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The Bride’s Aunt Touchingly Embroidered Her Veil with Lebanese Cedar Trees and Their Family Names

By Cathleen Freedman | Photography by 

Chris Glenn

|Planning by 

Collected & Company

Jessica and Henry spent most of their time at the University of Wisconsin – Madison convincing everyone that they were “just friends.” By their senior year, however, after all of the Badger games they went to and times on State Street together, they decided to upgrade their status and finally date.

Six years later, they had visited a handful of countries and moved around the United States together—living in New York and Chicago before settling down in Los Angeles. In March 2019, Henry insisted that they take a trip to their favorite LA escape, the Terranea Hotel in Ranchos Palos Verdes. This happened to be one of the rare rainy days in southern California. Jessica suggested they try for another day, another time; but Henry persisted with his plan. The rain finally cleared once they strolled the hotel’s premises, walking along the trails to overlook the ocean from the cliff.

Jessica turned around to find Henry on one knee, holding the ring he designed for her. Jessica of course said, “Yes!” The surprises continued well into the evening when he took her to dinner. Henry had flown their parents from Minnesota to California, so everyone could revel in the good news. Both sets of their parents were waiting for them at the table with champagne and roses in tow.

The couple began planning a wedding at the Hutton House in Minneapolis for May 2020. By mid-March 2020, though, Jessica and Henry had already canceled their bachelor and bachelorette parties in Vegas and Tulum. As COVID-19 worsened, they made the difficult decision of postponing their nuptials to July 24, 2020. “We were the first people we knew postponing and thought two months would be plenty of time,” Jessica explains. But as the weeks went by, they realized a postponement of two months would not be long enough.

After seven years together, Jessica and Henry were ready to be married. “With so much uncertainty and the stress it was causing us, we opted to cancel our large event with the possibility that we would host a bigger celebration in the future and instead do an intimate, immediate-family only wedding.”

Even before COVID-19, wedding planning was a bit difficult for Jessica. She slyly confesses to being “a poor decision-maker” and often second-guesses her choices. Thankfully, Henry was there to help place everything in perspective. He kept the process lighthearted and fun, relishing in his self-appointed role as CCO, “Chief Cake Officer.” To execute these decisions and facilitate day-of coordination, the couple enlisted Collected & Company.

Jessica and Henry looked to the silver linings of re-imagining their wedding as a smaller at-home celebration. “We loved the idea of doing a lakeside wedding, but with our original guest count, it wasn’t really possible,” she says. “This allowed us to do something much more intimate and meaningful.”

Before her engagement, Jessica had never given much thought to her bridal look. When navigating the dress search process, she followed her instincts and focused on staying true to her style. At Sarah Seven in Los Angeles, she found a dress that was precisely what she had in mind—elegant and modern, yet timeless and simple.

The bride relied on her usual jewelry aesthetic for the big day. She paired her Stvdio Brooklyn pearl and brass hoops with the diamond studs her father gifted her on her 16th birthday. The bangle on her wrist was purchased during her mother’s first trip to Lebanon, where Jessica’s father is from.

In the chaos of planning, the bride nearly forgot to find shoes! Jessica ordered nude leather square toe heels from & Other Stories online right before the wedding. A fan of old Hollywood glamor, Jessica kept her makeup palette to warm tones and left her hair in loose curls. “I wanted to look back on our day and still see myself and not some overly done look that didn’t resemble me,” she states. Lady Vamp Artistry perfectly styled this look.

Jessica’s favorite bridal accessory was her veil. The delicate cathedral-length piece showcased English netting but was enhanced by her aunt. “As a side hobby, my Aunt Tracey is a very talented designer and designed and embroidered the edges of my veil. Her inspiration was the cedar trees of Lebanon. What started as sketches on paper was brought to life by her meticulous attention to detail, ensuring every single branch and pine cone was reflective of the ancient forest I spent so many of my summers visiting,” she says, in awe. Her aunt even embroidered their family names at the base to show the union of their lineages. Every pearl embellishment was stitched by hand and crafted with the utmost tenderness.

