The way that Ethan Bailey III and Ashley Bryant first met is a hotly contested topic. “We ‘met’ twice—but the funny story is I didn’t remember meeting him the first time,” Ashley says. “He certainly remembered, and won’t let me forget it. Turns out we met one night at a bar in Chicago, where our separate friend groups were gathered. Then, two days later, mutual friends purposely invited us to brunch.” Whether it was that night at the bar or days later at brunch, Ethan stood out to Ashley. “It was his demeanor,” she remembers. “He was a bit reserved and chill to be so good-looking, which enticed me even more to quickly draw him out of his shell.”
Selecting the venue for their wedding five years later was equally as accidental. By then, the duo called Washington, D.C., home, and Ashley remembers trying to find a rooftop spot for brunch on a beautiful spring day. “We wandered into the Conrad and both immediately knew we had just stepped into our wedding venue," she says. "The modern yet classic aesthetic was perfect for the backdrop we wanted for our special day.” That aesthetic, in fact, was paramount. Ethan works in marketing and spent six years at Nike; Ashley is a political and cultural impact consultant. “Both of us are branding snobs, so it was important for our wedding to truly reflect who we are in all ways," the bride admits. "We wanted our guests to feel the modern luxury from the first email to the last cocktail of the night.”
They pegged planner Yodit Gebreyes Endale to help bring the vision to life, and gave her one crucial piece of info about how they work. “We shared early on that it was best that most of our decisions be ‘yes’ or ‘no’ instead of multiple options, and she and her team nailed it every time,” Ashley explains. Yodit also helped them enlist a vendor team that highlighted diverse talent. “Minority-owned businesses aren’t often spotlighted in the wedding industry, but there is no shortage of BIPOC wedding vendors who are incredibly talented,” Ashley says. “Our wedding was a reflection of that.”
The wedding weekend kicked off with a rooftop welcome party before the big day on April 2, 2022. Read on to see how the whole thing came together, as planned by Favored by Yodit Events & Design and photographed by Lynn Dunston.
On a random Tuesday, Ashley visited Georgetown boutique Carine’s Bridal Atelier with her wedding planner. She tried on a number of dresses without finding "the one." Then, “after several misses, they informed us there was a dress in the back that was unique and likely a great fit; we were skeptical,” Ashley remembers. “They brought her out and we both just knew, it was her!” The winning wedding dress was a dramatic Viktor & Rolf gown with asymmetrical tulle strap and voluminous tulle skirt.
“My beauty look was classic drama,” Ashley says. “We were going for an elevated ‘me’ that was timeless, modern, and chic with little peeks of drama throughout the visual storytelling of my three different looks of the night.” She was in great hands with Kimora Mulan, who has done makeup for stars like Jennifer Hudson and Mary J. Blige. To finish the look, Ashley topped her blunt bob with a tiara headband by Eli Peacock.
Ethan went custom on a subtle houndstooth tuxedo, and paired it with Louboutin shoes and an oversized bow tie from Well Groomed Man. “I wore my custom Le Labo fragrance that was a birthday gift from Ashley; I only break it out for special occasions,” he adds. A nosegay of baby’s breath on his lapel matched Hendrix’s grown.
The spirit of the day was so chill we both said, 'Let's do a first look!'
“We were totally against the first look up until literally the last second, and the spirit of the day was so chill and happy that we both said, ‘Let’s do it!’” Ashley remembers. “We’re really glad we did as it was a great start to just have some time together to take in the moment. It really gave us a moment to admire each other and share some quick laughs.”
“We opted out of a traditional wedding party and opted for just a ‘crew’ of people who were close to our union and had witnessed the journey—no matching dresses or tuxes, just vibes,” Ashley says.
The altar was set as a circular stage in the center of the room, surrounded by 160 black Lucite guest chairs and a collection of sculptural floral arrangements on white pillars.
“The dramatic 32-foot aisle was lined with a lush, continuous cloud of baby's breath and candles along both sides that gave the illusion of walking on clouds,” says Ashley, who entered on her father’s arm to Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” before exchanging personal vows with Ethan.
The Conrad ballroom was transformed into a moody, modern masterpiece with black velvet draping and lush clouds of baby’s breath suspended above guest tables. “A gorgeous custom marble dance floor matched the entire branding aesthetic perfectly,” Ashley adds.
“It was important to us to showcase our shared passions and backgrounds within our decor and branding,” Ashley says. “A Nike box at each place setting included a Nike AJ1 keychain in a few colorways—including the Travis Scotts—as an ode to Ethan’s six years with Nike and our love of sneakers.”
To ensure the party had an amazing playlist, they pegged a top-tier DJ to provide entertainment for the evening. “There was no one better to set the soundtrack for our night than Mick, a renowned Brooklyn-based DJ who has collaborated on musical projects with icons like Adele, Busta Rhymes, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Eminem, and Leon Bridges,” Ashley says. “Choosing him was a special touch that reflected our love of B-side R&B and especially 90s hip hop.” They kicked it off with a first dance to “I'd Rather Be With You” by Bootsy Collins—and then one special dance that was the sole exception to their hip hop playlist: A daddy-daughter dance between Ethan and Hendrix to Frozen hit “Let It Go.” “Their dance together was really special for me to watch—even as sleepy as she was, poor girl!” Ashley reminisces. “It felt like a great moment for their love to be on display and another bonus in my bonus-mom duties to witness him being such a loving father.”
Following a dinner of short ribs and blue crab cakes, the couple cut into a marbled almond cake—Ashley donning her second look of the night.
But even that wasn’t Ashley's final look. The real final look, and one of her favorite moments? “We ended the night in robes, sipping Champagne,” she recalls with a laugh. “After 16 months of planning, it was nice to end the night in such a chill way.”
Venue and Catering Conrad Washington DC
Wedding Planner and Designer Favored by Yodit Events & Design
Bridal Designer Viktor & Rolf
Bridal Salon Carine’s Bridal Atelier
Bride’s Jewelry Cartier
Bride’s Shoes Aquazzura
Bride’s Makeup Kimora Mulan Beauty
Bride’s Second Look Bronx and Banco
Bride’s Alterations St. Clare’s Closet
Groom’s attire Philippe Haas Bespoke Tailoring
Grooming Rashad the Barber
Engagement Ring James Allen
Floral Designer Sophie Felts Design
Invitations and Signage Hardy & Co.
Music DJ Mick
Audio Media Minds
Draping 27 Studios
Dance Floor Phemstar Event Productions
Photo Booth Hot Pink Photo Booth
Photographer Lynn Dunston