Yelena Chzham & Andrew Kantarzhi
April 18, 2013 in Miami Beach, Florida
Fresh out of college in May 2006, Andrew Kantarzhi was not looking for love. A contractor working at the time in Almaty, Kazakhstan, a former province of the Soviet Union, he was far from his hometown of San Francisco and admits he didn’t think much about the double date his friends had planned for him. But everything changed when he met native, Yelena Chzhan.
“We were from different cultures,” Andrew, who is fluent in Russian, recalls of their first meeting. “Still, we had so much in common.”
In 2010, when Andrew was transferred to Moscow, Yelena joined him. Yet, it wouldn’t be until 2012 that he would officially make his move toward marriage.
“It wasn’t something we had talked about initially,” he says. “But, as we grew older, we knew we wanted to be together.”
Determined to make the proposal a surprise, Andrew plotted with Yelena’s cousin to get all the logistics right in preparation for a family celebration taking place back in Almaty. Andrew revealed his intention at the end of dinner on Yelena’s birthday on bended knee.
“She couldn’t stop jumping up and down,” he laughs. “We were so excited about the next phase of our lives.”
Tasked with planning a wedding event for guests from around the world, Andrew and Yelena soon agreed on hosting their event in Bal Harbour, Florida, a locale roughly mid-way between California and Kazakhstan. The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, a luxurious oceanfront property brimming with Art Deco décor and modern design elements, was chosen as the backdrop for their formal event plans.
It was a cool spring evening when Yelena made her bridal debut amongst a spray of sparklers on an elevated wedding runway wearing a gown by Lazaro. She had tracked down the dress in Tampa after initial searches left her wanting something more complementary to her petite frame.
“It was not the first dress I tried on,” she admits. “But, I always knew it was ‘the one’ when I saw it in a magazine.”
White orchids, roses and peonies bundled in acrylic containers lined the path. Andrew awaited his bride under the custom-made chuppah.
“We both appreciated the tradition and the beauty of the customs that were part of our ceremony,” says the groom.
Upon the breaking of the glass, at the conclusion of their vows, fireworks kicked off the after party.
A quintet greeted the couple’s two hundred guests during cocktail hour overlooking the Miami skyline. The Astor Ballroom later served as the space for a decadent seven-course dinner followed by late night munchies.
Not ones to stay on the sidelines, the bride and groom relished in numerous opportunities to join the twelve-piece band onstage throughout the evening.
“We were blessed that everything went so well,” Andrew says. “Virtually everyone we love from around the world made such efforts to be with us on our day.”
For their honeymoon, the couple spent two weeks enjoying Playa del Carmen in Cancun, Mexico.
> Written by Dina M. Cortez