Natural Influences Abounded at This Multicultural Wedding in Napa Valley

wedding couple posing for portrait by water
Larissa Cleveland

Mura Assifi and Zachary Plotz's road to romance was a long one—it took them 15 years to have their first date. The duo met as undergraduates at Boston University's student union in 2002, and after bonding as study partners, they quickly built a friendship that lasted well past earning their bachelor's degrees and graduating from medical school. Even after their careers separated them over a 10-year stretch—Mura landed in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as an attending surgeon at Spectrum Health and Michigan State University, while Zachary called Washington, D.C., home as a radiologist after retiring from the Army—they always stayed in touch. "In October 2017, we met at our favorite bar—Franklin Mortgage in Philadelphia—over a Penicillin. We went from friends to something more!" Mura says. After that fated date, the pair did long distance before Zachary made the move to Michigan one year later.

The couple made the step towards marriage shortly after moving in together: Zachary planned the perfect proposal during a birthday trip for Mura on August 1, 2018. "Zachary had planned a big 40th-birthday celebration for me in Cabo San Lucas. He had coordinated an extravaganza spanning four days," Mura explains. "The night before our family and friends were set to arrive, he dropped to one knee on a balcony overlooking the ocean. I was completely surprised! When everyone got in the next day, we broke the news!"

After a whirlwind engagement, the couple planned their big day in just 10 months. Luckily for the soon-to-be bride and groom, though, they knew exactly where their nuptials would take place. "I love the woods and Zachary grew up logging with his father in Minnesota. My family is from Los Angeles and I am very familiar with northern California. We both love wine, so the Napa region was a good fit." After visiting Calistoga Ranch in the valley, they knew it was the right choice, especially after seeing its scenic views. But with their hectic schedules, they left the major details in the hands of Allison Weddings. "We are both busy physicians and had to plan a wedding from afar (as we do not live in California), so we needed a skilled professional team that was familiar with the region," Mura says. "Allison Smith and her team were essential in guiding us through the process of blending two cultural ceremonies into one seamless event." Their multicultural celebration for 76 guests went off without a hitch on October 6, 2019—and, most importantly, highlighted the bride's Afghan heritage, and the duo's love for nature and each other.

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A Natural Invitation Suite

white and neutral elegant wedding invitation suite with flowers
Larissa Cleveland

The couple's custom suite by Heart Paper Soul was influenced by their natural theme. "The invitation paper was thick, porous cotton with deckled edges," Allison of Allison Weddings shares. "Heart Paper Soul added a black-and-white image from Calistoga Ranch with a vellum overlay as a nod to the love of nature that Mura and Zachary share." Twine, the finishing touch, tied the stationery together.

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Paying Homage to Heritage

couple walking together in traditional wedding attire
Larissa Cleveland

For the Afghan wedding ceremony—called the nikah—Zachary sported a traditional embroidered tunic and pants, along with a black shawl featuring silver-thread detail. As for Mura? Finding her all-green ensemble, customary for Afghan brides, was a journey—but her veil was the first priority. The chiffon-embroidered accessory is a family heirloom; her great grandmother managed to take it with her as she, and the rest of Mura's elders, fled Afghanistan during a countrywide invasion.

Finding a green lace dress to match the cherished veil, then, was her challenge. After casually spotting a Dolce & Gabbana gown years prior to her nuptials, she dug for months to trace it down until a close friend swooped in to lend a hand. "I went to London to see my best friend and search for dresses but was unsuccessful," the bride recalls. "Before I left London, she gifted me the perfect green lace Dolce & Gabbana dress that was exactly what I had been searching for. My entire outfit for the nikah ceremony was gifted to me from people I love, which made the moment even more special."

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Botanic Bouquet

bride in traditional attire holding white and blue wedding bouquet
Larissa Cleveland

The team at This Humble Abode pieced together Mura's bouquet with green foliage, including live oak and jasmine (Zachary's favorite), to speak to the bride's wishes for a lush and textural arrangement. The bouquet also featured layers of white blooms, like garden roses and anemones, and was topped off with blue eryngium and viburnum berries.

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Intimate Nikah Nuptials

couple during traditional nikah ceremony
Larissa Cleveland

The couple's first ceremony, which took place against a lake on the property, was one of two traditional Afghan wedding services. After Mura was escorted down the aisle by her uncle and cousin, the pair was married by an Imam, or religious leader; Mura's uncle held this honor.

Candy and almonds doused in sugar and cardamom filled a tray on the table, which guests tossed on the newlyweds after processed back up the aisle (the first time!). "My mother made small green pouches with the sesame candies, which were intended for guests to take home and share with their families," Mura adds.

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Time for Two

couple posing on grassy hill for traditional wedding ceremony
Larissa Cleveland

Following the nika, the couple changed (Mura into a Monique Lhuillier wedding dress, and Zachary into an ESQ bespoke tuxedo) before the second portion of the event. They came together again for their first look. As for Zachary's reaction to seeing his bride-to-be in her ball gown? After he met her gaze, he felt building nerves fade away. "[I was] excited to move forward with our life," he notes. Mura felt the same way, adding that she felt "destined for this moment with Zachary."

