Francesca Ernst, a marketing and digital strategist for the Clinton Foundation, had recently graduated from the University of Virginia and wanted to put her passion for politics and progressive issues to good use. Her interest in communications and public service landed her a job at the American Federation of Teachers, where she first met Murad Khan, a recent law school grad who had worked on the 2008 Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama presidential campaigns. The two became fast friends, frequently grabbing coffee together (Murad, she would later learn, hates coffee), going out with friends, and training for races together outside of work . . . and before they knew it, their relationship evolved into something more.
The couple had been dating for several years when one snowy evening in January of 2016 Francesca finally landing back home in New York City after a blizzard had canceled a series of flights. “After arriving at JFK at 9:00 P.M., my sister called me panicked because she had forgot her credit card and needed help closing out her bar tab at Tavern on the Green,” Francesca explains. “I cabbed over to the restaurant ready to fight whoever was holding my sister hostage. Instead, I was kindly escorted around the corner of the completely empty restaurant to find Murad, a cheese plate, and a bottle of champagne. Shortly thereafter, he made his proposal. I was completely blindsided, happily accepted, and don’t remember a single word of what he said.”
After they became engaged, they both decided they wanted to tie the knot during the summer and set the date for July 2nd of the following year. “We envisioned a mix between a natural Virginia garden wedding and a formal state dinner,” explains Francesca. “Pippin Hill Farm in Charlottesville was not only a cross-section of those interests, but also sentimental in its connection to my Virginia heritage, our love of presidential history, and the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.” With a date so close to Independence Day, the two decided to keep their wedding on theme. Working with planner Cody Grannis the two added touches of their style throughout; tables were named after their favorite American presidents, while their cake was covered with red, white, and blue sparklers.
Unlike most brides, Francesca ended up choosing one of the first dresses she tried on at The White Gown in New York City. She was looking for something classic that would stand the test of time, but also something that was capable of looking good and feeling good in the Virginia heat. “It was a complete departure from what I thought I was going to get,” she says. “It had beautiful lace, shimmering threads, and defining features on the back that made it truly unique.” Meanwhile, Murad was inspired by James Bond and Ryan Gosling, and chose a white coat, blue tuxedo pants, and Gucci boots and sunglasses for his big day.
The ceremony took place at Pippin Hill, overlooking the property’s vineyard with the Blue Ridge mountains in the background. Guests gathered and took their seats, using the on-theme hashtag #YesWeKhan2017 to record everything. The bridal party walked down the aisle to “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles, and when it came time for Francesca to make her entrance Mumford & Sons’ “I Will Wait” played in the background. Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer officiated the ceremony and according to Francesca, “it was filled with laughter, personal anecdotes, many mentions of our sweet dog, Happy, the exchanging of the rings, and the breaking of the glass.”
After they were pronounced husband and wife, the Khans and their friends and family were treated to a locally sourced dinner catered by Pippin Hill Farm, which included ribeye and crab cakes. For their first dance, the couple chose Otis Redding’s “Stand By Me,” and later cut the American-themed Sweethaus vanilla cake, decorated with red, white, and blue sprinkles. Working under President Obama, Murad had picked up a thing or two about public speaking and decided to give his own welcome speech, which may have run a few minutes over. “It was filled with chants of Yes We Khan throughout;” a moment Francesca describes as one of her favorites of the entire evening. Another highlight? Late at night Murad’s best man dressed up in a massive inflatable dinosaur costume and came on the dance floor to re-energize the party. Now that’s definitely a first!