Destination weddings can be a good way to cull your guest count, visit a new place or combine your wedding into your honeymoon. For me, it was a way to return to my roots.
Growing up, I always knew I wanted to get married in my grandfather’s Italian village of Cugnoli. I had an image of myself walking through the medieval village, residents peering over balconies and offering their best wishes as my parents and I walk by. I didn’t have a vision of my dress, the flowers, the colour scheme or anything else, but I knew I’d end up in Cugnoli.
I was raised in Southern California by an Italian mother and Iranian father, and my partner Nasir was raised in Sydney by Lebanese parents. When I found a partner with a sense of adventure to match mine, I knew it would be a perfect fit.
I spent months carefully curating the perfect wedding ceremony and reception – the location, the catering,combine elements of both my and my partner’s cultures – and all remotely from Sydney. There were a total of 180 guests at the wedding, 90 of whom were local and the other half came from overseas.
Our overseas guests were mostly from Australia and the US. There were also guests from the UK, Switzerland, the Ivory Coast, Luxemburg, Brussels and Oman. This was the most international crowd Cugnoli had ever seen. In many ways, Italy functioned as a meeting point for our friends and family who would not have been able to make the trek to Sydney or California.
Though we knew that our friends and family around the world are avid travellers, we actually did not expect so many guests to accept the invitation.
My mother and I had a moment of panic when we were unsure if everyone would fit in the reception venue. Since we weren’t in Italy to check for ourselves, we sent the caterer to scope it out with a tape measure, and through a Whatsapp video he soothed our anxieties.
This wedding was going to require much more organisation and logistical arrangements than I expected. I put together a website, a newsletter and, as the wedding got closer, a Whatsapp group. We even hired buses to get guests from the nearest city of Pescara where most of our guests had book accommodation to get to the wedding village. Many of our guests arrived a few days before the wedding, or stayed a few days after, and used their time to travel around Italy and take in the sights.
We are both attached to our respective roots, and we did not want to leave anything out on our wedding day. The result was a Iranian wedding sofreh and ceremony, with a Lebanese zalghouta call and response led by Nasir’s grandmother, which was officiated by my best friend of 25 years, who is Puerto Rican and speaks Italian beautifully. All in the courtyard of my late nonno’s home.
A destination wedding is a luxury that is admittedly not accessible for everyone. But it ended being an excuse to go on holiday with my dearest family and friends. Nasir and I hadn’t seen some of these friends in over a year, and it was a great way for them to meet my Italian relatives. The trek was particularly arduous for my partner’s Lebanese grandparents, who are over 80 years old and made the long journey from Sydney to participate in our wedding day.
The time spent with friends and family during the lead up to and the days after the wedding is some that we will never forget. For both my partner and I, the purpose of this day was to bring everyone who was important in our lives in one place. It felt really special to know that we had so much love from literally all corners of the globe, and we really felt it at our wedding – all the time, effort and expense they made to be there.
Our wedding day was an expression of the cultures that we have lived with all our lives, as well as the ones we married into and have happily embraced. We celebrated our wedding in a way that perfectly summed up our lives - reciting Iranian poetry, eating pizza to our heart’s delight and dabke-ing the night away.
Sonia Mehrmand is a freelance writer. You can follow Sonia on Twitter @SoniaMehrmand.
Marry Me Marry My Family explores cross-cultural weddings in Australia. Watch or stream new episodes weekly Tuesdays 7, 14 and 21 of January, 8:30pm on SBS and SBS On Demand.