Katie & Daniel and The Epic Dance Party

So. I have all sorts of thoughtful posts in queue and in my head, but it’s been waaaayyyyy too long since we’ve had a wedding graduate, no? So I thought we’d kick it back off with Katie and the epic Ugandan (you heard that right) dance party wedding. And I didn’t even feel a little bit bribed that she promised to take me to a Ugandan dance party (you should have seen the disapointment on David’s face when I told him they lived across the country from us). I am, as I’ve mentioned, pretty serious about my dancing. So, I like when a wedding does it up right. And with that, I give you Katie:

My husband and I approached our wedding planning with a commitment to collaboration and a pretty clear vision of what we wanted (which we established by asking ourselves “How/where would we want to spend our wedding day?”).  We knew we wanted the wedding to be intimate, the dinner to be delicious, and the party to be off-the-hook, and we prioritized accordingly. Most importantly, we wanted it to be “us”, and I think we achieved that with a special blend of DIY projects, venue choices, and cultural flavors. And I think it’s also important to note that, right off the bat, we disposed of all the things that didn’t matter to us.  For us, this included: a large wedding party & audience, extensive & coordinated décor, a first dance, and anything that didn’t fit in our budget.

1.    What we DIY’ed. We DIY’ed only what we thought we could handle.  For us, that meant save-the-dates (how we gocco’ed), out-of-town bags, bouquets, ceremony programs, & favors (mix CD).

The flower arranging went particularly well.  I didn’t want to spend a thousand bucks on bouquets for me, my sister and my sister-in-law, and since I’d worked at several florists, I felt fairly confident I could pull it off.  So I spoke to the flower lady at my local farmer’s market, who was super excited and encouraging, and I placed an order for 2 buckets of flowers to be picked up the morning of our wedding ($90).  I had no idea what flowers I was getting (whatever pickings looked good that week), but she assured me there would be Dahlias (hands down the most beautiful flower ever, imho).  And, let me tell you, I had a lovely morning, sitting on my kitchen floor, arranging flowers, while my friends sat around me drinking mimosas (made with pink Andre). It was very zen, very meditative.


•    What we didn’t DIY: Invitations (why bother, when there are so many amazing and talented designers on Etsy? We went with EvaPaul and couldn’t have been happier), Hair/Makeup (I wear my hair in a bun every freaking day and have extremely limited makeup skills – shout out to Chelsea at OhMyDeer for the purty hair flowers), Boutonnieres/Corsages (husband picked up some simple flowers from his favorite local florist to bestow upon his Best Man and our family members).

2.    Venue Choices. Our venue choices really brought to life the vision we had for our wedding.

Wedding Ceremony & Dinner Venue: The Tabard Inn, an historic inn and restaurant located in the heart of Dupont Circle. Great location, ridiculously charming and funky venue.  Our ceremony was held on the patio (envision English courtyard, lush greenery, brick, wrought iron chairs, etc). We didn’t spend a dime decorating that space.


And when the ceremony finished, we all went upstairs for cocktail hour and dinner. Tabard’s food is amazing. I’m a vegetarian, my husband loves steak, and we had several vegan friends in attendance.  Everyone raved about the food.  That was important to us, and, yes, it cost a pretty penny. But so very worth it.  The size of the venue definitely reinforced our desire to keep it intimate (only about 60 people) for the wedding and dinner, but we invited about 60 additional people to our party.

Off-the-hook Party Venue: Eighteenth Street Lounge.  Here’s the story with this place: it’s where my husband and I met (he, the DJ, and me, the curious new girl in town who was looking for cool music spots in DC; friendship blossomed; you know the rest), and where he still DJs on a weekly basis.  On top of that, it’s a beautiful space – again, no need for decorations.  We had our own bar, our own DJ’s, vintage couches to lounge on, and plenty of room to dance.  Plus, it was 2 blocks from our wedding/dinner venue in Dupont – no limousine rides necessary from point A to point B – and it was completely metro accessible so no drinking/driving B.S.  We had cupcakes (sugar to energize people and keep them dancing), and last, but certainly not least, we had Ugandan dancers, which brings me to…

Cultural Flavor.  Yes, UGANDAN DANCERS.  My husband is Ugandan, and they happen to have this freaking awesome tradition of having dancers and drummers come perform at weddings.  We didn’t tell our wedding partiers about the dancers. It. Was. Incredible. We danced til the wee hours of the morning on pure adrenaline and joy (which surprised me, as I only got around 4 hours of sleep the night before and woke up brutally groggy after making the poor decision to take Nyquil at 4am).

