Our theme was “Home is wherever I’m with you” which emphasized not only the love between Taylor and I but for our family and friends as well. For each wedding event, we wanted our guests to feel this sentiment and to know how much having them there meant to us.
Taylor’s family’s first Indian wedding.
This was Taylor’s family’s first Indian wedding experience but not their first exposure to Indian culture. My MIL lived in India for a while as her father was a Professor of South Asian Studies. My in-laws are incredible people and not only embraced the whole experience but they actively did their own research and homework.
What type of wedding did you have and where?
We had a Gujarati Hindu wedding at Oak Creek Golf Club in Irvine, where I grew up. We planned for about 11 months while living in Washington D.C. so we really relied on my parents for all the logistics on the ground.
It really couldn’t have turned out to be a more perfect day. From the decor, music and food, surrounded by our closest family and friends and of course marrying the man of my dreams.
What rituals/traditions were done during the wedding week?
We performed many of the traditions leading up to the wedding including, Manglik Prasang at my parent’s house, Grihshanti pooja, pithi and vidhi – all of this took place at my parents’ home on the same day.
Did you have a sangeet or garba?
That same night after the Manglik Prasang we had a Mehndi function at my sister’s housing community’s clubhouse in Irvine.
I was stunned at how much she had done. She decorated the whole clubhouse with candles and lanterns, and had put up a sign with our theme “Home is wherever I’m with you”. It was a lovely summer evening so we took advantage of the garden area for the mehndi adjacent to the Clubhouse. Mostly we were outside until we started garba and raas for our guests.
My sister set out an engraved box for guests to share their favorite recipes. It was a fantastic way to capture old family recipes that are so cherished.
What cuisine was served the mehndi night?
I love pizza! We brought in Pizza 900 to make gourmet woodfire pizzas, on the spot. They load the pizzas with all kinds of fresh toppings – it was delicious and a big hit with our guests. Plus having variety was nice too since the next day was going to be a lot of Indian food. We served salads along with the pizza and garba was perfect to dance it all off! For dinner we served one of my faves, so for dessert we served one of Taylor’s – milk and cookies. It was simple and very fun.
How did you arrange garba music?
Taylor took care of that with my uncle from India who had brought a bunch of music with him. Taylor set it up on his iPod and made a playlist.
I couldn’t go to India because of work so my amazing mom went. She took care of everything with the help of my aunt in India. She went to Ahmedabad where she got my wedding and reception outfits custom-made. I wanted an Indo-Western look with a white lehenga and a veil.
My reception outfit was dark plum gown with a gold border designed after a dress I’d seen online by designer Taania Kandpal. It looked like a long anarkali top, but it was a gown. Again, I wanted more of a Western concept with Indian flare.
Taylor wore a grass-greenish kurta at the Mehndi, with beige pants. His wedding sherwani was off-white with gold embellishments and for the reception he wore a light gray suit. Taylor’s played football in college and his stature is bigger than the average Indian male – so getting the sizing right was pretty important.
What was your color theme?
Indigo and Coral (orangish coral). It’s a spin on Syracuse University’s colors (blue and orange), which is where Taylor and I met in grad school.
What did the bridesmaids and groomsmen wear?
I had 9 bridesmaids who wore saris and Taylor had 10 groomsman who wore kurtas. Before my mom left for India, I went to a hardware store and picked up paint swatch samples to make color samples for her. I had a clear vision of what I wanted – and tried to find the easiest ways to communicate that to her with samples and photos.
The bridesmaids saris were worn in the South Indian wrap style, over the left shoulder. The blouses were custom-made gold and were made in Vadodara in Gujarat. The groomsmens kurtas matched the saris.
Tell us about prep for the wedding ceremony.
My bridesmaids and I got ready at Oak Creek. They have a bridal suite that was great for all of us. I hired Dolled up by Lulu for hair and makeup. Lulu herself couldn’t attend that day but sent her team to get me, my mom, my sister and MIL ready – and they did a fantastic job.
The first look
Taylor and I decided that the first time we wanted to see each other that day was at the ceremony so we didn’t do a pre-ceremony first look or photo shoot together. We did individual family and friend photo shoots. Our incredible photographer, Paul Gero, and his assistant first went to the Doubletree Hotel by the Irvine Spectrum as that’s where Taylor and his family stayed. So they shot Taylor getting ready and then headed to Oak Creek to shoot me getting ready.
The ceremony started around 3. It was outdoors and since Oak Creek has a pergola, we didn’t need to build a whole mandap. But before I get into all the details, I have to tell you about the baraat.
Game of Thrones baraat
Taylor is a huge Game of Thrones fan so he started his baraat to the theme song! That got everyone riled up and excited. Our DJ told us afterwards that the baraat went longer than most as everyone was having such a good time!
Taylor’s mom did so much research on Indian weddings! She looked up baraats and how you’re supposed to dance; sent YouTube videos to their close family and friends and her general message was, “you better bring it!”
She helped Taylor find a local horse stable in Maryland to practice getting on and off a horse before the wedding! Hilariously, the horse we ended up having on the wedding day was like 3x bigger than the horses he had practiced on! She was all about practicing and getting everyone excited about the wedding.
My family and friends were waiting near the ceremony space to welcome and receive Taylor and the baraatis. Before heading into the ceremony we did milni. We explained that to Taylor’s family and were happy that we could include that tradition into the wedding.
We did a traditional Gujarati Hindu wedding ceremony performed by Dr. Shukavak Dasa. He did a wonderful job, explaining everything and keeping everyone engaged. Our guests enjoyed mango lassis and light refreshments during the ceremony. After the conclusion of vidai, cocktails and appetizers were both served buffet style and with trays passed out or served by the Oak Creek staff.
