This originally ran as a Local Love in the 2020 issue.
Wedding Date May 4, 2019
Restaurateur Alex Smith and Christina Ghani, a senior national sports manager at Visit Baltimore, traveled in similar circles but hadn’t spent much time together. In 2015, when Christina turned 30, Alex convinced her to have her birthday dinner at Ouzo Bay, his Greek seafood restaurant in Harbor East. He pulled out all the stops, including sending over bottles of Champagne. “We do that for every customer,” he teased her. She asked him to sit down since he was being so kind, but she remembers also coyly telling him, “I will never date you.” A year later, they moved in together. “She supports me,” says Alex, founder and president of Atlas Restaurant Group, which has 11 local restaurants and counting. “We’re kind of in the same business,” says Christina. “I understand having to entertain clients and giving so much of yourself, and the hours aren’t normal.” Still, they managed to spend all of their free time together, and three years after they started dating, he popped the question on a ski trip in Aspen. It wasn’t exactly a surprise, but the majestic view on Maroon Bells and the photographer made it magical all the same. “It was one of my favorite days,” she says. And while initially Christina was thinking an intimate destination wedding, Alex had hoped to get married on his family’s farm on the Eastern Shore. “It’s a place that’s going to stay in our family for generations,” he says. “And I told her I thought it would be cool to one day show our kids and grandkids where we got married.” Christina was convinced.
The home, Magnolia Manor, is in Royal Oak on the Tred Avon River, five miles from St. Michaels. The river flows into the Choptank and is a special place for the Smith family. “We wanted to celebrate the natural beauty of the farm,” says Christina. So they stayed with a neutral palette that included lots of greenery, candles, and flowers everywhere, which managed to be beautiful but a little wild, too. The entire wedding—which took place on the banks of Maxmore Creek—had to be built from the ground up. “You had to bring the entire party,” says Christina. (Union3 Event Productions was up for the task, which also included creating an incredible sunken dance floor.) The almost 300 guests feasted on squid ink campanelle, Hawaiian Kona Kampachi, lamb chops, prime rib, bluefin tuna sashimi flown in from Japan, and a raw bar with lobster and king crab, all sourced from Smith’s own restaurants. Another highlight? Clarinetist Doreen Ketchens, one of the few female band leaders in New Orleans, leading them down the aisle as husband and wife—along with a second line brass band—and kicking off the party that lasted until 4 a.m. They had created an event that intersected their new family with the tradition of the farm. Says Christina, “The fact that we get to walk through where we got married for the rest of our lives—that’s so special.”
Beauty Lisa Jones-Butz (hair) and Debbie Federico (makeup) Cake Trouvaille Bakery Catering Atlas Restaurant Group Décor & Lighting Revolution Event Design Floral Design Flowers & Fancies Ice Bar Ice Lab Linens La Tavola Fine Linen Music Doreen’s Jazz New Orleans (ceremony); Rhythm Collective from Elan Artists (reception) Officiant Rev. Dr. William F. R. Gilroy Photographer Sarah Falugo Rentals & Tabletop White Glove Rentals Stationery mlc designs Tenting Select Event Group Transportation Z-Best Valet Courtesy Parking Videography Aaron Novak Wedding Dress Vera Wang at Carine’s Bridal Atelier Wedding PLanner Union3 Events