VIP Alexandria Magazine | February 2020

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An entrepreneur never forgets the day that she makes the decision to launch a business. For me, that day came last spring. It also happens to be the day that I met Monte Durham. A conversation in a champagne bar with a total stranger led to the creation of a beautiful friendship, and I now consider him to be one of the key individuals who provided me with the support I needed to take the seeds of a dream and turn it into something real. The conversation we had that day is one that will always remain close to my heart, and he told me then that when VIP Alexandria Magazine became a reality, he would pose for the cover. Here we are, almost one year later, and there he is—Monte Durham, on the cover of VIP. To my dear friend, I can only say thank you. Thank you for your support, encouragement, and friendship. It is my goal to learn by your example of taking the time to support and assist others in their professional endeavors as you have supported mine. It is an honor to call you my friend and to be able to use this platform to share your story with our community! That being said, welcome to our first annual Bridal Issue, Alexandria! Within these pages, you will find love stories from local Alexandrians, information about where to host your wedding, how to prepare, who to trust with capturing every moment, and so much more! As always, we have a host of noteworthy local events, so peruse these pages to see what’s going on around town. Alexandria is filled with amazing people doing amazing things, so be sure to read our feature on Tony Hernandez and his role in the DCUC mission as well as the sweet ways that local donut hotspot Sugar Shack is giving back. Special thanks to our cover model—a lovely woman who was our featured bride in the Holiday Issue, which you’ll certainly be able to find online until the unforeseeable end of the Internet—as well as River Farm for hosting our Roaring ’20s styleshoot, everyone who helped to make it a success, and—how could we possibly forget—the ever-stylish Mr. Monte Durham. Cheers to you, dear readers!

kellie gunderman 4 • VIP ALEXANDRIA MAGAZINE


PUBLISHER Kellie Gunderman


CREATIVE DIRECTOR Regine Orme STAFF WRITER Liesel Schmidt STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Catherine May Taylor PHOTOGRAPHERS Jeremiah “JD” Davis Julie Carrasco David D’Agostino JD Watkins DISTRIBUTION Jack Vroom


The Lyceum Chamber Orchestra


The Grand Opening of Hyatt Centric Alexandria


Historic Alexandria Foundation: Toasting Our Town


Hungry Human Hippos at The Wharf


The Chamber ALX January Networking Breakfast


The 10th Annual D.C. Tattoo Expo


KO Distilling Whiskey Dinner at Live Oak


Old Town Makers Mile


Queen Bee Designs Sip + Shop


The Great Bridal Expo


Couples’ Ring Making Class


The D.C. Wedding Convention


Painting + Pints at Fair Winds Brewing Co.


The Leadership Collection at AlexandriaTM Unveiling


Get Fit Studio Party at Vola’s

MAINSTAYS 10 Calendar of Events 15 The Chamber ALX Spotlight: Jessica Brown 18 Salute to Service: Anthony Hernandez 80 Give • Care • Share: The Sugar Shack + ACT

BRIDAL FEATURES 24 Wedding Story: Monica + Richard 26 Venue: Café 44 28 Wedding Story: Kathryn + Andrew 30 Say, “YES!” to Great Posture 32 Wedding Story: Katherine + Christopher 34 Vendor: Salon DeZEN 36 Wedding Story: Jennifer + Brandon 37 The Real Monte Durham 41 Vendor: Lapel 42 Roaring ‘20s Wedding Trends 50 Wedding Story: Brooke + Brittany 53 Venue: Carlyle House Historic Park 54 Wedding Story: Ashley + Corey 56 Across the Threshold : Real Estate 58 Vendor: Molly Lichten Photography 60 Wedding Story: Cherie + Christopher 62 Venue: River Farm 66 Wedding Story: Kristen + Robert 68 Vendor: Cupcakes: The Galleria 72 Wedding Story: Katherine + Andrew


74 Venue: The George of Old Town

Models: Aubrey Love, Alexandria Bride + Monte Durham, Fashion Director on Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta Photographer: Catherine May Taylor • Venue: American Horticultural Society at River Farm Gown/Headpiece: Vintage 1920’s, courtesy of Monte Durham • Flowers: Kelly Wilson, Wegmans Alexandria Hair: Ashley Peters, The Stylist Abroad • Makeup: Brittany Cretella, Izzy B Makeup

FEBRUARY 2020 • 5



| The Lyceum Chamber Orchestra

Story + Photography by David D’Agostino

In addition to housing the Alexandria History Museum, the Lyceum hosts lectures, screenings and other public programs, including a free concert series from the Friday Morning Music Club. Ironically, the first rule of the Friday Morning Music Club (FMMC): Never go to the Lyceum on a Friday morning if you want to attend a concert. Most concerts are held on the second Sunday of each month from 3-4pm. A recently held concert included the works of Claude Debussy performed by Immanuela Gruenberg, CharlesMarie Widor’s Suite performed by Gwyn Jones and Rosanne Conway, and Max Bruch performed by Albert Hunt, Bonnie Cohen, and Jung-Yoon Lee. The performance was warmly received and the performers were gracious in providing background information on the works and composers.

Gwyn Jones

Jung-Yoon Lee

To view the Friday Morning Music Club’s performance schedule, visit

Jung-Yoon Lee, Bonnie Cohen + Albert Hunt

Joan Mizrahi, Albert Hunt + Bonnie Cohen

Immanuela Gruenberg

Jeff Barnes + Hilda Mejia

Albert Hunt

Rosanne Conway + Gwyn Jones

FEBRUARY 2020 • 7


| Grand Opening of Hyatt Centric Alexandria

Story + Photography by JD Watkins

Hyatt Centric Brand recently celebrated the grand opening of Hyatt Centric Old Town Alexandria. Offering 124-rooms, this marks the second property in Virginia for Hyatt’s fast-growing brand. The modern hotel is located in the heart of Alexandria on historic King Street, just four miles from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and less than 10 miles from Washington D.C.’s city center. The ribbon cutting event was attended by locals, dedicated Hyatt staff, General Manager Matt Karow and Alexandria’s Mayor Justin Wilson. Wine and finger foods were provided in commemoration of this exciting event. “Hyatt Centric Old Town Alexandria is the perfect starting point for exploration among Alexandria’s distinct neighborhoods, including hundreds of shops and restaurants throughout Old Town,” said General Manager Matt Karow. “Delivering on the Hyatt Centric brand promise, our new hotel helps connect guests to the heart of the action, so they never miss a moment of adventure. Whether here on business travel or a vacation, our guests will feel like a true Alexandrian upon departure with help from our team of local experts.”

Mayor Justin Wilson, Matt Karow + Jennifer Ferrara

Ramon Watkins, Dayya King, Matt Karow + Roncel Camins

Mercedes Engle + Karina Garcia

Brad Fazio


Doug Mogan

Leah Spellman, Carla Bascope-Hebble + Melanie Fallon

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FEBRUARY 2020 • 9

February 2020 Calendar of Events FEBRUARY 15 Valentine’s Dinner Dance

7-11pm, The Carlyle Club This ticketed event includes a red carpet entrance, cocktail hour, hors d’oeuvres, four-course dinner, live jazz music by Good Shot Judy and dancing.

FEBRUARY 15 George Washington’s Birthnight Banquet & Ball 5:30-11pm, Gadsby’s Tavern Museum The evening includes an 18th-century banquet, open bar, English country dancing, dessert collation, character re-enactors, and guests General and Mrs. George Washington.

FEBRUARY 16 St. Patrick’s Day Parade Fundraiser

4-7pm, Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub FFME will be performing at Murphy’s during a fundraiser to benefit the 39TH Annual Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. Enjoy traditional Irish entertainment, food, a silent auction and revelry. Tickets available on EventBrite.

Historic Alexandria Open Houses


In honor of George Washington’s birthday, admission is free at these historic Alexandria sites: Alexandria History Museum at The Lyceum, Christ Church, Friendship Firehouse Museum, Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, Old Presbyterian Meeting House and the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum.



2020 George Washington Birthday Parade 1-3pm, The City of Alexandria

FEBRUARY 23 The nation’s largest George Washington Birthday parade marches a one-mile route through the streets of Old Town Alexandria. With more than 2,500 participants, this community parade honors one of Alexandria’s favorite sons.


Tell Me Your Name

3:30-5:30pm, Carlyle House Historic Park Join Carlyle House Historic Park staff for a tour focusing on the experiences of the enslaved community at Carlyle House. The guided tour will explore the historical context of slavery in 18th century Alexandria and the importance of ongoing research efforts to connect with descendants. Tickets can be bought at the door.

One Year Anniversary Party

2pm, Village Brahaus Celebrate Village Brahaus’ birthday all day long! Beer and Food specials! Johnny Koenig and Band will be live from 3-7


Jewelry Trunk Show

10am-3pm, Sugar House Day Spa & Salon Mark your calendars for the first TRUNK SHOW of 2020! Beautiful handmade jewelry.


Industry Prom 2020

9pm-2am, Chadwicks Were you busy spreading holiday cheer this season? Did you have to miss out on spirited shindigs because you had to work? Industry Prom is a celebration for all those that work in the restaurant and bar industry! Pick up a ticket today and get pumped for a DJ, photo booth, hors d’oeuvres and drink specials all night!

FEBRUARY 2020 • 11


| Historic Alexandria Foundation Toasting Our Town

Story + Photography by Jeremiah “JD” Davis

The Historic Alexandria Foundation (HAF) recently hosted the annual Toasting Our Town party at the Athenaeum, which benefits the Historic Alexandria Preservation Fund. The celebration marked the foundation’s 65th year of advocating for the preservation of the city’s historic buildings, districts, and neighborhoods, and supporting educational programming. “I love having fun while doing good,” Mary Sterling, Executive Director of HAF, said. “That’s what this organization really does.” For more information, visit

Mary Sterling

Dr. Morgan Delaney + Laura Dowling

Diana Kreutz

Neeve Micklewhite + Hugh Kenny Justin Grill + Menuka Ban

Melissa + Rod Kuckro


Ann Monk

Sharon + Bill Hix


| Hungry Human Hippos 2020 at The Wharf

Story by Kellie Gunderman + Photography by Joe Jasper

DC Fray recently invited individuals, small groups, and teams to The Wharf to relive one of their favorite childhood games in a unique and exciting way. The tournmant, which was completely sold out, lasted approximately 2.5 hours. Competitors of all ages attacked the ice on inner tubes to “eat” as many colorful balls as they could with laundry baskets. DC Fray’s mission is to make fun a lifestyle to help motivate people to love what they do, and do what they love every single day. For more information on upcoming events, visit

FEBRUARY 2020 • 13


| The Chamber ALX Networking Breakfast

Story + Photography by JD Watkins

The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce recently hosted a networking breakfast at Vola’s Dockside Grill, sponsored by United Bank. Attendees included professionals of all industries. As guests enjoyed breakfast, provided by Alexandria Restaurant Partners (ARP), U.S. Representative Don Beyer, who has served the 8th District of Virginia since 2015, gave a passionate talk. Afterwards, attendees moved between tables during a speed networking activity. For more information about The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, visit

U.S. Representative Don Beyer

Emily Klassen

Riley Conrad

Jody Tarbox + Nadere Johnson

Rosie Windermere, Kathy Seifert, Carina May + Allen Schirmer

Antonio Marcus + Taylor Byrd

Cameron Williams + Martha Deal


Denise Kasper, Dave Zappacosta + Joe Spofford

Nick Geraci + Casey Eliff


Story by Liesel Schmidt + Photography by Catherine May Taylor

With all the noise of social media, online content, television, and print, now—more than ever—when it comes to marketing, you have to think outside of the box. You have to tap into your creativity as well as your business savvy to see all the ways to present a company, a brand, or a product, and that’s exactly what Jessica Brown does every day as the co-founder and president of Joy Riot. Based in North Old Town, the boutique advertising agency works with brands in a variety of industries to help them better connect with their audiences in various ways, including branding, traditional and nontraditional advertising, social media, and websites. Prior to launching the company in 2017, Brown had over a decade of experience in developing brand strategies and creating award-winning international campaigns for a number of industries that included fashion, travel, and lifestyle brands— expertise that clearly set her up for success in going out on her own. “I’ve always been a creative person,” says Brown, who is recently engaged and looking forward to marriage in October. “I enjoy painting and photography and I thrive on looking for new and creative ways to solve problems. When I was in 5th grade, there was a place where you could paint your own pottery in town, and I was obsessed with it—I wanted to paint everything! One

day, I walked in and made the owner an offer: I would create signs, brochures, posters, and newspaper ads for her business in exchange for painting privileges in her store. That’s when my advertising career actually started,” she recalls. Jessica’s creativity, entrepreneurial spirit and ability to connect with people and create valuable relationships have served her well in her career. “I love making connections, and if I can introduce two people who might become friends or work together in some way, it gives me such joy,” Brown says. “In advertising, I get to combine my creativity and business degree to connect brands with the right audiences so they can fill a void or solve a problem. It’s strategic and creative, and it benefits both parties. It’s all of my passions wrapped up into something that’s not just beneficial, but also pretty cool. And at the end of the day, I have a lot of fun doing it.”

