When Abby Bird met Alex El-Fakir at a friend’s Christmas party in December of 2019, they could never have imagined that they would hit it off so well—or that a pandemic would happen only three months later. But despite the challenges of a quarantined world, the couple got to know each other—and fell in love.
“We began dating in January 2020, and even with all the complications of COVID, it gave us a lot of time to spend together,” says Abby, who, like Alex, works in the government/non-profit sector. “Normally, Alex is usually on the road for significant periods of time for work, but because of travel being suspended, we were able to get to know each other very intentionally.”
Nine months of dating proved to them both that they found something special in one another, and they knew that it was time to make it official. “We had talked about where our relationship was headed months before, and we both knew we wanted to get married,” says Abby, recalling the day in September 2020 that changed her life. “Since things had been so hectic with work, travel, and everything else, we decided to take a weekend trip to Charlottesville and get away from DC for a weekend. We love that area of Virginia and enjoyed visiting wineries, good food, and the beautiful views of the Shenandoah, so I really thought he was going to propose—but nothing happened. On the drive back, he was really insistent that we find a ‘scenic overlook,’ and I remember thinking, ‘Oh, this is it.’ Still, he didn't propose, and I was a bit confused since I knew he was going to be leaving the following weekend for possibly two months of travel. I pushed my disappointment down and got on with the week thinking how much this was going to be a long wait until maybe Thanksgiving when we'd be in-person again and he could propose,” Abby explains.
“The following Saturday came, and we made plans to go out for drinks that afternoon and then have dinner with close friends at their house in Maryland. Since Alex was leaving Sunday morning, we wouldn't have the opportunity to go to mass together, so we decided to stop by our parish, St. Rita's, to pray together before happy hour. We love this church, and it has been a central part of our lives, which is why Alex had planned to propose there. When I walked through the door, I saw a wedding happening, so I quickly tried to walk back out. Alex was super confused and kept saying that there wasn't supposed to be a wedding, which I thought was a bit odd. Most Catholic weddings happen on Saturday.'
“We walked around to the front of the church and, sure enough, there was a wedding beginning. Poor Alex had called the church ahead of time to be sure we wouldn't be interrupting anyone for him to propose in the church and there seems to have been a clerical error. So Alex suggested that we would go to the shrine next to the church and pray there. It was odd to me that he was really curious what the plaque on the statue said, but it turned out that he had arranged for his roommates to be there to get photos, and he was trying to gesture to them to come around the side of the building. I was really thrown by seeing them there in suits with a camera. Then he got down on one knee and pulled out the most beautiful ring. It was the best moment.”
Eight months later, on May 7, 2021, Abby and Alex had an even greater moment when Abby walked down the aisle at St. Rita's Catholic Church in Alexandria to meet her fiancé at the altar. Wearing an A-line backless short-sleeve dress with a boatneck that she found online from a boutique in Russia, Abby exchanged vows with Alex while their 13 bridesmaids and groomsmen stood in attendance.
Having been pronounced man and wife, the newlyweds joined their guests at Union Street Public House for a reception of heavy hors d'oeuvres and a delicious variety of pies and pie-shaped cookies in lieu of cake—and a party to remember.
“We were really touched by everyone being there, and it was such an amazing day. The best surprise was at the end of the evening when we had the DJ—the brother of one of my bridesmaids who was also a former roommate—play ‘The Parting Glass,’ and everyone came on the dance floor and sang it out loudly together. It was one of the best memories,” says Abby. “The afterparty at O'Connell’s was also super fun. I love Irish pubs, and it was the perfect ending to the day. One of the crazy things that happened was actually while Alex and I were walking around with the photographer to do the bridal portraits. People in Old Town were applauding and cheering for us, which was really sweet. Because it happened a lot, I didn't pay attention right away when someone yelled ‘I say yes to your dress!’ Next thing we know, Monte from Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta stops his car in the middle of a little road, runs over. and gushes over my dress. We even got some photos!”
Having been sent off to start their honeymoon, the newly married El-Fakirs spent a week in Key West before coming home to Alexandria, happy to start their life together as husband and wife.
Church: St. Rita’s Catholic Church
Reception Venue: Union Street Public House
Florist: Helen Bird, Bride’s Aunt
Photographer: I'm Mary Katherine LLC
Photographer: Melinda Toth Photography
DJ: Daniel Ferguson
Pie: Rise Bakery
Dress: Tavifa Brides
Designer: Kate Likhacheva
Hair & Mua: Adina Hair Studio
Bridesmaid's Dresses: Azazie