Everyone Wore White at This Deacon Hotel Micro-Wedding
The venue changed from an Airbnb two days before the intimate celebration.
Sometimes, it’s all about the simple things — like a small, chic soiree styled with all-white decor and attire, down to the bride, groom and their guests. Such is the case with this Deacon hotel micro-wedding, which was everything the couple dreamed despite a few pandemic pivots and pre-party technical glitches. Photographer Taylor Baldwin of Mama Photog snapped it all, and we’re sharing the celebration below.
It all began in 2010, during She’Neil Johnson and Zachary Spence Jr.’s freshman year at Howard University. The Brewerytown couple both ended up in the nearly empty cafeteria after midday class and sat together with a mutual friend, unbeknownst to them. They didn’t speak much — She’Neil didn’t even get his name — but started crossing paths at parties and events, got to know each other and developed a connection. They eventually started dating in 2011, over the fall break during their sophomore year.
Zach’s proposal seven years later (on February 22, 2018) was a showstopper. The systems engineer at Naval Sea Systems Command popped the question onstage during a Kelela concert in London — the singer and the city are among She’Neil’s favorites — pulling off an elaborate surprise that included a two-day trek across the pond, avoiding his bride-to-be in the Philly airport when her flight was delayed (his plane left right after hers) and getting her sister and friend, not to mention Kelela, in on the secret. The big moment went viral.
The couple picked August 22, 2020 for their wedding for a number of reasons. Among them: The month and year marked a decade since they first met at Howard, and they’d initially planned to say “I do” at Long View Gallery in D.C., with a guest list of 200. “No matter what happened, we wanted to make [this] our special day,” says She’Neil, the CEO and co-founder of skincare company Base Butter. So when the pandemic put a kink in that approach, they shifted gears, informed their attendees of the postponement and prepped for a small backyard wedding at an Airbnb in Philly with their immediate family. But a glitch in the technical system canceled their reservation two days beforehand, and they weren’t able to rebook.
She’Neil admits she was nervous — her family was arriving the next day, and she and Zach simply wanted to get married. Luckily, a friend who knew the owners of The Deacon in Grad Hospital made a call on the couple’s behalf and found that the hotel could accommodate the wedding and an overnight stay for their family.
The rest of the details came together from there. Planner Kevinah Williams stayed true to the couple’s wish for an all-white, chic and eclectic wedding. She hand-built and customized a circular wedding arch, accenting it with gold and greenery. (Nature’s Gallery Florist created the bouquet and arrangements of large white roses, orchids, cascading foliage, seasonal blooms and pampas grass.) “It’s exactly what was envisioned for our larger wedding,” says She’Neil, who was thrilled to see the decor for the first time when she walked down the aisle.
In keeping with the theme, all 14 guests (including the couple’s puppy, King) wore white, and She’Neil and her sisters found her headpiece the morning of the Big Day at a shop on South Street. Particularly sentimental? She’Neil’s grandmother, Helen Lewis-Higgins, officiated the ceremony, which ended with the newlyweds walking down the aisle then having a small dance party with their family before pictures and dinner.
The only Big Day hiccup: The couple wanted to keep their intimate nuptials private and asked their immediate family not to post any photos or videos on social media. As tends to happen, someone ended up posting a pre-wedding congratulatory message and tagged She’Neil and Zach. “Before we knew it, the cat was out of the bag,” says the bride. “I even had to quickly let our larger-wedding guests know via email that it was indeed a small ceremony for the time being.” The pair ultimately let their in-person guests post the experience on social and shared their wedding pictures with their future guests so that they could experience the joy, too.
“Embrace it!” says the couple, who are planning their postponed soiree for September in D.C. and hope to eventually head to Africa for their honeymoon to learn more about their culture and ancestors. “Everything truly happens for a reason. We wouldn’t want our wedding to happen any other way — it was an intimate moment in time with our loved ones.”
Photographer: Taylor Baldwin of Mama Photog | Venue: The Deacon | Planning/Design: Kevinah Williams of Krafted by K | Florals: Nature’s Gallery Florist | Catering: Ricky’s Rollers | Bride’s Gown: Custom design from Amblasha | Hair: Parris Lane | Makeup: Sabrina Johnson (the bride’s sister) | Groom’s Attire: SuitSupply (styling by Amber Wyche) | Cake: Domonyque Ladd | Officiant: Helen Lewis-Higgins (the bride’s grandmother) | Illustrator: Shema Love
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