This originally ran as a Local Love in the 2022 issue.
Wedding Date October 31, 2020
Like in some sort of rom-com, Ariel and Kevin Gwenden met in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, on a yoga retreat in March 2016, when Kevin placed his yoga mat next to Ariel’s and introduced himself. “He was the first guy I ever truly fell ‘in-like’ with upon first meeting,” says Ariel. The crush was mutual, and for the next few days, they flirted between warrior poses. The last night they lay on the beach together. “The sky was so dark you couldn’t tell where the sky met the ocean, and you could see every star in the sky,” recalls Ariel. It was all so perfect that Kevin grabbed her hand. “This is super corny, but a shooting star immediately shot across the sky [at that moment],” says Ariel with a laugh. “We both saw it and the rest was history after that.”
Three years later, after a surprise engagement at Cylburn Arboretum, where Kevin had Ariel’s family hiding in the woods to surprise her after the proposal, they got down to the business of planning their wedding day. They both wanted a fall wedding, with a nod to old architecture, jewel tones, and romantic cascading florals. But there were a few caveats. “My mother and grandmother insisted on us getting married on a waxing moon rather than waning moon—‘waning moon, waning marriage,’ my mother would say,” explains Ariel. “They’re sort of witchy and superstitious like that.” As it turned out, Halloween was a waxing moon, so called because its illuminated area is increasing. They grabbed that date and ran with it. “We decided to give our guests the option to dress in 1950s attire to match our ‘old romantic glam’ theme,” she says. “So, we were married on a waxing, full, blue moon during daylight saving in a global pandemic on Halloween night—there’s a story for the kids.”
COVID-19 had eased up by then, but not enough to keep their original plans. The guest list plummeted from 275 to 35 and the Hindu ceremony planned for two months prior, to honor Kevin’s family and his Indo-Guyanese heritage, was canceled. But Ariel and Kevin decided to make the best of their pivot. Madison House, a restored 1850s mansion in Mount Vernon—the site of the first orthopedic clinic in America, whose patients included Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and Katharine Hepburn—served as both reception location for their smaller guest list and weekend home for the couple. “The vibe was just right,” says Ariel. “Normally a wedding reception is four hours, but we got to party all night without a time limit, and when we were tired, Kevin and I went right upstairs to bed.”
And while the entire day was pretty perfect, Ariel was incredibly anxious as she rushed to get to the ceremony. Finally, her videographer turned to her and said, “Ariel, the show can’t go on without you. If you’re a few minutes late to the ceremony, so what?” Ariel took a deep breath and just let all the pressure she had placed on herself drift away. She walked down the aisle beaming. “You don’t sweat the details much after that,” says Ariel. “Whatever was happening was going to happen, and it was still the absolute best day of my life.”
Beauty Caitlyn Meyer Pro Team Bridesmaids Velvet bridesmaid dresses from RenzRags and Valdenize on Etsy Cake Pâtisserie Poupon Caterer Zaatar, Sakoon Indian Fusion Restaurant Floral Design Yarrow Floral Co. Groom and Groomsmen Christopher Schafer Clothier (groom); Bonobos (groomsmen) Honeymoon Cancun, Merida, and Valladolid, Mexico Invitations Paperless Post Location Saints Philip & James Catholic Church (ceremony); Madison House (reception) Officiant Fr. Aquinas Beale Photographer Nessa K Photography Transportation American Limo, friend Christian Toth’s restored ‘65 Mustang Videographer Rivion Films Wedding Dress Martina Liana gown second-hand on the website Still White Wedding Planners Tira Lynn Events helped initially, before the wedding was downsized; Elaine Lachica, the bride’s aunt