The bride, Mika shares about her process of planning multiple events over a few weeks and two states.
Mika and Neil celebrated their wedding over 10 days in Tucson, Arizona and Southern California.
How did you incorporate Bengali and Gujarati traditions?
Incorporating our respective traditions into the wedding ceremony was not challenging. It took a bit of time to learn about what was important to each family. Once we got through that, we were able to formulate the ceremony in a way to honor both cultures and traditions.
What were your wedding events?
Per Bengali tradition, prior to the wedding, the bride is fed her favorite foods, made by her family.
Additionally, we combined a mehndi with the aforementioned tradition.
We also had a “Meet the Family” party in Tucson at The Highlands at Dove Mountain.
This was an important time for our families to meet each other and spend time together prior to the wedding.
In Gujarati the Haldi ceremony is called a pithi. It’s held at least one day before the ceremony. Bengalis call it a Holud and it’s done the day-of the ceremony. During the Holud (which happens the morning of the wedding at the bride’s house), water is used to invoke the River Ganga. We used our swimming pool. The “shakha-paula” (which are the white conch shell and red coral bracelets worn by married Bengali women) are put on the bride during the ceremony. The wedding ceremony and my Haldi were on Mother’s Day, so we had a huge brunch at my house for the ladies on Neil’s side and my side.
I wore a traditional red Banarasi sari during the ceremony and as mentioned above, we incorporated both Bengali and Gujarati Jain traditions.
In the Bengali ceremony, the bride is carried around the groom 9 times by her brothers carrying a paan leaf in front of her face. On Neil’s side, they have a tradition that we incorporated where his aunts came and whispered blessings in my ear.
After the ceremony, Neil and I changed for the reception. The venue had lovely areas for our photo shoots.
Can you say a little about the the staff at the wedding and reception venue in Tucson?
They were wonderful! They were amenable even to non-traditional requests and were just really reliable. They took on the role of a coordinator, which was a big help. They took responsibility and managed so many logistics with regard to the decor, mandap, and catering. We had fireworks as a surprise too, which they managed and kept under wraps. We were particularly appreciative since they managed relationships with several vendors that were going to be coming in from Phoenix.
Our last event in Arizona, the day after the wedding, was a thankyou/goodbye brunch at my parent’s home. The following weekend the celebrations continued in Orange County and LA. We had a garba as well as a formal reception at the Millennium Biltmore in downtown LA.
How did you keep information organized for your wedding events?
A lot of Google spreadsheets that we shared amongst our family members, excel spreadsheets and other text documents. Something to really think about is how you’re going to manage RSVPs. We divided it. Our guests RSVPd to my family and the same for Neil’s guests and his family.
Since we didn’t do formal seating for Tucson events, just knowing a total guest count was fine. Seating arrangements at the Biltmore were formal and my in-laws did a great job of meticulously organizing that.
How did you select the Millennium Biltmore?
My in-laws selected the venue. But I know several places they considered either couldn’t fit our guest quantity and/or didn’t allow outside catering.
Where did you get your clothes?
I went to a few places in the Bay area as well as visited several websites. My reception outfit was from an online retailer. It didn’t fit quite, so I had to get it altered. I found a tailor in downtown San Francisco that specializes in mens suits but had an Indian name. So I took a chance and visited their store. It turned out the owner lived in Calcutta for years and though he usually does mens suits was willing to help. That process was a bit long, as there was some back and forth, but in the end I got the alterations done.
Another driver in making decisions about clothes was that I choreographed a dance for my husband to perform at the reception, so it was important to me to wear clothes I could dance in. I wanted something light-weight that cleared the floor.
Do you have any wedding planning advice?
- I recommend hiring a day-of coordinator. You need someone overseeing the many moving parts of an Indian wedding.
- In general get help from other people.
- My hairdresser didn’t have much experience with getting an Indian bride ready so I educated her, as there are certain traditions for the Bengali bride; and I definitely did a trial which I would recommend to all brides.
- Tell your close friends to come find you and see you before your wedding day (if you want). Often the bride has some time to kill as she’s in a staging room and it’s really nice when your friends come to see you.
- Figure out the auspicious days and lock down the venue, as one of your first wedding planning tasks.
- For us the mandap decor drove a lot of the other decor decisions so prioritizing that early on was helpful.
Photography and videography were important to us. We looked into about 20 companies and we booked a little late (November for our May wedding). We were extremely happy but would recommend for others to book them earlier than we did, if possible.
What were your selection criteria for the photographer and videographer?
- Experience with South Asian weddings
- Availability on our desired dates in both locations
- Willingness to travel
- Experience with shooting natural photos and capturing emotional moments
IQ did a fantastic job. We are so happy with how everything turned out.
How did you select your DJ?
There are only a handful of South Asian DJs in Phoenix. I wanted someone who was going to also provide dhol and could play Indian and Western music. Our venue came with a DJ but we opted not to use them.
Photography & Videography IQ Photo & IQ Video, San Francisco
Groom’s outfits – Telon & E’Villa (Mumbai)
Bride’s outfits – Aza Fashions & Benzer (Mumbai), Exclusively.in, & assorted shops in Kolkata
Tucson Accommodation Westward Look Resort
Tucson Shuttle Mountain View
Bridal Mehendi & Makeup – Raksha Patel,Tucson
Bridal Party Sangna Trivedi, Tucson
Venue & Catering – The Highlands at Dove Mountain
Bride Hair & Make-up – Gabrielle Johnson, Tucson
Wedding Brunch Blue House Catering, Tucson
Bride & Bridal Party, Hair & Make-up – Gabrielle Johnson, Tucson
Wedding Venue & Coordinator Oasis at Wild Horse Ranch/Raynu Fernanado, Tucson
Wedding Venue Decorations Design Definitions, Tucson
DJ & Dhol In-the-Mix Entertainment / DJ Adi, Phoenix
Horse for Baraat Step Up Into TLC, Tucson
Mandap Y-Knot Rentals, Mesa
Priest Kiran Kumar, Sri Venkata Krishna Temple, Tempe
Wedding Dinner Chef Dominic Sarkar, Phoenix
Native American Flute Steve Stiely, Tucson
Fireworks Fireworks Productions of AZ
Los Angeles Events
Mehndi Venue – Aunt and Uncle’s Home & Musicians
DJ – Arsad Ali
Mehndi- Mayuri Doshi
Catering – Tangy Tomato
Sangeet Venue Westridge Golf Club
Garba Live Band Mosami Shah
Catering – Jay Bharat
Coordinator Mili Shah, Planning Elegance
Hair & Makeup – Angelique Vaca
Reception Venue Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles
Decorator – David Yusef, Square Root Designs
Catering – Manhor’s Dehli Palace
DJ – Raj Gurjal, Sound Nation
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