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An Elegant Evening at a Victorian Mansion in Baltimore

By Alexandra Macon | Photography by 

Chung at Cly by Chung

When Warren Michelsen decided he wanted to ask Emily Woodward to marry him, he started thinking about where he wanted to propose and ultimately landed on the place where they went on their very first date in New York. “When I saw him, I realized he was wearing the same tie he’d worn on our first date and it clicked,” Emily remembers. “Right there on Hudson Street on a Thursday night in front of probably 100 bystanders he got down on one knee. I dropped my bag in shock, heard a few gasps from onlookers and obviously said ‘yes.’ ”

The bride, who is a director in investor relations at Time Warner who grew up in Baltimore, had no trouble convincing her future husband, an SVP at Simco Engineering, that her hometown was where they should tie the knot. After settling on the city, where to hold the ceremony became even more obvious to the two of them, as well. “I grew up attending Church of the Redeemer—I went to preschool and Sunday school there,” Emily explains. “So if the wedding was to be in a church, Redeemer had to be it.”

Finding the perfect location for the reception, took a little more legwork though. “I did a ton of research and was struck by how few venues there were that could hold our headcount that weren’t hotels,” Emily explains. “We visited Cylburn Arboretum and instantly fell in love with the beautiful grounds and old mansion.” But then came the hard part . . . actually securing the location. Clyburn Arboretum is owned by the City of Baltimore, and couples actually have to book the venue a year and a day out. The first date Emily and Warren tried to secure had already booked by midnight 366 days in advance. “For the following weekend, Warren set up a computer code that emailed the venue hundreds of times in hopes of being the first email to hit the inbox at 12:01 a.m., and it worked!” she recalls. “Luckily, the cheerful woman whose inbox we bombarded somehow found the whole thing endearing.”

The couple enlisted well-known calligrapher Happy Menocal to help create a commemorative crest for the event, and Mary Ellen LaFreniere from Steelcut Flower Co. to work on the floral arrangements for the ceremony and reception. As for the planners, Emily went with Baltimore locals Lindsey Stone and Alexa McCulloch of Union3 to make sure everything went off without a hitch and incorporated lots of personal touches throughout the day. The bride, who learned calligraphy in middle school, even wrote guests’ names on envelopes and escort cards. “It was a fun project,” she says. “But I decided doing the place cards would have been too much, so we had those printed.”

When it came time to look for a dress, Emily had a pretty clear idea of what she wanted. “I saw a Lela Rose wedding dress shortly after getting engaged and immediately emailed it to my mom and godmother saying, ‘I think I found the one!’” She booked an appointment at a Lela Rose trunk show in New York and as soon as she tried it on, she knew the search was over. “Two of my bridesmaids said the dress was me in dress form, which really confirmed what I already knew.” She paired her Lela Rose dress with an Oscar de la Renta lace veil accented with pearl detailing. “I loved the drama of a cathedral length veil for the ceremony,” she says. She finished off the look with a pair of Chanel bow and pearl heels and diamond and sapphire drop earrings she borrowed from her godmother. “I was really sad to have to give those back to her the morning after the wedding!”

When the big day finally arrived, the bride and her father walked down the aisle to “Trumpet Voluntary.” “There is a beautiful organ in the chapel, so we wanted music that would make that shine,” Emily says. On her way down the aisle, her veil got caught on some grates, but luckily some friends seated at the end of the pews were able to quickly un-snag her. “When I walked out, I had a bridesmaid help carry my veil back down the aisle!” she adds.

Guests then headed towards the Clyburn Arboretum where cocktails, Southsides, and a jazz quartet awaited. Everyone later moved into the tent for dinner—a choice between hanger steak or Arctic char—and were treated to some surprise poppers on each table setting. “My family always has poppers at holiday dinners, so we wanted to have them at the wedding,” Emily explains. “Warren actually ended up making all 225 and we filled them with silver and gold paper crowns, mints, and fun trivia about the two of us.”

When it was time for Mr. and Mrs. Michelsen to hit the dance floor, the couple chose Spiral Staircase’s “I Love You More Today Than Yesterday” for their first song, which was performed by their band, Soul Expressions. “They did a phenomenal job getting and keeping everyone on the dance floor until late at night.” For those who weren’t ready to call it a night, the couple later led the group to an after-party at the Four Seasons in Baltimore where everyone kept on celebrating. “I’m just sad to say we weren’t the last ones up!” Emily says with a laugh.