Amber Washington and Tony Shepherd first met in March 2008 during a chance encounter at a gas station, of all places. “It makes me smile and cringe as I reflect on that day,” Amber says. There was instant chemistry, but they didn’t begin dating until a few years later. Then, after nearly a decade together, Tony got down on one knee at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Day 2021.
As excited as she was to be engaged, “I dreaded the thought of wedding planning,” Amber admits. “On the heels of a pandemic, working as a healthcare administrator in a large inner-city medical center, while also juggling a family, it would have been impossible without the direction of [a wedding planner].” So, she tapped Karen Collins of KMC Weddings & Events to bring her dream wedding to life.
There were a few considerations, of course. First, came the vision. “Intimate, sexy, elegant and unforgettable,” were the words Amber shared with her planner. She also decided on a tight guest list. “The decision to have a small, intimate wedding was truly a reflection of us as a couple,” Amber says. “As an age-gap couple, it has always been important for us to move by our own rules and pursue what makes us happy first. So we prioritized all the things we wanted, left no detail unturned, and omitted any ‘traditional’ components that didn’t fit.”
Together they built the perfect wedding team, prioritizing black- or women-owned vendors where they could. Finding a great photographer was a must-have. “Amanda Donaho is simply amazing, and the moment I saw her work, I told Karen that I would have to make an exception in the budget,” Amber says. It’s the photos and the memories, after all, that last a lifetime.
Read on to see all the stunning details of Amber and Tony’s July 30, 2022, wedding, as planned by Karen Collins of KMC Weddings & Events and photographed by Amanda Donaho.
Their vision was modern and clean, inspiring a color palette of black and white that dictated every detail, down to the flow of events throughout the day. “Everything in the ceremony was white. During the room flip, guests were invited to an all-black cocktail hour; then back into the glamorous reception space decked out in white again,” Amber explains. “Guests were asked to wear all solid black, and seeing them in the all-white ceremony and all-white reception really created that contrast and kept with the theme. It kept it classic, yet modern.”
Of course, attire was black-tie. Groom Tony donned a black wool Havana suit from Suitsupply and accessorized with a Rolex and a pair of Christian Louboutin Greggyrocks.
For her part, Amber fell in love with bridal designer Leah Da Gloria’s creations, and traveled from Ohio all the way to Chicago to find a boutique that carried the label. When she tried on this Italian mikado mermaid dress with tiered organza ruffles, “I was immediately amazed,” she recalls. “It gave sexy, elegant and, most importantly, timeless.” She donned a pair of Louboutin’s herself, the silver bejeweled Joli Queens.
“I wanted my hair to accentuate my features and elevate the drama of the dress,” Amber says. “Pulling my hair up in the soft, messy-yet-sexy bun allowed an unobstructed view of the dress.” She kept her makeup minimal: “soft, natural and light enough to wear all night.” Tony got a first look at her stunning ensemble before the ceremony.
Amber’s bridesmaids each chose a black floor-length gowns and held white floral bouquets similar to the bride’s.
“The focal point of the beautiful ceremony space at The View is a stunning chandelier, so creating a ceremony in the round was the goal,” says planner Karen Collins. “We created a tall, lush horseshoe shape of flowers and tall vases with candles for Amber and Tony to stand in. Since we draped off the dining space, the wedding party would enter through there and step onto the aisle, where all the chairs sat in two rows in a circle.”
“We used a lot of classic flowers: fluffy white hydrangeas, reflexed white roses, large and mini phalaenopsis orchids, local dahliasm and football mums,” says florist Marti Heard. “We chose flowers for their singular beauty, and layered them in a very strategic manner so that they had the most impact.”
Amber’s father walked her down the aisle, then joined the couple on the altar: He was also officiating. The wedding party and immediate family—dressed to the nines in all black—sat in the first semicircular row.
From all white, to all black: Guests moved into cocktail hour while the ceremony space was flipped. “We had a gorgeous black velvet lounge in front of the fireplace, and guests found their seats on a black acrylic seating chart accented by more white florals,” Karen says. Calla Lillies—the groom’s favorite—filled votives on tables. “We also had a cute signature cocktail display for guests to pick up their very own Devotion Potion: vodka lemonade with lavender garnish.”
With a guest count of just 50, the couple hoped to highlight the intimate aspect of their wedding. “We created a U-shaped layout for the reception to keep the feeling of an intimate dining experience,” the bride says.
The all-white decor were complemented by pops of silver in the glittering chargers at each place setting. “On the top corner of the menus, beside the A&A monogram, sat a single white bloom—ranunculus for guests and orchids for the VIP table. The tables and shelves on the walls were flooded with tons of candles to create that romantic mood in the room and, as the sun went down, the city of Cincinnati lit up and provided a beautiful backdrop.”
The layers are what made this design special—they added depth and dimension to a monochromatic color palette.
“We layered different varieties of candles—taper candles, pillar candles, floating candles and simple votives—all in clean glass vessels,” floral designer Marti Heard says. “To me, the layers are what made this design special. They added depth and dimension to a monochromatic color palette.”
When looking for venues, the ability to bring in a cold spark machine was a non-negotiable for Amber—and with good reason. “The cold spark during our introduction and first dance was a huge hit, and looked amazing in the videos,” she says. Following the newlyweds’ first dance, there were two different father-daughter dances. First, Amber danced with her dad to “Butterfly Kisses” by Bob Carlisle, and “there was not a dry eye in the room!” she says. Then, keeping emotions high, groom Tony danced with his own four daughters to “Dance with My Father” by Luther Vandross.
The newlyweds cut into a tall five-tier cake with cascading ruffles designed to mirror the bride’s wedding gown, then sat down to dinner with their guests before hitting the dance floor. After more than a decade together, the couple finally saw their dream wedding realized. “Allow plenty of time to do your research,” Amber advises other brides- and grooms-to-be. “Try to enjoy the process—and do not compromise on your dream!”