March-April 2021 | Weddings

Backyard vows

A Chevy Chase couple who got together more than 40 years after meeting in high school married in a quiet outdoor wedding

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Photo by Michael Bennett Kress

The couple: Betsy Zeidman, 61, grew up in Arlington and D.C. She is a Fair Finance fellow at Georgetown University’s BEECK Center for Social Impact and Innovation. David Kleeman, 63, grew up in Bethesda and D.C.’s Cleveland Park neighborhood and works as the senior vice president of global trends for Dubit, a children’s media company based in England. He graduated from Sidwell Friends in the District in 1975 and Betsy graduated a year later. They live in Chevy Chase.

How they met: When David and Betsy worked on the school newspaper at Sidwell, they interacted but weren’t close friends. In 2014, David helped plan a Sidwell alumni event in New York City, where they both lived at the time. At the event, they sat at a table talking to a past teacher. After the brief conversation, David and Betsy exchanged numbers and planned to meet again.

The first date: David frequently traveled for work, and Betsy has a daughter, Ruby, who was then young enough to need a sitter. After a few months of exchanging messages to coordinate a time to get together, the two met at a restaurant in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. “The evening passed really quickly,” David says. “We both kind of looked at our watches and couldn’t believe how long we’d been there.” The day after the first date, Betsy met a friend for coffee. “I re-met this guy last night,” Betsy told her friend. “And I don’t know, but there was something about it….” David and Betsy settled into a habit of long evenings of conversations. In 2016, Betsy moved from New York to D.C.; about eight months later, David followed, and they moved in together.

The proposal: The two had occasionally floated the idea of marriage. “As older people who are going to want to take care of each other for a long time, it made sense to make it official,” David says. One day, Betsy asked David to give Ruby a ride, and he replied that there was something he wanted to talk to Ruby about anyway. Betsy figured it was the proposal. When he returned home that night, he said casually, “She’s cool with it.” But he didn’t bring up marriage for the next two months. On a Sunday in August 2018, David and Betsy were sitting on the couch reading The New York Times when he turned to her and asked if she’d like to get married. “There was no flash mob or anything like that,” he says.

Photo by Michael Bennett Kress

The ceremony: Betsy and David were married on July 25, 2020, in an outdoor ceremony at Betsy’s father’s home in Washington, D.C., in front of 10 guests and the couple’s dog, Kate, a Coton de Tulear. Even before the pandemic, the couple had planned to wed there on that day, but they had expected to welcome 50 to 75 guests. When the pandemic hit, they considered postponing but decided to stick with the original date since Betsy’s father was selling the house, and her daughter was heading to college in the fall.

Their friend Bryan Garman, the current head of school at Sidwell, performed the ceremony and incorporated aspects of Quakerism. The ceremony began with a moment of silence, and included Quaker and Jewish readings. The couple wrote their own vows.

The details: “It was a very DIY wedding,” David says. Before the ceremony, guests picked the flowers that crowned the chuppah, a traditional Jewish canopy, and took turns climbing a ladder to set it up. Betsy’s bouquet of roses, lilies, thistle and eucalyptus was from a florist and featured shades of blue and white with green accents. “I knew that I just wanted flowers that looked like they’d been picked from a garden,” she says. The bouquet’s blooms were her “something blue.” Her dress—a long-sleeved white dress studded with crystals—was borrowed from her father’s partner. Betsy’s earrings were old, from her late mother. But she struggles to recall what was new. “Me!” David says. “You,” she says. “And my shoes from Amazon.” Betsy’s nephew, a pianist, prerecorded piano music for the ceremony. Her daughter walked her in to the Beatles’ “In My Life.”

Photo by Michael Bennett Kress

The rings: Instead of traditional wedding bands, the couple had gold rings engraved with each other’s fingerprint. But when David looked at the rings, he felt something was missing. Without telling Betsy, he returned to the jeweler and asked for a heart-shaped pendant with his and Betsy’s fingerprints. At the wedding reception, he gave it to Ruby, now 18, “just sort of saying that both of us are here for her,” he says.

The reception: Guests headed to the back porch for champagne and small bites. David’s three sisters and two grown daughters, who couldn’t attend due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, connected through Zoom and surprised the couple with coordinated toasts. A dinner of Indian food was followed by white cake with strawberries, almond paste and mascarpone. “We still have a little bit in the freezer,” David says, though Betsy adds the remnants of the cake will be eaten long before their first anniversary.

Photo by Michael Bennett Kress

The honeymoon: The COVID-19 pandemic has kept the couple mostly at home since the wedding. They briefly went to Chicago in October and hope to return once it’s safer to help with childcare duties for David’s granddaughter, who was born in July. “But I don’t think that translates as a honeymoon,” Betsy says with a laugh.

Vendors: Catering and cake, Reez Attanayaka; florist, Sophie Felts; photographer, Michael Bennett Kress Photography; rings, Dejan Studio Jewelry; videographer, Paperboys.