Please read all the way to the end of this one —
the bride has an important message to share.
Date and location of wedding: Boojum Tree Hidden Gardens, AZ — 03/06/2021
Our offbeat wedding at a glance: A message that has really resonated with me over the last few months is “joy is an act of resistance” from a poem by Toi Derricotte. I've always heard planning a wedding can be stressful, but planning a wedding in a different state, during a global pandemic, in the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, followed by a presidential election that polarized this country while a genocidal war began in my home country, was daunting to say the least.
2020 was an emotional rollercoaster ride that seemed to have no end, but deposits have no refunds (and no exceptions) so all you can do is hope no one asks why the bride is crying so much during what's supposed to be the happiest moments of her life.
I could have given up, lost the deposit, and insisted on not having a wedding, my husband is understanding and wouldn't question my decision but remembering joy is an act of resistance I was determined to have one night of happiness for me and my immediate family.
We did things our own way, we had our dogs as ring bearer and flower girl, we wrote our own vows, we played Bob Marley's “Is This Love” after we were pronounced husband and wife and most important to me, I shared my Tigrayan culture, music, and food with my new family.
Read Melat & Derek's vows:
Derek, you are my best friend and the love of my life and I am so unbelievably happy to be standing here with you today.
As you know, words usually come easy to me. It’s very rare that I’m at a loss for words or that I think about what I’m saying before I say it. But when I sat down to write my vows I was suddenly hit with the enormity of the task.
How do you put into words how much someone who has completely changed you for the better means to you? How do I describe the safety, security and pure comfort I feel when I’m with you.
How could I possibly condense all the years of love, memories, and laughter into a couple hundred words? I guess the best place to start is the beginning.
Our love story began almost six years ago when you impressed me with your one liners and terrible dad jokes. To be clear, your jokes didn’t impress me and I can’t remember a single joke you told so they couldn’t have been very good.
But what I do remember from that night is how you made me feel. I knew I found someone very special. We talked as if we were old friends with inside jokes. Meeting you that night felt like reuniting with a best friend and suddenly realizing how much you’ve missed them.
Although we didn’t know it at the time, that chance encounter on August 21, 2015 was the start of the rest of our lives.
A life where we can find humor to deal with the chaos in the world and giggle like school girls when we’re stranded in the middle of nowhere in the freezing cold tourist trap they call Iceland.
Even after just meeting you I felt like I’ve known you my whole life. And now, I get to know you forever as your wife and best friend.
I could not imagine a better life.
I love your heart. I love that you are a caring and loving son, brother, and dog dad to our cute fur babies.
I love that you are unconditionally kind and so very patient. I know you need a lot of patience when you’re dealing with me and I don’t know how you do it, but I’m glad you do.
I love that you genuinely care about people. I’ve seen you help strangers like they were family members and I know the world would be a better place if more people had your heart.
I love your mind. I love that you’re always learning and sharing random little known facts with me.
I love your openness to new ideas and your ability to listen without judgment.
Most of all, I love your support and encouragement. Because of you, I live my life unapologetically. I can’t describe how freeing and beautiful it is to be loved for who you are, as you are.
So, today and every day, I promise to love you unconditionally and whole heartedly and put you before all else.
I promise to continue laughing at all your jokes even when they’re not your best work.
I promise to continue to be your biggest fan as you’ve been mine.
I promise to keep life interesting and keep you on your toes.
I promise I will never take our time together for granted.
And I promise to let you know each day through my words and my actions, that I love you more than anything in the world.
Our journey began on August 21, 2015, at bar in Chicago. I never could have imaged that a night of bad jokes, the worst pick up line and a year of gifs, would lead us to where we find ourselves today.
You came into my life at exactly the right time: When I wasn’t ready, and yet, when I needed your love the most.
You have shown me what love is suppose to look like, and every morning I wake up next you, drool and all, I fall more in love with you…
You have changed my life for the better. You have accepted me for me, my bad jokes, unfiltered rants about the smallest things, and my Sunday morning dances moves.
You have encouraged me to follow my heart and chase my dreams. You have taught me that two people joined together with respect, trust, and open communication can be far stronger and happier than each could ever be alone. You are the strength I didn't know I needed, and the joy that I didn't know I lacked.
As we begin our life together in front of our friends and family, I make these promises to you:
1. I promise to love you until I take my last breath, to protect you from harm, to comfort you in your times of need, to dry your tears and calm your fears.
2. I promise to love you in good times and in bad, when life seems easy and when it seems hard, when our love is simple, and when it is an effort.
3. I promise nurture your dreams and to help you achieve them.
4. I promise to be kind, unselfish, and trustworthy so that together, our dreams of a beautiful future can come true.
5. I promise to have the patience that love demands, to speak when words are needed, and to share in the silence when they are not.
