anna + matt // Athenaeum Hotel

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Anna and Matt’s wedding day was all about family, friends, love, and laughter. It was our kind of day through and through!

It’s so special when couples choose a location that is meaningful to them. Anna’s family owns a house at The Chautauqua Institution, so she grew up spending her summers there and has so many amazing memories. It felt like a full circle kind of moment to take photos of her with her family in and around that house, and I felt grateful to be a part of it. The Athenaeum Hotel is gorgeous and grand with a rich history. When you walk through the doors, you can feel that it has many, many stories to tell, and I love photographing in locations like that.

These two are just the sweetest couple, and I’m thrilled that they were willing to share so much of their love story and wedding day memories for this post!! The photos do a great job of telling the story of their day (if I do say so myself), but the words they shared turn this blog post a beautiful journey that is well worth taking. I know you’ll enjoy it as much as I did!  :)

Matt: “Although we don’t remember, we first met while attending the Meeting House preschool in Madison, WI. Shortly after, Anna’s family moved away to Clinton, NY and we wouldn’t meet again for another 15 years while studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa. On one of the first nights in the country we were playing cards with a group of other study abroad students at a local bar called Pig and Swizzle, and as we talked we quickly realized that we were both in the Meeting House preschool Class of 1994. After bonding over this shared history we became good friends, spending much of our time in South Africa traveling and exploring together. We started dating during our senior year of college and then both landed jobs in NYC after we graduated. Although we had a blast living in the city, we were ultimately plotting our return to South Africa and after a year of NYC, we both got jobs back in South Africa and returned to Cape Town for another year where I worked for a non-profit organization that sought to provide policy guidance as the government transitioned out of Apartheid, while Anna worked for a non-profit focused on HIV/AIDS education and prevention. After an amazing year of rewarding work and lots of adventures, we moved to Washington, DC where Anna started medical school at Georgetown University and I started a PhD program in economics at the University of Maryland.

Anna: “During the spring of 2017, while I was consumed with the crazy hours of my surgery rotations, Matt began plotting a big surprise. Taking advantage of my fatigue, Matt was able to size my ring while I was sound asleep. We had plans to travel up to Matt’s parent’s home in Vermont for the week I had off between finishing my 3rd year of medical school and starting my 4th year. I was planning on having a quiet week of studying with a bit of hiking thrown in for good measure. Little did I know that Matt had been planning an elaborate proposal for the end of the week and had made secret plans with my whole family to arrive on Thursday evening to celebrate with us. On Thursday afternoon we set off to do a hike. It had been raining that morning and for the last several days so we had the entire mountain to ourselves. Although the trail was a bit muddy, the views were beautiful with lots of low hanging clouds nestled between the mountains. Matt proposed at the top of the mountain, and even had the foresight to bring a couple celebratory beers! As we were taking in the views and sharing our excitement, the rain came back with a vengeance and we got drenched on our hike back down. Eager to share the news and dry off, we hurried back to Matt’s parents’ house where his whole family was there to congratulate us. They ushered us to the fireplace and as we walked into the living room, my whole family popped out from the corner. It was the greatest surprise and our families had SO much fun celebrating together the rest of the weekend.

Anna: “I loved spending the morning with my best friends. We woke up early and went on a run around the Chautauqua grounds to burn some nervous energy with some of my bridesmaids, then we spent the rest of the day hanging out and getting ready. It was so relaxing and centering to be surrounded by my favorite people! Inspired by an old tradition called ‘fun sock Friday’, instead of getting matching robes, I got everyone a pair of ‘fun socks’. I slowly acquired the socks over the course of the year as I found a pairs that reminded me of each of my bridesmaids. It was so fun hanging out, drinking champagne, and playing cards in our goofy socks!

Anna: “Wedding dress shopping was tough! One, I didn’t realize how long it takes to or how long it might take after purchasing the dress to actually get it with the ordering and alteration process. Two, I’m pretty picky when it comes to dresses, and since my usual attire includes sweatpants and old soccer t-shirts, getting into a wedding dress shopping mindset took some work! Luckily I had a crew of amazing women helping me through the process. I probably tried on close to 50 different dresses before finding the one. I was looking for something simple and elegant, and I had more ideas about what I didn’t like than what I do like. Luckily with the help of my mom, my sister, and my friends, Lindsay and Paige, and an amazing bridal consultant I stumbled on the perfect dress for me in a little bridal shop (Global Bridal Gallery) in Alexandria, VA. It was the first and only dress that I tried on and felt like me!

Anna: “I loved our whole ceremony. We had two officiants, our good friend Lindsay and a family friend Frank. They were the perfect team and completely personalized the ceremony to reflect our love, relationship with each other, and the importance of our families and friends in shaping who we are both as individuals and as a couple.

Matt: “During the ceremony our siblings played Lover’s Waltz. It was my favorite part of the wedding since it gave me time to appreciate the moment and how fortunate I was to be standing up at the alter with Anna.

Anna: “Recessing down the aisle was another highlight. We were both so giddy with happiness, filled with awe, and so humbled to be surrounded by so many amazing people. It was an amazing moment after the most perfect ceremony.

