​This Wedding Is Part Royal Wedding and Part French Riviera Fairytale

When Tarek Farah and Monika Khoueiri Farah went on their first date seven years ago, the chemistry was instant. “It was as if we had known each other a very long time,” Tarek says. In fact, they had. The pair met as kids on a ski trip, but only reconnected in 2011 when they met through mutual friends on a night out in Lebanon.

But as any reader of romantic literature will know, the greatest love stories are fraught by inconvenient circumstances. This was no different: Tarek was based in London and Monika in Beirut, so the pair embarked on a long-distance relationship that would endure for almost six years.

The proposal was at Albergo, the same rooftop restaurant in Beirut where they had their first date. “Tarek had decorated the place with candles and lights all around the trees,” Monika recalls. “We had been guests at a friend’s engagement dinner on the first floor of the hotel and when the party finished, he suggested we go to the rooftop. It was so beautiful. He got on one knee and said he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. I was so emotional I couldn’t speak or even say yes! I went down on my knees too and hugged him.”Tarek had tasked Beirut-based jeweler Selim Mouzannar with the design of Monika’s engagement ring. “I visited most if not all of London’s jewelry stores until I found the perfect one to use as an inspiration,” he says. His research paid off: “If I were to pick one engagement ring, it would be the one he designed for me,” Monika says. “He knows me too well!”

Tarek spent much of his childhood in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat on the French Riviera, making it a natural destination for the couple’s wedding. The rose-colored Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, which was built in 1912 by Béatrice de Rothschild, is a national landmark and boasts spectacular gardens overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. “We visited several other venues near Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, but as soon as we entered the Villa Ephrussi we knew this is where we wanted to get married,” Monika says. “I think it is one of the most beautiful, charming, and romantic places in the world.”

Guests were welcomed the evening before the wedding with a cocktail party at La Voile d’Or, a regular haunt of the couple’s thanks to its proximity to Tarek’s family home in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. “We wanted our friends and families to meet and bond over the beautiful view of the port of Saint Jean,” Monika explains. “We had a ‘wishing tree’ illuminated by lights where each guest wrote us a wish and hung it on the tree.”

Monika looked every inch the bride-to-be in a Valentino gown scattered with prints of flying birds. A particularly special moment was when Tarek retrieved a necklace from the wishing tree as a surprise gift for his future wife. “It was a heart-shaped necklace that belonged to his grandmother, redesigned by Selim Mouzannar,” Monika says. The necklace would serve as Monika’s ‘something old’ and the gemstones within it her ‘something blue’.

Tarek and Monica worked with event planner Toni Breiss to realize their dream wedding. Breiss also planned Monika’s 21st birthday party, and the pair have since remained friends. “We call him the perfectionist,” Monika says. “He is so professional, creative, and trustworthy and makes sure everything is going smoothly from start to finish.”

Also supporting the couple in the wedding planning was Tarek’s mother, Aline, who took the lead in creative decisions. “I trust her blindly!” Monika admits. “A big part of the decoration, floral, and entertainment [choices] were thanks to my mother-in-law. She sets the most beautiful tables and organizes the best lunch and dinner parties in her garden in Lebanon.” Together with Toni and Aline, the couple planned a three-day extravaganza, taking in some of the peninsula’s most captivating locations.

The wedding stationery was a collaboration between Jennifer El-Hage, a graphic designer and Monika’s childhood friend, and Tarek’s artist sister Yasmeen Farah. Fifi Abou Dib, the editor-in-chief of L’Officiel Levant, crafted the messaging. A three-day schedule was delivered to guests’ hotel rooms, featuring Yasmeen’s illustrations of the three different venues.

The following day’s wedding ceremony took place at the intimate Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. The groom wore a bespoke navy suit by Ermenegildo Zegna, while the bride wore a Haute Couture gown by Elie Saab. The dress, which had a square, Victorian-inspired neckline, fluted three-quarter sleeves and a dramatic train, was made from Chantilly net lace and embroidered with over 100,000 Swarovski crystals. Monika describes Saab as “someone I highly admire and love personally… I loved working with him and his team every step of the way,” she says. “He was there at every fitting in order to make sure that the dress and the finishing touches were done to perfection.”

Monika’s accessories were equally special. The earrings had been presented to her by her mother-in-law on the day of the wedding, while the elaborate lace choker worn for the reception was a repurposed headpiece. Her hair was styled by Lebanese hairstylist Joseph Constantine; for the ceremony it was worn up with a center parting and a Spanish-style veil, and for the reception it was styled into a high up-do. Monika carried a largely green bouquet by florist Hervé Frezal, an understated contrast to the drama of her bridal gown.

Mr. Saab explained the hard work, dedication and attention that went into the creation of the bride’s stunning gown; “romance was in the air with this pearl Chantilly lace gown. It was embellished with over 120,000 Swarovski crystals, and over 20 craftspeople–from embroiderers to seamstresses and pattern makers at the Elie Saab atelier in Beirut [worked on the gown]. The tailoring for the gown took more than 1,000 hours to complete.”

Monika kept her bridal party to a minimum: her fashion designer sister, Jessica Khoueiri Achkar, served as her maid-of-honor and wore a pink gown of her own design. The flower girls and page boys (comprised of both her and Tarek’s nieces and nephews) all wore Little Bluffers, Jessica’s childrenswear brand.

The wedding was officiated by Father Michel Seliniotakis, a Greek orthodox priest based in Nice, where Tarek’s parents married in 1978. Upon exiting the church, Tarek and Monika released a bundle of white balloons. Afterwards, guests were greeted by Flamenco dancers and opera singers as they walked through the villa’s Spanish and Florentine gardens to the French garden for post-ceremony cocktails.

The dinner was especially important to the couple: Tarek owns the Aline of Lebanon restaurant in London’s Mayfair, and the couple shares a love of food and wine. Cannes restaurant Lenôtre served a seasonal take on traditional French fare; an appetizer of lobster with pea velouté, sea bass with honeyed tomatoes and arugula, and a dessert buffet.

DJ Madjam provided the music, guided by the couple’s own musical tastes. “We spent many, many hours building different playlists for the different events,” Monika says, adding that their first dance was to “a beautiful jazzy remix” of ‘Good for Me’ by Above and Beyond.

Lenôtre was also behind the wedding cake — a three-tiered confection that dwarfed the bride and groom by some degree, adorned with sugar flowers, birds and sparklers.

The couple say they wouldn’t change a thing if they had to do it all over again. And they relive those special memories through the photographs, which were captured by Anna Ambrosi of Bianco Photography. “Anna took my sister-in-law’s wedding photos,” Monika says. “I thought they were the most beautiful photos ever, and completely fell in love with the style of her work—she is so passionate, artistic and emotional.”

The newlyweds continued the celebrations the following day with a party at Paloma Beach, a restaurant and bar with a private beach, named after Paloma Picasso. The theme was seashells, and guests were provided with accessories and inflatables to match. “I had custom made necklaces, bracelets, rings, and sunglasses with shells and pearls for everyone,” Monika says. Even Monika’s dress was in keeping with the theme. “The dress I was wearing for the beach party was a very special and sentimental one for me,” she explains. “It was designed by my sister—she chose a beautiful Guipure lace featuring crabs, shells and starfish.”

The couple did not move in together until after they married. As Tarek explains: “We like to enjoy things step-by-step and appreciate the value of each stage of a couple’s journey.”

Last month, the couple celebrated their first anniversary. Reflecting on the past 12 months, Monika says it is their shared love of food, sports, and a “mutual passion, love, patience, respect and understanding that makes their relationship work.

The. End.

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