Ashley Long & Mark Briggs

Draw inspiration from this local celebration.

June 21, 2014
Smith & Wollensky at The Castle
Boston, Massachusetts

Photograph by Ashley O'Dell Photography

Photograph by Ashley O’Dell Photography

Sometimes things come full circle. It was on a Bunker Hill Memorial park bench that Ashley and Mark had morning coffee on their first date. And it was on that very same bench that Mark proposed three years later. Then it was on to the wedding planning. But they both knew a giant reception complete with all the bells and whistles wasn’t for them.

“From the start, I really wanted the wedding to be just a very small part of a dinner party surrounded by our loved ones at single gorgeous table,” Ashley says.

“Ash and I knew we wanted a very small, intimate gathering. At the same time, we wanted to side-step a bunch of the traditional wedding hoopla that we felt just didn’t fit our family,” Mark says. “The idea of inviting a small handful of our family and friends to a special dinner in Boston, then in the middle of the meal surprising everyone with a wedding ceremony where we were joined in matrimony by a good friend of ours/turned-Justice-of-the-Peace-for-the-day, turned out to be perfect.”

The couple invited their closest family and friends to a “work party” in the Battle Room at Smith & Wollensky at The Castle. The ruse: they were celebrating Ashley’s decision to take some time off from her career to focus on their new family endeavors and completion of a successful deal that involved Mark. Little did these guests know that this location, steeped in history (think: cases of Reconstruction Era artifacts, a place on the National Historic Register, and HQs of the 1891 First Corp of Cadets), was where they would celebrate the future.

Approximately 45 minutes into the cocktail hour, Ashley changed into a wedding dress.

“While our friend was announcing that he was appointed Justice of the Peace for the day, I was hiding behind the doorway of the dining room. My daughter, who was holding her flower girl basket full of rose petals, kept saying, ‘Momma, stop trying to see what he’s saying. They’re gonna see you, and the surprise will be ruined!'”

The surprise wasn’t ruined, and the night was magical. In front of 30 guests, including Mark’s son Henry, 18, and daughters Iva, 17, and Kira, 13, and Ashley’s daughter Sidra, 9, they exchanged vows and became husband and wife.

After dinner, people danced to music by a four-piece band from New Orleans, Fritzel’s New Orleans Jazz Band, and the crowd was on their feet throughout the night. The air was filled with original songs dedicated to the couple, covers of current favorites, a clarinet duo by Mark and his youngest daughter, and Mark’s oldest daughter singing as his brother Zak wowed on guitar.

“All in all, the surprise turned out great, and the evening was magical,” says Mark. “A great summer solstice celebration!”

Photography by Ashley O'Dell Photography

Photograph by Ashley O’Dell Photography

Dwayne Ridgaway’s Atmosphere designed the entire room, even making the 36-foot-long, one-foot-wide runner from scratch. “Dwayne’s vision and design made it simply magical,” says Ashley. 

Photography by Ashley O'Dell Photography

Photograph by Ashley O’Dell Photography

Their Konditor Meister confection sitting next to a case with early American military uniform in the Eagle Room, another private dining room that doubled as Ashley’s surprise “dressing room.” 

Photography by Ashley O'Dell Photography

Photograph by Ashley O’Dell Photography

“We wanted to host a party that celebrated ‘us’ during which we exchanged vows,” Ashley explains.

Photography by Ashley O'Dell Photography

Photograph by Ashley O’Dell Photography

The Smith & Wollensky menu included filet mignon for adults and pizza options for the kids, along with the restaurant’s famous hashed brown potatoes.

Photography by Ashley O'Dell Photography

Photograph by Ashley O’Dell Photography

A balcony shot shows family and friends enjoying the surprise.

Photography by Ashley O'Dell Photography

Photograph by Ashley O’Dell Photography

“The band spoiled us by letting Kira and me play clarinet with them for a bit,” says Mark. The song of choice was “Dallas Blues.”

Photography by Ashley O'Dell Photography

Photograph by Ashley O’Dell Photography

Mark’s daughter Iva sang an original song while his brother Zak accompanied her on the guitar.

Photography by Ashley O'Dell Photography

Photograph by Ashley O’Dell Photography

“We brought up an absolutely amazing jazz band from New Orleans that we had heard a few years ago. I don’t think Boston has ever had such great jazz!” says Mark.

Photography by Ashley O'Dell Photography

Photograph by Ashley O’Dell Photography

Mark dancing with Sidra, Ashley’s daughter.

THE FILE

Bride’s Necklace: Susan Freda Studios
Cake: Konditor Meister
Catering: Smith & Wollensky
Music: Fritzel’s New Orleans Jazz Band
Gown: Casablanca from Natasha’s Bridal
Florist and Event Designer: Dwayne Ridgaway’s Atmosphere
Groomswear: Brooks Brothers
Hair: Filomena’s Salon in Cambridge
Rings: Engagement bands from Shreve Crump & Low, Boston; wedding bands from Shreve and Co., San Fransisco

 


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