Having attended the same private Armenian school while growing up, Lianna Sultanyan and Allen Shahbazyan knew each other well, and eventually found themselves smitten. Allen quickly realized Lianna was The One and secured her family’s blessing before proposing to his beloved at a luxurious seaside hotel in Orange County, California. He presented her with a gorgeous round diamond engagement ring and was thrilled when she said yes. “I was amazed that the beautiful girl I went to school with since we were kids was the girl I was going to marry!” he smiles.
After spending a year planning for an opulent wedding celebration with over 300 invited guests, Lianna was crushed when the pandemic hit and they had to suddenly alter their plans. Thankfully, the couple had hired highly experienced and talented event designer Eddie Zaratsian, who swiftly started working on alternative arrangements. For instance, securing a new reception venue at the last minute. “Our venue was originally going to be in a classic banquet hall, but we opted for an outdoor site at a private estate,” Lianna explains.
At 5PM, on the day of the nuptials, Lianna made her grand entrance in a regal Panache Atelier by Sahar Fotouhi ball gown in a champagne hue with meticulous white floral embroidery from Panache Bridals of Beverly Hills. The sumptuous fabric swayed gracefully with each step she took. She held an ivory bouquet that was kept understated, as not to compete with her exquisite gown, whilst her bridesmaids carried nosegays that complemented their respective light-colored dresses.
Following safety guidelines, the church allowed the betrothed to still hold the service, but with few guests and minimal decorations. Yet, it was every bit as memorable to the couple who felt emotional as they took their places at the altar. A traditional Armenian ceremony was performed, including the custom of the priest placing crowns on the couple’s heads to symbolize their newly formed kingdom.
“There’s absolutely nothing that I would change! I wish I could relive that day over and over again.”
For the reception, Eddie Zaratsian Lifestyle and Design had arranged for true works of art – from floral masterpieces to one-of-a-kind structures. Lianna and Allen had decided on a French-garden concept, before handing over the reins and allowing Eddie the freedom to create a design that would be jaw-dropping. The vision was to craft an elevated, whimsical garden that felt grand and magical, but still provided an intimate, warm ambience.
Since the venue was a private residence, there were some areas that needed to be altered or custom-built in order to achieve the fairy-tale look that Eddie had presented to his clients. The grass area was covered in plush carpet and custom trussing was built to create a “ceiling” and “walls” around the dining area. Luxurious rose-gold chandeliers were suspended overhead, as well as a tremendous display of floral artwork: hundreds of roses, wisteria, and lush greenery made an impactful effect.
To make the layout look interesting to guests, varying styles were chosen for dining tables – wooden farm tables, others draped in linens, and also a whimsical serpentine table covered in faux-grass that wound its way through the area. High and low centerpieces and a stunning floral display at the sweetheart table were made from garden and spray roses in peach, soft orange, beige, pink, and blush, in addition to pink hydrangeas and multiple shades of dahlias.
However, the pièce de résistance was the wall-like backdrop behind the sweetheart table. A hand-painted mural from the brilliant scenic designer Narbeh Leon transformed the area into a wonderland. “It was absolutely incredible!” muses the bride. As evening set in, the glistening chandeliers, dreamy floral arrangements, collections of candlelight, and the spectacular mural made the alfresco space feel like stepping inside of an oil painting.
Loved ones watched in awe when it came time for Lianna to perform the Armenian ritual of the bride dance. She looked radiant as her long dark hair flowed freely, while she danced the graceful choreography. The new husband and wife joined on the dance floor for another customary dance – the shabash, where guests throw money to the couple, wishing them wealth and prosperity. “It was such an amazing feeling dancing with my new wife,” describes the groom. “It was like a dream.”
To provide guests with energy for late-night revelry, bottles of alcohol flowed freely and slices of the impressive nine-tier confection were served. “Each layer of the all-white cake was decorated in floral filigree and fresh ranunculuses in pretty shades of pink,” illustrates the bride.
The list of entertainers for the evening was showstopping in itself: Armenian singing powerhouses from a wide range of genres performed throughout the evening. “You could feel the excitement,” describes Lianna. “Every second of our wedding was memorable!”
Though the celebration required many changes along the way, the special day was everything that the bride and groom had imagined. Allen expresses that the entire process – from picking the initial décor scheme to pandemic challenges – was an experience with his bride-to-be that he’ll always cherish. “There’s absolutely nothing that I would change!” Lianna muses. “I wish I could relive that day over and over again.”