Aminah & Yusef

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We love the story of Aminah and Yusef, and their journey of planning their wedding because it’s proof that some people are fated to be, but also because it shows some of the specific cultural issues that Muslim brides/couples have to face when planning their weddings. It made us laugh, it made us nod our head in agreement, but mostly, it showed us that when two people who are true friends are supported by family who love them, a truly beautiful celebration of their love will take place. This one is definitely worth reading till the end… 

How did you meet The story of how we met is actually very serendipitous. My mom wrote an exaggerated (but very accurate!) version on our wedding website that I’m including below:

“It was a cool crisp afternoon in Chicago in October of 2013. Aminah Sallam, a focused freshman pre-med at the University of Chicago had been up for hours studying for her mid-terms exams. Her friends persuaded her to take a break and go with them downtown to have lunch. While at the restaurant, a sense of sickness unexpectedly overcame Aminah and she excused herself to get some fresh air outside. Aminah had never felt like that before and decided it would probably be best to get some rest at home. She excused herself from the group and walked toward the bus stop…

Yusef Al-Jarani was a Junior at the University of Chicago, studying political Science with dreams of becoming a Lawyer. He was a go getter — always studying just like Aminah, but had decided that day to also take a break and go to visit a friend who lived downtown. After his visit, he decided to take the bus back home and started walking toward the very same bus stop where Aminah was waiting. When Yusef got to the stop, he noticed that Aminah appeared to be in some distress as she was rummaging through her backpack looking for something. He introduced himself and asked if she needed some help. Aminah explained that she somehow had misplaced her bus ticket and needed to get home because she was not feeling very well. The chivalrous and good-natured Yusef offered to help and they boarded the bus together.

After a few minutes, the bus made it to Aminah’s stop, and, to her surprise, Yusef also got off the bus. They realized that they lived in the same dorm at the University but had never met each other up until that day. In an even stranger twist of fate, they later found out that they lived on the same floor and only a few doors down the hall from each other!

As they say, the rest is history..”

Tell us about the proposal The proposal was actually pretty anticlimactic/uneventful. From the moment we met we knew were meant to be together—for the both of us it was a very strong feeling and it felt very obvious that the universe had pushed us to meet for a reason. We both told our parents immediately and at first mine especially were skeptical. After a year of getting to know each other, my parents invited Yusef to meet them at our home in New York City. Their first meeting was hilarious (Yusef was worried that asking to leave would be rude and my parents were worried that telling him to leave would be rude so he stayed eating dinner, drinking tea and talking with my family until 2 am at which point my sister was like “CAN THIS BE OVER PLEASE?”) but my parents fell in love with Yusef after that. Later, they met his parents in Chicago before we were to start my second year of undergrad and his final year of undergrad. The families got along, so on a conference call between my father, his father, he and I (yes-a conference call) we all agreed we would get engaged (LOL). We ended up having a beautiful engagement ceremony at Casa La Femme  where we were formally engaged (he gave me my engagement ring then and of course I burst into tears IMMEDIATELY) and had an amazing party with close friends and family.

How was the wedding planning process The wedding planning process was absolutely INSANE. Not only were Yusef and I living in separate states, we were both living in a separate state from where we were planning to have the wedding (I was at school in Chicago, he at school in New Haven, and the wedding was held in Houston). To make things worse, I was interviewing for medical schools which, in the US, is an extremely intense and time consuming process—any time I received an interview I had to drop everything and fly to the school (I ended up going on over 30 total flights—including round trips/stop overs/visits to Houston to visit family—during that time!). God bless my mother—she orchestrated most of the wedding and is the MOST detail oriented person you will ever meet. On top of her work (she’s Co-Director of the Cancer Prevention and Population Science program at Baylor College of Medicine) she handled most of the day to day of wedding planning.

Most of our planning was done over a 2 week period during which our winter break overlapped. We went to about 4 appointments with different vendors a day! It was insane—we were driving all over Houston trying to find vendors and make fast decisions! Thankfully we were able to do much of the heavy lifting during that period so for the remaining 6 months leading up to the wedding we just had to deal with all the small details that go into wedding planning.

How did you decide on a wedding venue and what inspired your wedding style Both were really dictated by my dress, which is the first thing I bought for the wedding. The second I tried the dress on (it was only the third or fourth dress I tried) I knew it was the ONE. After that, I became obsessed with creating a wedding that matched the dress seamlessly. One thing I was certain about with my venue was that I did NOT want to get married in a hotel. Since the dress has more of a princess/French vibe, when I saw Chateau CocoMar, I knew it was the perfect place to have the wedding—it was the perfect castle to match my dress! The décor followed in a similar way—the dress had layers of pink and purple in the skirt so depending on the light it would look more pink or more nude or more white. The décor had to pick up on those colors, so we went with whites, light pinks, purples, peaches. To match the venue, we also went with a lot of rose golds. The vibe of the wedding ended up being very French garden.

