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A Gilded Age-Inspired Wedding in Washington, D.C.

by Staff

“So, it’s important you know that there are two versions to this story” shares Indhira Benitez of her relationship with Jason Ruiz. “We met in November of 2015 at the Bronx District Attorney’s Office in New York City,” she says. “We were both working as prosecutors at the time, though Jason was several classes my senior and in a completely different bureau.”

“I went inside a Dunkin’ Donuts to grab a coffee after hopping off the train to work,” she recalls. “A large man aggressively tapped me on my shoulder and asked, ‘Who are you?’” It caught her off guard. “Who does that?” she laughs. But, when she turned and saw Jason, “I immediately noticed his boyish charm and smile. We chatted a bit and realized we both worked at the same place and we were both New Yorkers.”

For Jason, though, the story begins much earlier. “We formally met in November of 2015,” he says. “However, the month leading up to our eventual encounter is what set this meeting in motion. It seemed like no matter where I walked outside the office, I would see this beautiful woman. She would be on the same train as me, walking just ahead of me to work, or passing me while crossing the street. I couldn’t help but notice how gorgeous she was, and because of this, I couldn’t stop seeing her everywhere I went. I began to suspect she was stalking me because it became so overwhelming!” He goes on: “I eventually approached her at a local coffee shop after I saw her—again—ordering a coffee. I tapped her on the shoulder and, perhaps too loudly, asked ‘Who are you?’ I had to know who this woman was I kept seeing and wondering about! I finally learned her name, and also learned that we both worked at the District Attorney’s Office! As we walked together that day, I learned that besides her being beautiful and intelligent, we shared other similarities, including both being born and raised in the Bronx, and being avid lovers of hip hop.” 

The next part, however, they agree on. They continued to just see each other in passing until April 2016, when they were both scheduled for a dreaded full week of night shifts. That’s when they really got to know each other. “That week I learned how absolutely ridiculous Jason was. But at every turn, he made me laugh,” Indhira says. “We connected as if we had known each other for a lifetime.” Jason adds, “I charmed her with my dashing wit, and she generously shared her snacks she had brought for work.” 

By the end of their very long week, they had planned an official first date for the weekend—and the date, too, was very long. “We had our first date on April 30, which took us all around New York City until the early morning hours of May 1,” Jason remembers. “Since that date, I have never stayed up that late again!” The rest, as they say, is history. 

“We got engaged on November 11, 2019, in a private and secluded cabin in Shenandoah, Virginia,” Indhira shares. “The whole trip was my idea and we planned it last-minute. It was a great time to unplug, watch Jason struggle to start a fire, play games, and connect without any distractions. The second day at 11:11 a.m. during a round of a couples’ question game, Jason slid off the bed onto one knee and asked me to marry him. Afterward, we went on a hike on what turned out to be one of the warmest and brightest days of November.”

Jason gave his bride complete creative control when it came to wedding planning, and Indhira knew right away what she wanted. “I love hosting family and friends, and I am usually very particular about the vibe I want to convey and have people experience,” she says. “The vision was old-world opulence with a twist of modern femininity. I wanted it to feel like a party we would host if we were the duke and duchess of the Bronx, in a post-Nas ‘Illmatic’ gilded age. I loved the idea of contrasting modern and vintage elements.” She wanted, in a word, a “Hip-Hop Bridgerton.” 

To bring the vision to life, “we worked with the most incredible wedding planner, Tiffany Rivera of Simply Breathe Events,” Indhira says. “Jason and I don’t take ourselves too seriously and love an opportunity to laugh and make any situation a comedy bit. Tiffany understood our humor and clicked with us immediately. But most importantly, she understood our vision. During those early planning stages, it was hard for me to explain what it was that I saw in my head, but somehow Tiffany got it. She just knew. She pivoted when I pivoted and sometimes would make suggestions when I changed my mind about things, as if she already knew what I was thinking.”

It began with the perfect venue to serve as a gilded backdrop: Larz Anderson House in Washington, D.C. “We toured several venues,” Idhira says. “Originally, we wanted a New York City wedding. We toured venues in New York and D.C., and after walking into Larz Anderson house, we immediately just knew this was it.” They said “I do” there on October 9, 2021, in front of 90 guests. 

Read on to see how the bride’s unique vision came to life, as planned by Tiffany Rivera at Simply Breathe Events and photographed by Kiyah C Photography.

