This Romantic Virginia Wedding Was an Homage to the Couple's Roots
After a beautiful engagement surrounded by family and friends, Ericka Brownlee knew she wanted to be a hands-on bride while planning her wedding to Meechaeyl "TK" Keller. "My twin sister (who was also my maid of honor and videographer) partnered with me to plan my entire wedding," says Ericka. "It was awesome working together, as she's obviously one of my favorite people in the world!" The two sisters were quick to map out a unique vision for the event. "Overall, I wanted to be able to honor our heritage in a way that I had not seen before, especially when I was looking through wedding magazines," says Ericka. "I wanted soft lighting and a color palette that wasn't moody, but wasn't devoid of color."
Intent on a romantic, southern wedding theme that would celebrate black excellence, Ericka drew inspiration from the all-white, end-of-summer fêtes that are a typical African-American tradition. "We wanted to capitalize on that and make it our own," she says. "I definitely wanted to include my Memphis roots of backyard cookouts as well as TK's Louisiana roots, so we decided to embrace the Creole tradition of the 'second line parade,' and have a more upscale version of an end-of-summer soirée." The Grand Marsh Estate fulfilled the bride's desire to have all of those details unfold in a garden setting. "It was all I could ever ask for," she says. "A beautiful, creamy, marbled building enclosed in manicured topiary and hedges—just breathtaking." She also had a sentimental reason for choosing the estate: "The grassy knolls reminded me of my late paternal grandfather, who was an avid golfer and would take us (his grandchildren) to the golf course."
The bride made sure that other special touches that honored the couple's ancestors were included throughout the day. "I incorporated the colors blue and white because they were not only our alma mater's colors, but they are also my late maternal grandfather's fraternity colors," she explains. "Similarly, I included a picture of TK's late father on his wedding day back in the 1970s. Finally, I chose a caramel color for the wedding palette because it was the same color as my paternal grandmother's mink coat that my sister and I would play dress-up in when we were younger."
Although she took on the lion's share of the planning herself, Ericka decided to hire a month-of coordinator so her twin could focus on maid-of-honor duties and she could focus on being a bride. And the best advice she has to share? "One of my sorority sisters who got married two months before me implored TK and I to actually write our vows together because in theory, these are the things we are committing to," she shares. "You wouldn't want your future spouse to have expectations in their vows that didn't resonate with you and vice versa. What I loved most about our vows is that we were very intentional in writing them and what we promised to one another."
A Custom Invitation Suite
Ericka and TK wanted a wedding invitation suite that was clean, romantic, and classic, and graphic designer Jasmine Ellesse came through with a modern twist. "The invites nodded to the overall color theme of autumn with colored caramels, dusty blues, and crisp neutrals," says Ericka. Pieces of velvet included on the stationery reflected the bridesmaids' dresses; the couple was particularly taken with the vellum printed monogram.
A Timeless Wedding Dress
After trying on several beaded wedding dresses, Ericka realized that she preferred the clean, classic aesthetic of an unadorned satin dress with plunging lines. Her choice was a sleek, simple fit-and-flare gown with illusion side inserts, an open back, and sweep train by Danielle Caprese for Kleinfeld. "I love timeless classics, so when I tried on my gown, I immediately felt beautiful in a way that allowed my natural beauty to shine through," says Ericka of her ultimate pick. She added drama with a beautiful cape by Champagne + Grit.
Custom Bridesmaids' Dresses
The members of Ericka's bridal party were outfitted in universally flattering gowns custom made in rich, caramel-colored velvet.
A Fall-Inspired Bouquet
The bride held a delicate bouquet of toffee roses that florist Holly Heider Chapple had flown in from South America. Blue tweedia, dahlias, spray roses, and more blooms rounded out the creamy look with warm textures.
A Delightful Flower Girl Dress
Anais, the couple's daughter, donned a white tulle dress that brought a look of pure joy to her face.
