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It's not surprising that Olu Ajijola, a cardiologist, and Hana Malek, then a trauma nurse, first met in an intensive care unit. It was 2009, and Olu, newly arrived in Los Angeles from Boston, came to Hana's ICU to consult on a patient; he quickly found excuses to return to "check on him." "I thought she was beautiful, and her eyes really struck me," he recalls. The two had their first date three weeks later and were soon a couple.
Other events at an ER two years later turned out to be just as fateful. Hana had suddenly become ill and was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. "Her voice on the phone, scared and sounding poorly, was one of the hardest things I've ever listened to," says Olu. He rushed to see her, and they exchanged a wordless hug. "It felt like an eternity," says Hana. "We'd known we loved each other, but we hadn't made the leap to feeling we wanted to end our lives together. That night started us on the path."
A year and a half after that, Hana came home one night to find a trail of rose petals from her door to the living room, where Olu was on one knee, holding a ring box. By then, Hana was working as a nurse part-time and had started a wedding-planning business, Venus Event Design. Together, the couple crafted a heartfelt event that honored their roots (she was born in Iran; he grew up in Nigeria).
The two wine and nature lovers found the perfect venue in the Vintage Ranch, 200 miles northwest of their home in L.A., with its views of rolling hills, olive groves, and vineyards. On June 27, 2015, Hana walked down a petal-strewn aisle to join Olu before 74 well-wishers; they said vows they had written, dipped a finger in honey to feed to each other (an Iranian ritual), and shared kola nuts given to them by Olu's parents (a Nigerian tradition). Then, before an open-air dinner of beef short ribs and seared branzino, guests met at a bar dubbed the Pharmacy to drink cocktails with names like Synapse and Code Blue in honor of their medical meeting. Few knew that Olu had carried that idea even further, engraving lines from Hana's electrocardiogram into his ring to have her heartbeat always near.
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The Invitation Suite
The letterpressed suite by Wiley Valentine had a custom monogram that was also used for wax seals.
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The Outdoor Ceremony
An aisle of red rose petals led to the ceremony marker: a 300-year-old oak tree that was "a symbol of strength," says Hana.
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The bride and groom rented a flower cart and wheelbarrow, and commissioned botanical drawings of the flowers and fruits used at the wedding, to create the feeling of an old-fashioned open-air flower market. The display included grapes and pomegranates on vines, which were used as décor throughout the event, and guests were invited to choose a favorite bloom to take home as a gift.
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Huge red peonies dominated the arrangements on long tables, and each place setting featured porcelain dishes, sourced by Hana, that contained marinated local olives. "Dinner was family-style. We wanted it to feel like a meal at home—comfortable and inviting, where guests passed plates to one another," Olu says.
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Arrangements in a mix of wooden and brass vessels held colorful farmers' market produce, along with blooms like peonies, burgundy violets, and cotinus.
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A Fruit-Adorned Cake
The buttercream-frosted cake, one of three, was adorned with sugar-coated grapes and berries as well as gold-dusted pears and figs.
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At the vineyard reception, the couple shared their first dance to "Latch" by Disclosure featuring Sam Smith, while friends and family members looked on.
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The groom and his mother—who wore a traditional Nigerian outfit, including the "gele," a traditional head tie—danced to the song "Sweet Mother" by Prince Nico Mbarga. Although the song (an ode to a wonderful mother) is 40 years old, it remains one of the most popular songs in West Africa.
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The illustrations on the canvas favor bags were designed by the bride and drawn by Noel Solomon at Fanciful Designs. Each item was symbolic: the tree was the oak tree under which the couple married; the olives were a crop at Paso Robles and were used as décor throughout the wedding; grapes represented the couple's love of wine and the reason they chose a vineyard as a venue; pomegranates were given as gifts to guests, and figs were used on the wedding cake.
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Location, Vintage Ranch
Event planning and design, Venus Event Design
Catering, Hungry Bear Catering
Flowers and day-of coordination, Oak & the Owl
Photography, Patrick Moyer
Videography, Satellite Weddings
Officiant, Rev. Diane Rehfield
Stationery, Wiley Valentine
Illustrations, Fanciful Designs
Calligraphy, Perfect Fête Designs
Ceremony and cocktail-hour music, Phil Thompson
Gospel-pop vocal music, Raise
DJ, CF Productions
Bride's gown, Marchesa
Bride's shoes, Jimmy Choo
Bride's veil, Saks Fifth Avenue
Bride's hair jewelry for reception, Twigs & Honey
Bride's engagement ring and wedding band, Tiffany & Co.
Hair and makeup, Team Hair & Makeup
Groom's suit and shirt, Hugo Boss
Groom's shoes, Massimo Matteo
Groom's bow tie, Charvet
Groom's ring, Cartier
Groom's watch, Panerai
Menswear, The Black Tux
Bar and craft cocktails, Bear & Stone
Engraved locket on bouquet, Stella & Dot
Feather quill pens for guestbook, Blue Sky Papers
Favors, Homestead Olive Ranch
Photo booth, ShutterBooth of Central California
Program, Alyssa Lynn Designs