Indhira, Jason, and two of her best friends spent the days leading up to the wedding packing welcome bags—it was “the only DIY project we tackled,” Idhira says. “I wanted our guests to feel how much we appreciated them showing up for us, but also wanted to be practical. We ordered custom reusable tote bags from Zazzle and filled them with water, snacks, makeup-removing wipes, and Tylenol. We added a thank-you note with a schedule of weekend events.” 

Their wedding prep also included skincare. “I treated Jason and myself to facials at Bespoke Aesthetics + Wellness in Georgetown a month before the wedding,” Indhira says. “Otherwise, I kept my normal skin routine of washing and moisturizing with Elta MD SPF moisturizer. I am big on wearing SPF all year round—but generally, I just try my best to drink a lot of water.”

Indhira donned a chic robe from What Ella Sewed while getting ready. “My look for the day was classic, glam, and glowy. I wanted a tasteful look that would translate decades from now when we show our children the pictures,” Indhira says. “My makeup artist and friend Jeff is such an incredible artist. I knew he would know how to give me that bridal glow without letting the makeup be the first thing you noticed when I walked into the room.” 

As for her hair? “I did not want an elaborate style that I had to keep checking and fixing throughout the night, because I knew I would be dancing,” the bride says. “I wanted something easy and classic that would go well with both of my dresses and wouldn’t require me to change my hairstyle. Soft, wavy curls are so underrated. I knew this classic, simple hair would be perfect for the night.” 

Her nails were lacquered in an off-white ombre, and she wore her current everyday scent, a mix of Jo Malone’s Mimosa & Cardamom and Wood Sage & Sea Salt. “My scent is always changing, as is my style,” Indhira says. “Sometimes I am feeling feminine and whimsical, and sometimes I feel strong and bossy. The Jo Malone scents have fit in perfectly with my current feminine and whimsical streak.”

“While I was getting my makeup done, my mom had a rush of emotions and burst into tears,” Indhira remembers. “It was such a sweet moment. I love my mom so much! After she got it all out, she said ‘OK, I’m done, I won’t cry the rest of the night’—and she kept her word!”

“Historically, I have never seen a wedding dress that spoke to me or my style, and I’ve seen many! I spent hours searching every bridal designer’s Instagram and website, feeling like I would never find something I loved. Then Justin and Hailey Bieber got married and I saw it: the dress,” Indhira remembers. “Hailey’s custom Virgil Abloh gown was absolutely stunning. Everything about the gown spoke to me, my style, and what I would like to wear to my wedding. It was perfect; I felt like it was intended for me. Unfortunately, it was not intended for me and I couldn’t replicate it. I must have tried on over 100 gowns, gorgeous dresses that just did not feel like me. I did not want a ballgown; I did not want to look like a princess. I wanted my gown to fit my street style, be modern, but also have a touch of traditional.”

The process was dizzying. “One afternoon, my mother and I had four appointments lined up at bridal salons, after having been to five other bridal salons,” she remembers. “After the second appointment I was so frustrated, I canceled the other two and we went to get lunch instead.”

And then, at long last, she found what she was looking for in a stunning style by Pnina Tornai. “When I tried on the gown, it just felt like something I would wear,” Indhira remembers. “It has a similar style to Hailey’s, but different enough to make it new. It also fit like a glove.”

“The attire for the men was black tuxedos,” the bride say. “I think there is something classic, sharp, and timeless about a well-fitted black tuxedo. We wanted that glamorous old New York vibe.” The groom’s tux was custom Suitsupply.

“I gifted Jason custom cufflinks with his initials and our wedding date,” Indhira says. “Our friend Johnny loaned Jason his Breitling watch to wear, so he had a ‘something borrowed,’ which I thought was really cute!” For grooming, “all he did was get a haircut two days before—must be nice!”

Finding the venue turned out to be much easier than finding the dress. “As soon as we walked into Larz Anderson House, we knew this was where we wanted to get married,” Indhira says. “It is such a stunning venue. I am obsessed with the gilded age and thought this was a great nod to Jason’s internet persona of the ‘Duke of the Bronx.’ We loved how opulent the space was but not overdone. As soon as you walked in you felt transported to Europe or old New York.” They also loved the indoor-outdoor options. “The garden is beautiful and reminiscent of a small French chateau; it was the ideal setting for the al fresco dinner we envisioned.”

It was so special to see each other before the ceremony and check in with one another.

