A Paris-Inspired Black-Tie Wedding in Washington, D.C.
In spring 2007, Darah and Mark were classmates moving in the same circles at Emory University. "We knew each other," says Darah, "but were just acquaintances and were not close by any means." After graduation, they each went to law school—he in Boston, she in San Francisco—and lost touch. "I moved to Washington, D.C., in July 2017 and on my very first day of work at my new firm, a co-worker noted I went to Emory and asked if I knew his friend Mark, who also was living in D.C.," says Darah. She reached out to Mark right away, and he invited her to a party that night. "I went straight from my very first day at work to see Mark for the first time in seven years," says Darah. "It was a going away party for Michael Freedman, Mark's best friend, who actually ended up being our officiant for our wedding!"
After Mark proposed at Joshua Tree Park in November 2019, the couple began dreaming of getting married in a tiny Italian town on the Riviera they had visited on vacation. "When my mom was diagnosed with cancer two months after we got engaged, we pivoted to having the wedding in Atlanta where my parents live," says Darah. They brought in longtime friend Jeannette Tavares of Evoke Design and Creative to handle the details of their 200-plus guest wedding, scheduled for October 2020—until the COVID-19 lockdown forced them to rework their plans. "After discussing many different options, [we] decided we still wanted to get married in fall of 2020 with a group of our nearest and dearest and plan something really beautiful that had the components of what was most important to us," says Darah. The couple wanted a Parisian-influenced event where guests could mingle safely, landing on Anderson House, which offered outdoor space that wasn't too large for the 35-person guest list. "We wanted it to feel intimate, elegant, but relaxing, romantic, and cozy—like a black-tie cocktail party among friends in Paris," says Darah.
Mark and Darah chose handwritten calligraphy in light blue ink and raw-edge paper for their invitations from Plume Calligraphy. "We selected the paper and ink and calligraphy style to evoke the feeling of Parisian romance," says Darah. "We wanted to keep it very simple and show off the beauty of the most basic components of an invitation. Similar to our venue décor, we didn't want there to be too many bells and whistles."
Darah had a "more is more" vision for her wedding dress, and when she spotted the tulle skirt on a Monique Lhuillier ball gown during a runway show, she had to see it in person. "I knew I wanted a huge, poufy, voluminous dress with lots of movement in the fabric," she says. The designer shipped the look to Darah's local bridal boutique for an in-person test run. "This was the first dress I tried on where I didn't question whether it was enough," says Darah. "I literally got down on the floor and rolled around in the pile of tulle skirt hysterically laughing and taking photos and knew it was the one."
She added a Monique Lhuillier veil, Christian Louboutin shoes, and a custom necklace from Soho Gem (the jeweler who designed her engagement and wedding rings). "The lace bolero, with a high neck and long sleeves, was removable and I took it off for the reception," she says. "After dark I put on a white feather jacket, which belonged to my mom. I used to see her wear it to events when I was little and play dress-up with it."
Diamond drop earrings from Soho Gems were the finishing touch, and they prettily complemented her other baubles.
Blush and the Bride
Florist David Beahm designed Darah's bouquet of lisianthus, sweet pea, garden roses, dahlias, and astilbe in shades of blush, white, and ivory. "We didn't want to have a specific color palette," says Darah. "Our florals featured an array of varieties in dusty pinks, reds, tans, and white."
Black and Blue
Mark's navy Isaia tuxedo was a custom order shipped overseas on a tight deadline. "There were a lot of COVID-related delays and the tux was being made in Naples, Italy," says Darah. "It was very touch and go whether it would be ready in time!" The rest of the men at the wedding donned black tuxedos.
Nearest and Dearest
As the maid of honor, Darah's sister wore a fitted white gown with a high neckline and back cutout. Other guests wore formal gowns in shades of pink, blue, and black.
Stylish Mother of the Bride
Darah's mother accessorized her magenta gown with the coolest accessories, including a shag coat and round sunglasses.
At First Sight
Before the ceremony, Darah joined Mark for the couple's first look. "I was a little nervous before," says Mark, "but then as soon as I saw Darah, I was just stunned at how beautiful she looked. I had a feeling of, 'Is this real?' She looked like a princess." Darah also felt a range of emotions. "In the 20 minutes leading up to it I felt incredibly emotional and excited, but as soon as I got out of the car and saw Mark facing away from me, I felt completely calm," she says. "I loved watching Mark's face when he saw me in my dress for the first time. He looked so happy—it was the cutest. As we were taking photos, cars kept driving by and honking at us and waving and that felt so fun and celebratory."
