Some of the greatest romances bloom out of friendships, and Altaf and Sameer are proof. The pair met as students at Yale in 2006, she as an undergraduate and he as a law student, where their friendship began. But their relationship quickly transitioned into a love story, and in December of 2013, while Altaf was completing her residency, Sameer received her parents' blessing and proposed. It was an elaborate scheme, with the groom blindfolding the bride-to-be and bringing her to an ice skating rink reminiscent of their first date at Rockefeller Center. At the rink, he surprised her with flowers, candles, chocolates, and poetry — a passion the couple shares — before getting down on one knee. "He rented out the entire rink, and our closest friends came by to skate and celebrate with us," Altaf remembers.
With the bride busy as a resident physician, the groom took the lead on planning the wedding, starting with the venue. "Sameer knows I love baroque architecture, and he found a stunning venue, Vibiana, in the heart of Los Angeles," says Altaf. The pair worked with Amber Events to plan a day that blended their Indian, Iraqi, and Iranian heritage with their Muslim faith, and filled the space with lush blooms to create a nostalgic, romantic garden vibe. Keep reading to see how they combined their love of poetry, their heritage, and their faith to create a timeless celebration, photographed by Callaway Gable.
The outdoor ceremony took place in the venue's courtyard, with rows of chairs flanking the candlelit aisle.
On either side of the aisle's entrance stood a fountain overflowing with pink roses, white hydrangeas, and olive branches. In addition to the pair's traditional Islamic marriage ceremony, an Iranian Sofreh Aghd was displayed on a lace-covered table. Symbolic items, such as a mirror to bring light into the couple's future and an assortment of seven herbs and spices to guard against evil, were displayed amongst beaded votive holders.
Altaf walked down the aisle with both of her parents, wearing a Hayley Paige ball gown with a gathered bodice and a full tulle skirt. "I love how whimsical the skirt made me feel," she says. She leaned toward the gown's strapless design because she knew it would pair beautifully with her long-sleeved jacket and traditional head scarf.
As part of the ceremony, the officiant asks the groom if he wished to enter into marriage, and then asked the bride the same question. "In Iraqi and Iranian tradition, the bride makes the groom wait and has to be asked many times before she says yes," says Altaf. "In my family, it's traditional for the bride to have to be asked fourteen times before saying yes!"
As the ceremony concluded, the bride and groom dipped their fingers into honey and fed one another, a gesture meant to represent the sweetness of their life. "It was a beautiful moment," says the bride.
Her vibrant bouquet, combining peach garden roses, ivory lisianthus, jasmine, and café au lait dahlias, popped against Altaf's white attire.
During cocktail hour, guests found their seat assignments in a vintage card catalogue display. "We don't drink, so instead we served mocktails including a pom-mojito and a non-alcoholic margarita," says Altaf.
Inside the venue, round tables were arranged beneath the ballroom's dramatic arches.
Arrangements of garden roses, hydrangeas, and greenery topped the tables, including fountains reminiscent of the ceremony arrangements and mercury-glass bud vases.
Weathered stone vessels added to the garden ambiance, while candlesticks and lanterns were set on marble stairs leading to the sweetheart table.
A traditional Arabic band played as Sameer and Altaf entered the reception and made their way to their seats.
Guests dined on a multicultural menu created by Top Chef Neal Fraser, including truffled grilled cheese sandwiches, New Zealand lamb chop with sultana raisins, and grilled jidori chicken marinated in coconut milk and papaya. As a surprise, UCLA's Bhangra dance team performed while everyone enjoyed their dinner.
The poetry-lovers infused their passion into their wedding day, printing their favorite lines on each guest's escort card. The pair hired poet Jacquelin Suskin to write personalized poems for each guest throughout the evening — "She was a huge hit!" says Altaf.
The five-tiered wedding cake, covered in pink and peach roses and dahlias, had layers of cardamom cake frosted with Swiss meringue buttercream. "We both have a sweet tooth, so we also offered cupcakes in flavors like tangerine with browned butter frosting and buttermilk with chocolate frosting, Sameer's favorite, and cream puffs, which are my favorite," says the bride.
At the end of the night, the newlyweds made their getaway in a horse-drawn carriage decked out in blooms before heading to Malaysia for their honeymoon.
"A friend of mine told me to take three mental pictures during the wedding that I would never forget. We did that, and it made the whole night feel even more meaningful," says Altaf.
Ceremony & Reception Venue: Vibiana || Wedding Coordinator: Amber Events || Bride's Wedding Dress: Hayley Paige || Hair & Makeup: Angela Tam || Groom's Attire: Hugo Boss || Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands: Ritani || Floral Design: Shawna Yamamoto Event Design || Sofrah Aghd: Fakhereh Maleki || Invitations: Azure Couture Stationery || Music: Sa'id Music & Dance Company || Entertainment: UCLA Bruin Bhangra,; Jacquelin Suskin || Catering: Neal Fraser || Cake: Red Carpet Cookies || Rentals: Found Vintage Rentals || Videographer: Buckley Videography || Photographer: Callaway Gable
Looking for more California wedding inspiration? Then check out another couple's Los Angeles celebration in the video below.