Uniquely Traditional

Uniquely Traditional

These four weddings share a joyful exuberance, as well as a deep respect for personal, cultural and religious backgrounds.

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No animals harmed in the making of this wedding

Rockville native Jacqui DePas, 27, and Aaron Schlosser, 34, of Richmond, Va., were on a quest to find the perfect cake for their Aug. 5, 2007, wedding. As committed vegans, the cake simply had to exceed everyone’s expectations.

That included the father of the bride, Len DePas of Rockville, a self-proclaimed “foodie” and inveterate meat-eater, while both Jacqui and her younger sister, Dania, have been vegetarians since childhood. Len is also an acclaimed local photographer with a studio in the District, known for his exceptional work photographing food for chefs, cookbooks and Web sites.

“One of my very close friends is [chef] Michel Richard, who wanted to make the cake as a gift to the bride. But he wasn’t willing to do a vegan cake,” Len DePas says. Finally, during the bridal couple’s search to find a venue with a vegan catering menu, they met pastry chef Jason Jimenez at the Willard hotel—it was love at first bite.

At the wedding reception, the “chocolate” devil’s food cake was actually cocoa flavored because traditional chocolate is made with verboten butter and milk. The cake, filled with carob mousse, fresh blackberries and toasted almonds, was a huge hit, even with skeptics. “It was an amazing, amazing cake,” Len DePas admits, adding, “Everyone talked about the cake—no one could believe it was vegan.” “It was very challenging to develop the menu,” says the event planner, Wendy Raab of Rave Reviews in Kensington. The vegan wedding was a first for Raab, as well as for the catering staff at the Willard.

“Everyone really embraced it, because it was different. They were excited by the challenge,” says Steele Stevenson, director of the hotel’s catering and conference services. Executive chef Neall Bailey created entrees like crispy chick pea and tahini pancakes with a grilled garden vegetable brochette, and for dessert, (in addition to the wedding cake) a Granny Smith apple tart with soy green apple sherbet and Calvados syrup. Freshly baked rolls were served with infused olive oil instead of butter.

The other challenge at the DePas/Schlosser wedding was that no fewer than six top professional photographers—all friends of the family—photographed the event, in addition to the photos taken by the father of the bride before the ceremony. The result was almost 5,000 wedding photos. Len DePas says he tried to convince the shutterbugs to put down their cameras and enjoy the festivities, but to no avail. The album he later presented to his daughter and new son-in-law contains 720 snapshots.

While the couple practices Tao, a rabbi presided over their ceremony under a wedding canopy in the hotel’s Crystal Ballroom. The bride wore a simple off-white strapless dress by Romona Keveza and the four bridal attendants were dressed in sage green.

The wedding reception for 180 guests in the hotel’s Grand Ballroom was designed “to bring the outside inside,” the bride explains. To make the space look fresh and modern in contrast with the Willard’s very traditional décor, an assortment of round, square and rectangular tables were decorated with clusters of grapes, cut citrus fruit, twigs and candles, all arranged by Capital Decor and Events of Beltsville. Music by the band Spectrum kept guests busy on the dance floor.

Aptly enough, the bride and groom first met at a vegetarian cooking class in 2002. Since then, they have gone on to teach their own classes on becoming vegetarian. They relocated in the fall of 2008 to Los Angeles to open a Zen Burger franchise, a growing chain of fast-food vegan restaurants.

West meets east

On the afternoon of July 5, 2008, random bystanders and passing drivers may have been somewhat startled at the sight of a crowd of beautifully dressed people standing in the outdoor parking lot of the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, just off Rockville Pike. They were gathered for the Baraat, a traditional Hindu wedding ceremony in which family and friends await the bridegroom’s arrival on horseback, then proceed to sing and dance around him in joyous celebration. Bridegroom Kunal Lodha, 29, of Rockville, approached atop a white mare, the animal draped with a red and gold brocade blanket and matching headgear. The horse and accompanying attendant were on loan from Harmon’s Carriages in Brandy Station, Va. The groom wore a traditional long, white, coat-like garment trimmed with elaborate gold-and silver beadwork, and a red and gold matching turban.

