We decided to divide the celebrations. We did an engagement party about a year before the wedding. Pramod and I both grew up in the Bay area and since we knew we wanted a destination wedding it was important to do a local celebration too.
Where was the engagement?
At the Galleria at the San Francisco Design Center. We used two levels to accommodate our 400 guests Some people might think it’s disruptive to separate people on 2 floors but it worked out fine for us. I think the key is to put similar groups together. For instance my brother and his friends were on the 2nd floor and we set up a couple bars up there too so they had a great time and didn’t feel disjointed.
What did you like about the Galleria?
First, it’s one of the few non-hotel venues in the city that can accommodate that many people. We knew we didn’t want a hotel.
Second, the space is so malleable. It’s an open space that you can transform however you want. We brought in lighting, draping, china. silverware, linen, setup bars and even brought our own alcohol (this was 2011, not sure they still allow that).
Third, the staff is very flexible and accommodating.
Fourth, the first floor has a stage which is perfect for South Asian weddings as we had several performances at our engagement party.
Did you consider any other venues?
We looked at a few others in San Francisco and the Peninsula. Our biggest constraint was a non-hotel venue that could accommodate that many people. Finding venues that allowed outside catering wasn’t a problem.
Tell us about the logistics of the engagement party day.
Unlike hotel venues, there’s not really a place to get ready at the Galleria so I went to a salon in Fremont to get my hair and makeup done and I essentially got ready there. Each of our family members took the reigns on different aspects of the party – and so they were at the Galleria long before us – to allow us to get ready.
It was a great time and an awesome way to kick off our engagement and celebrations. Most of the guests that night were our parents’ friends, compared to the wedding where a majority of the guests were Pramod and my friends.
What and where were your wedding week events?
Everything was on the southern part of Maui.
Mehndi/Sangeet: Grand Wailea Resort
Afternoon booz cruise: Mimosas and Samosas, Grand Wailea Resort
Evening garba/raas: Grand Wailea Resort
Wedding, Lunch, Cocktails and Reception: Four Seasons Resort
What cuisine did you serve at each event?
Our sangeet was more formal than most sangeets I’ve been to. We had a plated dinner and assigned seating, catered by an Indian restaurant, Monsoon India. It just so happened that the owner of the restaurant is from the Bay and knows my parents!
For the booz cruise we grilled on the boat and afterwards when we returned to the Grand Wailea, Monsoon India had set up chaat stations.
Lunch after the ceremony was Asian Fusion at Spago, a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, at the Four Seasons
How did you decide on Maui?
We got engaged in Hawaii, on the Big Island; and getting married in Hawaii was originally Pramod’s idea. When he proposed he preemptively set up appointments for us to see several venues at that time. I liked the idea too and it was fun to visit venues and imagine our wedding day. Again, our expected guest count exceeded their capacity. Most venues on the Big Island can accommodate 100 to 150 max. We estimated about 350.
The folks on the Big Island recommended Maui. So Pramod and I flew out to Maui later that year and we looked all over the Island – the west side and Kaanapali but I had heard it rains a lot on the west side which was something we wanted to avoid as much as possible. Plus we loved the venues in Wailea and there are so many adjacent to one another. That enabled us to have events at 2 venues instead of just one. Plus the next area over, Kihei, has a lot of condos for rent which was perfect for our guests.
How did you mesh your North Indian and Kannadiga cultures together?
Pramod’s family is from Bangalore and mine is from Mumbai. This wasn’t really an issue though since our theme was fun. We really focused on the fact that our guests flew to attend our wedding and we were on Maui so we took advantage of that by doing so much outdoors, like the booz cruise.
We even had a garba/raas even though neither of us are Gujarati. We thought it would be fun for our friends – and a first time experience for my 60 or so B-school friends who flew in from Stanford.
We did do a South Indian style engagement ceremony which was a wonderful way to honor my husband’s family’s traditions.
Tell us about your clothes, jewelry and shoes.
The sari I wore for the engagement ceremony was gifted to me by my in-laws.
How did you plan the wedding and arrange all of your vendors?
- We didn’t hire a wedding planner. Primed and I were very hands on with everything. And we went back to Maui about 4-5 times that year to meet with the catering managers at our venues and whatever local vendors we did use. We made binders with very detailed info for each vendor with instructions and explanations of what needed to happen each day.
- The Four Seasons had done a couple Indian weddings before ours, but nothing at our scale so we brought them up to speed on stuff.
- Our decor vendors made samples to test and show us – they were on top of it and so were.
- Careful vendor selection: Since we had a destination wedding and couldn’t necessarily meet with some of our vendors who were in LA and Canada. We evaluated and selected them based on responsiveness and willingness to work with our budget.
Working with vendors:
- Believe it or not it was more cost effective for us to fly our vendors in rather than work with people on the island. My husband had accumulated a significant quantity of airline miles through work. So we booked flights and accommodation for them.
- The vendors in Hawaii, especially at hotels like the Four Seasons, are pretty expensive. The great thing about doing a destination wedding is you can negotiate more compared to traditional weddings. For instance my hair and makeup artist asked that we fly her daughter out as well and she did my hair/makeup for all of my events and didn’t charge me.
- For some of our vendors it was their first Indian wedding + a destination wedding so they were excited to be there and knew how valuable it could be for them to break into the South Asian market.
Additionally, photographers and videographers may want to submit your wedding into competitions. So you can negotiate with them that they can keep any winnings and in exchange reduce the cost of services. Plus they’ll be incentivized to do a really good job too!
How did you arrange the horse and mandap?
The Four Seasons helped us arrange the horse and I interviewed 10+ florists. Our florist set it all up. I showed them photos. They had never made a mandap before. I hd them do test bouquets and test everything.
Do you have any advice for couples planning a destination wedding?
- If you can, take your time with planning. We took 1.5 years to plan and find what we wanted to make our day really special and perfect.
- During the wedding week, keep taking a few moments for yourselves. At every event during our week my husband and I just went to the back of the room and observed what we had created and planned. We looked around at our family and friends – all the people we love – in one place were there to give us their blessing.
- I don’t think it’s necessary to go back and forth to the destination in order to have a destination wedding. If you have a wedding planner that’s especially true. I think having someone on the ground is important though. If you’re not hiring a planner going at least once before the wedding is a really good idea.
Our Vendors: Pramod and I did all of the event planning.
Cake: The Four Seasons
Caterers: The Grand Wailea Resort, The Four Seasons, Monsoon Indian Restaurant
Cinematography: Marrone Video
Clothes, jewelry, shoes: Sagar Exclusive (Sunnyvale), Sari Palace (Berkeley) Frontier (Artesia), Tuxedo Fashions in San Jose for Pramod’s tuxedo, Badgley Mischka (Preeya’s reception shoes)
Dance floor, Mandap structure (not flowers) and Sweetheart table structure (not flowers), ice bar: Envisions Entertainment
DJ: Special Occasions (Ajay Manaktala), Southern California
Floral Designer: Bella Grace Floral
Invitation Designer: Sleepy Hedgehog Press
Lighting: Swank Audio Visuals
Linens, coverings, benches and charger plates: Pacific Event Group (Debbie Fisher)
Makeup Artist: Julie Morgan Makeup Artist
Mehndi: Catana Padilla
Photographer: IQ Photo Studio
Website, Program fans and menus: Nazia Morani Creativity
Wedding Band and Rings: Saxons Jewelers in Oregon