When Jessica went to Cape Town for a summer research fellowship, she had no idea she would meet the love of her life on that trip. Weeks passed before Efrem made his move and asked Jessica to go out with just the two of us, a change in their routine of group friend outings. The two fell in love and were in a long distance relationship across countries for two years before their lovely New Orleans inspired Ethiopian wedding in the fall of 2015.
Wedding Date: October 10, 2015
Wedding Location: Eiffel Society, New Orleans, LA
First Dance Song: “Adorn” by Miguel
Favorite Item on the Menu: Duck Beignets
Tell us about how you met and all about the proposal!
I went to Cape Town for a summer research fellowship thinking it would just be a fun 3 months in a new country. My co-fellow had visited before and still had many friends living there. Efrem showed up at our house one evening early in the trip, with a group of other guys, to catch up with my co-fellow. He seemed nice enough but I didn’t give him much thought. Early on, I had a feeling Efrem was interested in more than friendship, but he didn’t say anything until after a few weeks of group outings when he finally asked to go for sushi, just the two of us. After a few more dinners and day trips, I finally warmed up to the idea of being in a relationship with Efrem. Towards the end of that summer we took a long road trip so we could really get to know each other. That trip ended with us bungee jumping off the world’s highest bridge. Even though I had to go back to the US, we maintained our long distance relationship until Efrem could come here two years later. I went back and visited, of course!
The proposal actually came after the engagement. We lived in two different countries and we knew we wanted to be together, so after a lot of discussing and weighing our options, we started the immigration process for a fiancé visa. It took 10 months from the day we filed until Efrem arrived in New Orleans. Still, a week after Efrem arrived, we got up early and drove to my parents house in Florida so they could finally meet in person. Before we got there, Efrem asked to stop at the beach so he could see the white sand and take pictures. After about 10 minutes, I told him I was ready to go and eat breakfast. He agreed that we could leave but only if he could hold my hand on the way back to the car. As soon as he grabbed my hand, he turned me around, knelt down, and pulled the box out of his pocket.
My wedding dress was a very comfortable, form fitting, ivory lace gown. It had a sweetheart neckline, capped sleeves, and a keyhole back. Dress shopping was the most non-stressful part of my entire wedding experience. I actually saw a dress online and was just going to order it, since the company had a very easy return policy if it didn’t work out. But my mother was not having it. The closest store that had the dress was in the next state, so we drove the five hours to Houston to try it on in person. It was worth the trip because the dress I wanted to try on ended up not being flattering at all. So I tried on three other dresses that I had chosen and one that the bridal consultant picked out. Her pick ended up being the one.
We didn’t have a fully traditional Ethiopian wedding, which is a multiple-day event, but we did incorporate the “pick-up” the morning of. The groom, his groomsmen, and some of his family all arrive at the bride’s house, where she waits with her family. The groom’s friends and family walk him to the house while singing and dancing and then try to force their way into the bride’s house, where her friends and family are blocking the entrance of the door. After a little bit of back and forth and the singing and dancing getting more excited, the bride’s friends finally allow the groom and his party to enter, where they greet the bride’s family and take pictures. Then the bride leaves with the groom to go take more pictures and then they arrive at the wedding ceremony together.
Our second line! It seemed like it was going to end up a complete disaster when after we walked down the aisle expecting to pick up our umbrellas and continue out the door, our planners stopped and broke the news that our brass band was a no-show. We had three police escorts and a number of pedicabs waiting outside for us, but we had no band! I was getting ready to just cancel it and move onto the reception, but they encouraged us to go ahead with it and even managed to find a lone trumpeter across the street. He actually wasn’t very good and had a hard time getting our guests excited, so the first half block looked pretty sad. But then all of Efrem’s friends and family who had participated in the pick-up ceremony that morning started singing and chanting, overpowering the trumpeter, and we ended up having an Ethiopian style New Orleans second-line, which was the most unexpected and happiest mix of cultural traditions.
Help a bride-to-be out!
The two of you should sit down well in advance and create a (very) short list of the most important aspects of your wedding, your absolute must-haves and your absolutely nots. For everything else–all the little details, the things your families want–just let it go and let them have it, as long as it stays in your budget and doesn’t interfere with your short-list. Be sure the two of you stay united in expressing yourselves, but keep at the center of everything the fact that it is just one day, and you don’t want to begin your marriage in conflict or in debt. When you look back on that day, you’re not going to remember all the little nuances, just how you felt. So minimize the stress and let go of all the non-essentials so you can just have fun.
Photographer: Elizabeth Ray
Videographer: Filmbalaya Films
Venue: Eiffel Society
Design and Florals: Erganic Design
Dessert: Donuts and Sliders
Music (String Quartet): Uptown String Trio
Music: DJ Bam Bam Belonge
Rentals: Your Event Delivered
Make Up: Makeup by Jacky
Officiant: Reverend Cecil Williams
Transportation: Limo Livery and Nicoll’s Transportation