The ceremony ended at about 5pm after which, we played a few of those, “who’s gonna wear the pants in the house” games and also did vidai.
There were moments of high stress and that day was the culmination of everything so I was relieved too. I remember looking at him and thinking, “this is so cool. I can’t believe we’re doing this!”. I was so happy. Taylor had the biggest smile on his face the whole time. During the ceremony he was like, “yeah we’re doing this!”. I remember pumping my fist in the air after the pandit said we’re officially married as we had such a sense of accomplishment!
What was going through your mind when you walked down the aisle?
The antarpat was held in front of Taylor so I couldn’t see him until I got closer to him nor his facial expression. There were a few times during the day that I got very emotional. We went through a lot during wedding planning since we were in DC and planning our wedding in Irvine.
Who catered the cocktail hour and dinner?
Curry India Bistro is a preferred vendor at Oak Creek and we loved their food. Cocktail hour was outdoors in Oak Creek’s Garden Patio area. We had two bars and some fusion apps like bbq shrimp and spring rolls.
Where was the reception?
It was also at Oak Creek. The first half was outdoors and the 2nd half indoors. Irvine has a sound ordinance so we did the entrances, dinner, and program outdoors and brought everyone inside for the cake cutting. Lorrie de Bellis, the Catering Sales
Manager at Oak Creek met with us countless times and did so much for us.
What did you arrange for bridal party entrances?
Our bridal party entered in pairs – each bridesmaid was paired with a groomsman and they danced their way into the reception to the Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan entrance theme. Taylor and I entered to Michael Jackson’s The Way You Make Me Feel.
Our parents entered to David Bowie “Let’s Dance”.
Tell us about the reception program.
Our first dance was to “In My Life” by The Beatles as I’ve been a huge Beatles fan my whole life. We asked our mutual friend from grad school to emcee. He got the crowd riled up for the entrances and introduced the speakers. Each of our siblings and dad spoke. And there was a surprise dance.
The surprise dance
Months before the wedding I casually chatted with my best friend about how fun it would be to have a Bollywood dance performance at the reception. But I never really followed up on it. Actually a few weeks before the wedding my friend reminded me about it. I told her not to worry as there was so much going on and she was busy planning her own wedding. But of course, being the amazing friend that she is, she went ahead and choreographed a dance to the song Sooraj Dooba Hain, uploaded the videos to YouTube and the whole bridal party learned it within 2 weeks of the wedding. It was a complete surprise for me! Taylor learned a portion of it too and imagine my surprise when he got up to perform as well!
Our Wedding Professionals Team.
I can’t say enough about how they all came together to make our day magnificent!.
Day-of coordinator: Oak Creek required us to have a day-of coordinator. We worked with Melissa Norelli from Paper Lantern Events who had done one of my friend’s weddings and had experience with South Asian weddings. She was great and even supported us for months prior to the wedding.
Decor: Indera Kanjee from Unique Flowers and Decor. She knocked it out of the park. She really delivered on what I wanted. I will say I spent a lot of time telling her my concept and the end product was the most incredible flowers and decor I’d ever seen.
Half of the centerpieces were floral bouquets in vases; and the other half wereTurkish-looking lanterns surrounded by a floral wreath. At Oak Creek flowers made all the difference. For anyone getting married there, I recommend focusing on floral designs.
Lorrie from Oak Creek worked with us to ensure we had our dream wedding.
Dessert: I knew early on I didn’t want just a traditional wedding cake. I ended up doing a lot of research. In the end, we had a dessert display with a small cake-cutting cake. Our desserts included mini cheesecakes, chocolate bon bons, pistachio flavored tarts, and fruit tarts. We got all of that from Oak Creek so it was convenient that they were responsible for setting it all up.
Curry India Bistro also served a few extra Indian sweets like kulfi ice cream, so we had a few dessert options.
With venues and caterers, once the wedding day approaches you have to stay within 5% or so of the original estimate. If your guest count changes work with them to redistribute monies to things like desserts and appetizers.
DJ: Nick Datwani from Legacy Sound – he did a fantastic job! We played a lot of songs that had sentimental value for us. We did the cake cutting to the song, “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.
The main chorus of that song is “home is wherever I’m with you” which was a theme tag line at our wedding. My sister used a similar saying at our mehndi with a sign. We had favors at each place setting – a vintage skeleton key that were actually bottle openers and we attached a note to the outside of the box with that saying. During cocktail hour we played Motown hits as we both love the vibe of oldies music.
Horse: Enchanted Carriages
Hair and Makeup: Dolled Up By Lulu’s team. She got me, my mom, Taylor’s mom and my sister ready. We were very happy with them and the makeup stayed on despite how emotional I got at times. A few of my aunts and family friends helped the bridesmaids put on their saris.
Panditji: Dr. Shukavak Dasa – He was so awesome. He keeps everyone engaged and it was important to us to have someone who spoke clearly and could explain the ceremony.
Photographer: Paul F. Gero Photography was absolutely incredible. We spent hours and hours researching photographers. They were at all of our events. He’s a preferred vendor at Oak Creek and when we saw his work we loved it. We liked how the emotions and the story of the day really come through in his photos.
His background is photojournalism and over time he’s transitioned into weddings and portraits. He used to work for the Chicago Tribune in Washington DC and has captured some pretty iconic photos public figures such as of Nelson Mandela and Michael Jordan.
The whole wedding day he was so patient and calming. As I mentioned, there were moments where I got emotional or overwhelmed and he would reassure me and get me to smile. Also, he didn’t eat that entire day. We told him and his assistant to eat and be part of the celebrations but they never stopped working to get us our amazing photos and were still smiling until the very last minute of our wedding day.
Videography: Watt Pak Studio. Eric made a great highlight video that captured our day. And we liked the quality of his work.