I’ve decided, I’m having a chocolate wedding. Will you marry me?

I saw something this past Saturday that made me rethink my wedding entirely.

[Mom, and the two hundred Indian aunties out there who I know, and don’t know – but who are convinced that they’ve rocked me to sleep when I was barely three months old – all of whom are fervently praying for my wedding to happen, please note that NO such wedding is currently in the works. A girl’s gotta engage in a bit of strategic pre, pre-planning these days, and that’s all I’m doing here.]

ANYWAY, getting back to what I saw that inspired me to rethink my not-happening wedding, it was an ‘edible’ segment of the Abu Dhabi bridal show, hosted exclusively by ChoCo’a. ChoCo’a is a local chocolaterie ruled by a husband-wife team whose passion for chocolate and confectionery transforms a simple plate of dessert into hedonistic art.  They’ve managed to rope in some ridiculously talented French chefs into their empire, and preside over oodles and oodles of exquisite Belgian chocolate, desserts and tantalizing cakes. I had first heard of their name when I sampled a slice of one of their elaborate two tier cakes for a baby shower…massive chocolate base encased in blue fondant, with a pink enrobed vanilla pedestal holding two laced baby booties. It was beautiful, I thought. And probably tasted of sugary plastic inside. But that first bite, that first bite spanked me and my misconceptions like no other cake in Dubai has ever done. Not too dense, nor so airy that every other chew gets wasted on a gigantic annoying air space that’s lodged between the cakey crumbs, not too sweet, not too over flavored, nor too fancy or distracting. These were just perfectly textured, honest-to-goodness vanilla and chocolate cakes that are the only cakes that I can remember having really touched my cake-crazed soul since I moved back home to Dubai. So, when I heard that Choco’a was designing an edible collection for the Bridal Show, I became possessed with the thought of butting myself in like the pesky paparazzi and getting my chocolate scoop firsthand.

And so there I was backstage with a team of enormously friendly ChoCo’a’ers and their agents – the founders Dina and Assem Hamzeh, chefs Raymonda Saadeh and Frederic Legras, their Production Manager Reshmi Sashidhar, ChoCo’a’s Business Development Manager and smiling photographer Reem Bsat, Divine stylist and founder Kelly Lundberg…and the lady who I hold personally grateful for getting me the rights to snoop around, Hala Sarieddine, Weber Shandwick’s PR account manager for ChoCo’a, whose bubbling energy spilled out even over the phone as she was arranging for me to join the team. To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised, even shocked…not only were they welcoming me in backstage right in those jittery minutes before the show, but they were doling out dark chocolate Belgian coins, giving me detailed descriptions of the dresses and accessories, and letting me stick my nosey camera into the dresses and models alike, snapping away as though my finger had been fused with my camera’s shutter button.

The Choco'a team at work backstage

On a separate, but very critical note, I personally witnessed the models at the show eat chocolate. Reread that every-lady-who-goes-on-a-guilt-trip-after-having-had-her-chocolate-fix, I SAW MODELS EATING CHOCOLATE. It warmed my heart to see them dig into ChoCo’a’s snack box of delectable dark chocolate coins back stage, and even come back for seconds and thirds. Skinny Words of Wisdom – NEVER shalt thou feel guilty about being enslaved to chocolate again.

Chef Frederic Legras' delectable creations for the Bridal Show

So using ChoCo’a’s designs at the Bridal Show, as well as what I’ve seen in their shop in Barsha, let me start laying out the pre-pre-plan for My Big Fat Chocolate Wedding,* as simply summarized on the nearest paper napkin that could bear the fruits of my inspiration when the idea hit me.

The Napkin Master Plan

As I transform my excitable chickenshi scrawlings into the chocolate dream that this could be, I am going to assume my most hypnotically enchanting writer’s voice, almost Enigma like, to really immerse you in the chocolate experience I have laid out.

[For all those of my friends who really know me and are cackling right now at my attempt to be magically romantic, this is not a joke people, WORK WITH ME HERE.]

[And for those who are sticklers of wedding minutiae, please note that I am not describing the actual wedding ceremony – this is a plan for the wedding reception, which leaves more room to be creative and non-traditional, and where I can whimsically insert chocolate any which way I like without offending any religious sensibilities. AS IF chocolate could ever offend.]

*all plans are subject to the mommy veto, which inevitably gets exercised when least convenient for me.


***THE PLAN***

(PS. In case you see numbers in square parentheses, those map to my very systematic napkin plan)

You (not the bride/groom but a privileged guest) stroll into the reception hall, instantly seduced by the heady aroma of spiced dark chocolate snaking through the air. Your path into the hall [1] is guided by intricately layered arrangements of chocolate, wrapped in deep maroons and soft, shimmering golds…

Your eyes are instantly drawn to a covered canopy at the far end of the hall (presumably for the bride and groom), with dusky brown and cream macaroons threaded together in a circular web encasing the roof [2], and then spilling over onto the sides as delicate macaroon tassles.
Macaroon designs for the wedding inspired by ChoCo
ChoCo'a's macarooned model

From the corner of your eye, you catch a glimpse of the wedding cake [3]. You turn around to  take in the full four tiers, simple but elegant, with tender maroon sugar rosettes inching their way round the concentric layers. You, and you alone know, that beneath that innocent white fondant lay layers of dreamy vanilla and chocolate cake, crafted with the sort of texture and teasing sweetness that makes you want to claw savagely at it until you’ve gobbled every last crumb dream of mermaids and unicorns.