I am also including music in this category, because music played a life-sized role in our wedding.  My husband and I carefully selected all the music played that day.  For us, music sets the tone for life.  Music is always playing in our house. And music is what cultivated the beginnings of our relationship. Our friend Forrest strummed some beautiful Spanish guitar songs before the ceremony. We walked down the aisle to Amadou & Mariam’s “La Fête au Village” (which tends to make me cry, it is hauntingly beautiful), and we walked victoriously back down the aisle to Donovan Carless’s version of “Be Thankful for What You Got”. And I’ll just say that the tunes lined up for cocktail hour, dinner and the party were vetted rather thoroughly to create the desired mood and ambience. It helped that all our friends are DJ’s, so even the music we didn’t select was on point.

So, there you have it. We really put our dollars into what we thought would give us the greatest bang for our buck: the venues.  And it absolutely paid off.
Some advice, if you are inclined to take someone else’s wedding advice (because, really, these things are so personal):

•    Pick a good photographer. All the effort we put into creating a kickass wedding day was captured perfectly by our photographer – all the emotion and the little moments (many of which we missed).   Our photographer, Allison Shelley, is a photojournalist, and her photos really painted an accurate picture of not only what the day looked like but also what it felt like.  Plus, she’s cool as hell.  Another note: we tapped our videographer friend to capture the wedding and party on video, and somehow the video from our wedding was lost.  The reason I didn’t have a meltdown about that was because I knew I had a whole host of amazing photos from Allison that we would treasure for years to come.

(2 great moments captured by Allison Shelley – staring contest!)
  • Stay focused on the things that are important to you, and don’t sweat the small stuff, like temporarily pissing off a few people along the way.
  • Involving your friends and family can be good (to whatever extent your sanity allows).
  • Soak up the wedding planning fun.  I never had a manicure, pedicure, massage or a facial in my 26 years on this earth (I know, the horror!).  And it was really fun to pamper myself in the month and weeks before the wedding.
  • Know your limits. If there are things that consistently stress you out, maybe you should reevaluate if you really need it.

Closing notes: I have to say that, as cool as all of the aforementioned stuff is, our friends and family are truly and completely awesome, and their presence and continued support made our wedding more special than I could’ve ever imagined.  The love and happiness was palpable. I think that’s as good as you could hope for – it is only one day, after all.

Music For You:

La Fête au Village – Amadou and Mariam

Be Thankful For What You Got – Donovan Carless

Wedding Favor

Photos by Allison Shelley, except flower arranging, which is by the bride’s lovely friend Ann

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  • Love it! The Tabard Inn and 18th St Lounge are two of my favorite venues in DC – what a great way to celebrate!

  • Great recap. The things she mentioned are what we are trying to accomplish, great food, little decorations, and a great photographer to capture it. Not so much DIY.

    PS. I am really enjoying this new practical wedding set up.

  • Angela

    OK, seriously, this post helped me sooo much. My fiance and I have been debating whether to have videography or not (he doesn’t care for it, I wasn’t too sure) and this has made it pretty clear. I have hired a kickass photographer and that will definitely be enough. :) What a beautiful wedding!

    • Alyssa

      Can I say that if you get a chance, maybe have someone (just a friend, even) record your ceremony?
      We only had a photographer and while that was wonderful, I still REALLY regret not having our ceremony recorded. I barely remember it, but I do remember the feeling I got when I heard The Boy say “I do,” and I wish I had that recorded.

      • Angela

        Just one step ahead of you, Alyssa. I am definitely getting one of my cousins to do that. Just the ceremony and a handycam on a tripod is all I am looking for now. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. :)

        • Kristy

          Another thing I’ve heard is that people wish they would have caught the speeches on tape (if you are doing the speech thing), just a video on a digital camera even to be able to listen to it again. It’s one of those things that you don’t need good quality, but I plan on doing that because I’ve heard people say they were drunk and laughing so hard at the speaches they wish they could actually hear them again.

          • Angela

            Why didn’t I think of this? Of course I wanna do that now! Thanks for the idea.

      • meg

        Though I’ll throw this out there: I DID NOT want our ceremony videotaped. I wanted it to be my memory of this important huge moment in my life, this thing that happened once, never re-livable. I’ve heard a lot of friends (most?) complain that watching the video took away from their memory – their voices sounded strange, they seemed rushed, or something.

        So, I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it if you want to, but I’m offering the counter argument. People told me I would regret not doing it, but there is no one wedding decision that I am more grateful I made.

