Food  |  Weddings

Emilie’s DC Just Threw a Surprise Impromptu Wedding Celebration for Two Employees

After their wedding was postponed, Roren and Caleb were surprised with a small celebration to honor the original date.

According to Emilie’s DC’s team, “when life gives you lemons, turn it into lemon curd and put it in a wedding cake!” That’s just what they did for a local couple whose wedding was affected by COVID-19. Roren and Caleb, both in the hospitality industry, have known chef Kevin Tien for years (he actually helped set them up!) and were looking forward to tying the knot this April at Tien’s Modern-American restaurant. However, their dream wedding at Emilie’s DC had to be put on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, Tien worked together with his close-knit restaurant family and threw the couple a special mini-reception in honor of the original wedding date. Complete with a three-tiered lemon curd cake confection.

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A little backstory about the couple

Tien, Roren, and Caleb became friends a few years ago when they all worked together at Momofuku. Tien often found himself as middle man when it came to Roren and Caleb’s feelings towards one another. “They would talk to me individually about how they liked each other, so one day I finally decided to set them up,” laughs Tien. The couple have been together ever since, and after getting engaged last year, they decided that the perfect setting for their big day would be Tien’s restaurant, Emilie’s DC. Unfortunately, their plan for a sit-down family-style wedding, complete with custom menus crafted by Tien, had to be postponed. Which led the Emilie’s DC’s team to think fast on their feet to create a special evening for the pair. 

Working at Emilie’s DC

COVID-19 not only affected their wedding plans, but also their jobs. Roren and Caleb were laid off from their restaurant jobs earlier this year, and went to work for Tien to help Emilie’s with their new no-contact take out and delivery options. So, as the Friday of their original wedding date approached, Tien worked closely with his team to throw his new employees a heartfelt surprise.

Photo courtesy of Emilie’s DC

The special evening

Pastry chefs Willa and Claire spent the day creating a mini three-tiered cake (pictured above) for the impromptu wedding celebration, that they secretly decorated and assembled in the restaurant’s office while Tien placed a hefty carry out order at a local Chinese restaurant. “I made such a large order that my bank actually thought it was a fraudulent charge,” says Tien. Kitchen managers and other staff kept the couple distracted so that the impromptu wedding could go off without a hitch. “We had been a little emotional that day,” says Roren, adding that since it was supposed to be their wedding day, they had planned to go home after work and celebrate with just a bottle of wine. However, once normal business finished and Roren and Caleb were getting ready to leave, Kevin came over and asked them to “help with something in the back.” The pair were then escorted to the back of the restaurant where they were greeted with a romantic sweetheart table decorated with candles and lush floral arrangements. Light music even played in the background to help set a more intimate post-shift vibe. “The few of us then toasted [the couple] with champagne as they cut into the mini wedding cake,” says Tien. As they waited for the food to arrive and enjoyed some cake, another employee thought it would be fun to share various wedding traditions, from breaking the glass to jumping the broom to a New Orleans’ style second line. They celebrated until midnight, eating Chinese food, dancing and even had a quick photoshoot in the dry storage room where bouquets and boutonnieres were made of the restaurant’s decor and a face mask served as a bow tie. “We were just surprised and so touched by everyone who helped put this together,” says the couple. “Right now social interaction is so strange because of social distancing and people don’t know what to do or how to express their affection. To have this gesture and moment done for us, we felt so special the whole evening. Even though a couple months ago an evening like this would have felt normal.”

It wasn’t the wedding Roren and Caleb had planned, but it was definitely a special occasion put on by a special team. Roren and Caleb are still planning to host their actual wedding at Emilie’s DC next year once it is safe to do so.


Assistant Editor, Washingtonian Weddings

Jacqueline comes to Washingtonian with close to five years of digital content experience and SEO best practices. She previously was a senior editorial associate at WeddingWire, specializing in wedding fashion, and before that, an assistant at Vow Bride. Originally from Norfolk, Virginia, she now lives in Columbia Heights.