January-February 2021 | Weddings

Weddings of the year

A peek inside the celebrations of four couples who altered their plans and got married in the midst of the pandemic

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A couple that met on a dating app exchanged vows in the bride’s parents’ backyard in Potomac
Photo by Michael Bennett Kress

The couple: Carly Caceres (maiden name Reiner), 32, grew up in Potomac and graduated from Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville. She works in human resources strategy at the consulting firm Accenture. Kevin Caceres, 32, is from Sacramento. He is a manager with the risk advisory practice at KPMG, an accounting organization. They recently moved to Bethesda.

How they met: Kevin and Carly were living in San Francisco when they met on the dating app Bumble in 2019. “I swiped on him because he had a puppy in his profile picture and a really nice smile,” Carly says. The puppy was Kevin’s then 3-month-old labradoodle, Lewis. As Carly and Kevin started dating, she took her pit bull rescue, Max, to meet up with Kevin and Lewis for long walks each morning before work.

The first date: The two met at a bar called the Hi-Lo Club, and say they teased each other throughout the evening. Kevin laughed at how Carly’s outfit happened to match the bar’s decor—her sweater was the same dark green hue as the walls, and her gold jewelry matched the bar’s light fixtures. “Everything was immediately easy,” Kevin says. “We were always very open with each other.” Their next date was “one for the books,” Carly says. They met at a bar in her neighborhood, but Carly had scarcely finished her drink when Kevin rushed them to the next spot. He brought her to a palm reader, who said Carly’s heart chakras were closed and she was having a hard time trusting in relationships. As they left, Kevin asked if she’d like to get dinner. “No, I need a real drink after hearing about my love life in shambles,” Carly replied.

The couple’s niece Micaela, left, and cousin Dylan. Photo by Michael Bennett Kress

The proposal: In early 2020, a year after the couple started dating, Carly’s parents gave Kevin her great-grandmother’s ring. Carly knew Kevin was concerned about how to propose, so she told him the story of her parents’ engagement to try to put him at ease. Carly’s dad had invited her mother on a horse and carriage ride through New York City. He pretended to need ChapStick—asking her if she had any before searching his own pockets. Instead, he pulled out a ring. Last Valentine’s Day, Carly and Kevin (and their dogs) went on a morning hike to the top of a hill overlooking the San Francisco Bay. Kevin turned to ask if she had any ChapStick. She thought he was mocking her dad—until he pulled out her great-grandmother’s ring. When she saw the ring and realized he was serious, she “couldn’t have been more excited,” she says.

Photo by Michael Bennett Kress

The wedding: The couple wed on Aug. 8, 2020, in Carly’s parents’ backyard in Potomac. Kevin and Carly began wedding planning before the pandemic. They hoped to invite 250 to 300 guests to stay at the Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia, for a weekend. But as the public health situation worsened, they held off on finalizing anything. In May, Carly’s company encouraged staff to take time off, so she and Kevin drove across the country to spend a month in Maryland. While here, they decided they wanted to get married and move to Maryland, so they extended their stay. Kevin’s family rented an RV to come from California for the wedding, which included 26 guests.

Photo by Michael Bennett Kress

The ceremony: Carly is Jewish, and Kevin is not religious. For the ceremony, “we wanted to keep some of the traditions but make sure they were explained and felt meaningful to us,” Carly says. Her rabbi officiated the wedding, and the couple wrote their own vows. The two wed beneath a chuppah, a canopy used in Jewish weddings. The chuppah was wooden and covered in string lights, leaves and white and purple flowers. The cloth for the chuppah was Carly’s grandfather’s tallit (Jewish prayer shawl). In Jewish weddings, it is traditional for a rabbi to say a blessing before the bride and groom drink wine from a Kiddush cup. Their parents each poured wine into a Kiddush cup that Carly and Kevin drank from—“to show the extensions of traditions and family,” Carly says.

The reception: Carly asked the wedding band to learn a Grateful Dead song because she wanted to make sure her dad, a Deadhead who does not like to dance, would feel comfortable during the father-daughter dance. For the mother-son dance, Kevin’s brother-in-law, a classically trained opera singer, sang “What a Wonderful World.” Carly’s mother wanted the guests to dance the hora—a traditional Jewish celebratory dance. To allow for social distancing, she cut 6-foot-long strips of ribbon so guests could hold the ends and “stay connected without touching,” Carly says. Guests ate a catered meal of crabcakes and beef tenderloin for dinner. In addition to a vanilla and lemon cake, there were mini ice cream sundaes—Kevin’s main request for the wedding.

