A Bethesda chef helped turn his own wedding into a fancy barbecue
THE COUPLE: Alexandra Kemp, 25, grew up in Falls Church, Virginia, and is a nurse at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington. Jarrad Silver, 29, grew up in Bethesda and graduated from Walt Whitman High School. He’s a chef for Mike Isabella Concepts and is currently based at Kapnos in D.C. They live in Bethesda.
HOW THEY MET: The pair met in the summer of 2008 while working at a pizza place in Falls Church. Alexandra was in high school and Jarrad was in college. The following summer, Alexandra was going through a breakup, and after work one day they drove around in Jarrad’s car. “I talked it out with her, helped her through it a little bit,” Jarrad says.
THE FIRST DATE: Jarrad invited Alexandra over to have Chinese food and watch the movie WALL-E. “We were still kind of friends at that point, but it was definitely a date vibe,” she says.
THE RING: After Jarrad’s grandmother died in early 2014, his grandfather gave Jarrad her engagement ring, which was a family heirloom. Jarrad’s grandparents had welcomed Alexandra (whose friends call her Aleigh) into the family as soon as they met her. “[My grandfather] said specifically, ‘This is for Aleigh. This isn’t for you, it’s for her,’ ” Jarrad says. “That got the ball rolling.” Jarrad brought that ring, along with a ring from his paternal grandfather, to a jeweler in Georgetown and worked with him to design a new ring.
THE PROPOSAL: As Jarrad drove home from a late night at work on May 3, 2014—the day of the Kentucky Derby—he thought about his late grandmother’s annual Derby party, the ring that now included her diamond, and the garden he and Alexandra had planted in their backyard in her memory. “It just all fit,” he says. He woke Alexandra and brought her out to the garden. “We probably stopped at every single plant and looked at how it was doing. My grandmother always talked to her plants, so as silly as it sounds, we talked to every single one.” As they started chatting about marriage, Alexandra, who wanted to wait a year to get engaged, said they were too young and, besides, Jarrad didn’t have a ring. “What if I did have a ring?” he said.
Alexandra patted him down but missed the pocket with the ring in it. “I said, ‘Well, what about this pocket?’ ” Jarrad says. He pulled out the ring and proposed. Still half asleep, Alexandra took a few seconds to process what was happening. “The ring was on my finger before I said yes. And he looked at me and he was like ‘yes?’ I was like ‘yes, yes,’ ” she says with a laugh.
THE WEDDING: Alexandra and Jarrad were married in front of 120 guests on Oct. 11, 2015, at Stone Tower Winery in Leesburg, Virginia.
THE PLANNING: Since Alexandra had just started a new job—and doesn’t consider herself much of a planner—Jarrad did a lot of it himself. “We would spend the little bit of time that we had together looking at food and chairs and flowers and all of the things that you have to do,” he says. “It got a little bit overwhelming, and each time it got a little bit overwhelming I would look at Aleigh and say, ‘This is good.’ Like, we’re doing the right thing…We should have just run away and gotten married, just the two of us, but if you want a wedding I’m going to give you a wedding. This is good.” He repeated that phrase—this is good—during the ceremony as the last line of his vows.
THE LOOK: Alexandra wore an ivory gown with a sweetheart neckline and cinched ivory fabric by Sophia & Camilla purchased at Celebration Bridal in Lynchburg, Virginia. One of her friends styled her hair, and two others applied her makeup.
THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Guests played cornhole and horseshoes, dined on pickled vegetables, boiled peanuts and deviled eggs, and drank hard cider that Jarrad had made. “We wanted it to be like you’re hanging out with family at a barbecue in somebody’s backyard,” he says.
THE DÉCOR: The reception venue was brand-new and featured stonework, big columns and a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. “We really left it the way it looked when we got there. It was such a beautiful room that we didn’t want to mess with it,” Jarrad says. Instead of pricey floral centerpieces, he bought gourds, pomegranates and Indian corn to spread on tables, and added candles in black lanterns.
THE FIRST DANCE: The couple chose “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story for their first dance. Early in their relationship, Alexandra had to evaluate movies for a psychology class, and Jarrad had helped her with the assignment. “We watched Toy Story and we sat down and talked about all the different psychological things in the movie,” Alexandra says. Later they watched the sequels.
THE FOOD: Jarrad was talking with Mike Isabella Concepts corporate chef Adam Howard one day about the price of wedding catering, especially for barbecue. “He said, ‘Why don’t we just cook the food here?’ ” Jarrad says. “He grew up in Alabama, he loves that style of food.” For a few days right before the wedding, Jarrad and Howard prepped and cooked as much of the dinner as possible. On the wedding day, Howard and other Kapnos staffers finished making the food, which was served buffet-style and included a whole roasted pig, barbecue chicken, cornbread and mac ‘n’ cheese.
THE DESSERT: Alexandra isn’t a cake person, so a friend baked a small “show cake” for the couple to cut at the reception. They served apple, pumpkin and Key lime pies for dessert.
THE HONEYMOON: A year after their wedding, the couple spent a week in Oregon and Washington, and a week in Maui, Hawaii.
VENDORS: Catering, Mike Isabella Concepts; DJ, MyDeejay; Engagement ring, Market Street Diamonds; Flower bouquets and wedding planning, Katie Martin of Elegance & Simplicity; Photography, Olivia Jacob.