Engagements With Purpose: Arwa + Zohaile, Joshua Tree, CA

Editor Note: Black Sheep Bride is a platform to uplift, empower and share stories of amazing people, with selfless love, and huge impact, actively involved in changing the world around them, in a variety of ways. The following engagement session is both breathtaking, as it is, highly inspirational and thought provoking. BSB encourages you to put yourself in this couple’s ‘wedding planning shoes’ and imagine the challenges they must face, when planning a multi-cultural wedding of international proportions. The present time in which we live has become a historic season of great action, great community and great love, that is why BSB is honored to share the story of how this couple, both first-generation Americans, has chosen to use their rights, passions, skills, and personal understandings to serve the least of these. Arwa is an talented Muslim Indian immigration lawyer, as is her partner, Zohaile, an Iranian-American, their love story began in NYC, but has continued onto the other side of the country, in southern California. Read their story, from Arwa’s words below. (Photography by Laura Goldenberger Photography)

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My fiancé Zohaile and I (Arwa) met in 2011 when we were both working together at a class action administration firm. He came from Southern California to New York for law school and stayed, and I was a New York native, who had taken a slight geographical detour to Paris, France to pursue a fellowship with an NGO in women’s rights in Africa and the Middle East. I was greeted, upon my return, by a failing job market and started working at this firm, because, even though the market was hard on the private practice of law, it was even harder on those who wanted to work at underfunded non profit organizations. I continued taking cases pro bono in humanitarian immigration (asylum protection for the LGBTQ community and deferred action for our country’s young and undocumented “dreamers”) and vowed to one day make this my “real job.”

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The firm was good to me, most especially, because it brought Zohaile together. After sitting near each other in an open workspace and learning we lived in the same Astoria neighborhood, we began seeing each other outside of work. We’d spend our weekends going on road trips, adventures, and camping – falling in love with each other and nature.

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A couple of years into our relationship, we decided to move to southern California. We quit our jobs, packed up our respective cars, and drove across the country over 21 magical days, camping and exploring along the way. I had always dreamed of living in California and now I was finally here. I promised myself that I would keep my word – to only work for a cause that I’m passionate about. I put it out there in the universe (and did a lot of hard work), and suddenly things started to fall into place. I was hired as the Asylum Director of a nonprofit organization in San Diego, moved into an amazing place located 5 minutes from work, and soon after found myself engaged to the love of my life.

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After certain executive orders (were signed) at the end of January, I find my work becoming more challenging, crucial, and relevant. I begin my workdays a lot earlier and leave a lot later. I spend my weekends protesting, writing letters to my representatives, or finding ways to engage the non-legal community in advocacy or volunteer efforts, and thinking about every single one of my clients – potential or actual. After a bout of tears and hopelessness, I decided I was going to put my actions where my mouth was, that I was a voice for my clients and the people I serve – not just inside the immigration courts and offices, but everywhere their rights were being violated. The ban on travel from 7 Muslim countries hits home for me personally as well. Members of my fiancé’s family from Iran, who were planning to come to the United States especially for our wedding, are no longer allowed to enter the country. While I have been talked out of making my entire wedding playlist resistance and revolution songs, my spirit of dissent is ever present and will be on my wedding day. ||||

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Here are a few ways to help Arwa and Z continue to serve others:

Donate to Casa Cornelia Law Center

Consider volunteering as interpreters and translate for immigration law clients.
Connect with the congressional representatives in your area, you can visit: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/. Their bio will include ways to interact with them.

Photography by Laura Goldenberger Photography

Special thanks to our BSB Vendor, ‘Cause We Can Events, for sharing this story with us!

Central Florida Wedding Vendors Provide Free Wedding to Deserving Couple: Daytona, FL

