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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) i-TnKZwpS-X4JO9C0183 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.” AN4A5632i-w3FCH6V-X4 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. i-QSBrwhB-X4AN4A5294  AN4A5199 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. AN4A5921    i-zc5S3JZ-X4  i-zfrcM4T-X4 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. |||| AN4A5229 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: 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!

Engagements with Purpose: Gabrielle and Chris, Southern California

 We love it when our very own Black Sheep Bride vendors get engaged and use their personal wedding stories to do good, alongside their wedding businesses! Thanks to our very own California-based BSB vendor, Gabrielle from ‘Cause We Can Events for sharing her Engagement with Purpose Story with us! We also love how they used South Coast Botanic Garden , as the main backdrop for their magical engagement photos,  since it is a non-profit botanical garden… well done guys!
How we met: Well as much as we were a little embarrassed to say this at first, we are now totally embracing the fact that we met on Tinder! Almost 3 years ago, I was living in Manhattan Beach, CA in a 300 square feet garage and Chris was living in Thousand Oaks, CA which is some 50 miles away (our Tinder radius only went to 25 miles!) so how we actually connected is a bit of a mystery. Our first date was a hike in Malibu State Park which was great! 3 months later, I asked him to come to my family reunion in Pennsylvania (he actually agreed) and everyone loved him of course.
He proposed 2 years later at a cute little winery that we stumbled upon (definitely not planned!) on our way up to the Big Basin Redwoods in Northern California where we were going to camp for a few days!
How we give back: Chris is the ultimate craftsman. He’s a woodworker, a welder and a creator of all things upcycled. Last year we did a Glampling Wedding in Utah and after the wedding was done, the client took apart the stage they made and Chris asked if we could take the wood home and repurpose it. A few weeks later, he made this awesome wooden bar! He rents it out to clients but he also lets the local nonprofit botanic garden borrow it at no cost for their fundraising events.
With my Wedding Planning business, I donate 10% of proceeds or my own time to some of my favorite non profits like the Red Bucket Horse Rescue! I also encourage my wedding clients to look for green alternatives when they can and offer a few ideas for post event sustainability like donating leftover flowers to senior homes.
Our wedding: We’re only at the beginning stages of our wedding planning and our only requirement is that we want to have as much natural beauty as possible. We want to limit decor, skip the favors and focus on quality food and good times with friends and family. As we’re searching for venues, we tend to lean towards the idea of tall trees for our ceremony and some sort of water feature (waterfall, lake) for our celebration backdrop. We also want our guests to bring their dogs!
 Photographer: Chloe Moore Photography | Venue: South Coast Botanic Garden (non profit/botanical garden) | Hair/Makeup: Nicol Artistry | Styling: Circa Vibes  | Dress: Sugarcloth USA