August 12, 2017
Jane Shubrooks & Dr. Mehyar Mehrizi
Story by Tonya Abeln
Photos by Bella Grace Studios
By all appearances, the 200 guests who arrived at Whitehall House and Gardens on a perfectly pleasant August evening were settling in to witness a traditional Southern wedding. The bride, a fan of “Gone with the Wind,” had chosen the venue because of its resemblance to Scarlett O’Hara’s beloved Tara. What they were treated to instead was a culturally immersive and inclusive dual service that began with Sofreye Aghd, a traditional Iranian ceremony, followed by an American Christian ceremony. This Southern debutante had met her Persian prince, and soon their two cultures would become one heart and one home.
Jane Shubrooks, an alumnus of Sacred Heart Academy and Western Kentucky University, went against her instincts when she agreed to a date with Mehyar “Mayo” Mehrizi. Though he had received his medical degree from University of Kentucky, he had established a neurology practice in Bloomington, Indiana. “From my experience,” Jane recalls, “long distance relationships were hardly worth the effort.” An immediate connection over dinner suggested, however, that this one might be different. Their courtship included many miles of driving between the two cities and ultimately, Jane explains, “I packed up 29 years of my life in Louisville to move to Bloomington to take a chance on love.” That chance resulted in an engagement on a holiday cruise to the Bahamas.
“Family is important to both of us, so when it came to wedding planning, we both knew we wanted to honor the traditions of our families,” the bride explains. “A location in my hometown of Louisville meant that friends and family would be traveling far and wide to attend, both domestically and internationally.” To commemorate those efforts to attend the ceremony, guests signed a world map indicating the location of their home instead of a guestbook. The map featured a heart over Louisville and a heart over Tehran, Iran with a dotted line connecting both places. “That symbolized where we were each from, of course, but also how love is such a powerful thing.” Jane details. “It will find you no matter where in the world you are from and no matter where your future takes you.”
The music of Concentus String Quartet guided all to the ceremony location in the garden, where live painter Katherine Jury was recreating the scene for all to enjoy. Guests were given a program of the service to follow, but this one contained detailed definitions and explanations of the traditions they would witness as part of the Iranian ceremony.
Upon Jane’s veiled entrance, she was seated to the left of the groom, designating a place of respect. The spread before them consisted of a variety of symbolic elements: a basket of decorated eggs (Tokhmeh Morgh) representing fertility, a basket of fruit to indicate a joyous and fruitful future for the couple and a bowl of gold coins for financial prosperity. Above the bride and groom a canopy was held by women in their families while others took turns grinding two sugar cones together so that the granules fell onto the canopy, symbolically showering the couple in sweetness.
Perhaps the most memorable moment of the Iranian ceremony is when the officiant asks for consent to marry. True to traditional form, Jane was asked if she would marry Mayo. After moments of uncomfortable silence, members in the audience spoke on her behalf saying, “She’s out shopping with friends.” Jane was asked a second time, to which a family member yelled, “She went out to pick flowers!” Luckily, the officiant had prepared guests for this custom and the playful intention to make the guests and groom nervous by not appearing overly eager. When asked the third time, Jane responded in the affirmative, “Baleh!” which was met with a crowd of joyous clapping.
When it came time to transition to the American ceremony, Mayo and Jane stood before their guests surrounded by their wedding party in a familiar formation. The bride’s love for antique and vintage detail was visually apparent with the selection of styles represented in her wedding dress and that of her wedding party. Jane was draped in a romantic ivory gown designed by Justin Alexander and purchased from Bridal Suite of Louisville. The intricate lace bodice influenced the tea length ensembles worn by her attendants who stood beside her in two beautiful and complementary shades of purple – iris for the bridesmaids and wisteria for her two matrons of honor, her older sisters Jennifer Agurto and Julie Strange.
In addition to the groom’s best man, his brother Mehrooz Mehrizi, and groomsmen, the couple were joined by the officiant, Dr. Igor Voskresensky, the best friend of the groom for more than 15 years who had been ordained specifically for this special occasion. Jane jokes that the friend was a “vascular surgeon turned priest for a day.”
Following the final “I dos,” guests migrated through the garden to the tented reception, perfectly illuminated with hanging lights and candles. No two tables were adorned alike, but all were stunningly appointed with an abundance of flowers from A Touch of Elegance in shades of purple, pink and green. The light of silver candles was reflected by the use of more than 100 pieces of cut crystal and vintage mirrors. Each setting was complete with wedding favors – a framed photo containing a unique love quote and a monogrammed “M” cookie from Heitzman’s Bakery. A delicious buffet spread from Masterson’s Catering was topped with an elegant five-tier cake with white icing and white flowers from Sullivan Bakery – and the night was just getting started.
Immediately following the ceremony, Mayo and Jane shared their first dance to a mix of Persian and American music that featured both slow and fast rhythms and movements. “Our DJ Randy Embry with Triangle Talent worked with us to put together a really cool mix that represented both of our tastes and cultures perfectly,” recalls Jane.
That musical balance continued into the night as guests sang along to popular pop hits and then tried their hand at Persian dance. Predictably, this crowd was not ready to call it a night after the last song was played. A jubilant Mayo and Jane were navigated by friends and family back into the mansion, where they sent the couple off with chiming bells as they drove off in a Maserati. The newlyweds reunited with their guests following the reception at the after party hosted in the Jockey Silks Bourbon Bar at The Galt House Hotel. A quick change by the bride into a shorter fitted dress that featured a spectacular and show-stopping crystal back indicated to all that it was time to take the celebration back to the dance floor. The bar was transformed into a club with Persian beats ringing throughout and guests celebrated on the dance floor until the early hours of the morning.
Jane recalls fondly, “I’m often asked about my favorite part of the day, and I don’t really have one because everything went so perfectly. The most important thing to us was that we were able to share this special day with our loved ones from far and near. The theme for the day, for us, was love and friendship.” VT