Tanya Amini and Pete Muscarella first locked eyes in the elevator of the office building they shared, so it was fitting that the final clue in a surprise scavenger hunt lead Tanya to an elevator where Pete asked for her hand in marriage. "I was in total shock," recalls the bride. Her astonishment doubled when she walked into a celebratory lunch with the groom's parents to find herself at a surprise engagement party that Pete had been orchestrating for months. "It was truly an amazing day," beams Tanya of the celebration that included friends and family from all over the country. "It was all such a whirlwind.”  

Although the pair considered venues from libraries to museums, they ultimately selected a world-renowned hotel based on the establishment's reputation for impeccable service and cuisine. Tanya desired a "romantic-chic" vibe that reflected her personal style, so a black-and-white theme with a bit of an edge was chosen. The bride also wanted crystals and candles to play a central role in the decor. Save-the-date cards boasting a grand chandelier on an ebony background gave guests a taste of what to expect on the big day.  

Bridesmaids wore elegant chiffon dresses with romantic accents of ruffles and bows, and carried bouquets of white dendrobium orchids with citrus-green ribbon wrapped around the stems. The groom and his groomsmen donned classic black tuxedos, each sporting a boutonniere of a single white orchid. Pete's "best woman" – his close friend since childhood – wore a simple black dress with a strapless neckline. The bride was chic in an ethereal tumble of white chiffon tiers and dazzling diamond earrings. "Our photographer literally had to whisper in my ear that she was real and I could touch her,” confides Pete. “She was the most beautiful bride ever." Tanya carried a soft, rounded bouquet of white phalaenopsis orchids wrapped in a delicate white silk ribbon. "Orchids are one of my absolute favorite flowers, gorgeous with a modern look," she says.  

A white aisle strewn with orchids began with clear vases brimming with white hydrangeas atop transparent stands. Lower stands boasted trios of tea lights in tall, thin candleholders, adding to the romantic vibe. To honor the bride's culture, a traditional Persian wedding table was in place. "We wanted all of our guests to feel included, so it was important to have seamless incorporation of both cultures in the food, the music, and the ceremony," note the pair. The table boasted symbolic items such as a bowl of pomegranates for a joyous future; a cup of honey to sweeten life; and walnuts in golden shells to symbolize fertility and prosperity. Happily married female guests held a white silk scarf over the pair as part of the ceremonial rituals, and two sugar cones were ground above the heads of bride and groom to shower them in sweetness and happiness.

The couple moved effortlessly from the Persian ceremony to a traditional Christian service. The bride and groom wrote their own vows, which Tanya admits was a bit daunting at first. "It felt like added pressure to come up with just the right words, but I’m so happy we decided to do it," she admits. "It helped us to keep things in perspective and to remember the true meaning of the day." It also provided the most memorable moment of the wedding for the bride. "Pete's words were funny yet sweet, and truly showed how well he knows me."  

Hydrangeas, roses, and orchids were the key floral elements at the black-and-white reception that followed. Tables featured one of three different centerpieces, including white flowers in glossy black vases; tall crystal candelabras surrounded by hydrangeas and roses in low black urns; and a pairing of low floral arrangements flanking a crystal candelabra. Textured champagne linens and black Chiavari chairs completed the look.  

After the couple cut their beautiful lemon cake and thanked everyone for attending, guests were treated to a magnificent surprise. As Tanya and Pete were seated, the lights went down and a spotlight appeared over a Persian drummer in the middle of the stage. As he played a slow beat, dancers that were covered from head to toe suddenly appeared from opposite sides of the dance floor, balancing swords on their heads. As the music built to a crescendo, the dancers flipped over their coverings, tossed their swords to the side, and began to belly dance. “The place exploded!” effuses the groom. "Everyone was clapping, cheering, and dancing in their seats!" Tanya and Pete joined the belly dancers on the floor and were quickly followed by their friends and family. "It was amazing," Pete recalls. A DJ played Persian tunes alongside the band, keeping the revelers dancing for the rest of the night.

As a parting favor, s'mores were gifted in golden boxes tied with translucent gold ribbon. "I have been obsessed with these delicious treats since I first moved to Chicago 11 years ago," confides Tanya. "When Pete and I started dating, I introduced him to s’mores and he loved them as much as I did. That made it a no-brainer when it was time to pick our favors." After considering what advice to impart to other couples, the groom recommends keeping a sense of humor. “Remember it is her day and you are just arm candy, so look good!” he jokes. But all kidding aside, Pete strongly advises that you live in the moment. “Our wedding was the best day of our lives,” he says. “Remember to enjoy yours.”