A Shenandoah Valley Wedding: Johannah O’Keefe & John Schell

Married Sept. 8, 2018, at Historic Rosemont Manor in Berryville.

Photo by Sarah Garman, Purple Fern Photography.

The couple: Johannah O’Keefe, 32, strategic initiatives and events manager for the Consumer Technology Association in Crystal City; and John Schell, 30, who works in technical communications for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria. Johannah was born and raised in Arlington and John was born and raised in McLean. They recently moved to  Alexandria.

How they met: At a party at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg. They had a class together second semester of her senior year.

First date: UMW’s graduation ball. “John was my date!” Johannah says.

The wedding: Sept. 8, 2018, at Historic Rosemont Manor in Berryville, Virginia. Built in 1811 and resting on 60 acres overlooking the Shenandoah Valley, Rosemont is the former estate of the late Virginia governor and U.S. Sen. Harry F. Byrd Sr.


Photo by Sarah Garman, Purple Fern Photography.


The ceremony: The bride and groom each wrote “the story” of their relationship, which the officiant—Chuck McCoart, a childhood friend of Johannah’s from Saint Ann Catholic School in Arlington—read aloud in place of a sermon. “Hearing each other’s words for the first time and sharing them with our loved ones was the most moving part of the whole day,” Johannah says. “There was plenty of ugly crying from me and the guests.” John’s cousin and her daughter played cello during the ceremony.

Number of guests: 90

The theme: Classic and romantic

Quality time: The weekend’s events included a rehearsal dinner, welcome party, ceremony, reception and farewell breakfast. “Since almost all our guests stayed on the property, we saw each person at least once. We got to wave to our cocktail hour guests from a balcony like royals. Our wedding was traditional and fun. Beautiful and relaxed. Perfect and imperfect. It was exactly what we hoped for.”


Photo by Sarah Garman, Purple Fern Photography.


Personal touches: The couple honored the memory of Johannah’s mom, who passed away in early 2017, and other loved ones with a photo display on the manor’s grand piano. Johannah’s “something old” was a sprig of silk flowers from her aunt and uncle’s wedding cake. Her “something borrowed” (from her best friend and bridesmaid) was an Irish linen handkerchief embroidered with three shamrocks that had been handed down in her friend’s family for three generations. A custom cake topper featured figurines of the bride and groom with their dog and cat.

Minor wardrobe malfunction: “Half of the groomsmen’s ties were tied too short and half were fine,” Johannah says. “I noticed during the pre-ceremony photos, freaked out and fixed them before anyone walked down the aisle or had any more photos taken.”

Photographer: Sarah Garman, Purple Fern Photography


Photo by Sarah Garman, Purple Fern Photography.


Details: Event Planner: Michael Haymaker for Historic Rosemont Manor; Caterer: Celebrations Catering; Cake: Tiers in Heaven; Florist: Flowers Unlimited; Music: Jon James, Double J Entertainment; Bridal Gown: Claire Pettibone; Hair: April Chicko; Makeup: Lori Nansi; Groom’s Attire: Jos. A. Bank; Invitations & Paper Goods: Minted.com

Favorite local hangouts: Pho 75 and Pupatella in Arlington; Northside Social Falls Church; and Tachibana in McLean

Honeymoon: Tulum, Mexico


Related Stories

Categories: Weddings