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DIY Ceremony Décor

western wedding ceremony table and couch with patterned rug
Larissa Cleveland

For the next ceremony, the bride and groom enlisted help from Mura's mother. "It is tradition that the mother of the bride decorates the tables for both Afghan ceremonies—the nikah and the Aaina Mussaf (mirror ceremony)," Mura explains. "For the Aaina Mussaf, the table was adorned with items to be used—treats to eat and drink, a Koran, a mirror that was specially made for us abroad (that no one else had ever looked into), and henna."

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Mirror Ceremony

bride and groom wedding aaina mussaf ceremony
Larissa Cleveland

Before the ceremony—during which they, surrounded by their matriarchs, looked into that special mirror for the first time—began, however, they experience a processional delay. "All I wanted was to stand up there with Zachary and say our vows in front of our loved ones. But getting there was quite the ordeal," Mura shares. "After Zachary and his mom walked down the aisle, it was my turn—but no one could find my bouquet."

Allison went back to the bridal suite to grab it, halting the service—and Mura thought the pause would be a gentle way to tease her husband-to-be. "Allison asked me if she should let Zachary know, and I said, 'Nah, let him sweat,'" Mura jokes. In the end, all was well. "Finally getting to stand up there together with Zachary was the best part of all," she adds.

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Surrounded by Greenery

neutral tones wedding seating cards in wooden boxes on white table
Larissa Cleveland

Before guests took their seats at the greenery-filled reception, they mingled during the cocktail hour, feasting on passed apps and sampling "The Penicillin"—the couple's favorite drink and the one they shared on their first date. At the end of the interlude, they found their seating assignments in small gray envelopes, arranged in elongated wooden boxes.

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Nature in Every Corner

wedding reception wooden chairs with greenery decor
Larissa Cleveland

Dinner décor boasted wood farm tables, vineyard cross-back chairs, and neutral linens. "The long wood tables were adorned with lush runners of foliage and greenery—designed to encourage conversation. Above the tables were loose strands of market lights to add a lovely warm glow," Allison notes.

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Dinner at Dusk

guests eating at evening reception elegant long table under string lights
Larissa Cleveland

"The dinner was absolutely magical," the bride recalls. "The original menu, created by the chef at Calistoga Ranch, was an understated blend of both Western and Afghan flavors."

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A Green, Serene Sight

bride and groom walking through wedding cave
Larissa Cleveland

After the feast, the group moved to the "Cave," where an after-party awaited. Mura and Zachary, however, saw the space before the rest of their guests. "We popped over before dinner, and were blown away by the beauty of the indoor garden that our florist created," says the bride. The goal of the décor? They wanted the venue to drip with vines that looked as if they had grown there.

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All in the Details

simple floral bouquet and candle on reception table
Larissa Cleveland

"Every detail of our wedding reflected who we are as individuals and as a couple. We are very passionate about food, drinks, and music and we both love to entertain," Mura says of their nuptials. "The multicultural aspects of the wedding, the outdoor scenery, the flowers, the food and cocktails, and the music—each of these elements were extensions of ourselves. So, this was a very natural, organic blend of both of our tastes."

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Together at Last

wedding couple first dance under greenery decorations
Larissa Cleveland

Mura and Zachary took a twirl to "At Last" by Etta James for their first dance of the night. "We chose this song since we both knew that we were the one for each other, but it took us such a long time to finally be together," Mura says. The two then had another first dance to an Afghan tune and took their guests by surprise by performing their own routine to the song.

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A Sweet Final Touch

simple almost naked wedding cake with white flowers
Larissa Cleveland

The duo's semi-naked almond cake was adorned with flowers that referenced the bridal bouquet and also featured an "anniversary" layer of vanilla with almond buttercream and marzipan—Mura and Zachary will enjoy this tier when they mark their first year as husband and wife.

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mura and zach groom carrying bride
Larissa Cleveland

Photography, Larissa Cleveland
Venue and Catering, Calistoga Ranch
Wedding Planning and Design, Allison Weddings
Flowers, This Humble Abode
Stationery and Day-of Paper Goods, Heart Paper Soul
Officiant, Younus Sharifi
Bride's Gowns, Monique Lhuillier, Dolce and Gabbana
White Veil, Ultimate Bride
Shoes, Christian Louboutin
Hair and Makeup, Professional Makeup Artistry
Groom's Attire, ESQ
Engagement Ring and Wedding Bands, Juhas & Sullivan
Music, DJ Stallion Entertainment
Cake, Flour and Bloom Cakes
Rentals, Standard Party Rentals
Linens, Latavola
Transportation, Napa Valley Tours
Lighting and AV, DJ Stallion Entertainment

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