A Stunning Engagement Ring
Ericka's engagement ring by Ballerina Jewelers featured a marquise-shaped center stone in a beautiful bezel setting with a double band of diamonds.
Thoughtfully Sourced Bridal Shoes
Her satin sandals with ankle-ribbon details were sourced from African American designer Aminah Abdul.
A Classic Groom
TK wore a white tuxedo jacket with a black lapel that matched his noir tuxedo pants and bow tie. His groomsmen donned timeless black tuxedos for a moment of high-contrast.
Creamy roses were accented with blue tweedia and fall foliage for the groom's and groomsmen's boutonnières.
A Fabulous First Look
TK was ecstatic as he took in his bride for the first time in the courtyard of the Great Marsh Estate.
A Striking Ceremony Site
White chiavari chairs formed a semi-circle facing the grand front porch of the estate's main building. Columns were wrapped in toffee roses, wound with greenery, and accented with blue-and-blush blooms.
Powder Blue Vow Books
The bride and groom penned their coordinating vows in lovely booklets personalized for the day.
A Proud Flower Girl
Anais took her job as flower girl very seriously, sprinkling petals until she ran out—she had to be coaxed the rest of the way down the grassy aisle.
A Picturesque Processional
Live musicians performed "Nothing Even Matters" by Deangelo for the bride's march down the aisle. Guests clad in white provided a seamless visage.
A Personalized Ceremony
An associate minister from the couple's church presided over the ceremony. The pair exchanged vows that they wrote together before sealing them with a kiss.
A Beautiful Broom Jump
Following the ceremony, Ericka and TK took part in the African American tradition of jumping the broom before recessing up the aisle.
An Elaborate Bar
The highlight of the cocktail hour was a beautiful white bar with gilded accents and an ivy-covered backdrop that featured the couple's monogram.
Sweet Signature Drinks
Guests enjoyed two cocktails, one of which was named "The Blackburn" after one of the central buildings on Howard University's campus; the other was called "The Meridian," the name of the dorm that both Ericka and TK lived in during college.
A Walk to the Party
Ericka, TK, their wedding party, and their guests formed a second line—umbrellas and all—for their walk from the outdoor cocktail hour space to the indoor reception.
Breathtaking Reception Tables
The couple worked closely with their florist to design one-of-a-kind tablescapes. "The reception hall was dressed in ivory draping with greenery draping the chandeliers," Ericka recalls. "Long king tables were centered on both sides of the dance floor. The florals were a Holly Chapple original design: Flowers sprouted out of a golden frame, while tea candles hung from the frame. Long taper candles lined the tables, as well."
Alluring Accent Tables
Round tables draped in ivory linens framed both sides of the king tables. Centerpieces reflected the flowers in the bride's bouquet, and were gathered in golden bowls. Tea lights added a touch of romance.
Contemporary Place Settings
Black napkins on the round tables were reminiscent of the ebony linens on the king tables. Faceted stemware added sparkle, while black utensils rounded out the contemporary look.
A Grand Wedding Cake
The duo's towering, multi-tiered cake by Couture Cakes by Sabrina was iced in gold fondant and featured fresh flower accents.
Photography, Liz Fogarty
Venue, Great Marsh Estate
Event designer, Argot LLC
Month-of coordinator, Favored by Yodit
Videography, Sok Vision
Flowers, Holly Heider Chapple
Invitations, Jasmine Ellesse
Bride's hair, Demetress Valentine Glam
Bride's makeup, Ciara Talley Beauty
Bridesmaids' dresses, Désir Couture
Bridesmaids' jewelry, Borcik
Flower girl dress, Pantora Mini
Groom and Groomsmen's attire, The Black Tux
Engagement Ring, Ballerina Jewelers
Guest book, The Confetti Home
Bartenders, 876 Cocktails
Catering, Talk of Di Town
Cake, Couture Cakes by Sabrina
Seating chart and Guest book signage, The Confetti Home
Photo booth, Chris Styles Events