Real Weddings: Katie + Sharif

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Katie & Sharif | Real Weddings

This past year, Katie and Sharif celebrated their nuptials with a classic winter wedding in the historic city of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.

Tell us about the location.

We got married in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Established 27 years before the United States, and located just seven miles outside of Washington, D.C., Old Town Alexandria is amazing for its history and charming streets. Old Town is a special place for us; when we were dating we enjoyed meeting here to try the amazing restaurants, walk along the shopping street, and watch sailboats pass by on the Potomac River. We like the small-town vibe, even though we’re on the fringes of our nation’s busy capital. Since our family and friends are spread out across the country, we wanted to invite everyone to see the place that we call home and where we plan to build our life together. We knew it would be a fun area for everyone to explore, and many of our guests took advantage of the opportunity to go sightseeing in Washington, D.C.

We held our reception at the Hotel Monaco. Since we had a winter wedding, we knew we would need to hold all of our events indoors, and the Monaco offered a great space. We had access to several rooms indoors, plus an outdoor courtyard where our guests could step outside for some fresh air during the reception, and our guests loved the hotel’s funky decor and boutique vibe. The hotel is known by Washington insiders for its restaurant, Jackson 20, and we wanted to treat our guests to a truly delicious dinner on our wedding day. We were not disappointed.

What was the theme or inspiration?

We honestly did not have a theme when we began planning our wedding; it all came together bit by bit as we started to make decisions based simply on what we liked. In the end, I would say our theme was defined by my bridal attire, which I describe as “modern vintage” and “simply glamorous.” After choosing our venue, I found my gown—and then everything else fell into place, including a four-piece high-school student jazz band that played at our cocktail hour, Victorian trolleys (a nod to Old Town Alexandria’s antique public transportation) that shuttled our guests between the church ceremony and the reception, elegant winter-white flowers, and even the groomsmen’s apparel (white dinner jackets)! We danced to Etta James’ At Last for our first dance.

How did you know your dress was the one?

At first, I didn’t know what style of dress I wanted other than I wanted it to have clean lines. I will admit my dress looked rather limp and shapeless hanging on the rack when I first saw it at the Nordstrom Wedding Suite’s sample sale, but something told me to go ahead and try it on anyway. I am so glad I did! I knew right away that it was “The Dress.” No other dress could compete with the simple, flawless glamour of my Amsale Alexa gown. The (stretch) silk skirt rippled and the hem fluttered when I took my first step out of the dressing room. I needed very few alterations—it was as if the dress was made just for me and I loved the way it skimmed every curve of my body. I have never felt more glamorous than I did wearing my gown. My mom purchased it for me on the spot, along with a simple ribbon-edged Wedding Belles cathedral-length veil with a romantic blusher.

What I loved most about my dress was that its simplistic elegance allowed me to style the gown differently for various parts of the day, giving me three separate looks with one dress. I wore my mother’s vintage fur capelet over the dress to keep warm outdoors, a custom-made button-back Caroline DeVillo lace topper (also a Nordstrom Wedding Suite purchase) during the ceremony for modesty, and a gorgeous antique brooch pinned to my gown’s waistband for a little sparkle during the reception. I carried my wedding-day essentials in a sparkly Glint clutch that complemented my Jimmy Choo heels.

Any tidbits you’d like to share about your bridesmaids’ dresses?

My bridesmaids’ amethyst Adrianna Papell dresses were also purchased at Nordstrom, and each bridesmaid accessorized her dress with a vintage or faux-fur shawl. I loved how the scalloped lace yoke necklines of their dresses complemented my lace topper.

Tell us about your favorite moments.

We knew it wasn’t easy for our guests to travel to Washington, D.C. in the middle of winter (and the week before inauguration!), so we wanted to show them our gratitude in a special way. We gave DJ “shout-outs” on the dance floor and played personal favorite songs for some of our VIP guests, including my brother (who kindly shared his 27th birthday with our wedding day) and my parents (who were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary). It was a lot of fun and, thanks to our awesome DJ, everybody stayed on the dance floor all night! Two groups even had pizzas delivered directly to the dance floor so that they wouldn’t have to take a break from the fun.

Another particularly special moment was our entrance to our reception. My husband is a U.S. Marine, and so we were announced at our reception as husband and wife by passing through the Arch of Swords. This is a special Marine Corps wedding tradition: six to eight Marines in uniform form an aisle with their swords raised while the wedding couple passes through. When they reach the end of the aisle, the last Marines in the arch lower their swords and temporarily detain the couple. They welcome the new spouse to the U.S. Marine Corps family by saying, “The passage of entry is a kiss.” The newlyweds kiss and the swords are raised!

Any advice for brides-to-be?

My husband and I received pre-marriage counseling for the entire duration of our engagement. We both agree it was an invaluable experience and we recommend it to all of our engaged friends. It was a good way to learn about each other and to understand each other’s expectations for marriage.

Anything else you’d like to share about your wedding journey from the engagement to the big day?

The month before our wedding was especially exciting. We purchased a lovely 117-year-old row house just a few blocks from our wedding reception venue in Old Town! We closed on the house one week after we returned from our honeymoon and we began moving in the next day. We asked our wedding trolley driver to stop by the house on our way from the ceremony to our reception so that we could take a few photos, even though we hadn’t officially closed on the property yet. It was so exciting!

Where was your honeymoon?

We left for Aruba immediately after our wedding and spent a week at a cozy boutique hotel soaking up the sun. We can’t wait to go back. There’s no better place to be in January than in the Caribbean!

Wedding photography by Astrid Woltering.

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