The 'wedding cake hat'...while the sugar fondant and flowers on the outside were edible, the insides were made of styrofoam rather than cake, to prevent it from weighing down the model
...though on second thoughts, I'd like my rosettes to look more like the ones I found on Choco
As you wait expectantly for the bride, you feel your tummy begging for a sip, a nibble, a lick, of something chocolate.
(You may have noticed that despite my planning out my own Chocolate fantasy of a wedding, I have just referred to myself in distant third person as ‘the bride.’ Speaking in first person risks the high likelihood that aunty #109 will read one little snippet out of context, whisper it to aunty #198, who would then annouce to the world that I am betrothed, and before you have it, my remaining one hundred and ninety aunties will grab the occasion to rope an utterly perplexed and dumbfounded me to some poor unsuspecting groom. To play it safe, I shall henceforth only refer to “The Bride.”)
At that precise moment, just as you were on the verge of stealthily snagging a sugar rosette off the arrangement on the side table…


Sorry folks, but life usually happens in episodes [other than the fact that you and I both do need to tear ourselves away from the computer and attend to the non-chocolate banalties of life]. So as cliched as this sounds, stay tuned for the rest of the plan.

(Disclaimer: Choco’a has neither paid me or given me free gifts to write this post, unless you count those delectable Belgian chocolate discs they were handing out to everyone backstage. I did have to agree to timing my post after their PR release, and while I was not open to their editing any of my opinions, I did give them the option of asking me to put a hold on my post if they really felt like the content would be detrimental to their business. I was confident enough about the quality of their work to know that this post could not have been anything but positive, and hence gave them that rare editorial veto.)


Al Barsha, Behind Mall of the Emirates
Dubai, UAE
Tel: +971 4 340 9092
Email: boutique@chocoa.ae

They also have a store in Abu Dhabi, check out their website for details on location

Author: InaFryingPan

With a family legacy of ingenious cooks, a nutritionist and chef-extraordinaire mother, and a father who introduced me to steak and caviar when I could barely reach the table, I had no choice but to acquire a keen awareness of food during my childhood years in Dubai. But it was only after I found myself on a college campus in Philadelphia – far away from home, too cheap as a student to spend on anything other than pizza, and with dorm rooms that had little rat-holes of kitchens if they even had them at all – when I developed a heightened appreciation of food. An appreciation of food that I once ate every night at the dinner table in Dubai, but that was now an entire ocean away. I lusted for the culinary treasures that lay outside the stale walls of my college dining hall, hijacked friends’ kitchens to try my hand at something, anything , remotely edible, and greedily raided different websites in search of highly-rated restaurants. With my move to New York to work for a consulting firm that secretly harbored self-professed foodies, my appreciation transformed into a passion, an addicition. I felt like everyone around me in New York was talking about food: where to get the best cupcakes, pizza slices, banh mi, kati rolls, pho, fried chicken, and every other food item out there that is just a plain old dish in some part of the world, but that’s become hyped to unforeseen proportions in New York. What fuelled my addiction over time was travel to different cities, both for work and play, which gave me unfettered access to the culinary havens of not only New York, but also of DC, Virginia, Chicago, Houston, Vegas, Austin, Seattle and even a little city called Bentonville (Arkansas!). After 9 years away from home, I’ve finally taken the leap to come back to Dubai – with not just an awareness, but genuine appreciation and passionate addiction for what I’d taken for granted as a child. Mom, I’m back to reclaim my seat at your dinner table, and to rediscover this city with its ever-expanding menu of international flavors.

10 thoughts on “I’ve decided, I’m having a chocolate wedding. Will you marry me?

  1. Sukaina says:

    Just fantastic……waiting for the next cho’coa episode! All the photos are just fantastic….don’t ask me for advice woman! I need to get tips from you man!!!

  2. chefandsteward says:

    Very honest, unpretentious writing that flows nicely. Nice photos too. Well done Arva. Very well done indeed!

  3. Maeesha says:

    Amazing! I have all ready started searching for the Mr. Arva Perfect so that I can be the best woman at the Big Fat Chocolate Wedding! Miss u.

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @Vismay – Yep, safe to say that I have OD-ed on chocolate this week.

      @Rajani – Imagine the state I’m in then. LOONY TOONS.

      @Sally – Thank you! :)

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @Nausheen – Thanks for stopping by! Glad you found this entertaining :)

      @Reem – Thank you, though it was what YOUR team did at the show that was really amazing. Keep up the great work and spreading the Choco’a goodness to the rest of Dubai ;)

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