This Harbor-Front Wedding in Baltimore, Maryland, Was Full of Music
The first time Hillary and Jamal met was actually the second; they had previously exchanged a few brief words at a restaurant, where one of her friend's recognized Jamal as he was passing by their table. Their next encounter, at a bar in February 2015, led to something more. "Somehow, by the end of the night, Jamal and l were holding hands like we had been together for years," says Hillary, a full-time student pursuing a career as a physician assistant. "He walked me home that night, and the next morning I realized he had dropped his credit card on my kitchen floor. He came back over the following day to retrieve it, and, since then, we have not gone a day without connecting."
Four years later, Jamal, a certified registered nurse anesthetist, and Hillary's parents were planning a decoy double date at Bygone, a popular Baltimore restaurant known for its views of the city. "Once we arrived, the hostess escorted us to the rooftop to wait—our table wasn't ready yet. I, unknowingly, began to make small talk and enjoy the views while we waited for our table," reflects the bride. "Out of nowhere, I noticed that my brother (who flew in from New York) along with all of Jamal's immediate family, had secretly joined us outside. Jamal then got on one knee and proposed to me in front of our families, overlooking the city that we fell in love in."
Ultimately, their love story would begin and culminate in Baltimore, after the pandemic made their plans of a destination celebration in California impossible. "Once we realized COVID-19 wasn't going anywhere, we postponed the California wedding to May 22, 2021. Once we realized COVID-19 was really not going anywhere, we decided to move the wedding closer to home in Baltimore on the same date," explains the bride. "We had to reduce our original guest list by half to make sure everyone felt comfortable and placed heavy emphasis on holding things outdoors when possible and keeping table sizes to a minimum."
The duo made the best of it and then some; with the help of Jillian Jenkins of Elle Ellinghaus Design, they pulled together an event at The Sagamore Pendry Hotel, Baltimore centered around modern romance, with a palette of gray, blush, and ivory. It was a departure from their original theme, but they managed to tie their first big-day vision into the newfangled event in a humorous way: "The original theme was 'Pack Your Bags,' as it was originally a destination wedding in California. This was reflected in our first save-the-dates' overlay," she explains. "Our second round read, 'Pack Your Bags…Again.' When we realized we would be staying local, we put out one more with the phrase, 'Actually, Just Pack a Small Tote!'"
Blush and Silver
The invitation suite's silver foil accents and blush-hued envelopes previewed Hillary and Jamal's big-day color palette; they were letterpressed by Susan McArdle of Just Ink on Paper and tied together with vellum and ribbon. A wax seal, pressed with a "W," completed the sets. "We ended up sending out three different save-the-dates due to COVID-19 and had two invitation sets printed up—one for the original date and location and the second for the new event," explains the bride of the arduous process.
"Something as simple as seeing Jamal's handwriting made me so emotional," says Hillary of opening up the note and gift her groom had set aside for her on the morning of the wedding.
Though Hillary would later wholeheartedly choose her Mira Zwillinger wedding dress, it wasn't love at first sight. "To be honest, the first time I tried on the gown, I wasn't in love—but everyone else was in total awe," she says, noting that her mother, father, and bridesmaids were in attendance. "It wasn't until we all took a road trip to a store in New York, and I spent the day trying on dresses with bedazzles, frills, and beading, that I realized the Mira Zwillinger option was perfect for me." The simple, form-fitting ensemble was covered with floral appliqués and was " sweet, sexy, and different," she says.
Hillary's lush, hand-tied bouquet, arranged by Designs by Oochay, was composed of peonies, garden and spray roses, ranunculus, lisianthus, and greenery vines in shades of faint blush, rose, and ivory.
Groom in Gray
Jamal donned a gray tuxedo from Tom James Clothing with a black lapel and silk accents throughout. "I had my nickname 'Wink' stitched on the sleeve of the dress shirt and my full name embroidered onto the inside of my jacket," he says. A David Yurman bracelet, Rolex Datejust41 watch, Mont Blanc cuff links, and Christian Louboutin shoes completed his ensemble.
"I wanted my guys to be in classic black tuxedos," says Jamal of the groomsmen's outfits from The Black Tux. "To to make them more fashionable for a summertime wedding, we decided to flash some ankle with no-show socks."
Hillary shared an emotional first look with her father ("There was not a dry eye in the bridal suite during that moment," says the bride) before her mother joined in for a group hug.
Look of Love
The couple's first glimpse took place in front of the chapel-like windows at The Sagamore Pendry Hotel, near the grand staircase. "I was so nervous to see him and his reaction to my dress," says Hillary, adding that she "couldn't wait to see him in his tux (I hadn't seen what he picked out to wear either!), and it was so surreal." When they finally did lock eyes, nerves abounded. "And then, after a few pictures, those nerves disappeared, and we were so ready to get married! Having that moment to ourselves was priceless," she says.
Bridesmaids donned gowns in a mix of necklines by Amsale, in a rose quartz hue; they were originally intended for the couple's California nuptials, but worked well in Baltimore, too. The wedding party posed for some pre-ceremony photos in front of the harbor.
"We had two flower girls—one from each side of the family! My cousin and Jamal's niece," explains Hillary. "The girls were both the same age and had the cutest glitter makeup on their faces for their walk down the aisle."
