July 4, 1776, marks the date America celebrates its historic parting with Great Britain. July 4, 2014, however, represents a new allegiance between the two nations.
American bride Juanita McGowen and British groom Guy Snowdon, who met in the Midlands of Britain and reside in Birmingham, England, chose this patriotic day to marry at the Jefferson Memorial on the Mall.
“Having a traditional wedding in a nice hall with a sit-down chicken or salmon meal is probably idyllic for a lot of brides, but we didn’t want our day to be like that,” says Juanita, a 32-year-old marketing analyst for hydraulic equipment manufacturer Parker Hannifin. “We wanted something different. We wanted something memorable. We wanted something that would last, be fun and represent our characters.”
The irony of sharing their nuptials at the famous landmark, which features inscribed passages from the Declaration of Independence, was not lost on the couple.
Juanita, an Ohio native, was working as a freelance music journalist in 2010 and covering the United Kingdom’s Midlands when she came across a CD of the British rock band the Fores. One play and she was hooked. She liked the group’s lyrics and its classic rock sound, but it was the gravelly, powerful voice of the lead singer that truly grabbed her.
Soon after, she went to see the band perform, and saw the singer, a cute, 20-something redhead.
“I know it sounds funny, but I fell in love with him the first time I saw him,” she says. She made it a point to introduce herself to him after the concert. She was surprised to learn he had also studied up on her.
“Somebody had told me that there was going to be a journalist there, so I did a bit of research. I remember thinking, ‘Oh, she’s quite cute,’ ” recalls Guy, a 26-year-old musician and product specialist for the electronic musical instrument manufacturer Roland UK.
Despite their mutual attraction, Guy was distracted after their brief introduction and did not get her number.
Luckily, the two enjoyed the same local music scene and shared mutual friends. After months of flirting and getting to know each other better, their friends spilled the beans, disclosing that they both “fancied each other,” Juanita says.
“Since then, everything has just fallen into place,” she says. “I can’t remember a time since knowing Guy that I haven’t loved him in some form or fashion. I fully believe this; he’s my best friend, and he’s my best mate.”
Guy feels similarly. “I think the strongest point between the two of us is that we can just have an open discussion about anything,” he says. “We deal with every day as it comes. We never fight, but, if we do, by the end of the night we are watching a film and snuggling up to one another.”
He said he felt right at home meeting Juanita’s family. “You couldn’t choose a better family for a random, short, ginger English bloke to marry into,” he says.
In 2013, they began discussing marriage. When Juanita surprised Guy with concert tickets to see his favorite singer, Tom Petty, in Paris, he decided that would be the perfect spot to propose. He spent months in advance collaborating with a local Birmingham jeweler to design a pearl engagement ring.
That June, he proposed to her at the Pont des Arts, the famous love lock bridge that crosses the Seine River. As soon as they returned to the U.K., Juanita began making wedding arrangements. She quickly discovered that planning a wedding in England was expensive and the legal requirements were stricter than she expected.
Frustrated and crying, she Skyped her older sister, Mel Hampton. Her sister, who lives in Alexandria, suggested she instead get married in the District and offered to help her with planning.
Juanita agreed, began looking at venues on the Mall and decided on July 4 as the date. “For me, there was no other date in mind. I am quite proud to be an American. Living in England for as long as I have, I wouldn’t say I’m obsessed, but I do make sure I have American flags up,” said Juanita, who will keep her last name. “Everyone knows I am an American; there is no doubt about it.”
About 30 guests, half Brits and half Americans, gathered to celebrate. The 12-hour wedding extravaganza featured a champagne toast at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Washington, followed by a hog roast at Mel’s home in Alexandria and an evening Potomac River cruise on which they watched the annual fireworks display.
“Everything was just brilliant and very unexpected,” Guy said. He donned a blue suit and she carried a patriotic bouquet of red, white and blue flowers down the aisle. A Krispy Kreme doughnut dessert tower displayed on a “Doctor Who” cake stand replaced the standard wedding cake.
“As cheesy as it sounds,” Guy said days after the wedding, “it was probably the best day of my life.”