News & Politics  |  Weddings

Symone Sanders and Shawn Townsend Married in a Surprise Wedding in DC This Weekend

The MSNBC host/political strategist and DC's former "night mayor" exchanged vows at what most guests thought to be the couple's engagement party.

Photos of the wedding of Symone Sanders and Shawn Townsend courtesy of the couple's friends and family.

MSNBC host and former political strategist Symone Sanders married Dewey Square principal and former DC “night mayor” Shawn Townsend in a surprise ceremony on Friday night after a 15-month engagement.

At 4 p.m. on Friday, 100 guests gathered at DC’s Larz Anderson House, most reportedly under the guise of celebrating the couple’s upcoming nuptials in a “Toast to Townsend.” Instead, the pair surprised loved ones by getting married.


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Pastor Dededrick O. Rivers of Ward Memorial AME Church officiated the ceremony, in which Townsend reportedly called Sanders his “ride or die,” and she called him “the best man” she knows. After being pronounced husband and wife, the newlyweds jumped the broom, then shared a first dance to So Into You by Jac Ross featuring D-Nice at a reception that included an even larger crowd of unknowing wedding guests.

Notable guests included CNN’s Abby Phillips, personal aide to Vice President Kamala Harris Opal Vadhan, senior advisor for communications to the White House Chief of Staff Remi Yamamoto, PR powerhouse Tammy Haddad, Dewey Square principal and former political advisor Minyon Moore, co-founder of Bonnti and Black Beauty Roster Maude Okrah, former Biden campaign advisor Alencia Johnson, and MSNBC producers Catherine Snyder, Malcom Thomas, and Brittany Ruff.

Sanders and Townsend were reportedly introduced in April 2019 by former South Carolina legislator and political analyst Bakari Sellers over cocktails at the Eaton Hotel, after an event that Sanders moderated. Two years later to the day, on Easter Sunday, Townsend proposed on the rooftop of Hotel Zena. 

This fall, the newlyweds will spend two weeks honeymooning in the Mediterranean. 


Amy Moeller
Fashion & Weddings Editor

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.