When Match.com brought Erin Eckles and Dan Chow together on their first date, both felt that there was an immediate connection. After touring a video game exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., the pair shared chocolate cake at Nando’s Peri Peri in Chinatown and closed out the night enjoying a Labor Day concert at the Kennedy Center. “Our first date was nothing short of magic,” Erin says.
Three years later, in August of 2015, Dan took Erin on a stroll to the Lincoln Memorial, her favorite monument. After weaving through tourists and finding a private spot, Dan pulled out a piece of paper and read to Erin all of the reasons he wanted to marry her. Then, he got down on one knee and popped the question, all while a friend secretly took photos, capturing the special moment.
The two first fell in love with the National Museum of Women in the Arts shortly after they started dating, so when Erin and Dan made a shortlist of wedding venues, it naturally made it's way to the top. "The museum is both simultaneously grand and intimate," the bride says. "The tall ceilings and gold accents throughout the space add a touch of glam while not being ostentatious." They locked the space in for February 6, 2016 — a date that coincided with the Lunar New Year, so the couple happily included elements related to the Chinese New Year and the groom's cultural heritage. With just five short months leading to their big day, Erin and Dan teamed up with Aimee Dominick and Ashley Allman of A. Dominick Events to put together a classic affair for 175 guests. Photographer Sam Hurd was behind the camera for the big day.
Erin says the easiest part of planning their wedding was working on all of the paper products. With Laura from Paper & Honey, the bride and groom dreamed up invitations, programs, and menus with a black, white, and gold color theme. The couple even took on one epic paper-related DIY project before the big day. “Because we knew that we would not be able to tell everyone just how special they were, we decided to write love notes to each of our guests,” Erin shares. They put the notes in red envelopes embellished with a traditional Chinese symbol for “double happiness” hand-stamped in gold ink.
Talk about a fast shopper: Erin found her wedding dress in just 90 minutes. “It was a very easy process because I fell in love with the dress very quickly!” she says. With the grand staircase at the NMWA in mind, Erin looked for a ball gown, and instantly lit up when she tried on this Hayley Paige strapless wedding dress, complete with a silk radzmir crossover bodice, a full tulle skirt with horsehair flounces, and a chapel-length train. She also wore a special gold crucifix necklace that once belonged to her late grandmother.
Dan kept his look classic with a shawl collar tuxedo from The Black Tux while groomsmen wore notched lapel styles. The men wore boutonnieres consisting of a miniature white calla lily and a touch of greenery.
Erin's bridesmaids chose their own black gowns, each selecting a look that fit her individual style. “I already have called dibs on borrowing a few of their dresses! They were each fabulous in their own way,” the bride says. The ladies carried bouquets of white roses tied with black ribbon, a slightly smaller version of the bride’s bouquet.
When guests arrived at the venue, they were greeted with glasses of prosecco, the bride’s favorite. With a string quartet setting the tone, all eyes were on Erin as she made her way down the venue’s stately staircase and the aisle, accompanied by her father. The altar was framed by four white and cream flower arrangements in large gold vases atop gold pedestals.
Erin and Dan exchanged heartfelt vows that they wrote together before being pronounced husband and wife by Dan’s brother, Dennis. “We wanted our vows to be a reflection of us, our relationship, and the promises we would make to each other as man and wife,” Erin shares.
As the downstairs level was being transformed for the reception, guests enjoyed a Chinese New Year themed cocktail hour upstairs. Everyone sipped on “His” signature cocktail, a Sour Cherry Old Fashioned garnished with a burnt lemon peel, or “Hers,” a Blood Orange Rosemary Fizz consisting of blood orange juice, vodka, carbonated water, finished with sprigs of rosemary. It was also important to Erin and Dan that guests could have their pick of a wide selection of beer from Michigan breweries like Founders, Bells, and New Holland, as the bride spent years living there while in school.
Drinks and appetizers (like candied bacon lollipops and shrimp BLT sandwiches) were passed out with napkins that read “Drink Up. Chow Down. Be Awesome. Erin + Dan 2.6.16.” — a play on the couple’s last name.
As a fun way to welcome their guests to the reception, Erin and Dan performed a traditional Lion Dance, which also served as a welcome to the New Year, complete with three elaborate colored lions. “Our guests were truly surprised and enjoyed watching the lions march down the grand staircases of the NMWA and perform,” Erin says. The performance brought everyone to their feet and DJ Evan Reitmeyer kept the party going with top-40 hits and the groom’s favorite, 90’s hip hop.
The four altar arrangements from the ceremony were moved to the couple’s head table as centerpieces. Their table was covered in a gold embroidered overlay linen and floating candles were placed throughout. The bride and groom's chairs were labeled with wooden signs tied with black and white striped ribbon.
Erin was fully on board with her planner’s vision to create two different guest table, creating visual interest in the large room. Some tables held an array of flickering candles accented with black and white striped napkins, while others were topped with a lush arrangement of white roses, hydrangea, and anemones, accented with black napkins. Place settings were finished with elegant black and white menus that had been personalized with each guest’s name.
The dinner menu was an essential part of the planning process for these foodies, especially the groom. When Dan tasted a sampling of Spilled Milk’s food, he envisioned a wedding meal reminiscent of the dinner parties he and Erin like to host. The first course was a spiced parsnip soup served with a fresh green salad, followed by a duo of pan roasted salmon and braised short ribs. For dessert, they served a three-tiered lightly-frosted cake embellished with flecks of gold leaf, a piped border around each tier, and a few black-centered anemone flowers. Along with the red velvet cake, guests dug into a candy bar crunch cake and carrot cake.
During the party, Erin slipped away to change into a red lace dress from Alexis, as the bride traditionally wears a red gown during Chinese wedding ceremonies. “I’m really glad I changed into the red dress, which was a fabulous play on the traditional Chinese red wedding dress,” she says.
While Erin acknowledges the stress that often comes along with wedding planning, she reminds brides to enjoy every second of the process. “Your wedding day is going to be special and memorable no matter what — it’s the start of life with your best friend, and there’s nothing more joyous than that.”
Ceremony & Reception Venue: National Museum of Women in the Arts || Wedding Planner: A. Dominick Events || Bride's Wedding Dress: Hayley Paige || Veil: Lovely Bride || Hair & Makeup: Amie Decker Beauty || Groom's & Groomsmen's Attire: The Black Tux || Engagement Ring: James Allen || Wedding Bands: Boone & Sons || Flowers: Edge Floral Event Designers || Invitations & Paper Goods: Paper & Honey || Music: String4; DJ Evan Reitmeyer || Catering: Spilled Milk Catering || Cake: Fluffy Thoughts Cakes || Rentals: DC Rental || Lion Dancers: Hung Tao Choy Mei Leadership Institute || Videographer: Josh Gooden || Photographer: Sam Hurd Photography