It began as a typical Washington, D.C., encounter—Beltway consultant meets beautiful Austrian embassy staffer at a Georgetown party—but despite an end-of-night exchange of business cards, both Ramzi Farah and Cornelia Gutmann discovered how quickly romance can triumph over networking.
Born in the U.S., Ramzi had nonetheless spent most of his life living in the Middle East before returning in his thirties to attend grad school at George Washington University. Vienna-born Cornelia was even newer to D.C., having lived in the city for about a year before her chance encounter with Ramzi at a Goethe Institute photo exhibition.
“Ramzi was very different from the typical D.C. guys,” she says. “He was more mature, and he had both feet on the ground. He knew exactly where he was at in his life.” Added Ramzi: “We knew within two weeks that it was love at first sight; after the first date, we kind of knew it.”
“I TURNED AROUND, AND RAMZI IS HOLDING THE RING AND ASKED ME TO MARRY HIM,” SAYS CORNELIA WHO, WITH TEARS OF JOY, ACCEPTED HIS PROPOSAL.”
Marriage had already entered the discussion a few months after the couple began dating, but a hectic day at work in early December 2011 left Cornelia feeling less than romantic as she pulled into the garage at home. As she entered the house through the mud room, however, she was greeted with the sight of a lit candle and a rose alongside a note from Ramzi: “Come on in.”
“I open the door and he’s standing there, and there are flowers and candles everywhere,” recalls Cornelia. Ramzi handed her another card—the first in what turned out to be a series of notes—leading Cornelia, scavenger-hunt-like, from room to room. Each card recalled a memorable moment the two had spent together since they met, along with a clue about where to look next.
Finally, after more than an hour of laughing and reminiscing, the trail ended in the bedroom, where a final card and a huge bouquet awaited. “I turned around, and Ramzi is holding the ring and asked me to marry him,” says Cornelia who, with tears of joy, accepted his proposal.
A few weeks later, at Christmas, the couple flew to Lebanon to meet Ramzi’s family and then on to Austria so that Cornelia could introduce her fiancée and start planning her Vienna wedding. “My biggest vision was to have my wedding with my grandparents there, since they cannot travel,” recalls Cornelia, who also wanted to capture the history and culture of her home city for her nuptials.
The couple seemingly visited every church in Vienna looking for one that would marry the Greek Orthodox Ramzi and Protestant Cornelia, but eventually found a Catholic church with a sympathetic pastor right by their reception site. After thrilling to the sight of Cornelia coming down the aisle, Ramzi recited his vows in both English and German. “That was very important to me, that he was committing himself to me in my language and that my family knew that,” says Cornelia.
The Palais Liechtenstein, a stately former museum, was transformed for the evening as guests enjoyed cocktails in the gardens before moving upstairs for dinner under the frescoed ceilings of the Hercules Room. A traditional, high-energy Lebanese Zaffe dance introduced the newlyweds to their excited guests, while the couple performed a Viennese waltz—the products of months of rehearsal—as their first dance, ending with a traditional bow and kiss. That set the stage for an evening of eclectic music and entertainment, from an operette show to a performance by funky soul and disco band the Bad Powells and dance music mixed by celebrity DJ Sam Totolee.
Ramzi and Cornelia are back living in the D.C. area, close to Ramzi’s twin brother, Samaer and are expecting twins of their own this summer. “Growing up together was a lot of fun, and Samaer and I were always there for each other,” says Ramzi. “It’s going to be a lot of fun and hard work—as my mom keeps reminding us—having and raising twins. I can’t wait to see them interact, love and care for each other, back each other up, fight with each other, even team up against us!”
Location: Palais Liechtenstein, Vienna, Austria; Caterer and Linen: Do&Co, Vienna, Austria; Cake: Demel K.u.K Hofzuckerbäcker Wien, Vienna, Austria; Event Planner and Design: Elegant Events, Vienna, Austria
Floral Design: blumen | kultur, Vienna, Austria; Wedding Dress and Veil: Pnina Tornai, Vienna, Austria
Bridal Salon: Kleinfeld, New York, NY; Grooms Tuxedo: Ermenegildo Zegna; Cinematography: Visual Elegance; Photography Assistant: Ian Holmes