A wedding with an Indian proposal venue, a Jamaican bride, a Ghanaian groom, and a Mexican destination is a vision of true cultural fusion.
Shari-Ann Harris and Kofi Sasu first locked eyes while studying at Rutgers University in Camden. Unfortunately, they were already in relationships with other people. However, their friendship with each other grew steadily. When their previous relationships had reached their respective ends and after much prayer and reflection, Shari-Ann and Kofi decided to take a leap of faith by beginning to date in 2009. It has proved to be a perfect fit!
Shari-Ann and Kofi had a beautifully intimate ceremony with just twelve very special guests in attendance. From that day until the end, their lives will be an intimate ceremony centered around a party of two. - text by Chioma Onyewuchi as seen in the Winter Digital Edition.
From the bride:
How We Met: We met when I first began law school at Rutgers Camden in 2007. Kofi was studying biology at the time. We spotted each other in the dorms and were mutually attracted, but did not officially meet until we both attended a campus bible study one night. We didn't make much of each other at first, as both of us were in other relationships. Towards my second year, I was rooming with mutual friends and I saw Kofi a lot more when he would visit those friends. Eventually, he really only came by to see me. We realized we had things in common and our friendship grew. We began to seriously date in 2009 after much prayer and our prior relationships dissolved.
Proposal: I had always told Kofi I wanted a creative and romantic proposal. He planned to propose to me on a Spirit of Philadelphia cruise down the Delaware River that was being sponsored by my church. My mom was also planning a surprise birthday party around the same time on the same cruise, so neither knew about the plans of the other. My mom invited all my friends and close family to join us. On the day of, I was running extremely late and the departure time was 12:00 p.m. I was so frantic, and got caught in traffic. I was on the bridge to take me to the port and could literally see the boat waiting, but I couldn't get to it. I arrived, but the captain could not wait any longer and sailed off! Kofi and his friends were there, as well as my immediate family. Needless to say, I was bummed. Plus, my mom explained that she had invited my best friends, but they had a flat tire and couldn't make it either. I felt so bad, but we all decided to try and make the best of the day and go out to eat. We went to an Indian restaurant in Philly and had lunch. Afterwards, Kofi slipped to the bathroom and he came back awhile later. I assumed he was ready to go, so I got my things. He asked for everyone's attention and started telling me about his feelings and then he got down on one knee and proposed. I thought I was going to cry, but I laughed instead because the day was just so crazy! I said yes and we had birthday cake.
Planning Process: The planning process was fun for me. I had a wedding coordinator on-site at the hotel, but I was very hands on and clear about my vision and budget. I discovered a mini-event planner inside me! The lawyer part of me came out heavily in terms of negotiating deals with vendors and the budget. I'm of the opinion that weddings don't have to cost a lot to look like they do. Two resource networks I relied on heavily were Best Destination Weddings Forum and Etsy. The forum was invaluable for its advice from prior destination wedding brides. If anyone is going that route, they should definitely check the site out. Etsy is where any DIY or low-budget bride should go to find anything cheap. The majority of the items are handmade and reasonably priced. It's like an online market for wedding materials and many other things.
I saved a lot of money by thinking outside the box, which I attribute to the overall success of the wedding. As you plan, you realize you'll put more money on some things, but others can be tweaked for more affordability. One example, I used bamboo parasols instead of bouquets for my bridesmaids. I made personalized coasters as favors, which had a different wedding planning fact on the back for each guest, designed my own table setting, and made my own guestbook sign which featured a poem. Our guestbook was in fact a bag of rice that guests signed, since rice is a huge part of Kofi's culture. We will eat the rice one year from our wedding.
I took the lead in the planning and I wanted to make sure our guests were excited about a mini-vacation and our wedding from the get-go. I created a wedding website on Project Wedding and posted regular updates to keep them informed of due dates, travel info, wedding itinerary, etc. I had our invitations made into customized passports with detailed info on the hotel, country, and activities. I organized flight itineraries so everyone knew who was on their flight and their phone numbers. I made sure each guest had transport to the hotel and airport and had a spa or golf outing. It was important to us that our guests felt welcomed and cared for since they were willing to come so far to celebrate our day.
One thing I can say is that our wedding coordinator, Ana Santos, was extremely lovely and helpful. She listened, but was professional enough to step in and suggest something when she thought something might not work. For instance, I wanted to have the reception outside. Ana thought it would be better inside because it would still be too humid outside and it might look like rain. I reluctantly agreed, but was glad I did. While it did not rain, the humidity was staggering. An air-conditioned room worked wonderfully!
Challenges: One of the few challenges we came across was the guest list. We lost people who were supposed to be in the wedding (at the last minute) and had to deal with the repercussions of those who were not invited. We wanted a small, intimate wedding that suited our style and taste more than inviting a lot of people. I think we underestimated how much people wanted to be a part of our day and that caused a lot of friction. By God's grace, fences were mended and people stepped in, but it was tough for awhile.
Themes: Our wedding theme was "Stars Over the Sea." Kofi was the sea and I was the star. The colors were turquoise and gold (turquoise for the water and gold for the stars). I don't know where I got the theme from. It honestly stemmed organically from wanting my wedding at the beach.
On incorporating culture….
We incorporated aspects of Kofi's Ghanaian culture. We had a minor theme of the Adinkra symbol, the "gye nyame", which means "Without/Except God." We placed this symbol in our passport invitations as a background, as a topper on our cake, and Kofi wore an outfit for the TTD that had the symbol on it. Kofi's parents wore traditional West African attire in our wedding colors. They looked incredible!
Our wedding was very international is a sense. I am from Jamaica, Kofi is from Ghana, my dress was from Spain, my wedding belt was from Israel, the videographers and my veil were from Canada, and the wedding itself was in Mexico. We never planned it. It just worked out that way!
After their wedding, Shari-Ann and Kofi had an amazing Trash the Dress session.
- Videography: Urban Vid (www.urbanvid.com): Eric Marcina and Brian Ceci
- Photography: Aurora Gutierrez (www.auroragphotography.com)
- Dress purchased at Bridal Garden in Marlton, NJ: Pronovias (www.pronovias.com):
- Venue, cake, food, entertainment: Grand Velas Resort and Spa (www.grandvelas.com):
- Wedding belt: Avishag Kopelman of Little White Dresser (www.etsy.com):
- Bridesmaid Dresses: Erin Nicole Boutique (www.etsy.com):
- Flowers: Petal Garden, Angel's Accents, and Beau-Coup (www.petalgarden.com, www.angelsaccents.com, www.beau-coup.com)
- Decor: Todo a Mano, Luna Bazaar, Etsy, Michael's
- Accesories: All Etsy --> Peacock Pixys (fascinator), Chrissy Torres (bracelet), Tala Collection (earrings), and Montgomery Belles (veil)
- Groom's Men Attire: Burlington Coat Factory and JCPen ny's (designers: Ralph Lauren, Kangol's)
- Rings: Kay Jewelers of Cherry Hill NJ and Anthony's Jewelers of Palmyra, NJ
- Favors: Stampin' Up by Karina Chin (www.stampinup.net)
- Groom's Attire: Armani (shoes), Men's Warehouse (jacket designer: New York & Company), and pants from Burlington Coat Factory (Ralph Lauren)
- Invitations: Allurements by Rebecca (www.allurementsbyrebecca.com)