Let me preface by saying this isn’t your average Midwest wedding. In fact, it’s so much better. Senushi and Ryan managed to blend their Buddhist and Catholic backgrounds into one cohesive, deeply meaningful celebration that brought two families from across the world together. A big thanks to Jen Dillender and 3 Strands Film for bringing the day to life on our pages.
“I am Sri Lankan, Kiwi, Australian, American Buddhist
and Ryan is Irish American Catholic—we weren’t only
blending families, we were also blending cultures.“
“It was great to involve both sides of the family in each
other’s religious and cultural traditions.“
From the Bride…My name is Senushi O’Sullivan. Yup, I think my married name adequately describes our union. Ours was a non-conventional story from the very beginning. Ryan and I met on match.com, as children of the 90’s this was something we thought we’d never do ourselves but we couldn’t be more grateful that we did. We spent our savings traveling the world for two months and realized that at both our best and worst, life was always sweeter with one another. The best night and surprise of my life is when Ryan proposed. Then, I started medical school in Kansas City and Ryan started dental school 350 miles away, and we logged many miles and listened to many audiobooks for the next 4 years living apart.
It also meant a 4 year engagement. Four years of pouring over gauzy wedding film photography, paper thin beaded dresses that cost as much as a semester of medical school, and drooling over venues that were originally built for actual royalty. Our union wouldn’t be a traditional Midwestern wedding. I am Sri Lankan, Kiwi, Australian, American Buddhist and Ryan is Irish American Catholic—we weren’t only blending families, we were also blending cultures. Despite all my gushing over the gorgeous wedding blogs and publications, my wonderment wasn’t immune to the absence of minority brides or couples who didn’t also moonlight as catalogue models. Our reception was not in Napa Valley or hosted in a distant relative’s castle.
The first part of our mixed cultural wedding was the Catholic ceremony at the beautiful Holy Family Cathedral. I learned a great deal about the Catholic traditions leading up to the wedding, and it was a joy to attend pre-canna because Father O’Brien counseled us. He also married us, and my Buddhist family members became big fans of Father O’Brien as well.
Hosting a Sri Lankan wedding ceremony in the Midwest was a unique challenge. There are very few people with the very particular knowledge to be a Sri Lankan wedding Celebrant. A family member from Arizona suggested a gentleman in Chicago who performed Sri Lankan weddings, and so we asked him to officiate ours. A friend of Ryan’s family actually built the traditional Sri Lankan platform called a Poruwa, and EverSomething built and decorated the traditional arch component of the Poruwa.
In front of our diverse wedding guests, we exchanged vows in the Sri Lankan tradition—feeding each other “kiri bath” or coconut milk rice, Ryan hilariously attempting to fasten my grandmother’s gold necklace around my neck, my father tying our pinky fingers together with gold thread, and finally my uncle helping us down from the platform as a newly married couple. We then bowed down to both sets of parents and gave them presents. Ryan’s cousin, Cooper, practiced chopping open many coconuts with an axe the night before because he was chosen to perform this task as my Uncle helped us step off of the Poruwa.
It was great to involve both sides of the family in each other’s religious and cultural traditions. We then lit a traditional Sri Lankan oil lamp, which signifies the illumination of our new life together. For the food, KEO restaurant made some of my mum’s Sri Lankan recipes as well as some of their best selling Thai, Vietnamese, and Malaysian dishes.
For the reception space, Taylor and her EverSomething team transformed the add-on multipurpose room of the otherwise stunning 1920s Tulsa Garden Center mansion with swathes of sheer ivory fabric, tapered candles, and Taylor’s beautiful flowers. As with any wedding, there were unexpected hiccups but Hannah Ekblad of Frosted Field Events always found a solution and made sure the day went on as if everything was perfect. Despite the Oklahoma heat, the two ceremonies, and the huge bridal party, Hannah was the absolute sweetest and best coordinator a bride could ever hope to work with.
Although most of Ryan’s family lives in Oklahoma and Kansas, most of mine lives in Australia and Sri Lanka. We were so touched by the fact that people flew from so far to be with us in Tulsa. My 11-year old cousin, Kiara, from Australia surprised us all with her performance of “A Thousand Years,” which she had practiced for months and rehearsed with the band right before the reception started. LostWax was our amazing band, and the dancing started with their very first song.
No one wanted the party to end when they inevitably had to wrap up. Before the last hour of dancing, I changed into a red saree. In Sri Lankan culture, the bride changes into a red going away saree. It was the first saree I had ever worn and was worried it would constrict me from dancing, but I found a way!
Asking Jen Dillender to be our photographer was the best decision we made during the planning process. I agonized over choosing from all the film photographers I fan-girled so hard for. Jen was one of the kindest and most fun artists I met with, and her images are a testament to her raw talent. Even though the wedding is over, I’m still such a big fan of her work and of who she is.
Photography: Jen Dillender Photography | Cinematography: 3 Strands Film | Event Planning: Frosted Fields Events | Floral Design: Ever Something | Wedding Dress: Essense of Australia | Cake: Cakes by Liza | Invitations: Wedding Paper Divas | Ceremony Venue: Holy Family Cathedral | Bridesmaids' Dresses: Jenny Yoo | Catering: Keo Restaurant | Makeup: Drea Carreno | Hair: Faccia Bella | Band: Lost Wax | Groomsmen's Attire: Suitsupply | Film Processing: PhotoVision Prints | Flower Girl Dresses: MonbebeLagos | Handlettered Chalkboards: Prairie Letter Shop | Invitations + Program Design: Surangani Jayaratne (Bride's Mother) | Sri Lankan Ceremony/Reception Venue: The Tulsa Garden Center