Wedding customs from around the world: Persia

A guest post by Nilou Nouri

Nilou has been serving as a Persian wedding officiant for many years – and has frequently done so for weddings by A Day Like No Other.

All weddings, as celebrations of union between two individuals, are filled with ritual.  Some rituals are, for the most part, universal, such as wearing white by the bride, or the exchange of rings and exchange of vows.  Some rituals vary depending on the cultural backgrounds of the families.  Many rituals of food are used during the ceremony, to symbolize sweetness (sharing honey) or the bitter-sweetness of marriage (sharing sugar-covered almonds), etc.  Some rituals symbolize the binding of the union of two individuals (hand-fasting, lasso-ceremony, chuppah or the sugar-rubbing cloth held overhead the couple) and some rituals highlight the coming together of two families and communities (unity candle lighting, ring warming ceremony, etc.).

The Iranian (Persian) ceremony is full of beautiful, meaningful rituals, all of which point to nature, love and the spiritual world.  And, unlike many wedding ceremonies worldwide, where religion plays a central role, the Iranian (Persian) ceremony is entirely secular.  All of its elements point to nature, beauty and love between the couple.  Additionally, there is great emphasis on the importance of literature by reciting beautiful love poetry of classical Persian poets such as Khayyam, Hafez, Rumi and others.

During their nuptials, the couple sits in front of a decorative spread, Sofreh Aghd, with items symbolizing well-wishes for their married life.  These include a mirror (for reflection), candles (light in the universe), crystalized sugar (sweetness), eggs and nuts (fertility), flowers (beauty), herbs and fruit (health), bread (sustenance), spices (to ward off any negative energies) and a book (usually poetry or holy book depending on the preferences of the couple).  In addition to these items, two large sugar cones as well as a container of honey will adorn the Sofreh and will be used during the ceremony.  The cones (which represent the couple) will be rubbed together over a cloth held over their heads, in the hopes that every contact between the couple will result in sweetness!  The honey will be used by the couple to take turns feeding to one another with their pinky fingers and also symbolizes sweetness for their marriage.

During the Persian wedding ceremony, the Officiant asks the couple for their declaration of consent.  While the groom answers with a loud and resounding “ba’leh”, or “Yes!”, the bride traditionally would not respond the first nor the second time that the question is asked.  During this silence, her girlfriends would chime in and say, “the bride has gone to pick flowers” or “the bride has gone to bring rosewater”.  In the old days, the groom would be seated outside of the ceremony room (which was traditionally a female space) and the bride’s girlfriends would tease him and say “she’s not here, she’s gone to pick flowers”!  Another reason for this delay may have been to allow the bride to consider the decision that would forever change her destiny.

After the couple has given their consent, they share their vows and rings and feed each other honey!  At the end of the ceremony, the close relatives of the couple will present their ceremony gifts (usually jewelry or envelopes with cash) before the couple is announced and shares their first kiss as married!

Today many couples choose to modify the ceremony to fit their wishes, beliefs, budgets and preferences.  Some will have an elaborate Sofreh of considerable proportions, and some will display a modest version with a few key items.  For couples who are celebrating a mixed union, coming from different traditions, many times on the Sofreh will be displayed items reflecting their backgrounds.  For example, in my work with mixed/fusion couples, I have seen everything from an Irish horseshoe and Child of Prague statue, to a Mexican lasso and coin, to the Native American basket, to the Jewish wine glass and the African American broom, among other items.  These objects fit beautifully together and are a testament to love, union and mutual acceptance between two individuals, their families and communities.

Every wedding is so very special and such a happy occasion.  Afterall we are celebrating the greatest force in the universe, Love!  So regardless of size, venue, expense and any fanfare, the true essence of every wedding is the celebration of a union, and the coming together of families and communities.  Rituals help to make this special occasion even more meaningful and memorable.

All photos show sofreh set-ups by Nilou

A new cakemaker “on the block!”

