Following a whirlwind romance, there was no question these two lovies were made for one another. And when Shalaby popped the question? It only felt fitting to plan a day as romantic as their story. They brought on a crew of ultra-talented vendors like Keely Thorne Events, Verbena Floral Design and Jenny DeMarco Photography, and you can see every detail right over here.
From the Bride… Shalaby and I met online and had an amazing first date – delicious Asian-French fusion cuisine, great wine and lots of laughter. It was a summer night in New York City and it began to pour – like the gentleman he would prove himself to be time and time again, he jogged out in the rain to hail me a cab. Perfect. So when Shalaby shared on our second date that he was an anxious flyer, I thought it was going to be a short-lived relationship. Second only to my love of food is my love of travel. So imagine my surprise when, two months later, he presented me with tickets to Toronto, where we stayed at the Four Seasons and he thoroughly wined and dined me. Realizing my love of travel, he had been listening to instructional audio tapes about flying, trying to conquer his hesitations. And that was the trip that started our wine and culinary adventure around the globe.
We’ve had escargot in Nice, dined on escoveitched fish in Montego Bay, and shared panuchos in Puerto Aventuras. Shalaby even set up a romantic Spanish café in our living room, surprised me with a proposal when I walked through the door, and then had a private chef serve some of my favorite foods like pecan-crusted salmon and chocolate hazelnut cake. Naturally, travel and food was the inspiration behind our wedding. And because my family is from Panama and Jamaica, and his is from the south, infusing our day with cultural traditions was a must to me as well.
We chose Austin because my parents moved there when I was in college, and Shalaby and I ended up spending many a holiday there, savoring TexMex cuisine, scouting out restaurants owned by Top Chef (our favorite show) cheftestants, and enjoying barbecue joints. The food, the music, the friendliness of the people, and the beauty of Austin’s hill country made it the natural choice for our wedding. After that, Barton Creek Resort & Spa was an easy pick: we wanted contemporary elegance with amazing food that would reflect Austin. And so our guests were able to enjoy dishes like roasted poblano chimichangas and chicken breast with Texas spoonbread stuffing.
I enlisted Etsy’s FoxGloveDesign to create a beautiful, custom monogram for us based around a travel compass that we ended up using throughout the wedding: on our wedding invitations, the cocktail napkins, even the signs for our signature drink. I wouldn’t call myself the craftiest person, but thankfully, I have a lot of talented, DIY’ers for friends. My best friend from college and matron of honor hand made the menu cards. My other matron, my childhood friend, created the flower cones that hung on each guest’s chair during the ceremony. A colleague at work hollowed out my favorite book, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, and adorned it with ribbon in our primary colors of eggplant and charcoal gray to hold the wedding rings. And I rolled up my sleeves and made the table names (in lieu of numbers) – each table was named after a place we’d been and included a vignette about what made the place special to us (“boarding pass” escort cards by Etsy’s AnthologiePress directed guests to their seats). It was incredible to have so many handcrafted elements woven throughout our ceremony and reception and to know that they were made by people who love us.
Our heritages cross countries, and so I wanted to make sure we were paying homage to both of our family’s ancestry. In recognition of my Latin heritage, a bridesmaid and Shal’s brother and best man read from Pablo Neruda’s Cien sonetos de amor during the ceremony in English and in Spanish. A doll, la muñeca, was on display during the cocktail reception, adorned in a pollera, a traditional dress in Panama. And my father and I shared an emotional moment when he lifted my veil to give me away, the same veil my mother wore at their wedding almost forty years ago. To honor Shalaby’s African American roots, jumping the broom was also an important part of our ceremony.
Other special touches included our signature drink, “Habitual Happiness” (a.k.a. a Texas Sangria); pictures of each of us as babies, toddlers, and teenagers were on each table during the cocktail reception; and at the end of the anniversary dance, I gave my wedding bouquet away to the couple who had been married the longest. Shalaby supported me as I left a career practicing corporate law and moved to non-profit fundraising, and so it was a given that we would find additional ways to give back: making a donation to the American Cancer Society in honor of our guests, and donating all our wedding flowers the next day to the Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin.
But the tenderest moments were seeing the tears fall down Shalaby’s face as I walked down the aisle and hearing the stunningly sweet things he had written about me in a private letter to our Unitarian Minister. Thankfully, our photographer, Jenny, was there capturing everything, from the look on Shalaby’s face as I walked toward him to that moment during our cake-cutting when he managed to get icing on my nose.
And I was doubly grateful that she grabbed the two of us at some point during the reception and we stole away for our own private moment. We could hear the music and the laughter of our guests in the background, and I realized that what had started at a little dinner table in the West Village had grown and grown, crossing boundaries and time zones, to bring us to this beautiful moment in Austin, surrounded by the people we loved the most.
Photography: Jenny DeMarco Photography | Wedding coordinator: Keely Thorne Events | Flowers: Verbena Floral Design | Make-up: Rae Cosmetics | Hair: Sabina Of Julz Natural Hair | Lighting: Intelligent Lighting Design | Disc Jockey: TX Pro DJ | Officiant: The Reverend Meg Barnhouse, The First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin | Venue: Omni Barton Creek Resort And Spa | Bridal dress: Ines Di Santo | Escort cards: Anthologie Press | Flower girl dresses: Simplybellatlb | Invitations and Programs: By Invitation Only | Linens: BBJ | Monogram: FoxGloveDesign | Monogram stamp: JLMould | Nanny service for kids' room: Austin's Capital Grannies | Photobooth: Booth 66 | Wedding Wands: MatsenDesigns | Wedding broom: Journey Wedding Brooms