After making a professional connection at the Independence Day celebration of the Republic of Guinea hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Washington DC, Mariama Keïta and Cheick Thiero’s new friendship developed into a romantic courtship. After a couple years of dating, Cheick felt it was time to propose to his beloved, which involved a traditional West-African two-day engagement proposal where Cheick had to earn blessings from both his and her parents. After successfully securing approval from both families, Cheick began his search for the perfect diamond that was sourced directly from Africa, per Mariama’s wishes. 

Following a dinner date with friends, the couple drove through the empty streets of DC, and Mariama reflected on how just months earlier she was working tirelessly as the Chief of Communications for USAID Haiti and now, residing blocks from the White House amid protests, everything felt so heavy. She realized the beauty of being present, and looking over at Cheick, she smiled in appreciation. 

After arriving at Cheick’s home, she walked into the kitchen and heard the song, “Marry You” by Bruno Mars playing. She told Cheick she hadn’t heard the song in a long time and immediately began dancing around the room. As she turned back around, she found Cheick on his knee holding an engagement ring. She stood in shock and happily agreed yes! 

The grand wedding of Mariama and Cheick began with good fortune, as Covid restrictions had loosened and didn’t set limitations on their vision. The betrothed desired a venue that felt like a modern-day castle and would be “a great fit for a luxury African wedding that exudes royalty.” Mariama goes on to explain, “We also wanted our ceremony and reception to be held at the same location and within the New York to Washington, DC area.” They discovered a lavish château venue with gorgeous grounds and a newly built on-site hotel to accommodate their loved ones traveling from California, Sweden, Mali, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone. 

“I made a bold decision to ensure my wedding management and design goals were met [and hired a new planner three weeks before the big day].”

For the ceremony, Mariama made her entrance wearing a classic white long-sleeve, form-fitting gown featuring a plunging neckline with embellished lace. A detachable tulle fabric skirt helped to create a flowing style that complemented her long train and feminine headpiece. The groom, equally dapper in a smart tuxedo, waited for Mariama at the altar, which overlooked a pond. A statement arch made of blooms in shades of blush, ivory, and hints of lavender – as a nod to Mariama’s favorite color purple, which symbolizes royalty – was artfully crafted to mark the spot for the vow exchange. 

Guests found their seats by way of a travel-themed seating chart organized by the countries Cheick and Mariama had visited. As attendees took their seats, they were introduced to elegant tablescapes made complete with gilt accents and lush floral centerpieces in muted tones. Personalized gold-trimmed menu cards sat atop each bullion charger plate to round out the refined look. A unique blend of fresh verdure and florals decorated the regal sweetheart table, complete with gilded lion-head throne chairs for the new Mr. and Mrs. 

Mariama was overjoyed to see that her dream day was turning out as expected given she had to unexpectedly hire a new planner three weeks before the big day. “I made a bold decision to ensure my wedding management and design goals were met,” she asserts. 

Filled with pure happiness, the bride delivered an impromptu speech to honor her father and show her gratitude. Additionally, a Grammy-award nominee and West African historian in the Griot tradition took part in providing an oral history through music. He poetically described the bride’s lineage rooted in a powerful African empire in Mali to now join the Thiero family and marry the son of a former Ségou mayor. 

The rest of the evening was spent enjoying a beautiful blend of musical genres. A salsa band to represent the bride’s mother’s Afro Latino roots and Yacouba from Mali playing the kora (the African harp), followed by an international playlist that included Zouk, Afrobeat, Ndombolo, hip-hop, and South African electronic dance music. 

Mariama and Cheick were so grateful for the way their dream day came to fruition. “The food was out of this world… served by servers wearing white gloves in black tie,” illustrates the groom of the fare that represented many countries. Also, the firework show in the flag colors of Mali and Guinea that displayed at the end of cocktail hour “was even more romantic when it started to rain,” describes the bride. With so many wonderful memories in tow, there is nothing the newlyweds would change about their once-in-a-lifetime experience.

This real wedding was originally published in the Fall 2022 issue of Inside Weddings magazine. 

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