A Gorgeous Elopement in Big Sur

In December of 2015, Ferdaws Mesbahi and Michael Kanatake were both traveling through India with friends when they spotted each another in a temple in Hampi. “We didn’t talk that day, but it turned out our friends knew one another,” says Ferdaws. A few days later, Michael accidentally got on the wrong train, taking a 15-hour trip to the beach city of Varkala. Ferdaws spotted him from her scooter, and the pair hung out every day while in town. “We ended up traveling the world together for the next six months,” she says. At the end of the trip, she returned to Belgium and he headed home to Brooklyn. By the fall of 2016, after numerous visits back and forth, Ferdaws joined Michael in Brooklyn.

That Christmas, Ferdaws’ family came to New York to visit for the holidays, and the group headed to the skating rink in Central Park on Christmas Day. Michael knew he wanted to propose, and got her family involved, having each person wear a shirt that he’d had printed in five languages. “They read ‘Ferdaws,’ ‘Will You,’ ‘Marry,’ and ‘Me’ in English, Dutch, Arabic, Japanese, and Spanish,” says the bride, who explains that each language was a nod to their family roots. While out on the ice, the family members asked Ferdaws to take a picture of them together, and they they all unzipped their jackets to reveal the message.

Instead of planning a traditional wedding, with a timeline and guest list and formal reception, Michael and Ferdaws decided to elope. “We really wanted to get married alone in nature,” she explains. While on a road trip through Northern California, they decided Big Sur was the place to tie the knot. “We booked an officiant and a photographer, found our attire in San Francisco, and located the perfect circle of redwood trees at Ventana Big Sur,” the bride describes. “Almost all of it was done the day before!” On December 19, 2017, they said “I do”—and the romantic simplicity of their celebration might just have you reconsidering all that wedding planning.

Michael hand-painted the covers of the couple’s vow books in a Sanskrit-style font, a nod to their first meeting in India.

The groom wore a burgundy ASOS suit and tucked olive leaves and grasses into the pocket as a boutonniere.

Ferdaws spotted her Tadashi Shoji gown on the BHLDN website, then headed to the brand’s San Francisco shop to try it on. “I was shopping alone, but Face Time-d my sisters in Belgium to make sure they liked it,” she says. She paired the gown’s ruffled sleeves and organic embroidery with a bouquet of pampas grass, white blooms, and pheasant feathers, as well as a circular hairpin. “We were married under a circle of trees, and the circle of wedding rings symbolizes eternity," she explains. "It was really a day filled with circles.”

[Sage smudge sticks] and an altar of candles (https://www.brides.com/gallery/earthy-chic-ideas-for-the-boho-bride) were all it took to create an intimate ceremony space.

The sounds of the forest and nearby ocean acted as music during they couple's ceremony. They stood on a woven red rug that they’d found at Goodwill.

“Ferdaws had a back injury shortly before our wedding, and we weren’t sure if she’d be physically up for the wedding day,” says Michael. “We ended up cancelling our plans for December 16th, and thankfully she healed enough to reschedule for the 19th. Since it was just the two of us and our photographer was able to stay in the area, we were able to make the change.”

“After the ceremony, we just wanted to sit in the forest and meditate together,” says Ferdaws. “We wanted to really be present in the moment and remember every detail.”

As the couple wandered the coast with their photographer, Ferdaws covered her gown with a handmade blanket that Michael had purchased during their time in India. This, again, brought their relationship full circle.

Later in the evening, they shared a dinner for two at Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn. “Remember to be present on your wedding day,” says the bride. “Focus on the right things—being there and marrying one another.”

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