President Obama Was a Groomsman—and Secretary Kerry Officiated— at These D.C. Power Players' Florida Wedding

Even more impressive? The couple pulled the whole thing off in just eight weeks!

Updated 04/02/17

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

They say you shouldn't talk politics on a first date, but for Helen Pajcic and Marvin Nicholson, they couldn't avoid it. The bride, a former senior policy advisor for the U.S. Department of Education, and the groom, a former trip director, special assistant, and personal aide to President Barack Obama, first met in 2007 at a fund-raiser for the then-senator's first presidential campaign. "We began dating about a year later, while working on Obama's campaign," says Pajcic. Their romance lasted as long as Obama's presidency, and as the 2016 election (and Pajcic's 30th birthday) approached, Nicholson knew it was time to pop the question—in true presidential style! "We were taking a walk at Camp David when Marvin got down on one knee, and then he surprised me with a private screening of Father of the Bride at the on-site theater!" says Pajcic.

After such a long courtship, the couple couldn't wait any longer to get married. They decided to tie the knot at Pajcic's parents' home in Jacksonville, Florida (where they first met!), and they contacted the bride's brother's wedding planner, who had already produced a fete on the same property. "Our planner said she had availability on January 7, 2017, which is how we ended up planning our wedding in eight weeks," Pajcic reveals.

Thought it couldn't be done? With the right vendors and some quick decision-making, Pajcic and Nicholson proved that you don't need months to plan a totally incredible wedding. The 120-person guest list included all types of Washington insiders, from personal aides to the White House chef, as well as two very special guests: President Obama himself (who served as a groomsman) and Secretary of State John Kerry, who was tapped to officiate. The couple brought D.C. to Florida, pulling off whirlwind wedding planning with aplomb. The classic blue-and-gold celebration, photographed by Chris Torres, Rachel Niesen, and Emilie Sommer for 6 of Four Photography, got the presidential seal of approval. Keep reading to see if it gets yours too!

<p>Invitation Suite</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

Whether in Washington or on a river in Florida, there's nothing more classic than simple calligraphy on beautiful paper.

<p>Bridal Shoes</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

<p>Hydrangea and Peony Bouquet</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

The petite bride added some height to her ensemble with sparkling Jimmy Choo peep-toes. Her bouquet made the early-January event feel like springtime, mixing blush peonies with vibrant green hydrangeas.

<p>Bride and Groom Portrait</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

<p>Bride and Groom Portrait</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

<p>Bride and Groom Portrait</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

Pajcic quickly started looking for a wedding dress (and even found one she loved!) but realized working with a dressmaker would be the best choice for their short timeline, and it also ensured she'd get what she really wanted. The winner? A silk-taffeta A-line with a bateau neckline and hand-embroidered pearl waistline.

<p>Flower Girl</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

<p>Ceremony Space with Flower Arch</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

<p>Ceremony Space</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

Instead of more traditional gowns, Pajcic chose something timeless (and cozy!) for her bridesmaids: amethyst silk-taffeta skirts, topped with cream cashmere T-shirts. "It ended up being a cold day," Pajcic says.

The ceremony took place overlooking the St. Johns River, beneath a clear-top tent lit with chandeliers. The aisle was decorated with blue-and-white ginger vases full of cherry blossoms (a nod to D.C., of course) and led to an altar of lush greenery, hydrangeas, and peonies.

<p>John Kerry Officiates</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

<p>First Kiss</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

<p>President Obama and John Kerry</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

<p>Wedding Party</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

Choosing an officiant for the wedding was easy. "Marvin's first job in Washington was for then-Senator Kerry," says Pajcic. "They're extremely close and have a sweet father-son relationship that was perfect for the role he took on." The couple drafted a simple and traditional ceremony, then encouraged Secretary Kerry to personalize it as he saw fit. "It meant so much that he put all that time into making our ceremony special," she says.

We can only imagine how exciting it was for Pajcic and Nicholson to bring a marriage license signed by the president and secretary of state to the courthouse after their big day!

<p>Long Reception Table</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

<p>Pink and Green Centerpiece</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

<p>Table Setting and Menu</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

A second clear-top tent, styled as a made-to-measure ballroom, served as the reception setting, with gorgeous cream drapery transforming the space. Guests were seated at mirrored tables that were topped with elegant arrangements of roses, hydrangeas, peonies, and cherry blossoms.

<p>Reception</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

<p>Gold Reception Chairs</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

<p>Mirrored Reception Table</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

The vision was glamour and romance, and the shimmering blue, gold, and mirrored reception tables hit the mark. Tall ginger jars held cherry-blossom branches, while gold Chiavari chairs added some extra contrast.

<p>Centerpiece with Green Hydrangeas and Blush Peonies</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

<p>Reception Menu</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

<p>Single Stem Pink Peonies</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

<p>Tall Centerpieces</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

Hints of blush pink from the peonies in the centerpieces brightened the gold-rimmed plates.

The five-course menu was absolutely indulgent, starting with shrimp and crab claws during cocktail hour and moving on to crispy artichokes, spinach gnocchi, and seared wagyu filet during dinner.

<p>White Wedding Cake with Pink Flowers</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

This elegant wedding cake, topped with delicate dots and lush peonies, was the perfect fit for Pajcic and Nicholson's classic wedding. The best part, though, was that it was patriotic on the inside! Layers of white cake were filled with buttercream icing and a mix of blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries for red, white, and blue slices.

<p>First Dance</p>

6 of Four Photography

<p>Wedding Exit</p>

Photo by 6 of Four Photography

Guests danced until midnight, when they headed to a local venue for an after-party that went on until the wee hours. "It seemed crazy to plan a wedding in eight weeks, but we were able to pull it off because we had faith in the people we were working with," says Pajcic. "Hire a wedding planner, and don't settle. Choose the things you really love!"

Subscribe to Brides now for the best wedding dresses, advice, and big-day inspiration.

Ceremony & Reception Venue: Family home || After-Party Venue: Bella Sera at Catering by Liz Grenameyer || Wedding Planner: Lorna Meehan of Amelia Weddings and Events || Event & Floral Design: Brent Tuten and Glenn Certain of Glenn Certain Floral + Event Design || Bride's Wedding Dress: Linda Cunningham Couturier || Makeup: Kimtasha || Hair: Saskia Penland || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Linda Cunningham || Invitations & Escort Cards: The Write Touch || Tent & Rentals: Beachview Event Rentals || Caterer: Catering by Liz Grenameyer || Cake: Classic Cakes || Ceremony Music: Wehner Weddings || Reception Music: Big Swing and the Ballroom Blasters || Photography: Chris Torres, Rachel Niesen, and Emilie Sommer for 6 of Four Photography

Related Stories