During the dessert course at Vespertine in Culver City on New Year’s Eve 2019, Henry Landes Bell proposed to his love of three years, Sarira Zali Raisi. It’s safe to say whatever confection they had ordered went uneaten. As the pair are both lovers of art history, California’s history, and classical grandeur, they chose to get married in a place that married all of those things—the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.
“In the design process, we started with the belief that joy, festivity, and opulence could be communicated without using white as a main color,” Rira shares. “We were drawn to the paintings of the Dutch Masters, where single luminous objects would draw the eye against a background of luscious colors and deep shadow.” To help bring their artistic vision to life, the couple hired Vanessa Vierra of Vanessa Noel Events and Kelly Brown lensed every special moment.
The bride-to-be saw her wedding as a chance to wear something she wouldn’t normally get the chance to. “I knew I wanted a full skirt and a bodice and having lived in London for a year in college, I was very drawn to Vivienne Westwood and would often wander into the store on Conduit Street, dreaming of wearing one of her designs,” Rira shares. With the help of her fantastic bridal stylist Gabrielle Hurwitz, Rira found her dream Vivienne Westwood gown, and everything else fell into place. It was the first dress the bride ever tried on at Loho Bride, and she returned the next day to purchase it. “It’s hands down my favorite thing I’ve ever worn. What I really love about the beauty of Vivienne Westwood’s design is that the overskirt is removable, so it’s totally conceivable that I could wear my wedding dress again.” On the day-of, the bride got ready with Marla Nayamdorj, who gave her sleek, chic waves and a natural beauty look.
The groom also turned to Hurwitz for help with his ceremony look. Together, they enlisted High Society in Los Angeles to make him a custom three-piece suit with orchid stitching on the lapels—a nod to his membership at the San Francisco Orchid Society.
At 6:00 p.m. on September 3, 2022, the sun was setting in the sky with views of the Golden Gate Bridge visible from outdoor the ceremony space. The bride walked down the aisle to LCD Soundsystem’s “Oh Baby,” and then the couple was seated behind a beautiful floral display by Jenn Sanchez Design. “I felt so nervous when we were queuing up, but that all dissolved the second I saw Henry at the end of the aisle,” Rira shares. “My aunt threw me a little wink when I turned around to face the crowd, and I love her for that. It felt so beautiful to sit down and see the faces of all your closest friends and relatives smiling back at you.”
The service itself was a Persian wedding ceremony, officiated by Nilou Weddings, with minor details that were changed to make it more personal to Rira and Henry. “We considered it essential that Rumi poetry be read by my Uncle Farshad Raissi, but we also included “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” by John Donne [and] read by Henry’s best man, Benjamin Leal,” Rira recalls. “After we said our vows, which we wrote ourselves, we walked off the aisle together to ‘In Love With You”’by The Paradise.”
Once officially wed, the reception began inside the museum. Guests admired the Legion of Honor’s permanent collection nearly all to themselves while sipping on custom Micheladas, made by McCalls Catering and in honor of the couple’s many post-class dates at the local taqueria near UC Davis. Dinner was in the Rodin gallery, again affording a once in a lifetime opportunity to be amongst masterpieces. Flower arrangements were inspired by Flemish still life paintings and featured seasonal fruits, veggies, mushrooms, preserved butterflies, and live orchids.
After dinner, the newlyweds sliced their massive three-tier wedding cake by Cake Coquette that was inspired by Schloss Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin, where they visited in 2018. Once sweet cravings were satiated, the dance floor lit up with entertainment from Dart Collective and continued to be a lively scene until the pair had to bid their guests adieu.
“For me, as much as I loved talking to family and friends, my favorite part had to be the chances to slip away with Rira and walk the galleries together, appreciating beautiful paintings and history as we always have done, but for the first time as husband and wife,” Henry sweetly shares. Rira has a similar favorite memory when the two spotted a janitor during their stroll amongst the artwork, and he let the pair sneak downstairs in a secret service elevator to change shoes. “Another favorite moment was at the very end of the night when the DJ played ‘Let There Be Love’ by Oasis and all our friends were slow dancing under the moonlight and outdoor chandeliers and looking at each other so lovingly.”