Event planner Lauryn Prattes and her beau Michael Harn had been dating for eight years prior to their engagement; however, Michael still wanted the proposal to be a complete surprise for his beloved, so he decided to pop the question when she would least expect it.

After a long day at a client’s wedding, Lauryn came home to candles on the floor and Michael in a suit waiting to ask her those four special words. After years of coordinating the nuptials of so many brides-to-be, it was now her turn to plan her own big day.

Since Lauryn has always desired a spring wedding, the couple had just over seven months to plan their May celebration. “I thought I knew exactly what to expect, and from the planning standpoint, I certainly did. I knew what team of vendors I wanted to work with, but I forgot that I would have to be both the bride and planner,” she confirms.

Though she wanted to host a destination wedding in Paris, the couple ultimately decided to plan their soirée in Washington, DC, so loved ones could easily attend. Thus, they chose a modern, Parisian romance-inspired theme and a venue that exudes the ornately decorated interiors, romantic courtyards, and intimate essence of the “City of Lights.”

Since Lauryn and Michael wanted their ceremony to be focused on each other, they had only one bridesmaid and groomsman. In the same fashion, the décor was kept simple, yet sweet. Delightful harp music filled the room with modern tunes as guests found their seats in translucent chairs offering views of the heartfelt vow exchange that took place beneath a crystal chandelier.

The bride glided down the aisle in a striking mermaid gown carrying a timeless bouquet of peonies, ranunculus blossoms, orchids, and lily of the valley blooms. A charming service included two readings – one religious and one in which they felt a personal connection. “After almost nine years together, we felt a lot of the suggested readings didn’t necessarily apply to us,” attests Lauryn. “We found ‘He’s Not Perfect’ by Bob Marley and edited the wording so that it was about both of us.”

Once they were at last pronounced husband and wife, guests enjoyed an elegant cocktail hour featuring his-and-hers libation stations. “Michael’s Martini Bar” was an ode to the groom’s pastime of enjoying the drink after work, and friends and family indulged in three varieties: classic with a twist, gin with an olive, and lavender. For Lauryn, a gold bar cart displayed a tower of coupe glasses filled with Rosé Champagne and garnished with elderflower macarons.

Attendees found their seating assignments by way of unique escort cards, which doubled as favors. Fabergé egg-inspired trinket boxes with blush calligraphy tags denoting each guest’s name were opened to present gold charms that displayed table numbers on a bed of grey tulle. “Those were keepsakes to take home and something I see at our friends’ houses when I visit,” shares Lauryn of the special detail.

When it came to the reception, Michael was eager to have a live band and wanted their loved ones’ experience to be above and beyond. “The entertainment was awesome!” he exclaims. “Lauren surprised me by hiring a soulful singer to sing Sinatra-type tunes during cocktail hour.”

As a further surprise, the couple’s entertainment company had also arranged for the crooner to perform their first dance song, “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz. “It was hands down the most memorable moment of our wedding,” remembers Lauryn. “For those three minutes of our dance, it felt like just the two of us in the room.”

The alfresco reception space evoked a European feel with light, airy décor and springtime florals. “I love soft and romantic flowers, which is why I selected May for our wedding,” notes the bride. Dinner took place in the garden around a reflecting pool, and twinkling café lights transported loved ones to the courtyards of Paris. Guests dined at a mix of round and rectangular tables showcasing lovely centerpieces, ambient candlelight, ornate place settings with gilt chargers, and romantic menus with laser-cut elements.

The dramatic head table featured four towering arrangements brimming with hydrangeas, peonies, and cascading orchids and tulips in shades of blush and ivory. Bullion chairs were covered with draped linens tied with intricately designed gold interlaces featuring a rose motif, which inspired additional details throughout the day.

Though the celebration was certainly a formal fête, the couple made sure to include personalized details. As a playful nod to their eight-year relationship prior to the engagement, a custom crest featuring a flying pig with a banner reading, “Michael and Lauryn At Last,” was included in the save-the-date cards and also became a subtle touch throughout the festivities.

For dessert, guests visited “La Pâtisserie” where they could enjoy three incredible cakes as well as a fourth miniature confection topped with a macaron ball and decorated with ruffles, relief details, and sugar flowers. A custom dessert cart displaying Parisian-inspired sweets allowed guests to order their desired selections from the pastry chef. As revelers left, breakfast burritos from the groom’s favorite eatery were served as a late-night snack before the romantic sparkler send-off.

As both a professional planner and a bride, Lauryn offers sage advice to brides-to-be. “Hire a planner! Even as a professional who knows what to do, being the bride felt more like a job instead of being an enjoyable time,” confesses Lauryn, who hired a month-of coordinator so she could focus on enjoying the last few weeks leading up to her wedding and take care of “bride” things, such as nail appointments and final fittings. She adds, “I loved our wedding! It was perfect, and I am so thankful to our friends and family as well as my amazing vendors who made it happen.”

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