        • Angela

          Oh Meg, what would I do without you? This is a very good counter argument. I’ll talk with the permanent roommate some more and hopefully before the end of the year, I’ll submit our wedding and you’ll find out what we did. ;)

          • meg

            You better. And remind me of this discussion :)

        • Kristy

          wow, thanks! I never was able to put into words why I knew I didn’t want our ceremony videod, I just knew it gave me an icky feeling (I also detest seeing myself on tape! but that’s really not part of it). This totally puts into words what I was thinking, and will help me have a better defense than “I just don’t want the ceremony taped”. Thanks Meg!

          • Erica

            I really understand why you might not want to have the ceremony recorded. I often find that recording experiences can get in the way of actually living them. I just thought I’d throw in a story about what my parents did, though: they got married very quickly, and didn’t even remember that one of their friends had tape recorded (like, on an audio cassette) the ceremony. One day a couple of years ago (about 25 years after their marrriage), they found the tape when sorting through old stuff. They played it, and I have to say it was so funny and beautiful hearing my parents say their vows in these strange, much younger, but still-them voices. I think that what I might do is record the wedding but not look at the recording for years… until the time when I really want to be reminded of what it was like being young! :)

  • I love posts like this, because they always get me re-excited about weddings. Most of the time I get myself into a “practical” mindset that says, “It’s just one day, what you’re really excited about is the marriage”, which is true, but I end up completely forgetting the fact that I LOVE weddings and I always have.

    I especially love the DIY flowers and the dancers. I’m totally planning on going to Fresh Market and grabbing whatever they have the day before the wedding, and now that I’ve read this post, I kind of want to see if some of the girls I know who are Irish dancers would want to come jig with us…hmm…

  • Allison

    What a HOT couple!! Your wedding looked so fun, I’m sure the guests didn’t want to shake the glitter off either!
    We’ve been taking your approach to planning and only doing things that are important to us which cut our to-do list in half!

  • ddayporter

    weeee DC wedding! clearly this couple had a ton of fun at their wedding, which is always great to see. I’m glad she included the closing note about the friends and family part too – that’s basically what our wedding was like – pretty cool, if we have anything to say about it, but really amazing due to the love and support from our guests throughout the day.

    I love that the Ugandan dancers were a surprise for the guests – I think I would have fainted from awesome-overload if I was at a wedding and that happened.

    Congrats Katie & Daniel!!

  • I love this! If we were able to keep our numbers down (which we just can’t, for many reasons), this is exactly how I’d want to do my wedding.

    Katie, if you read this, would you mind saying which farmers market/florist you got your flowers from? I am also in DC and planning to do my own flowers and I’d much rather go that route than buying wholesale online or from a floral shop. Thanks!

    • Katie

      Thanks for everyone’s kind comments about our wedding!

      Stephanie – I worked with the florist at the 14th and U farmer’s market (Saturdays). I don’t have her contact info with me, but I could look it up when I get home!

      XO – Katie + Daniel

      • Thanks Katie! A quick follow-up question… how far in advance did you ask the florist if you could purchase flowers from them for your wedding day?

        • Katie

          Hm, I want to say it was sometime in early August when I talked to her about ordering the buckets of flowers for October.

    • ddayporter

      Katie – you’re probably set with the 14th & U market, but just wanted to share that we went with Wollam Gardens, which we found at the Clarendon market on Weds, but they also go to the Dupont Circle market on Sundays. They can either just get you buckets of flowers or they’ll work with you to design arrangements, whatever you need. They were awesome because initially we had planned to do our own flowers, and then a couple months before the wedding when I said oh-eff-that, we still got to work with them to get our centerpiece and ceremony arrangements done and they delivered right to the venue, it was awesome (and not too $$! we delivered our own jars and vases to them the week before and that saved us a bunch).

      • ddayporter

        haha WOOPS I meant to direct this to Stephanie. obvi Katie is all set with flowers. ;)

  • Jen

    Thanks for the great post! Its fun to see confident brides (and grooms) who pull of a rockin good time of a wedding! Great vibes!

  • GORGEOUS photos Allison Shelley! Beautiful wedding, Katie!!

  • bailey

    i’m tearing up. this is gorgeous. thank you for sharing.

  • Alyssa

    How lovely!! Everyone looks so happy and excited, and that’s really all you need! Good food, great dancing and lots of love. (Plus, I just want to hug the dog AND the little girl with the staring contest. SO adorable…)

    And can I say I’m a little jealous, but for a completely lunatic reason? I LOVE that you were able to incorporate Ugandan traditions in your wedding; I’m jealous of anyone who can because it is so wonderful and meaningful. My father from Guyana and when I wanted to put some Guyanese traditions in the wedding, I couldn’t find many! Plus, my dad is so gung-ho American now that when I mentioned it, he looked at me like, “WHY?” *sigh*

  • Kate

    I totally teared up, too! SO beautiful in so many different ways.

