“It was a lovely Thursday evening. I was invited to a gallery opening in Chelsea with a friend and was planning to then meet with another girlfriend in the area after my event. It was one of those perfect New York evenings — spontaneous, full of life, and packed with unexpected surprises,” Tara Kangarlou recalls about May 19, 2016, the day she met Joel Mossberg. “I was still working for Al Jazeera America and he had recently moved from London to join his team in New York. When we met, little did we know that six years later, we’d be getting married during that same weekend and would shoot our engagement shots in that same neighborhood, against the backdrop of the venue where we met.”
The serendipitous meeting, as we now know, would change the duo’s lives. But luck wasn’t the only factor at play for Kangarlou and Mossberg once they began dating. “From very early on, [we] decided to make sure that we carve out time for one other,” she says. “We’re also both creatures of habit and tend to go back to the same restaurants, cafes, hotels, and places that we have built relationships with over the years. I remember our first date at NYC’s Musket Room as if it was yesterday. In fact, we went back again the weekend of our engagement shoot in December 2021. I think from the start of our relationship, we both took comfort in each other’s global outlook and the reality that we both had an apartment in the city, but could pack up and leave “home” and find ourself comfortably settled on the other side of the world.”
For the unacquainted, Tara Kangarlou’s roots lie in Iran. The award-winning journalist, who is also an author and humanitarian, was born and raised in Tehran, before traveling through Europe and Asia as a child and eventually settling in California, USA. Not unlike her, investment banker Joel Mossberg’s life journey has taken him around the globe as well, from Stockholm to London, to New York and Milan. “I feel we both had an inevitable global spirit and multicultural essence that allowed us to create a stronger bond,” Kangarlou elaborates. “In 2018, I was in the midst of reporting and writing my book The Heartbeat of Iran when Joel was asked to move back to Stockholm for work. I then decided to move across the pond to London and see where our relationship will take us next.” Among her favorite memories of their eventful relationship was the day Mossberg met her mother for the first time in Las Vegas (“Joel’s suitcase got lost for the first 24 hours of the trip and as a result he was quite nervous; I remember my mom and I bought him a pocket square to cheer him up before our dinner.”), and it wasn’t too long before the parents met one another. “My mom and I hosted a cozy yet beautiful Thanksgiving dinner for Joel and his father,” she recalls.
A unique couple deserves a unique proposal, and Tara Kangarlou’s “Yes!” moment had all the makings of a fine anecdote. In the midst of the crushing first wave of COVOID-19, the couple found themselves bedridden and battling the pandemic for weeks, enclosed in Stockholm while the world slowly came to terms with a new way of life. As the months passed on and boutiques began opening their doors once again, Joel gifted Tara a “a very special, yet more casual ring”, taking her to their favorite hotel in Stockholm—the hauntingly romantic Ett Hem—to pop the question.
“There was no kneeling on one knee, but a promise of a lifetime of love, compassion, and adventure, and that there will be a more colorful proposal post pandemic,” she says. While plans of an August 2021 wedding were shot down during the second wave, Mossberg did manage to sweep his bride-to-be away for Proposal 2.0, which took place at their favorite hotel in Venice, Belmond Cipriani. “It was also during this weekend that we made our very first wedding purchase,” Tara explains, revealing that their buy was a bespoke Venetian mirror for their Sofreh ceremony, a traditional Iranian wedding ceremony.
Planning the wedding
“I suppose neither one of us ever imagined to be marrying a Swede or an Iranian, but over the past few years, we’ve had the privilege of experiencing how true love knows no borders and barriers,” Tara says about her love story. “So naturally, planning our big day ended up being a marriage of the East and West, a magical journey on what was once known as the Silk Road— that bridged distinct cultures and countries to one another through trade — except ours was through love.”
With the hope of celebrating two different cultures seamlessly, Kangarlou took a hands-on approach for her wedding, which took place in London, a spot that was easily accessible to guests from all over the world. “I planned/designed pretty much the entire wedding, and my planner played more of an execution role on the day and the months leading up to the big day,” she explains. “Knowing that we would have many non-Iranian and non-Middle Eastern guests at the wedding, I wanted to make sure that I properly introduce our guests to my part of the world through the many details and elements of the wedding. Perhaps similar to what I did in my book, I tried to capture the history, art, culture, and the many colors of Iran and the Persian culture that the western world often misses to see in the mainstream. At the same time, I wanted to honor Joel’s Scandinavian roots, our life in Europe, and of course the American in me within the many layers of our wedding weekend.”