Where did you find your dress? Were there any struggles? What values motivated your look? All things considered, finding my dress was actually a very easy process. I began (and ended) my search at Kleinfeld Bridal in NYC. Because I wear the hijab, and we were having a mixed wedding, I knew up front that I would need a long sleeve, modest dress. Of course, when I said this to the sales clerks, they started bringing me these horrifying, baggy, unflattering lace dresses that looked like they were meant for a much older bride. At one point, after sifting through the selection they prepared for me, I had to ask: “You guys know I’m 22 right?” Because it felt like all the dresses were for someone much older than me! They initially were like, “Sorry honey, but this is modest,” but I refused to accept that! I had seen a couple of Hayley Paige gowns online that I knew were long sleeve so I made them bring those to me. The first, I didn’t like, but the second was actually the gown she wore to her own wedding, the ‘Hayley’, and the minute I tried it on I knew it was the one. Everyone in the store lost their minds when they saw me in it. People kept leaving their own appointments to look at me and compliment the dress. The only problem with the dress was that it was mostly see through, so I ended up going back to Kleinfeld multiple times in the following year to figure out a way to line the dress without ruining the overall look. Thankfully, they were able to add additional appliques to cover the plunging bodice and line the dress with a very light, nude fabric so it wasn’t obvious that it was lined, but it was obvious enough that I was still covered.

Any family or religious traditions incorporated into your wedding Planning the wedding was difficult from this respect because I am Egyptian, my husband is Libyan, and we are both born and raised in America. So there were so many different facets of our culture and religion that we wanted to incorporate. We ended up having a mixed henna party before the wedding where we did much of the cultural traditions (not pictured or described but that was a whole other thing to plan). For the wedding, we went with a more Western vibe. Unlike most Muslim weddings, we chose to have our religious ceremony outside a mosque in front of all our friends and family. It was extremely difficult to find a Sheikh able to perform a nice ceremony that was very progressive (many, unfortunately give very sexist, dry and boring speeches), but fortunately one of my dad’s close friends, Sheikh Shaker El-Sayyed, was willing to fly out from Virginia to perform the ceremony! The ceremony structure was the first of its kind in our community—I walked down the aisle, we had a reading of the Quran to open things up, the Sheikh gave a sweet and funny speech about marriage, we did the formal contract signing with our fathers in front of everyone, and then Yusef and I read our own, personal vows before exchanging rings. It was kind of a fusion of Islamic and Western traditions. For the reception, we had a traditional arab Zaffe entrance, and danced a lot of Dabke, but my sister also played a piece on the piano, my mom read a beautiful poem that she wrote in Arabic, and Yusef performed a rap for everyone! It was truly a fusion ceremony from all respects.

What does marriage mean to you both For both of us, marriage is a very religious concept—it is a union made before God—and as such I think we both had this very strong feeling that after getting married it was our job to help each other be the best Muslims we can. That means praying together every day, reading more Quran and just learning together how to best practice our religion and positively affect those around us.

More than that, I think the most significant part of marriage for us is having an equal partner to go through life with. We both have very competitive ambitions, and knowing that we both have a partner to lean on in the good times and bad, and that we both have someone to help us reach and celebrate our goals (and commiserate with us in our failures) is the greatest perk of marriage. I think it’s so hard to stay on a straight path when it comes to pursuing a career and having a family, but having met so young meant Yusef and I both knew each others’ true hopes and dreams (that’s what made us fall in love in the first place) up front, and we both are sticking around to make sure we both achieve those dreams.

What was a particularly memorable moment of the day The entire day was so magical!! From beginning to end it was beautiful and unfortunately it flew by so quickly. Some memorable moments include our first look—I was a little nervous leading up to it but the moment I saw him for the first time that day I felt so calm and at peace. Of course I started crying, but what got me was that he teared up a little! I had joked with him, asking him to PLEASE cry with me (he is not a big crier) because it would make great pictures (lol) and he kept saying it wasn’t going to happen so the fact that it did was such a happy surprise for both of us—it just showed how moved we both were by everything happening.

A less emotional (and more funny) moment occurred during the ceremony. I had a very long train and cathedral veil to match. When I went to sign the marriage contract I felt a lot of tugging on my head and frantic whispers behind me but thought nothing of it. It wasn’t until I got back to my bridal suite that I realized my veil caught on fire from the candles sitting by the altar, and my bridesmaids were trying to move it to keep it from burning! It ended up having a huge hole burned through it but we all just laughed at how crazy the whole thing was.

Overall Our wedding was truly special because of all the love from our families that went into planning it. We had friends fly in from all over the country to attend, and family fly in from all over the world, and that is really what made the day so special—having all the people we love in the same place for what will be the only time in our lives. My only gripe is that the day went by too quickly—I wish it could have lasted longer.

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Photography Pixel Studio Productions  Stationary Isabella Invitations Florist: The Perfect Touch Linens & Décor Ceremony & Reception venue Chateau CocoMar Cake Supreme Kakes & More Wedding favors Custom made by Pearls & Lillies Bridal gown Hayley Paige purchased at Kleinfeld Bridal Veil/Hijab styling Hand beaded by Affaf Nasratullah of Hijab Couture by Affaf Shoes Imagine Vince Camuto Ophelia Accessories Swarovski Makeup Beglammed Bridesmaids dresses Custom made by My Wedding My Dress Groom’s Suit A. Bank

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