Facebook had just launched when Melody Akhavan and Ashkan Abbey decided to become online friends, but despite their interest in one another, the two put as little confidence into the connection as they did in the social networking site. Seven years after they first accepted the friend requests, Ashkan was inspired by a status Melody posted on Facebook and decided to reach out with an email. "I was caught off guard because I hadn't spoken to him in so long, but I was very pleasantly surprised," Melody recalls and remembers sharing their first date soon after.
On a sunny day in June, Ashkan got down on one knee but Melody can hardly recall what he first said! "I had promised myself that I would listen carefully to everything he said if he popped the question," she says. But the bride admits, in the shock of the moment, it was easier said than done. Luckily, Ashkan was able to repeat his romantic speech word for word since he'd been practicing for weeks out loud at the gym. "The people around him probably thought he was insane!" Melody laughs.
Dating long distance (Melody resided in New York City while Ashkan called Michigan home) didn't make planning a wedding easy but the pair pulled it off with thanks to plenty of FaceTime video calls. With the help of a stellar wedding planner, the couple hosted a bash that celebrated their Persian heritage. Keep reading to see all of Jill DeVries Photography's photos of their April 19, 2014 wedding in West Bloomfield, Michigan.
Melody wore a three-piece dress, keeping the same fit-and-flair skirt for both the ceremony and reception, but changing into different tops for each. Her first look included a sheer, long-sleeved lace top with a plunging V-neckline. Then, she changed into a sleeveless bustier for the reception.
"When I saw this two-piece gown in the showroom, I had to try it on," the bride says. "Once I did, I saw that it was simultaneously sexy and elegant, and the lace detailing was just stunning. I felt truly beautiful in it, and beyond that, I felt like I looked like myself and not a generic bride."
Ashkan donned a bespoke black-and-white tuxedo and pinned a white garden rose to his lapel.
Melody arrived at their ceremony, which was held at the Planterra Conservatory, in style: A vintage black car carried her to the door while she toted an oversized, lush, and unstructured bouquet of white peonies, hanging amaranthus, seeded eucalyptus, and greenery.
The couple chose the property for the both the ceremony and reception based first on aesthetics. "It's a truly stunning venue," Melody says of the conservatory, which boasts floor-to-ceiling glass walls and plenty of greenery. "With the right décor, we believed it could be absolutely magical. In fact, we booked it sight unseen!"
Wearing a ballet-inspired dress, Ashkan's niece, walked the ceremony aisle ahead of the couple and carried a banner that read, "All you need is love." After their young attendant made her debut, Melody and Ashkan entered the ceremony together hand-in-hand. "It was important to us to show that we are equals, teammates, and in this together," explains Melody. "We loved this non-traditional aspect of our ceremony."
The couple did, however, stick to a traditional Bahá'í marriage ceremony, opening the ceremony by chanting a traditional prayer, then sitting side-by-side with a prayer book and their Bahá'í marriage certificate between them. "We asked our dear friend, Jake, to speak about the significance of the Bahá'í marriage ceremony and about our relationship," Melody says. "He created a truly unbelievable speech. We are so grateful to him for his thoughtfulness and kind and beautiful words."
She continues, "I didn't want a lot of pomp and circumstance, but a rather minimal and pared-down ceremony with only the most meaningful readings, prayers, and songs. In fact, we elected not to have a wedding party at all. Ashkan and I wanted to keep the entire evening focused on a celebration of our relationship."
The couple's 100 guests found their seat assignments attached to eucalyptus sprigs, and were then greeted with a magical sight: Long banquet tables topped with gold candelabras, swaths of greenery, and table numbers etched in copper calligraphy awaited inside the reception space. "We customized every aspect of the décor, from linens to table settings to lighting," Melody says.
Lighting was especially important to the couple because they wanted to ensure that their photographer would have the perfect glow to capture all the details, but also didn't want to detract from the ethereal vibe of the evening. They let candlelight cast a romantic glow over the celebration.
The reception décor came together after months of back-and-forth pinning on a secret Pinterest board with their wedding planner. "After we had a vision board set with some of the most important elements like the seating structure, we created a secret Pinterest board," says Melody. "I would pin things that I liked and elements that I wanted to incorporate and our planner would comment as to whether it was feasible. This is the process we used to narrow down everything from my final bouquet, to my flower crown, to the pens we put next to the guest books."
One of Melody's favorite decorative elements was a a custom-made chandelier of greenery that was suspended over the dance floor.
Guests enjoyed passed hors d'oeuvres of beef Carpaccio, miniature New York-style Reuben's, and a spring pea emulsion, then dined on a plated dinner duet of filet mignon and chili-glazed salmon. But the couple was sure to include a vegetarian option too: A wild mushroom pasta accompanied by salad. "Ashkan selected the menu," says Melody. "Since he was the only one living in Michigan and able to attend tastings, the food became his domain. He did a great job!"
Melody and Ashkan's four-tiered cake was covered in ivory fondant, while the bottom layer was decked out with an edible gold leaf treatment. It was topped with fresh blooms and a custom cake topper with the couple's names scrolled in gold script.
Great music was a must-have for the pair, who first bonded over their love of certain tunes. "We tried to weave in as much Persian culture as we could, so our first dance was actually a traditional Persian wedding song," says Melody. "We also asked our DJ to play both Persian and American music during the reception so all our guests would have an equal chance to party." Even though the couple chose not to serve alcohol for religious reasons, the party went on all night. "Everyone still stayed out on the dance floor until the last song!" Melody says.
"The whole wedding day was incredibly fun," says Melody. "But I have to say the best part was the dancing! The mix of music got everyone dancing the whole time! Persian and non-Persian, young and old. We had some great throwbacks in there, and, for the last song, Ashkan serenaded me with R. Kelly's 'Bump n' Grind!'"
Melody and Ashkan also offered guests a photo booth, complete with a custom backdrop of draped greenery and ivory peonies and their loved ones could not get enough.
Reflecting on their wedding day, Melody says: "You should really aim to be yourself when crafting your special day. Although it took a lot more effort to handpick every single detail to reflect our personalities, I am convinced it's totally worth it. It creates a magical experience for both you and your guests."
Venue, Catering & Floral Design: Planterra Conservatory || Wedding Planner: VLD Events || Bride's Wedding Dress: Yaki Ravid, purchased at Bridal Reflections || Shoes: Jimmy Choo || Hair: Figo Salon || Makeup: Todd's Room || Groom's Attire: 1701 Bespoke || Invitations & Paper Goods: Rock Paper Scissors || Music: DJ Graffiti through Snapfuze || Cake: Sweet Heather Anne || Rentals: Special Events || Videographer: Two Penny Productions || Photography: Jill DeVries Photography
Did you love this greenhouse wedding? Then check out another flower-filled bash in the video below!