JoMaria and Jonas
In the Arab culture, the bridegroom would solicit the permission of the bride’s father before he proposes. Thereafter, a date is set for the “asking”, where his family goes to the bride-to-be’s house to ask her family to consent to the union.
Thirty-five members of Jonas’ family arrived at JoMarie’s house with a cart filled with bread and fruits to signify the breaking of bread between two families. After a dinner feast, the engagement party and wedding was planned.
The bride’s agenda on the morning of the wedding included the Blessed Sacrament and Confession with her family (which provided her a sense of peace for the day). Thereafter, bridesmaids arrived at her house and groomsmen at Jonas’ house. The bridal party proceeded to the church, and finally to the reception after a quick detour at an aunt’s house to take photographs.
Dress, shoes and jewellery
JoMarie bought her Vera Wang dress from Ever After boutique in Miami. It was the first dress she tried on; she fell in love with its simple sweetheart bodice and ballroom skirt with individually ruched silk organza and tulle bunches. Her shoes, with its tulle and organza front, perfectly complemented her dress. Her earrings were “something borrowed” from her godfather’s wife.
The couple wanted an earthy, natural and elegant indoor garden affair. They used bamboo chevalier chairs and lots of white, draped fabric, key lighting and strategically placed garden statues with floral baskets and arrangements.
The bride’s bouquet, arranged by Sandra Debs, comprised vendela roses; the bridesmaids each held a bouquet of mango calla lilies (which complemented their golden dresses); the groomsmen wore mango calla lily boutonnieres. The church was decked in hydrangea roses, spider mums, bells of Ireland and white carnations.
The wedding reception décor comprised centerpieces elevated on glass pedestal martini glasses with white dendrobium orchids imported from Indonesia. The head table was adorned with orchids, roses and anthuriums. The corridor leading to the ballroom was transformed into a magical secret garden with hanging vines and trellises. Fresh flowers and foliage were used throughout.
The five-tier wedding fruitcake was designed by the bride’s mother and mother-in-law to complement her gown; the designers’ vision was executed by Ann Whitby.
Guests were greeted with a mezze spread on their table with assorted items such as hummus, kibbe, raw kibbe, Arabic cheese, pickles, nuts and bread. A buffet styled dinner comprised sushi, a seafood bar, shrimp, mushroom ravioli, pork tenderloin, and stuffed chicken with spinach. The desserts contained an array of pitted dates (stuffed with orange peel, almonds and pistachios), jelly fruits, imported Arabic sweets, chocolates and colorful macaroons.
The couple opted for drumbaki (Arabic) drumming in addition to their disk jockey. The bridal party entered the reception ballroom to the sounds of both Arabic music and drumming.
(Point of View)
What were the most memorable moments?
JoMarie: My bridesmaids were lifting my dress and singing, “We’re going to the chapel and we’re going to get married” as we walked to the car which would take us to the church. I started to cry as the reality that this was my wedding day sunk in.
Walking into the reception, with my husband and the bridal party, to Arabic drums, and waving handkerchiefs, was a moment that I would never forget. This is also the moment where the bride is welcomed into the groom’s family.
During an interlude my mother had my cousin sing Martina McBride’s I Hope You Dance as a surprise to me. This was very heartfelt and touching. I would also never forget dancing with my father and looking over to see Jonas dancing with his mother.
The most sentimental moment?
JoMarie: Our four grandmothers carried the Offertory at the church; it was extremely special to us to have all four grandmothers present as our grandfathers have passed away, and not many couples can boast this honour.
What were the most unique things about your wedding?
JoMarie: We wanted our wedding to reflect our Trinidadian and Syrian/Lebanaese cultures so we included a Chow bar, an Arabic coffee bar, an argyle/hookah station with Arabian rugs and couches as well as doubles (which came out later in the night after the party got under way). Another unique element was a picture slide show of what happened that day, before the wedding (my bridesmaids and I getting ready as well as Jonas and his groomsmen), as you don’t usually get to see this taking place.
