After knowing each other for more than a year in medical school in Dominica, Jon Salman and Bela Hysi went on a date. After wine and tapas, Jon summoned the courage to finally kiss Bela … and she immediately slapped him. The rest, as they say, is history. Five months after that date, Jon proposed to Bela at a nice dinner, surprising her with a bottle of champagne and appetizers before their meal. When she objected to the waiter that they didn’t order those things, she looked over and Jon was down on one knee with the ring in hand. This time she didn’t slap him.
Though they were both living in Chicago at the time, they planned their wedding in Jon’s hometown of Louisville, enlisting the help of wedding planner Ellen Fox to assist with all of the details. Bela is Albanian and Jon is Palestinian and Jordanian, and their wedding was a blend of all of the best traditions for both families. The result? An intimate, personal event that beautifully combined both cultures. And while the wedding took place just over two years ago, we love the timelessness and uniqueness, which is why we wanted to share it today.
Bela wanted a beautiful, classic wedding with an old-world feel, so they chose Third Lutheran Church for their ceremony and The Seelbach for their reception for this very reason. The wedding and reception were rich with red colors, which were pervasive throughout the fashion and lush decor.
The best part of the wedding, the couple says, was having their friends and family from all over the world join in their special day. Guests came from all over the United States, Albania, Greece and even Australia.
Bela chose a Marielle gown from Rivini, which was the opposite of what she thought she wanted. She knew, however, from the second she put it on and got goosebumps that that was her dress! As she says, “It was so light and airy; I felt like I was floating on a cloud! I felt pretty. I loved it so much, I gave up the idea of a second gown, because I did not want to take it off. I still love it.” Her dress was her “something new.”
Bela carried a red and gold handkerchief from her mother that she used during the traditional Albanian dances as her “something borrowed.” Her “something old” was very sentimental: it was her wedding band, comprised of diamonds that used to be on a bracelet her father-in-law wore. Years ago, her mother-in-law made two wedding bands out of them, one for Jon’s future wife (Bela) and one for her daughter. And her “something blue” was her pair of Louis Vuitton shoes that had a checkered light blue and white pattern.
Red was a theme with this wedding, starting with the bridesmaids’ dresses and extending throughout the wedding clothing and accessories. Ironically, red used to be Bela’s least favorite color. Her mother dressed her in red all the time when she was little, so for years she avoided it. She actually had nothing red in her wardrobe. For Bela, she believes that red gives the room a nice warm tone and that lots of beautiful red flowers and dresses would look good on anyone.
The reception was at The Seelbach, where the room was a visual spectacle of red and gold filling the space with warmth and grandeur. Cocktail hour was held in the famed Rathskellar, with guests enjoying six passed appetizers and an open bar in the warm, personal setting of this renowned room. The upstairs reception room was transformed with flowers, trees, lighting and richly pigmented decor. Even the chairs were draped in gold overlay.
Guests enjoyed a gourmet five-course meal, with five entree selections. Later, they enjoyed a seven-tiered hazelnut Italian cream cake. And at the end of the night, there was a breakfast-themed midnight snack, which included baklava and other Arabic and Albanian sweets.
Not to be outdone by the opulent decor, the entertainment was just as spectacular. The bride and groom were announced by a zaffe, which is an Arabian grand entrance and short dance performance. The sword the groom dances with was the same sword his parents had at their wedding, and it was later used to cut the wedding cake.
After the zaffe was over, the bride and her father danced to the Albanian song “Per ty baba,” by Bashkim Alibali. Another Albanian tradition was the Napoloni dance, where the groom and bride dance in the middle of the room surrounded by everyone and the groom burns a handkerchief during the dance, which symbolizes him “burning” and leaving behind his bachelor life.
Best wishes to Bela and Jon, and thank you for sharing your beautiful wedding with us today. Here are the vendors the happy couple enlisted to create their magical day:
- Church: Third Lutheran Church
- Venue: The Seelbach Hilton
- Photography: Robert Burge Photography
- Event planner: ShaFox Weddings & Events
- Bride’s gown: Marielle from Rivini
- Bridesmaids’ dresses: Macy’s
- Hair & makeup: Bennie and Friends
- Groom’s formal wear: Tux custom made in Chicago by Nicholas Joseph Custom Tailor
- Groomsmen’s formal wear: JoS. A. Bank
- Invitations: Pelkans.com
- Programs, menu cards, place cards: ShaFox Weddings & Events
- Flowers: In Bloom Again
- Catering: The Seelbach Hilton
- Music: Triangle Talent DJ and the Amin Sultan Band
- Cake: Mert’s Cakes by Virginia
- Guest accommodations: The Seelbach Hilton
- Gold Chiavari chairs: 50 Chairs