Jessica Berman and Charisse Dickens knew from the moment they started planning that they wanted a wedding that was anything but traditional. So, they packed their big day full of surprises—both for guests and for each other.
First came the biggest surprise of all, though: the proposal. The brides met in 2014 in the hospitality industry, working together to open a restaurant for José Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup. The couple got engaged on Christmas Eve five years later. “Charisse proposed at my dad’s house in California, when we were visiting for the holidays,” Jessica remembers. “We were all posing for a family picture and I was so distracted staring at the camera that I didn’t even realize Charisse was on one knee.” Eventually, she couldn’t help but notice. It’s hard to look away from a solitaire stunner on a channel-set diamond band, after all.
When it came to wedding planning, “We decided early on that no matter what, we would only do what we wanted to, do regardless if it was considered ‘traditional.’ We wanted to be true to ourselves and do what felt right, not what people expected us to do,” Jessica says. “Our goal was to create our own traditions.” They did just that, especially in one big way: Rather than taking each other’s last names, they created a new one to share together. On July 16, 2021, in front of 113 friends and family, Jessica Berman and Charisse Dickens became The Greys.
“Our vision was ultimately to celebrate an evening of love and happiness,” Jessica says. “After the year we had all had, we wanted our closest friends and family to feel just as important as us, get dressed up, and have a great time. It was very important to keep things simple and beautiful, which is the perfect combination of the two of us.” Their wedding day embodied one of Charisse’s favorite quotes by Leonardo da Vinci: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Jessica Berman and Charisse Dickens’ Real Wedding Video
Read on to discover all the little surprises incorporated into their wedding day, planned by Laura Ritchie from Grit & Grace and photographed by Lisa Ziesing of Abby Jiu Photography.
Upon arrival to The LINE DC for the wedding weekend, guests were each greeted with a personalized welcome favor—a Sunday Forever candle, a wedding details card, and matches—all wrapped with black-and-white string and finished with a monogrammed gold-wax seal.
“The shoes and accessories needed to be simple and elegant,” Jessica says of her wedding day accoutrements. “I wanted metallic accents with diamonds that sparkled.” She wore heirloom jewelry from her mother and grandmother; donned the perfect pale white shade of nail polish—discovering it was called “a labor of love,” she laughs—and spritzed herself with her favorite scent, Tom Ford’s Eau de Soleil Blanc. Meanwhile, Charisse accessorized her look with a set of onyx cufflinks and Tiffany diamond studs gifted from Jessica.
I loved how it made me look and feel, but mostly, I imagined my soon-to-be wife’s reaction and how much she would love it on me.
Jessica’s Ines Di Santo gown was a surprise even to her. “The Margot was not the original wedding dress style I was looking for, but when I saw her, I had a feeling I would fall in love when I tried her on,” she says of the satin style, which features an illusion back and high slit. “It hugged my body in all the right places and revealed just enough to remain chic and sexy. I loved how it made me look and feel, but mostly, I imagined my soon-to-be wife’s reaction and how much she would love it on me.”
Charisse had a more difficult time finding the right piece to wear. “Being a woman with an athletic build, I had hoped to find a jacket off the rack that I could make minor alterations to,” she says. “I needed full ivory—blindly swatched to Jessica’s dress with the help of her matron of honor—and opted for a non-satin peak lapel, size 38S. The combination of what I had envisioned put me on a search that lasted months—I was hunting for a unicorn!” So she went the custom route, collaborating with Suitsupply on a silk and linen blend Loro Piana jacket that she paired with 3.1 Phillip Lim loafers and a hand-tied black bow tie.
Ultimately, each bride pulled off the perfect ensemble—and their first look was fittingly emotional. Jessica’s beauty vibe was glowy and glamorous, and she had Charisse in mind when she planned it. “My eyes were an important area to accentuate, because they’re one of my wife’s favorite features on me,” she shares.
We wanted to get married in a place that represented how we met in the city.
The couple’s venue, The LINE DC, provided some stunning photo ops before the ceremony. “We wanted to get married in a place that represented how we met in the city,” Jessica says. “The history of the building brings culture and stories to create a unique experience that very much represents DC.”
Each bridesmaid chose her own floor-length black dress, and bridesmen wore black tuxedos. The color scheme didn’t stop with the wedding party, though. “From the very beginning I wanted a dress code for everyone to wear all black,” Jessica says. “It took some convincing for Charisse to agree. But, ultimately, how the black-and-white theme tied into our new last name—Grey—made the decision easy. Black is also a very elegant color that everyone looks good in, so we knew our guests and bridal party would feel confident in their attire.”
