Photography: IQ Photo
What were you looking for in the venues?
I really wanted something different. I didn’t want venues that my guests had attended a lot of weddings. And as much as possible I wanted to avoid hotels. We researched 40-50 venues and visited about 25-30.
It was hard to find venues that could accommodate the number of guests, allowed outside catering and our own vendors.
I loved the idea of doing one of my events at a museum but many didn’t have space for 300-350 guests or had restrictions on food. I called and visited several of the famous museums in San Francisco. I wish it had been possible for me but it wasn’t.
I’m so glad you’re doing something catered towards Indians as it was really frustrating searching for venues and determining whether they’re desi-friendly.
It was important to pick a hotel that was close to San Francisco Airport and had shuttle service to/from the airport. Also, we negotiated for the room block rate to include breakfast for up to four guests per room each morning.
We were fortunate to have my sister, who works for Google, provide transportation to/from the the wedding ceremony and the reception via Google’s charter buses.
I had visited the Blackhawk Auto Museum for a friend’s reception 3 years earlier, and fell in love with the venue. Between the glass windows at the entrance, the double grand staircases leading up to three levels of the lobby, and the vintage cars in the main hall, it was a no brainer! The staff had worked with multiple Indian families, and were understanding about our concerns.
Our First Dance
What venues did you consider?
For the sangeet we wanted more low key places what didn’t have a food and beverage minimum.
- The Computer History Museum in Mountain View
- Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto
- Club Auto Sport in San Jose – didn’t require a lot of decorations
We finalized on the San Mateo Marriott. They were very responsive and very experienced.
For the reception we really liked The Galleria at the SF Design Center – it’s very cost effective, their beverage packages are phenomenal and their lighting package was reasonable too. The biggest caveat I had was that for anything above 200 guests, you have to move people to the 2nd level; and I didn’t want that.
San Francisco City Hall is beautiful but pretty restrictive with outside catering and other things.
Our ceremony was at the San Jose Gurdwara.
What was your planning environment?
After finishing residency in Chicago, I took 2 months before starting work hoping to visit India and get a head start in the planning process. Unfortunately, I never made it to India during the summer, but I did go back home to the Bay Area for 7 weeks to start the planning. Since I was starting a new job a couple weeks after the wedding, I ended up going back to California for some final touches 2-3 weeks prior to the wedding, too.
Sagar and I were extremely fortunate to have very understanding families throughout the planning process. Because my family was more involved with the planning, his family was extremely supportive of any decisions we made regarding the vendors and the venues.
Where did you shop?
I got my mehndi outfit from Meena Bazaar in Sunnyvale. Everything else I got in India from Delhi and Mumbai.
Sagar and my speech at the reception
The purple Sangeet outfit was purchased as a lehenga and redesigned into an anarkali that I could wear again for other occasions in the future. My mom’s sister worked closely with a designer and a tailor in Mumbai to put additional finishing touches on the outfit.
Clothing was the most stressful part of the wedding. Because it took them 4-6 weeks to alter the clothes so there’s no way to ensure that the final product is going to fit as I didn’t stay in India that long. I had to get a lot of alterations done after they were shipped to me. That uncertainty was stressful.
What advice would you give to brides?
Get help for certain things.
Because I chose such a classy western venue for my reception, I wasn’t 100% content with my original decorator’s Indian decor. In addition to my last month coordinator/decorator, we had an additional decorator work with them to get the look I was going for. In retrospect, it may have been helpful to have had a full-on wedding planner, instead of a coordinator for the last month.
The Cake Cutting
Do a makeup trial if you don’t wear makeup regularly.
I am extremely lucky! My mom’s sister, Suniti Chandani, is an amazing beautician on the east coast, and offered to do my hair and make up for the entire wedding weekend. However, due to logistics and the stress level associated with a family member constantly needing to work throughout my wedding weekend, I decided to hire a hair and make up vendor for the Sangeet and the Reception.
Multiple people had amazing reviews for Christal (Artistry by Christal). She has a wide variety of experience with Indian weddings and she is FAST! I spoke with her multiple times prior to the events and she recommended that I choose photos to mimic in lieu of a trial (saves money, too!).
Unlike most brides, I did not do a hair and make up trial! I did, however, articulate (to the best of my ability) my likes and dislikes in reference to other hair and make up looks that I saw. For example, I never wear foundation, so I requested that they go lighter on the face. I had never worn fake lashes before, so I requested that we modify the lashes I purchased so they wouldn’t look so heavy. I love eye make up, so I allowed them to use heavier liner and eye shadow. For hair, I requested to not have a starchy look, so both make up artists made sure that my hair would look soft while staying up perfectly!
For my hair I knew I wanted my hair down at the ceremony since we got married at the Gurdwara and my head was going to be covered the whole time.
Don’t do things last minute – especially things like your makeup and hair and figuring out what looks you want. It can take time to go through photos and figure out what you want and for brides what she looks like is so important.
Stick to your guns. When I was evaluating decorators one person was trying to dissuade me from the venues I wanted. She kept pointing out potential logistical issues which I appreciate but the things she was bringing up, I felt could be dealt with, with proper planning.
If you’re doing online RSVPs do research to find a very user-friendly product. We decided to go paperless. Fittingly, we used Paperless Post and connected that to our weddingwire.com page for the RSVPs. With the way it worked, I wasn’t receiving the e-mails every time someone RSVP-ed, which made it difficult to track who had responded. For whatever reason, the website activity tracker wasn’t working correctly.
That makes it a bit harder to keep track of the RSVPs. And for whatever reason the website activity tracker wasn’t working correctly. I could only see that the number of people who RSVPd was increasing but I couldn’t see who actually responded on the website. So I couldn’t see snapshot views of the RSVPs.
After a few weeks they fixed the software but that definitely consumed me for 6 weeks. Plus, we didn’t invite everyone to every event so that added even more complexity.
Wedding Professionals Team:
Catering (Sangeet): Madhuban
Catering (Reception): Tandoori Nites
Cake, dessert bar: Debbie from Not Just Cheesecakes
Coordination: Ajooba Events
Decoration: SB Arts
Dhol: Lal Singh Bhatti
DJ: DJ Bitzy from Toofan Sounds
Hair and Makeup (Mehndi and Ceremony): Suniti Chandani
Hair and Makeup (Sangeet): Artistry by Christal
Horse: Buzzard Roost Ranch
Lighting (Reception): Oakland Audio and Visual
Mehndi: Ravie from Keyuris
Photography: IQ Photo
Videography: IQ Video
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