“I love making connections, and if I can introduce two people who might become friends or work together in some way, it gives me such joy.” Connecting is also something she does as a member of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, and she has greatly benefitted from those connections. “In 2018, I was named one of the Chamber’s 40 Under 40 honorees. Through that experience, I met some amazing young professionals within our community and became more involved in the Chamber. I’m now in my second year on the Development Committee, where I’ve had the opportunity to get to know the organization even more,” she says. “It’s a great group of people in Alexandria who really care about helping local businesses grow. It’s wonderful to be involved in the local community, and being a member of the Chamber offers a lot of networking opportunities. I’ve met many people with whom I’ve collaborated as well as gained new clients and friends.” FEBRUARY 2020 • 15


| The 10th Annual D.C. Tattoo Expo

Story + Photography by Catherine May Taylor

The D.C. Tattoo Expo recently celebrated their 10th annual event at the Crystal Gateway Marriott. Tattoo art lovers came from all over to see some of the area’s best artists and shops. Some vendors, wanting exposure in D.C., traveled from across the world — as far as China! An impressive 400 artists come each year, including special guests from ‘Tattoo Nightmares’ and ‘Ink Masters.’ Many shops offered bookings and walk-ins during the expo. Attendees had the opportunity to meet with their favorite artists, talk about their work, and see them in action. The event wasn’t just for consumers, but also a chance for the artists to network and see the latest in color trends and equipment. Clothing brands, art, entertainment, and jewelry designers were also showcased.

Craig Brock, Duffy Fortner + Max Lowe

Visit to find out who will be featured for the 11th DC Tattoo Expo.

Heather Isotalo + Whitney Dubinsky

Jimmie Hayes


Laura Marie

James Vaughn

Dane Smith

Ashley Mone + Theron Issac

Adika Snider

Steven Martino + Josh Payne

food + drink

| KO Distilling Whiskey Dinner at Live Oak

Story + Photography by Julie Carrasco

As part of Alexandria Restaurant Week, Live Oak Restaurant partnered with their friends at KO Distilling to host a whiskey dinner. The event featured a four-course meal by Chef Justus Frank, which was paired with locally made whiskey courtesy of KO Distilling. Guests enjoyed an evening of conversation and laughter while sampling high quality whiskey.

Aniela + Christopher Cosgrove

Emma Tessier + Connor Kincaid

Fritz Chapin

Rose Wilson + Aaron Temin

April Toyer, Sherese Johnson + Kamilah Weems

Catherine + Fritz Chapin

Will Witherow

Valerie + Chris Papachristos

Wayne Rumsey

FEBRUARY 2020 • 17


Featuring Anthony Hernandez, CEO of Defense Credit Union Council Story by Liesel Schmidt | Photography Courtesy of DCUC

They say that behind every great man there is a great woman, and the truth of that statement is something that Anthony Hernandez certainly seems to embrace. A retired USAF Colonel with 25 years of active duty service in his pocket, his current role as President and CEO of the Defense Credit Union Council is one he credits not solely to his own merits—numerous and compelling though they may be—but also to the connections afforded him by his wife’s career at DCUC. “My selection as CEO was the result of a very competitive process,” says 51 yearold Hernandez. “I competed against some very qualified finalists who are still serving in senior DoD positions. However, I believe that it was taking advantage of the abundance of opportunities provided by my wife’s career and her credit union industry connections that made all the difference. During the 16 years that she worked for DCUC, I was fortunate to attend several DCUC events as her ‘plus one,’” he explains. “Instead of sleeping in or playing golf, I attended DCUC meetings and spent a great deal of time with DCUC’s member CEOs and their boards of directors. My wife also introduced me to the DCUC Board of Directors, and over the years I gained a deep understanding of DCUC’s mission. This is what made me want to join the organization. This also helped me articulate a clear vision during my CEO interview and led to the creation

of our strategy for moving the organization forward. I strongly believe these touch points made all the difference in my selection over the other finalists,” he contends. “I continue to treasure my wife’s work with DCUC, and it has taught me the importance of never discounting your spouse’s connections—ever!” he laughs. Credit to those connections aside, it was the strength of his principles, his discipline, and his leadership skills that were the deciding factor in selecting him for such a highly authoritative position within the organization. And it could well be said that it was his career in the military that molded him into the man that he is today. “I learned humility, discipline, and how to plan and execute missions in addition to developing my leadership skills during my military career, and it took me out of my hometown and exposed me to a bigger world,” says the former New Mexico native. “When I think about where we were, where we have been, and where we are now, I am amazed and thankful for the experience gained along with all the memories.” Where he is now is certainly impressive, especially when one considers the scope of what DCUC does. Created in 1963, it has since grown to include more than 25 million memberships and FEBRUARY 2020 • 19

has been the primary liaison to the Department of Defense for more than 50 years. “As an association of defense credit unions, DCUC gives over 180 defense credit unions a single point of contact inside the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, allowing each defense credit union to positively impact the entire life cycle of military personnel,” Hernandez says. “From opening a first checking account to helping them buy a car and then a home, all the way through retirement, DCUC credit unions take care

whose mission matches their own that they have been able to extend their reach even further and faster. “DCUC has formed many meaningful partnerships—among them the Association of Defense Communities, the Military Child Education Coalition, StreetShares, Hope for the Warriors, Home Base, Purple Heart Homes, Folds of Honor,” Hernandez says, naming but a few of the many charities and non-profits with whom DCUC actively works hand-in-hand. “Each of these organizations serve

of military families from generation to generation, giving them access to easy and affordable credit while protecting them from predatory lending and bad financial practices.” Important work, to be sure, but they also have a mission that goes even deeper. “DCUC is also a huge part of the military community, spanning 48 states and 20 countries worldwide. And as a non-profit trade association, DCUC and our member credit unions always give back to the communities in which we serve. In terms of helping our military and veterans, we recognize that military families face unique challenges; and DCUC member credit unions including those operating in Alexandria are experienced in helping to support their members with specialized programs. For example, our members guarantee pay during government shutdowns and make paying bills back home easy during deployments.” For the men and women of the military and their families, the services and the initiatives of DCUC are invaluable— sometimes even life changing. Having such strong support from an organization that truly understands the challenges faced by veterans, active duty military personnel, and military families can make all the difference in some very tough situations, and the impact they make in the communities they serve is one of the very things that resonates so deeply with Hernandez. “We make a tremendous impact in the community because we take financial inclusion and diversity very seriously,” he says. “We work very hard to ensure that there is equal access to credit along with providing responsible financial education in our communities, and each of our member credit unions have the same drive and focus on DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) initiatives.” Influential though they might be, the strength of only one entity can only go so far, and it is by partnering with other organizations

different elements in our local community as well as around the country. We also do what we can in response to requests from government officials. DCUC is currently helping to promote awareness to the tragedy of veteran and family suicides on behalf of the Veterans Administration and the White House. We also support Congressional initiatives on fair credit reporting, access to housing, and small business lending. Each of these help Alexandria—and other military communities around the country.” With power such as his comes great responsibility, and that is something that Hernandez takes very seriously. And while some could perhaps become jaded by the challenges of working in such a high-ranking government related position, he takes those challenges with the heart of a true military man, making it his mission to serve his country and its brave men and women to the best of his ability in all that he does.

DCUC is the premier defense trade association representing the interests of defense credit unions serving the U.S. Armed Forces worldwide. For more information, please visit:



| Old Town Alexandria Makers Mile

Story + Photography by Catherine May Taylor

Families and friends recently came out to Old Town to get creative and shop. The Makers Mile was a unique way to explore the boutiques of Old Town and learn about the classes they have to offer. Participating stores included AR Workshop, Penny Post, Red Barn Mercantile, Fibre Space, and Stitch Sew Shop. Augie’s Mussel House and Beer Garden also participated, offering specials to anyone with a ‘Makers Mile’ tote bag. Craft activities ranged from needlework and button-making to the creation of wooden signs and bath soaps. Jonnelle + Danielle Morris

Christine Merk + Amy Nguyen

Elizabeth Mullikin + Lauren Lewis

Edith Pena, Nan Moschelle + Rosie Voulgaris

Nadia + Mina Grenier

Chelsea McKinley

Grace Pfankuch

Suzanne + Allison Kleeblatt

Laura + Audrey Norman

FEBRUARY 2020 • 21


| Queen Bee Design’s Sip & Shop

Story + Photography by JD Watkins

Queen Bee Designs recently hosted a Sip & Shop event. Allison Priebe, Claire Schwab and Marybeth Powers welcomed visitors with a unique shopping experience and complimentary glasses of wine. Owner Allison Priebe believes “Women in Washington dress very conservatively, so they allow their personality to be expressed through their jewelry.” It is Allison’s mission to help all women create a BUZZ by being matched with the perfect earrings, rings, bracelets, and of course - necklaces. Be sure to check out Queen Bee Designs’s new location at 825 S. Washington St. Suzanne Flisf, Allison Priebe, Nancy Rosenbaum, Marybeth Powers + Yvonne Shincovich in Old Town.

