February 7, 2015 • The Jefferson Hotel, Richmond
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Mimi Darden and Clarke Gottwald.
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Leaving the ceremony at St. James’s Episcopal Church.
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Mimi and Clarke after the ceremony.
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Mimi and Clarke make their entrance to their reception on the grand staircase at the Jefferson Hotel.
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The groom’s cake.
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Mimi’s wedding monogram.
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; ring bearers Luke and Mac Sherrill.
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Clarke with the couple’s two dogs, Ziggy and Taj.
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The couple leaving their reception at the Jefferson Hotel in their 1979 Volkswagen Westfalia van.
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The bridal party.
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For Mimi Darden and Clarke Gottwald it was literally written in the stars—a shooting star, to be precise.
The college students were on the porch of his parents’ oceanfront Virginia Beach house in the summer of 2011 when they both saw a star shoot across the sky. “That was a special moment for both of us,” says Mimi. And even though they grew up traveling in the same social circles—her brother and his brother were friends, their families exchanged Christmas cards—that was the first time they had officially met.
It would be another year after the star sighting before they would start dating. Clarke graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a double major in physics and East Asian languages in the spring of 2012, opening the door for the couple to begin their courtship in earnest. He would wait patiently for Mimi to get her bachelor’s degree in sport and event management from Elon University in January 2014 before surprising her with a marriage proposal on a trip to Snowmass, Colorado, to celebrate her graduation.
On a particularly clear, signature Western “blue-sky” morning during their trip, Clarke told Mimi he wanted to get one of the photographers stationed at the top of the resort’s Elk Camp Mountain to take their picture. Tipped off about what was soon to take place, the photographer took a few pictures and then instructed Clarke to get on one knee. “Next thing I knew, I looked over and he had the biggest smile on his face and popped the question,” says Mimi. “I fell to my knees and said, ‘Yes!’” Clarke followed his proposal by presenting Mimi with a three-stone diamond ring with a double-diamond band.
With the wedding set for the following year, almost to the day, Mimi and Clarke collaborated with their families and wedding planners at Richmond-based Merriment Events. With large extended families and friends to accommodate, the couple chose the Jefferson Hotel’s soaring rotunda and grand ballroom for their reception following their exchange of vows at St. James’s Episcopal Church in Richmond.
A cocktail reception in the historic hotel’s rotunda provided Mimi and Clarke with an “unforgettable” introduction as husband and wife. “It was so much fun looking out into the crowd and seeing all of our favorite people as we walked down the grand staircase for our entrance,” says Mimi.
Dinner in the grand ballroom followed cocktails. “Our vision for the wedding was simple elegance,” says Mimi, who chose navy and gold for her bridesmaids’ dresses. Gold accents defined tablecloths, lighting and chairs in the hotel’s grand ballroom where white flowers were employed to complement the room’s ornate décor. Mimi’s beaded silk tulle Rosa Clara dress informed the details of the newlyweds’ five-tiered white wedding cake. A groom’s cake reflected an entirely different side of the couple—their treasured 1979 Volkswagen Westfalia van that served as their getaway vehicle after the reception.
Besides that shooting star, the pair also shares a love of travel and adventure. After a honeymoon in South Africa, they have settled in Beijing, where Clarke is working as a business manager for his family’s firm Afton Chemical. “Celebrating our love together and with everyone we love under the same roof was so incredibly meaningful to us,” says Mimi.