The Couple's Cultural Roots Intertwined During Their Ethereal Garden Wedding on a Rooftop in Columbus, Ohio
At a bar in November 2013, Leonard Saliaj had his eyes on Amrta Kenner all night: "He noticed me because of my smile," she says, "and waited until the end of the evening to approach me. He offered me a drink that I spilled instantly and the rest is history." Seven years later, Amrta, the owner and lead event designer at Prema Designs, was celebrating her tenth year in business in January 2020 with a party that she was late to because of Leonard. "Now I know why," she reflects. Just after she finished delivering a thank-you address, Leonard took the mic, "said some of the most beautiful things to me, and, to the surprise of myself and the 150 people in attendance, reached into his pocket and got on one knee." Needless to say, she "flipped out"-but she responded with a resounding, emphatic yes.
Being in the industry made planning difficult, notes Amrta, who had her pick of event styles, details, and vendors ("You never want to offend anyone!" she says); she also knew the true weight of the pandemic from a planner's perspective. "The hardest part was dealing with the COVID-19 restrictions and constant changes. Now, there is an entirely new process of planning an event," she says. "You have to have plan A, B, and C-and those might not even be what happens." The pair ultimately went through a date change and a venue closure, but, with a little luck, rediscovered The Revery at The North 4th Corridor in Columbus, Ohio. She realized she had a close working relationship with the property's new owners, Milo's Catering, and-when the world showed signs of improving-signed a contract. Their event was the first to happen under the new management, notes Amrta. "It was a true honor," she says.
With a solidified date and nailed-down venue, Amrta began designing the couple's ethereal, cultural event, inspired by lush florals. "My favorite movie is The Secret Garden, if that tells you anything," she laughs. Florals aside, honoring her background-she was raised in the Vaisnava faith, a form of Hinduism, and spent her teenage years living in the mountains of Puerto Rico-alongside Leonard's (he hails from Albania and loves his country's beauty and traditions dearly) was paramount. With help from day-of coordinator Ali of Aisle & Co, Amrta and Leonard executed this vision and more, crafting a meaningful wedding with lasting impact. "Walking down the aisle-it was so fast, yet it felt so slow," reflects the bride on one special memory. "It was raining that day, but the moment we began to walk down the aisle, the sun came out. As I looked around the room, I could just feel the love and the positive light awaiting our marriage. I was unimaginably overwhelmed with a calmness of the decision I made to marry Leonard."
The couple's invitation suite by Lupine Letters had every ethereal element Amrta could dream up, including torn edges, golden splatters, and delicate florals. Notes were placed in a vellum envelope that revealed a Monet painting-inspired liner when unfolded; the exterior was printed with a Henna motif across the base and closed via a wax seal emblazoned with a meaningful symbol: an Albanian eagle, notes Amrta. That wasn't all-when loved ones cracked opened the wax, their noses were flooded with floral fragrance, thanks to the dried lavender and lilac blooms within. "We started the garden guest experience" then and there, she explains.
The Albanian eagle reappeared on Leonard's wedding band by Renee James.
Amrta oscillated between two wedding dresses at La Jeune Mariee, but ultimately decided on a soft tulle number from Watters, which she personalized with some help from her mom. "My mother added vintage lace and small capiz-shell flowers," she explains. The customization didn't stop there: She adapted a Marchesa necklace into a headpiece, sewed her veil onto the shoulders of her gown, transforming it into a detachable cape, and, on the big day, found a piece of her grandmother's wedding dress inside, alongside her embroidered wedding date-yet another addition from her mom.
A friend from Evergreen Flower Co. made Amrta a whimsical garden-style bouquet, complete with shades of mauve and chocolate. The arrangement was composed of hellebores, scabiosa, sweetpeas, butterfly ranunculus, lilac, and jasmine vine; the stems were wrapped in a dyed silk and gauze ribbon.
Color Palette 'Maids
The bridesmaids' dresses echoed the shades seen throughout the bride's bouquet, illustrating a palette that began with blush and ended in plum; the colors, notes Amrta, worked across her attendants' respective skin tones. They accessorized with Hindu jewelry sets, complete with tikkas, earrings, bangles, and crystal bindis. "During the ceremony, they wore creamy gold shawls," says Amrta. "I wanted them to feel like princesses."
Groom in Merlot
Riri, You So Pretty
On the morning of the wedding, Amrta debuted her big-day ensemble to her bridesmaids, noting that her best friends made her feel beautiful and loved. "But I do have to say-my nephews were there and the baby came up to me and said, 'Riri, you so pretty,' and my heart melted. I then felt like the prettiest thing in the world," she says.
Before, During, After
"I was nervous and anxious for him to see me and hoped he loved everything," says Amrta of her first look with Leonard. "During, I just wanted him to hug me to calm my nerves. After, I wanted to get to the party portion and see him dance. He looked so handsome."
Amrta's father, James, who became emotional when he got his first glimpse of the bride, played a pivotal role on his daughter's wedding day: He officiated the ceremony.
