Wedding Inspired by Dutch Golden Age Paintings in Washington, DC

Rachel Soclof and Stuart Portman

Photographed by: Eli Turner StudiosLocation: Washington, DC, United States

While working as health policy advisors in the U.S. Senate, passing one another in the hallways soon led to Rachel Soclof and Stuart Portman’s first date. Three months later, Stuart knew they were meant to be; and two years after they met, he proposed on a seemingly typical Saturday walk at Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown. “Immediately after we crossed the corner of boxwoods, I spotted our siblings who had traveled in to surprise me from Maryland, New York, and Missouri,” remembers Rachel. “When Stuart got down on one knee, he just stared at me lovingly, waiting for an answer… I had to remind him to ask me the question – he was truly speechless!” 

In just eight months, Rachel and Stuart organized nuptials that honored their shared Jewish beliefs as well as the city they love. “We wanted something quintessentially DC,” notes the bride, who focused on the details with her design team while incorporating the opinions of her future husband. Stuart confirms, “Being involved in the wedding-planning process made a beautiful evening a meaningful evening.” 

A dramatic venue featuring neoclassical architecture set the perfect canvas for the artistic motif the pair envisioned. “After a trip to Amsterdam a few years ago, I fell in love with the paintings of the Dutch Golden Age,” muses Rachel. “When we decided to get married in November, I knew that the lush color scheme and the elaborate designs of the Dutch Masters would work perfectly for the setting and time of year.” 

Once the ketubah was signed and the bedeken complete, the Orthodox Jewish ceremony began in the great hall. “I will always remember the look on Rachel’s face when she walked down the aisle, perfectly timed to uplifting music, as she realized that the wedding she has always dreamed of was happening,” says Stuart of the moments before they met at the floral-embellished chuppah at the top of the stairs, which were lined with pillar candles and blossoms in shades of ivory, oxblood, and eggplant. 

The service incorporated familial and religious traditions important to both Rachel and Stuart. The groom wore a tallit hand-woven in Jerusalem gifted by the bride’s parents, they performed the seven circles, and kiddush cups that belonged to the bride’s paternal and maternal grandfathers were used. “I felt strongly that the ceremony involve our families, so we made sure [they] were included in ways that put unique spins on a traditional Jewish wedding,” he shares. Following the Hebrew verse during the seven blessings, their dearest loved ones each recited a wish for the couple in English. 

Once husband and wife, a 45-minute hora started the revelry for the reception, decorated with still life-inspired décor to honor the couple’s vision. “The Amaryllis Floral & Event Design team truly made my Dutch Masters dream come true!” Rachel confirms. Tables were decorated with royal blue linens, golden accents, and lush fall-toned floral centerpieces in varying heights accented with greenery, unique curiosities such as books and feathers, and fresh fruits including grapes, apples, and pomegranates. “The detail that went into the variety of flowers used and the composition was unparalleled,” she adds. 

Choosing to observe their Jewish tradition of keeping kosher, “we put a lot of thought into the menu and wanted to showcase that a kosher wedding can also have beautiful and delicious food,” declares Stuart. The pair also paid special attention to the entertainment throughout the soirée. “On multiple occasions, we heard people say what an amazing recording we had, only to see them turn around and look in awe at the band on the stage,” he notes of the music, which they made sure to record. “It has been such a gift to be able to relive our wedding day through these recordings months later,” shares the bride. 

Rachel and Stuart had nothing but wonderful memories to cherish from their special day. “Our wedding planner told us how important it was to take a minute to look out at the room of people who flew in from all around the world to help us celebrate our life together,” smiles the groom. “It was an incredibly meaningful moment that helped us understand how beautiful the wedding day was from start to finish.”