Photography by Kate Ignatowski.
Sometimes there’s nothing better than a classic black tie wedding – from black and white stationery in formal calligraphy script, peach and ivory blooms everywhere you look, and the happy couple marrying at a seriously historic church. Photographer Kate Ignatowski, who captured all the goodness from the day, tells us “it was pretty special, as this was the church right across the street from the White House where every president has been an attendee since Madison. Lincoln used to attend evening prayer here during the Civil War!” Rachel & Tommy didn’t let respect for tradition stop them making the day their own, though. Inspired by Tommy’s Southern roots and the warm summers day, they threw an outdoor cocktail-style reception featuring a ‘signature sip’ (don’t you just love that?) of spiked iced tea, plenty of delicious Southern food, and even made their exit in a sweet pedicab decorated by the bride’s sister!
Rachel tells us “although we wanted our ceremony to be traditional, we steered clear of other wedding traditions, such as garters, borrowed / blue items, etc., which we found to be distracting and complicated. Instead, we selected an approach that was reflective of us as a couple, our style, and a few small, meaningful things for us to incorporate as part of our day.”
Why did you choose this location for your ceremony? Tommy was raised and confirmed in an Episcopal church in South Carolina. Over the course of our relationship, we started attending St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C. and joined as members of the congregation. After we got engaged and started wedding planning, we realized it was important to both of us to be married in a church. St. John’s not only felt like home, but is located just a few blocks from our apartment, which gave friends and family a glimpse into our daily lives.
Your ceremony in three words. Traditional, musical, religious.
How did you go about planning your ceremony? A lot of the planning of the ceremony was structured around the practices of St. John’s and the Episcopal Church, but we had the opportunity to select readings and music that were meaningful to us. For example, we asked a soloist whom we had seen perform at the church, and both enjoyed, to sing during the ceremony. It was also important to us to preserve the solemnity of the ceremony and tried to limit unnecessary distractions (e.g. photographs during vows) so we could keep our focus on the commitment we were making to each other.
Who officiated your ceremony? How did you choose him/her? The Reverend D. Andrew Olivio, Assistant Rector at St. John’s Church, presided over the ceremony.
What were your vows like? We followed the vows offered in The Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer.
What were your ceremony readings? Colossians 3:12-17 and John 4:7-16
Did you include any traditions in your ceremony? We didn’t work in too many ‘extra’ traditions, especially since we followed the practices of the Episcopal Church so closely, but did select Widor’s Toccata as our recessional – a piece that has traditionally been used in my family.
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? Getting married, of course! We also loved having our ceremony in a place as beautiful and historical as St. John’s Church.
What was the best advice you received as a bride? To keep everything in perspective – entering into a marriage is the most important thing. The wedding is just one day.
Why did you choose this location for your reception? We wanted the ceremony to immediately flow into a party and only considered venues right in the proximity of St. John’s Church, so we wouldn’t have to worry about transportation. We chose the Decatur Carriage House because of its location and beautiful gardens, which were perfect for the cocktail party we were envisioning. It also had an indoor section for dancing, which was necessary given the summer heat.
Did you have a signature cocktail? Yes – bourbon iced tea with ginger-rosemary-lemon syrup and rosemary garnish.
How would you describe your reception? A celebration!
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? We wanted the wedding reception to reflect both of us – so we tried to incorporate a nod to Tommy’s South Carolina roots. We had southern touches reflected in our music and menu, as well as in the décor – including calligraphy by Elizabeth Porcher Jones.What advice do you have for other couples during planning a wedding? Every wedding is unique and special. Don’t start down the path of comparing your wedding to others – it takes the joy out of it.
Rachel tells us “we wanted the wedding to have touches of late summer. Our florist, Sidra Forman, did a wonderful job of designing floral arrangements to reflect the season. The bistro lighting also complemented the long day and added a soft glow that looked beautiful as the sun started to set mid-way though our reception.”
What was your wedding menu? We had several food stations, which included items like shrimp and grits, summer gazpacho shooters, peach and brie grilled brioche, pimento grilled cheese, fried green tomato BLTs, pulled pork mini-sliders, tomato tarts, grilled watermelon and feta salad, and charred carrots, to name a few!
Do you have any budget tips for other brides? The wedding industry can be overwhelming and in the moment, you can feel a lot of pressure to do everything. But you don’t have to do it all to have a beautiful affair – keep things simple and spend money on what you’ll enjoy and what’s most important to you.
What was your favorite moment or part of the reception? Having all our closest friends and family together and in one place. We had several guests come to our wedding from overseas – that meant the world to us.
What was your first dance song? Father/daughter or mother/son dance? Our first dance was Tupelo Honey by Van Morrison. The father/daughter dance was Isn’t She Lovely by Stevie Wonder, and the mother / son dance was I Love Beach Music by the Embers.
What type of cake or dessert did you serve? Keeping with the summer theme, we selected two types of cake that were layered in ivory buttercream. The first was coconut cake with passion fruit curd and buttermilk buttercream. The second was lemon cake with raspberry filling and Chambord buttercream. Both were delicious!
Please tell us about any other special details or moments from your reception. We had so much fun on the dance floor – our band was very interactive and seeing our friends and family dance the night away is a special memory.
Are there any DIY details you’d like to tell us about? If there is anything I am not good at, it’s DIY! However, my sister did a great job of decorating our getaway pedicab, which was a sweet and personal touch.
If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently? Not a thing!