Jillian Brown & Andrew Johnson

Aug. 31, 2019 • Riverside on the Potomac, Leesburg

In July 2018, during a visit to see his mother’s family in Guatemala, Andrew Johnson surprised his then-girlfriend Jillian Brown with a private tree-house proposal, surrounded by photos and mementos from their life together. After she said yes, the couple returned to the family’s home, where they celebrated with more than 40 family members, Jillian’s mother and sister, and a mariachi band.

The vision for their wedding was equally inclusive. “Since Andrew’s extended family is from Guatemala and mine is from the Midwest,” Jillian says, “it was very important to us to have both sides represented in the details.”

The wedding mass at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Ashburn included readings in both English and Spanish. At the cocktail hour—the reception was held nearby in Leesburg at Riverside on the Potomac—the bride and groom served Wisconsin cheese and a traditional Guatemalan stew called pepián de pollo. Two alpacas also made an appearance.

“They were dressed in a top hat and veil. Andrew loves animals, and I totally surprised him,” Jillian says. “For drinks, we drove all the way to Wisconsin and back for a beer called Spotted Cow, which isn’t sold anywhere else. It was a huge hit.”

“We included many special details honoring their families and cultures, including hearts handsewn in Guatemala to raise money for villages affected by the 2018 volcano and Jillian’s late father’s bicycle, which was covered in florals.”

—Brittany Hagaman, Grit & Grace

Before dinner and dancing, Andrew and Jillian asked guests to join them for a special unity ceremony that they created themselves. “We each read our vows to each other,” Jillian says, “and Andrew’s 12-year-old sister performed Jason Mraz’s ‘Have It All’ on the ukulele—there was hardly a dry eye in the barn after that. It was a very special half hour of programming. We had speeches from the maid of honor and Andrew’s father, and all the guests circled around the dance floor with us in the center.”

The couple’s first dance—a cha-cha—was to “Ella Fue (She Was the One),” which has lyrics in both English and Spanish.

“At the end of the night, we brought out fun props, including Green Bay Packer cheesehead hats, Mardi Gras beads, and sombreros,” Jillian says. “We wanted little touches here and there to make guests feel connected to who we are and to our families—in fun, meaningful ways.”


Photographer: Becca B Photography, Palmyra Planner: Brittany Hagaman, Grit & Grace Inc., Leesburg Floral Design: Holly Chapple Flowers, Leesburg Hair & Makeup: Amie Decker Beauty, Savage, Md. Groom’s Attire: Indochino, McLean Paper: Minted.com Caterer: Spilled Milk Catering, Gaithersburg, Md. Cake: Fluffy Thoughts Cake, McLean Music, Reception: Free Spirit Band, Silver Spring, Md. Entertainment: Mariachi band from Entertainment Exchange, Silver Spring, Md.; Alpacas from Double 8 Alpaca Ranch, Purcellville Rentals: DC Rental, Arlington Videographer: Bowen Films, Leesburg

This article originally appeared in the February 2021 issue.

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