Where were you while planning your wedding? (Swati)
I lived in Salt Lake City and Cho was living in Boston. We wanted to get married somewhere that wasn’t far for our families and friends, would provide a break from winter weather, as well as a place where we had at least one family member living who could help us with wedding stuff. Cho’s brother lives in Phoenix and the city and venues there met our needs.
We did consider getting married in Salt Lake City but there’s uncertainty about snow in April; and the baraat wouldn’t be able to go. So we decided to do a destination wedding.
Also, my sister got married the week before me. So not only were we busy with our wedding but hers too. Hers was in Salt Lake City. Two days after her wedding, we flew to Phoenix for ours. We did this because my parents couldn’t make another trip to the US that same year.
How did you organize everything remotely?
We flew to Phoenix twice to visit venues, do food tastings and meet with vendors. Cho really planned most of it. He had planned his siblings weddings which involved celebrations in India as well as the US – so he knew what to do and the kinds of things we’d need. We decided not to hire a planner and we didn’t feel the need for one as Linda from Wendell Florists sort of took on that role. She worked with all of the other decor companies and our DJ to coordinate all of it so make sure everything was seamless.
Even though my parents were in India and Cho’s are in Cincinnati they were still really involved. We had conference calls every two weeks with them and our siblings. We ran everything by them. Both families were and are very supportive – they felt as long as we were happy they were ok.
What were the most important factors to you?
The things we were most particular about were decor, clothes and food. We had a few decor companies involved for rentals, furniture, drapery, and decor items plus our DJ who did the lighting.
Why did you have so many companies involved with decor?
Because it was difficult to find one company that could do everything we wanted.
For the sangeet we wanted traditional floor seating, lots of color and drapes on the ceiling.
Our vision was to have a traditional sangeet that’s cozy – to play antakshri and sing and dance. But we also set up tables for guests to eat comfortably. We also wanted a swing for Cho and I to it on at the sangeet.
Quest Drapery did all of the pipe and draping. They were awesome. We were really happy with them.
Another thing was we finalized the decor in February for our April wedding because we wanted to coordinate the colors with our clothes. You can see more about our clothes below – that was a fun process.
Cho, how was your experience with your vendors?
A majority of our vendors were fantastic – we were really happy.
Unfortunately, one of the decor companies messed up – big time – twice. The floor seating at the sangeet was pretty important to us – which we communicated and somehow the company from whom we rented the decor forgot to bring the cushions. And the next day they forgot our mandap furniture. So we had to use the hotel’s furniture at first. They rushed the items to the venue; and during the ceremony we swapped the furniture. We were not happy. They took full ownership of the mistakes but the damage was done.
I did all of the negotiations with the caterers and at the end of one event they went to my dad with the bill. My dad ran everything by me before paying anything. I was disappointed to see that they added additional labor charges for 10 people! And when I said something the guy played it off calling it a mistake. It wasn’t a mistake he was trying to cheat me.
Another one of the caterers went up to my parents at the end of one event and bluntly asked them for a tip. And my parents are nice, so they gave it. But it was ghetto behavior and despite the food being good – left a negative impression.
How did you select that venue?
We wanted an outdoor ceremony and a place that was desi-friendly.
We loved all of the spaces inside the Hilton. We got married overlooking the Cliffs which also had a city view.
They have a beautiful waterfall area – where our reception was. The whole reception was outdoors – which we loved!
What made them desi-friendly?
They already had a gazebo which we could use for our mandap.
And they allowed us to have Indian food. Most of the other venues we looked at, would not allow Indian food.
Where did you do all of the other celebrations?
The sangeet was the night before the wedding at Highland Banquet hall.
Since pretty much everyone, including us and our families, were from out-of-town, we Air BnB’d a couple houses where we could do mehndi and havans. We did our mehndis together and separate havans.
Tell us about your wedding day.
Most of our guests were either staying at the Hilton or a house nearby. We decided to do an early morning wedding as the Hilton gave us the ceremony space until 1:30pm and we wanted to have a time gap between the wedding and reception so our guests could rest in-between.
The way the venue is set up, it’s a bit of a hike to get to the ceremony space. So they have shuttles to take guests to/from the lobby. The shuttles started at about 9am and we had about 180 guests. We arranged additional shuttles to speed up the process.
The baraat started in the parking lot – we had a horse and carriage and the DJ provided a mobile DJ setup and he himself was the dholi. The ceremony finished by 12pm and afterwards we shuttled guests back to the hotel for lunch. We served dosa – guests could select from a few types. We also served biryani.
How did you deal with the heat?
We got married the 1st week of April and it was supposed o be 68-70 degrees. But it ended up being in the 80s. During the ceremony some people moved to a covered area for a while to escape the heat for a while.
