Nontraditional Ceremony Paired with Classic Ballroom Reception

Zara and David

Photographed by: Jorge Santiago Photography Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

Zara Husaini and David Hanawalt share different backgrounds, but they made their wedding their own. Devoid of cultural or religious traditions, the couple wrote their own ceremony, which was officiated by their dear friend Greta – who introduced the pair four years prior. “I feel like everyone at the wedding got a sense of what our relationship is really like, and that was so important to me,” shares the bride. As an only child, she wanted both her parents represented on the big day, so they walked her down the aisle together. Zara theorizes this could become a new family tradition, adding: “I can only hope David and I will be walking our own daughter down the aisle at her wedding one day.”

Just over a year before their nuptials, and exactly three years after their first date, David took Zara to dinner. During a conversation about marriage, she had once mentioned this hotel would be a great location for their future reception or engagement party. David, though, had a different idea. Upon completing their meal, David asked the hotel staff (who were in on the plan) if they could tour one of the suites. Zara entered the decorated room to find a gift on the coffee table. “I opened up a small box and saw it was empty,” she recalls. “When I turned around David was standing there with the ring!” After saying “yes,” the lovebirds were met in the lobby by friends to celebrate their engagement. 

The bride quickly began planning her wedding with her mother by her side, deciding to host the event in her hometown of Pittsburgh instead of her current residence of Chicago. “My wedding venue was actually where I had my senior prom!” Zara exclaims. With a large guest list, the couple knew they would need a grand ballroom for all of their friends and family. The color palette – soft blush and gold – complemented the gilded balconies of the ballroom, as well as the opulent chandeliers suspended above the space. Though the bride and groom were deliberate in avoiding tradition for their ceremony, the reception went in the opposite direction. Eschewing the popular rustic style of many modern weddings, Zara elected to go with a more classic look. “I wanted the day to feel timeless, elegant, and formal,” she explains. “That style isn’t exactly ‘trendy’ at the moment, but it felt right for us.” Lush florals, such as roses and hydrangeas, helped complete the enduring appearance of the day. 

The bride admits that not everything went perfectly, although it was another wedding that was affected most. “We sort of crashed another couple’s wedding while taking portraits after our ceremony,” Zara laughs. “We tried to access the hotel’s mezzanine and walked right through their reception!” Aside from that mishap, the day was exactly what she wanted it to be, with no need to change a thing. “If anything, I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time worrying about little things during the planning process, but that’s just sort of who I am,” the bride concedes. 

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