Bright and Light
The ceremony took place on the rooftop. Interior columns were wrapped with greenery; the acrylic chairs were assigned via handmade paper programs that also foretold attendees' spots at dinner.
Chairs were spaced and appropriately distanced with sprout arrangements, candles, mercury lanterns, and gold elephants in between sections.
Citrus and Incense
Incense burned at the altar, which was lined with citrus fruits and vines.
When guests exited the elevator that delivered them to the rooftop and stepped inside the room, they were met by a massive, curved welcome sign, which echoed the pattern seen on the invitation suite.
During the processional, Amrta's bridesmaids, carrying golden trays filled with florals, sprinkled the aisle with fragrant rose petals.
Here Comes the Bride
Ahead of the Vedic ceremony, Amrta was escorted down the aisle by six male family members; her two brothers stood by her side and four uncles, holding a canopy overhead (this doubles as a veil), formed a square around her, symbolizing "the main pillars in my life," notes the bride. "In Vedic culture, it is important the uncles approve of the union. Having them walk you down the aisle is a high honor for the husband-to-be." Once Amrta reached the mouth of the walkway, her father stepped in to lead her onward.
The couple kept the ceremony short-and-sweet, trimming down the script of customary Vedic nuptials (which can run for an hour or longer, explains the bride). During the service, they exchanged traditional vows.
After Amrta's father pronounced the duo husband and wife, they shared a kiss and recessed back up the aisle to "Closer" by Goapele-the bride's favorite song of all time.
As the party moved towards the reception space, the group passed through a tunnel of Daiya statues and hanging oversized bells dripping with crystal.
Upon arrival, celebrants were offered blood orange and ginger cocktails, which were served in sleek coupes and topped with dehydrated citrus slices.
As guests sipped, a surprise performance began: Leonard's best friend had flown in lauded Albanian singer Eli Fara, who serenaded the rapt crowd. This was a major highlight for Leonard, says his bride. "He was missing his country and the traditions and culture the wedding would be surrounded with," she says. "Having such a famous and loved singer bless our day was unforgettable. Her voice is amazing! She was so happy to be there and just brought so much joy and fun as we danced a traditional Albanian dance."
Tables-some draped with blush linens, others left bare-were set with mezze, including olives, feta, focaccia, and other assorted breads, says Amrta, noting these foods are staples in Albanian culture. Flowers overflowed from concrete urn planters that were paired with gold candlesticks.
Style and Comfort
Cream cushions were tied to cross-backed chairs for an added dose of texture and comfort.
At Each Spot
Other stations were studded with more petite floral arrangements. Settings consisted of the bride's favorite champagne-hued flora charger and a mauve velvet napkin; place cards were situated in gold holders. Crystal cut glasses and gold flatware completed the look.
Time to Party
The newlyweds stepped into the party as "That's Mine" by Gashia resounded in the background. "It's our favorite song for Sunday Funday," says Amrta," and led right into our cake cutting. Then we had our first dance, which was to 'Get You' by Daniel Caesar."
The couple's two-tier confection, created by Kuro Neko Cake Studio, was comprised of two flavors (a white vanilla rose layer with white chocolate raspberry ganache up top and white cake with a black cherry compote on the bottom). It was covered in a henna-print overlay and studded with delicate gum-paste blooms.
Following an epic meal, featuring grilled leak risotto with broccolini and a cauliflower steak or seared salmon with pesto rub, the food kept coming. Amrta and Leonard set up a seafood bar and offered plenty of other bites, like falafel sliders, mac and cheese, arancini, tomato soup shooters, pimento grilled cheese, and stuffed wontons. Then came dessert, during which vegan macaroons, thumbprints, cupcakes, churros with hot caramel sauce, and chocolate strawberries made the rounds. A fun, interactive final touch? The Champagne cart. Coupes of bubbly were filled and garnished with cotton candy swirls-the ultimate end to a sweet evening.
Photography, Starling Studio
Videography, A Vision to Life Productions
Venue, The Revery at The North 4th Corridor
Day-of Coordination, Ali of Aisle & Co
Event Design, Prema Designs
Flowers, Prema Designs; Evergreen Flower Co.
Stationery, Lupine Letters
Officiant, James Kenner
Bride's Gown, Watters via La Jeune Mariee
Bride's Shoes, Gucci
Bride's Hair, Clean & Curl
Bridesmaids' Hair, Madison Mikl
Makeup, Almaz Faces
Bridesmaids' Dresses, BHLDN; Birdy Grey
Groom's Attire, Pursuit Yourself
Engagement Ring and Wedding Bands, Renee James
Music, Eli Fara (ceremony); Plan & Party Columbus (DJ)
Catering, Milos Catering
Dessert Bar, 2cs Bakery
Cake, Kuro Neko Cake Studio
Rentals, Aiden & Grace; Got Ya Covered; B3Events
Marquee Letters, Burgundy Ginger Events
Transportation, Bexley Beat
Lighting, Jeff Neff Events
Bridal Ribbon, The Lesser Bear
Photo Booth, Weekend Vibes Photo Bar
Hotel, Hilton Columbus Downtown