For Lodha and his bride, Ashley Josh, 23, it was indeed a spectacular way to begin their wedding day. Lodha, who was born in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India, moved to the U.S. as a child and now owns a Rockville-based mortgage company; Ashley, born in the District, is a licensed aesthetician in Rockville, where they currently live. Each has family roots in different parts of northern India. They first met at a local nightclub in 2003.

The start of the couple’s celebration actually began on the Wednesday prior to the Saturday marriage ceremony and reception. The traditional Mehndi party took place at Rollins-Congressional Club in Rockville. At the party, 50 female relatives and friends gathered to watch as the bride’s hands, feet and arms were painted with ornate henna patterns.

On Thursday, the bride and groom celebrated separately with their families and close friends by participating in dual ceremonies during which they were each covered in a yellow paste colored by turmeric and meant to give them a natural, healthy glow.

The celebration continued Friday night with more than 200 guests at Rollins-Congressional Club. The Sangeet is meant to introduce the bride and groom’s families to each other “to get the festivities rolling,” explains Ashley. Friends and relatives performed Bollywood-style dance routines, which some guests began practicing two to three months in advance.

After the groom’s arrival on horseback at the Marriott, the assembled guests proceeded into the hotel ballroom to await the bride’s dramatic entrance. She wore a traditional white sari trimmed with a red brocade border and draped hood and was carried up the aisle by six male relatives. Her sari was purchased in India on a trip with her future in-laws. Ashley dazzled in an assortment of opulent gold jewelry on her forehead, dangling from her ears and around her neck and arms.

The bride and groom then exchanged red flower garlands and recited the seven vows of married life. After giving each other wedding bands, the couple left to dress for their evening reception: the groom in a black tuxedo; the bride in a long skirt and top in rich shades of red, purple and aqua blue covered in intricate crystal beading, also purchased in India.

The bridal couple then made their grand entrance into the ballroom escorted by six members of a traditional Indian dance group wearing vivid multicolored costumes. The ballroom glittered in shades of aqua, deep red and hot pink, with more than 40 tables dressed with floral arrangements of orchids and roses and gold-stemmed miniature trees draped with crystal beading and lit candles, designed by Sachi Sood of Partyland Flowers & Events Decor in Gaithersburg. An Indian chef, hired by Marriott for the event, prepared vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare, with an American-style wedding cake alongside an array of Indian desserts. A deejay played Indian and American music that kept the 450 guests dancing until 2 a.m. “There were very traditional parts and modernized parts,” newlywed Ashley says of her wedding, adding, “It was a good mixture.”

Signs of joy

Newlywed Sarah Halpert, 31, is one cool customer: On the morning of her May 17, 2008, wedding to Greg Peterson, she calmly started the day with her usual run. But then, there isn’t much that does faze Halpert, who has been deaf since birth. A graduate of Brown University, she is currently a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at The Catholic University of America. The spring wedding was a momentous day for Halpert and her mother, Beverly Halpert, who was also born hearing-impaired. Beverly and Stuart Halpert, the bride’s father, have lived in Bethesda since 1981. Stuart Halpert is chairman of First Washington Realty, with headquarters in Bethesda.

Sarah met her future husband in ninth grade at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. Greg Peterson, also 31, from Northwest D.C., works at a policy research institute in the District and is a doctoral candidate in public policy at George Washington University.

The couple, who now live in Cleveland Park, chose to have their wedding at the Aspen Wye River Conference Centers in Queenstown, Md., along the Eastern Shore. Both Halpert and Peterson have fond memories of spending time at the shore as children. They also love the outdoors: “It just felt right to get married outside. We really wanted to choose a site that would allow us to be surrounded by beauty,” Halpert wrote in an e-mail. In addition, they wanted a place that could accommodate a weekend-long celebration.

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