On the Water
The ceremony was held on the pool deck of The Pendry, right on the water. "We paired the modern look of the acrylic chairs with the romance of the flowers," says Hillary.
The aisle was bordered by a continuous line of florals "that appeared to be growing straight from the deck," says Hillary.
Arrangements at the Altar
Lucite pedestals and glass vases filled with blush-and-ivory blooms were focal points at the altar.
Here Comes the Bride
Hillary cherishes the walk down the extended aisle with her father. "It was one of the more memorable moments for me, because his energy was so calming when I needed it most," she says. "He helped me to be present in the moment, slow down, and take it all in. There is no one else I would have rather had that moment with than my dad."
A Pastor and a Friend
Their religious ceremony—during which they exchanged personalized vows—was officiated by Pastor Jairod Barnes, who also led the duo during their premarital sessions; he has a particular bond with Jamal, which they formed in college at Hampton University.
Jumping the Broom
After they were pronounced husband and wife, Hillary and Jamal partook in the tradition of jumping the broom. "My mother Judy created the broom. She added earrings from all of our grandparents who are no longer with us so that we could start the tradition of jumping the broom with legacies from the past right there with us," explains the bride. "We could feel their presence with us during the whole day."
Follow the Sax
An acrylic escort chart, filled in with baby pink, foretold attendees' seating arrangements for the rest of the evening.
Two of Hillary and Jamal's fashion-forward guests posed for a photo during the interlude.
A Quick Dip
"We managed to take the majority of our family photos, portraits, and wedding party photos just after our first look, so we were able to attend the cocktail hour with our guests!" says the bride. "It was so worth it!"
Pink and Gray
The ensuing reception took place indoors, in a ballroom that had been transformed into a modern, but elegant scene. "We brought in blush drapery to add that soft romantic touch to the darker space and a huge white dance floor with our initial on it," notes Hillary.
"We used different centerpieces throughout the space to create dimension and give eyes plenty to see," continues the bride. They ranged in size; some stations were lined with single bud vases, while others were topped with extra-tall arrangements floated on lucite risers. Taper and votive candles brought a soft glow to each table.
Simple compotes, surrounded by white taper candles housed in glass hurricanes, were yet another centerpiece type featured during the reception.
Tables were covered in either textured gray or ivory cloths; settings were composed of simple white, gold-rimmed chargers, gleaming flatware, a blush napkin, and vellum menu cards.
Their sweetheart table, a white banquette, was surrounded by florals and felt more like a lounge than a table.
Why I Love You
The couple took their first married spin to "Why I Love You" by Major. "We love the melody and feel like the words resonate with our relationship," notes Hillary.
Spin with Dad
Shortly after, the bride and her father took a whirl to Beyonce and Stevie Wonder's "So Amazing." "The song is so playful, just like our relationship," says the bride. "There is also a female and male verse within the song, so we both got to sing to each other while we were dancing!"
The duo's four-tier wedding cake, created by Cake by Jason, was grounded by an acrylic base filled with florals. The classic-meets-modern confection was white, with just a few florals and subtle texture. Inside, snickerdoodle and almond layers were separated by vanilla icing.
After an epic dance party, courtesy of DJ No ID and surprise musical guest Musiq Soulchild, the couple retired to their hotel room—and couldn't believe what they found there. "This one is an ode to the best planning team ever: We came back to a clean, thoughtfully decorated room," says Hillary. "Our wedding license was on display, with the broom we jumped over at the end of the bed. My veil was on the nightstand, wrapped and staged perfectly next to a set of florals from the reception; my shoes were packed up in their original box; Champagne flutes were stowed away, our cake was in the refrigerator; and our keepsakes were set out beautifully—with rose petals from our reception scattered throughout the room. It was a truly amazing experience working with Elle Ellinghaus Design. They never ceased to amaze us!"
Photography, Jenny Quicksall
Venue and Catering, The Sagamore Pendry Hotel, Baltimore
Wedding Planning and Event Design, Jillian Jenkins of Elle Ellinghaus Design
Videography, Shutter and Sounds Film
Flowers, Designs by Oochay
Stationery, Susan McArdle of Just Ink on Paper
Day-of Signage, Event Revolution (escort display); Sweet NC Collective (table numbers)
Officiant, Pastor Jairod Barnes
Bride's Gown, Mira Zwillinger
Veil, Carine's Bridal Atelier
Bride's Shoes, Malone Souliers
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Amsale via Bella Bridesmaids
Groom's Attire, Tom James Clothing
Groom's Accessories, David Yurman (bracelet); Mont Blanc (cuff links); Rolex (watch)
Groom's Shoes, Christian Louboutin
Groomsmen's Attire, The Black Tux
Hair, Quentin Harris; Hair by Marquis
Makeup, Alana J. Makeup
Engagement Ring and Wedding Bands, Meritage Jewelers; Cliq (groom's band)
Guest Book, Custom Touch
Music, J. Boykin Sax (ceremony and cocktail hour); Jeff Mitchell (keyboardist; ceremony and cocktail hour), Musiq Soulchild (special guest); DJ No ID (DJ)
Cake, Cake by Jason
Rentals, Event Revolution (rentals and lighting); White Glove Rentals; Select Event Group (linens); BBJ Linens (linens)
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