What do you get when two Lebanese love-birds with a passion for life decide to plan a wedding? You get a perfect day bubbling over with color, fun and flavor. This was the magical fusion wedding of Rita El Hajj and Fady Khoury. Compulsive magazine chatted to Rita about the memorable day.
Two years ago, Rita El Hajj got her PhD and one week later, she was engaged. She and her longtime partner, Fady Khoury, had been together since college but wanted to be well-established in their careers and financially secure before walking down the aisle.
“Sometimes people say, when you know, you know, so why wait? But we didn’t want to rush anything. We thought, if it’s meant to be, it will happen,” says Rita, reminiscing on their early romance. She said in the ten years they had been dating, she never really felt like she was waiting for Fady to pop the question. When he eventually did, it just felt right. Fady, an executive chef had just bought a house in Lebanon. The scene was set for the next chapter in their lives.
Next, came a 15-month long engagement, and lovely duo were knee-deep in wedding preparations despite the fact that Fady was travelling at the time. With no wedding planner, it was not easy, but as they say, love conquers all! Rita says the biggest challenge was time management. The wedding date had to fit in well with work commitments, availability of the venue (which was booked a year in advance) and availability of guests who lived abroad.
They eventually decided onSeptember 4th, which they later discovered had coincided with the canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a nun who dedicated her life to helping the poor in India.
“We were then sure that our marriage would also be blessed,” says Rita. They even included a quote by the late Mother Teresa on their wedding card. It read: “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”
The historical Monastery of Saint John was an ideal venue for the ceremony. Set on a hill in Okaibe, Lebanon, the archeological monastery was built in the 19th century by the monks of St. Doumit Monastery. It is 800m above sea level and about 30km from Beirut. The high stone walls provided a rustic yet grand feeling and had the added bonus of an outdoor area overlooking the beach.
By September 4, 2016; the careful planning blossomed into a splendid day of heartfelt joy. Rita looked angelic in a simple yet graceful open shoulder dress with fitted bodice and princess cut.
“After trying on many designer dresses I just felt they weren’t me, they were too heavy,” she says. She chose her dress from Noiva’s Bridal Boutique, a small Lebanese supplier of wedding dresses by international designers. The groom donned a smart black and white tuxedo.
Given the humidity of a summer’s day in Lebanon, Rita opted for nude eye shadow and lightly glossed lips, with her hair in loose Roman braids, giving her an-all natural fairy princess look for the day.
“I wanted to look like the most beautiful version of myself, but still be recognizable,” she jokes. It’s not easy to carry off the perfect wedding look for an entire day and she wanted to be comfortable doing it”.
The 125 guests were also given personalized silk fans to keep them cool on the day. Rita’s younger twin sisters were her bridesmaids and wore rose-colored tailored dresses, with baby rose bouquets. The two groomsmen, Fady’s brothers, wore black tuxedos with rose bowties to match. The ceremony was a floral fantasy of candles and varied flowers including sunflowers and roses in red, pink, yellow, peach and white with a zesty lemon accent.
The wedding celebrations came to life with an eclectic choice of music and food. According to Rita there is no Lebanese wedding without dancing, so instead of the traditional Lebanese Zaffe, they went for an Oriental and Occidental mix, successfully carried out by a Harmonix Parade, offering an ultimate fusion. This included violin and percussion with a special show of Latin, House, Irish and Greek music accompanied by crazy Oriental beats.
A pre-wedding party held a week in advance was at a traditional Lebanese restaurant. Venturing beyond Lebanese culture, the wedding menu, chosen mainly by the groom, was a unique combination of sweet and savory canapés, and live Mexican and Teppanyaki stations. Guests were spoiled for choice with the likes of salmon rolls, crispy crab bites, fajitas, pomegranate baby puffs and heaps more.
It was the groom’s brother who wowed guests with an original multi-tiered cake that had a base of cupcakes in exotic flavors. Needless to say, it was a mouthwatering conversation starter!
“We didn’t have a seated dinner because we wanted people to mingle, so we had cozy white couches for people to sit on and high tables for the food and drinks,” Rita recollects.
Speaking on life after the wedding, she gives a measured response.
“The first year of marriage is a time of discovery and magical moments, connection and that fuzzy feeling of new love. But there are also hurdles unique to those first 12 months. No marriage is perfect, and it doesn’t all have to be candles and romance to be special. Just take time to appreciate the small things like coffee on your deck together, lazy Sunday mornings. It’s about developing a mature respect for each other.
Rita and Fady now live happily in the Gulf. When asked what she would change if she could do it all again, Rita says, “Not a single thing! “