What type of ceremony did you do?
We had an Kayastha ceremony. Even though I’m Jain and Cho is half Jain but the arya samaji ceremony is slightly shorter and our parents were fine with that. I think pheres (rounds around the fire) was the most important aspect to my parents – as long as we did that – they were fine.
What other arrangements did you make for your guests?
Since we had a destination wedding we really wanted to make sure our guests felt like it was a vacation. The resort we chose was gorgeous with 8 swimming pools; and many guests arrived a few days earlier or stayed a few days after.
We arranged shuttles from the airport to the hotel – though many opted to rent cars. We had guests coming from India, Europe, Australia, Canada, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, Boston and other cities.
We felt responsible for their comfort and convenience and took measures to ensure it. In addition to arranging transportation, we made welcome baskets that they received upon checking in. There were snacks, water and included an itinerary for the whole weekend.
Since our wedding was pretty early in the morning we served lassi and mixed nuts to hold people over for lunch.
Share about your food – since you served different types of cuisine.
- The sangeet was Indo-Chinese from Bamboo Garden – it was fantastic!
- After the wedding we served dosa and biryani
- Dinner at the reception was North Indian food – among some of the unique dishes we served were paneer skewers, papdi chaat served in martini glasses, gol gappa – pani in shot glasses
We really wanted to come up with creative ways to make it more fun. And our food vendors brought all the appropriate glassware and dishes to serve the items as we wanted.
How did you arrange your clothes?
We didn’t finalize our clothes until February. We took a trip went to Edison, NJ…but we didn’t buy anything. What you get for what you pay is pretty bad. Especially since my parents are in India and Cho has family there as well – even though we couldn’t go we felt there had to be a better way to get our clothes.
I met a lady who lives in NJ but her mom’s boutique is in Amritsar and I liked her work. I told her what colors I wanted for each event; and I decided to do a gown for the reception. They said they could get it done. I was a bit nervous that I was so dependent on her for ALL of my wedding clothes so I give her a deadline that had a built in buffer in case something didn’t turn out right.
And I’m glad I did because when the clothes arrived, I liked them but nothing fit. I spent a few hundred dollars and a ton of time getting everything altered. There weren’t many people willing to even take on the work.
Cho’s clothes weren’t easy either. We ordered his sangeet outfit from C Bazaar and told them when we needed it. They never came back and told us they couldn’t get it done in time. So we ended up calling relatives in India to help us. We were both particular about clothes so finding something through a relative, plus the lack of internet in India and the time difference made all of this stressful. There were a few days where we were up all night talking to family in India.
Luckily his mom brought his wedding sherwani from India and the reception suit he bought here.
Advice: If you’re pretty particular about clothes, if you can, go to India to do your shopping.
Advice: Meet your vendors a few months before. Give yourself time to finalize everything and if things creep up on you and if things are last minute it gets stressful.
Advice: One thing that really helped was we did or homework before approaching vendors. We showed them photos and explained our vision up-front so that made everything more efficient. And Cho really managed most of this.
What about bridal party clothes?
Our parents got everything in India. His mom got kurtasz for the guys and my mom took care of the bridesmaids lehengas. We got everyone’s measurements and my mom had everything shipped to us a month before the wedding so they had a chance to try everything on and enough time to get alterations done, if needed.
The 16 groomsman all wore black suits and white shirts at the reception and Cho got them matching bow ties, pocket squares, and socks from TieBar.
Decor: Wendell Florists – Linda was great. She was like our wedding planner.
DJ: In the Mix Entertainment. We considered one other person besides Adi. But he came across really well. We liked that DJ’ing is his passion as he doesn’t do that full time. He was a one stop shop – lighting, DJ and accommodating. And at the reception, we forgot to give him a song Cho’s parents entrance song; he brought it up to us but he came with suggestions – we appreciated that as in the moment we were so busy.
Photography: Sameer Soorma
We really liked them! They were on time, very professional, nice to work with and his wife Sonia – was so helpful. She was with me the whole wedding day.
While I was getting ready for the wedding my earring broke. I was about to cry because I didn’t have anything else to wear. My friend was able to fix it and Sonia was really reassuring. She told me not worry, it won’t show in the photos, and if it falls out she’d tell you. All those little things really matter. As a bride you’re already emotional and when things go wrong having someone so helpful and that can relax you goes a long way.
Moreover, the package we bought was for 500 edited photos but he ended up giving us 1500! He thought they came out so well – and he didn’t charge us for the additional photos.
Videography: Saiaf Films
Cake: Bamboo Bakery
Mehndi: Henna by Purvi
Hair/Makeup: KLM Artistry
Drapery: Quest Drape
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