Jessica truly treasured the personalized veil. She adds, “My dad’s family couldn’t come to his wedding in 1989 due to the Lebanese Civil War, and in 2020, they couldn’t come to mine due to a global pandemic; so it was so meaningful to have this beautiful reflection of my heritage part of our day.”

Instead of wearing his original tuxedo for the wedding, Henry opted for a new black suit. He dressed up the outfit with a tie and accessories from Judd Frost Clothiers in Wayzata, Minnesota.

On July 24, 2020, Jessica and Henry had their first look in the gardens near Lake Minnetonka. Alone together, they exchanged their personal vows. Then, they traveled to Minneapolis to be married in a live-streamed ceremony. Guests tuned in from Lebanon, Switzerland, and Dubai.

The wedding masterfully balanced modern and traditional elements. To the tune of the string quarter’s rendition of the Beatles’ “In My Life,” Jessica and her father walked down the aisle to meet her groom. The Lebanese priest led a beautiful ceremony interspersed with Aramaic verses. Henry’s sister shared a reading, and Jessica’s grandfather regaled the crowd with a section from The Alchemist. The couple gave each other their wedding rings. Jessica’s band was a stunning “something new” from Kasia Jewelry, while Henry’s was his late grandfather’s ring.

Following the Maronite practice of the “mystery of crowning,” the couple wore crowns to symbolize their new kingdom together as a married couple. The newlyweds absconded from the outdoor altar, as the string quartet played Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes’ “Home.”

Despite the wind and heat of the 100-degree day, Jessica admits that nothing could “sway our absolute excitement to finally be married to each other with the people we love. We were bursting with happiness and so grateful to be in this moment we dreamt of given how wild the journey had been.”

The bride and groom returned to Lake Minnetonka, a special place for both Jessica and Henry.”It’s the lake we both spent so many summers boating, swimming, and wake surfing on with our families and friends over the years,” Jessica recalls. “Our houses and this lake became our destination for several phases of our wedding day: the first look, cocktail hour, a boat ride, and dinner.”

Cocktail hour at Henry’s house commenced with a champagne tower and hors d’oeuvres. The craft signature cocktails were thoroughly enjoyed by all. The couple’s favorites were the “Salty Dog,” named in honor of Henry’s family’s first boat, and the “Mediterranean Margarita,” a nod to Jessica’s heritage and love of tequila. Their florist MAVEN decorated the space with white orchids, anthuriums, roses, dried fan palm leaves, and other warm neutral florals in California-inspired terracotta and textured vases.

The newlyweds then boarded a cruising boat that sailed them from the Roberts’ home to the Karams’. There, Jessica and her mother had transformed the backyard. The DIY paper lantern display, a mix of their own Persian rugs and rented ones from Collected & Company, and florals completely elevated the milieu. The tables were set with crystal stemware and stoneware from Après Party. Jessica notes, “We wanted it to feel modern and elegant but still reflect both lakeside and Mediterranean influences in a timeless way.”

Dinner was crafted by culinary wonder and former Iron Chef contestant Sameh Wadi. “It was critical to us that we had good food at our wedding—even when we were planning the big wedding, our focus was on making it feel like an upscale and intimate dining experience,” Jessica remembers. “In comes Sameh. For background, he was chef and owner of my parents’ longtime favorite restaurant in Minnesota called Saffron. We did not have a caterer for our day after ours canceled on us due to COVID. I knew it was a long shot but sent a message to Sameh via Instagram DMs. He completely empathized with our situation after having to postpone his own wedding. We worked with him to develop our menu and multi-course meal, and he fed us what was probably the best meal of our lives.”

After an impromptu sunset photoshoot post-dinner, guests joined the couple for cigars and cake. The wedding cake came from Henry’s favorite bakery, Wuollet Bakery. For their first dance, Jessica and Henry twirled to “Baby I’m Yours” by Arctic Monkeys on the patio. Jessica and her father danced to Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl,” only upstaged by her grandparents in cuteness.

After spending their wedding night at the boutique Hotel Landing, the couple looked out their window to see a double rainbow. “As cheesy as it sounds,” Jessica muses, “it was literally a rainbow of a weekend peeking through the storm that was 2020.”