Persian-Chinese Wedding Celebration in New York City

Nina and Mehdi

Photographed by: Cappy Hotchkiss PhotographyLocation: New York City, New York, United States

After a courtship that began on a New York City dance floor, Nina Travinsky and Mehdi Malaki took their next choreographed steps while celebrating Mehdi’s birthday in San Francisco. While strolling along the marina with the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance, Mehdi told Nina that there were a few things he wanted to accomplish before he officially turned 30: complete his graduate program, find a wonderful new job and ask Nina to be his wife. So just before the clock struck midnight, Mehdi proposed, and Nina joyfully accepted.

With countless hours spent searching for the ideal location, Nina and Mehdi chose the elegant ballroom at the Essex House for their February wedding. Save the Date cards had just been mailed when Mehdi’s mother made a plan-altering announcement: She told the couple that because February 19th was an extremely unlucky date in the Muslim calendar, they absolutely could not get married on that day. Luckily, none of the other vendors had been booked, so Nina put Mehdi in charge of rescheduling the venue for January 29th, a date that promised good fortune for the bride and groom—and brought harmony back to their planning process.

In order to honor Mehdi’s Persian heritage and Nina’s Chinese background, the couple designed a multi-cultural celebration that captured the unification of their diversity. Their ceremony was centered on Persian marriage customs that used the Sofreh Ye Aghd, a display of traditional, symbolic ceremonial elements, to officiate their nuptials. Some items included in the display: a mirror, representing the purity of marriage; decorated nuts to symbolize fertility; a tray of multicolored spices to ward off evil spirits; and red roses with thorns, representing the beautiful—yet sometimes painful—experience of marriage.

After completing the Persian service, Nina and Mehdi performed a Chinese tea ceremony. The couple offered tea to both sets of parents and grandparents who, in turn, presented the bride and groom with red envelopes called Hong Bao, filled with money representing prosperity, longevity and good health. With its tribute to both families, the layered ceremony was a very personal and emotional experience for everyone involved. Nina remembers when she and Mehdi first saw each other during the ceremony, “I could feel that he loved me so much at that moment. It was perfect.”

Also memorable for the guests was Nina’s participation in the Chinese tradition of wearing three different gowns throughout the course of the evening. For the ceremony, Nina wore a contemporary, white wedding gown. Next, she slipped into a fully beaded red and white Chinese Chi-Pao dress, and toward the end of the reception, she changed into a gold evening gown. But it was difficult to find a few moments to perform her wardrobe changes; she and Mehdi were happily (and appropriately) tethered to the dance floor, boogying to the eclectic tunes of the carefully blended American and Persian bands. “The two bands were a huge success,” recalls the couple. “Most of our guests were trying out Persian moves by the end of the night.”

In honor of Nina’s late grandmother (who was of Danish decent), the bride worked very closely with the Essex House’s pastry chef to successfully recreate her grandmother’s traditional Princess Cake. It became the inside of the couple’s own wedding cake, with the outside decorated with an Asian-inspired design of delicate, climbing quince blossom branches. It coordinated perfectly with the centerpieces the couple chose for the ballroom: alternating tall arrangements of orchids with white quince blossoms and suspended votive candles, and silver tree branches with orchids and red quince blossoms. The tables were covered in linens fashioned from pale yellow fabric that Nina selected in Shanghai, where she also purchased Chinese fabric coasters for wedding favors.

From the careful planning of their multi-cultural ceremony to the personal and creative elements of their reception, Nina and Mehdi used every opportunity to proudly illustrate their commitment to embracing one another’s lives. It was a wedding as unique as their relationship—and one that was only outdone by the exotic honeymoon that followed: a tour of Egypt, Kuwait and Iran.

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