A Private Garden Set the Scene for This Couple's Joyful Elopement
Cara and Kamyar met in Berlin in October 2015 and bonded over drinks with their classmates from the language school where they were both studying German. "We fell in love on long walks through the city that fall, watching the leaves change colors and discussing art and politics over Club-Mate and kabob," says Cara. Kamyar eventually returned to the States for his medical residency, and Cara followed a few months later. "We've been inseparable ever since!" she says.
The couple had originally planned small wedding ceremony under Washington, D.C.'s signature cherry blossoms for April 2020. "Much of Kamyar's family lives abroad, and we had always intended to have a small ceremony in the U.S. and then something larger overseas in 2021," explains Cara. Nearly 20 of their nearest and dearest had purchased plane tickets for their smaller nuptials; the pair held onto their plans as long as they could before the pandemic caused them to cancel a week prior to the event.
By June, Cara and Kamyar realized that restrictions weren't likely to open up any time soon, so the bride contacted Pam of Pamela Barefoot Events. "I'd seen photos of a small ceremony she'd just put together for a couple at a country home, and I thought it was so elegant and special," says Cara. "That's really what I wanted for our revised nuptials—virtual, yet sophisticated." Pam helped them plan a beautiful elopement inside of four weeks on the grounds of Dumbarton House, a historic D.C. property. With a beautiful site secured, the couple emailed invitations to their virtual guests via MailChimp. "I also set up a section for the wedding on my personal website, which included instructions for how to download and use Zoom and details about the ceremony," adds Cara. In all, they invited approximately 60 people to join in on Zoom.
A mini reception followed in the property's public garden, where the couple, their officiant, and their two in-person witnesses dined on a picnic lunch; then, the pair took a walk to the national mall, which allowed them to snap portraits among the museums and classic buildings of D.C. When asked if she had any advice for couples planning a similar celebration, Cara suggested keeping track of Zoom attendees. "I'm sad that I don't know who all attended!" she says. Other than that small regret, the elopement was seamless, virtually bringing together people from around the world.
Cara actually purchased two wedding dresses prior to finding the BCBG Max Azaria gown she got married in. "The first two were vintage from the 1960s, but neither seemed right for this occasion or location," she says. "We found this dress about 10 days before the ceremony. I wanted to be striking." In addition to a blusher veil, she accessorized the high-low garment—complete with a plunging V-neckline—with a string of pearls given to her by her mother-in-law; a blue stone ring from her grandmother; vintage rhinestone earrings; and a vintage costume bracelet from the '60s.
Into the Garden
The biggest hurdle was finding a venue that was willing to accommodate a tiny celebration on short notice. "After quite a few failed attempts, Pam of Pamela Barefoot Events got us Dumbarton House, which in the end was perfect!" says Cara. "I had wanted something in a garden so that we could ensure fresh air and social distancing, and being that we were in D.C., it was also special to have the ceremony at a historic house."
Cara's bouquet was designed by Amaryllis Floral Design and featured florals and botanicals sourced from No Fish Creek Farm in Maryland. The arrangement included purple zinnias, scabiosa, baby peegee hydrangeas, costa leaves, caladiums, gomphria, echinacea, mint, and red roseberry roses.
Kamyar donned a fresh blue summer suit for the big day, and accessorized with a black tie and purple paisley pocket square.
Guests were invited to the wedding via email invitations that included Zoom instructions for the ceremony. A MacBook Pro, propped up on a decorative pillow, captured the service for those who had tuned in.
In the garden alcove at Dumbarton House, the couple exchanged vows during a personalized ceremony officiated by a close friend and witnessed (in person!) by two loved ones. "Guillaume included lots of details about our partnership, and even a recipe for potato salad read in German (which he translated into English). Plus, a poem by Margaret Atwood," says Cara. "Overall, it couldn't have been more us."
"My uncle and his wife visited my 92-year-old grandmother so they could all watch together," says Cara of their Zoomed-in guests, who they mingled with after they were pronounced husband and wife. "And Kamyar's family (including his mother, sister- and brother-in-law, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, and more) had a big party for us in Dubai, complete with a custom-ordered cake!"
Additionally, friends from New York, San Francisco, Dallas, Atlanta, London, Berlin, Paris, and beyond tuned into the service. "I had anticipated that having the ceremony on Zoom would be impersonal and that perhaps people wouldn't tune in," says Cara, "but we had an amazing turnout. Even more people were able to come this way, as opposed to making the journey in person—particularly elderly and sick relatives. It brought tears to my eyes when we were able to see everyone after the ceremony."
The Perfect Picnic
An Indian Kantha quilt was spread on the grass and sprinkled with colorful pillows for a post-ceremony picnic in a smaller garden on the grounds.
An Elegant Lunch
Lunch was served from a wicker picnic basket loaded with Lebanese mezze—hummus, feta, beet salad, tabbouleh, and dolmeh—a vegetarian meal that was perfect for the small group. "Before the ceremony, Pam had set everything up in the park so that we could seamlessly transition afterward," says Cara. "It was great!"
The outdoor meal was prefaced by hand sanitizer—courtesy of their caterer, Occasions—so guests could stay safe while snacking.
Towering trees, a lush lawn, and pockets of flowers set the stage for the small reception.
The couple's petite one-tier confection from Buttercream Bakeshop featured layers of elderflower-soaked lemon cake with blackberry jam and vanilla buttercream. It was topped with a handcrafted sugar peony.
An Intimate First Dance
Cara and Kamyar swayed to "La Vie En Rose" for their first dance as husband and wife.
A Touching Toast
Those in attendance toasted the bride and groom.
Before the micro-reception's close, Cara hilariously tossed her bouquet to the only woman in attendance—needless to say, she caught it.
Photography, Audra Wrisley
Venue, Dumbarton House
Wedding Planning, Pamela Barefoot
Flowers, Amaryllis Floral Design
Calligraphy, Pretty Mail Calligraphy
Bride's Gown, BCBG Max Azaria
Veil, Me & My Girl Vintage
Shoes, Charles David
Groom's Attire, Savile Row
Groom's Wedding Band, Mae Jean Vintage
Cake, Buttercream Bakeshop