Photo by Michael Bennett Kress

Out with a splash: At the end of the night, the two were a little overheated from the August weather. Carly spontaneously jumped into the pool in her wedding dress, and Kevin followed in his suit. In hindsight, Carly says she “definitely does not recommend” swimming in a full-length gown.

The honeymoon: The couple spent time with their families at Deep Creek Lake in Maryland and Bethany Beach in Delaware before rushing back to Bethesda to settle on the house they had bought.

Vendors: Catering and linens, Provisions Catering; flowers, Palace Florists; gown, Alexandra Grecco; hair, John Kuri; makeup, Haley Reiner; music, Onyx/Washington Talent; photography, Michael Bennett Kress; tent, Sugarplum; videography, Jack Hartzman/Washington Talent.


High school reunion

Churchill graduates had a waterside wedding that featured a wall of white peonies and a cake topper of the two wearing face masks
Photo by Anna Meyer

The couple: Eunice (maiden name Kim) and Andy Woo, both 23, grew up in Potomac, graduated from Winston Churchill High School, went to college in Maryland and now live in New York. Eunice teaches kindergarten virtually for Anne Arundel County, and Andy is an Army signal officer stationed at Fort Drum in northern New York, about 30 miles from the Canadian border.

How they met: Eunice and Andy met in 2008 as seventh graders at Herbert Hoover Middle School in Potomac. They traded barbs on the school bus. Eunice thought he was a bit annoying. They were “frenemies but still friends,” she says. As they grew up, they became friends and stayed close throughout high school.

Photo by Anna Meyer

The first date: They each needed a date for senior prom. One day at school, their mutual friends told Eunice to go outside to eat lunch. She saw Andy holding posters for a “promposal.” The two had been friends for so long that prom felt natural, Andy says, and it marked a shift in their relationship.

The proposal: On one of their first dates in 2014, Andy and Eunice went to dinner at seafood restaurant McCormick & Schmick’s at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland. After dinner, they went on a Ferris wheel ride, and Andy asked Eunice to be his girlfriend. In November 2019, they returned to National Harbor and ate dinner at the same restaurant. Andy suggested they ride the Ferris wheel. After some convincing, Eunice agreed. While they rode, Andy dropped to one knee and proposed. “I was very surprised and didn’t actually process that he was serious until he pulled out the ring,” Eunice says.

Photo by Anna Meyer

The ceremony: Andy and Eunice were married on Aug. 1, 2020, at Celebrations at the Bay in Pasadena, Maryland. Before the pandemic, the couple planned to wed surrounded by 180 guests. To follow social distancing guidelines, they had to invite fewer guests. Deciding on the final guest list of 50 friends and family members was stressful, Eunice says, but the wedding turned out to be intimate and relaxed. They wed on a clear evening overlooking the water. “Since it was outside, the view itself was already really beautiful,” she says. They got married under an arch of intricate white wire adorned with light pink and white peonies. The couple had a traditional Baptist ceremony officiated by Andy’s longtime pastor. A DJ played music as Eunice and the bridal party—mostly friends from Churchill—walked down the aisle. Afterward, the maid of honor sang the Christian hymns “He Will Hold Me Fast” and “Amazing Grace.”

Photo by Anna Meyer

The reception: In a tent filled with lights hanging from the ceiling, the reception included dancing to music from a DJ, and guests took photographs in front of a flower wall made entirely of white peonies. Table assignments were written in cursive and put on white flags stuck in small green succulents. Crabcakes and steak were served for dinner.

The cake: The couple’s package with the wedding venue included a chocolate mousse cake, but Andy wanted carrot cake, so they went with alternating tiers of chocolate and carrot cake. The cake had a whimsical cake topper—caricatures of the two kissing while wearing face masks.

The send-off: At the end of the night, Andy and Eunice changed into traditional Korean attire. Eunice wore a vibrantly colored hanbok as the couple passed under an archway of white balloons. “[Our wedding] was a really unique experience,” Eunice says. “We would have never imagined being married in the midst of this pandemic, but I think it worked out perfectly even through all of the drama and stress that came with it. … It’s kind of like it was meant to be this way.”

Photo by Anna Meyer

The honeymoon: The newlyweds went to the Four Seasons hotel in Baltimore for two nights. They swam in the rooftop pool and indulged in fancy dinners. Despite the unusual circumstances, “it felt like we were on a real honeymoon,” Eunice says.

Vendors: Bridesmaid dresses, Azazie; cake topper, World Cake Topper on Etsy; DJ, Mike Lujan; gown, Stella York from Bridal Boutique of Columbia; florist, Junnie Kim; hair, VyVy with Tress Hairstyling Company; makeup, Brittany Cretella with Izzy B Makeup; officiant, James Choi, Pastor at New Covenant Baptist Church; photographer, Anna Meyer Photo; videographer, Paul Kwak Films.


