On August 31, my best friend and I got married.
As a frequent visitor of the Wedding Planning subreddit, I’ve seen many recap posts there and I thought I would write one of my own detailing all the wedding planning over the last year since we were engaged.
- Engagement length: July 2018 – August 2019
- Location: Washington, D.C.
- Wedding date: Late August 2019
- Guest count: 130
- Budget: $50K
Venue: The LINE Hotel DC
After we were engaged, we checked out two venues before the one we ultimately chose. One was the Newseum, which would have been an incredibly cool venue but was more catered to corporate, business functions (despite a fantastic view of Pennsylvania Avenue). The other was the Oatlands Historic House & Gardens, but we felt limited by the short list of vendors and the unpredictability of having an absolute outdoor wedding. By chance, we happened upon the LINE Hotel in an online article and decided to schedule a tour.
Upon stepping into the hotel, we both loved the look and atmosphere. The LINE Hotel in DC was once a neoclassical church since 1912 with 60-foot vaulted ceilings, grand copper entry doors, and brass detailing. The Sydell Group, who are behind the LINE brand, repurpose many aspects of the former church into the hotel – such as the pipe organ into a chandelier, hymnal boards for wayfinding, and pews for public seats. We really liked the art deco vibe of the LINE. Furthermore, there are three restaurants by James Beard Award winner Spike Gjerde and Michelin Bib Gourmand awarded Erik Bruner-Yang, two bars, and a coffee shop all inside the hotel – big perks especially for our many out-of-town guests.
We signed the contract for the venue about two weeks after we first toured. The most appealing part of signing with the LINE was the inclusivity of so many vendors, including the reception dinner; alcohol; cocktail hour hors d’oeuvres; wedding cake; rental tables, chairs, linens, silverware, and glassware; use of the rooftop for the ceremony; and even use of some of their décor (candles and plants). We felt that we were starting off on the right foot.
I won’t get too into the weeds, but we did have some issues leading up to the wedding day coordinating with the venue. Most of these issues were due to a lack of communication. For instance, we were not told that we could contact the cake vendor directly until about a month before our wedding. By then, it was too late to go into the store to taste the cakes. We had to grab the tastings to go and make decisions almost immediately thereafter. Another downside was that the food tasting did not occur until about a month before the wedding. The reasoning was that the hotel wanted to source the freshest, most local ingredients. While I’m always on board with sourcing local food, the delayed food tasting caused quite a bit of stress, especially since we had to notify the hotel of each guest’s entrée choice and make place cards per the hotel’s strict request.
The Vela rooftop was the pièce de résistance of our wedding. Given that it was outdoors, we were a little concerned about the weather but of course, there’s not much you can do if Mother Nature decides to shower the city on your wedding day. However, we were optimistic that the weather would be ideal enough for us to hold the ceremony on the rooftop. The views, after all, are stunning. Who wouldn’t want to their guests to take in a panoramic view of Washington, D.C. while sipping wine? When we went to our food tasting, we found out that the LINE was installing a tent on the rooftop. This helped assuage some fears of the temperamental D.C. weather. Even though the tent wouldn’t be strong enough to withstand thunderstorms, at least a light drizzle wouldn’t prevent us from using the rooftop.
For the reception, we were set up in the Banneker Ballroom. This room is 4,020 sq. feet and can accommodate up to 500 people. There’s also a foyer just outside the ballroom with marble floors, coffered ceilings, and cozy couches and armchairs. We had fourteen round tables in the ballroom for our guests, divided between the east and west side of the room. I personally think round tables are the best for conversations, particularly among a bigger group.
Our sweetheart table and the 20′ x 20′ dance floor were situated in the middle, in front of a mantle. The cake table sat to the right of our sweetheart table. Two mobile bars flanked the corners of the room. The photo booth, favors, and photos of us were arranged in the foyer. I was very pleased with the way everything was set up.
Food: The LINE Hotel DC
The catering for weddings at the LINE is done by Spike Gjerde of A Rake’s Progress.
