July-August 2021 | Weddings

Family ties

A Silver Spring couple held an intimate ceremony at Washington National Cathedral, where the bride’s parents had wed 40 years earlier

share this
Photo by Kate Ann Photography

The couple: Megan Cloherty, 40, grew up in Bethesda and graduated from Walter Johnson High School. She is an investigative reporter at WTOP. Joel Bliven, 40, grew up in Stone Mountain, Georgia, and works as a strategy analyst for the National Guard Bureau in Arlington. They live in Silver Spring.

How they met: After they matched on the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel in July 2018, Joel proposed going on a date. “He goes like, ‘4:30, Georgetown, are you in or you out?’ And I was like, ‘I’m in,’ ” Megan says. They went to J. Paul’s (now closed), the Sovereign and the Rosewood hotel rooftop bar. Megan extended the date by enticing Joel with frosés (slushy drinks made with rosé wine) at the Rooftop at The Graham. She was smitten over their seven-hour first date. “He was just a different person than I’d met before in D.C.,” she says. “It was less about the ‘Who do you know, what do you do’ kind of achievement and more about, ‘What do you want to do in life? What are your dreams?’ ”

Photo by Kate Ann Photography

The proposal: After talking about marriage and designing a ring together, Joel popped the question when they went to Megan’s parents’ beach house in Rehoboth last October. “Because we’re a little bit older and this was Joel’s second marriage, it was more like, seize the day,” Megan says. “We could wait, but how much longer, and why?” The pair trekked to an observation deck overlooking a serene pond just before sunset. He dropped to one knee, but she wasn’t paying attention. Finally, she turned around. “If I remember correctly, she replied with, ‘Oh, this is happening?’ ” Joel says. He told her how important she is to him and how he looks forward to building a life together. “She gave the appropriate response, and after that it was pictures and champagne,” he says.

Photo by Kate Ann Photography

The ceremony: Megan and Joel wed three months later, on Jan. 2, 2021, with nine guests present. “Neither one of us really planned on getting married as quickly as we did,” Megan says. “There was so much uncertainty [because of the pandemic], there was no point in waiting.” They got married at Washington National Cathedral, where Megan’s parents had tied the knot 40 years earlier. “It was a dream of mine to get married there, and I never thought that would happen,” Megan says. “I think just because of COVID [the cathedral] became available.” Before the ceremony, she took a shot of Tennessee whiskey with her sister, Nora, the maid of honor. Megan says her favorite moment was when she, Joel, and Joel’s daughters from his previous marriage—Bailey, 12, and Lily, 10, who were junior bridesmaids—went to the Children’s Chapel. “[We] just did a family prayer together, the four of us, talking about committing to them before I committed to their dad,” Megan says.

The dress: Despite previously insisting she didn’t “want to be a princess,” Megan opted for a Justin Alexander dove-gray dress with an A-line skirt, a plunging V-neck and an elegant train. “There was something about the winter wedding and the light gray,” she says. To match the metallic color scheme, her sister wore gold, and Megan carried a bouquet of silvery winter greens. Joel’s daughters wore emerald-green dresses—the same color Megan’s mom’s bridesmaids had worn.

Megan with her parents, Jack and Barbara Cloherty, who got married at the cathedral in 1980. Photo by Kate Ann Photography

Shutterbugs: Spending almost half of their budget on photography and videography, the couple streamed the ceremony on Zoom for family and friends who couldn’t attend in person—including Joel’s parents—and delayed the ceremony 15 minutes when Zoom wasn’t working. They had a wedding video made too.

The reception: The couple planned a dinner for after the ceremony but scrapped the idea when Megan’s 2-year-old nephew, who was going to be one of the ring bearers, contracted COVID a week before the wedding. Instead, the newlyweds and their guests went to the Bishop’s Garden on the cathedral’s grounds on the unusually warm winter day. They had cake (a layer of funfetti and vanilla for Megan and a layer of chocolate with dulce de leche and chocolate ganache for Joel), champagne toasts and the couple’s first dance, to “Tennessee Whiskey” by Chris Stapleton—an homage to Joel’s Southern roots. That night they stayed at D.C.’s Tabard Inn, where they’d gone on many dates and had held their makeshift rehearsal dinner. When friends and family can gather, the newlyweds—who gave silk face masks as favors—hope to host a big party. “The cool thing about breaking with tradition is it really opens up what’s accepted,” Megan says.

Photo by Kate Ann Photography

The honeymoon: The couple went on a mini-moon to Middleburg, Virginia, for a few nights after the wedding, where they stayed at the historic Red Fox Inn & Tavern and visited a winery. When travel is more feasible, they’re planning a bigger trip; Joel is pitching Portugal. “I didn’t want to have something else to plan and then cancel,” Megan says. “I almost didn’t let myself think about it, and now it feels like we can finally start to plan.”

Photo by Kate Ann Photography

Vendors: Cake/dessert, Buttercream Bakeshop; dress/alterations, Say Yes for Less; flowers, Bloom Fresh Flowers; hair, Bmore Bobby Pins; makeup, I Do Makeup Artistry; officiant, Patricia Alexander, St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church; photographer, Kate Ann Photography; ring, King’s Jewelry; seeded eucalyptus garland for table, The Garland Guy on Etsy; videographer, Storytellez.