There are still courageous people “out there” in our wedding vendor community, despite the disastrous effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. So courageous (or audacious?) that they start a new business right now. You read correctly. Patisserie chef Janay McCullough is opening an offshoot of her Avocado Catering company: Avocado Baking – dedicated to uncompromisingly modern and bold cake designs. And since what’s underneath that pretty exterior matters at least as much, here are her – equally bold – flavors!

Avocado Mojito: Moist vanilla cake, avocado citrus mousse, fresh mint, sweet Swiss meringue buttercream; a fun, refreshing flavor perfect for warm weather and adventurous eaters. It does not have a strong avocado flavor, rather it adds depth and fat to help balance the acidic citrus and fresh mint.

Berries & The Bees: Our signature, moist vanilla cake with salted honey roasted strawberry compote filling and sweet Swiss meringue buttercream. The ultimate crowd pleaser with fresh, bright strawberries, roasted with local honey, which lends a buttery note to the berries.

Chocolate Lovers: Vanilla cake, rich and silky fudge filling with sea salt, dark chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream. The perfect balance the dark chocolate. This flavor is for the serious chocolate lover.

High Tea: Delicately flavored earl grey tea cake, salted caramel, lemon zest Swiss meringue buttercream. The floral flavor of bergamot, a citrus that tastes like a cross between a lemon, orange, and grapefruit, lends itself well to the sweetness of our caramel. For adventurous eaters with a caramel addiction!

Tiramisu: Vanilla cake, soaked with boozy-coffee tiramisu syrup, with a cream cheese and espresso Swiss meringue buttercream. Our take on a classic favorite!

Now that you know what’s INSIDE, here is what the outside might look like:

DIY project with your kids: a whimsical mailbox

Collaborate with your youngsters to turn your run-of-the-mill mailbox into a little piece of art and make your mail carrier’s jaw drop! Just be aware that for this project it is necessary to wear a face mask – so it’s only suitable for kids old enough to do that and use a spray paint can responsibly.

Here are the supplies you’ll need:

Medium-grit sandpaper

Painters masks

Painters tape

Aluminum primer

Metal paint spray paint in the beautiful color of your choice

First of all, outfit all participants with protective masks, then start sanding off rust and old paint from your mailbox.

Next, you need to cover house numbers and the mail flag with painters tape (older kids can do that!).

Spray on aluminum primer and allow it to dry.

Then, apply the metal spray paint and let it dry completely. AND THEN the real fun begins! Have your young artists decorate your mailbox – easiest way is using stencils. Want to go one step further? Make a sculpture of your mailbox! Get inspired:

Clownfish
Piggy
Woof!

And the results? WOW!!

Peonies…

Today the peony blooms in my garden opened – in glorious pink and in white, reminding me of the wonderful summer weddings of years gone by – when peonies were the stars of bridal bouquets and centerpieces …

Janae Shields Photography
Andre Vega Photography

– and of the many brides of 2020, anxiously awaiting their postponed wedding celebrations – next year, maybe…?

Here is the first bloom of this summer on the peony bush I inherited with my garden…

… and here is the one I planted myself last year, unsure of whether it’d make it through the winter. Such beauty…

I read up a little on peonies and learned a few things I’d like to share you with you. Where did they get their name? In Greek mythology, actually. They are named after Paeon, a student of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine who became deadly jealous of his talented student. Zeus, the supreme God, used his divine powers to save Paeon from his boss Asclepius by transforming him into – you guessed it – a beautiful flower. The peony!

Nowadays, the peony comes in 33 known species, mostly herbaceous plants up to 3 ft or shrubs up to 11 ft (!) tall, in colors ranging from white and yellow to pink to dark red. Peonies thrive in temperate regions of Asia, Europe and Western North America, and they bloom for only 7-10 days in early summer.

