A Maryland Garden Party With Liberian Influences

Sadatu Dennis and Kareem Meliani first met on September 19, 2010, while attending a friend's potluck dinner. The two Harvard University grad students had their first date a few days later—on September 24, 2010, to be exact—and the rest is history. They graduated (Sadatu from the School of Design and Kareem from Harvard Business School) and moved to New York City, where Kareem proposed in Washington Square Park in November 2014. But shortly after getting engaged, they relocated to Mexico City—and started planning a wedding from afar!

As for the date of their wedding, that was an easy choice. "Our wedding date was the sixth anniversary of our very first date," Sadatu says. The couple teamed up with Eventi Floral & Events to create a garden party at Glenview Mansion in Rockville, Maryland, near the bride's hometown of Columbia. "I loved the gardens and the art gallery on the second floor of the mansion," she explains, "and the fact that it's so close to my hometown!" But that doesn't mean people didn't travel far for the grand celebration! In fact, many guests flew in from Liberia, where the bride's family is from.

And with guests traveling from that far, you know this wedding had to be good. Keep scrolling to see how Sadatu, Kareem, and their pro vendor team (including photographer Two Twenty by Chi Chi) created a Liberian wedding with plenty of garden-party charm.

The bride has an eye for design (she's an interior stylist), so her fashion was obviously on point. She saw a picture of an Inbal Dror wedding dress—with a removable off-the-shoulder train—and immediately visited Mark Ingram at Mark Ingram Atelier in New York City to find it. "I tried to support as many minority-owned businesses as possible," she says.

Sadatu accessorized the stunning gown with jewelry from her mother's collection and gold Frances Valentine flats (for a ceremony in the grass!). She also carried a lush bouquet of garden roses, poppies, and greenery.

Two single rose blooms and a bright-red lip completed Sadatu's statement beauty look.

The bride included several nods to her Liberian heritage throughout the day, one of which was her family's traditional dress!

Sadatu and her father walked down the aisle to meet Kareem in front of a pair of ornate gold gates, which were brought in specifically for the event. There, they exchanged vows they'd written themselves. Kareem's quoted Extracts from Adam's Diary by Mark Twain, while Sadatu's included quotes from a song she had written him years prior.

The couple customized their ceremony by asking each of their four siblings to pick a poem and read it. Sadatu's brother read "Black Love" by Gwendolyn Brooks, and Kareem's sister recited a funny short poem by Nikki Giovanni. They also asked singer Michelyn Cierra to perform "Nothing Even Matters" from the album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. "It was such a soulful, tender moment," Sadatu remembers. "So many guests told me that they were shedding tears during her performance."

The ceremony ended with the traditional jumping of the broom, which made for a fun photo op.

The newlyweds entered their clear-top reception tent to their friends and family dancing, cheering, and waving African print fabrics (a Liberian wedding tradition). "It was such a memorable moment," Sadatu says.

With a theme of garden-party chic, with an emphasize on "party!", the bride worked to create a reception tent that was just that. Long tables created a community atmosphere, while a long garland of greenery and string lights accomplished the decor look she was after. "Our main goal was to throw a party for family and friends where everyone felt included and the drama was kept to a minimum," Sadatu says.

For their first dance, the couple selected "La Vida Se Past a Mil" by La 33, which was a surprise for all. "Since we live in Mexico City, we took salsa lessons for months and performed a surprise salsa number for our first dance," she says.

DJ Michael Cruz spun upbeat music all night long, and the dance floor was crowded the entire time. "He made sure everyone was on the dance floor from the moment they walked in the tent," says Sadatu. "The dance party continued until our final song, which was Kendrick Lamar's 'Alright,' the perfect way to end the night!"

And don't think that was all the fun! Sadatu and Kareem donned traditional African attire the night before the wedding. How adorable are they?!

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