Breaking news

Coworkers at FOX 5 D.C. got married with only their parents and two close friends looking on
Photo by Paige Victoria Photography

The couple: Michelle Vojtko (maiden name Rotella), 33, grew up in Gaithersburg and graduated from Walkersville High School in Frederick County. Michael Vojtko, 31, is from Pennsylvania. He’s a news producer for FOX 5 D.C., and Michelle works as a freelance meteorologist for the TV station. They live in Germantown.

Photo by Paige Victoria Photography

How they met: The two met in 2011 while working together at WNEP, the ABC affiliate in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He was her news producer, and she did weekend weather. “Journalism—we tend to all stick together,” Michael says. Though they started off as coworkers, they soon became friends.

The first date: They were friends for more than a year before they realized how much they enjoyed each other’s company and decided to go on a date. Michelle wanted a “proper date” for their first meal together in the fall of 2012. Michael picked her up at her house and took her to Brutico’s, an Italian restaurant in Old Forge, Pennsylvania. “Being friends for a while and working in the same field, we had plenty to chat about,” Michelle says. “So it felt very natural.” Over the next five years, they dated on and off, staying in touch as Michelle moved first to Florida and then to North Carolina for work. In the fall of 2017, she moved to Baltimore to be near Michael. He says he knew she was the one because she was willing to move to where he was living to pursue a serious relationship with him. “That really meant a lot to me,” he says.

Photo by Paige Victoria Photography

The proposal: In January of 2019, they went on a cruise to the Bahamas. One day’s excursion was to the Blue Lagoon Island in Nassau, where they swam with sea lions. Michael had planned to propose there but decided against bringing the ring on the day trip because he was afraid of losing it in the water. That night, he called her to the balcony of their room on the ship. He gave her a homemade book documenting their seven years of knowing each other—the “unofficial history of their relationship.” The book included photos of the couple with family and friends, and on travels abroad. The final page had a picture of an engagement ring. When Michelle reached the book’s end and looked up, Michael was on one knee with the sunset and Atlantis hotel behind him.

The wedding: The two were married on May 30, 2020, at The Manor at Silo Falls in Brookeville. They had planned to get married at the Chesapeake Inn Restaurant & Marina in Chesapeake City, Maryland, but when it became clear that they couldn’t because of the pandemic, they decided to elope, keeping the date of the planned wedding. Due to social distancing requirements, only their parents and two close friends could attend.

The ceremony: Michelle and Michael got married on a sun-filled day on the venue’s patio. Michelle’s pastor, whom she’s known since she was 8, officiated. The couple altered the traditional wedding vows—instead of the pastor asking, “Will you take…,” they said, “I choose you.”

The flowers: Michael’s mom, who used to own a craft shop, made boutonnieres for the men and a cascading bouquet of red roses and white baby’s breath for Michelle. The bride tied a necklace from her great-grandmother into the blooms.

Photo by Paige Victoria Photography

The dress: Michelle plans to wear the wedding dress she picked out in May of 2019 at a larger wedding celebration the couple is planning at the Chesapeake Inn in July. “I just really want to have that moment,” she says. For their wedding at Silo Falls, she got a second white dress with a V-neck bodice and lace panels in the skirt. She wore a bejeweled hair-clip instead of a veil. 

Photo by Paige Victoria Photography

Mini reception: The venue set out cupcakes and champagne after the ceremony, and the guests made a champagne toast out of flutes with “Mr. and Mrs.” painted on them in script. “Everyone said a nice blurb while standing around cautiously in a circle,” Michelle says with a laugh. The ceremony and speeches lasted for about 15 minutes, she says.

Celebrating at home: The couple’s parents did what they could to make the day special for them, Michael says. That evening, they bought the two takeout, including champagne, from Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. Michelle’s brother sent them flowers, and Michael’s parents brought over a two-tiered vanilla wedding cake with white roses. “The doorbell kept ringing,” Michelle says.

The honeymoon: The couple had planned to tour Italy’s Amalfi Coast and Sicily, but when the pandemic forced them to cancel the trip, they went to an Airbnb rental near Ocean City, Maryland, for two nights, “just to kind of get away from everything,” Michael says. “I wouldn’t call it a honeymoon,” Michelle says. “It was more a minimoon.”

Vendors: Dress, Lulus; Photography, Paige Victoria.


