Bilen G.
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My name is Bilen. I was born in Boston, Massachusetts but I grew up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. That makes me a 33-year-old “American” by nationality but Ethiopian at heart 🙂 Once I completed High School at the International Community School of Addis Ababa, I moved to the United States during the summer of 2002 to attend college. I have been living in the states since then (14 years and counting). Currently, I reside in Alexandria, VA and work for the Department of Health and Human Services in their HIV/AIDS Bureau, where I facilitate various initiatives designed to increase the health human resource capacity and improve the health outcomes of people living with HIV (PLWH). I love my job because it allows me to work on issues that affect many developing countries, including Ethiopia.

My husband and I met on a flight from Washington D.C. to Addis Ababa back in January 2013. He is a pilot for Ethiopian Airlines and walked in the airplane in his uniform while I was sitting on my seat reading a “Selamta” magazine. Shortly after his entrance, I learned that he was not working on that flight because he ended up sitting next to me as a passenger. I’ve always been terrified of flying so I shared my concern with him and he instantly started explaining the safety of planes as we prepared for take-off. Over the next 13 hours, we shared so much about each other. It was the best first date flying over the Atlantic Ocean and getting to know one another. As fate would have it, he began to frequently fly to D.C. and we kept a long distance relationship going strong for 3 years before we got married.The rest is history 🙂 I remember telling him that I wanted my close friends and family around when he proposed and I guess he took a mental note of that conversation. Fast forward 3 years, we were having a barbeque party at our house and invited our friends over. I was sitting next to one of my girls going through pictures on my phone when he got on one knee to ask my hand in marriage. I immediately jumped up from my chair and heard his beautifully scripted proposal. I will forever appreciate him for including my friends to be part of such a special moment in my life. My first thought after I said yes was OMG, I LOVE my ring 🙂 I think I still stare at it sometimes lol

Waking up on my wedding day I remember feeling Nervous, anxious, excited, emotional and happy! Having my girls by my side though calmed me and made me feel loved. What made me pick out my dress was my mother’s reaction. When she saw me in it she began to cry and that was how I knew it was the one. Since our wedding was going to take place in sunny Addis in the middle of May, I knew I wanted bright colors. I chose mustard yellow for daytime and red for our evening reception. Looking back at the pictures, I think I made the best decision picking colors that pop on pictures. Having 10 bridesmaids was definitely the icing on the cake 🙂 Those girls made me look good!

When designing the reception space I was going for a simple, yet elegant theme. I have to give a shout out to Mimi Décor in Addis Ababa because she designed our wedding from start to perfection. We went through her portfolio of work and I showed her some examples of the wedding decorations I liked and she took it from there. I am not exaggerating when I say that she transformed a huge unattractive warehouse into the most beautiful wedding venue. It was a miracle to see the transformation. Mimi and her team worked tirelessly for several weeks to deliver quality work that had us in tears. Thank you Mimi for making our dream come true. When I walked into our reception I thought “Wow… this can’t be REAL!” We chose an Amharic song by Dawit Tsige titled “Betam New Yemiwedesh.” The lyrics made it perfect for a first dance 🙂 Most memorable moment of the night was walking into our wedding reception as Mohammud Ahmed sang “Musheraye.” He’s my favorite artist of all time. The day ran so smoothly however the only thing I would have changed would have been my choice in shoes.  I was miserable during our photo session. Sometimes comfort is more important than looks. Future brides, trust me when I say this.  Another thing I wish I would have known in advance is how important it is to eat breakfast on your wedding day. In the midst of chaos, it is very easy to forget to eat so make sure you set aside some time for breakfast and coffee before your day begins.


We had two traditional ceremonies. I come from a “Gurage” family so my parents hosted “enshoshela” before the wedding and “melse” after the wedding. For my kemis I wanted it to embody royalty. When I designed my traditional dress, I wanted to make sure that it fully represented my Ethiopian culture. The “tilet” or design I chose was created 40 years ago and I loved everything about that dress. The “netela kaba” completed the look so beautifully. Thank you, Genet Paradise for creating such a royal look. Your work is flawless. As for my bridesmaids I wanted a long and elegant dress with a neckline that was comfortable to dance “eskista” all night. That was another amazing decision because the bridal party stayed on the dance floor all night. Going back to my earlier comment… comfort is key 🙂 The traditional elements that were a must for the Melse was the kitfo and Tej! I do wish we had a chance to go around the room and thank our guests at every table but that was nearly impossible to do. I say that because it is very important to appreciate those that came to share your happiness and thank them for being part of your special day. One piece of advice that I would share to current brides for the Melse is Ladies, let go and let your mom handle the planning. Moms always know best. Good Luck!

Vendor List

Vendor Thoughts Sheraton Hotel and Millenium Hall. I would totally recommend both locations.
Wedding Gown Vendor Name, absolutely!
Ceremony Location Name Sheraton Hotel by the water fountain. Yes, I would recommend this location. It’s beautiful.
Florist Vendor Name I don’t have this information.
Bridal party Attire Vendor(s) Name(s) Bella bridesmaids. Yes, I would use them again. They were professional and provided excellent customer service.
Stationary Vendor Name Fresh Office Depot inside Dembel Mall. Yes, they have awesome collection of wedding invitation cards 🙂
Photographer Vendor Name Kora Image and Girum Video. Yes, they delivered quality work.
Videographer Vendor Name Mo Video Production and Girum Video. Great work.
Reception Venue Name Millennium Hall. Perfect for a wedding with a large guest list but you will need a very talented decorator like Mimi 🙂
Traditional attire Vendor Name Genet Paradise. Yes, absolutely. Genet has a lot of experience and knows her stuff very well. Her work is simply flawless.
Makeup Artist Vendor Name? Terri Hair Salon. I loved my hair and make-up. She’s a very talented woman. I would recommend her in a heartbeat.
Hair Stylist Vendor Name? Terri Hair Style.
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