The couple’s goddaughter served as flower girl. Both of her parents were in the wedding party, so it was a family affair. She wore an adorable frock from Isabel Garretón. “We went back and forth on black or white, but ultimately chose white to match the brides,” Jessica says.
The ceremony took place on the hotel’s Vela Rooftop Terrace, which offers a panoramic view of the city the couple fell in love with. This is also where guests found their seat assignments, displayed on a unique escort wall featuring calligraphy by Jessica McSweeney and a variety of miniature chairs sourced from IKEA.
For the ceremony, guests sat in a circular format and decor was minimal. A chandelier wrapped in greenery hung above the couple, but “for the most part, our guests were our decor!” Jessica says. They exchanged personal vows; among Charisse’s was the emotion-evoking line, “I love you so much and for so many reasons. When this life is done, I vow to find you in the next.” Jessica paid homage to Charisse’s Hawaiian heritage with the line, “We are ‘ohana. I choose you, I chose you, and I will continue choosing you over and over again.”
Then, the big moment finally arrived. After saying “I do,” the brides were announced as Jessica and Charisse Grey. “The only person who knew about our name change besides our officiant was [our planner],” Jessica says of the big reveal. “We had been planning our name change for over a year and kept it a secret from everyone. That was harder than you think! We were immediately embraced as the Greys and were finally able to begin our new family.” Newly married, they recessed down the aisle to “Love Me Like You Do” by Ellie Goulding.
The reception was held in the hotel’s Banneker Ballroom. “When we walked into the space on our first tour, we felt like the decor was something we would buy for our own home. So, we felt comfortable and immediately knew it would tie perfectly into our moody and romantic theme,” Jessica says of the venue, which is actually an old converted church.
“To soften the rectangular space, we used sheer white drapes between the columns, and tons of sleek black metal pillar candle lanterns to illuminate the room.” The head table was situated in front a fireplace decorated with an asymmetrical arrangement by Sophie Felts Floral Design.
Seven long guest tables were adorned with custom white linens, gray marble chargers, candles, and white and green florals. Smoke-colored lucite chairs provided seating.
Place cards were calligraphed and the tongue-in-cheek menu was meant to be read like “me n you.” In fact, the menu itself was a major part of why the brides chose The LINE. “We are big foodies, being that we work in the hospitality industry, so we have always been drawn to [the hotel’s] use of local chefs and bartenders in its restaurants,” Jessica says. “We appreciated how they like to source and cook with ingredients from the Chesapeake area, so everything on our menu was seasonal and fresh.”
We thought a lot about music and found the perfect songs that fit who we are.
The newlyweds’ first dance was one of their most cherished memories of the day—and rightfully so. “We planned a choreographed dance and started practicing six months in advance,” Jessica says. “Our instructor moved from DC to Las Vegas, so we had to learn over Zoom. The best time we ever performed was on our wedding day and we couldn’t be more proud of ourselves.”
The song? “Stuck With U” by Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber. The entire evening’s playlist was curated by the brides. “We thought a lot about music and found the perfect songs that fit who we are,” Jessica says.
Jessica changed up her glam for the reception, going from shiny Hollywood waves to a chic ponytail. “My second [beauty] look was intended to change the look without changing my dress, and to make it easier to dance the night away,” she says. “To this day, we call it the ‘power pony’—it’s fun and fabulous.”
The wedding cake was another nod to their new shared last name: a moody, textured design with shades of gray and gold leaf. The top and bottom tiers featured almond cake with strawberry-rhubarb jam and lemon-curd buttercream. The middle tier was coconut cake with passionfruit curd and coconut-milk buttercream.
Even as the party got underway, there were more surprises in store: “I surprised Charisse on the dance floor in my little gold dress,” says Jessica, who rocked the shiny mini slip dress with high-top Vans. “She had no idea I was planning an outfit change but when I came out, her jaw dropped and I took her breath away.”
Ultimately, Jessica and Charisse did things their own way for the wedding—and couldn’t have been happier with the outcome. They offer the same advice to other pairs getting married. “Always be true to who you are as a couple and ask yourself what is important to you,” Jessica says. “Then, spend your money on that without any regrets!”