District Winery co-founder Brian Leventhal officiated a wedding ceremony at his Titanic-sized restaurant, wine production facility, and event venue new to Navy Yard on Oct. 13. Only, it was a fake wedding. Two-hundred people put on their fanciest digs and showed up to watch a fake bride walk down the aisle to a man she married years ago.
“We didn’t want someone’s real wedding to be the first wedding for us for a lot of reasons,” Leventhal explains. “It’s not fair to the couple or the staff.” The fake wedding was a trial run in preparation for District Winery’s first real wedding on Friday. They did the same to identify and address kinks back in 2012 when New York sister business Brooklyn Winery entered the wedding world.
“We try to make it as real as possible,” Leventhal says. “We had a whole ceremony set up.” Brooklyn Winery’s director of operations Rachel Sackheim was the bride and her husband was the groom. They renewed their vows.
The D.C. director of sales, Renae Ouellette, has been working weddings for 15 years and says she’s never done a mock wedding. “This was the best wedding ever,” she says. “There was no drama, no emotions, no family. So in that regard, the guests enjoyed themselves, and behind the scenes we learned to tweak a few processes.”
Other break out wedding venues likely don’t put on a mock wedding because of the cost. “It’s a financial investment on our part,” Leventhal says. “A large corporate entity might not want to put it in an opening budget, but for us it’s money well spent.”
The first dance was Ouellette’s favorite moment from the fabricated nuptials because the husband didn’t know he would be dancing. “Rachel coordinated it,” Ouellette says. “They did it to the same song they danced to at their wedding.”
The morning after the faux wedding, which came complete with featured floral arrangements, a live band, and a real cake, District Winery sent a survey to all of the guests who were primarily close friends and family of company employees. “If one person says one thing we brush it off, but if five say the same thing it’s a trend,” Leventhal explains. “That’s how we took some of those learnings.”
For real brides and grooms, District Winery says they have availability for Friday and Sunday weddings in 2018 and they’re already booking for Fridays-Sundays in 2019.
District Winery, 385 Water St. SE; (202) 484-9210; districtwinery.com