    We’re also DC locals (Mt. Pleasant) gearing up for our big day. Sadly, Tabard isn’t big enough for us as we’ll have 100 guests. If any other 51st-staters have ideas for similar venues, we’d be super appreciative for the input.

    Katie – did you guys look at other area venues? (And YES – we’re totally going to be talking to the farmers’ markets in DC for flowers and our veggie centerpieces. Love love love this idea.)

    <3 k

    • Katie

      Hey Kate! (or, shall I say, neighbor – we’re in U St area) Tabard was the first venue we looked at, and we LOVED it and locked it down immediately. So I can’t really speak to any other venues, unfortunately. I think Tabard could host 100 ppl for a standing reception, but that may not be ideal for your purposes (it wasn’t for ours).

      And I highly recommend our friendly florist at the 14th and U farmer’s market. :) – Katie

    • Jenn

      Hi Kate,

      I am planning my DC wedding for next year, and after stressing about venues for a little while booked the Carnegie Institution at 16th and P as soon as I found it. The rental fee for the venue is not cheap, but not as outrageous as many I found in the area, and as you have to provide your own catering you have so much flexibility on that side of your budget. http://www.ciw.edu/events/building_rental. We are doing our ceremony there as well – the building is phenomenally beautiful and shouldn’t need much in the way of decorating either. Best of luck!


  • Beth

    Such gorgeous photos and loved the music!!

  • I love your dress! Who made it?

    Gorgeous wedding…all of it :)

    • Katie

      Thanks Rosie! The dress is Claire Pettibone – Rosa. :)

  • What a gorgeous couple! Eighteenth Street Lounge is definitely one of our favorite spots in Dupont so I was very happy to see this featured on APR! I love the blend of culture, their creativity and all things important to them. It’s weddings like this one that make me proud to be practical.

  • Woops! APW! Sorry, Meg!

  • Julianna

    what a beautiful wedding! (yay, DC!!!) the pictures are so phenomenal, you can literally feel the joy pouring out of them. thanks for sharing your wedding grad wisdom.

  • I looked up those songs and they are really beautiful and totally different. I agree that music really sets the tone for living. It’s been an important consideration while we have been planning our ceremony.

    I also love your Ugandan dancers. I really enjoy learning new types of dancing and am a bit jealous I’ve never seen this. What a treat for all your friends and family. And a great way to incorporate traditions that are important to you (not just standard stuff).

    Congratulations and thank you for sharing with us!

  • Katie

    Hope my repeated comments on my own blog post aren’t a party foul, but if the link to the music isn’t working, I fixed the link to the wedding compilation on my blog (at the bottom): http://onepartmartha.blogspot.com/2010/03/practical-wedding-post-shouldnt-they.html. Cheers to APW!

  • Kristy

    This wedding is perfection. It’s the perfect combination of intimacy AND a crazy rockin’ good time. Love it!

  • Stacie

    I’m getting married at the Tabard Inn in November! I stalk new photos of weddings there all the time–always so exciting to see how beautiful it is and imagine my own photos after.

  • I’m just so excited to see Black folks on a wedding blog! Yippee!!! It looks like it was a crazy good time…as weddings should be!

    • meg

      You know, as discussed before, you can ACHEM submit your own wedding. We’re not discriminating, but we can only work with what we’ve got.

  • Jess

    Great post! I’m also getting married at the Tabard Inn later this year!

  • Maureen

    Love it! So beautiful! Katie, if you are reading this, how did you get your party favor CDs to look so professional? We’re doing favor mixes for our wedding too and I’m not thrilled about my terrible handwriting in Sharpie :).

    • Katie

      Maureen – We asked our invite designers to translate part of our invite design to CD label format. Then Daniel printed out all the CD labels, applied them to the CDs, and printed out a sticky label with the song list to adhere to the back of the white CD envelope. Its pretty simple – just get a few friends to help with all the labeling/packaging (luring them with alcohol helps to sweeten the deal).

  • Maureen

    Thanks Katie! Awesome. I’m excessively fond of a good mix-tape!

  • april

    Lovely couple, great post, awesome photos, and what a fun rockin’ party y’all had!

  • Dream

    Damn your wedding looks fun. And I don’t mean a little fun, it’s looks likes an effen blast!

  • jess

    here’s to multi-culti love. Holla!

  • Anna

    Uh-oh…Katie, is your blog down? I am deep in wedding mix-making and would love to read more about yours!

  • katie

    Sorry y’all. I’ve been revamping the blog, and its now at: http://hg-dc.blogspot.com/!