They have been prized for their beauty in many cultures for centuries – look at these examples:

Chinese watercolor
Chinese stamp

Botanical drawing, ca. 1809
Impressionist painting, Henri Fantin-Latour

They have become one of the most desired flowers for weddings – and once their blooming season in OUR area is over, we can still get them from (you would NEVER have guessed that!) Alaska – of all places – where unique growing conditions due to long hours of sunlight create availability when other sources have completed harvest. Late-summer brides, rejoice… we’ll get you your peonies!!

Gabby is working her cake magic!

My longtime friend and colleague Gabrielle Feuersinger of Cake Coquette fame made a time-lapse video just FOR US!!! How nice is that?! In case you were wondering how long it takes Gabby for the elaborate decoration of one of her masterpieces, now we know: exactly 27 seconds – on timelapse!

You’ll have to look twice and watch a couple more times to see it all what she’s doing, but even then we’ll probably miss a good part of her skill and artistry. In any case – get inspired for your own edible art!

Please click the play button to see Gabby in action.

Here is the finished masterpiece close up:

And if you need even more inspiration, here are some of Gabby’s recent creations for you to swoon over!

Continuing education with “Masterclass” courses

Now that I suddenly have more time on my hands than ever before (and more time than I like…) I was looking for something constructive to do – beyond my COVID-19 support & encouragement series here, that is! I wanted to widen my horizon, learn something new, and not necessarily something related to my business.

I have to give my husband credit for finding something for me, something that I didn’t even know existed: “MasterClass!” It’s a platform of online courses taught by accomplished professionals in their respective fields – chefs and pastry chefs, to start with; there is Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue; interior designer Kelly Wearstler, fashion designers (Diane von Fuerstenberg, Marc Jacobs), dancers, magicians, star architects (Frank Gehry), photography (Annie Leibovitz), acting and game theory. And many more whom I haven’t even explored yet! Each master class consists of 12-20 lessons of approx. 20 minutes – short enough to fit into my day and sometimes to even watch several in a row. This is something I am now really looking forward to every day! I already found an intuitive approach to gardening through watching “Gangster Gardener” Ron Finley (and maybe I’ll eventually develop a “green thumb” after all!) and I learned from pastry chef Dominique Ansel to make heavenly Madeleines. (BTW, all the links above lead to free sample lessons – enjoy!!)

Have a look at the course selection. The cost? You sign up for a year, and for access to all courses on the platform you pay 50 cents a day. It’s so totally worth it… and NO, I don’t get a kickback for recommending the platform. I’m simply enthusiastic!

Let me know what you think…

Katie and Marcelo – International High Elegance at Palo Alto Hills Golf & Country Club

Here’s to International Relations! Bride and groom actually met while studying – you guessed it! – International Relations (plus an MBA on top of that…), and what they entered into was, in fact, a very international (and for the longest time, long-distance) relationship: Marcelo is originally from Argentina, studied in Philadelphia, where he met Katie, originally from the SF Bay Area – but she had lived in West Africa for four years for her work… in no time, the two bridged any international issues and became inseparable, albeit in separate locations; only a few months before their wedding, they actually, finally, were able to move into their first shared home.

Given that they both were living and working far apart and far away, Katie’s parents and family friend Alice stepped in to take the lead for a truly memorable, truly big (280 guests) and extremely elegant wedding celebration for their only daughter, and they brought my company, A Day Like No Other, on board to come up with ideas and make them a reality for that one glorious day in October when all our yearlong hard work came to fruition.

Katie and her bridesmaids got ready at the house of Katie’s parents.

Fiona Tsang of Urban Beauty Loft and her assistants worked their magic on the bride, bridesmaids and mothers, and photographer Taralynn Lawton (all photos in this feature are by her!) and videographer Jesse Eckel of Owl & Tree Films captured it all, including Katie’s diaphanous wedding dress…

… and all the pretty details.