To make sure that her big day had an authentic aesthetic, Kangarlou made sure that every Iranian and Middle Eastern element came straight from the original source—a gruelling process that took nearly two years. One example is the ‘rose water’ station at her wedding, which was made to replicate “the glorious ‘Golab Giri’ ritual (aka rose water ceremony) that’s annually held in the village of Qamsar, Kashan, where local farmers distill millions of Damask roses into the purest form of rosewater made in the world.” Along with the rosewater flown in from Kashan, the ceremony also saw two women dressed in traditional wear from Isfahan. Interestingly, Kangarlou shares that “for every Persian element in the wedding, we decided to also include a Swedish tradition — including the beautiful ‘midsommer’ festivity that inspired us to ask Joel’s two nieces to hand out flower crowns to guests upon arrival whilst wearing their traditional Swedish outfits.”
The melange of cultures also extended to the wedding gifts—from Iran, guests received handmade pink and red porcelain pomegranates (the national fruit of Iran and a symbol of love, fertility, and passion) and from Sweden came Lingonberry jam, an absolute favorite in the country—and, it comes as no surprise, to the wedding menu. Kangarlou had a friend hand carry 40 boxes of ‘Shirnis’ (pastry in Farsi) to London prior to the wedding, while the couple opted for Swedish Princess Cake for their wedding cake. Then came the individualized herb platters (a staple in every Persian table), and hints of pomegranate, saffron, and pistachio in the dishes for a taste of Iran.
Held at the Four Seasons Hampshire, Tara and Joel’s wedding was unlike any other that’s taken place at the hotel. Though neither the bride or groom is particularly religious, they did bring in cultural elements to transform their wedding space for a unique experience. “In collaboration with BloomingHaus, I asked to replicate the walls of the grand “pink mosque” of Shiraz that dates back to the 19th century — a reminder of the internal peace we can find from within no matter where we are in the world,” Kangarlou elaborates. And in honor of her late father, who was a follower of Persian Sufi and poet, Molana (Rumi), the duo chose to bless their wedding ceremony with a poem from Rumi, that was performed by contemporary Iranian musicians, along with a Sufi dance.
Another sweet element at the wedding was how the couple brought their travels into the decor. “We decided to name each dinner table after a unique city Joel and I visited in the past,” the bride tells us. “So in each escort box, guests would find a little card with the name of the city (their table name) with a little anecdote of our time in that “city”, which was then paired with an evil eye that I have brought all the way form Istanbul for the night. (140 evil eyes to be exact!).”
The bride’s wedding ensembles
“While my profession deems a very serious lifestyle, in my personal life, I try to balance all that tension, seriousness, and at times heart-rendering realities with some beauty, fashion, and color,” Tara tells Vogue Arabia, revealing that while she is a private person by nature, her wedding brought with it a great opportunity to spotlight the rich tapestry of her Persian roots.
“Even before meeting my now husband, I knew that I would want my wedding dress to be by none other than the legendary Oscar de la Renta. My love for him started with my mother – seeing her speak so highly of his fashion growing up in Iran and traveling to NYC as a child. I remember the first piece of Oscar I bought for myself and of course how in 2014, I rushed to his Madison boutique soon after his passing to make sure I got one last piece designed by Oscar himself,” she recalls. To celebrate her Middle Eastern culture, Kangarlou was able to do her bridal fitting that “so beautifully underscored the spirit of travel and the ever-present bond between the East and West”—against the backdrop of a 17th century oil on canvas painting from Oscar de la Renta’s Paris boutique, which shows the journey of the French from Europe to the Holy City’ of Jerusalem, further glorified by the depiction of the “Al Aqsa” mosque.
“For the wedding, I had two ODLR dresses: One gown that for me looked like a swan (a favorite animal of myself and Joel), and a more modern gown that I fell in love with the minute I saw it in Oscar’s bridal campaign that I ended up wearing during the cake cutting ceremony. For the after-party, I opted for a super modern yet very classic and elegant Elie Saab belted macramé playsuit that reflects his ever-present romantic aesthetics. At the same time, idealizing Audrey Hepburn my entire life, the dress somehow reminded me of her and I thought this is something that Audrey would for sure approve of.” Along with these, for their first dance, Tara opted for a dot tulle and guipure lace dress by Swedish designer Ida Sjöstedt.
