The Offbeat Bride: Stephanie, 4th Year Medical Student
Her offbeat partner: Amir, 4th Year Medical Student
Date and location of wedding: Half Moone Cruise & Celebration Center, Norfolk, VA — October 5, 2013
Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We come from mixed cultures, I'm an American with roots in Pennsylvania Dutch tradition and Amir is half English and half Eqyptian. We have family members who are Coptic, Jewish, and everything in between. Amir and I decided early that we wanted a secular, all-inclusive wedding ceremony. We also didn't want to be married by a stranger. As an alternative, given that we are both about to graduate medical school, we approached an esteemed, retired Cardiologist who also happens to be a philosopher, and asked him to officiate.
For the reception, our goal was to throw a big party with as many people we love as possible in attendance. We wanted them to relax, enjoy themselves, and have the night fly by. We also wanted to make sure guests who didn't like to dance had other options.
We included a lounge close to the dance floor for those who just wanted to watch, a canvas where guests could paint their own squares for the artistic types, a genealogy station for guests curious about our (or their) heritage, a photo booth, and a video entrance.
Lastly, Amir and I met through volunteering as EMTs in Virginia Beach. It's a huge part of who we are, a passion that led me to medical school at age 35, and one that keeps us motivated every day. It's how we spend every other Thanksgiving, Christmas, and countless other days: volunteering our time to help our neighbors in need of medical help. It's an amazing feeling and is the root of much of our relationship, so we wanted to incorporate it into our wedding. For a small donation towards gas and maintenance fees, we rented my rescue squad's 1972 Cadillac ambulance (which was used for 911 calls on September 11, 2001) as our getaway car. A limo would have cost us twice as much and not meant nearly as much to us — nor would it have made noise and had blinky lights!
Our biggest challenge:
My father has been disabled since 1999 after many unsuccessful back and leg surgeries. When my sister got married in 2001, we were shocked he was able to walk her down the aisle then. So, my expectations for him to do so 12 years later were extremely low. My father is prone to falls, so I was filled with images of one or both of us falling and getting hurt. And, with a room full of doctors, medical students, and paramedics, the crowd that would rush to save us would be well, my personal wedding nightmare.
I focused on what I like to call “risk reduction”: the longer we walked or danced, the greater the risk of falling. So, I had the caterer arrange the chairs to minimize the length of the aisle, and I had the DJ cut our song “Rainbow Connection,” usually three minutes, down to one minute. I'm happy to report there were no falls and no injuries, and I did get both moments of my father walking me down the aisle and dancing to our father/daughter dance.
My favorite moment:
In addition to asking Dr. Talreja to officiate, we asked our mentor and favorite medical school professor and Neuroscientist, Paul Aravich to speak. Dr. Aravich is a model humanitarian, advocating for people with Alzheimers, Parkinson's Disease, and Traumatic Brain Injuries. We had asked him to say a few words on humanism, volunteerism, and advocating for those less fortunate. To our surprise, he did not only that, but gave a speech highlighting how each of our family members embodied those qualities as well. He clearly did hours of research to uncover and understand where we came from, who raised us, who raised our parents, and how we became the people we are today.
My brother-in-law Ashraf was Amir's best man, and his speech was incredible. He had the entire audience in tears (both laughter to start, then sentimental to close). Amir lost a brother when he was just 11, which of course had a profound impact on the family. Ashraf did a flawless job of acknowledging the obvious void in the room, but without killing the mood.
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
You can get very distracted and discouraged when planning your wedding. I got some good advice early on to realize up front that I probably wasn't going to get everything I wanted. Armed with that advice, we sat down to write out what truly mattered to us, and what could budge. For instance, we weren't willing to compromise on our ceremony content and message, but let go of the idea of fancy flowers when we picked a venue that stood on its own thanks to four-story windows. We gave up a wedding cake and opted for delicious cookies made by a friend.
Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?
- Photography: DCPG Photography + Design
- Bride's gown, bolero, veil, and jewelry: Monique Lhullier Bliss, Pure English Bridal Couture
- Bridesmaid's dresses: Occasions, Jim Hjelm, Pure English Bridal Couture
- flowers: Palette of Petals
- Catering: Cuisine & Company
Enough talk — show me the wedding inspo!