Capturing the history

Vanessa Denha Garmo

Vanessa Denha Garmo

These pictures of my parents live in a family photo album. They were taken in the late 50s in Iraq where my parents were married. Not quite sure the year she was born, my mother was either 14 or 15 on her wedding day. My father about ten years older. 

They were from two different villages – my mom from Alquosh and my dad from Telkeppe. It was kind of a forbidden union.  My dad used to say, it was as silly as someone from West Bloomfield getting upset because his child married someone from Southfield. Today, it is more of a commentary between East side and West side but that is another story.

My mother actually had two weddings gowns – one she wore during her wedding in Telkeppe, which she donated to the nuns for brides who couldn’t afford wedding dresses. She later wore another gown in Bagdad for professional photos.  That particular picture hangs in my living room next to my wedding photo and a photo of my in-laws on their wedding day. 

Sabri and Souriya Denha 1957.jpeg

My father’s family picked up my mother and her family from Alquosh and took them to Telkeppe for the wedding. They married on the same day with two other couples inside the same church and by the same Bishop. 

They had a dinner party at my father’s house on the roof that also included people celebrating downstairs in the hallway and courtyard. My mother has talked about how the entire town came out to watch their celebration and she said families in Alquosh came out to watch my father’s family come to get my mother. 

They had a maid of honor and three bridesmaids and best man and three groomsmen.  The music played all over Telkeppe with a Tubble and Zyrna (musical instruments).

“We danced in the streets and as we were going around, we ran into the other two weddings that day,” my mom noted. “We actually joined each other’s weddings for a bit and then went back to our own wedding. It was really a historic event in Telkeppe at the time. It was one big celebration.”

In this issue we bring you our annual wedding guide with a bit of a twist. We wanted to know what weddings were like in Iraq and how they have changed over time and over an ocean. 

I really had a fun time talking to Samira and Peter Essa over chai and yummy Kelecha (Chaldean cookies) about their wedding that took place almost 60 years ago. I so want her recipe. Thanks to their daughter Teresa for setting up the interview. 

They also shared a bit more with me about their experience in Iraq and arrival to America, which I thought fitting to include. My parents were married not long before Peter and Samira. My mother was, unexpectedly, stuck in Iraq just like the Essas because of the revolution that was going on at the time. I share that experience in the cover story. 

“When we visited Telkeppe,” noted Peter, “Your grandfather took us around and introduced me to people. Your father was my translator, because I didn’t speak the language.” 

I am so happy to share their story and the story about our weddings in this issue’s cover story. Thanks to Mary Romaya and Fr. Manuel Boji for giving me a history lesson on our Chaldean wedding traditions.  

That is not all we include in our wedding guide. Our event planners give us insight on the trends for 2018 while our photographers show us their favorite photos over the years and tell us why the love them so much. 

We have several other stories tied into the wedding theme.  We hope we captured the history and tradition sufficiently in this issue. 



Alaha Imid Koullen
(God Be With Us All)
Vanessa Denha Garmo
Follow her on Twitter @vanessadenha
Follow Chaldean News on Twitter @chaldeannews