Nora Kelly and James Brent aren’t actually sure how they met. “We both grew up in Arlington, Virginia and, though we went to different schools, we had a lot of mutual friends," Nora explains. In fact, when Nora was in eighth grade, she was in a play with James’ younger sister, a fact his parents teased Nora about the first time she met them. “James’ dad said he was going to go find the video—thank goodness that never happened,” she says with a laugh. The pair truly connected in college, then started to date when James moved back to Arlington to become a first grade teacher, and have stayed in the D.C. area ever since.
After getting engaged, Nora hired Allison Barnes Events to help her tackle planning while she finished up law school and took the bar exam. A Google algorithm offered her a list of unique places to get married near D.C., and that’s how Nora found the George Peabody Library in Baltimore. “Allison and I were amazed when we went to see it, and once I assured James there was room for a dance floor, he was sold,” says the bride.
The couple invited 160 guests to join them on March 24, 2018, for a romantic wedding in the library’s stunning reception space. They kept the palette neutral to complement the architecture, but added a few modern touches to make their celebration feel "fresh." Keep reading to see how this couple said "I do," surrounded by ornate columns, towers of books, and plenty of twinkly lights. Trust us: The photos by Rachel May Photography are stunning!
Nora’s V-neck Carolina Herrera gown was the very first dress she tried on—yet she continued to search for "the one." “I was sure I needed to try on more dresses (and that it was too soon to pick!) so I kept looking," she explains. But nothing compared to this silk Mikado gown, and her maid of honor let her know it. “She told me I was being crazy for fighting it! She even refused to let another friend try it on because she said it was ‘my’ dress!” Nora says.
The simple, classic design of Nora's gown was the perfect choice for the couple’s black tie optional wedding. She carried a lush bouquet of ranunculus, garden roses, anemones, and silver dollar eucalyptus.
James rented a tuxedo from The Black Tux, pairing it with a pink bow tie and a ranunculus boutonniere. The most important accessory, though, was his wedding band, which had belonged to his late grandfather. “James’ grandmother gave James the ring," Nora explains. "His grandparents were married for 72 years, so it was both a meaningful way to have him with us and a blessing for a long and happy marriage."
Nora’s bridesmaids all wore pink, choosing between three designs that they helped the bride select during a marathon shopping day.
The ceremony took place in the library’s towering atrium, where James and Nora added a gold hexagonal altar set at the end of the aisle. Geometric gold chairs also added a touch of Art Deco flair to the space.
Nora and her father rode to the library together before he escorted her down the aisle. Once at the altar, he lifted her Peter Langner veil, gave his daughter a kiss, then took his seat for the ceremony.
“One of the few things we knew we wanted when we started planning was to have our friend Mary officiate,” says the bride. “It really started our celebration off on such a personal note.”
The couple wrote their own simple, heartfelt vows, and added a unique touch through their musical selections. “Instead of classic wedding music, we had them play selections from Frozen and Game of Thrones,” Nora reveals. “Our guests loved it!”
The bride's friend owns Brightly Ever After, a custom sign company, so they borrowed a marquee that said "It was All a Dream." "We really wanted to use it, so we wove lyrics into other parts of our wedding too," Nora adds.
In the dining area, soft grey linens covered tables, which were topped with a combination of low compotes and suspended centerpieces on gold stands. A garland of greenery wove between pillar candles on the head table.
Looking back, Nora says she loved how her planner helped narrow down the options, keeping her involved without overwhelming her. “She got a great sense of my style and made the process so much easier,” says the bride. And while planning was stressful at times, James and Nora really tried to keep it in perspective: “Remember: you’re planning one of the most fun parties of your lives (if not the most fun!), bringing all of your favorite people to one place to celebrate the fact that you’re in love!”
Wedding Planner: Allison Barnes Events
Venue: George Peabody Library
Bride's Shoes: Jimmy Choo
Hair: Yulia Justinaiano
Makeup: Sara Younquist, from Ariel Lewis
Groom's & Groomsmen's Attire: The Black Tux
Engagement Ring: Ascot Diamonds
Wedding Bands: Pave Jewelers
Floral Design: Succulents & Saffron
Paper Products: Minted
Catering & Cake: Classic Catering
Ceremony Music: Two Rivers Chamber Music
Reception Music: E3, from Sam Hill Entertainment
Accommodations: Hotel Indigo
Photography: Rachel May Photography