Party of Two: This Couple Pulled Together Their Virginia Elopement in Just Eight Days
One extremely auspicious date, a secret eight-day engagement, and a restaurant with three Michelin stars: For a Washington, D.C., couple, those lucky numbers added up to an elegant elopement at a destination just 90 minutes from home.
After a 13-year courtship, Melissa Colgan and Dan Schned were in no rush to get married. "We knew we'd want to keep things intimate, but we're both really close to our large families, so any wedding would be at least 200 people," says Melissa, a former style editor at Martha Stewart Weddings. "Plus, I knew planning a big event would distract us from our goals of saving for a house and establishing my interior-design business." Yet fate intervened, and when a once- in-a-millennium date presented itself last winter, they pulled off a magical elopement in a little over a week.
It started in January 2020, when they stopped into a jeweler in their D.C. neighborhood to replace some watch batteries and stumbled across the perfect ring—which once belonged to the wife of an ambassador to Greece. "I'm half-Greek," says Melissa, "so that was a sign it was meant for me."
Dan, who works for the U.S. Department of Transportation, spotted another sign from the universe—the cosmic version of a flashing neon billboard—when he realized that 02/02/2020 was just around the corner. "He's definitely a numbers geek," says Melissa affectionately. And this one was a humdinger: As Dan explains, "it's a palindrome, and would be the first one in more than 900 years and the last for more than a century. Plus, two represents the union of two people, and 2020 is associated with twenty-twenty vision, symbolizing our clearly looking toward our future."
Once she heard that explanation, after Dan proposed in their kitchen, Melissa was sold on the idea of almost-immediate nuptials. Dan called The Inn at Little Washington, in Washington, Virginia, a place Melissa had always wanted to stay. Since their target date happened to be off-season—and Super Bowl Sunday—he was able to secure a room. Melissa ordered three dresses from Net-a-Porter, chose a metallic stunner by The Vampire's Wife that made her feel "like a glass of Champagne," and boom: Wedding prep was done!
On Friday, January 31, they went to city hall to get their marriage license, which would allow them to self-officiate. And that Sunday they drove to the inn, where they strolled the grounds, sipped cocktails, and called loved ones to share their news. "We caught them all off guard!" says Melissa. "There was a lot of fun FaceTiming."
She and Dan exchanged vows they wrote for each other over dinner at the inn's famed three-Michelin-starred restaurant. The eight-course vegetarian meal was a high point, but their most memorable moment, Melissa says, was "driving to the inn through the Virginia countryside, belting out our favorite songs." Talk about a stirring duet.
Before heading to Virginia, the couple took photos around their neighborhood, including on the steps of the House of the Temple, a historic Masonic building.
You and Me
Melissa's Edwardian emerald-and-diamond engagement ring is a "toi et moi" style from a D.C. boutique called Secrète—fitting for a wedding meant just for "you and me."
Melissa's bouquet had green and white hellebores and was tied with her own ribbon.
A Night Away
The Inn at Little Washington has "the most charming décor, by British designer Joyce Evans," she says. "I was really excited to spend the night there."
Melissa planned on having just a few official portraits, but their photographer offered to trail them to the inn. "There were so many moments I was glad she was there to capture," she says. Despite the rainy forecast for that February Sunday, "it ended up being a beautiful day, seventy plus degrees," says Melissa. "We got to walk around, pet the alpacas and sheep, and say hello to the chickens and llamas."
Melissa wore open-toed Miu Miu heels that she already owned. "I love platforms; they are so comfortable and bring me up a little bit closer to Dan's height," she says.
Snacks and a Toast
The pair stopped at friend and florist Sidra Forman's house on their way out of town to pick up their arrangements and have a toast. She sent them off with snacks for their drive. "This was a true elopement," says the bride. "We thought maybe we'd do a dinner for our families at a later date. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we felt like, You know what? We did it, and it was so fun. Let's just leave it at that!"
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