PHOTOGRAPHY BY SHARI + MIKE PHOTOGRAPHERS
Jaleh and Nabi find rich inspiration and romance in centuries-old cultural customs
Everything was crystal clear for event planner Jaleh Fotoohi, owner of JEvents Planning & Design, when it came to planning her own wedding. Her fiancé, Nabi Awada, was on board with her vision right from the start—knowing how beautifully she created others’ occasions—and giving her free rein.
“He just wanted to get married, have our families [together] and have a beautiful celebration. He wasn’t picky at all,” Jaleh recalls.
Jaleh’s plan evolved while witnessing others’ nuptials. She was adamant about what she didn’t want.
“From experience, I didn’t want long speeches or 20 people giving speeches,” she explains. “I knew I didn’t want anything super traditional, although it was a mixed culture wedding because Nabi is Lebanese [Jaleh is Persian]. I didn’t want it super-cultured and super-traditional.”
That lack of traditional structure didn’t mean ignoring traditional elements altogether. They opted for a Sofreh Aghd—a centuries-old Persian custom of a table or “spread” where the ceremony takes place. There was a Persian cake dance that also incorporated a Lebanese knife dance. And there was the food created by Toque Catering, who collaborated with the bride and a chef friend on classic recipes.
“Everything was fusion. A little bit of Middle Eastern, Lebanese and Western, ” Jaleh says.
In keeping with a more informal approach, the couple chose Bird’s Eye Cove Farm on Vancouver Island for their late May wedding. And though they made use of the indoor spaces, most of the event was outdoors, including the ceremony, bar and cake table.
“It was one of those things that as soon as I picked the date, I said ‘it’s not going to rain.’” And it didn’t.
Having friends who work in the industry made all the difference for pulling all the elements together. Florist Donald Yim created the bridal bouquet; dear friends Nassim (makeup) and Maryam Collahi (hair) collaborated on Jaleh’s glowing look.
The bride chose a simple dress by Rosa Clará, that her mother customized, to complement a bold headpiece and belt by Jeweliette Jewellery. The groom’s sleek Hugo Boss suit was accented with a “masterpiece” says Jaleh—a ceramic and fabric bow tie by Italian brand Cor Sine Labe Doli.
In Persian culture, the Sofreh Aghd is where the marriage ceremony takes place and must display certain symbolic elements: a candelabra, a mirror, spices, honey and flowers, to name only a few. Jaleh eschewed the traditional banquet table format to create a Sofreh reflecting her unique creative vision.
With help from florist friend Lauren Sabo, Jaleh built lush, fragrant, floral installations for the walls and ceiling to define and soften the space, create interest and add warmth. The tables, in contrast, had simple small tropical plants instead of floral arrangements with metal candle holders.
A combination of high and low dining tables created an informal dinner arrangement where guests could choose to seat themselves. Just one family table had place-card seating, created by Maurelle Calligraphy. Jaleh says she used a mix of metal and wood, the softness of the furniture, and drapes to produce contrast.
A Middle Eastern-inspired lounge, with furniture provided by Bash Specialty of Victoria, offered guests a relaxing conversation setting.
Sugar Penguin Cakery crafted round cakes in lieu of the traditional tiered confection for the stunning swing cake table. Beyond the cake table, guests nibbled on bite-sized cakes, mini ice cream sorbets and mini macaron ice cream sandwiches by Toque, as well as made-to-order churros by Hugo Churros.
Planning and creating any wedding oneself is a huge challenge—even with the help of family and friends. “I rented a 16-foot truck and drove it to the Island and I drove it back after my wedding,” says Jaleh. “I had to take all the flowers, the furniture [from A&B Party Rental], the Sofreh, all the things we rented, all the Debut [Debut Event Design] decor, like the curtains and the linens.”