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A Wedding Weekend with Pakistani and Jewish Traditions at the New York Botanical Garden

By Shayna Seid | Photography by 

To The Moon NYC

Corey Miles Burr  proposed to Monis Zahra Alam, social media consultant, in Washington Square Park, where they had their first kiss. “Corey had arranged for a violin player to play a familiar, romantic Bollywood song,” she explains. “He asked me to dance, and you know what happened next!”

The engaged couple wanted to get married in the city where they met and fell in love, so they chose The Garden Terrace Room at the New York Botanical Garden. On Thursday, July 11th, they had their Mayoun, and Monis wore a traditional yellow shalwar kameez with delicate mukesh work, which she found in the Ankarli Bazaar in Lahore, Pakistan. Traditionally, women wear floral jewelry on this night, and the mother-of-the bride found ribbon flower jewelry for her in London, two weeks prior. 

The next day was the Mehndi, and Monis chose a Lengha Choli customized by Pakistani designer and friend Ali Xeeshan. It was the third look she tried on with her parents at his atelier, and her father ultimately swayed her towards it. “Instead of a traditional mehndi color, which is usually yellow or green, I chose a shocking magenta with purple hues,” the bride explains. And to complete the look, it’s a custom that the mother-of-the-bride gifts her daughter fine gold jewelry to wear and keep as an investment. 

“Since I was very young, my mother has been holding onto a piece of gold bullion with my name on it to use for my wedding gold,” Monis explains. “When we visited Pakistan in December, she brought this gold bullion, which was used to buy my Shafaq Habib gold, emerald, and diamond wedding set.” 

On Friday, guests attended in Pakistani attire. “Some borrowed clothes, others went out and bought traditional clothes—it meant so much to me,” Monis says. The evening was a full-on dance party with a surprise concert from famous Pakistani-Indian band JOSH, and the decor was inspired by Udaipur’s Lake Palace. 

For Saturday’s Jewish ceremony, the bride wore Vera Wang. Five months before the wedding, Vera Wang senior vice president of global communications Priya Shukla’s daughter Belle suggested she visit the famous bridal designer’s studio, and the experience was perfect. “I never even imagined having the opportunity to wear the traditional white dress—Pakistani brides don’t get to do this,” Monis says. “But I was overwhelmed by how perfect it looked, and as cheesy as this can be, it made me feel like a princess.”

In the botanical garden, the traditional Jewish seven blessings were recited during the ceremony. The couple signed the Ketubah, made in Israel, and Corey stomped on the glass to make it official. Then, the newlyweds retreated for a quick outfit change into a traditional Pakistani red bridal outfit by HSY and J.Lindeberg midnight blue tux.

Monis visited her friend Hasan Sheryar Yasin‘s studio in Lahore in December, and together, they created her look with a sheer organza skirt over embellished pants with an over-the-shoulder, peplum top and dramatic veil. “I wanted the look to reflect who I am—someone who loves her culture but isn’t confined by it,” she says. “After-all, I was defying all norms and marrying a handsome Jewish boy from Jersey.”

Once the grand entrances into the reception were complete, Corey and his father, Jamie, performed the blessings over the wine and bread, and then the seated, delicious, family-style dinner was served. When Corey went up to make his speech, a “pushy rabbi” interrupted and said he’d gone to the wrong botanical gardens. But then he cued his friends, “Shmeuli, Nachem, and Moishe,” and cheekily had the Horah start to play. The newlyweds and their parents were lifted on chairs, as everyone caught on to the fun skit. 

After the meal, the new Mr. and Mrs. cut their fantastic chocolate wedding cake with cream cheese icing, made by Corey’s mother, Lori Burr of Deilsh Catering. And “the rest of the reception was a hot, sweaty mess of a dance floor,” Monis remarks. 

At the end of the evening, the Ruksathi was the most emotional moment of the day, particularly for the bride and her family, as this marks her officially leaving her old home to enter into a new one with her husband. A touching start to their new life together.