Our chosen passed hors d’oeuvres:
- Ham and melting cheese gougères
- Open-faced crab cakes on cheddar bay biscuit
- Iron steak skewers brushed with Rake sauce
- Skewered vegetables brushed with miso
- Smoked trout on rye
Our chosen plated dinners:
- Kale Caesar salad with salted oyster dressing and torn rye croutons
- Hearth grilled flat iron steaks with cobbled potatoes, braised greens, and mushroom catsup
- Blackened Chesapeake fish with potatoes, seasoned vegetables, and crab gravy
- Charred vegetable steak with slow-cooked BBQ grains and charred onion relish
- Adolescent greens with chicken tenders and cobbled potatoes (kid’s meal)
Cake: Buttercream Bakeshop
As mentioned above, the cake was included in our wedding package with the hotel. Buttercream Bakeshop is their cake partner. It’s owned by three-time James Beard Award semi-finalist Tiffany MacIsaac, and it is a very popular pastry shop in D.C.
Every tasting Buttercream offered included Devil’s food cake, vanilla cake, funfetti cake, ganache, chocolate buttercream, and vanilla buttercream. They also put together a selection of complimentary mini desserts.
Here are the combinations we tried:
- Vanilla cake, lemon curd, fresh strawberry buttercream
- Elderflower lemon soaked cake, blackberry jam, vanilla buttercream
- Almond cake, raspberry jam, Chambord buttercream
- Almond cake, strawberry-rhubarb jam, lemon curd buttercream
We chose the almond cake with raspberry jam and Chambord buttercream in a three-tier with horizontal stripes and to be adorned with fresh florals the day of the wedding. The cake was phenomenal, and we received so many compliments from our guests about how delicious the cake was (some even took slices of the cake home). We plan to go back to Buttercream Bakeshop for our one-year anniversary to request the same cake, opting out of saving the top layer of the cake.
Photographer: Anna Meyer
The search for a photographer began almost immediately after we found the venue. Photos were really important to us because after all is said and done with the wedding, photos and personal memories were all that would be left afterward. A close friend of mine who was recently married recommended her photographer, who was a good friend of hers and was just starting out in her wedding photography business. I contacted the photographer and first scheduled engagement photos with her. I thought I also scheduled wedding day photos too, but I guess I didn’t communicate properly and it turned out that she already booked another wedding. So the search for a wedding day photographer continued. Let me tell you, sites like Wedding Wire and the Knot did not prove useful to me for finding a photographer because almost everyone had excellent ratings and reviews. I turned, instead, to Instagram (ever so millennial).
For awhile, I have been following Anna Meyer. She’s a D.C. photographer who specializes in portraits, lifestyle, food, and editorial, but every now and then, she also does weddings. I decided to reach out to her and see if she was available and interested in photographing our wedding. To my absolute elation, she said yes! The pricing was a little more than what we wanted to pay but if there was something we were willing to go over budget for, it would be for the photographer (photos are worth a thousand words each).
Even better, she was bringing a second shooter to the wedding. And we would get all the best photos from the day fully edited and sent as hi-res digital files. We already received a couple of teasers and we’re over the moon for them, so I’m incredibly impatient and excited to see the other photos. Anna and Karl were both super sweet, easygoing, professional, and we’d recommend both for anyone’s photography needs.
DJ: Chris Valentin aka DJ Phlipz
The search for a DJ is always a taxing one. After all, they’re not just there to play music for hours. If that’s all you need, get Spotify Premium. DJs also act as the MC to make key announcements and help read the room to play the right music at the right time. Furthermore, they spend time preparing the playlist, organizing a timeline, setting up and unloading their equipment, and coordinating with the venue and wedding planner.
My maid of honor helped us find DJ Phlipz of ShowPow Events through a friend of hers. We emailed for awhile and met in person about a month before the wedding. We provided him with the songs we wanted for the processional, recessional, and first dances, as well as a YouTube playlist of ceremony dance songs. Chris is a seasoned expert. He’s been in the business for over a decade and if he’s not deejaying for a wedding, he’s at the POV Terrace at the W Hotel or at some of the hippest clubs and lounges in DC. Some of his clients over the years were Amazon, W Hotels, Ritz Carlton, Jameson, Hennessy, MGM Grand, Under Armour, OneLife Fitness, Orange Theory, PUMA, The Washington Post, etc.