Allison Priebe + Ken Tyler

Gale Curcio + Joanie Stewart

Marybeth Powers


Susan Reynolds

Sue Fisher

Molly Patalita + Susan Reynolds

Alison Ryscavage

Anne McLeod + Nancy Rosenbaum

Allison Priebe, Claire Schwab + Marybeth Powers

Allison Priebe + Claire Schwab



FEBRUARY 2020 • 23

Story by Liesel Schmidt | Photography by Emily Chastain


With all the romance in the air at weddings, it isn’t surprising that more than a few couples have started out their own relationships after watching the exchange of vows and sipping a few celebratory glasses of champagne. And while Monica Trigoso and Richard Patterson originally met during their first semester of law school, it wasn’t until five years later, when they reconnected at a mutual friend’s wedding in 2014, that the two made a real connection and decided to start dating. Over the next three years, Monica and Rich continued dating, traveling together and adding new chapters to their love story. Despite the fact that their romance could have been considered picture perfect, there was still a missing chapter waiting to be added. “One night, we had plans to have a nice dinner after work, and I almost ruined everything because I kept wanting to head home early to freshen up,” recalls Monica, who works as an Assistant United States Attorney at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. “Rich and I were living together, so he had spoken to a good friend of mine at work and told her to not let me leave to go home until he was ready. When I got home, our living room was filled with candles and a photo book waiting for me on the dinner table. I always make a photo book to recap our year together and title them, ‘The Story of Us.’ Each year, I add another chapter. This time, Rich had made his own—‘The Story of Us: Special Edition.’ It was filled with pictures from law school, the wedding where we’d reconnected, and the day he had secretly gone to ask for my parents’ blessing in California. By the time I was done looking at it all, he was down on one knee.” Less than two years later, on April 25, 2019, Rich and Monica married one another in a civil ceremony at the D.C. Superior Court before joining their friends and family for the real celebration on April 27, when Monica walked down the aisle at Woodlawn Estate wearing a strapless fit-and-flare Martina Liana gown adorned with applique flowers to meet Rich at the altar. “When I saw it, the dress reminded me of cherry blossoms, so I knew it would be perfect for an April wedding,” Monica says.

After the exchanging of their vows, the newly married couple joined their guests at an elegant reception on the grounds for a seated dinner and a party with some unexpected surprises. “Rich and his college friends are obsessed with Stephen Kellogg; so I reached out to him, and he agreed to play a couple of songs after our first dance,” says Monica. “I kept it a secret from everyone except some of the vendors, and he was set to come out after the first dance to play an additional ‘first dance.’ Rich doesn’t like a lot of attention and was relieved to have our first dance wrapping up and get off of the dance floor, but then our DJ announced that there was still something more. All of a sudden, Stephen Kellogg came out and started playing ‘Diamond,’ which was the song I had walked down the aisle to. Rich was shocked and ecstatic,” she continues with a smile. Naturally, the newlyweds had plenty to smile about on their big day; and after cutting into a two-tiered chocolate cake covered in white buttercream and adorned with greenery and flowers, Monica Trigoso and Rich Patterson were sent off to start their new life together… And to begin writing a brand new chapter in their “Story of Us.”

Venue: Woodlawn Estate and Pope-Leighey House Photographer: Emily Chastain Planner: B. Mingled (Senta Keegan) Dress: Martina Liana, Carine’s Bridal Tux: Geoffrey Lewis Flowers: All in the Details Cake: Dog Tag Bakery Catering: Design Cuisine Entertainment: DJ Dan/ Premiere DJ Services and Stephen Kellogg Car Services: A La Carte Limousine

FEBRUARY 2020 • 25

Café 44 on the


Story by Liesel Schmidt + Photography by Astrid Photography

When it comes to standing out and capturing attention, restaurants have a tall order in front of them. So much of the same is presented from one place to another, from one menu to the next, that it takes ingenuity, imagination, creativity, and— above all—talent to achieve success in such a crowded industry. Fortunately for Café 44, they have all four in spades; and their diners are eating it up—one delicious bite at a time. Open since October 2017, the restaurant delivers the very sort of culinary experience one would hope to find at a location so picturesque as theirs, situated along the waterfront in Old Town Alexandria. And while the panoramic view of the Potomac River and rooftop terrace are certainly highlights, it is the seasonallydriven menu that brings guests to their door and anxious to take a seat at their tables. “I really wanted to create a stylish restaurant that offered chefdriven New American cuisine,” says owner Jula Jane. To call them stylish would be an understatement, as the sleek, minimalistic décor allows all eyes to be on their spectacular views and one very unique feature: an undulating wall covered entirely in greenery. In some ways, it sets up expectations of the food, as it alludes to freshness and sustainability—two things that are high on the priority list for Chef Nicki Lewis, though creativity and taking the time to do things the right way are also paramount. “Those are the things that make people want to taste your food,”

says Lewis, who created a menu that displayed her passion and talents, from best sellers like Shrimp-n-Grits, Cajun Shrimp Tacos, Avocado Toast, and a variety of colorful dishes on their extremely popular three-course Prix Fixe Brunch menu. Not to be missed during a trip to Café 44 is their impressive bar, the seemingly endless stretch of real estate it occupies within the restaurant is the perfect playground for Joe Q, the restaurant’s charming and extremely gifted mixologist whose talents with creating drinks is nothing short of epic. Using the foundation of many of the classics, Joe Q has added his own twist, mixing up signature drinks that incorporate some very unexpected and innovative ingredients, and patrons can’t seem to get enough. Naturally, their views make them the perfect venue for celebrating special occasions, and they gladly rent out the restaurant for events—their most beloved, of course, being bridal showers, engagement parties, rehearsal dinners, and even wedding receptions. “Our view and unique location make the perfect backdrop for these special occasions, and patrons love being in-the-know about this ‘hidden gem’ on the waterfront,” says Jane. “Their guests are blown away when they walk in and see the amazing views and stylish furnishings. Plus, we know how to throw a great party!” With such strengths in their corner, it’s little wonder that Café 44 has made such a mark on the restaurant scene in Old Town…And clearly, they’ve got no intention of fading into the background.

44 Canal Center Plaze, Suite 401 • Alexandria, VA • (571) 344-9100 • 26 • VIP ALEXANDRIA MAGAZINE



FEBRUARY 2020 • 27

Story by Liesel Schmidt | Photography by Valerie Demo Photography

Ferris wheels, thrilling rides, wacky games, sinfully decadent foods‌This is the stuff of fairs, and for countless couples all over the country, fairs are perfect date material, lending themselves to fun and flirtiness and more than a few clandestine kisses at the top of the ride and in dark corners. And even though Kathryn Marshman might not have realized it when she first met Andrew Richardson through mutual friends at the Fairfax County Fair in the summer of 2015, she was soon to be on a ride straight to love. After a year and a half of dating, mechanic Andrew knew that he wanted to spend the rest of his days with Kathryn, and so he took his shot, hoping that he would win the greatest prize of his life. 28 • VIP ALEXANDRIA MAGAZINE

“He proposed on a trip to New York City after we saw Aladdin on Broadway—which is one of my favorite things,” recalls Kathryn, a pink-haired free spirit who works as a pharmacy technician. Two months after saying yes, Kathryn said I do after walking down the aisle on Café 44’s outdoor terrace on October 19, 2018, wearing an ethereal titanium gown with a full tulle skirt and leaf-inspired accents, excited for her future and happy to be facing it with Andrew. After the couple exchanged vows, the newly married Mr. and Mrs. Richardson joined their friends and family to continue the celebration at Café 44, the stunning view serving as the perfect backdrop for their perfect day. As the evening went on, so, too, did the party, and guests dined

on a buffet of fantastic food and danced to great music—with a few memorable moments thrown in: “My cousins decided to do an impromptu drunk karaoke rendition of Total Eclipse of the Heart!” Kathryn recalls with a laugh. Sweet as the occasion was, it was made even sweeter as Kathryn and Andrew cut into their cake, a three-tier vanilla sponge with decadent fresh mango puree mousse filling covered in grey and white marble fondant accented with pink and splattered with gold. After the last crumbs had been eaten and the last sip of champagne tasted, the happy newlyweds bid their guests adieu, ready to take a ride to the very top, holding hands and exchanging kisses for the rest of their lives.

Venue: Café 44 Photographer: Valerie Demo Dress: Galatea by Willowby, Rosalin’s Bridal Boutique Tux: Men’s Wearhouse Engagement Ring: Vienna Jewelry Flowers: Petal’s Edge Floral Design Cake: Hollin Hall Pastry Shop Catering: Café 44 Hair and Makeup: James Cornwell, Iva Bella Salon

FEBRUARY 2020 • 29


Say “Yes!” to Great Posture How to take on the aisle with beauty + confidence Story by Liesel Schmidt | Featuring Dr. Shara Posner

Everyone wants to look their absolute best on their wedding day, and while they might go the extra mile to lose weight to fit into their dream dress, hire a hair and makeup team, start exercising to tone up, and get a great haircut and shave (yes, we see you, gentlemen), there’s one very important thing that many people don’t consider working on: their posture.

“Naturally, every bride and groom wants to be perceived as confident about their marriage, and having good posture makes you look more confident.”

- Dr. Shara Posner, Back To Health Center

A practitioner for 15 years, Posner has seen her fair share of patients suffering from bad posture and knows the toll it can take on appearance. “Studies have shown that those with good posture not only look confident to others but also intrinsically feel better and are better able to reject negative self-images.” An important thing on such a big day, to be sure. “Having good posture in a dress, tuxedo, or suit also ensures a great fit,” Posner goes on. “For example, imagine if a woman is wearing a strapless dress, her shoulders are rounded forward, chest region is pulled in and neck jutting our in front of her shoulders. This bride is destined to be constantly fidgeting with that dress, trying to pull it up—or, worse, she will feel like there is no room to breath due to the alteration. Instead, roll those shoulders back, line your ears up with your shoulders, and stand tall and proud. You will look spectacular and exude confidence that all you attendees will admire,” she advises.

Unfortunately, in this day and age of desk jobs and too many hours spent hunched over while we’re glued to our mobile devices, many of us have succumbed to poor posture which can, over an extended period of time, lead to lasting damage. “Good posture is the proper alignment of the ligaments, muscles, and bones,” Posner explains. “By contrast, bad posture is indicative of an irregular alignment of the bones. This can cause an abnormal amount of wear-and-tear on the joints, often resulting in arthritis as well as increased stress on the ligaments, which risks injury and decreases the body’s efficiency, which ultimately leads to muscle fatigue and strain and even decreased concentration.” Texting and desk jobs aside, there are also a few other culprits in causing our tendencies to slump. “Poor posture can be caused by improper ergonomics while doing everyday activities, but it can also be the result of such things as stress, pregnancy, or wearing high heels, as well as having abnormally tight muscles or weakened muscles,” Posner says. So what should we do about it? “Becoming consciously aware of your posture and correcting it is a great start,” Posner recommends. “Seeing a chiropractor, getting an evaluation, and doing exercises to improve posture is a great way to learn how to strengthen the core postural muscles and prevent injury. Exercises are usually assigned to stretch the chest muscles and retract the neck or cervical spine, and I usually take pictures of my patients’ posture and assign posture-correcting exercises accordingly. Pilates and yoga are great practices to incorporate body awareness and alignment, as well.” As you prepare for your Happily Ever After, think about how you want to look aside from just the simple aesthetics of hair, makeup, and wardrobe. You want to look strong, proud, and confident when you take your vows. You’re facing forever, so take a deep breath and stand tall… You got this. FEBRUARY 2020 • 31

plan to propose near Independence Hall in Philadelphia, which is one of our favorite places in the city, but a friend of mine unexpectedly joined us,” recalls Katherine, who works as an accountant at EY. “Of course, this threw off his plans, but he adapted. I was planning on moving to DC on January 3rd, so I needed to clean out my apartment. He left me to keep cleaning and then came back later that night with cupcakes, ready to help me clean. At one point, I was in another room; and when I came back into the living room, he was on one knee with a ring in his hand. It was a complete surprise—I had trash in my hands, which I immediately dropped, of course!” she laughs.