Today’s wedding feature is a very special one, not only because of the personal impact it has had on my personal community (Central Florida), but also the amazing energy and kindness that went into gifting this special couple with a well deserved big day! One of BSB vendors, Jennifer Juniper Photo, founded a non profit organization based out of Daytona Beach FL, called FLOWER (FLorida Organization of Wedding and Event Representatives).
FLOWER is a group of Daytona/New Smyrna based wedding and event professionals joined together to use their unique skillsets to better serve their local community. One of the ways they choose to give back this year was to find a deserving couple and provide a dream wedding for them, completely FREE!!!  They interviewed numerous couples, and finally landed on Heather & Paige. They are absolutely adorable, and FLOWER was honored to be able to make their dreams come true.
The organization ultimately chose this couple based on their story, the love that they share, and how easy they were to work with. Little did they know that Heather and Paige would become the ‘poster couple’ for what happened at Pulse Nightclub, in Orlando. We have since seen their iconic image of their heart around the Pulse sign in many news articles regarding the shooting at the nightclub, and various follow up articles, from Huffington post, to WESH. Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of the Pulse victims, but we also wish to share this silver lining. Heather and Paige were married on Sunday, January 15th, in an iconic Florida beach ceremony, along with a dream reception immediately following.
FILE PHOTO --  Heather Raleigh (L) and Paige Metelka make a heart shape as they pose during a photo shoot outside Pulse nightclub following the mass shooting last week in Orlando, Florida, U.S., June 21, 2016.  REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

Heather Raleigh (L) and Paige Metelka make a heart shape as they pose during a photo shoot outside Pulse nightclub following the mass shooting last week in Orlando, Florida, U.S., June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

This couple also serves their community in quite a big way! Heather volunteers with the United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps, as well as the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando. They also do a lot of work with Disney VoluntEARS: “Our mission is to develop opportunities for Disneyland Resort cast members and their families to contribute personal time, expertise and effort to make a positive impact on our community while furthering the ideals of The Walt Disney Company.” All of their centerpieces were also donated to an assisted living community in Deland, after their reception.
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Participating Vendors: Jennifer Juniper Photography  |  Classic Photography   |  Ceremonies by the Sea  | Delectable Delights  | Carefree Catering  | The Residence Inn Oceanfront by Marriot  | Lisa Pinto at the Daytona International Speedway | Pink Flamingo at Petals

Weddings that Give Back: Gina and Nate- Anderson Hall, CA

There is something nostalgic and magical about seeing such a talented and loving couple come together to be wed, with the communal help of their family and friends. Today’s wedding feature, of Gina and Nate’s wedding day, is slap full of intentionality, handmade tenderness, local community support and oozie amounts of great love! Thanks to our BSB Vendor, Michelle Feileacan Photography, for sharing their images, and their giving story with us!

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Gina (the bride) is an amazing jewelry artist and created her squash blossom, necklaces for her bridesmaids, bolo ties for the groomsmen and even crafted their rings! On top of that, she also sought out the perfect vintage boho dress to walk down the aisle in!

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The flowers were all grown locally.

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Their ceremony was held under the redwoods and included lots of laughter, tears, and tattoos. The redwood grove is down the road from their house, and they live in the very same woods they were wed. The trees have a lot of significance in their lives (her business is Talking Tree Designs) so it couldn’t be a more perfect, intentional, space to vow their love.

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Even their ceremony was community-driven, they were married by the groom’s father, a local woman played violin, their friends performed music at the ceremony.

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Nate is a tattoo artist and two of his coworkers gave the happy couple matching tattoos, as part of their ceremony.

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At the reception, hosted at a neighborhood hall, the community amazingness continued with friends and family bringing the most amazing display of food to share. The served a locally raised pig and then the rest was potluck to save on catering waste.  Friends and family provided the food, made flowers, baked biscuits, it was an amazing experience to witness. People were sharing recipes, swapping stories and marveling over the spread.

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The band members were also friends of the couple and treated everyone to a great time.

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BSB VENDOR- Photographer:  Michelle Feileacan Photography//Event Venue: Anderson Hall//Floral Designer: California sister//

 

Weddings that Give Back- Mindy and Sam: Indian Trail Club, New Jersey

How’s the saying go again… ‘Love at first… SERVE,’ right???
Mindy and Sam met for the first time while volunteering on a soup kitchen bus. The found they shared the same passion to love those in need the most and the rest is history.  They continue to do service through their church to this day, between serving food to the less fortunate, to teaching Sunday school and other ongoing volunteer projects.When it came time to plan their wedding it was important that they incorporated giving back throughout their day. Each place setting had a card explaining that they made a donation, in lieu of favors, to Grace Care Academy. (Read further to learn more about this organization)

 

(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
 Mindy (the bride) shared: “Our mindset was that beauty is in the natural. From the choice of the wedding gown to the bridesmaids’ floral crowns to the sanctuary graced with white hydrangeas and candles to our lakeside venue and cherry blossom centerpieces, we wanted to keep things pure and organic, staying away from the artificial.”
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com

The donation card said the following: “In lieu of favors, schoolbooks have been purchased for each child at Grace Care Academy, a K-12 school run for the orphaned and neglected children of India. Grace Care Academy is a part of Grace Care ministries that strives to provide children and abused women with education, shelter, and vocational skills in a nurturing and loving environment.”

