monaco, then soaked up the last few days in Paris before returning home to their now Seattle abode.


The Details:

Photographer: Mantas Kubilinskas | Venue: Willard InterContinental Hotel | Event Planning & Design: Jeannette Tavares from Evoke Design & Creative | Florist: Sidra Forman | Invitations: Emily Baird Design | Caterers: Willard Intercontinental Hotel | Hair Stylist: Remona Soleimani | Makeup Artist: Nour Kazoun | Bride’s Attire: Monique Lhuillier from Carine’s Bridal Atelier | Groom’s Attire: Military Uniform(ceremony), Bonobos Tuxedo(reception) | Bridal Party Attire: Dress the Population | Entertainment: DJ Ryan Kersey, The Howard Gospel Choir, Elan Artist Strings | Rentals: White Glove Rentals | Décor: Bd3 Designs | Videographer: Monachetti Weddings 

Natalie Colonna

Natalie is an Editorial Fellow at Washingtonian Weddings. She is a senior Media Studies student at The Catholic University of America in DC.