If Sara Battikh had known she was flying into the fifth largest snowstorm in Boston’s history, she might have changed her plans. The Penn State senior was visiting a friend and arrived just before the airport shut down. Snowed in for days, they finally ventured out to a nightclub to meet the boyfriend of Sara’s host. “After a while, I wanted to leave,” says Sara. “That’s when my friend decided to convince me to stay by finding someone interesting for me to talk to.”
Enter Fadi Turjman, a senior at nearby Babson College. Sara and Fadi discovered they had a lot in common with their Middle Eastern heritage and birth places in Panama and Guatemala, respectively. Before the evening ended, Fadi invited Sara out to eat, but she had come for a girls’ weekend and warned him he’d have to dine with the group, which didn’t deter him at all.
“SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL AND DAZZLING AND WE BOTH WERE CRYING...”
Their relationship deepened with frequent phone calls, and by the time they graduated, the long distance romance had bloomed. Over the next few years, their paths diverged as he moved to Venezuela and she attended grad school. As she headed home to Panama, he then moved to Guatemala, but they traveled to see each other often.
When Fadi was ready to propose to Sara, he knew he had to do it near her family in Panama. Fadi flew in that morning and hid out, while Sara was tricked into thinking she was going to a women’s networking event. “I arrived and was shown to an elevator. When the doors opened for me to get off, it was dark, and I’m thinking this is crazy,” explains Sara.
Then, she noticed candles and white rose petals lining the hallway with Fadi in the distance. He began talking and she started crying. “I cried though the entire proposal,” says Sara, who said, “Yes.” They ate an intimate dinner and then, in the tradition of Panama, joined a champagne and appetizer reception with close friends and family.
“This happened on Saturday,” says Sara. “My mom immediately called the wedding planner and by Tuesday we had the entire wedding arranged.”
A year later, guests gathered in Panama City, Panama, for the couple’s Greek Orthodox wedding conducted in Arabic, Latin and Spanish. Bountiful baby’s breath decorated the church making Sara feel like she was floating in a cloud. “She was beautiful and dazzling and we both were crying,” says Fadi about seeing his bride enter.
The eight hundred people who came to celebrate the couple were welcomed at the reception by a 12-piece band and abundant food stations that stayed open all night. In the Lebanese tradition, the groom and his party made their entrance first, accompanied by an Arabic singer and orchestra. “We were singing and clapping when my cousin lifted me onto his shoulders,” says Fadi. “The momentum, along with the great music, food and drinks was the basis for a great party.”
Acrobats with wing-like sleeves descended from the ceiling to announce the bride’s grand entrance, as Sara came down a stairway on the arm of her father to meet Fadi. Dancing continued all night long with alternating sets from the Spanish band, the Arabic musicians and a DJ. “The evening was amazing,” says Sara, “and what made me happiest was having all those people there for us.”
At one a.m., la hora loca, or “the crazy hour,” a Miami-based DJ arrived with neon props, hats, balloons and flags to go along with a quick meal of pizza, fries and gyros to refuel the revelers. It was seven the next morning when the exhausted newlyweds finally called an end to the party.
Fadi planned their honeymoon in three parts. “Each was meant to create a different set of experiences and emotions,” he says. They started with an “intense” city experience in Hong Kong, moved to Bali for the cultural “magic,” and ended in a private villa in the Maldives to relax and just be together.
Ceremony Location: Catedral Orthodox Griega Panama City, Panama; Reception Location: Sheraton Grand Panama Panama City, Panama; Planner: Carlina Terrientes Panama; Floral and Event Design: Grupo Pompa Panama City, Panama; Wedding Dress: Ziad Nakad; Groom’s Attire: Gieves & Hawkes; Cake: Carmelitas Panama City, Panama