When Carl Ray, a DC makeup artist who counts former First Lady Michelle Obama among his clients, and Kenneth Regnier, director of campus services at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, spotted one another on a dating app, there was an instant connection.
“When I saw Ken’s profile, I thought, ‘Here’s a guy that likes adventure,’” Carl says, noting Ken’s photos of skydiving and scuba diving. “He’s also a very handsome man so that didn’t hurt.” The feeling was mutual. “When I saw the connection notice, I was immediately curious,” Ken says. “Carl is very striking and his profile listed a lot of similar interest to mine.”
The two arranged a first date, and ended up spending four hours getting to know one another over drinks at Denson Liquor Bar on F Street. “It’s a great little hidden gem with a speakeasy-type atmosphere,” they said. “We shared so much about ourselves. It felt comfortable; easy.”
Check out their intimate wedding at the Lincoln Memorial below to learn more about the couple and how they married (safely!) during the pandemic.
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Two years after meeting, they were vacationing on the island of Grand Turk over the year-end holidays. “My intention was to propose on the anniversary of our first date,” Ken says. But things didn’t quite go as planned. “As we were headed out to dinner, the taxi arrived and upon opening the door we found the back seat down. I attempted to pull the seat up rather forcefully and ended up with a detached bicep tendon,” Ken recalls. Not knowing at the moment just how bad the injury was, the pair proceeded to the restaurant, but soon realized the hospital was a better idea.
They were seen right away, and were in and out in about 30 minutes, Ken departing with his arm in a sling. Not to let the evening go to waste, they headed back to the restaurant and shared dinner “along with our fair share of margaritas.”
When they got back to the hotel, Ken—perhaps encouraged by the tequila, he says—had it in his head that he still needed to propose that night. “It was not the romantic scene I had in mind, but I was determined,” he recalls. Once back in the room, Ken remembers Carl lounging on the bed swatting at mosquitos while Ken stayed focused on the proposal. “I gathered the ring box,” he says, and proceeded to climb/crawl across the bed with his arm in the sling. “I called Carl’s name and he looked up, saw the ring box and said, “Here? Now?” I popped the question and he said ‘yes.’” A few days later the pair headed to Providenciales and on January 2, Ken proposed a second time while they were out for a walk on the beach. “This,” he says, “was more of what I had in mind.”
Back in DC, the pair were engaged for just a couple of months before the coronavirus pandemic hit, but the event limitations didn’t really deter the couple’s plans—they had already envisioned a private ceremony with just the two of them, an officiant, and a photographer. But the ceremony itself was important to the couple.
“In DC you can self-marry by applying for the license then they send you the license and certificate,” says Ken. “You sign and send it back. I didn’t feel that was enough. There were people before us that have fought, marched, were jailed and sued for our right to marry. I thought not doing a public ceremony would provide a disservice to those that we owe so much.”
So instead, they enlisted the help of a dear friend as the officiant, hired a photographer, and headed to the Lincoln Memorial on May 15, just five months after Ken popped the question.
The Big Day
“The day was perfect,” say Ken. “We had beautiful weather and the Lincoln Memorial is one of our favorite monuments. While this was all taking place during the COVID-19 shutdown, there were lots of people around the memorial. Many students that were graduating were having pictures taken around the monument. In spite of the huge disruption to so many lives during the pandemic, there was an atmosphere of joy, celebration and love in the air. We found a spot on the northwest corner of the monument to hold our nuptials. Ashley Arias performed the ceremony which was heart warming and heartfelt.”
Carl wore a navy sport coat by Reiss, white dress shirt, and khaki linen shorts from Suit Supply. Ken coordinated in a baby-blue linen sport coat by Reiss and khaki shorts, with a white dress shirt from Calvin Klein. Both men donned Converse shoes, and mini calla lily boutonnières.
After the ceremony, the couple celebrated in their Shaw apartment with takeout from Fiola Mare, and shared a dance to Nat King Cole’s “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons.”
Eventually, they newlyweds will honeymoon in San Sebastian Spain, and Lisbon Portugal.
Photographer: Hadar Goren | Officiant: Ashley Arias