And here is a timeless mother-and-daughter moment…

Florist Janelle Jacky-Litt of Green Petal Designs delivered Katie’s bridal bouquet and all other personal flowers (and then started floral installation for the festivities)…

Marcelo and his groomsmen were also dressing up…

With that, bride and groom were ready for their First Look at the Municipal Rose Garden in San Jose…

Isn’t it romantic?!

While bride and groom were busy taking many, many pre-ceremony photos, my team, multiple vendor crews and family friend Alice were hard at work (actually, everyone had started work in the early morning hours…) to transform the chosen venue – the Palo Alto Hills Golf & Country Club – for Katie’s and Marcelo’s ceremony and reception. Annette Boyd Kevranian of Method42 Productions and her crew were rigging suspended floral decor and string lights and installing draping; the venue team led by onsite manager Brittany Rieland set up tables, chairs and lounge furniture and set the dining tables; my assistants and I were setting up signage and completing table settings; and…

florist Janelle brought the beautiful parklike surroundings inside by adorning every easel, railing and surface with trailing vines, visually connecting the outdoor ceremony setting with the indoor spaces for the reception.

Golden October sun bathing the rolling hills of the PAHGGC
A detail of the lush floral decor of the arch – a rich texture of hydrangeas, roses, dahlias, lilies and wildflowers, in shades ranging from ivory and blush pink to peach, mauve and wine red

Once the ceremony setup was in place, DJ Henry Kim of BIG FUN Disc Jockeys installed a sound system, and the Synchronicity String Quartet arrived to serenade the bridal party and the guests at the ceremony.

Hand fans doubled as ceremony programs…

… and soon enough guests were arriving (shuttled in style by Le Grande Affaire), and the ceremony began. Officiated by a longtime friend of the bride’s family, it was heartfelt and authentic – it does not get more personal than that!

The bridesmaids were wearing subtle shades of mauve and pale lavender, accentuated by their bouquets which picked up this color scheme and complemented it with deep burgundy, magenta and ivory.
You may now kiss the bride!
Just married!

The newlyweds had more photos to take…

… while their guests were treated to cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on the elegantly appointed patio.

Cozy lounge furniture and color-coordinated blankets beckoned; living green trees were literally bringing the gardens to the patio… and built-in heaters provided warmth against the late Fall evening chill. To keep guests well entertained, a photo booth by The Laugh Box provided unlimited fun!

Indoors, a guest book table was used to display a personal photo gallery…

… whose backdrop, a natural stone wall, was filled with flowers in every niche and “overgrown” by gracefully trailing vines – all the masterpiece of florist Janelle.

Then it was time for dinner! The dining room had been transformed into an indoor garden scenery with string lights, living trees, a giant floral arrangement suspended above the Head Table, stunning tall floral centerpieces, white-washed Chiavari chairs and elegant place settings.

Every guest table enjoyed a giant version of the bridal bouquet as its exquisite centerpiece
Mauve velvet napkins were adorned with simple green sprigs and a little wedding favor: a personalized wine cork to commemorate the occasion

Once all guests were seated, the new Mr. & Mrs. opened the lavish dinner buffet with their Grand Entrance.

Over dinner, Katie’s Dad surprised everyone with an outrageous performance:

He expertly “decapitated” a bottle of Champagne with a saber!

The two clearly enjoyed the evening! What else was there to do? Cutting the wedding cake (from Studio Cake)…

… and opening the dessert buffet of Argentinian cake specialties…

… and dancing, of course! DJ Henry Kim – who also served as our bilingual MC – kept the crowd going with the perfect mix of Argentinian tunes and international favorites.

The newlyweds’ First Dance…
… was followed by a spectacular Father-Daughter Dance routine (which both of them clearly had sheer joy in performing!)

That opened the dance floor to all guests.

It truly was an “International Summit” and an epic party! Keep celebrating life and love on your shared journey, Katie and Marcelo!