Matt: “When we walked down the aisle after our ceremony I felt overwhelmed with happiness that Anna and I were officially starting our married life together and so grateful we could share this moment with all of our friends and family.

Anna: “After the wedding, it was my idea to bring our (rather large) wedding party out on a dock to take some photos. As soon as we all got onto the dock, a big section of the dock collapsed, sending half the party waist deep into the lake and the other half trapped on the other side. Luckily we have amazing friends and family who all expected some sort of disaster to happen given the number of (mis)adventures that Matt and I have lead them on in the past, so they were totally unfazed by the plunge into the lake. This was such a classic thing to happen to me and Matt and we will all be laughing about this for many years to come!!! (But really – Jenn and Ben have the photos to prove all the laughs this caused AND how awesome everyone looked even after the dock collapsed!!!)

Matt: “When half the wedding party fell into Chautauqua Lake after the ceremony, we thought this was hilarious, because a major theme of our ceremony and many of the speeches made during the wedding were about adventures/misadventures that we get our friends and family into. This was a perfect example of that!”

Anna: “Matt’s mom Sally gave me a sixpence that she had received from her mother, who brought it back to the US from England over 30 years ago, with the intention of incorporating it into the weddings of her grandchildren. It was very special to be the safe-keeper of this sixpence (in my shoe) during the wedding, however, when the dock collapsed and I lost my shoe I completely forgot about the sixpence. By some miracle, Hannah (Matt’s sister and my bridesmaid) found the sixpence sitting on on a piece of wood a few inches underwater when she was getting out of the water!!! This is one lucky coin!

Anna: “We both value the same things in life and even though we are often busy with work, we are really good at helping each other maintain perspective in the things we do. We also have a TON of fun together, whether we are traveling, hanging out with friends and family, or hanging out at home with our dog Ray we are always making each other laugh, exchanging jokes, and having a blast together.

Anna: “The foundation of our relationship is built around sharing adventures (and often misadventures) together. Whether it’s heading out to the mountains for a hike, orvisiting friends friends and family, we love to explore the world around us and experience all it has to offer. We are also both avid soccer players- we both played in college and now keep busy by playing in different co-ed leagues throughout DC. Our absolute favorite thing to do together is travel and we’ve made it our goal to do at least one ‘big trip’ a year.

Anna: “Some of our biggest highlights from the past few years include a 10 day road trip across all of New Zealand with 5 other friends – with a LOT of driving and minimal sleep, we somehow managed to hike Mount Doom (from Lord of the Rings), swim with dolphins, backpack through 3 national parks, and had a run-in with NZ police after being recruited to sing karaoke with strangers in the streets of Queenstown. We also went on a Christmas trip to Patagonia, where we backpacked for 5 days through Torres del Paine. We did the hike to the final summit wearing Santa suits (the start of our Santa suit Christmas hiking tradition) and landed ourselves on the front page of a local Chilean newspaper!

Anna: “Matt’s sisters, aka creative geniuses, rewrote the lyrics to Africa by Toto to be about Matt and surprised us by performing this with both of our extended families at the rehearsal dinner. At the reception they were able to surprise us once more by handing out lyrics to all the wedding guests and the band for a repeat performance. It was incredible!

Matt: “Anna and I were dreading the first dance before our wedding but this actually ended up being a lot of fun. We normally don’t like being the center of attention but once we got up there we didn’t seem to mind and were able to enjoy our first dance as husband and wife.

Anna: “Our first dance song was ‘You Are The Best Thing’ by Ray LaMontagne – we listened to this song a lot during the first few months that we were together and when we hear the song it always brings us back to that time, which was so fun and filled with adventure.

Matt: “I loved having a band so good that even my 89 year old grandparents couldn’t resist bringing their best moves out to the dance floor. Watching Anna dance with my grandpa reminded me that our wedding wasn’t just about us but was about our families coming together.

A little bit of wedding planning advice from Anna and Matt: “Stay true to yourselves when you plan the wedding. There are so many ‘to-dos’ in wedding planning, but staying grounded and doing things that represent you and your relationship will be what you (and your friends and family) appreciate the most!

Also, we can’t recommend Jenn and Ben highly enough!!! We were looking for a wedding photographer that could capture the feeling, emotion and overall experience of our wedding day, and they did that and so much more. From the simplicity of the planning process, to their incredible ability to make two camera-shy people feel at ease for our ENTIRE wedding day, to the absolutely incredible photographs that captured every emotion we had during our day, it was a true privilege to work with Ayres Photgraphy!!!

Loving Anna and Matt’s portrait session by the water?? Click here for another great waterfront wedding!

Wedding Vendors Include:

Ceremony: Hall of Philosophy
Reception: Athenaeum Hotel
Hair and Make-up: Mirage Salon
Wedding Dress Shop: Global Bridal Gallery
Wedding Dress Designer: Casablanca Bridal
Bridesmaid Dresses: Azazie
Groom’s Look: The Black Tux
Florist: Francesca’s Floral Design
Cake: The Cakery
Band: Silver Arrow Band