While dating, Sevan Markari once told Ani Esmaili that he would never get down on one knee to propose, to which Ani responded that she would not say yes unless he did so. “Given that we’re now married, we know which one of us folded,” Ani says smiling. The bride loves everything about lights – Sevan even gave her a vintage Edison light bulb for their first Valentine’s Day together – so she scheduled a trip with friends to go to RiSE – a festival outside of Las Vegas that ends with the lighting of paper lanterns. Before leaving to surprise her, Sevan met with his sweetheart’s parents to get their blessing for her hand in marriage. Under thousands of lanterns, he got down on one knee and asked Ani to marry him.

One year and one week later, the big day arrived and guests gathered at a historic hotel in downtown Los Angeles. “The elaborate details in each ballroom combined with the well-preserved history of the space gave us everything we both appreciated,” the bride describes of their venue choice. For the ceremony, they intentionally let the room speak for itself, only adding candles as décor. “This was after all the same room that wedded Charlie Chaplin and had Rudolph Valentino dancing the night away,” reveals Ani. The 175-person guest list felt like an intimate gathering in contrast to Armenian tradition, where weddings often have several hundred people in attendance. Since siblings of both the bride and groom had followed those customs, the sweethearts felt they could get away with doing things differently – though the celebration was still far from the elopement Ani initially hoped for. In addition to the smaller guest list, a dear friend officiated the ceremony instead of the couple getting married in a church.

Walking arm in arm with her father, the bride was a showstopper in a sparkling gown paired with a tulle overskirt. Her jet-black hair was styled in soft waves and parted on one side, befitting the Old Hollywood vibe showcased by the venue. “As soon as she was by my side, everything else seemed to evaporate,” Sevan muses. After reciting their personal vows and being pronounced husband and wife, the newlyweds made their way out of the ceremony hall to the tune of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” by Stevie Wonder. “In Armenian culture, you don’t get to have vows, but I’m so glad we decided to write our own and break that rule,” shares Ani.

The ornate ballroom that hosted the reception was filled with elegant gold details. Soft arrangements of white blossoms and greenery were displayed in vessels featuring a surprising pop of blue. “We decided to do a timeless theme of incorporating chinoiserie with the Paris-Versailles feel of the ballroom,” the bride explains. Floral designer Eddie Zaratsian created lush centerpieces for each table, but the standout design was the cake wall. Behind the elevated sweetheart table were shelves of vanilla-hued flowers surrounding the minimalist alabaster confection, which was framed by a pair of chinoiserie candlesticks on each side.

Though the lovebirds eschewed cultural customs for their ceremony, they fully embraced their Armenian heritage for the reception music. A traditional number was used for their grand entrance, and even more Armenian songs were played while everyone danced, in addition to Persian and Arabic tunes. “We also bonded over a lot of alternative and hip-hop, so we made sure to have a lot of that during the reception [as well],” adds the groom. With the celebration going until 2AM, it was important to have plenty of music to enjoy.

 By following old traditions and creating new ones, Ani and Sevan were able to have the wedding of their dreams before embarking on a European honeymoon. The only aspect of the day the bride would change also serves as a reminder for couples planning their own celebrations. “We really encouraged our guests to avoid taking photos and videos and just join us in being in the moment for the day, but I wish I did a bit better of a job at that as well,” she reflects.