Sept. 1, 2018 | Marwood Estate, Potomac, Md.
When Elle Leonsis is asked what she loves most about her new husband Toby Helme, she gushes about his modesty, curiosity, humor, loyalty, handsomeness and cooking abilities and then confesses … “I think I could write a sonnet on this.”
So it was, in true poetic fashion, that a certain “bolt of Cupid fell” when Helme, a Wiltshire, England native and student at Edinburgh University in Scotland moved to Washington for his junior year abroad at Georgetown University, and a mutual friend asked Leonsis to share her all-American knowledge of hotspots with the visiting Brit. The duo was taken aback by how easily they connected and how much they had in common.
Within a year of dating, Leonsis took a leap of faith, moving from Washington to London and making a home with Helme in Notting Hill. On a quiet night, he proposed with an Art Deco sapphire ring, which is reminiscent of the Greek evil eye emblem that symbolizes protection.
Their engagement would merge two prominent families hailing from complementing industries: beer and sports. Toby, a consultant at Smith & Williamson, is a grandson to Bryan Walter Guinness, 2nd Baron Moyne, and an heir to part of the Guinness family’s brewing fortune. Leonsis, now general manager of SnagFilms, was born into Washington sports royalty. Her father Ted Leonsis is the founder and CEO of Monumental Sports, which owns the Washington Capitals, Washington Wizards, Washington Mystics and Capital One Arena.
While their wedding embraced a woodlands theme, with colors of hydrangea, blue and green, and the fairest flowers “o’ th’ season” suspended throughout like Shakespearean verse, the event paid homage to their family legacies as well.
Leonsis credits her mother, Lynn, with handling the planning in style and at her very own home, no less. Marwood, the 13-acre former Gore family estate that sits on a knoll above the Potomac River, was once rented by Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. and briefly served as Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s summer home in the 1920s.
“It surprised no one how immaculate the gardening and tent and little features all were,” says Leonsis, embracing her daughterly pride. “My mom is damn good at throwing a beautiful party!”
One of the most magnificent elements that helped “crown” the evening was the multi-colored floral “cloud.” Inspired by London-based artist Rebecca Louise Law, Leonsis and Helme had their florist, Victoria Clausen, orchestrate and assemble the display suspended above the dance floor.
And then, the dress. The day’s floral theme was inspired by the blue flowers on the bride’s custom Ramona Keveza ball gown. “The bold and beautiful pattern really made me feel like it was a work of art,” Leonsis says. “When I found a gown that was so striking and never worn before by a bride, I fell in love pretty quickly.”
Toby’s groomsmen were dressed by Charles Tyrwhitt, the same company that has suited up the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals; his ushers embodied the proud tradition of Highland dress, wearing trews (or kilts) and doublets with sporrans.
Continuing with the familial nods, Helme’s father, Sir Tom Helme, gifted linens from his luxury British fabric company, Fermoie, which supplied table cloths, napkins, curtains, pillows and upholstered walls. “The dining tent felt like a forest thanks to his Savernake print,” Leonsis says. And to pay homage to Toby’s mother, the Honorable Mirabel Jane Guinness, and to her side of the family, the couple had a Guinness and salted caramel cake created by Fleur and Flour.
The Guinness delights didn’t stop there. BD3 Design expertly replicated an Irish pub, “kitted out” with Guinness on tap along with a 20-foot-long oyster bar. Memorabilia from Donegal, Ireland, where the Guinness family has a beloved home, was also included in the theme.
The bride’s father played a memorable role, serenading the couple alongside his college roommate with a surprise rendition of “Banana Boat Song.” The true pièce de résistance – the Stanley Cup – was displayed during cocktail hour and the bride watched the man of her dreams pop a magnum bottle of champagne right into it while friends and family looked on.
After hours of sipping champagne and drinking Guinness, there also needs to be … chili dogs. In true Washington fashion, the late night snack was provided by the legendary Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street NW. “It was unreal,” Leonsis says, “seeing the older Brits try and love chili dogs for the first time. Such a great memory.” And that, perhaps, is a different sonnet for another day.
José and Patricia Andrés, Robert Altman and Lynda Carter, Mark and Sally Ein, Don Graham and Amanda Bennett, Arthur and Hannah Weiland Guinness, Mark and Judy Lerner, John and Gina Carlson, The Right Honourable James Stourton, and Chris and Lorraine Wallace.
Bride’s First Dress: Romona Keveza | Second Dress: Elie Saab | Hair and Makeup: Claudine Fay | Wedding Planner: Arney Walker | Caterer: Susan Gage | Cake: Fleur and Flour | Flowers: Victoria Clausen | Music Coordinator: Elan Artists | Linens: Fermoie | DJ: Chris Styles | Photographer: Aaron Delesie