Calling all Real Housewives fans! If you’ve caught the latest season of Real Housewives of Potomac, you’ve probably spotted 2013’s Miss United States, Candiace Dillard—and the sparkling diamond on that finger. On August 11, 2018, the reality TV star traded a pageant gown for a wedding gown when she tied the knot with D.C.-area restaurateur Chris Bassett.
“As a former pageant queen and self-proclaimed girly girl, I knew I wanted a grand wedding that epitomized classic sophistication, with a touch of Southern charm as a nod to my Mississippi and Georgia roots,” she explains. So when Chris popped the question surrounded by 100 family members and friends at Myron Mixon’s Pitmaster BBQ in May of 2017, Candiace was ready to start planning. She hired Strawberry Milk Events to execute her grand vision at the equally grand Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, all while making sure groom Chris felt represented in the details too. “I’m a vocalist and Chris is a chef by trade, so the entertainment and the food were at the top of our list of priorities,” she says. Caterer Spilled Milk created a mouthwatering menu, while the String Queens, live band We the Fix, and DJ Tryfe provided the perfect tunes for every moment of the epic celebration.
After years in pageant gowns, Candiace knew she wanted something that really stood out for her wedding gown. So instead of hitting bridal salons, she went straight to Karen Sabag Couture for a custom creation that took eight months to perfect. The ball gown featured a corset and full skirt draped in 70 yards of imprinted pearl cream silk organza. And for an additional dose of drama, the floaty style was bejeweled with 80 yards of hand-sewn Swarovski crystals and finished off with two French bows at the shoulders. “Your wedding gown should be exactly what you want it to be,” she says. “If you can’t find what you want, don’t be afraid to go custom!”
The couple married at an iconic D.C. building: the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium. “The grandness of the venue can’t be denied,” says the bride. “The lofty ceilings, the marble and stone accents, the gilded details, the parquet floors... it was a dream!” For their fairy-tale ceremony, the couple dressed up the space even further with a modern gold arch draped in lush greenery and soft white blooms. A mercury glass–inspired aisle treatment was edged with white roses in gold boxes, and beaded chandeliers were framed with white rosebuds. Guests were seated on matching gold chairs.
“I walked down the aisle with both my father and stepfather,” says the bride. “Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to honor the role they both played in raising me in this way.” The bride began her walk toward groom Chris alone, then met her father a quarter of the way down the aisle. They walked together to her stepfather, who joined them for the remainder of the walk, and then Candiace’s mother joined the three of them to give the bride away.
“It’s important to remember that this is your day with your partner, and no one else’s. It can get hectic at the end, so do your best to remember why you’re doing it all: to celebrate your love for each another!”
And that wasn’t the only twist on tradition. The bride and groom wrote their own vows, with the bride opting for a mix of heartfelt and witty. The groom put his own spin on things, incorporating lines from his favorite ’90s R&B hits to emphasize his love for his bride.
The opulent, elegant theme continued at dinner, with long tables set beneath additional gilded arches that matched the ceremony altar. Crisp white linens were topped with gold mirrored runners, which acted as the perfect backdrop for clear glass chargers and delicate crystal stemware. Nearby, round tables were topped with towering arrangements of soft white blooms, and the entire space glowed in the candlelight.
The caterers put a modern twist on a classic French menu, serving a watermelon and smoked feta salad followed by braised short ribs with mushroom demi-glace, pan-roasted sea bass with fried pickled leeks, and summer pappardelle with grilled seasonal vegetables.
“John Legend’s music really reflected the feeling we wanted to create on our wedding day,” Candiace explains. The bride walked down the aisle to “You and I (Nobody in the World),” and the couple shared their first dance to “I Love, You Love.”
The couple's attire made as much of a statement as their decor. Chris’s black-and-white tuxedo was topped with a textured white paisley jacket accented with crisp black buttons—and once it was time to dance and cut the cake, Candiace traded her ball gown for a shorter frock, also by Karen Sabag Couture. The wedding cake featured tiers of almond cake layered with raspberry jam and Chambord buttercream.
Looking back on her own big day, Candiace had this advice for couples planning: “You won’t realize until you’re in the thick of things just how much people might try to insert themselves into your wedding planning,” she says. “It’s important to remember that this is your day with your partner, and no one else’s. It can get hectic at the end, so do your best to remember why you’re doing it all: to celebrate your love for each another!”
Wedding Planning & Design: Strawberry Milk Events
Custom Decoration: Social Supply Events
Venue: Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium
Officiant: Reverend Doctor Howard-John Wesley
Bride's Ceremony & Reception Dresses: Karen Sabag Couture
Bride's Veil: Karen Sabag Couture
Bride's Ceremony Shoes: Sophia Webster
Bride’s Reception Shoes: Christian Louboutin
Bride's Jewelry: The Jewelry Design Company
Hair: Stephanie Harris
Makeup: Melissa Mangrum
Bridesmaids' Dresses: Kleinfeld Bridal
Groom's Attire: Lawrence Clothiers
Groomsmen's Attire: Lawrence Clothiers
Engagement Ring: Blue Nile
Wedding Bands: The Jewelry Design Company
Floral Design: Edge Floral Event Designers
Paper Products: The Dandelion Patch
Catering: Spilled Milk Catering
Cake: Buttercream Bakeshop
Ceremony Music: The String Queens
Transportation: Fleet Transportation
Accommodations: The Willard Intercontinental
Photo Booth: Pixilated
Videography: Pope Weddings
Photography: Abby Jiu