“I don’t think either of us expected to react the way we did during our first look,” Indhira remembers. “I had seen Jason that morning—he was in our suite being photographed while I was having my makeup done. I felt relaxed and ready to marry my best friend. But when I saw him at our first look, I instantly welled up with tears. I was so mad at both of us for crying! I turned around and couldn’t even look at him because I didn’t want to sob. It was so special to see each other before the ceremony and check in with one another. We would do a first look a million times over.”

It also made for a hilariously memorable moment. “As I avoided bursting into tears, I approached Jason and, after we embraced, I whispered in his ear that he better stop crying or ‘I’ll kill you bish’—an inside joke we have. However, a minute later, Jason informs me that he had a mic in his jacket and the video team probably heard me! You can actually hear me say it in the raw footage of our wedding video. I was mortified.”

“The planning process was fun,” the bride says. “I knew what I wanted and Tiffany really understood the vision. Jason and I were on the same page about practically everything. He also trusts me to always deliver the best experience.” 

Indhira carried a bouquet of long-stemmed white roses. “My favorite!” she says. “Elegant and timeless.” The groom and groomsmen matched with white rose boutonnieres. 

“My dad walked me down the aisle—really the stairs, since there was no aisle,” Indhira says. “I could tell he was a bit nervous and I thought it was the sweetest thing in the world.”

The ceremony setup was inspired by something Indhira had seen her planner do previously and fallen in love with. “The altar was a center-stage setup with two rows of seating facing each other on either side,” the bride describes. “I really wanted it to feel like you were in a real New York Fashion Week show at a gilded manor. The venue is so stunning, I did not want to overdo it with florals. There were two beautiful rose arrangements on opposite corners of the stage, and an elaborate baby’s breath cloud garland that adorned the fireplace.” She was also against setting a specific color scheme. “So, we stuck to soft, neutral tones such as cream, tan, white, and very light pink,” she notes. 

Though Jason had his brother as best man, “I didn’t have any bridesmaids,” Indhira says. “It was something I felt very strongly about. There are a lot of wedding traditions I just did not believe in, and picking who my most important people are and telling them what to wear was one of them. I did not want to dictate any of my friends’ experience on such a special day to me. It was also important to me that my friends wore what they felt beautiful in. I knew the only way my vision would work is if everyone felt comfortable, relaxed, and in their best outfits.” She adds: “My only instruction for my friends was to show up and show out! I wanted them to feel glamorous and beautiful. And they absolutely did!”

“Every detail of our wedding was personalized, but there were certain things we knew would be ‘us,’” the bride says. “First, the music. Each musical decision had a lot of thought put into it. For our violinist, we searched and searched for a violinist that would provide us with our own version of a hip hop-themed Bridgerton. And we found him! Marvillous Beats was a godsend.” He played as the groom and then bride entered, stringing “The Sweetest Thing” by Refugee Camp All-Stars and “At Last” by Etta James, respectively. 

Indhira’s favorite moment of the day? “Walking down the stairs and seeing Jason looking up at me,” she says. “Such perfect kismet. I think if we could both bottle up that moment and relive it daily, we would.” 

She wore a custom cathedral-length veil from Wedding Veil by Galinka, a Ukranian creator she found on Etsy. “Veils are so unnecessarily expensive. I knew if I was going to wear a veil I wanted it to have some significance, so I got my veil customized with the inscription from our wedding bands and our wedding date. I’ll get to keep this as a memento for the future; it feels so personalized and special.” 

“We wrote our own vows,” Indhira says. “This was something I was adamant about. We had a non-religious ceremony, and I did not want to repeat someone else’s words to the man I was about to vow to spend the rest of my life with.”

I remember the rush of adrenaline I felt during our vows.

The vows weren’t quite what she expected, though. “If you know Jason, you know he doesn’t emote in public; everyone knows him as this loud, sometimes inappropriately funny guy,” explains Indhira. “I truly believed he would bring some of this into his vows. So, I actually made sure to include a couple of jokes in my vows because I didn’t want to start sobbing during the ceremony, and because I knew that Jason’s would be funny. Lo and behold, Jason’s vows were not funny at all! He took his vow writing very seriously and there were zero jokes—it was heartfelt and raw. I remember the rush of adrenaline I felt during our vows and how my whole body started to shake. I had to bite the inside of my cheek during Jason’s vows so I wouldn’t cry.” 

