renaissance wedding richmond va chinese american wedding

Carmen and Shaun

January 14, 2017

How They Met

Carmen tells us, “Shaun and I met while I was still in medical school. He was visiting his best friend at the time who happened to be friends with one of my classmates. We were celebrating the end of term at a watering hole in Shockoe Bottom.  After giving him my number, Shaun waited a week to call me and to be honest, being busy with medical school, so I didn’t fret about it too much! Later I found out that he waited to call me only because he knew I had a big exam to study for and didn’t want to become a distraction.

When he asked me out on our first date, he took me to his all-time favorite restaurant: Olive Garden! I will always remember our first date, not only because I think it was a perfect night, but also for the fact that he was pulled over by the police for having his windows tinted too dark! We still laugh when we reminisce about it. I think the cop let him off the hook without a ticket because he knew we were on our first date! Since then, the rest is history and our love has been influenced in several ways, from our different cultural upbringings to our mutual love for traveling.”

How He Asked

“We both love experiencing different cultures and communities and often go on international and transcontinental vacations (see our adventures together on Instagram @cd_mcrae), so it was no surprise that Shaun would put some thought into the proposal while we were on a trip traveling together. He proposed on our Alaskan vacation in June 2015 while we were hiking Mt. Roberts in Juneau.

Given that we were living long distance at the time, it was definitely unexpected. Shaun was so sneaky planning everything up to the proposal, having actually bought the engagement ring 8 months prior to our trip and flying with it from Virginia to Alaska! I would never have known though, since he would keep sending me potential engagement ring pictures via email or text every couple of weeks up until we left for Alaska so that I would think he was still looking for a ring. It is most perfect canary diamond ring and points to how well he knows me and the style that I love!”

The Perfect Place

While we were planning our wedding and looking for venues, I was living in Colorado and Shaun was still living in Richmond. Living long distance made me rely on Shaun for a lot of the initial planning and meeting with vendors for our wedding. Shaun was instrumental in helping to find the best venue that fit both our styles; he met with pretty much all of our vendors before I did, and I trusted him in maintaining our shared vision for our wedding. Since our love story started in Richmond, we decided to have the wedding here! We both love the historic nature and architecture that is unique to this city. When Shaun visited and sent me pictures of The Renaissance, I fell in love with the high ceilings and chandeliers — not to mention the historic bar!

I envisioned a wedding with vintage style elements, and The Renaissance fit that vision well. Shaun and I frequent art museums in every city we travel to and almost always find ourselves most inspired by the Renaissance era.

Given that both of us grew up in different cultures, we wanted to incorporate a multicultural aspect to our wedding. My ethnicity is Chinese, and I wanted to keep an element of my culture infused within our wedding day. We decided to incorporate the traditional Chinese tea ceremony and traditional Chinese bridal attire (known as a cheongsam). We also incorporated my culture into some of the finer details of the wedding, including the gift boxes and personalized appetizers. The Renaissance was willing to work with us on creating our own recipes for the chef to try and incorporate those appetizers into our tasting and our wedding.

Decor Details

Our wedding colors were shades of purple, gray, and gold, which worked well together and complemented the chandeliers and original decor of the Renaissance. I didn’t want to have my bridesmaids wear the same type of purple, so I went for more of an ombre spectrum and had them choose different shades of purple as well their own style of dress. My goal was to truly have the girls feel comfortable for the day and also be able to wear their dress again with a style they picked for themselves.

I wanted tall centerpieces to play into the high ceilings in the ballroom and wanted to incorporate our wedding colors into our flowers. For the wedding ceremony, I loved the idea of having columns with the tall centerpieces lining the aisle. We were able to repurpose these for the centerpieces in our reception as well.

We decided to use wedding favor boxes with the Chinese characters “double happiness” in our wedding to infuse an element of my Chinese heritage. We didn’t want a traditional guestbook, so we opted for a canvas picture of the states of Virginia and Colorado interconnected together, since we were living long distance for so long while building and maintaining a strong relationship.

The Wow Factor

We focused more on the reception as a whole and wanted our guests to enjoy themselves with an open bar. Shaun and I loved the historic bar at the Renaissance and were able to incorporate our own style with our signature drinks. We wanted our guests to feel as if they were joining us in the start of our marriage.

The Best Part

Shaun and I’s favorite part was being able to greet our guests and catch up with our family friends who traveled to see us. We both value family and friends, and being able to share our wedding day with them is the best part!

Advice for Future Couples

Carmen has some great advice for couples currently planning! “Planning a wedding remotely can seem stressful, but find vendors who are willing to work with you. Also, Pinterest will be your friend! I have tons of boards where I pinned all my favorite designs and then searched the internet for similar purchases. It also gives a good visual for your makeup/hair vendors to get a good idea of your style!”