On the beach

A Potomac couple wed by the ocean in Dewey with a small group of family members, including their dog
Photo by Laura Friedel Bell

The couple: Matt Chandler, 33, grew up in Potomac, graduated from Winston Churchill High School and is the chief financial officer for the D.C.-based commercial real estate firm MGA. Sarah Chandler (maiden name Costa), 32, is from Boston. She works for Proud Moments in Montgomery County as a home instructor for children with autism. The early days of their relationship included dates at Cabin John shopping center in Potomac, and the two just bought a townhouse behind the shopping area, now called Cabin John Village.

How they met: Sarah and Matt met at a Fourth of July party six years ago. “So fireworks happened right out of the gate,” Matt says. During the party, Sarah ate only purple Skittles from the candy bowl. Matt noticed, picked out three handfuls of purple Skittles and brought them over to her. “He was really into candy and that’s just his family’s and his way of showing affection,” Sarah says. Once the two started talking, they continued for the rest of the night, and he drove her home.

Photo by Laura Friedel Bell

The first date: A few days later, Sarah and Matt met at Jackie’s, a restaurant in Silver Spring (now closed). It was Sarah’s labradoodle’s birthday, and Matt brought a toy for Cassie. “How people treat my family and my dog are a big part of how people become closer to me,” Sarah says. Aside from the gift, the couple says the first date and subsequent ones blended together. They have a running joke that 20 different dates are their second. “From when we met until six years later, I don’t think we spent more than one or two days apart,” Matt says. 

The proposal: Matt decided to propose four years after they met, on a trip to Riviera Maya in Mexico. The morning they arrived, Matt brought Sarah to the beach. He scouted the coast for a spot to propose, eventually taking her to the end of the beach to escape the crowds. He asked a stranger to take a photo of them, and when Sarah, who loves all things British, realized the man was British, she chatted with him, asking whether he was from London and whether he liked sticky toffee pudding. It took Matt getting down on one knee to get her attention. After the proposal, the other beachgoers clapped, and resort employees brought the couple champagne.

Photo by Laura Friedel Bell

The wedding: Before the pandemic, Matt and Sarah were set to wed at Great Oak Manor, a bed and breakfast in Chestertown, Maryland, on Aug. 15, 2020. They planned all of the details during their two-year engagement but had to scrap everything because of the pandemic. They wanted to keep their original date and decided to marry in a small evening ceremony at Dewey Beach in Delaware.

The ceremony: At their wedding on the beach, Sarah’s older brother, Allen, officiated, reading from a script the couple wrote to incorporate their different faiths. Sarah is Christian, and Matt is Jewish. Eight members of their immediate families attended, and the couple hopes to celebrate with friends in April in a larger reception at the original venue.

Photo by Laura Friedel Bell

The traditions: Sarah and Matt got married under a chuppah, a canopy used in Jewish weddings. Sarah’s father assembled the structure from bamboo cut from her parents’ yard and draped it with tallits (Jewish prayer shawls) that Matt’s grandfathers were given at their bar mitzvahs 80 years earlier. Sarah, who has family from Portugal and Kentucky, says that having her father build the chuppah fulfilled a Portuguese tradition of parents making things for their children’s weddings. Keeping with a Jewish tradition, Matt stepped on a glass at the ceremony’s close. After the wedding, the two had the shards shaped into a heart and hung in a picture frame on their wall.

The pair also incorporated a southern tradition called “burying the bourbon.” A month before the wedding, they traveled to the ceremony site and buried an upside-down bottle of bourbon in the sand. Tradition holds that feeding Mother Nature bourbon helps ward off rain on the wedding day. Though the forecast included rain, they got married during the few hours of the weekend when the sky was clear. After the ceremony, they dug up and drank the bourbon to celebrate.

The flowers: Sarah chose a bouquet of tropical flowers, with white orchids, palm leaves and orange birds of paradise. The orange hue has a double meaning—Matt is a die-hard Baltimore Orioles fan, and Sarah went to Clemson University.

Photo by Laura Friedel Bell

The reception: After the wedding, guests gathered in a room at the Hyatt Place Dewey Beach for a meal that included Maryland classics—crabcakes and crab soup. For drinks, the couple chose to serve homemade orange crushes, made of orange juice, orange vodka, triple sec and lemon-lime soda. Matt had introduced Sarah to the regional drink while they were dating.

The honeymoon: The couple had initially planned a three-week honeymoon to Italy and Greece, but when the pandemic hit, “that was one of the first things to go,” Sarah says. Instead, they spent five days in the Hamptons in New York. 

Vendors: Bridal gown, Adrianna Papell; groom’s blazer, Donovan England; flowers, Bayberry Flowers; food, Woody’s; photography, Laura Friedel Bell of Laura’s Focus Photography; rings, Blue Nile.