John & Layla were married in early November with a wedding ceremony and reception at the Capitol View at 400 at the Phoenix Park Hotel in Washington, DC. The stylish boutique hotel is located next to Union Station and its rooftop venue has stunning views of the United States Capitol Building. I photographed the day as a second photographer for Klaire Dixius Photography. The bride and groom both prepared for the day in luxurious modern suites on separate floors in hotel. They enjoyed a very sweet “first look” together under the iconic loggia at Union Station, followed by portraits in Upper Senate Park in front of the Capitol.
In my job I love to experience the many ways, words, and customs that we have for blessing and initiating a couple as they begin their marriage. John & Layla’s evening rooftop wedding ceremony honored Layla’s Persian heritage. The bride & groom were seated facing their guests in front of a sofreh, a table display of symbolic items over a luxurious fabric, all meant to bless and protect the couple. The Persian ceremony had many highlights that I will cherish in my memory:
The officiant gave timeless marriage advice in which he quoted Persian mystic Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, commonly known as Rumi: “When you are wrong, speak up. When you are right, shut up. And when all else fails, remember this: ‘On the other side of right and wrong there is a peaceful garden. I will meet you there.’” I have always felt most connected to the mystics from various spiritual traditions, particularly Rumi, yet this was the first time I’d heard this quote. I adore it and I think of it often, as it embodies true forgiveness, love, and oneness, which have been the greatest lessons of my marriage and of spiritual journey over the past few years. “On the other side of right and wrong, there is a peaceful garden. I will meet you there.” Lovely.
During the officiant’s remarks, female relatives held a lace canopy over John & Layla to symbolize their coming together under one roof, and they rubbed sugar cones together to sprinkle sugar on the canopy, to symbolically add sweetness to their marriage.
The Consent: In a traditional Western wedding ceremony, the officiant asks the wedding couple if they each consent to the marriage, and they each respond, “I do.” In contrast, in a Persian ceremony, when the officiant asks the wedding couple if they each consent to the marriage, the groom says, Yes,” but the bride remains silent for a while. It is a playfully coy tradition that heightens the nervous anticipation of the guests. The officiant asks three times, and each time, as the bride remains silent, a guest will lightheartedly call out an excuse for why the bride hasn’t responded, such as, “She’s gone out to the store!” On the third and final time, the bride responds, “With the permission of my parents, yes!,” and everyone starts cheering. It was my first time witnessing this ceremony, and I found it so surprising, playful, and fun.
After the consent, and before the kiss, the groom takes a jar of honey from wedding table, dips his pinky finger into the honey, and then feeds it to the bride. In return, she then dips her pinky into the honey and feeds him. This part of the ceremony symbolizes how they will sustain each other throughout their marriage. It makes the married couple’s first kiss immediately afterward seem that much sweeter.
The ceremony was followed by a lively reception of dinner and dancing with stunning night views of the Capitol. Congratulations, John & Layla!