Moments in Time: Bridal Tips From Maha Assad-Azar
A reflection of these couples’ romantic histories and commitments, four brides share how their dream weddings came to life. Shauna Jay Popple Williams takes you along for the nostalgic ride and culls invaluable advice for future brides-to-be
How big was your wedding and where did most of your guests come from?
We had over 700 guests from abroad and Lebanon. It was an honour to have all our friends from abroad here, especially my friends who ew all the way from the Philippines, Costa Rica, the UK, and the States. Most notable was Her Excellency, Philippine Ambassador to Lebanon Bernardita Catalla. We spent an amazing week of partying till the wee hours only to get up and go sightseeing the next day. We hardly slept!
How did you meet?
We met 11 years ago. I used to go to Lebanon every Christmas and for summer vacations. One summer, my cousin Jessica, who is best friends with Rida, introduced us and since that day, we’ve never left each other’s side. What’s funny is my parents were also classmates in high school and my mother’s biggest crush back then—and till now—is my father.
Describe the proposal.
We were in Singapore for work to exhibit at the jewellery show that we join every year. As it was our 10-year anniversary, one night after the show, Rida had everything prepared before we arrived in Singapore at Gunther’s, a Michelin-starred restaurant. Unfortunately, we had a client who stayed longer than expected and the restaurant called Rida to tell him that they couldn’t accommodate us anymore since we were late for our reservation. Since we had work again the next day, we went straight to bed.
His first attempt to propose failed and apparently everyone knew but me! I didn’t even know he had called my father the day before to formally ask if he would approve of his marrying me.
On the second night, Rida asked me to go to dinner somewhere nice since we had had such a long day. I didn’t feel or expect anything that evening. We tried for Gunther’s again and poor Rida was nervous since nothing was prepared. He disappeared for a moment and went to speak to the chef and owner, Gunther Hubrechsen. When he approached our table, Rida said to him, “You are the best chef in the world!” To which he responded, “I hope I will be after tonight!” At that point, I didn’t understand what he meant. On our last main course, which was a big Wagyu steak, there was a ring on it! I was speechless. With the biggest smile on his face, Rida asked me to marry him. That night I said yes to my best friend.
What was the overall look and theme of your big day?
The theme of the wedding was fête champêtre. We were in the forest with beautiful owers and colours all around us.
Well in Lebanon, we love to celebrate and party like there is no tomorrow. From the local and international traditions, we did it all. Two days before and after our wedding, we had lunches and dinners for close friends and family who came from all over the world to celebrate with us. Normally, after a traditional church wedding, everyone goes to the reception venue for dinner, takes a few photos with the bride and groom as they make the rounds, and then go home. The newlyweds and their friends typically go for a drink after the wedding and then straight to the bridal suite. At our wedding, however, the partying went on till 3:00 am for the older generation. But the rest of us, we stayed on till 7:00 am!
What were your wedding party favours?
We gave The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran as a souvenir for our guests. The book was presented in a beautiful plexiglass box with our initials and wedding date engraved on it.
Was there aunique or surprise element?
We had two dancers from Dancing with the Stars perform during the welcome drinks, a live band, and a great DJ. The biggest surprise for the young ones was the afterparty, which Rida planned perfectly from A to Z. Because it was held in the middle of the forest made it extra cool.
Was there anything you would have done differently?
We initially wanted a small wedding of 150 people in Mykonos, Greece, but it didn’t happen but I wouldn’t have done it any other way. It, however, definitely became a destination wedding for most of our family and friends.
Where did you honeymoon and how did you decide on this?
We went on our honeymoon two weeks after our wedding. We needed time to recover from all the festivities (we still had some friends and family in Lebanon!). We went on a one-month trip; we landed in Milan, drove to Portofino, Tuscany, the South of France, Cannes, St. Tropez, Èze, Monaco, back to Lake Como in Italy…it was a month of pure fun and relaxation.
Maha Assad & Rida Azar Wedding
When: July 27, 2018
Where: The Church of Saints Peter and Paul followed by a reception at Woodland in Bikfaya, Beirut, Lebanon
Having grown up in the Philippines, Maha, the stunning daughter of Consul Joseph and Vicky Assad, eventually returned to her roots and found love in Lebanon.
A decade after she met the love of her life, Rida Azar (of the jewellers, Azar gems), the two got engaged in Singapore 2017. A year later, the couple zeroed in on a date and celebrated their love with 700 of their nearest and dearest.
The couple took on all the planning and Paul Nasr, a very well-known wedding planner in Lebanon—and in the Arab world—executed their dream wedding from the church ceremony all the way to the reception at Woodland, a breathtaking venue up in the forested mountains of Bikfaya, which the family owns. Marwan Hamza, “the best florist in Lebanon!” says Maha, augmented the splendour of the church and the natural beauty of the woods that surrounded the gorgeous venue
The bride donned an elaborate confection by the famous Lebanese designer, Sandra Mansour, which took nine months to create. The highlight of their wedding? “I don’t know!” she starts, “from the beginning to the end, it was just so magical for the both of us. It was just a dream. Till today we still can’t get over our big day.”
Case in point, recalls Assad, “Our family and close friends who came from abroad said it was the most amazing wedding they had ever seen. Their impression of Lebanon changed overnight from a war zone to party zone!”
- Photography Bright Light