While Emily Graf spent years navigating the world of online dating and going on one mediocre-to-bad date after another, Vishal Kumar woke up one morning, decided to try online dating, and matched with his future wife on the first swipe. “The rest is history!” smiles Emily.
As the couple enjoys exploring new countries together, Vishal planned to propose somewhere they had not yet been – considering the cherry-blossom festival in Japan, then Cappadocia in Turkey; however, pandemic travel restrictions led him to ultimately surprise his beloved with a trip to Hawaii, where he got down on one knee at the end of a path decorated with memories of their relationship in the botanical gardens of Kauai.
When choosing a venue, the Washington, DC-based couple searched up and down the East Coast, from New York to Pennsylvania, and finally Virginia. “After months of looking, we ended up booking the venue we toured first, Dover Hall,” shares Emily of the estate designed to resemble an English Tudor castle, which allowed them to have all events onsite and offer beautiful spaces for the bridal party to get ready. “My bridesmaids and I felt like queens in the bridal suite, and Vishal and his groomsmen enjoyed food and drinks in the billiards room before the wedding festivities started!” she adds.
Since they are both foodies, Emily notes that they requested a tasting before committing to the venue to ensure they were satisfied with the fare. “We were sold!” smiles the bride. The pair then hired their wedding planner based on the recommendation of the venue. “We were drawn to how passionate she was about making the day unique and curated to us as a couple,” confirms Emily. “She always put our individuality at the forefront of all her suggestions and recommendations.”
“The overarching theme for the design was ‘mysteriously elegant,’” shares the bride. “We love the unexpected and unplanned we have experienced [during our travels], and we wanted our guests to have a similar experience.” To honor this vision, unique additions included a cappella singers at the ceremony that were seated alongside guests and sang “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King after Emily and Vishal were pronounced husband and wife, interesting wedding cocktails crafted by the groom, wedding passports in lieu of traditional escort cards, surprise post-dinner espresso martinis, a remixed first-dance song, and a fun second look for both the bride and groom.
“We wanted to make sure everyone walked away from the weekend with amazing memories.”
To complement the architecture of the venue, three custom floral arches marked the spot for the alfresco ceremony showcasing seasonal fall greenery and local florals including marigolds, roses, celosia, dahlias, amaranthus, zinnias, hydrangeas, and lisianthus in autumnal hues. During the ceremony, which was officiated by one of Emily’s best friends, the pair also honored the Hindu tradition of the Jai Mala by exchanging floral garlands. “We are currently planning a separate Hindu wedding, but it was nice to incorporate Vishal’s background and traditions during our Western ceremony!” explains the bride.
The same a cappella singers who surprised loved ones during the ceremony also led partygoers to the cocktail-hour area by singing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by Frankie Valli and then kicked off the festivities with “Party” by Beyoncé. In addition to finding their table assignments, guests also used the wedding passports to navigate the grand estate, enjoying the billiards room, looking through family photos in the Italian dining room, relaxing by the fire and playing chess in the library, sipping Champagne in the French parlor, and taking in the solarium where their passport was stamped.
Before joining friends and family for the reception, the couple took a moment to savor their favorite wine and canapés together. “It was great to be able to have a moment together in the chaos of the day,” notes the groom. Soon, they gathered with friends and family in the ballroom, which was designed as a night “under the stars” in honor of Vishal’s love of astrophotography. Thus, tables decorated with fall-toned centerpieces were cloaked in sparkling midnight navy linens, and the reception tent was decorated with twinkling small lights and Moravian star pendants above the dance floor.
In addition to the dream ceremony and elegant reception décor, the most important part of the celebration for the bride and groom was their guests’ experience. “We wanted to make sure everyone walked away from the weekend with amazing memories,” smiles Emily of their picture-perfect day that honored their love and their loved ones.
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