Weddings

A Red-and-Gold Wedding at the Hotel at the University of Maryland

Ayana and Sheun's April nuptials included a lively celebration and Nigerian traditions.

Photographs by Chip Dizárd

Ayana, an actress/singer, and Olusheun (“Sheun”), a technology consultant and also rapper, met at a 2017 New Year’s Eve Party, where Sheun provided the evening’s entertainment. The pair say they exchanged hellos and a quick hug during the party, but it wasn’t until the party was over—when Sheun discovered his car had been broken into, and Ayana stuck around to make sure he’d get home safely—that the pair really connected.

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“Her beauty and kindness won me over,” says Sheun. As for Ayana, she says that Sheun’s “megawatt smile” stopped her in her tracks, but it was his demeanor, exemplified by his reaction to the car situation that really attracted her to him. “You’d think having your car broken into would cause you to be really upset but Sheun’s disposition was so calm and collected, even cheerful after we chatted afterwards. I could tell that was the type of person he must be in general,” she says.

Their first date was at Addis Ababa, an Ethiopian restaurant, where they enjoyed Ayana’s favorite dishes, and they dated two years until Sheun popped the questioned at another Ethiopian restaurant, where they were celebrating Ayana’s birthday with family and close friends.

Their original July 2020 wedding plans, which were to include more than 250 guests, were postponed, and in April 2021 the pair said “I do” in front of 55 loved ones at Memorial Chapel at University of Maryland, followed by a reception at the Hotel at University of Maryland in College Park. (They say they will host a larger celebration later.)

At the chapel—Ayana’s favorite detail of the day—the couple says they opted for minimal decor for the already regal space, and at the reception, they decorated with shades of berry, wine, and gold, for a “romantic elegance” theme that included “modern and artistic elements.” The signature cocktail was a Champagne Punch fountain, and for dessert, the couple chose a caramel cake with chocolate buttercream filling and vanilla buttercream frosting. One special splurge, they say, was Ayana’s wedding gown, which was customized with sleeves and tailoring by Sondra Falk Couture.

As a nod to the groom’s Nigerian roots, the couple changed into traditional Nigerian attire during the reception, and danced “the Money Spray.” “Originated by the Yoruba people in Nigeria’s Southwest, it is a tradition loved by many Nigerians,” explains photographer Chip Dizárd. “Money Spraying symbolizes a showering of happiness, good fortune, and a display of the guest’s affection for the couple. The bride and groom are ushered in and dance behind the wedding party.”

Favors included handmade bars of soap by the Black-owned DC-based company Peacock Botanicals, that read “spread love, not germs,” and engraved tote bags with pashmina scarves gifted by Ayana and Sheun’s parents.

Following the wedding, the newlyweds honeymooned at the TRS Yucatán Resort in Mexico.

See the details from their big day below!

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Check out the couple’s wedding video here.

The Details

Photographer: Chip Dizard   | Venue: Memorial Chapel at the University of Maryland and The Hotel at the University of Maryland  | Event Planning & Design: Andrias Events | Florist: Embellished Details | Invitations: MintedCatering: The Hotel at the University of Maryland | Cake: Manna from Heaven | Hairstylist: London’s Beautii | Makeup Artist: Makeup by Holly B | Bride’s Attire: Maggie Sottero gown with custom sleeves by Sondra Falk Couture from Cherry Blossom Bridal | Groom’s Attire: Nicholas & Co.; Custom wedding jacket designed by Oneil Gardener | Bridesmaids’ Attire: David’s Bridal | Groomsmen’s Attire: The Black Tux | Music: DJ Donn | Videographer: Class & Style Productions | Uplighting, Draping, Linens, Chairs and Stage: FM Event Productions 

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Amy Moeller
Editor, Washingtonian Weddings

Amy leads Washingtonian Weddings and writes Style Setters for Washingtonian. Prior to joining Washingtonian in March 2016, she was the editor of Capitol File magazine in DC and before that, editor of What’s Up? Weddings in Annapolis.