When engaged couple Gazelle Javadi and Farhad Ashofteh arrived in Napa Valley for a visit with friends, they were still in the midst of a fruitless search for a destination-wedding location. "We had already looked at a variety of options, including some outside the country," Gazelle recalls. After admitting their frustration, the couple was surprised and deeply touched when their hosts generously offered their home for the event. Not only would the vineyard setting make a beautiful backdrop for a wedding, but Farhad, an architect, had designed the spectacular residence himself the year before. "The fact that [our friends] Mark and Nancy allowed us to take over and have our wedding in a house that I designed was very unique," asserts the groom. "And having intimate knowledge of the building and its surroundings helped me with the planning process."
The couple scheduled their wedding date to fall on the autumn equinox, a day that has been celebrated in Persian culture as the equilibrium of nature for thousands of years. "We believed that getting married on the day that the natural world is in balance would also represent the balance in our marriage," says Gazelle. However, the couple added unconventional elements to their Persian wedding ceremony, intent on creating an event that blended traditional customs with a chic, contemporary feel. "This combination represents us in the way that we come from an ancient culture, but were raised in the modern, western world," clarifies the bride.
The courtyard of the Napa Valley home was filled with friends, family, and the festive sound of flamenco music when Farhad arrived at the wedding in a vintage Mercedes-Benz. Although the bridal couple typically enters the ceremony together in Persian culture, Farhad and Gazelle put a spin on tradition by having their families enter the courtyard to the strains of a Spanish guitar before the bride appeared alone. Gazelle was an absolute vision in a custom-made, hand-finished couture wedding gown by Ali Rahimi for Mon Atelier, and carrying a creamy bouquet of ivory roses and diminutive tulips. "Without a doubt, the moment when the door magically opened and Gazelle walked into the courtyard was the most memorable," says Farhad. The couple's sofreh aghd, a symbolic wedding spread of items that represent different concepts of good fortune, was also altered slightly to reflect the couple's style. Wheat branches, crystallized sugar, decorated eggs, candles, a mirror, Persian spices, grapes, herbs, and honeycomb were all placed on tall, glass vases around a fountain in the courtyard. This placement allowed the couple to be surrounded by their guests during the ceremony, and worked brilliantly with the outdoor setting as well.
The reception that followed also took place out-of-doors on the estate, and was as fluid and informal as the ceremony before it. Guests were free to mingle and lounge on unassigned seating of white, modern furniture that made a striking contrast to fall floral arrangements in bold autumnal colors. "We are both very social," says the bride, "and the fact that we did not want to put our guests at tables in certain groupings strongly reflected our personalities." Figs, olives, local produce, and lush bunches of grapes were all a part of the decor, especially at the amazing multiple food stations that served a rotating "grazing" menu throughout the night. An oyster bar gave way to wine-country antipasta, and a station of sushi, grilled entrees, and sides was later transformed into a tapas bar. A variety of gourmet sliders and a selection of sweets was also enjoyed, and the luscious dark-chocolate wedding cake was served at midnight.
The party continued until 3AM with hours of dancing amid mood lighting and video projections. As guests took their leave with favors of wine stoppers, the bridal couple looked back on their day without regrets. "I followed the advice of a friend to try to enjoy and remember every moment of the wedding, and the night didn't end really fast like [it does for] some brides," Gazelle reveals. "Everyone's personality and taste is different," says Farhad, "and there is no one formula that will satisfy everyone. My advice is to organize an event around your own personal style, and don't follow any prescribed plan but your own."