A time of carefree adventurousness and feverish optimism, summer is notorious for romance—some lasting, some not. While the age difference between Katherine Joy and Christopher Taylor may have precluded any sort of love story when they met each other at a summer camp-style family resort in West Virginia, their friendship grew over the course of the following summers. Thirteen years later, the former summer camp mixed doubles tennis partners put down their rackets to walk hand in hand toward love. Five years of dating proved that theirs was a romance that was meant to last, and on New Year’s Eve of 2017, Chris—a trial attorney for the Department of Justice—took his shot to make Katherine his partner in life. “Initially, he had an elaborate 32 • VIP ALEXANDRIA MAGAZINE

Eighteen months later on June 1, 2019, Katherine’s hands clutched a bouquet as she walked down the aisle at Woodlawn Plantation wearing a lace fit-and-flare gown with a sweetheart neckline, ready to meet Chris at the altar. “As my dad was walking me down the aisle, I took a deep breath and accidentally inhaled the mint I had in my mouth. I essentially performed the Heimlich maneuver on myself with my bouquet without anyone really noticing—Chris just thought I was super emotional!” After the two exchanged their vows and made promises of forever, they joined their family and friends for a reception on the grounds, dining on a delicious meal before cutting into a threetier cake whose flavors truly reflected their fun personalities: cookie monster and funfetti with chocolate and vanilla frosting, served a la mode. And after an enthusiastic send-off from their guests, newly-married Katherine Joy and Chris Taylor began their first summer as man and wife.

Venue: Woodlawn Plantation • Photographer: Jan Michele Graves • Videographer: Doel/ Delta Studio Productions • Planner: Added Touches by Terry (Terry Larkin) • Dress / Shoes: Modern Trousseau/Tieks • Hair and Makeup: Nadia Azaz; Bombshell by K • Engagement Ring: Barsky Diamonds • Tux: Reed’s Custom Tailors • Flowers: Eight Tree Street Floral Cake: Fluffy Thoughts • Catering: Design Catering • Entertainment: Bachelor Boys Band; Da Vinci Strings • Car Services: Fleet Transportation • Invitations: Added Touches by Terry Getting Ready Location, Welcome Reception & Sunday Brunch: The Alexandrian Hotel First Look Location: Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum Rehearsal Dinner: Virtue Feed and Grain.

FEBRUARY 2020 • 33

Story by Liesel Schmidt Photography Courtesy of Salon DeZEN

From gorgeous makeup to elegant updos, blushing brides and their bridal posse need to look their very best on the Big Day. For more than a decade, the talented stylists and makeup artists at Salon deZen have offered every service imaginable to prepre wedding parties for that long-awaited and allimportant walk down the aisle. Open since 2007, owner Maria Elizabeth has since built a reputation for her salon as one of the premier sources for great hair and makeup in the area, and for brides hoping to achieve a look nothing short of breathtakingly stunning on their wedding, the stylists at Salon deZen have made a vow to wow. “Our dedication to the art of beauty, our excitement for the celebration of love, and our energized atmosphere is something that our bridal clients appreciate, and they feel that when they book their services with us,” says Heather Jordan who, in addition to being one of the 13 stylists at the salon, acts as the wedding coordinator working with brides to ensure that everything on the big day is as flawless as their makeup. “When a bride books with us, I reach out immediately and introduce myself,” Jordan explains of the process she follows. “It’s important for me to establish a relationship and get to know the bride so that we can give her and her bridal party the best experience we can, so I ask a great deal of questions and encourage them to do the same. I also encourage brides to share inspiration photos so that I can get several ideas on what may or may not work for them.”

118 N. Fayette St. • Alexandria, VA • (703) 549-1400 • 34 • VIP ALEXANDRIA MAGAZINE

Such a personalized experience and attention to detail is extremely important for such an important day, and those are the very things that have made Salon DeZen so successful in the wedding industry. They go above and beyond in offering a great experience in every way possible for their bridal clientele. “Our salon is a wide and adaptable space with a fun vibe, so it’s equipped to handle large bridal parties. We also give personal attention to each guest, no matter how big or small the number is,” says Jordan. “When bridal parties book with us, each bride gets a specialized gift bag of things we know they’ll find useful: extra bobby pins, a mini bottle of hair spray, travel-sized Kevin Murphy shampoo and conditioner to help get all the product out, and a couple of surprise goodies including some bubbly to celebrate. We want them to look and feel beautiful and to be able to relax and enjoy everything about their experience with us.” On this day of all days, that’s a vow that will have you falling head over heels.

Bride & Wedding Party Hair • Makeup Trial Runs On-Site Services Available

118 N Fayette Street • Alexandria, VA • (703) 549-1400 FEBRUARY 2020 • 35

Story by Liesel Schmidt | Photography by Sarandipity Photography

As busy as we are these days, it can seem almost impossible to meet someone that you form a real connection with. And unless we can order it online—our groceries, our takeout, our clothes, entertainment—chances are we would be lost. It’s become almost expected that people try out some form of technologybased dating. From phone apps to websites, not everyone is so lucky in finding their perfect match. But in the case of Jennifer McCrindle and Brandon McCadden, it was proven that hearts could truly connect online. An urban planner in the Department of Planning and Zoning for Fairfax County, Brandon knows the importance of careful planning and decision making. And after four years of dating 36 • VIP ALEXANDRIA MAGAZINE

Jen, he knew the time had come for the most important plan he’d ever make in his life: the plan to make the woman he had fallen in love with his wife. “There was a storm rolling in, so the clouds and the moon had a very dramatic look to them,” Jen says of the night Brandon proposed in 2018. “We went to dinner in Crystal City and then walked to the end of Long Bridge Park. When we reached the end of a trail at the top of a hill, he got down on one knee and proposed.” A few short months later on November 17, 2018, the two had a very small, intimate ceremony officiated by Brandon’s uncle at the Lorien Hotel and Spa to be followed by a cocktail reception and sumptuous dinner. “We wanted it to be a short engagement,” explains Jennifer, a Senior Associate for AMS. And as 16 of their closest friends and family looked on, Jen said, “I do,” to Brandon, wearing a cap-sleeved beaded dress with a sweetheart neckline and looking every bit the blushing bride. Before the evening came to a close, the happy couple cut into a two-tier cake of mint chocolate chip and pumpkin spice sponge covered in white frosting and adorned with purple flowers. The happy newlyweds took their time after exchanging vows to have the real celebration on January 12, 2019, when they hosted a full reception for extended family and friends at Union Street Public House. Wearing a full-length halter dress with a definite party vibe, Mrs. McCadden joined her Mr. on the dance floor for their first dance, and the couple continued the festivities with their guests, dining on heavy appetizers while the party rolled on. One marriage, two celebrations… That’s planning for a future filled with continuous excitement at its best.

Venues/Catering: Lorien Hotel and Spa + Union Street Public House Photographer: Sara Hargrove, Sarandipity Dress: Savin Longon Anyka, The Gown Collective, Badgley Mischka Shoes: Joes, Essex Lane • Hairpiece: BHLDN Wedding Rings: Dejan Studio • Engagement Ring: Jared Tux: Tommy Hilfiger • Flowers: The Pink Poppy Cake: Fluffy Thoughts Invitations: Minted Hair + Makeup: Amanda Merrell Beauty

FEBRUARY 2020 • 37


The Full Monte

Twelve Things You Never Knew About Monte Durham Story by Liesel Schmidt | Photography by Catherine May Taylor

Since the 2010 premier of TLC’s hit television series Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta, the country has been falling in love with Monte Durham, watching as he guides expectant brides to finding their perfect dress and serves them a dose of his signature wisdom and charm…not to mention his wit. Stylish to a fault, he understands the importance of feeling beautiful—especially on your wedding day. His ability to create the perfect look and “jack it up,” combined with his fantastic personality have helped him to win the hearts of viewers everywhere. And though you may feel like you’ve learned everything there is to know about Monte Durham over the past decade, there’s so much more to this man than meets the eye.

No. 3: He wore something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue… While Monte’s own wedding to his partner was a small, intimate affair, there was no shortage of style, and Monte definitely brought it—not only to the civil ceremony at the D.C. courthouse,

No. 1: Monte is an avid collector of brooches… “I guess you could say that I became fascinated with brooches when I stared noticing them on my grandmother and my own mother and saw how they wore them—sometimes on the left or right shoulder or close to their necks, pinned onto a strand of pearls or even on their coats for an added bit of flair,” says Monte. Naturally, his collection includes brooches that he has inherited from his mother and grandmother, and he loves to wear them in honor of the two women who made such an impact in his life. He also collects cameos because of his fascination with the fact that they’re made of carved conch shells. No. 2: He adores Jackie O… “My appreciation for Jackie came as I got older and truly came to an understanding of what she did—not only for the White House, but for the county, as well,” Monte explains. “To this very day, I am still in awe of her, and I’m still learning and discovering more fun, interesting, and surprising facts about her.” FEBRUARY 2020 • 39

but also to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Old Town Alexandria, where the couple had their marriage blessed. “I’m always saying it was very continental,” Monte laughs. In true Monte Durham fashion, he wore a tan tailored suit for the civil ceremony and a custom-made Prada suit with matching shirt, tie, and shoes to the church blessing in Italy. For both occasions, he had some special accessories: • His something old: his grandmother’s family Bible • His something new: the Prada ensemble • His something borrowed: his mother’s handkerchief • His something blue: a blue topaz ring No. 4: He had a very special relationship with his mother…

No. 8: His dream dinner party would be very cultured… “I would invite Jacqueline Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Henry David Thoreau, Ann Lowe (see fun fact below), and Claude Monet,” he says.

No. 9: His favorite movies run the gamut… Gone with the Wind, The Birdcage, and La Traviata.

“My relationship with my mother can be summed up in a few words: we were ‘cut from the same cloth,’ as her mother (my grandmother) would always say. We looked a lot alike and had the same sense of style, duty, and love of people and all things of beauty. We also shared a love of reading, family, adventure, and laughter,” he says. No. 5: He was a starry-eyed little boy… “Oddly enough, I wanted to be an astronaut when I was little,” Monte recalls. “I was mesmerized by the stars and the heavens; and, to this day, I’m always looking up.” No. 6: He collects wedding gowns… Initially begun nearly two decades ago, his collection once included 27 dresses, though he recently donated gowns to the design and merchandise department at Marymount University for their students to study. “Wedding gowns are such a moment in time, and it fascinates me to think of the choices and options a bride has today, unlike brides in the early 1900’s,” he says. And while he no longer actively collects gowns, fans of the show sometimes send him their grandmothers’ gowns along with the story of the day it was worn. Be sure to take a peek at Monte’s vintage 1920s wedding gown, featured on our cover and on page 44. No. 7: He has some unexpected hobbies… Among Monte’s favorite ways to spend his time when he has a free minute are going antiquing, biking, running, reading, and volunteering. 40 • VIP ALEXANDRIA MAGAZINE

No. 10: He’s got a quirk or two… “I rearrange my hotel room furniture—don’t ask me why, but I do,” he says with a laugh. “I may even need to see two or three rooms sometimes before I make a choice, so I keep the room numbers that I like in my planner.” No. 11: His favorite color matches his sunny disposition… Showing his love for yellow, Monte features it as a prominent color on the walls of his home as well as in the rugs, furniture, and even most paintings. No. 12: He loves to share bubbles One of Monte’s favorite pastimes is sipping chilled Rosé champagne out of matching glasses with special friends.