6. I promise to respect you and cherish you as an individual, a partner, and an equal, knowing that we do not complete, but complement each other.
7. I promise to laugh with you, cry with you, and grow with you. I will love you when we are together and when we are apart.
But most of all, you make me happier than I ever thought I could be and I promise to spend the rest of my life trying to make you feel the same way.
Melat, I love you unconditionally, and always will.
Tell us about the ceremony:
We laughed & cried the whole time. Here's the ceremony script.
We are gathered here today to celebrate one of life’s greatest moments, and to cherish the words which shall unite Derek and Melat in marriage. What an incredible moment – Derek and Melat, please take a look around and truly take it all in. The bride and groom truly thank you for traveling near and far for helping celebrate their special day.
We are all here — because we want lovely moments for you. We're here to hope with you, to support you, to be proud of you, and to remind you that love isn't happily ever after, love is the experience of writing your story. It's not one moment — not even this moment. It's every moment. Big ones like saying “I love you,” moving in together, moving across the country for each other— but mostly a million little ones that come in between the big moments. Going to soccer games (sorry Melat), going to see Hamilton again and again (sorry Derek), tequila tasting in Mexico, and even Easter egg hunting with the dogs…These everyday moments fuse together into one big experience.
You fell in love by chance, but you're here today because you're making a choice. You both are choosing each other. You've chosen to be with someone who enhances you, who makes you think, makes you smile & laugh, and makes every day brighter.
You're about to make promises to each other that you intend to keep. You're going to vow to take care of each other, to stand up for one another, and find happiness in the other. There's a simple premise to each of these promises: you're vowing to be there. You're teaming up and saying to the other, “Every experience I am going to have, I want you to be a part of.”
Lastly – before I ask you both to exchange rings, I’d like to offer a few challenges for this next phase of your relationship:
- Always remember that no matter how brilliant or comfortable we are – all of us are students for life. We never stop learning.
- Work every day to keep the passions you have as individuals alive along with the passion you have for each other.
- Know when to nip an argument in the bud, and more importantly, know when to take a deep breath and just let it go.
- With your great skills and gifts as people, use them not only to make each other better, but also to improve the people and the community around you.
- Just laugh. Life is funny. Relationships are funny. And sometimes, even difficult, painful moments are funny in hindsight. Find the humor in life – and just laugh, I’ll leave it up to you two to decide who is funnier!
What started as a casual night out with friends has now led you to this moment. You have made your marriage vows to one another, witnessed by your friends and family. You have sealed your vows with the giving and receiving of these rings. By the power of your love, and the power vested in me, I now pronounce you Husband and wife! You may kiss the bride.
Family and friends, please put your hands together to congratulate the newlyweds, Derek and Melat!
Tell us about the reception:
The reception was better than anything I could have dreamed of. After five months of shared grief, despair, and agonizing pain worrying about our family members in Tigray this was the first time in a long time I saw my immediate family happy.
It was a gift to see joy on my parent's faces again. Everyone danced to traditional Tigrayan/Tigrigna music and the other guests had so much fun learning the dance moves and cultural elements of the celebration.
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
In the end, the wedding, the celebration, the cake, the floral details – none of that matters. Time with your loved ones is precious and you should never take that for granted because you'll never know when or if you'll see them again.
If you're reading this and want to learn more about the humanitarian crisis that has left 90% of the population of Tigray in dire need of emergency food aid, please visit hpn4tigray.org. Health Professionals Network For Tigray (HPN4Tigray) is a nonprofit, non-religious, and non-partisan organization made up of volunteers who are committed to supporting internally displaced people in Tigray and refugees who have fled to neighboring countries.
I also started a philanthropic lifestyle brand (shopkonjo.com) that partners with organizations like HPN4Tigray and creates products and uses messaging to advocate for and bring awareness to the crisis in Tigray. We are proud to donate 100% of proceeds to support internally displaced people in Tigray and refugees seeking safety in neighboring countries.
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HPIC has received clearance from the Ethiopian Ministry of Health for the first shipment of medical kits. Each medical kit contains 600 medical treatments and our goal is to ship the first 10 medical kits, which will provide 6,000 treatments, at the end of August.
To learn more about HPIC or to donate directly, click here.
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- Photographer: Sweetface Photography
- Cinematography: Serendipity Cinema
- Venue: Boojum Tree Hidden Gardens
- Photobooth: Vintage Photobooth
- Dress Vendor: Don't Box It Bridal
- DJ & MC: Birkett Entertainment
- Officiant: Terrance from Vow Soirée
- Engagement Ring: Brilliant Earth
- Bride's Traditional Jewelry (A Tigrayan owned business): Te'Shelima
- Make Up Artist: Make Up By Challice
- Hair & Curl Specialist: Martina of Sunflower Curls Studio