We opted for the wedding package with a photobooth. Created by Chris, Photoshoot Fresh is an open air photobooth company that caters to the DC area. We chose a gold geometric backdrop with a template that matched our theme and wedding invitations (gold foil and greenery). We had our guest book right next to the photobooth so that guests could stick their photo strips into the book and write a message. I love perusing our guest book and seeing all the photos!
I can attest that Chris is fantastic. Very chill, laidback, experienced, and sociable. His mixes were incredible, and many of our guests commented to us that they loved the music he was playing.
Wedding Coordinator: Courtney Wu of Pearls & BowTies Events
If I thought I was organized, Courtney of Pearls & BowTies Events is on a whole new level. We initially thought we could handle all the logistics on the day of the wedding but during our food tasting, our venue coordinator told us that having a day of coordinator was required. While this was something we considered pushing back on (as this was not stated in our contract), we ultimately decided to search for a day of coordinator. Serendipitously the next day, we met our DJ for the first time in person and he electronically introduced us to Courtney. After a flurry of emails and texts, we set up a day and time to meet a week later.
From the first meeting, Courtney had already reviewed our contracts with our existing vendors and had a list of questions for us, especially questions we had never thought of asking. In the hectic two weeks prior to our wedding, Courtney helped to deal with any incoming questions or requests from us to our vendors and vice versa. We constantly texted and emailed in the weeks leading up to the wedding, and she was always very responsive. She took a tour of the venue and met with the venue coordinator in person two days after we met with her. She developed an extensive and comprehensive timeline for all the vendors, so everyone knew the timing. Her tireless support significantly lessened stress on our end, and we were able to focus on other tasks.
On the day of our wedding, we were able to truly enjoy every aspect of the day without worrying about all the administrative minutia. Courtney set up our welcome tables, organized the favors, assisted the florist with the flowers and centerpieces, and placed our photos and signs in the foyer. During the ceremony, she even watched our dog after he walked up the aisle with the rings. Courtney worked with our DJ to get us back on schedule during the reception, and she helped to clean up after the wedding. She went above and beyond, and she did so much to make our wedding day a memorable and fun one for us and our guests. Incredibly methodical, trustworthy, approachable, and flexible. She was the best decision we made during our wedding planning, and we would recommend her a thousand times over to anyone who needs a wedding planner.
Flowers: Galleria Florist
I will confess, we initially were going to go with Costco for wedding flowers. Neither my fiancé nor I were particularly intent on specific flowers for the wedding, so we wanted to keep costs down in this area. I had seen some very reasonable packages on Costco that included bouquets, boutonnieres, centerpieces, corsages, and they also had runners made of fresh greens for decorating centerpieces or archways. Nonetheless, we were also not keen on having to assemble, set up, and clean up all the flowers so we decided to search for a few florists and ascertain the costs and benefits.
My fiancé and I separately searched for local florists. Funnily enough, we came across sister shops! I found Nosegay Flowers, and my fiance found Galleria Florist. Nosegay Flowers primarily caters to corporate functions, while Galleria Florist can accommodate private events like weddings. My fiancé chiefly communicated with Alisa Rabinovich of Galleria Florist. Alisa drew up this magnificent proposal with bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages, an altar arrangement, a sweetheart table arrangement, open geo terrariums with mixed greens and blooms for the guest tables, small gold votives and frames with table numbers for the guest tables, cake flowers, and a doggie collar. The flowers comprised of white ranunculus, white garden and green roses, hydrangea, scabiosa, seeded eucalyptus, fern, hypericum berries, and mixed greens. I felt that the flowers and the décor matched our theme perfectly. The execution on all the flowers was exemplary.
Wedding Dress: BHLDN
The wedding dress. One of the most cherished and significant aspects of wedding planning. Like most women, I occasionally perused Pinterest and magazines to look at wedding dresses and in my head, I had a concept for what styles I could envision myself wearing. However, I was not too persnickety about the whole process – all I wanted was to find a dress that suited me and one that within my budget.