 (C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
Thank you to Sarah Tew Photography for sharing this amazing couple’s story with BSB. Sarah shared: “There is no doubt this couple will have a world of support from their community as their journey unfolds! After a round of family photos in the front of the church we made our way to Indian Trail Club and shot some portraits of the couple down by the water during cocktail hour. After the reception kicked off with a sweet performance of ‘Blackbird’ by the bride’s brother on acoustic guitar, I was able to sneak them out again quickly around sunset when the sky was getting really pretty. I just love this shot of them under a tree with the twilight sky over the lake behind them. Another highlight was a surprise video presentation that had been made with sweet messages of congratulations from all the children that Mindy has taught over her years of service at her church’s Sunday school! Mindy and Sam, you two are a match made in heaven and I couldn’t have been more delighted to capture this wonderful celebration!”
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
(C) Sarah Tew Photography  http://www.sarahtewphotography.com
Photographer:  Sarah Tew Photography | Beauty:Christie Lee | Pre Ceremony Location: Cornerstone Christian Church | Event Venue: Indian Trail Club | Bridesmaid Dresses: Jenny Yoo | Invitation Designer:Linda Park | Groomsman Attire: Menguin | Officiant: Pastor Steve Bradley | Floral Designer: Peonia Atelier | Dress Designer: Pronovias | Band: The Pros Entertainment Services

Weddings That Give Back: Michelle and Joe- Key West, FL

One of our very own BSB Vendors, friends, and ethical fashion advocate, Michelle, of Michelle For Good and Co-Founder of The Tote Project, recently tied the knot in South Florida to her amazing guy, Joey!

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 True to form, Michelle and Joey made sure to incorporate as many ethical, charitable and sustainable wedding day details as they could and used their intimate destination wedding to shop small, waste less and serve others. Read more about how they were intentional throughout the post.
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Shop Small: ‘We are both advocates of fair trade and the sweatshop-free movement, so we tried to shop small when we could. We bought the flower girl basket and guest book from designers on ETSY, and I surprised Joey with a wedding day gift of a Brackish Bow Tie, (another amazing BSB find).’
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Michelle’s Bridal Jewelry: Her awesome bridal jewelry was designed by her good friend Destiny, of Destiny Conner Jewelry.  ‘She designed a custom hair piece and earrings for me. She donates 10% of her profits to the Imagine Foundation.’
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The Venue: The couple choose to get married at The Ernest Hemingway Home in Key West, FL.  The venue is a non-profit museum. The house was built in 1851 and purchased as Hemingway’s home in 1931, all of the furniture is preserved in it’s original form. The estate still remains to be the single largest residential property on the island of Key West.
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The Bridesmaids Gifts:  ‘I bought my maids of honor (I couldn’t pick just one, all my bridesmaids were maids and matrons of honor haha) Purpose Jewelry for their gifts and asked them to wear the pieces in the wedding. Purpose Jewelry is made by human trafficking survivors and 100% of the proceeds go to them. I also surprised them with Sand Cloud towels to go with the destination wedding theme. They donate to protect marine life.’
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Tuxes: The Wedding Party Tuxes were rented from Generation Tux.  ‘We didn’t initially see a give-back component on their site, so I tweeted at them and asked if they’d be willing to donate if we chose them as a vendor. They agreed and donated 10% of the price we paid to UNICEF to support Syrian Refugees. They also said they are working to incorporate giving back into their business model..woohoo!’ (<<<< TALK ABOUT CHANGE MAKER! Go Michelle and Joey!)
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Wedding Rings: ‘My engagement ring and wedding band were from Brilliant Earth, and Joey’s band was from another Black Sheep Bride vendor, Tenzabelle. It was super important to us to get conflict-free rings and Brilliant Earth gives back to communities negative affected by the illegal diamond trade.’
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Photographer: We chose Andrew Abajian as our photographer. He’s not only a great friend of ours, he also does humanitarian work and has photographed the efforts of Saddleback/Rick Warren around the world.
Wedding Invitations: We ordered recycled paper wedding invitations from Minted.
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All Photos courtesy of Andrew Abajian.