Zaina Javaid and Matthew Harney met while stranded in Cincinnati, OH during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Both working on the Obama campaign, the two grew close after spending time together on Election Night and during the Inauguration. “We just bonded and were inseparable from there,” she shares. After some time together, Matthew pulled Zaina aside near a spot by a waterfall and asked for her hand in marriage while on a hike with some friends. Zaina remembers, “It was really low key and perfect.”
They got to wedding planning right away with an original date set for August 14, 2020. With COVID numbers picking up and the couple wanting to keep everyone safe, they decided to postpone their celebration in June for a later date. The couple rescheduled their ceremony to be held on September 5, 2020, and decided on throwing a larger reception to be shared with family and friends in August of 2021. “I have a lot of family abroad in Pakistan, and it was clear that they would not be able to be there,” Zaina notes. “It just didn’t feel right to do a big reception without them.”
With the help of their friend and planner, Katie Lee of mKz Strategies and Events, they were able to organize a colorful, intimate affair held in Michigan that honored the traditions of the bride and groom’s cultures. “It was so much fun, once I let go of the vision of a big fat Pakistani wedding with all my family and friends,” Zaina says. “The positive of having a smaller wedding is that we could spend a lot more time thinking about how the guests should feel and experience things.”
Early on in the planning process, the bride and her family traveled to Pakistan to design her wedding outfit. Many of her family members work in the fashion and creative industries and were able to help her through the process of designing an outfit from scratch. Her aunt, Anna Aziz, is a designer who specializes in old-world styles of Pakistani thread work and collaborated closely with the bride to create exactly what she wanted. Zaina shares, “It was not only really special to wear a dress designed by my aunt but also to wear an ode to really traditional Pakistani embroidery on a more modern silhouette.”
One thing the bride was sure of was that the dress should be a dusty pink color, described in reference to Kashmiri chai—a tea with a muted pink hue. Aziz added a layer of silver fabric, hand-dyed into a soft rosy color to give the gown extra visual dimension. Her wedding look took eight craftsmen three months to make by hand, though it was well worth the wait to have a piece of home with her on her big day.
Aside from her dress, all of the jewelry she wore was passed down from her grandmother and mother, who had been collecting pieces all of the bride’s life. Zaina completed the look with a tikka headpiece that was crafted by the five aunts on her mother’s side. “Everything I wore had a connection to the women in my family,” Zaina notes. “It was an honor to carry these with me, as I got married.”
Zaina’s makeup was done by Talya Ashford, a Detroit artist who had done her sister’s wedding makeup ten years prior. She says, “The second I started planning, I asked if she would do my makeup for me.” The bride complemented the luxurious form of her Swarovski-encrusted gown with a romantic-glam look for her makeup and kept her hair—done by Simona Vigh—in a neat bun beneath her tikka. To top it all off, she had mehndi applied the night before the wedding with the help of Maya’s Mendi.
Matthew wore a vintage Brooks Brothers suit bought off of eBay. “He’s obsessed with buying designer suits on eBay and going to a good tailor to get it right,” Zaina explains. “He likes the deal, obviously, but also the smaller environmental footprint of buying vintage and second-hand.”
The ceremony took place at the bride’s family home under a Magnolia tree on the front lawn—a place Zaina always loved growing up. The Imam, or officiant, talked Matthew and Zaina through the Islamic traditions of the Nikkah (ceremony) they were performing. Zaina notes that he did so, “in a really accessible way, which was great given our mixed religions and cultures.”
“I could feel the love radiate from everyone around us,” the bride says. “I truly appreciated the intimacy of a small wedding in that moment, while at the same time thought of all the people that weren’t there that I wished could’ve been.”
Following the ceremony and golden hour photoshoot, Matthew and Zaina walked into the reception to “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” and were adorned with haars (flower garlands) by the bride’s family.
The florist and creative design team at Graham Stanton shared the couple’s vision of a “colorful and fun palette—one that was playful and not too serious,” the bride explains. This came to life throughout the evening with bold autumnal florals and tablescapes. Lights and rentals by Aimee Paquin at Modernly Events helped create an alfresco celebration that felt warm and inviting. The cake by Zingerman’s Bakehouse also suited the festive scheme with a passionfruit lemon flavor in a coconut cake.
After a surprise firework show for the bride and groom’s exit, the couple turned right back around to keep the party going. “We were just so thrilled to see our friends during this crazy year and wanted to soak up more time with them,” Zaina shares. “We sat around and just told stories and laughed. Being around people after so long was a great feeling.”
When reflecting on the decision they had made to move forward with a micro-wedding, Zaina says, “I’m so glad we did it for so many reasons. It was a good lesson in not delaying the celebration of joy and love, even when it seemed hard…I also love that, in the midst of a historically hard year, we could bring people joy, feel their love, and make them feel loved, even if just for a weekend.”