Stephany Barber and Brayden Downing’s mutual love of opera, wine, and Washington, D.C., guided the planning for their English garden-inspired celebration in The District. The pair, who call the capital city home, said “I do” at Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church as a soprano sang “Ave Maria” then invited guests to a wine-paired meal and dancing with a live band at the Larz Anderson House, a Gilded Age mansion on Embassy Row.
“We wanted a very intimate, emotionally driven experience that didn’t mean sacrificing guest count,” Stephany says, noting they had 155 guests.
To do that, the couple worked with Ramsey Stewart of Lauryn Prattes Events, who helped them find small ways to personalize the day. They sprayed Stephany’s signature perfume, Jo Malone’s Red Roses, throughout the reception area, and designed a custom monogram to adorn the paper goods and the ceremony aisle runner. The couple included as many local businesses as possible, placing liquors from D.C.-based distilleries on the bar and curating their wines from their favorite neighborhood wine shop, Cork & Fork Fine Wines. Since they both have connections to operatic companies, they invited world-class musicians to perform during the ceremony.
“We know it sounds silly but dancing to our song, literally surrounded by love, having just committed our lives to each other, standing in the most magical setting you could dream of—this was heaven,” Stephany says. Plus, she adds: “Getting to enjoy a beverage at your cocktail hour after all the planning feels great!”
The couple’s Gilded Age mansion venue inspired the paper goods, including the save the date which featured a rendering of the building. Cheree Berry Paper also helped the couple put together the welcome baskets, which included their signature scent, Jo Malone’s Red Roses in candle form, branded matches, snacks, and a bottle of Whispering Angel rosè wine.
Stephany added thoughtful accessories to her wedding day look. She, of course, wore her signature Jo Malone scent along with great-grandmother’s aquamarine ring and a pop of blush pink with her Christian Louboutin heels. Her sister pinned a tribute to her late grandfather under her dress too: a lure from his trout fishing collection. “That helped me feel his presence during the big day,” the bride says.
“I started crying because I was almost humbled by it,” Stephany says of her strapless Monique Lhuillier gown with silk and Chantilly lace. “I had never seen anything so beautiful.”
There is something about seeing the woman you love, wearing a white dress, that is so profound. It all became real at that moment.
Stephany describes their first look as “emotionally explosive” and counts it among her favorite memories of the day. Despite Brayden, clad in a Suit Supply tuxedo and brand-new Rolex GMT watch, claiming he wouldn’t get “emotional,” he broke down as soon as he saw Stephany in her gown. “There is something about seeing the woman you love, wearing a white dress, that is so profound,” he says. “It all became real at that moment.”
“Having been a bridesmaid myself over the years, it was important they be comfortable,” Stephany says of choosing these fawn-hued Amsale gowns for her bridesmaids.
The couple wed at Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church. It’s not their home church, but one the pair say where they can see themselves becoming members of the congregation. As a nod to the couple’s English garden vibes, their florist, Amaryllis Event Decor, installed an arrangement of white roses and peonies.
The ceremony was bookended by performances from an opera singer, Alison Buchanan, a pianist, Virginia Lum, and organist, with Julie Vidrick Evans, who played Handel’s “Queen of Sheba” during the recessional.
“As we exited the church, our guests showered us with white and blush rose petals,” Stephany says of taking part in the tradition.
Just after the ceremony, guests were served pink lemonade and floral-infused water as refreshments on the way to the cocktail hour and reception at the Larz Anderson House.
Upon entering the reception, guests were greeted with a floral-encased bar covered in pastel roses. Bartenders offered two signature cocktails, including the “Chantilly Rose,” a flower-inspired vodka cocktail with rose liqueur served in a coupe glass and topped with white blooms.
Amaryllis draped the wrought iron staircase in more flowers, greenery, and a surprise: the escort cards!
Due to rainy weather, the couple had to enact their rain plan but Stephany says it turned out more beautiful than their original design. Massive arrangements hung from the rafters of the tent as white draping created an intimate feel inside.
More musicians played at the reception, seated on floats in the pool surrounded by floating flowers.
At the reception, long tables held hundreds of white blooms intermixed with taper candles, while greenery climbed the poles of the transparent tent. Classic white and gold china, along with gold flatware, elevated each place setting, and, just to add to the atmosphere, the scent of Jo Malone’s Red Roses hung in the air. “The scent immediately transports me back to the day,” Stephany says of smelling the perfume long after the wedding.
“Ramsey could find the perfect option that you spent hours scouring the internet for,” Stephany says of her wedding planner's design talents. “She and her team have such creative minds and are always looking for new ways to use a space or added touches that haven’t been done before. That took an immense amount of stress off of us.”
Dinner is where Stephany and Brayden’s personalities really shined. As self-proclaimed “wine nerds,” they paired each dish with a wine. But they weren’t just any wines. The couple included the 2009 La Rioja Alta “Viña Ardanza” Reserva and the 2010 Château Lynch-Moussas Pauillac as nods to their respective trips to Rioja in Spain and Bordeaux in France.
Buttercream Bakeshop took inspiration from Stephany’s dress for the floral design on the cake. It featured two flavors, a classic almond cake with raspberry jam and Chambord buttercream, and a playful Funfetti cake.
“We found live music tends to get people on the dance floor, including us when viewing their initial showcase,” Stephany says of hiring The Source by Elan Artists to perform during the reception. After leaving through a sparkler-filled exit, the couple jetted to South Africa for their honeymoon, which, of course, meant wine tasting in Stellenbosch.
Ceremony Venue Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church
Reception Venue Larz Anderson House
Planner Ramsey Stewart of Lauryn Prattes Events
Officiant Eric Peltz
Bridal Gown & Veil Monique Lhuillier
Bridal Salon Carine’s Bridal Atelier
Jewelry Alexis Bittar
Shoes Christian Louboutin
Makeup Nour Kazoun
Bridesmaid Dresses Amsale
Mother of the Bride Dress Adrianna Papell
Groomsmen Attire The Black Tux
Flower Girl Attire Ana Balahan
Engagement Ring Blue Nile
Wedding Bands Tiffany & Co.
Floral Design Amaryllis
Stationery Cheree Berry Paper
Guest Book Velvet Raptor
Ceremony Music Alison Buchanan; Julia Vidrick Evans; Virginia Lum
Reception Music The Source
Catering Occasions Caterers
Cake Buttercream Bakeshop
Videography Josh Gooden Cinema
Photography Abby Jiu Photography