Weddings of the Year
A peek inside the celebrations of four couples
The couple: Jane Merkel, 32, grew up in Silver Spring and graduated from Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, which was then in Wheaton. She is the director of fine art for Maggie O’Neill, an artist and Silver Spring native. Brian Conley, 32, was raised in Gaithersburg and graduated from Quince Orchard High School. He played Minor League Baseball for Baltimore Orioles affiliates before becoming an executive recruiter at Randstad in Washington, D.C. The couple lives in Bethesda.
How they met: Jane and Brian met through mutual friends at a softball game in 2013. But it wasn’t until a friend’s house party nearly a year later that they had their first real conversation. “We talked the whole night,” Jane says. “We were interested in each other.” A week after the party, Brian called and asked her out.
First date: The couple met for dinner and drinks at Bethesda’s Rí Rá Irish Pub (now closed). Although the date went well, Jane recalls being disappointed that they didn’t kiss. “I remember we awkwardly walked separate ways,” she says. They went on another date the following week. “We like a lot of the same things,” Brian says. “We both grew up in the area and we both like the same sports.” A few months into dating, he asked her to be his girlfriend while they were drinking Bud Light and watching a Redskins game on TV.
The proposal: In the summer of 2017, the couple spent a week at the Outer Banks in North Carolina with Jane’s family. Brian took her father to dinner at Barrel + Crow in Bethesda right before the beach trip to ask for permission to propose. On the second day of the trip, the couple was spending time at the beach. “[Jane] had just found this cool shell and was all excited about it,” Brian says. “I was like ‘Oh, I just found another.’ ” He took out a ring and got down on one knee. “While we’re standing in the water, we’re, like, fumbling with the ring,” Jane says. “And Brian hadn’t insured it at all. So you could tell he was really freaked out that I was waving this diamond ring around in the ocean.” After she said yes, her family came down to the beach with Champagne.
The wedding: Jane and Brian were married on Aug. 4, 2018, in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Growing up, Jane’s family spent summers in Bethany Beach, Delaware, and Brian’s family went to Ocean City, Maryland. “We’re pretty big beach bums,” Jane says. “Give us the ocean, the sand and the beach and we’re pretty happy.” The couple had trouble finding a venue that was directly on the beach and could fit their 250 guests. But Indian River Life-Saving Station in Rehoboth—a late-19th-century Coast Guard station turned museum—had what they were looking for. All the wedding activities took place on the beach in front of the station.
The gown: Jane purchased her Rue de Seine dress from Lovely Bride in Georgetown. The bohemian gown had off-white lace over nude fabric. She and her bridal party went barefoot.
A special moment: In addition to a typical first look with her groom, Jane also shared a first look with her father. They had their moment at the top of a sand dune, overlooking the ceremony and reception spaces. “He hadn’t wanted to hear about the dress beforehand or anything,” she says. “It was very sweet.”
The ceremony: Jane and her father walked down the aisle to family-friend Johnny Wilson playing “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles on acoustic guitar. Her cousin, who she was very close with growing up, officiated. Guests threw beach balls at the newlyweds as they walked out of the ceremony.
The cocktail hour: The couple served orange crushes—cocktails made with vodka, triple sec, orange juice, lemon-lime soda and an orange slice—at a “Crushstation.” They incorporated some of their favorite food into the appetizers: grilled cheese, tomato soup, crab balls and pineapple shrimp skewers.
The reception: Jane’s favorite moments of the night were when her father and groom stole the show at the reception. Getting into the music from their band, Keynote, Brian got ahold of the microphone and rapped and danced to “Mo Money Mo Problems” by The Notorious B.I.G. “Brian loves to dance,” Jane says. “He’s very high energy on the dance floor.” Later in the evening, Jane’s father sang along with the band as they played “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond. “He has this amazing voice,” Jane says. “Everyone was like, ‘Where did that come from?’”
Pitching in: Jane’s mother’s friends helped with flowers, planning and day-of coordination. After the wedding, Jane gave the women gifts and threw them a bingo party at Bradley Food & Beverage in Bethesda, which is owned by her father. “We drank wine and played bingo, and that was our thank-you to them,” Jane says.
The honeymoon: The couple spent a week in Dewey Beach and Ocean City following the wedding, but plans to travel to Europe when they can find the time.
Vendors: Catering, Bethany Blues; ceremony and cocktail hour music, Johnny Wilson; hair, Hair by Amy J.; invitations, Vogel Design; makeup, Glam With Katie; photographer, Nikki Schell; reception band, Keynote (Entertainment Exchange); tent, lighting and furniture setup, Coastal Events.