Corona Del Mar, Calif. – Sitting across the dining table from Nassim Alisobhani and Justin Yanuck is an exercise in self-restraint.
She is a law student; he is a budding doctor. In May, this Muslim woman and Jewish man will be married in a hybrid ceremony. They are such a cute couple with fresh hopes and fresh dreams, you want to hug them.
But, in truth, you are more likely to want to console them.
Dozens of relatives from across the globe already are saying they can’t come to celebrate Alisobhani’s and Yanuck’s vows. In the wake of President Donald Trump’s new visitor and visa policies, chaos and fear reign from Iran to Canada.
“We live in a world where, literally, they can’t come see us,” Alisobhani quietly says. “I feel so bad. These are just good, generally happy people.”
Many American consulates have canceled or indefinitely postponed meetings for visas, relatives report. There is confusion about how soon visas will become available. There is concern over possibly more changes for visitors to America.
What if guests buy plane tickets and the White House changes policy? What if they land in the U.S. and a Homeland Security agent turns them away because they were born in Iran or they recently visited Iran? Could dual citizenship with their birth country and an adopted country be a liability?
The saddest thing about the couple’s marooned guests is that many of Alisobhani’s relatives fled Iran years ago.
The most ironic thing is that they left because they feared persecution in the wake of Iran’s 1978 revolution, the same revolution that saw 52 Americans held hostage for 444 days in the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
The sweetest thing about this wedding mess is that Alisobhani and Yanuck are well aware that their predicament is nothing compared to what many are going through.
“We’re two very privileged people,” Yanuck tells me in the Alisobhani family home in Corona Del Mar. “In the grand scheme of things, this is minor.”
But nothing about love and marriage is minor.
Bride and groom are very much alike, yet also very different.
Both share great tolerance, great appreciation for different cultures, great love for diversity.
Both are 27, both went to grad school at UC Irivne, both are, well, smart.
Heck, nearly four years ago they met at the same public library in Newport Beach studying for exams.
But she keeps current wearing the latest glasses frames; loves art, shopping and binge-watching the political TV series “West Wing.”
From Simi Valley, Yanuck is happy in his hospital scrubs and loves testing himself in the outdoors. He surfs, skis, rock climbs, runs. He once took six weeks to ride his bike from Seattle to the Mexican border. Currently, he is training for something in August called the Angeles Crest 100, a 100-mile mountain endurance run.
Yanuck — who works in UCI hospital’s emergency area — has been advised to delay his 100-mile run for a few years. After all, he has a wedding May 20 with a guest list of 400.
“Maybe make that 300,” the bride quietly says in the wake of Trump’s policies that ban Iranian nationals for at least 90 days. “My aunt certainly can’t come.”
Alisobhani explains many extended Persian families are especially close and that it’s common for a distant cousin to be called “uncle” or “aunt.” She reports through cellphone texting that the clan stays in close communication despite relatives scattered in the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland and Iran.
“Every day there’s something new,” the law student says. “No one knows what’s going on. No one knows what to do. It’s so unpredictable, (if they buy plane tickets) they’re afraid they could have the carpet pulled out at any moment.
“My family in Germany just goes to sleep crying. It’s really sad.”