Story by Liesel Schmidt Photography by Laura Hatcher Photography

Though most of the focus on the wedding day naturally goes to the bride, the groom still draws his own attention—and rightly so. After all, he is the other half of the equation, the one with whom the beautiful bride is being joined. And during those moments before the arrival of the woman of the hour, there are countless pairs of eyes trained on the groom as he stands there, anxiously awaiting his beloved.

a tuxedo of their choosing. Instead of simply looking through a catalog, the groom will try on a full tuxedo kit, and we find this extremely helpful in deciding the details.” Offering a wide range of their own styles, Lapel also works with the top suppliers. And while their skills in suiting are certainly crucial, they attribute much of their success to their ability to work well with their clients. “Customer service is paramount. We have an exceptional product, but our first priority is the customer experience. To put it simply, we just care more.”

Knowing just how important looking good is for any groom and his groomsmen, Lapel has been fitting men with discriminating tastes since 2003. A family-owned business that was started by two brothers with a clear eye for style, Lapel has since become a trusted source of premium tuxedo rentals throughout the Alexandria area. “The rental industry has been plagued with illfitting, low quality garments for a long time, and Lapel arrived to change the status quo,” says co-owner Graham Sowash. “Early on, we decided to design everything we offer from scratch because we didn’t want to be held back in any way by the rental industry’s offerings. Instead, we sketch our own designs and find manufacturers to make everything to our liking. We produce our own suits, shirts, shoes, and accessories.” At Lapel, the groom is every bit as important as the bride, so they see to every last detail to ensure perfection. “We know fit and suit construction intimately,” Sowash says. “At the initial wedding consultation, we take the time to outfit the groom in

Crilley Warehouse • 218 N Lee St. #100 • Alexandria, VA • (571) 290-5290 • FEBRUARY 2020 • 41

Celebrating the return of 1920s wedding trends Featuring an original 1920s wedding gown from the personal collection of Monte Durham

Featuring Monte Durham, Fashion Director on Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta • Story by Liesel Schmidt • Photography by Catherine May Taylor • Model: Aubrey Love Hair: Ashley Peters, The Stylist Abroard • Makeup: Brittany Cretella, Izzy B Makeup • Gown / Hair Piece: Courtesy of the personal collection of Monte Durham Flowers: Kelly Wilson, Wegmans Alexandria • Venue: American Horticultural Society at River Farm


FEBRUARY 2020 • 43

Aside from the fact that it’s more than 100 years old, what I love most about the dress is the attention to details and the high quality of the silk. Monte durham on THE FEATURED 1920S VINTAGE GOWN


FEBRUARY 2020 • 45

Create a speakeasy feel at your reception by having guests give a password at the door and have a live band playing the Charleston and other dances that were popular at the time. Monte durham on PLANNING A 1920s THEMED WEDDING

From dresses to décor, the wedding scene is circling back to this stylish decade when the world let go of its buttoned-up Victorian ways and let it all out. And while it could look a little dated or “costumey” if not done right, the trick to nailing the theme and the feel is to take inspiration from the era and add a modern twist, making it truly 2020 and something your guests will fall head over heels for.

Gowns are somewhat following suit, trending toward more romance and less bling than in previous years. “More brides are wanting a ’20s theme now that we’ve hit this new decade, so the couture bridal market will probably be responding to that with their designs,” Durham predicts, though it still remains to be seen what will be coming down the runways in New York during April’s bridal shows.

“The best aspects for having a great wedding in 2020 are the dates—think the 20th of the month, so that you’re married on 20/20… And, of course, being surrounded by your loved ones dressed in flapper- and Great Gatsby-inspired clothes,” says Monte Durham, whose expertise in the wedding industry spans decades and have made him a famous face on TLC’s hit television series Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta.

Of course, flowers and décor are a huge part of any wedding— regardless of the decade—and ’20s weddings were all abloom with Lily of the Valley. “Bouquets were HUGE and full of greenery, with lots of ribbons tied in love knots,” Durham says.

… Naturally, the style of the dress you’ve chosen will dictate the way you wear your hair, but one can certainly incorporate a modern take on ’20s hairstyles, especially now that barrettes and embellished combs are back on-trend. “Hairstyles are very individual, so it’s truly up to the bride; but there are essentially only three basic hairstyles: up, half-up, and down,” says Durham, who was once a hairstylist and still considers styling hair a passion. “Of course, there are various way to style within each, and that’s where the inspiration of the 1920s comes into play.” Think finger waves or consider pulling your hair back with a beautiful comb or barrette or wearing a bejeweled headband across your forehead, all of which were once popular in the Jazz Age. 46 • VIP ALEXANDRIA MAGAZINE

And don’t forget the party… “Create a speakeasy feel at your reception by having guests give a password at the door and have a live band playing the Charleston and other dances that were popular at the time,” Durham suggests. “Hire flapper-styled cocktail servers with headbands, smokey eyes, red lips and heavily rouged cheeks as well as beauty marks, thick stockings, gloves, lots of bracelets, T-strap shoes, and short beaded dresses—and let’s not forget bootleg liquor!” A lover of all the beauty of wedding gowns from decades past, Durham has long been a collector of vintage dresses whose style and elegance captivate his eye. And of all the dresses he has collected, a particular favorite of his is a gown from the 1920’s he found on an eBay auction nearly 20 years ago. “Aside from the fact that it’s more than 100 years old, what I love most about the dress is the attention to details and the high quality of the silk,” says Durham, who has a few prized gowns in his personal

FEBRUARY 2020 • 47

I can envision the woman who wore it: classic, chic, understated, and very couture. Monte durham on his featured 1920s vintage bridal gown


collection and is sometimes gifted one by fans who send him their grandmothers’ gowns along with the story of the dress. “I so enjoy adding those to my collection, but I’ve stopped actively collecting gowns. Mostly I now look for wedding accessories like shoes,” he says. In fact, his collection has recently been reduced to ten, after having donated eight of his gowns to the design and merchandise department at Marymount University for the students to study the style, fabric, and year the gowns were worn and how they were made. One look at this elegant dress, however, and it takes little to see what so captured him. “I’m not sure who wore it, but from the quality of the silk and the hand-beading, it was clearly a very couture, stylish bride,” Durham supposes. “This gown is a standout simply because of its age and condition—these are few and far between, especially with the shoes and headpiece. The details and fabric alone are amazing; and just looking at it, I can envision the woman who wore it: classic, chic, understated, and very couture.” Such is the theme to emulate, the style to capture. So however you take inspiration from the 1920s as you celebrate your wedding in 2020, do it with style, elegance, and—above all—an enthusiastic embrace of life and love.

FEBRUARY 2020 • 49

Story by Liesel Schmidt | Photography by Kelsey Nelson Photography


They say that you never get a second chance at making a first impression, but the saying didn’t necessarily hold true in the case of Brooke Samuelson and Brittany Kirtner when they first met during Brittany’s new teacher orientation at the middle school where both women worked. In her position as an After School Program Specialist, Brooke’s office was a quick stop on the tour of the school for the newly incoming Brittany, a Health and Phys. Ed. Teacher. The initial meeting didn’t leave much on an impression… At least, not in Brooke’s case. Brittany, however, had apparently seen someone who piqued her interest; and a few months later in the spring of 2016, that interest was returned when the two started talking. “She started liking my old Instagram posts,” Brooke recalls. And from there, the conversation never seemed to stop.

up waiting, and Sarah Marcella was there to take photos of the proposal.” Continuing to create photo-worthy moments, Brooke walked down the aisle at Melrose Knitting Mill in North Carolina on October 7, 2018, wearing a soft, romantic gown of layered tulle and lace with an illusion neckline and beaded accents, ready to meet Brittany at the altar. As friends and family watched with their hearts filled with joy, the two women exchanged vows— at times laughing and at times crying. “Brittany’s vows retold the story of our meeting and had everyone laughing because she talked about how many times I was aloof to her passes!” And after the two had been pronounced married, Mrs. and Mrs. Kirtner joined their guests for a fun-filled reception, dancing and dining on delicious Southern-inspired cuisine. Ready to sweeten up the celebration, they cut into a three-tier confection of strawberry, raspberry, and chocolate cakes beautifully decorated in their colors of pink and gold before being sent off to start their new life, happy that first impressions aren’t always the last.

Venue: Melrose Knitting Mill (Raleigh, NC) Photographer: Kelsey Nelson Planner: Steph Smith Dress: Theia Dress Alterations: BeFitted Engagement Ring: Dominion Jewelers (Falls Church, VA) Flowers: Expressions of Love (Fuquay-Varina, NC) Cake: Simply Cakes (Chapel Hill, NC) Catering: Mulino (Raleigh, NC) Entertainment: Randy with Bunn DJ (Raleigh, NC) Invitations: Minted

After nearly two years of dating, Brittany knew the time was right to take a more permanent position in one another’s lives. And while she could easily have just chosen a special place to ask the question, Brittany chose ALL the special places, creating a scavenger hunt that would eventually lead Brooke to a place that would become the most special of all. “The proposal was epic—she set up a scavenger hunt starting at Ascend Cycle (my favorite workout spot) and taking me to different stops along our relationship history,” says Brooke. “At each location, I was handed a clue by my mom and stepfather, who were invited to be a part of the entire day. The hunt took us from Ascend to our middle school, then on to the place where we’d had our first date, to my old apartment, and then to one of our favorite restaurants, where I got the final clue. That last clue told me to meet Brittany at Gravelly Point, and once I arrived, she had a beautiful setFEBRUARY 2020 • 51


Host your special day in the heart of Alexandria

M. Harris Studios

M. Harris Studios

Dani White Photography

Carlyle House Historic Park 121 N. Fairfax Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 703-549-2997 |




Story by Liesel Schmidt + Photography by Nichole Meredith Photography / Mary Kate McKenna Photography

and significance, set on a piece of property within the heart of Old Town, Alexandria that could easily take one’s breath away.

Paramount to any event—but especially a wedding—is the venue. It sets the tone and generates the mood. It can create a sense of intimacy or romance, evoke a fairy-tale feeling or get everyone in a party frame of mind. And for any couple in search of creating their own history in a place filled with historic charm and natural beauty, Carlyle House offers the perfect mix of grandeur

Originally built in 1753 by John Carlyle, a wealthy merchant and a founder of Alexandria, Carlyle House Historic Park is now home to an 18th century historic house museum in Old Town Alexandria. Today, Carlyle House is one of the nation’s best examples of Georgian residential architecture, the history and romance and elegance of the times echoing from every inch of the grounds, making it ideal for taking those ever-important steps into a future filled with promise. Set amid exquisite gardens that serve as an unexpected escape from the city that surrounds them, the historic mansion offers a grand setting for wedding ceremonies and receptions, reflecting a sense of regal importance and momentousness. Here, there is open air filled with the colors of nature and a feeling of romance, a design of elegance and stateliness highlighted by the occasion. Available for rental from April 1 through October 31, Carlyle House offers a variety of locations on the picturesque estate grounds, each perfect for setting a tone and capturing the hearts of all guests in attendance. Booking options include the tented Magnolia Terrace, the beautiful garden, or the expansive front lawn for evening ceremonies and receptions. They also offer two-hour rentals at almost any time. Ideal for mid-sized events, their spaces accommodate up to 100 people, and the gardens and terrace are wheelchair accessible.

