Fatma and Ibrahim were on party number four in their wedding schedule. There had been two smaller celebrations, and then a much larger one in Washington, DC, where the couple currently resides. Ibrahim is originally from Sierra Leone, but most of his family has relocated to the DC area. This final reception was the largest with over 700 guests, held in Mombasa, Kenya.
Planner Events By Merida took on the challenge of traveling there, planning within different cultures and new-to-her languages (Swahili and Arabic!), and shared with us their story.
Rihana Decorations took charge of the decor including traditional elements such as the trunks and six foot tall teapots, and a bench they brought in featuring peacock designs. The peacock is a Swahili symbol, and was used on the couple’s foil invitations and table numbers. Downstairs at the men’s reception, bright draping and a floral arrangement accompanied the thrones for the groom and the bride’s male members of the family.
Among Arabic trends, Fatma’s style was particularly offbeat. She went for a gold and brown fitted gown with a golden veil. One difference in Swahili weddings from Western weddings is that the couple doesn’t see each other for the reception. The men celebrated on one floor; the women on the other.
For the bride’s entrance, she dances through the room to the beat of her relatives drumming sticks together. She was joined at the front by the attendees — all 350 of them! What followed was a true party of lunch and dancing. Once the reception was over, the couple and family headed back to Fatma’s family home, where we were able to take photos of the entire family.
One big hiccup: in the days leading up to the wedding, Fatma repeatedly tried to talk to the photographer for the women and was repeatedly ignored. On the day of, both of the photographers (one for the men, one for the women) ghosted the couple. Luckily, both the bride’s sister and planner Merida were carrying decent cameras and were able to capture the day.
Venue: Islamic Center of Mombasa • Coordination & Photographer: Events By Merida • Photo Editing: Alex Medvick Photography • Decor: Rihana Decorations & Occasions • Makeup: Aisha Kibwana of Asmini Beauty • Hair: Muna Ali • Dress fabric: made by private seamstress in Philadelphia • Dress: created by private seamstress in Nigeria • Shoes: Emirates Shoe Store