An Eastern Orthodox Wedding at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC

In a beautiful Eastern Orthodox ceremony at the ornate Saints Peter & Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Potamac, Maryland, Laila Salem (28 and a clinical psychologist) and Musa Farmand (27 and a law student) became husband and wife. Before the ceremony, Laila was presented to her extended family in her parents’ house as they sang and danced around her, a Palestinian wedding tradition where the family wishes the bride luck in her marriage. “Then Musa’s family came to my father’s house to retrieve me, symbolizing that I am leaving my father’s house for the last time and joining the Farmand family,” Laila says. “The oldest male in the family escorts the bride out of her father’s house, and I was fortunate enough to have my 98-year-old grandfather walk me out.” The couple’s traditional Eastern Orthodox wedding took place at the same church where Laila had been baptized, and the priest who baptized her conducted the marriage service. Their ceremony included the Dance of Isaiah, in which the priest puts jeweled crowns on the bride’s and groom’s heads, symbolizing them becoming king and queen of their family. They then walk around the altar three times hand in hand with the maid of honor and best man. “The church is unbelievable,” Musa says. “The iconography is unlike anything you will ever see in an Orthodox church or really any church for that matter. Truly breathtaking.” A gold aisle runner with their custom logo lined the aisle, and white floral arrangements were tied to pews. After the couple’s ceremony, friends and family gathered at at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC, to celebrate their nuptials. “The building has so much character and history, and the grounds are beautiful,” Laila says. The couple decorated their ballroom venue with a palette of blues and greens with gold and peach accents. Tables were clad in deep turquoise linens and topped with gold accents and an array of ornate centerpieces. For their first dance, the newlyweds danced to “Stand by Me,” by Ben E. King, which was the song they danced to on the night they met. “The night we met, there was a big party at the Palestinian convention we were attending. Musa asked me to dance when the dance floor was basically empty,” Laila says. “So in front of many relatives watching us eagerly, trying to see if there is a spark between us, we danced to ‘Stand by Me’ by Ben E. King. It was only fitting that our first dance ever should also be our first dance as husband and wife. Many of the relatives who saw us dance together the night we met were at our wedding!” Musa, who is a singer-songwriter, had a special musical surprise planned for Laila during the reception. While strumming a guitar, Musa serenaded Laila with a song he wrote called “Only Love.” He had their wedding band learn the song ahead of time so they could join in and play with him. “I was blown away,” Laila says. “All the guests flooded the dance floor to watch his performance, and he basically turned our wedding reception into a rock concert. Everyone still talks about that moment, and it was an unbelievable feeling to have him sing to me in front of 400 people. It was something I will hopefully tell my children about someday.” —Marissa Hermanson