121 N Fairfax Street • Alexandria, VA • FEBRUARY 2020 • 53

Story by Liesel Schmidt | Photography by Casey Crowe Taylor

“First comes love, then comes marriage…” It’s an old playground chant we’ve all heard a million times throughout our lives, but never more so than as children jumping rope, its sing-song rhythm and rhyming words providing the perfect cadence for each turn of the rope, each meeting between feet and ground. And while Ashley Mattison may not have been a little girl on the playground when she first saw Corey Dowd jumping rope at the local gym they both frequented in 2007, the words of the familiar chant might as well have been running through her mind. “He had been into boxing when he was younger and was still very, very good at jumping rope. I have no coordination whatsoever, so I was extremely impressed,” Ashley recalls. “One day, I decided to say hi, and we made plans to meet up with friends that night in Arlington.”

love song his heart was telling him to follow and asked Ashley to marry him in December of 2012. “Corey was down on one knee in front of the Christmas tree with our son and proposed. Since Christmas is my favorite holiday, it was extremely special,” says Ashley, who works as Director within Guidehouse’s National Security Sector.

The two hit it off, and after six months of dating, they moved in with one another and bought a dog. And while the traditional order of things would next dictate marriage, they threw convention aside when they had their son nearly two years later and decided to wait until the time was truly right to get married. “We didn’t want to get married just because our son was on the way, so we embraced it all and became a happy family of four (counting the dog)!”

Having been officially given the title of Mr. and Mrs. Dowd, the newlyweds joined their guests in a winter wonderland-themed reception on the grounds, where they dined on delicious, seasonally-inspired food before cutting into a stunning and winter-esque “naked” pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting adorned with winter berries and greenery. And as the celebration came to an end, the happy couple was sent to start a new part of their lives together, the rhythm of their rhyme matched by words that—while perhaps unconventional in their order—still tell the story of unforgettable love.

Knowing the time had finally come, Corey, a construction sales account manager at Sun Services, jumped to the rhythm of the 54 • VIP ALEXANDRIA MAGAZINE

Seven years later on December 14, 2019, Ashley walked down the aisle toward Corey at the Lyceum wearing a crèpe fit-andflare La Sposa gown with a dramatic sash and lace accents. As their friends and family looked on, the two exchanged vows and united their hearts together forever, making their family—now grown to include two beautiful children as well as another dog— and their bond even stronger.

Venue: Lyceum • Photographer: Casey Crowe Taylor Planner: Birch Event and Designs, Julie Park Dress: La Sposa, Vivid Bridal • Shoes: Nina Jewelry: Olive & Piper • Engagement Ring: Brilliant Earth Tux: Men’s Warehouse • Flowers: Rocking Bird Flower Co. Cake: Lovlee Sweets • Catering: Main Event Catering Entertainment: DJ Crawdads • Car Services: Fleet Transportation Invitations: Minted • Makeup/Hair: Makeup by Ana B

FEBRUARY 2020 • 55

Across The Threshold Purchasing Your First Home with McEnearney Real Estate Agent, Kristen Jones Story by Liesel Schmidt


There are a lot of changes happening when a couple gets married, not to mention an overwhelming amount of decisions—all of which pile onto the already mind-boggling list of things to do for the wedding. Despite the fact that this is such a happy time, it’s also a very stressful one. Having the advice of experts on some of those weighty decisions, that often come with newly combined living, is extremely invaluable, especially for things like buying a home. Buying a home is a big deal for anyone— but even more so for newlyweds. After all, you probably don’t have joint finances or may not have great credit built up, and both are deciding factors in qualifying for a home loan and being able to afford your payments. “It can sometimes become a tricky subject, but combining finances is a wise decision and can be greatly beneficial to newly married couples who want to buy a home together because it gives them more money for a down payment, which lessens their monthly mortgage payment,” says Kristen Jones of Kristen Jones Real Estate, whose expertise in the industry has launched her to the top of her field and gained her great respect throughout the Alexandria community and beyond as an NVAR Diamond Top Producer . “Buying a home, while a big step, is a wise move when you’re looking to the future. If one or both parties had been renting in the past, in buying a home, they are now putting money toward their own equity in a home instead of paying someone else’s mortgage. Investing in a home should be as important as investing in a 401(k),” she goes on. “The appreciation in investing in a home in a healthy market over a period of time is as good as—if not better than—investing in the stock market.”

Naturally, not everyone has stellar credit, but there are ways to raise your credit score as you work towards buying a home. “Pay off or pay down your student loans as much as you can, make your credit card payments on time, and pay your rent on time,” advises Jones. “Also, keep credit card balances low and refrain from making any large purchases such as buying a car, amassing

hefty credit card charges, or splurging on a luxury vacation at least six months to a year before you’re planning to buy a home. This period of watching your finances also includes the time during the loan application process and continues through settlement, because large purchases will ding your credit and can adversely affect your interest rate and your ability to qualify for a loan,” she continues. “Keep your spending to a minimum, and don’t be frivolous with your spending—after all, you’ll need money to furnish your new home!” Finances aside, there are other sticking points and decisions to make when it comes to home buying, and that’s where thinking about the future and having the ability to compromise comes in. “It’s important to focus first on location, then on price,” says Jones. “Take commutes to work into consideration, because that will affect your quality of life. After deciding on a location or city, decide on your price range and then focus in your search— but don’t let small, cosmetic things deter you from a home that could otherwise be perfect for you. Updating a kitchen backsplash, redoing a bathroom, or changing the paint color or flooring are changeable over time, so focus on the bigger details of the home as you look.” Naturally, it will take time to find the right home to suit your needs, but stay the course and do your homework. “Go to open houses in different areas as soon as you decide you are wanting to buy, which will give you a clear vision of what you can get for your money. Take nights and weekends to drive through neighborhoods and see how you feel about them,” Jones recommends. “Looking online at homes and seeing their prices is vastly different from actually getting in the car and walking through homes and driving through neighborhoods, and doing that is key in helping couples hone in on different locations and rule out some neighborhoods because they don’t meet their needs.” Much like marriage, home ownership comes with both happiness and challenges; but in the end, saying “I do” is definitely worth it. FEBRUARY 2020 • 57

Story by Liesel Schmidt + Photography by Molly Lichten

Studies show that most people are either left-brain dominant or right-brain dominant, logical or creative. It dictates how we respond to things, how we connect with people, our hobbies, our talents, often even our professions. And while Molly Lichten initially followed her left-brain tendencies in pursuing a path toward neuroscience, it took only one wedding to make her right-brain wake up and find what made her truly passionate. “I attended my college commencement ceremony in the morning and then drove to Annapolis that same afternoon for my first paid wedding photography job—and that began the journey of a lifetime.”

For Lichten, this means employing a photographic style that is a mix between documentary and lifestyle. “I absolutely love capturing the little moments, the candid shots, and the spontaneous pictures of people and life. I’ve never been drawn to posed or highly styled shots, but I have no problem directing or curating a shot to capture the best possible picture, most flattering angle, or prettiest light,” she says. While her talent is undeniable, it is her passion that most resonates with her clients.

Since realizing where her heart truly lies, Lichten has averaged about 25 weddings a year and has developed a successful bicoastal photography business, primarily dividing her time between Virginia and California, though she has photographed weddings and engagement sessions all over the country. “This past April, I photographed my 100th wedding,” she says proudly. “This has been an incredible whirlwind, and I feel so lucky to have found a profession that makes me so happy and fulfilled.” Making her clients equally happy with what develops from her shoots, Lichten works closely with her subjects to determine exactly what they’re looking for, though she relies on her talent and intuition as an artist to achieve the perfect shots. “Every wedding is unique, and my services are designed to reflect each couple. I guide them through every step of the photography process and form real connections with them so that I am able to capture and tell their love stories in the most authentic way,” she explains.

“Photographing a wedding is not just about taking pictures—it’s about collecting little fragments of time and capturing moments, memories, and, most importantly, the feeling.” • (626) 345-8718 • 58 • VIP ALEXANDRIA MAGAZINE



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Story by Liesel Schmidt | Photography by Liz Fogarty

Finding true love can be a challenge even under the best of circumstances, but they say it happens when you least expect it. And such was certainly the case when Cherie Harder met Christopher Spigelmire one summer night in 2014, never expecting that the man sitting across the table from her at a speed dating event would eventually be the love of her life. “We were both there on a lark, with low expectations that anything would come of it,” Cherie recalls. But something did come of it, and the two became a couple, spending the next four years falling more and more in love. And with the dawn of the New Year in 2019, commercial airline pilot Chris set a destination for forever with the woman who made his heart soar. “Chris had had to fly over the holidays—the holidays are a busy time for the airlines, and he flew almost nonstop until New Year’s Day—so we celebrated Christmas on New Year’s,” says Cherie, who serves as president of the Trinity Forum. “We exchanged a number of gifts, and Chris told me that he had one more for me. He handed me a small bag, and the ring was inside. That’s one way to start the year well!”

Eight months later on August 3, 2019, Cherie walked down the aisle at Woodlawn Estate wearing a sleeveless, vee-neck a-line gown with a deep vee in the back and shirred bodice accented by a slim crystal-encrusted belt. And after she and Chris exchanged vows and were pronounced to be wed, they joined their family and friends for a reception on the grounds of the estate. Serving a variety of tasty bites and signature drinks from a bar with customized art created by Wise Decor at their pre-dinner cocktail reception, the festivities commenced with dancing and dining before the newlyweds sweetened things up by cutting into a stunning three-tier cake of hazelnut, lemon, and caramel sponge adorned by a cascade of flowers from Morning Bird Designs. After a hearfelt sendoff by their guests to start their lives together, the Harder-Spigelmires went wheels up to their “mini moon” in Turks and Caicos, with plans to take a full honeymoon in New Zealand in the New Year.

Venue: Woodlawn Estate Photographer: Liz Fogarty Planner: Laura Held, Ida Rose Events Dress/Shoes: Global Bridal Gallery Engagement Ring: Blue Nile Flowers: Jeanne Domenech, Morning Bird Designs Cake: Design Cuisine • Catering: Design Cuisine Entertainment: Bachelor Boys Band Car Services: BBC Invitations: Minted Customized Bar: Wise Decor Hair: Ulfa, Salon Amarti • Makeup: Joanna Ellis, The Highlight

FEBRUARY 2020 • 61

American Horticultural Society at River Farm

Story by Liesel Schmidt + Photography by Astrid Photography

When it comes time to take those first steps toward forever, being surrounded by beauty is what every couple dreams of. And while some find their perfect place in a venue surrounded by four walls, it is often the breathtaking beauty of being outside, surrounded by nothing but open sky and a limitless palette of colors painted by nature that makes hearts soar at their highest. Resting on 25 acres of gardens and woods overlooking the Potomac River, the historic River Farm offers captivating and picturesque views as well as formal and informal gardens and a gorgeous manor house. Though located within easy driving distance from the Washington, D.C. metro area, it seems far removed from the bustle of the city life—a fact which is not lost on couples wanting to get away. “People love the amazing view, the dreamy gardens, the stately manor house, and the feeling that you are a million miles away without the lengthy drive,” says Janet Daniels, River Farm Rental Events Manager. So, too, do they love the new tent, which is included with all in-season rentals and features retractable side walls, crystal chandeliers, perimeter bistro lights, and a billowy ceiling liner to create an elegant outdoor setting.

Society. “Through the generosity of Enid Annenberg Haupt, the AHS purchased the land and made it our national headquarters in 1973, and it was opened that same year,” Daniels says. Naturally, being headquarters to AHS brings expectations that are nothing short of natural splendor, and River Farm delivers, offering gardens whose beauty is incomparable, endless stretches of color and texture that seem out of a picture book. With so much gorgeous scenery at every turn, the estate offers a wide variety of areas perfect for hosting wedding celebrations, and decades of couples have made these grounds the memorable place to take their first steps into a life blooming with hope and love.

