Natalie Marzouka didn’t expect to meet the person she would eventually spend the rest of her life with at the book signing of an author she didn’t even like (and, as it turns out, for which her future husband didn’t care either). But that's exactly how she and Daniel Gould found each other one fateful day in the Big Apple. That first encounter may have been brief, but as the saying goes, anything's possible in a New York minute. The unsuspecting duo crossed paths again the very next day, and the theme of surprise and delight would happily carry through to their engagement and wedding day.
The two began planning their dream wedding with the guidance of their mothers as well as some very sage words from their wedding planner. "She told us to remember that though the wedding would be one of the most special days of our lives, it was only one day compared to the rest of our lives," confides Natalie. With that in mind, the pair set out to create a serene, relaxing destination wedding for their 200 guests, paying careful mind to incorporate the cultural traditions of both families (Daniel is African-American; Natalie is Haitian and Lebanese). "Our guests loved it," beams Natalie. The bride’s father contributed baklava he himself had baked, and the families helped with welcome gifts and music selection – the latter turning out to be the most unique aspect of the treasured day. "(We had) Haitian music, Arab music, old school R&B, Hip Hop, Reggae, Alternative. It was a blast, and we danced from the moment we walked into the reception to the end. It was a great merger of our three diverse cultures," notes Daniel.
The couple craved an autumnal color scheme with Moroccan/Eastern flair, aspects their wedding planner and florist melded with surprising ease. Seductive fall hues such as plums, oranges, and greens were incorporated into the décor, tones that were also reflected in Natalie's arresting bouquet. While Daniel left most of the decorative details to his bride, he was passionately involved in the selection of the attire he and his groomsmen wore. "The suits were custom-made by My.Suit in New York City and the shoes were custom-designed pairs of Converse. I chose the color scheme for the shoes and had each groomsman’s nickname embroidered on the outside of his pair."
Surrounded by shimmering candles, wicker elements, and organic branches reaching skyward, Natalie and Daniel added a few twists to the ceremony to highlight their eclectic personalities. In lieu of a traditional arch, a wood-framed mirror reflected the image of the couple during the vow exchange. The pair observed the African tradition of broom jumping, and incorporated a very special sand ceremony into the proceedings as well. “My sand was from Haiti,” shares Natalie, “and Daniel’s was from our last walk on the beach – taken the morning of the wedding – as single individuals." The groom had arranged for two very special family members to take part in the service as well. “I wanted to provide my father, Terry Gould, and my stepfather, Hollins Riley, the opportunity to speak during the ceremony since the dinner reception is usually reserved for the bride’s father. I also wanted to incorporate our three four-year-old nephews into the ceremony," he notes. A Champagne toast during the ceremony served as an unexpected and refreshing delight.
After the service, guests were treated to culinary delights from all three cultures. Haitian kibbeh, lamb skewers, macaroni and cheese bites, Haitian rice with peas, and picklies (a Haitian hot sauce) were all enjoyed before a sit-down dinner was served. A feast of sea bass, beef fillet, and chicken breast was offered, accompanied by mesclun salad (topped with Natalie's favorite dressing, a recipe passed down from her father), steamed vegetables, and fried plantains. But for the bride, the cake, indeed, took the cake. "We had red velvet (my favorite), and Daniel's favorite, vanilla,” she explains of the cake flavors. “The design was a blend of my favorite colors, reflecting my eclectic persona and style. If it had been a piece of clothing, I just might have worn it!" she laughs.
Entertainment at the reception was diverse and infused with fun. "We had belly dancers perform, and I had my family gather their favorite Haitian songs,” says the bride. A photo booth provided take-home favors. "I wanted our guests to take something with them that they would want to show off, and everyone loves pictures,” asserts Natalie. “Plus, the booth came with great props!" Performances and photos aside, the bride and groom both felt the most memorable moment of the night was their first dance. "As cliché as it sounds, we felt like we were the only ones in the room,” admits Natalie. “And according to he feedback, we apparently acted that way, too!”
Words of wisdom from the happy couple? "We love watching [the video of] our ceremony and cocktail hour, so we wish we would have recorded the reception, too. We didn’t think it was something that was necessary, but in the end, all you have to look back on are memories and pictures,” advise the pair. “Also, make your special day reflect you both as a couple." Mission accomplished.