As for the groom, Joel opted for a bespoke morning suit by Luca Rubinacci for the wedding ceremony, going with Prada creations for the welcome drinks and after-party. A Dunhill tuxedo won his vote for the reception, while the second after-party had him sporting an outfit by Dolce & Gabbana.
Prior to wedding, the couple also hosted guests for an afternoon of drinks and dancing. For the occasion, the bride wore a special custom-made dress that took her more than a year to bring to life. “In hopes of highlighting yet another historic and exquisite art form from Iran, I wanted guests to witness the delicate and millennia-old “Suzan Duzi”, meaning “needle work”, of Baluch women—a special embroidery technique that’s unique to the tribal women of the Sistan-Baluchestan province in southeast Iran, bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan.” Usually used as a decoration of local dresses, Suzan Duzi dates back to the 7th century and is a heritage art form recognized by UNESCO. “After a few back and forth telephone conversations, sketching the design, outlining the colors, and sending the right measurements, Sima, my friend in Sistan Baluchestan, sent the design to an artisan in a village near her hometown of Chabahr.”
“For my jewelry, it was such a pleasure to work with W. Salamoon, one of the most prestigious family-owned jewelry houses from Lebanon,” Kangarlou shares. “For the welcome drinks I chose to wear a pair of oval ruby drop earrings and matching ring that complemented the colors of my Baluchi dress. At Annabel’s, I opted for a pair of pearl diamond studs for a more modern look that complemented the intricate crystal and pearls of my Miu Miu dress. Then, for the wedding, I chose a simple diamond stud and a two-tone flower-motif necklace for the ceremony; and later changed into an incredible drop diamond earrings that matched the leaves of my ODLR cake dress.”
The wedding ceremonies
“Joel and I hosted our welcome drinks reception at the Ancient Iran hall of British Museum, since it was the one place in the whole of Europe that housed the most valued Persian artifacts, much of which dated back millennia and encapsulated thousands of years of history and heritage of my homeland,” Tara shares.
“Historic Persian remains such as the Cyrus Cylinder — also known as the first declaration of human rights — and the great walls of the glorious Achaemenid Empire were among the many treasures that transported guests on a once-in-a-lifetime journey to ancient Iran. There, I asked an incredible group of London-based Iranian musicians to play traditional Iranian instruments such as Daf, Setar and Kamancheh.” The celebration the continued at the Wallace Collection in honor of Joel’s European heritage. Here, guests enjoyed Swedish canapés designed by Tara while visiting Europe’s most romantic works of art, including pieces by Jean-Honoré Fragonard and François Boucher.
“The Sofreh-e-Aghd is an Iranian traditional wedding ceremony spread, and historically, takes place in a beautifully decorated room with flowers and an elaborately decorated Sofreh,” Kangarlou shares, explaining that “sofreh” means “spread”, while “aghd” means “union ceremony”.
“During the ceremony, the groom always sits on the right hand side of the bride given that for the Zoroastrians, the right side designates a place of respect. During the service, female relatives of the couple (mainly the bride) hold over the couple’s head a fine and delicate fabric, while other married female relatives rub two cones of rock sugar over the bride and groom’s heads as a symbolic act to sweeten their life as a married couple. For our wedding, this delicate veil was made by my mom from a similar tulle fabric that matched my wedding gown.”
Tara’s favorite part of the wedding
“I can’t stop thinking about our first dance, which we practiced for months despite both Joel and myself’s very busy schedule, and the fact that he lives in Milan and I in London, and had to juggle a million things in between. It was such a team work and I think we delivered!”
“Immediately after the wedding Joel and I went to Monaco for the Grand Prix. We called that our “honeymoon” 1.0 (keeping the tradition of our proposal). But for our honeymoon 2.0, we want to go back to St. Barths, which is one of our favorite destinations and in fact, the first place that Joel and I went together as a couple back in 2017,” Tara concludes.
Below, take a closer look inside the multicultural wedding that brought together the best of the east and the west.