I only tried on gowns at BHLDN and David’s Bridal. There were a few local gown shops I considered, but most of these started above my dress budget. After bringing on and tossing out dress candidates, I became torn between two BHLDN dresses. My indecisiveness over which dress to choose left me hemming and hawing for a couple of days. I finally went back to BHLDN by myself and decided to go with my instincts. In the end, I chose the Atkins Gown. I loved the tulle skirt and the chantilly lace bodice with its embroidered floral appliques.
My shoes were Badgley Mischka’s Lara Embellished metallic kitten heel sandals in silver. They can also be found at Nordstrom or at Neiman Marcus.
Tailor: BeFitted Tailoring Co.
I looked no further than BeFitted Tailoring Co. It’s owned by Diane and Michelle, a mother-daughter duo who have years of tailoring experience. By appointment only, scheduling is very convenient on their online booking form and you get one-on-one, private consultations. For the working gal, this place is particularly awesome because they have weeknight and weekend appointments.
I only had two fittings, including my initial consultation. Due to indecisiveness about which dress to purchase, I didn’t make an appointment until late June once I bought my wedding dress. However, the first appointment went very smoothly. We agreed upon lots of hemming, adding bra cups, adding a bustle, and adding a jeweled belt (which I bought from their curated selection). I scheduled my second fitting for early August, and both ladies were fairly confident that I wouldn’t need another fitting after that. They were right (thank goodness)!
When I came in for my second and final fitting, the dress fit like a glove. I could hardly believe that they had accomplished everything in a matter of six weeks. My maid of honor was so impressed by how perfect the dress fitted me when I stepped out. Michelle was also very helpful in showing my maid of honor how to bustle my dress and even gave her a crochet hook to help with the many buttons! They really make this stressful process easy and manageable.
Diane and Michelle are meticulous, hardworking, extremely friendly, and accommodating. Within the first five minutes of meeting them, I felt comfortable and relaxed. By the end of my first fitting, I knew I could trust and count on them to deliver the wedding dress of my dreams. I’ve even gone back to them for my gown cleaning and preservation!
Makeup/Hair: Melissa and Crystal of Tmak Artistry
I infrequently wear makeup or do anything to my hair, so I always knew that I needed to hire a makeup and hair stylist for the big day. Tmak Artistry specializes in on-site bridal hair and makeup. Due to their popularity and five-star reviews, I decided to book them.
If your wedding makeup and hair package does not include a trial, I would highly recommend to book one. The trial allows you to test styles you’re envisioning for the day. I came into my trial with a few images I found on Pinterest, and my anointed hair and makeup stylists – Melissa and Crystal respectively – were able to create the looks perfectly.
I chose an updo for my hair mainly because we were having an August wedding in D.C., and because I wanted to dance the night away without worrying about my hair getting in the way. Melissa executed that to the tee. I loved my hair for the wedding, and it held up so well even after hours and hours of photos and dancing. I bought a beautiful hair comb from Etsy (store is USABride); it’s accented with glass pearls and rhinestone and pairs ideally with white and off-white wedding dress.
For my bridal makeup, I didn’t want anything too smoky or intense, essentially a glammed up, enhanced version of an everyday look. I have oily combination skin, so I wanted to make sure that my makeup wasn’t prone to sliding and it wasn’t too heavy or cakey. Crystal listened to all my concerns and pulled off a beautiful, natural look for me.
I requested makeup and hair services for my three bridesmaids too, and I paid for these services in addition to mine.
Other wedding items
Invitations and thank you cards:
- Two Peas in a Pod salt & pepper shakers | Kate Aspen
- Cherry wood guest book with black fabric binding and gold screws (upgraded paper to cardstock) | RedBerryGuestBooks on Etsy
Seating chart, place cards, and wedding signs:
- Templates were from MarryMePaperBoutique on Etsy
- Suit was from Hickey Freeman
- Dress shirt was from Thomas Pink
- Tie was the red Eton micro geometric silk tie
- Collar stays and cufflinks were from Thomas Pink
- Socks were from J. Crew
- Shoes were Brandon Cap Toe Oxford from To Boot New York
- Suits were from Suitsupply
- Ties were from Suitsupply
- Dress shirts were from J. Crew
- Socks were from J. Crew
- Shoes were from Cole Haan
Wedding rings were from Cartier. I got the Étincelle de Cartier band, while my husband got the 1895 wedding band.