Photos by Aaron Dieppa Photography
The couple envisioned a wedding weekend that would significantly incorporate their guests, as all 28 were flying to Mexico to witness their marriage. Thara and Aaron prepared welcome bags for each guest with snacks, games, and even a personal newsletter from the couple! The newsletter included an itinerary for the weekend and suggested activities that guests could enjoy while at the resort: snorkeling, tennis, spa, fishing, kayaking, etc. The wedding guests also got a handmade map of the hotel and surrounding area, a Spanish/English page of phrases, sun hats, and little painted wooden turtles to keep by their bedside with a note that said: “In Mexico, these hand-painted wooden figures are believed to keep bad dreams away”.
The day before the wedding, guests were treated to a ‘tequila tasting’. A representative from a major tequila manufacturer joined them at the resort, explained the process of making tequila, and administered the tasting of different varieties.
Thara and Aaron chose the extraordinarily beautiful outdoors of the El Careyes Resort for their ceremony and reception—the same place where they got engaged.
Theme & Décor
The couple went with a Mexican theme and wanted to incorporate their personal, simple yet elegant style into all the elements of their wedding and reception. They opted for light orange and light blue as their colour scheme, and created an emblem with their initials, “T&A”, which was used on the wedding invitations, welcome bags, wedding program, and other printed items.
Tall, white umbrellas were set up around the cocktail area for shade, and hanging lanterns lent a soft glow to the setting for their dinner reception at the hotel. The evening ambiance was made even more exquisite with a bonfire.
On the morning of the wedding, after breakfast, Aaron—accompanied by his two groomsmen and a few of the other male guests—went to the Polo grounds. They split themselves into two teams and played a friendly game. The women had their own agenda too: after a tear-jerking champagne toast and light breakfast, they joined together for a private outdoor yoga class overlooking the water. The wedding ceremony itself was in the late afternoon, followed by cocktail hour with a live Mariachi band and canapés (appetizers). The reception with dinner, cake, and dancing brought the unforgettable night to a close.
Although neither Thara (Toronto-born, of Guyanese parentage) nor Aaron (born and raised in Indiana) is Mexican, they incorporated one special Mexican wedding tradition into their ceremony. Mothers of the bride and groom both wrapped a lasso of orchids around the couple, symbolic of protecting the love that would bind them together for the rest of their lives.
Thara’s dress, by designer Jim Hjelm, was an all-lace, V-neck, and very low-back number, and her veil was custom-made by designer Sara Gabriel. Her only jewelry was a pair of earrings—that Aaron had gifted her on one Christmas—and her engagement ring.
Orange roses lavishly decorated the top of the white-curtained ceremonial structure under which the couple exchanged vows, and potted flowering plants decorated the border of the area. The lasso used in the ceremony was made of orange orchids. Roses featured prominently in the bouquets: Thara’s had red roses (that were actually supposed to be orange!), and her two bridesmaids (her sisters) carried orange roses mixed with an array of tropical flowers.
In keeping with the Mexican theme, of course, nothing less than a tres leches cake would do—deliciously created by the hotel chef. The cake topper (ordered from etsy.com) was a custom hand-crafted paper representation of Thara and Aaron, dressed as they were on their wedding day (the bride’s favourite detail of the wedding).
The Mariachi band and a solo guitarist provided the Mexican-flavored music during the cocktail hour and dinner, and everyone danced to the couple’s selected playlist at the reception.
The groom and groomsmen wore chili pepper boutonnières (an idea the couple got from a magazine), and bells, parasols and maracas were all keepsakes for the guests. Thara and Aaron hand-crafted name tags for each guest’s place setting at the dinner table, where they also placed a small bell with a note saying that the newlyweds would kiss anytime a bell rang!
Parasols were set up in baskets so that guests could each take one and use it as sun-shade during the ceremony. Pairs of maracas were also placed in baskets so that guests could take them to shake after the ceremony as the couple walked back down the aisle as husband and wife. As a parting gift, the couple gave guests a hand-painted Mexican Christmas tree ornament (Christmas would have been celebrated in two weeks).
One moment that really stands out for the couple was having Aaron’s grandfather perform a reading during the ceremony. Aaron’s grandparents were almost 90 at the time, yet still made the trip for the wedding. After the couple’s first dance during the reception, they played their grandparents’ favorite song…and the once-upon-a-time newlyweds danced alone with everyone watching.