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On Top of the World

By Cristina Wilson | Photography by Richard Israel Photography

Posted: Monday, Dec. 02, 2013

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When the groom is from Germany, the bride is from Turkey, and the artistic couple invites Richard Israel as part-guest, part-photographer, you have a perfect recipe for beautiful details and a distinctive celebration, as was the case for Isil Ecevit and Sebastian Dohnke’s summer nuptials.

“We met in December, had our first date in February, and bought a house together in July. It sounds crazy, but it felt right,” says Isil of the Charlotte couple’s whirlwind beginning. Two Decembers after their initial meeting, the pair celebrated Christmas in Germany with Sebastian’s family—including his Paris-based sister and her family—and Isil’s mother from Turkey. Sebastian stole Isil away for a “Christmas surprise”: time to enjoy a cherished childhood activity for both of them, ice skating, in a rink he had arranged for them to use privately. With 50 lit Christmas trees providing the only glow in the room, and a soundtrack of meaningful songs to create a romantic ambience, Isil savored the surreal moment even before Sebastian dropped to one knee to propose. And a few minutes after she said yes, Sebastian further sweetened the moment as he brought out mulled wine from the sidelines, and their families joined them for a few celebratory laps around the ice, too.

The entire planning process swiftly became an international affair. “It was such an international mix,” says Sebastian of the gathering. “We both have that American side [from living here several years], and have family and friends from America, Isil’s side is from Turkey, my sister being French, and even Richard [Israel] from the UK, so it just worked with everybody.”

Isil herself is a photographer, and Richard Israel as their choice for photography was a no-brainer. “I realized right away that Richard was very into art, and saw everything in an art perspective,” says Isil. “I didn’t give him any directions; I just said be yourself and do what you want to do. I knew it would be beautiful, and it was even more beautiful than we expected.”

The entire weekend unfolded as a blending of their cultures. “Legally, you have to get married in the German version of City Hall, and then if you want you can have a religious ceremony,” Sebastian explains. But both services are considered sacred—Isil and Sebastian incorporated an opera singer and pianists for their courthouse ceremony of 50 guests, and welcomed them to Sebastian’s parents’ house in Hanover afterward for an afternoon of catered food, games, and relaxation.

The next day, the couple stole away after their church ceremony of 150 guests for a special photo session with Richard at the Church of Aegidien, a medieval basilica that was destroyed during World War II and left in remains as a memorial. With the haunting and beautiful photos captured, the couple proceeded to their reception, where a belly dancer and hip scarves for guests quickly broke the ice to get the party started. Dishes like borek (a Turkish pastry of beef or spinach) and currywurst (a German fried pork sausage served with curry ketchup) demonstrated the integration of the couple’s backgrounds. And a blend of German, Turkish, and American music kept the evening lively all night long—the reception went strong from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

“It sounds ridiculous,” says Sebastian, “but we had cake and dessert between 12 and 1 in the morning, plus a second stage of food. In our hometown there’s a café that makes unbelievable cakes, so we chose 9 or 10 different types of cakes and my mom did two special German chocolate cakes, too.”

After the two-day affair came to a close, the couple spent a few days visiting friends and family through Munich, Salzburg, and Paris. Not even a European tour can quench the travel thirst for this adventurous couple, though—they’ll be hitting the road again in February for a three-week honeymoon, backpacking through China, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Featured Vendors

Bachelorette Party Location
Osso Restaurant & Lounge
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Rings
Diamonds Direct SouthPark
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Vendors
Richard Israel Photography, photos
Kaffeehus Bahls, cake
Kirsten Krinn Eventfloristik, flowers
White and Night, gown
Jos. A. Bank, tuxedos
Reeds Jewelers, wedding rings
Haarwek Friseursalon, hair
Hanne Ziems, makeup
Paper Source, products for stationery
St. Michaelis-Kirche Bissendorf, church
Burg Konigsworth, reception location

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