Anna and Etan – a Fantasy in Blue and Silver

Anna and Etan had chosen Thomas Fogarty Winery for their wedding – a spectacular venue with endless views over all of Silicon Valley right to the San Francisco skyline – and brought my company, A Day Like No Other, on board to plan everything else – from vendor sourcing to design, ceremony planning to wedding day schedule. Our many months of planning time literally flew by, and on the first weekend of September, Wedding Day was upon us.

Anna and her bridesmaids got ready at the Garden Court Hotel in Palo Alto where Felicia Chang of Bun Bun Bridal Lab had set up a veritable beauty lounge.

The girls REALLY had fun together… see here!

Then it was time for the bride to transfer to her wedding venue in style – we had reserved a stretch limousine from Le Grande Affaire – and to get into her dress…

… a delicate, diaphanous, lace-encrusted stunner!

Matching the blue-and-silver color scheme, Anna had chosen shimmering silver wedding shoes. Here are the rings….

… and the beautiful bouquets for bride and bridesmaids (by Marie Krick of Laurel & Vine)..

And here is the happy bride…

Groom Etan was also getting ready…

… and he and his groomsmen were outfitted with boutonnieres matching the bridal flowers.

Time was flying by, and guests began arriving (via shuttle by Destination Systems). Harpist Erica Messer began to play traditional wedding ceremony music.

Officiant Chris Thielen (of Personal Weddings by Chris) and groom Etan were awaiting bride Anna as she was escorted in by her proud Dad.

The arch was decorated with ivory roses and baby-blue hydrangeas, and the aisle was covered with ivory rose petals (all floral decor by Marie Krick of Laurel & Vine).

After the ceremony, it was time for many, many photos of the couple and their friends and family members …

… photographer extraordinaire Danny Dong and videographer Martin Meyer (of martinFILMS) captured it all …

… while guests were enjoying cocktails and my team and the team of Toast Catering put finishing touches on the dinner setup (with chairs, linens and elegant tabletop items by Hensley Event Resources, design by A Day Like No Other).

It all turned out exactly as bride Anna had envisioned it – until the weather threw us a curveball: a freak storm forced us to move dinner inside, and the catering team, onsite coordinator Kaitlin Brinton, my assistants Chrissy Wolfman and Stephanie Hui and myself, and even our DJ scrambled to carry everything inside. Incredible but true: it was all done in a mere twenty minutes, and guests could sit down in warmth and comfort to a delicious meal by Toast Catering. The rest of the evening progressed smoothly, including cutting the breathtakingly elegant (and super delicious!) wedding cake (by Cake Coquette).

The remainder of the festivities was dedicated to dancing to the rousing tunes of DJ Woody Miraglia of BIG FUN Disc Jockeys

… and the newlyweds just snuck out for a moment to take photos with sparklers, despite the howling storm…

A stunning vintage limousine (from Elegant Journey Limousine Service, chauffeured by owner George Rose himself) whisked the newlyweds away for their First Night.

What a celebration!

See it on film: https://www.martinfilms.com/etan-anna

Macy and Josh’s Great Day: Family & Friends at Fogarty Winery

When Macy and Josh contacted my company, A Day Like No Other, for help with their wedding planning, one thing was clear from the get-go: with their 70-hour work weeks, they would need help. A lot of help! So I had my work cut out for me. They had chosen a spectacular venue for their nuptials, Thomas Fogarty Winery in Woodside – an elegant setting surrounded by vineyards, high up on a mountain ridge, with endless views of Silicon Valley and on to the San Francisco skyline.

Their top priority for their wedding day was to spend quality time with their families and friends – the one most precious thing in their lives! Their celebration would be simple and elegant, and, above all, relaxed and comfortable for all their guests. No glitz, no frills. The many months we had for planning simply flew by, and Labor Day weekend – wedding weekend! – was suddenly upon us. On a beautiful, warm, sunny Saturday, under blue skies and a slight breeze, all our planning work finally came to fruition; have a look!

