Welcome back to today’s lovely featured real wedding! Jessica and Steven celebrated their Virginia wedding reception with a rustic-chic party at River Farm in Alexandria, complete with DIY details that the family even helped out on! If you missed their sweet outdoor wedding ceremony, be sure to check it out here.  Their wedding – planned to perfection with Margo from Bright Occasions – had everything from personalized desserts and treats to custom signs that helped set the setting for their wedding guests – who all traveled to help them celebrate. We love how creative Jessica and Steve got while keeping within their wedding budget and still making all their wedding dreams come to life! Special thanks to Victoria Ruan Photography for sharing every element and touching moment through her photographs.

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From Jessica: We wanted the wedding reception to reflect our appreciation for our families and loved ones since they are who shaped us and made us the people – and partners – we are today.


Early-on in the wedding planning process, we decided that we would tackle any projects that were feasible. This allowed us to customize the details to fit our personality, but also helped us to save money where possible. We made our wedding invitations, place cards, cocktail straws with banners, favor tags and packaging (with help from my brother-in-law, mother and godmother), some of the floral arrangements (with help from my sister), and the chalk wedding program (which was designed by my bridesmaid who happens to be a teacher). There were plenty of things we sourced through Etsy too, including our letter “L” guest book, table numbers and stands, decorations that matched our color scheme, and a welcome sign.

We really enjoyed making the welcome bags for our out-of-town wedding guests. The bags contained treats from our respective hometowns of Chicago, IL such as Vitner Potato Chips; and Grosse Pointe, MI such as Sanders candy. We also included items in the welcome bag from our new home-state of Virginia such as Peanuts. We included personalized notes welcoming everyone, detailing the significance of the treats and a schedule of events.

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The couple even used United With Love to help in their planning and we love that:

We found our wedding planner, Margo of Bright Occasions, by reading some of the articles she authored on United With Love. Scrolling through the real DC area weddings also provided us with inspiration for our own wedding.

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Many people tried to warn us that the wedding day would be over before we knew it. We had no idea how right they were. It was the most fun we’ve ever had, but it was over in the blink of an eye. We wish we had taken more time to share private moments with each other. We should have designated someone to tell us we were due for a “time out” so that we could quietly slip away for a moment together.

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Jessica had two pieces of advice for other Washington DC area engaged couples:

Most importantly, make sure you make time for you and your partner on your wedding day. The day goes by quickly and everyone wants to wish you congratulations. It’s easy to let the time slip by. Designate someone to pull you away from the festivities so that you can reconnect, take a moment to soak in all the love of that day (between each other and from all your loved ones), and enjoy a peaceful moment together before heading back out to the dance floor!

We thought asking our friends and family for help with some of the DIY projects would be a burden, but we underestimated that everyone wants to feel like they’ve contributed to making your wedding special in one way or another and help ease the stress of planning. Leaning on loved ones for support in the final 48 hours was a blessing and they truly appreciated being part of the process. Not to say you should constantly ask for favors or overwhelm them with projects, but it’s okay to ask for help – these people love you and want to be part of your special day. 

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Congratulations to Jessica and Steve! Thank you for sharing your beautiful and oh-so personal Virginia wedding reception with us!

The following Washington DC area wedding professionals contributed to their wedding:

Wedding Planner: Bright Occasions
Photography: Victoria Ruan Photography
Invitations: Paper Source
Floral Designer: Whole Foods
Hair + Makeup Artist: Modern Bridal Studio
Wedding Dress: Watters
Bridal Salon: Katherine’s Bridal Boutique
Headpiece/Veil: Etsy
Jewelry: Silver Parrot
Videographer: Wedit
Bridal Party: J. Crew
Bridal Party Accessories: Anthropologie
Groom’s + Groomsmen Attire: Mens Warehouse
Groom’s + Groomsmen Accessories: Tommy Hilfiger and Tie Bar
Ceremony + Reception Venue: River Farm
Officiants: Kevin Hlavaty and John Shanks
Ceremony Music: Anthem
Rentals, Linens + Catering: R&R Catering
Lighting: Frost Lighting and Pier 1
Reception Music: Adrian Duke Project
Cake: Kogibow Bakery and Fancy Cakes by Leslie
Favors: Whole Foods

For more wedding vendors, please visit our Washington DC area wedding vendor guide and for even more amazing local ideas, check out our wedding inspiration galleries and other Washington DC area real weddings.

Photo Credits: Victoria Ruan Photography

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