Another big draw is, of course, the amazing history at River Farm. “River Farm was once part of George Washington’s land and served as a working farm for him,” Daniels explains. But it doesn’t just stop there; and one look around at the amazing visual display of the gardens leaves little wonder at the fact that it now serves as the headquarters of the American Horticultural

7931 East Boulevard Drive • Alexandria, VA • (703) 768-5700 • 62 • VIP ALEXANDRIA MAGAZINE



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FEBRUARY 2020 • 63


| Great Bridal Expo

Story + Photography by Catherine May Taylor

The Great Bridal Expo came around again this January, hosted by the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center, helping future brides and grooms by bringing together some of the area’s most sought-after wedding professionals. This event provided an opportunity for brides-to-be to see the latest trends and get to know some vendors and venues from around the DMV area. A wide variety of local vendors were featured, from travel, vacation hotspots, and popular area venues to lighting, flowers, and catering. For anyone planning a wedding in the Alexandria area, it was incredibly helpful to see what the area has to offer and be able to speak directly with vendors about their wide array of services and event packages. Bridal attire was showcased during a fashion show exhibiting some of the latest styles and trends from leaders in the wedding industry.

India Pettus + DeSheyna Perry

Mia Sutton + James Hall

The Great Bridal Expo happens regularly in the DMV area, particularly during the wedding planning season, and always brings a fresh new array of vendors looking to assist future brides. All the cakes to taste was an amazing extra perk!

Julie Phillips, Morgan Posewitz + Connie Buck

Michelle Kayosa-Ajayi, Tengwera Kaunda + Lindsay Reitz

Bonnie Fauber + Daniel Droter

Jess Cozewith + Ana Bell

Andrea Vasquez-Sanchez, Andrew Falcher + Dee Randolph


Deb Carter

Emily Ripper + Erin Stewart


| Couples Ring Making Class

Story + Photography by Catherine May Taylor

Wear Ever Jewelry boutique recently hosted a couples ring making class. Instructor Beth Ghodsi taught guests how to make wedding bands, or as owner Jennifer Park prefers to call them, ‘celebration rings’. Attendees learned the ins and outs of sizing, hammering, and design while sipping on champagne, and crafting with their significant others. For a list of upcoming classes, visit

Patrick Mora, Brandie Mora + Beth Ghodsi

Jennifer J Park

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FEBRUARY 2020 • 65

Story by Liesel Schmidt | Photography by Sam Stroud Photography


Everyone knows that timing is everything when it comes to finding “The One.” And while Kristen Hoagland and Robert DeSano might have both been dating other people when they met each other at a college party he was hosting at his house, they both felt an undeniable connection that they just couldn’t shake. Over their next few years at West Virginia University, they kept in touch, forming a friendship and often running into one another. And fortunately for this couple, graduation didn’t mean the end for them—it was just the beginning. “We started hanging out more and more a few years after we graduated and eventually starting dating,” says Kristen, who is originally from Columbia, Maryland, while Rob grew up in Alexandria, making D.C. a very natural place to “run into” one another. Over the next four and a half years, casual dating grew into something more serious, Rob and Kristen moved in together; and when Rob realized that the time was right to make their relationship one that would last forever, the Aerotek Practice Lead created the perfect moment to pop the question. “I had a hair appointment that morning; and when I got home, I noticed that the house was sparkling clean and that Rob was acting more hyper than usual,” recalls Kristen, who works as a Communications Specialist for OneDigital Health and Benefits. “He asked me to fix one of our messenger boards in the living room, and when I walked over to it, he had a message on it saying ‘Will you marry me?’ I turned around, and he was on one knee with the ring and asked me to marry him! I’m a pretty private person and don’t love having a lot of attention, so he knew that proposing in our home would be the most comfortable situation for me…He also knew I would be in a great mood because my hair had just been cut and highlighted!” she laughs. “He did a great job.”

Just over ten months later on September 20, 2019, Kristen walked down the aisle at Pippin Hill Farm wearing a classic yet modern ivory Savannah Miller gown with lace straps, silk accents, and an alluring vee-neckline and low back. After saying “I do,” while a live painter captured the ceremony as it unfolded, the newlymarried DeSanos joined their guests for a seated dinner and reception on the grounds, ready to celebrate their union and definitely down to party. “We had a TON of fun,” Kristen says. “We wanted our wedding to be a party—for people to dance, drink, eat, and have a great time. We really focused on the entertainment of the wedding, which definitely paid off because people were up dancing the entire night and didn’t want it to end.” But end it did, though not before the couple cut into a three-tier “naked” autumn apple butter spice cake with maple cream cheese frosting. As the festivities came to a close, the happy newlyweds were sent off to start their brand new lives together, their timing clearly perfect for creating their very own happily ever after.

FEBRUARY 2020 • 67

The galleria

ref. C

Story by Jeanette Wages Photography Courtesy of Denise Acosta

For Denise Acosta, opening a cupcake business was not a childhood dream or venture she ever really expected. Coming from a world where people baked for boyfriends and loved ones, Denise spent most of her life burning boxed cakes and not having the patience to cream butter. Now with a thriving cupcake business that has served WebMD, Yelp, Redskins Park, numerous weddings, and the Wounded Warriors Christmas dinner, she couldn’t imagine doing anything else. “Mistakes were certainly made, and unfortunately many cupcakes ended up having to be sacrificed to the entrepreneur gods. However, they are constantly evolving and as the saying goes, ‘With practice comes mastery. With mastery comes knowledge. With knowledge comes strength.’” “Weddings have quickly become a favorite industry for me to be a part of. Every wedding is different and that’s what makes it so special.” While there are a great variety of delicious flavors available on the online menu, wedding cupcakes (or any order) never stop there. If you can think up a flavor, Denise will do her best to make it happen. And she always nails it - think Cannoli cupcakes, or cupcakes based on an Old Fashioned cocktail.

The one thing you won’t find on Denise’s cupcakes is fondant. While fondant is beautiful and easily used to create any look, she still uses buttercream for all of her cupcakes. To Denise, it is all about the flavor. “A buttercream that has restored faith in some non-buttercream believers. You’ll have to try it out for yourself, I suppose!” Cupcakes: The Galleria is more than just one of the best fully custom cupcakes in Northern Virginia, it’s also a way to give back to a community Denise loves so much with her “Tip it Forward” program, which is dedicated to a new charity every month bringing light and money to causes near and dear to her heart. “My vision for Cupcakes: The Galleria is to be very community-based/involved and, therefore, looks to support local charities that can benefit from a little spare change, be it through the campaign, hosting events or volunteering. While I may not be leaving a significant footprint in their efforts to help the community, I hope to at least be a small step in aiding their efforts. Paying it forward one cupcake at a time.” With every delicious bite of these handcrafted, creative cupcakes, she is bringing smiles and child-like joy to people’s weddings, events, and everyday lives.

(703) 951-7547 • 68 • VIP ALEXANDRIA MAGAZINE



FEBRUARY 2020 • 69

Brittany Cretella


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@thestylistabroad 70 • VIP ALEXANDRIA MAGAZINE


| D.C. Wedding Convention

Story + Photography by Catherine May Taylor

The Walter E. Washington Convention Center hosted bridesto-be and their families to an afternoon of showcasing the DMV’s top vendors and venues for the approaching wedding season. DMV brides came from all over to meet caterers, taste cakes, try out the newest in photobooth tech, talk to make-up artists, dress designers, and photographer and practice walking down the aisle. Limousine companies put on an impressive display of their cars and buses, while vendors and venues gave away goods and discounts. This bridal convention is a must for any bride and business looking to stay in the loop on the best in town and get information that is well worth your money and time.

Nicole McCarthy, Kallie McCandless, Sydney Williams, Colleen Weglein, Savannah Cover + Susanne McCarthy

Victoria, Ray + Zachery Wu-Rorrer Lisa + Michael Schappacher

Suzanne + Lisa Garrow

Heather Burd Q. + Amanda Rodriguez

Shelbi King + Patty Fleege

Caitlin Durney, Tessa Merrill, Kaitie Hopkins + Lisa Schappacher

Grace Brassell + Kristen Bernarducci

Rebecca Maddox + Cindy Bliss

Penelope Crocker + Shelly Goorevich

FEBRUARY 2020 • 71

Story by Liesel Schmidt | Photography by Bri & Wes Photography


Three years of dating proved that they were indeed meant to be, and just a week before their three-year anniversary, American Association of Port Authorities employee Andrew proposed on Father’s Day in 2018. “Andrew planned a Father’s Day celebration tour and tasting at Stone Tower Winery in Leesburg with both of our families. When we got to the Cabernet Franc vines, Andrew got down on one knee and proposed with my great-grandmother’s diamond engagement ring in front of our families,” recalls Kate, who works as a Marketing Specialist for The Society for Human Resources Management in addition to teaching barre classes at Studio Barre Alexandria. “Obviously, I said yes, and we celebrated with lots of champagne afterwards!”

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and it certainly proved the case for Katherine Snow and Andrew Cameron. The two met in 2015 during the interview weekend for the Young Adult Service Corps program to which they both applied. Both seniors at their respective schools in different states—Andrew, at JMU, while Kate attended Sewanee: The University of the South in Tennessee—they parted ways determined to keep their initial chemistry going, despite the fact that they knew they would soon be separated by even greater distance during their year of service abroad. For the next year, Facetime, texting, and long letters became their lifeline, keeping them connected over the 14-hour time distance between Hong Kong and Costa Rica. When they were finally reunited, their love had only grown that much deeper. “It was one of those situations where the challenges were most likely going to work against us, but they didn’t—they just made us stronger!” Kate contends.

There was cause for celebration again just over a year later when Kate walked down the aisle at Woodlawn Plantation in Alexandria to meet Andrew at the altar wearing a sleek, fitted Vera Wang gown with a trumpet skirt. After the two exchanged vows, the newly married Camerons joined their guests at an elegant tented reception on the grounds, dancing the night away before cutting into a beautiful ivory three-tier pumpkin cake with Italian buttercream and a layer of dulce de leche, adorned with gold touches and real flowers. “We had asked that the design of the cake would include a fondant chocolate Lab on our cake in honor of our fur baby, Eloise; but due to a miscommunication with the bakery, it was left off the cake,” Kate says. “Our wedding planner, Amanda Chambers, called her husband to have him buy a ceramic dog figurine, which she and our caterer, Claire from Design Cuisine, then painted brown during cocktail hour and put on the cake. I was seriously blown away! They knew how important it was to me, and they didn’t want it to be left off. I will never, ever forget that.” After a sweet send-off from their guests, they honeymooned in Thailand before returning to start their new life together in Alexandria. FEBRUARY 2020 • 73


The Revolutionary era was nothing if not rife with elegance and grandeur, romance and charm. Though the stately house that now stands at 506 Cameron Street in Old Town Alexandria might not yet have been in existence during those fraught days in our nation’s history, the restored kitchen now housed within its walls does claim the distinction of being part of George Washington’s townhouse estate. Building on that sense of history, owners Martha and Steven Peterson used their extensive experience in property development and real estate investment to create a luxury AirBnB called The George, planning out the spaces down to the finest detail, from the eight lavish suites to each of the common areas, which include a handsomely appointed living room, dining room, kitchen, tavern room, and the beautiful courtyard space. Naturally, a part of their vision for the property was as an

event venue for very intimate gatherings such as bridal showers and engagement parties as well as small wedding ceremonies and receptions, and the romance of it all couldn’t provide a more perfect setting. Making it even more ideal for couples planning the day of their dreams, the accommodations offer a unique honeymoon experience, an escape from the expected setting of chain hotels. Designed with the perfect balance of historic charm and modernity, The George is truly an intimate, exceptional venue—and a beautiful space to begin a beautiful new life. Each of the suites can be rented out on an individual basis or booked as a whole property for larger groups, and all accommodations include use of the common areas as well as tickets for admission to Mt. Vernon, George Washington’s main residence.