For Macy and her bridesmaids, the day began with hair and makeup services by Jira Couture, and then both the ladies and groom Josh and his groomsmen convened at Fogarty Winery. With a little help from her bridesmaids…

… Macy got into her showstopper backless lace dress…

… picked up her summery, feminine bridal bouquet in all purple hues (by Green Petal Designs who provided floral decor throughout)…

… and Josh also dressed up to the nines …

for the bride’s and groom’s First Look and many, many photos by Frank J. Lee.

They are such an attractive couple!

Soon enough, their guests began arriving (by shuttle from Destination Systems), and it was time for the ceremony.

Befitting the location, big wine barrels topped by lush flower arrangements marked the spot where the two were about to say their vows …

… accompanied by the sound of an acoustic guitar version of wedding classics, courtesy of Spanish guitarist Jay Alvarez.

The ceremony was officiated by a family member who had already married a good number of her relatives in years past – a natural choice for Macy and Josh!

Just married – a quiet moment …

After the ceremony, the couple had many more photos to take solo, with their families, and with their bridesmaids and groomsmen…

while their guests enjoyed Cocktail Hour on the open patio ….

Specialty tea containers did double duty as escort “cards” and as wedding favors

… and my team – assistants Stephanie and Melinda and myself – the Toast Catering team and florist Janelle all put the finishing touches on the dining setup in the Winery Pavilion.

For centerpieces, Macy and Josh had opted for elegant potted orchids which guests would take home and enjoy for a long time to come.

After dinner, another surprise was waiting for the guests: Tucker’s Ice Cream was serving delicious flavors from their nostalgic cart, emblazoned with the motto, “Life is Uncertain/Eat Dessert First!” (We couldn’t agree more…)

After that, there was no holding back – from dancing! DJ Woody Miraglia of BIG FUN Disc Jockeys got everyone on the dance floor in no time.

Photographer Frank snuck the newlyweds out for just one spectacular sunset shot – isn’t that a sight to behold?

Photo credit: Frank J. Lee Photography

It certainly was a great party for everyone.

Wishing you a lifetime of happiness, Macy and Josh!

The Ultimate Summer Wedding: L & J at Thomas Fogarty Winery

First of all, this couple and their families are VERY private – so all we are allowed is a little peek at all the beautiful details of this incredible wedding celebration. My company, A Day Like No Other, had the honor of supporting the Mother of the Bride in creating an epic summer wedding for the couple, and we literally planned and designed over the course of nearly a year. It all paid off on a warm and sunny Sunday in mid-August at Thomas Fogarty Winery in Woodside … have a look!

Photo: Danny Dong Photography
Photo: Danny Dong Photography

The bride and her bridesmaids started the day with hair and makeup services by Sarah Hyde, and the bride’s lush bouquet in vibrant summer colors (by Nancy Liu Chin Designs who created floral decor throughout) …

… and her Cinderella slippers…

Photo: Danny Dong Photography

… complemented her elegant lace wedding dress perfectly.

Photographer extraordinaire Danny Dong captured it all…

After the ceremony, guests were treated to cocktails and hors d’oeuvres by Global Gourmet Catering (who also provided dinner and desserts)

– and to dinner in an eye-catching set-up of bare wooden tables, crossback chairs, mixed in with round tables with linens – an evocation of the rustic elegance of Tuscany.

Photo: Danny Dong Photography
Photo: Danny Dong Photography
Photo: Danny Dong Photography

Of course, the Sweetheart Table received extra-special treatment!

… and we also had a cozy, quiet corner to take a little break from the festivities!

After dinner, everyone congregated on the dance floor – DJ Woody Miraglia of BIG FUN Disc Jockeys made sure that entertainment was a great success. In addition to that, bride, groom and all their guests had a blast taking silly pictures at Night Owl Photo Booth. Even such a memorable party has to come to an end… and guests were chauffeured home in comfort by Corinthian Ground Transportation. Everyone agreed – this was the ultimate summer wedding!

Mazel Tov to our wonderful, happy couple!