From the first moment that the sparkling octaves of Samantha McElhaney, singing Ave Maria, soared through the massive marble columned hall in the National Building Museum in DC, the 750 elegantly dressed guests, assembled in circular rows around the central fountain, knew it was going to be a night to remember. The hundred foot high royal blue curtains framing the room overlooked the porcelain fountain that had been spanned by a bridal arc festooned in gorgeous red, pink and white flowers. The wedding procession filed onto the bridge to the sultry lyrics and voice of Gordon Chambers. Officiating the marriage and ten year re-commitment ceremony of Corey McCathern and Reginald Van Lee was our friend, the Justice Vanessa Gilmore of Houston. On a lit dais, at one end of the room, the encouraging words of connubial bliss were offered in a touching and funny way by Susan Taylor and her husband Khephra Burns, who sighted the coincidences of life that conspire to cause perfect unions to form and admonished the crowd that "when you have to argue, do it naked." The exchanging of vows that followed could not be more heartfelt in their deliveries or more gender neutral in script and were finally punctuated, at the other end of the room, by the rousing medley of two love songs by the lovely Vivian Reed. With everyone now on the edge of tears, the passionate embrace and kiss of the newly minted couple was met with a splendid light show and glittering shower of gold butterflies from the ceiling.
The blue ascending curtains parted on cue, to the choral voices of more than fifty singers from the WPAS amassed aloft in a second floor balcony, heralding the next venue where the guests were set to mingle and greet one another under the lavishly decorated space. A stunning centerpiece of a floating floral tree with dangling birdcages filled the overhead space. Greeting old and new friends, Joe Steele and I first encountered Audrey Smaltz and Gail Marquis, whose own wedding two weeks prior is highlighted in today’s New York Times Style Section. As Joe spoke with Eric Michael Dyson and Julianne Malvaeux and Desiree Rogers, I circled the room greeting dear friends Norma Jean Darden, Nadia Fattah, Lola West, Sheila Hardy, David Martin, Peg Alston, Allen Harvey, Alison Arnold-Simmons, Antoinette Steward, Deborah Chatman, in a vintage necklace worn by Lena Horne, and many more. Well known actor, Tamara Tunie was stunning in an aqua gown, as she spoke of her upcoming feature film with Denzel Washington.
After a time the curtains parted again and the crowd migrated to the dining room with tables adorned in flowered birdcages, overhead floating trees and colorful fantasy birds painted on what appeared to be Lesmoges dinner plates. A stage drenched in blue light filled one end of the room and singers performed as the guests took their seats. The delicious fare was served up as Reggie and Corey were toasted over and over by friends and loved ones. Pamela Joyner, a self-professed twin of Reggie, gave a toast to the three p’s that Corey possessed and made him a wonderful partner, positivity, protection and patience. She wore a white gown to go with the white shoes that Reggie had given her for her wedding.
Upon the last toast the blissful couple cut the two cakes, one fashioned as a stack of Louis Vuitton luggage and the other of a peacock ascending a white layered cake, created by my friend Margo Turnquest Lewis' company, Cake Bliss. At this point, the newly married couple became the masters of ceremony and introduced Ron Brown’s Evidence Dance Troupe, which performed to Stevie Wonder’s “All I do, is just think about you”.
With the crowd fully roused by the performance, Reggie tells us that Corey has something to say. With that Corey steps forth and announces, “DIANA ROSS is here!” Probably like many others I expected an impersonator to step out on stage, but the inimitable voice of Miss Ross reverberated through the room and the elegant crowd instantly rushed forward to the stage with cameras and cell phones capturing her image in every digital way possible. She sang three songs with Reggie and Corey on stage at one point, and then disappeared as quickly as she arrived. Floating on surprise and elation the crowd settled into the most festive mood of the evening and tried to reconcile in their minds and hearts what had just happened. Dessert was served and with our appetites quenched beyond belief, and the dance floor warming up to a hot night, we left the wedding night to remember.