We got married in Germantown, Memphis where I grew up. It was a perfect Fall day and we were surrounded by our family and friends. We had a traditional Indian wedding with a Hindu ceremony.
Our sangeet was at the Germantown Community Center. I’d never been before but my parents had and liked it. It was a lot of fun and great to bring all of our family and friends together.
To get everyone on the mood to dance, my parents hired an Elvis impersonator. It was a fun, unique way to kick off the celebration!
Many friends and family traveled from all over to be there, which meant so much to us. One close family friend, who came from California, gave a great speech with a few jokes on “life as a married couple”. Good fun that lightened the mood!
The wedding and reception
We got married at the Memphis Botanic Garden. During cocktail hour, their staff and our decorator flipped the room. To save time and to show off the cake, we choose not to have the mandap torn down and instead used it as a backdrop to display the cake.
How did you select that venue for the wedding day?
There are only a handful of places in Memphis where you can have a big desi wedding and I didn’t want to get married at a hotel. Also, I had been to many desi weddings at the Memphis Botanic Garden before and thought it was a lovely place for a wedding. It was pretty much my first choice! Plus, they allow outside catering so I knew bringing in Indian food wouldn’t be a problem.
What was it like planning your wedding in Memphis while living in Atlanta?
That was the most difficult aspect of planning our wedding – not living in Memphis while we planned. I relied on my parents a lot – to do research and meet with vendors, select venues, decide on decor, find the officiant and more.
Of course some aspects were easier than others. For example, in Memphis there’s really only two Indian caterers so my parents chose the one they thought was better. Similarly there aren’t a lot of people who do mehndi. For the other vendors like photographers, cake bakeries, hair, and makeup, where there are more companies to choose from, that’s where not being in Memphis became difficult.
I wasn’t concerned about whether these vendors had done a desi wedding before, I just wanted to jive with them and ensure we liked their work.
Vendors were already booked
Another thing we encountered was a lot vendors were already booked. October is a popular time to get married, as the weather is great. We relied on friends’ recommendations and literally every photographer that was recommended to us was already booked. So I ended up cold calling photographers based on online research.
What was your experience with vendors?
Most were fine, but some were disappointing:
Hair and makeup: I had three bridesmaids. I didn’t think that with just four people, I would need to bring the make-up person to the venue. So instead, I found a salon near the Botanic Garden. The four of us headed there that morning. My ceremony started at 3pm so I thought reaching there at 9am would give us plenty of time. But they were incredibly slow and put us behind schedule for the day.
Cake: my mom found the bakery through my bridesmaid who lives in Memphis. We used a baker who didn’t have a storefront shop, only did special order cakes. At first, everything was fine. Then communication was cut off. I called and emailed several times, with no response. It wasn’t until my mom finally went there and knocked on the door that communication resumed.
I looked in Atlanta but didn’t like anything so I went to Edison, New Jersey to shop for clothes. We got my clothes as well as Mark’s and the groomsmen’s outfits in New Jersey. I had somewhat of a difficult time finding stores that could make identical saris for the bridesmaids though. Most places could do different colors of the same style but couldn’t do identical clothes. Fortunately, we found a store in Atlanta that was able to special order 3 identical saris from India.
What were your non-negotiables?
1. Vegetarian food
2. Red sari for the ceremony
Was this Mark’s fist Indian wedding experience?
Yes! And he was totally amenable to doing a full Indian wedding. He wanted to do the baraat too. This was his family’s first Indian wedding as well. His family was also really open to the experience and enjoyed the different ceremonies and food.
1. Meet with your vendors, especially the photographer. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with them on a really emotional day so you want to make sure you get along with them.
2. If you can, live in the same city/area where you’re getting married.
3. Get your mehndi done before the actually mehndi party!! Unfortunately, I didn’t take this advice so I didn’t get to socialize with everyone or enjoy the yummy food at the party. The mehndi design was exactly what I wanted though! I got mine done by Beth Kitchen of New World Henna. She did a great job!
4. The day of the wedding, try to relax and just enjoy it. The hard work and planning is done, all that’s left is for you to have a good time!