This Stylish Terrain Gardens Self-Uniting Wedding Honored Both Their Jewish and Muslim Cultures
They met at work, then got engaged during an underwater scuba-diving experience.
When two people come together in marriage, they often blend different cultures, practices and backgrounds, and Philly couples set the bar on how to pull it off. One Philly couple incorporated both Vietnamese and Ghanaian traditions, while another included a Chinese lion dance, among many others. Here, this duo melded both Jewish and Muslim practices in their Quaker ceremony. Their Terrain Gardens at Devon Yard wedding was photographed by We Laugh We Love, and you can see how they made it happen below.
Baghdad-born Wasna Dabbagh and Dumont native Paul Bookman met at the dentist’s office — specifically, at Bryn Mawr Dental Associates, which he owns. Wasna had accepted a temporary position as a dental assistant at the office prior to entering the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, which she needed to attend before being able to practice in the United States. You see, she was was also a dentist in her home country of Iraq, which she fled in 2008.
Her first impression: “My boss is hot.” His: “I was completely mesmerized by her smile, beauty, intelligence, and off-the-chart upbeat attitude despite growing up during and being directly affected by the war.” And their “unofficial” first date: dinner at a restaurant near Scranton where they were both taking a continuing education course (in dentistry, natch).
They dated for four years before Paul, an avid scuba diver, asked for her hand — underwater. (He made sure early in their relationship that Wasna was certified so she could go with him.) If that wasn’t enough, it was a dive with sharks. Twelve of them. After about 30 minutes below the surface, Paul knelt on the ocean floor and waved Wasna over; she eventually came to him thinking sharks were on her tail. (Wouldn’t you?) He then pulled up the sleeve of his wetsuit, took a small satin bag out and unzipped it to reveal the engagement ring, which he placed on her finger. She gave him a thumbs-up followed by a verbal yes back on dry land.
The couple was engaged for nine months before getting hitched at Terrain Gardens at Devon Yard in 2019. (But first they took a weeklong pre-moon to unwind on the island of Bonaire, where they went scuba diving and chilled on the beach.) Their three-day bash combined both their Jewish and Muslim cultures. Because it was a second marriage for both of them, they did not want to have a large bridal party. Their initial plan was to have both a rabbi and an imam present to perform the ceremony. They later decided they’d have Wasna’s two sisters and Paul’s brother and sister officiate and get ordained online, but then they discovered the self-uniting license. “Having our siblings take part in the ceremony was special, and they did an amazing job of bringing meaningful traditions together,” says Paul of his favorite detail. Among the practices was the mahar sofreh, part of an Iraqi wedding that represents elements and blessings for the couple’s new life together.
Wasna and Paul made up their own vows — on the spot. They’d initially planned not to say anything but a few minutes before the ceremony they decided to wing it. “The words were very short and sweet, but as we stared into each other’s eyes, we knew there really was no need to speak,” they say.
The biggest surprise? The couple had deemed one of their three dogs, Tito (named for their favorite vodka), the ring bearer. He was a champ while walking in with Wasna and during the ceremony — until he decided to take a stroll away from the festivities. When it was time to exchange rings, he was nowhere in sight. Tito was eventually found in the bridal suite getting belly rubs from the staff.
Overall the celebration was filled with plenty of laughter, fun and love — and the laidback, shabby-chic design leaned into that. There was cozy outdoor seating with couches, a fire pit and plenty of casual food. Appetizers included harvest cheese and spiced tagine displays as well as hot chicken and doughnuts and avocado toast, among other nibbles. Dinner was served family-style, and guests enjoyed the selection of chateaubriand, sea bass and garden pesto pasta. For a late-night treat: an outdoor s’mores station.
Like the ceremony, the reception beautifully melded Wasna’s and Paul’s cultures, and it was among the bride’s most treasured memories. “It was absolutely amazing to see all of our friends and family appreciate and respect our backgrounds,” she says. The reception began with a traditional Middle Eastern dabka band in full dress. When they were finished, the DJ played a Jewish hora. “Seeing the way people from both cultures embraced each other during these dances was truly heartwarming.”
Photographer: We Laugh We Love | Venue & Catering: Terrain Gardens at Devon Yard | Planning/Design: Debbie LoVerso of Terrain Events | Florals: Hannah Maakestad of Design by Terrain | Bride’s Gown: RSVP by Sarah Seven from Lovely Bride | Alterations: Courtney Alston of Prim and Perverse | Hair & Makeup: Onlo | Groom’s Attire: SuitSupply | Entertainment: Lovesick (DJ); Afrah Events US (zaffa and dabka dancers) | Cake: Nutmeg Cake Design | Invitations: Design by Terrain and Merely Mere by Meredith | Rentals: Maggpie Rentals
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