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