After Darah and Mark saw each other, Mark surprised her with another first look: One with their six-month-old puppy, Gus. "In the midst of all the craziness I completely forgot that Gus would be there," says Darah. "I turned around and saw Mark carrying Gus toward me and I got so excited—that was an amazing moment to have a first look with our puppy."
A Sweet Surprise
Their concern for their guests' safety and comfort inspired a few twists on tradition. "We were not certain until the last minute whether my parents would be able to make it to the wedding, which was difficult," says Darah. "My dad initially didn't feel comfortable walking me down the aisle and I absolutely didn't want him to do anything he was uncomfortable with, so my brother was going to do so instead. Literally one minute before [the ceremony], my dad decided he wanted to walk with me, so that was a really sweet surprise." A string quartet and vocalist performed "La Vie en Rose" as Darah and her father joined Mark at the altar.
On the Water
The couple's event designer and florist worked together on the ceremony setup, creating a platform over the reflecting pool on which the couple stood to say their vows. "We told Jeannette we wanted tons of flowers at the altar but aside from that, we let her and David completely run with it to create something unique," says Darah. "The flowers were unlike anything we had ever seen and were incredibly stunning and better than anything we could have envisioned ourselves."
A Perfect Pair
They honored both their religious backgrounds—Darah is Jewish, Mark is Antiochian Orthodox Christian—in a ceremony officiated by Michael, the mutual friend who first connected them. "For Mark, we did an abbreviated version of an Orthodox crown ceremony and had a friend do a reading from Corinthians. For Darah, we did a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony ring exchange and the breaking of the glass," says the couple. "At the end of the ceremony, our officiant invited everyone to shout, 'Mazel Tov and Mabrook,' which mean congratulations in Hebrew and Arabic, respectively."
The couple inscribed their vows in ribbon-wrapped books.
So in Love
For Darah and Mark, the joy of their small wedding was just as big as the excitement they expected to feel at a larger event. "Let go of what you thought your wedding would look like; let go of what your wedding looks like compared to everyone else's weddings; don't focus on the things you can't change; and enjoy your wedding for what it is and what you can make it," says the couple.
Pour It on Out
After they were pronounced husband and wife, the duo poured out a Champagne tower for their guests.
A combination of seated and cocktail tables with lace overlays offered spots for guests to relax and eat, while simple centerpieces complemented the floral installations from the ceremony. "The tables had lush floral arrangements and candles to give a romantic, cozy feel," says Darah. "The reception was cocktail style with passed bites versus a seated dinner, so there were no set place settings on the tables."
With the safety of their guests a primary concern, Darah and Mark rethought the typical reception setup, too. "We had safety concerns about a seated dinner and dancing—and we didn't want to try to replicate a big wedding on a smaller scale, so we decided to forgo dinner and dancing," says Darah. The couple served passed hors d'oeurvres, cake, and cocktails—with live music from Bon Musique in the background—in the pretty outdoor spot. "People were able to mingle with food and cocktails and slow dance together at whatever distance from other guests that they felt comfortable with," she says.
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
The couple's guests sipped Manhattans and vodka sodas served from two bar carts; the menu of small bites from Occasions Caterers included miniature chicken piccata, cheeseburgers, Peruvian beef with purple potato crisps, lobster noisettes with tangerine beurre blanc, Caesar salad cones, and miniature crab cakes.
Jisoo Cake Design provided the newlyweds with a single-tier cake—half passionfruit, half chocolate—covered with pink flowers, and served the guests individual cakes in a matching style.
In Your Arms
Before they cut their cake, Darah and Mark shared their first dance to "Unforgettable" by Nat King Cole. "It came on TV one time and we started dancing to it," says Darah. "From there it became a song we really liked dancing to and periodically will turn it on in the living room. So, it was only natural that it would be our first dance song!"
Photography, Corbin Gurkin
Location, Larz Anderson House
Event planning, Jeannette Tavares of Evoke Design and Creative
Catering, Occasions Caterers
Flowers, David Beahm
Videography, Bowen Films
Stationery, Plume Calligraphy
Cake, Jisoo Cake Design
Music, Bon Musique, Elan Artists
Rentals, White Glove Rentals
Bride's gown, Monique Lhuillier
Bride's accessories, Monique Lhuillier veil; Christian Louboutin shoes; Soho Gems jewelry
Hair, Skyler Fordjour
Makeup, Beauty n' the Bride
Groom's attire, Isaia
Lighting, Atmosphere Lighting