Cortavia, known as Cort and Matthew, known as Van took their love affair all over Washington D.C. after their engagement which took place at the National Mall. The proposal involved months of planning, a flash mob of family and friends, and much more. The planning involved to pull the proposal off was just a fraction of what this happy couple has in store while planning their July 2016 nuptials at The Carnegie Institution of Science. More on both the engagement and upcoming wedding below!
Tell us about how you met and all about the proposal!
Cortavia and Van met for the first time on January 6, 2013 while watching football with friends at a local bar. That night, subtle glances and a modest exchange of social media handles generated a spark that would lay dormant for a year. Nearly a year after their initial meeting, Cortavia’s Twitter account was hacked and spam messages were sent to her contacts. Van was in Louisiana at the time and received a message from Cortavia. They hadn’t connected since the football game and it was obvious that she had unintentionally contacted him. Van messaged Cortavia to inform her that her account had been compromised. The conversation via direct message led to the exchange of telephone numbers and plans for a future date.
When Van returned to DC, they had their first date at Taylor’s Steak and Ice on H Street. Shortly after their first date, Van's father passed away. Cortavia had experienced the loss of her father, Mark, two years prior and understood the raw emotion Van would experience. The two grew closer and in the following months, Van launched a full-out campaign to captivate Cortavia's heart. The courtship was filled with concerts, comedy shows, movies, and museums. From Christmas parties to tours of the White House—even the most elaborately planned dates ended in organic conversations where the couple revealed their souls to one another while sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The memorial brought them serenity and served as a place of refuge and deep dialogue. It would later serve as the perfect backdrop for their engagement.
August 1, 2015 was a beautiful Saturday morning. Van’s mother, Tanya, was visiting and he told Cortavia that they were going to the National Mall to sightsee. Cortavia had no idea that Van had been planning the proposal for months and enlisted the assistance of some of her closest friends. Van was determined to propose at the Lincoln Memorial because the location was so significant to their relationship. Leaving no detail to chance, Van requisitioned the use of the Lincoln Memorial from the National Parks Service.
That morning, Cortavia, Van, and Ms. Tanya walked through the National Mall, stopping to take a few pictures. When Van and Cortavia approached the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Cortavia thought she recognized her childhood friend, Janet. Not ready to reveal the surprise, Van convinced Cortavia that she was mistaken. They continued to walk until John Legend’s “All of Me” began playing from a speaker. Cortavia was shocked and tears flowed as a crowd enclosed the couple. A flash mob that included friends from each fraction of Cortavia’s life began. As Cortavia’s mother and sister walked down the Lincoln Memorial stairs, Van kneeled to one knee. Cheers immediately erupted and Pharrell's "Happy" began playing.
The engagement session…
The shoot was self-styled complete with four different outfit changes and four locations of personal significance to the couple. Van and Cort have tremendous school pride for their respective alma maters. Van attended Morehouse College and Cort attended Florida State University. The first session started in their respective letterman jackets at the National Arboretum in Northeast Washington, DC. Both Van and Cort are lovers of history and selected this location because of the historical significance and proximity to their home in Washington DC.
The shoot continued with what the couple calls "Classic Van and Cort" at the Arboretum. Then we moved over to the campus of Catholic University. Nestled behind the Shrine sits a large oak tree. Timed perfectly at sunset, I was able to capture the chemistry with the lens of my camera. She wore a black gown and he wore a grey tuxedo with black lapel, reminiscent of the attire their honored guests would wear at the wedding ceremony and reception. Finally, we moved into the street to capture the image that serves as their save the date. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception served as the perfect backdrop. The shoot concluded in SouthWest Washington, DC.
What did you do on your first date?
We met at Taylor's Steak and Ice on H Street in Northeast Washington, DC. With minimal expectations on either side, the night started with candid revealing conversation about life, love and the prospect of the future. Not wanting the night to end, we found a lounge and continued talking. Van walked me to my car and we chatted over the phone afterwards.
What's your favorite thing to do as a couple?
We love to visit the National Mall, whether jogging, walking, meeting after a stressful day at work, or visiting the Lincoln Memorial just because. The National Mall has a deep personal connection for us and provides the two of us serenity, in addition to the historical significance which we both love.
How has wedding planning been so far?
Wedding planning has been relatively stress free. We not been without a few bumps in the road, from vendors to the enviable family member who wants their own guest list... We are tackling this as a team and overall, the experience has been amazing. The hardest part has been creating a guest list that captures the intimacy wanted for the wedding day without hurting those who feel close to the both of us.
Tell us what you're looking forward to most on the wedding day.
We cannot wait to see our vision become a reality! Guests in all black attire and all white decor. We are beyond excited to host 150 of our closest family and friends in the city where we met, live and fell in love! The one thing atop both of our lists is our honored guest connecting for the first time. We know it is going to be a magical evening.
Photography: Keyla S. Photography
Makeup: Brandi Rhinehart
Wedding Planner: Christina Cue, OnCue Productions
Gowns: Zoe Arku Designs