For booking, visit 74 • VIP ALEXANDRIA MAGAZINE


The George


With beautiful living spaces, kitchen & 8 bedrooms, The George of Old Town, a historic home once owned by George Washington, is the perfect venue for your intimate wedding, shower or engagement party! On your special day, embrace the history & charm that The George of Old Town has to offer!

Book your next stay or event by visiting FEBRUARY 2020 • 75


| Painting + Pints at Fair Winds Brewing Co.

Story + Photography by David D’Agostino

What could be more fulfilling than watching a blank canvas bloom into a beautiful still life at the touch of your paintbrush? Just one thing: watching that canvas bloom while enjoying an award-winning craft beer at Fair Winds. You can live this dream each month as Kane Sexton walks artists of all skill levels through the creation of mini masterpieces. The canvas and all supplies are provided, including your first pint. Recently, Kane offered step-by-step instruction to budding, blooming, and fully ripened artists as they created their interpretation of his work “Apple Picking”. Visit for the next chance to fill your canvas, belly, and sails at Fair Winds.

Scarlett, Aniela + Chris Cosgrove

Colin Stewart

Libby Phillips


Katie Shantz, Emma Tessier + Melissa Medeiros

Shannon + Nik Shultz

Alton + Alycia Henderson

Kane Saxton

Christi Budreau

Tana Bailey, Megan Bird + Mina Baldinger

Eric Von Hohenleiten

Story by Liesel Schmidt Photography Courtesy of Michael’s Little Italy

When it comes to food, there’s no cuisine that speaks the language of love more than Italian—especially when it’s served familystyle. While the cozy intimacy of a family meal often leaves no room at the table for formality and elegance, Michael’s Little Italy manages to balance it all, creating the perfect atmosphere for hosting celebratory events where love is the guest of honor. Since buying and renaming the authentic Italian restaurant once known as Trattoria da Franco from the original owners in 2017, owner Michael Strutton has been offering old-world style cuisine that showcases his passion and traces a line to his roots back in Italy. Michael rebranded the restaurant at the start of 2020 under the name of Michael’s Little Italy. After two years of renovating, recreating the menu, and reworking the restaurant to make it completely his vision, Strutton takes even more pride in the experience his guests receive when they walk in through the doors.

While the food is certainly high on the love list for the bridal parties who book their events at the restaurant, ambiance is also key in making the match. Ideal for hosting bridal showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinners, engagement parties, receptions, and even small weddings, the second floor of the restaurant is charming and unique, featuring a retro-style cocktail lounge and a dining room with a baby grand piano in a space with room enough to accommodate 50-60 people. Downstairs, one can cozy up to the fireside bar. “It’s a different kind of place—a fine-dining restaurant and a one-stop shop for Italian food, whatever your mood and whatever the occasion,” Strutton says. “We’re elegant but never stuffy, and we convey the feeling of hosting a party at their home without the hassle. They also get the entire floor—the dining room and cocktail lounge, which has couches and a nice place to socialize before or after dinner. We try to make it feel like one big Italian family dinner and get together here all the time, but it works especially well for parties,” Strutton goes on. That kind of atmosphere is just what couples hope to find for their events, and Strutton and his team make the experience a dream come true.

From handmade pastas and freshly-baked pizzas to hearty entrees that bring to mind Sunday suppers at Nona’s house, every item on the menu is full of love—and that’s exactly what he serves to couples who book their events at the restaurant. “Bridal parties love how customizable everything is with us. We design our menus individually for each event, and I do this myself with the wedding planner or couple, while my wife helps with the planning, decor, and logistics,” says Strutton. “We really work with them to make the event exactly what they want.”

305 S. Washington St • Alexandria, VA • (703) 548-9338 • FEBRUARY 2020 • 77


| The Leadership Collection at AlexandriaTM Unveiling

Story + Photography by Catherine May Taylor

Visit Alexandria held a leadership and networking conference that introduced guests to two prestigious Alexandria companies, The McChrystal Group and Building Momentum. With innovative engineering, Building Momentum offers services and solutions using the latest in computer technology, teaching and giving their consumers access to robotics, 3D Printing, prototyping, drones, and more. The McChrystal Group is one of the leading experts in advising businesses to work to their full potential to meet their professional goals. Mount Vernon Washington Library graciously hosted and gave tours throughout the night, while Visit Alexandria provided delicious food and drinks.

Brad Halsey + Allen Brooks

Ann Ebberts + Dr. Peter Cressy

Misha Enriquez + Leah Spellman

Kate Ellis + Kelli Nienaber

Cheyanne Dwyer, Brad Halsey, Lorraine Lloyd, Joseph Stoltz, Marty Schweitzer + Tom Kaiden


Marty Schweitzer + Henry Gent

Thom Stohler, Melissa Viscovich + Nicholas Kapiotis

Matt Chase, Shana Chase + Tammy Eddy

Marty Schweitzer

Marybeth Powers, Joseph Schweitzer + Alison Ryscavage

Tom Kaiden

Mary Cruz, Jake Sandler + Jeff Herre

Laurel Cummings, Brad Halsey + Cheyanne Dwyer

Misha Enriquez

FEBRUARY 2020 • 79

The Sweet Taste of Giving

Sugar Shack celebrates their five-year anniversary by donating to ACT of Alexandria Story by Liesel Schmidt | Photography Courtesy of Sugar Shack

Rainbow sprinkles, chocolate chips, seasonal fresh fruits, and cookie crumbles… For former Virginia State Delegate and Alexandria City Councilman Rob Krupicka, these are some of the details that comprise his day as an owner of Sugar Shack Donuts, now that he’s traded in his buttoned-up and polished look of suit and tie for a tee-shirt emblazoned with a yellow donut. Having spent years in both local and state politics, Krupicka couldn’t have chosen a more drastic career change, but once he sank his teeth into that sweet, pillowy dough and found out more about the company mission of Sugar Shack, he knew that he’d found a new calling. “I got to know Sugar Shack’s founders and their amazing donuts in Richmond, and their business values and product were clearly a great fit for Alexandria,” says Krupicka, whose heart truly lies in serving the community he loves, in as many ways as he can. While taking ownership in a brand that was clearly gaining 80 • VIP ALEXANDRIA MAGAZINE

popularity was a wise business move, it wasn’t strictly about business. “At the end of the day, even if you’ve sold just one donut, you can be pretty sure that you’ve made someone smile. That feeling is hard to beat. You can see that joy in people’s faces when they look at the donut case and decide what to choose; and for a moment, it’s like being a kid again. It’s fun to sell a product that makes people happy.”

“Sugar Shack embraces social values that are important to me personally and to our neighbors, such as inclusiveness, giving back, and fair pay.” - Rob Krupicka, Owner

Making people happy has been part of his day for the past five years of owning Sugar Shack’s Alexandria location. Selling every kind of donut imaginable, from those whose off-thewall toppings and glazes bring out your inner child to more sophisticated flavor profiles, there are a few ingredients in Sugar Shack’s donuts that you can’t buy in any store or source from any supplier—and that was the very thing that most spoke to Krupicka in deciding to jump out of politics and into the sweet world of donuts. “Sugar Shack embraces social values that are important to me personally and to our neighbors, such as inclusiveness, giving back, and fair pay.” They definitely put their money where their mouth is, getting involved with local community organizations and giving back financially to help support them. “I can look back over these past five years and see that we have been able to make a positive difference in a lot of ways,” says Krupicka, who is now the proud owner of three additional locations in D.C., Arlington, and Leesburg. “We provide good jobs, and our stores have done fundraisers for several charities and been active in community events. Helping Chef José Andrés feed student marchers in D.C. was really special, and supporting Spring2ACTion and ACT for Alexandria’s Day of Giving each year has been a highlight.” ACT for Alexandria and its mission of investing in local nonprofits to help them innovate, grow, and address critical needs in the City of Alexandria is a particular passion for Krupicka, so when the fifth anniversary of Sugar Shack’s Alexandria location rolled around in January 2020, he could think of no better way to

celebrate hitting the five-year mark than to donate 5 cents from every donut sold during the month to ACT. “ACT has made a unique contribution to Alexandria’s philanthropic community by supporting smart, strategic solutions to serve our most at-risk neighbors, and they help build capacity for nonprofits delivering services that work,” says Krupicka. “ACT is so important because it helps keep our community focused and strategically efficient, and their initiatives on racial equity and on early childhood care and education are missions that are particularly important to me.” ACT couldn’t be more honored by the support. “We were thrilled when Rob told us that Sugar Shack would be celebrating their five-year anniversary by donating 5 cents from every donut to ACT during the month of January,” says Brandi Yee, Chief Program Officer for ACT for Alexandria. “Rob and Sugar Shack have always been wonderful ACT supporters. From giving inkind donut donations to informing customers about ACT and contributing generous donations, support from small businesses like Sugar Shack is vital for the growth and sustainability of the nonprofit community, so we certainly appreciate all that they do. We can’t wait to partner with them this April fro our tenyear anniversary of Spring2ACTion.” Clearly, there’s nothing sweeter than giving back. Sugar Shack Donuts & Coffee is located at 804 North Henry Street, Alexandria, VA. For more information, visit For more information on ACT for Alexandria, visit FEBRUARY 2020 • 81


| Get Fit Studio Party at Vola’s Dockside Grill + Hi-Tide Lounge

Story + Photography by Catherine May Taylor

Get Fit Studio owners Carlo and Ann Pascasio recently hosted a party for their clients and employees at Vola’s Dockside Grill & Hi-Tide Lounge. The Pascasios treated everyone to an evening of raffle prizes, good food, and an open-bar. The celebration lasted well into the night with Vola’s Dockside Grill & Hi-Tide Lounge as the perfect venue and host. Visit to begin your 2020 healthy journey with this supportive team.

Austin Carter, Carlo Pascasio, Elizabeth Nielson, Brandi Lynn + Jorge Rodriguez

Trevor, Anne + Carolyn Campbell

Diana Pascasio, Ann Pascasio + Jeanette Wages

Laura Kibby, Mike Reitz, Carolyn Reitz, Carlo + Diana Pascasio


Ann, Carlo + Diana Pascasio

Kacey Tintle + Steve Krakosky

Tony DiCanio + Shannon Hughes

Uyen Nyeuen

Julia King, Teresa Jackson-Cooper + Leah Brayman

Diana Corzo, Christina Phang, Jon Nordling, Carlo Pascasio, Diana Pascasio + Ken Lopez

Chef Driven

AUTHENTIC. HANDMADE. ITALIAN. • Wine Dinners • Cooking Classes • Catering • Personal Chef Services • DJ Friday Nights

6361 WALKER LN., ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA 22310 Free parking located in the garage directly behind the restaurant.

(703) 313-9700 | FEBRUARY 2020 • 83

Premium tuxedo rental Crilley Warehouse • 218 N Lee St. #100 • Alexandria, VA 571.290.5290 • 84 • VIP ALEXANDRIA MAGAZINE

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