The couple truly made the ceremony their own—and advises other couples to do the same. “Everyone will have opinions about how things should be, look, or go on the wedding day,” Indhira says. “But ultimately, you have to shut all of that out. We did not have any readings during our ceremony or any symbolic traditions because it was not our style. Our good friend Dyer officiated, and he made it fun and silly by asking us questions prior to the big day and creating his speech around our answers. Whatever works for you, do that!” Happily married—their own way—they recessed out to Michael Jackson’s “You Rock My World.” 

“The seating chart was one of the many highlights of the reception,” Indhira says. “I wanted to honor our non-traditional vibes and have something that went with the theme but was also unique. Tiffany and our incredible florist, Lisa Gloff from The Rosy Posy, created the most amazing floral seating chart: a floral installation where every table was a different type of flower and guest names were hand-printed on the petals.” 

Dinner was held in the venue’s walled garden, with tables arranged around a petal-strewn reflecting pool. “The theme for the reception was effortless and romantic,” Indhira says. “Simple yet beautiful florals and very long, drapey linens for the tables. I wanted a lot of candles on the tables and no harsh lighting since the dinner was al fresco.”

“When we picked the place settings, I knew I wanted gold flatware, and dishware that looked like art,” the bride says of her vision. “The dishware I chose had jagged edges and gold-painted rims. I searched for the perfect deckled edge menus to give it that vintage feel.” She found them at Fielding Milligan. 

Wheat berry butternut squash salad was followed by roasted filet mignon and za’atar-roasted chicken, with spinach-stuffed roma tomatoes. “We love food and wanted that to translate into our menu,” Indhira says. “We also wanted hearty proteins so that our guests had energy to dance all night after dinner.”

“The drinks were also important, so we knew we had to have signature cocktails. When we worked at the District Attorney’s Office, everyone called each other by their last names. So as a nod to where we met, we named our cocktails the Benitez and the Ruiz. We knew our current and former colleagues would enjoy picking a side and ordering our drinks all night.” Indhira’s was a spicy mezcal cocktail, and Jason’s was a spin on the traditional Old Fashioned. 

“I was very excited about my second dress,” Indhira says. It was another homage to their regal theme. “I saw an old picture of Princess Diana in a similar gold metallic gown and swooned. When I tried on the dress from Oscar de la Renta, I felt so glamorous, like modern royalty. It was bold and different. I knew it was how I wanted to end my wedding night.” Jason changed too, donning a custom cream dinner jacket by Indochino.

“During our first date, Jason and I bonded over our shared love of hip hop,” Indhira says. “We wanted the music to be reflective of our taste and songs we love, so every song that mattered was carefully picked by us and the rest we left up to our DJ’s discretion.” But it wasn’t just any DJ. “DJ Spynfo was actually the DJ at my Sweet 16,” the bride says. “He is an incredibly talented New York City DJ who has an extensive resume. When I told Jason this, he agreed that he needed to DJ our wedding.”

For the mother-son dance, Jason and his mom took to the floor to the song “First Lady in my Life” by Paul Todd. As for Indhira and her father? They danced to “Te Amo Demasiad” by Fernandito Villalona,

The newlyweds’ pick for their first dance? John Legend’s “Conversations in the Dark.” 

“I needed the wedding cake to have its own moment,” Indhira says. “I wanted our cake to look like art, a sculpture, something that could possibly be found somewhere in the Larz Anderson House. Our cake designer, Jisoo, is so talented. She did a phenomenal job bringing our vision to life.” Underneath the sculptural facade was Earl Grey cake with yuja marmalade and chocolate Bailey’s cake with chai buttercream.

Other fun surprises included a cigar roller and late-night snacks. “We are big foodies and love going out to eat and trying new restaurants—but sometimes we also like to just veg out on the couch with some chicken nuggets,” Indhira says. “Throughout the course of our relationship, I can’t even count the amount of times Jason has gone out in the middle of the night to buy me chicken nuggets. We thought having them as a late-night snack at the wedding was a fun tribute to our late-night cravings.” 

“Take time to enjoy yourself,” the bride says. “Soak it all in. The entire night felt like one hour. It goes by so fast.”

The hardest part of planning was arranging the honeymoon, Indhira says. “Surprisingly, this was so stressful, especially during the pandemic. We had originally planned a Bali-Vietnam honeymoon and had to cancel and pivot. Africa was high on our list, so we decided to take on planning a South African honeymoon and end it with a relaxing week on the beach off the coast of Zanzibar. We did not use a travel agency and did all the planning ourselves—it was like a second job!”

In the end though, all the hard work of planning was more than worth it. She reflects, “It was magical.” 

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