Niya Mohammed and Kahbran White’s love has been a slow burn that developed over a quarter of a century. “We met in the fall of 1995, in front of the school library at Beverly Hills High School,” they share. “Niya was entering her freshman year of high school, while Kahbran was going into his senior year.” They reconnected four years later after Niya’s high school graduation. “In the summer of 1999, Kahbran crashed Niya’s senior beach day party in Zuma Beach. Our friendship blossomed into a relationship that evolved both platonically and romantically over the course of 25 years.”
They dated on and off over the next 20 years and even had three children together. Finally, Kahbran—who is president and CEO of Earth, Wind & Fire Music and whose late father was the band’s singer, Maurice White—got down on one knee. “We got engaged on a road trip to the Ventana Inn in Big Sur for our very first experience glamping in February of 2020,” the couple says. “Kahbran pulled off the side of the road at Bixby Bridge in Monterey and proposed as the sun was setting.”
They had no qualms about selecting a venue for their big day. “The city of Malibu holds a very special place in our hearts, and as a couple, we love to explore vineyards all across California. Cielo Farms checked all the boxes,” the pair explain. “It was located in the very city we began to date; it was local, intimate, and a vineyard!” They hoped to evoke the aura of a Tuscan villa wedding with a classic and vintage-inspired vision executed by diverse and women-owned vendor partners. Of course, there were special nods to music, as well.
Read on to see all the special details of their November 19, 2022, big day, with planning by Jessica Sloane, photography by Tracy Burch, and videography by Shutter & Sound.
The couple chose a neutral palette accented with wood and stone elements. They set the tone with a letter-pressed invitation suite on handmade ecru-colored paper.
“I wanted natural makeup with a bronze glow,” says Niya, who got ready with her daughters. “My makeup artist is known for a look she refers to as ‘bronzy glam,’ and took me on a Sephora shopping spree [pre-wedding] where we stocked up on bronzy glam products and skincare, mostly by Charlotte Tilbury.”
Niya had a white silk charmeuse gown custom-made by Patricia Nevil at L’ezu Bridal Atelier. “Patricia understood my vision immediately and easily adopted the various styles I liked from off-the-rack dresses I tried throughout my search for the perfect dress,” she says. “I immediately knew she was going to be able to execute my vision for a simple, classic, elegant, and timeless piece that still made me look and feel like a bride.”
She accessorized with freshwater pearls and pieces sourced exclusively from independent designers, including earrings by San Francisco-based Claritude Studio and a gold-lariat backdrop necklace by Atelier Petite Pierres.
Stepping out in your wedding dress and suit just makes it so real,
Kahbran got ready with his brothers and son along with the help of his longtime barber, Julien Payne from House of NOHO. The groom wore a custom design for the day. “He wore a gray suit with lavender paisley lining to complement the tones of the overall wedding: classic, clean, and semi-casual,” Niya says. His late father’s watch completed the look.
Reflecting upon their first look, Niya remembers, “Stepping out in your wedding dress and suit just makes it so real. There is just nothing like walking into the arms of your partner at that exact moment.”
“An overgrown and romantic installation created a naturalistic and old-world backdrop for the ceremony,” says the couple’s floral designer Felisa Funes from Of The Flowers. “Tall branches and vining greenery with pops of dried elements brought the surrounding Malibu landscape into the nuptial grove.” Of course, the focal point was the backdrop of mountains. An asymmetrical greenery arch at the altar served to frame—rather than block—the view.
Among their 100 guests were a few familiar faces, including Earth, Wind & Fire’s founding bassist and Kahbran’s uncle Verdine White and his wife, singer Shelly Clark.
With only one entrance to the venue, the bride and groom arrived after their guests. “We drove straight into the venue right behind the ceremony area in a vintage 1968 convertible Ford Mustang,” they share.
Kahbran entered first alongside his mom to an instrumental version of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Devotion,” a song written and recorded by his late father. After he took his place at the altar, Niya entered with her dad. “Kahbran has been making playlists for me for decades, and during the wedding planning process, he curated all of the songs to be played during the ceremony,” Niya shares. “The selections were a surprise; I didn’t hear any until the ceremony.” She entered to “Best Part” by Daniel Cesar ft H.E.R., a song from a 2018 playlist her groom had made her.
The couple’s three kids—Reece, Kaden, and Amel—served as wedding attendants, and sat adorably perched on cozy floor pillows at their parents’ side on the altar. “We wanted to make a conscious effort to support Ukraine during the war, so we picked a Ukrainian designer—Olena, the owner of Lovely Star Boutique—for [our daughters’ dresses],” Niya says. “They were blush with a neckline and back that tastefully complemented my dress.” Pearls and flower crowns were the perfect accessories for their looks.
“We both wrote our own vows, which turned into some kind of competition,” the couple shares with a laugh. “The bride’s not so good with words, and the groom’s specialty is words—but the bride dropped the mic on him.” Finally husband and wife, they recessed out to Leon Bridges’ “Beyond,” a selection from a 2016 playlist.
Guests moved into cocktail hour, where greenery and seasonal blooms abounded and a table paid homage to their lost loved ones. The couple poked fun at their long relationship, too. “The fun fact on our cocktail napkins said, ‘We dated every 5 years over the course of 25 years.'”
Texture played a big part in reception décor. The bride even decorated travertine stones, which were used as table numbers. “Table flowers leaned heavily into a mix of vines and branches, bringing to attention the curvature of stems and the shape of leaves in juxtaposition to each other,” the florist adds. “The arrangements were a celebration of the unusual and varied seasonal material.”
After spending a few moments alone with their photographer Tracy Burch for portraits, the bride and groom sat down for their reception. The dinner menu included panzanella salad, braised beef short ribs in red-wine marmalade, and chicken with sun-dried tomatoes. The couple also offered signature his-and-hers drinks. Niya chose a blood-orange margarita and Kahbran selected a bourbon cocktail with Angostura bitters and an orange peel. A dessert station complete with liquid cheesecake shots and churros featured their fruit-topped salted caramel cake.
As the evening progressed, guests took the mic to say kind words about the couple. “The speeches were all just so heartwarming,” the bride and groom reminisce. “We were both overwhelmed by the amount of love and support we have from all of our family and friends.”
For the second part of the reception, Niya changed into a beaded top and high-waisted pants. “The whole [second look] came about after falling in love with a pair of off-white cowgirl boots from Tecovas,” she says. “I knew that somehow, some way, I had to incorporate these boots into the day! I also wanted an excuse to get out of my heels to freely dance the night away.” That’s exactly what she did, soaking up every second of their musically inspired affair.
Though it’s traditionally held the day before a wedding, Niya and Kahbran hosted their ankar mahtub ceremony the day after their wedding, turning it into a backyard affair at home with family and friends to close out the weekend. Niya had her custom attire—a gey ganafi, fotha, and headpiece known as the siyaasa—made by Harari Bridal and Harari Boutique. “Deeply rooted in Harari-Ethiopian tradition, the ceremony serves as a unifying celebration for families and the community,” Niya shares. It’s derived from an ancient practice of ceremonially cleaning a cow, and symbolizes honor and blessings for the newlyweds.
Finally, after their long-awaited and perfect wedding weekend, the newlyweds jetted to Bora Bora for a romantic honeymoon. “Share in the wedding planning process as much as possible,” the couple advises other to-be-weds. “We really focused on our respective strengths to allow for us both to contribute to the wedding in a meaningful and memorable way. The groom felt so proud of the areas of the planning process that he owned, as did the bride. This became an experience we shared together.”