Indian bride and groom wearing funny sunglasses, happily posing for the camera at their Hindu wedding

Trojan Mehndi Indian Wedding

Rakhee and Amrish
Saddlerock Ranch Malibu
Greycard Photography
Videography: AKI Visuals

Indian bride and groom cutting the cake at their wedding reception

Why a USC Trojan mehndi design?
I’m a die-hard USC Trojan and football fan. My sister, Uncle, and I all went there. I got the idea to do Trojan-themed mehndi when I got engaged. I used a picture of the football glove as inspiration and drew out what I wanted. Fight on! 

Indian bride with USC TRojan drawn into her mehndi on her hands
Fight On!
Can we assume the “thumbs down ladies” are Bruins?

Neha Assar from Neha Assar Artistry did my mehndi. She is an amazing artist and I knew she’d be able to draw my design. She did an incredible job! I don’t know anyone else who can do such customized, non-traditional designs as her.

USC Trojans game at Indian wedding cocktail hour

GoPro Video of our wedding day

You had life-size games at your cocktail hour?
I LOVED this part of our wedding, even though Amrish and I didn’t actually get to play anything that day. We are big board game people; and host game nights pretty often.  We used to play Scrabble and Words with Friends, daily with each other, so we wanted to incorporate that into our wedding.  We bought life-size versions of Connect Four, Jenga, and Scrabble for our guests to enjoy during cocktail hour.  The best part is, we still have all the pieces today (it’s a miracle considering the clean up that was required) and will be playing these games at ALL of our future house parties.

life size scrabble at an Indian wedding cocktail hour
Guests at an Indian wedding playing Connect4

What’s the Social Hour Checklist?
It was a list of things for guests to do in-between the wedding and the reception.  The ceremony ended at 3:30pm and seating for the reception started at 6:30pm. Since most guests didn’t leave in-between the wedding and reception, it was important to keep them entertained during the 3 hour gap.

A yellow construction paper with a white sheet of paper o top placed at each chair with suggested activities for guests to do during cocktail hour at an Indian wedding.

We organized activities such as the life-size board games, had picnic blankets and pillows so people could fully utilize the outdoor space (the picnic vibe is what we were going for all day), we had mini appetizers like pani puri shots and pav bhaji bruschetta and there were horses on-site for people to pet or admire.

Guests at an Indian wedding playing outdoor games
Bride and groom's families incorporated into the decor at an Indian wedding.

We also had a hashtag printer to encourage guests to take as many pictures as possible during the break. We encouraged them to post the photos on Instagram or Twitter with our hashtag. And they had the prints to take home as souvenirs.  The hashtag printer is basically the modern version of placing disposable cameras on everyone’s table – people use their phones to take pictures and post them on social media and then the printer searches for the hashtag on social media, finds those pictures and prints them out on a 5×7 custom print.

What made you rename cocktail hour to social hour?
We changed it because we wanted everyone, even those that didn’t drink, to feel included.

What gifts did you and Amrish exchange on the wedding day?
Amrish LOVES Legos and Star Wars so I thought it would be nice to get him a combo of both. Plus it was a fun, playful gift and meaningful to him. I also got him a Nikon DSLR so that he can capture all of the great future memories of us and our future
family. 🙂

Indian groom opening gifts from his bride before their wedding ceremony

We’ve known each other for 11 years and I’ve ALWAYS wanted a KitchenAid mixer as I love cooking and baking.  But it’s never been the time to get one. Plus, they’re pretty big and take up considerable counter space, so it’s kind of a commitment to get one! Him getting the mixer for me, is a symbol of starting our official adult lives together with our own house with space for a KitchenAid mixer that I can make awesome food with for our future family. 🙂

Indian bride holding her wedding gift: a KitchenAid mixer
indian bride smiling, reading a card from her husband-to-be

Did you wear flats on your wedding day?

Hahaha, I did! Amrish and I actually had matching TOMs that day, to unite us even when we weren’t together (we mostly wore those shoes prior to the actual wedding ceremony).

Indian bride's TOMS shoes and mehndi on her feet
nvotives and candles centerpieces at an Indian wedding receptio

What was your decor theme on your wedding day?
Our reception colors were white and gold. Since we were in such a beautiful, natural setting, we emphasized lighting more than floral decorations. At a venue like this, that’s an open field, you need a lot of lighting. So our centerpieces had votives and other candles.

As is popular right now, we included both circular and the rectangular king’s tables at our reception. The centerpieces for those tables were wine bottles that we painted gold and placed a single rose inside. We lined them across the whole table. We collected wine bottles over several months – 150 bottles. No, we did not consume all of that wine! We crowd-sourced the bottles in addition to the wine Amrish and I did drink too :).

gold painted wine bottles in a row, each with a single white rose lined acrioss rectangular kings tables at an Indian wedding reception.
personalized table numbers with photos and years of significance at an Indian wedding reception

How did you incorporate your families into the decor?
Our families mean the world to us. We wanted to include them in as many aspects of our wedding as possible so instead of traditional table numbers, each table had a year and a photo of our families from that year.  They were set in 12×12 frames so they were large enough for guests to easily find their tables.


There were a lot of memories everywhere. Even our ceremony decor – instead of having an aisle decorated with flowers the whole aisle was decorated with pictures of our parents’ weddings and our uncles and aunts’ weddings.

Indian groom and his family posing for a family photo
Indian bride and her family posing for a family photo

Cute cardboard cutouts! 
Our cousins surprised us with those! They used the website fathead to make them.  The song they’re dancing to is about brothers and sisters. We loved it! It was so personalized, funny, and creative!

bride and groom's cousins doing a Bollywood dance at the wedding reception holding cardboard cutouts of the bride and groom's faces.

Non-traditional father-daughter dance.
My dad is not much of a slow dancer and he and I have never danced together, except for garba/raas. So that’s what we did!  My sisters joined us since I wanted to include not just me, but all of his daughters in the father-daughter dance.  By the way, we made the dandiya used on our reception night in addition to the ones we gave away to all of our guests on our garba night.

Father-daughter garba-raas first dance instead of a traditional slow dance
Rakhee dancing with her FIL and Amrish with his mother.
Rakhee dancing with her FIL and Amrish with his mother.

How did you do research for wedding planning?
I relied on a lot of info from my family and friends, our vendors, Instagram, Facebook and blogs like ShaadiShop. 

Indian bride qith friends cheersing before the wedding ceremony.

What were your wedding week events?

Wednesday: Mehndi: at my sister’s house
Thursday: Garba at Shree Ramkabir Mandir
Friday: pithi also at the mandir
Friday night: pajama party at the Sheraton Hotel where we were staying near Saddlerock Ranch. We brought in a food truck for guests staying at the hotel. 

Saturday: wedding and reception at Saddlerock Ranch

Indian bride looking at his wife-to-be for the first time for their first look photoshoot.

How did you choose Saddlerock Ranch?
Amrish and I had gone while we were dating. They keep several exotic animals on the property and take you on a tour. So we had done that together a couple years prior to our wedding. My sister was doing venue research online and saw that Saddlerock does weddings and met our criteria for what we were looking for. So we added it to our list of prospective venues.

Indian bride and groom's first look photoshoot at Saddlerock Ranch in Malibu.

We visited 4 venues total. All were in Santa Barbara and Malibu. Then we narrowed those down to two venues in Malibu. While we like Santa Barbara, since all of our guests were coming from Southern California, we thought Malibu was better as our guests could come and and go on the same day. If we had gotten married in Santa Barbara it would have become like a destination wedding.

Indian bride and groom during their pre wedding photoshoot, standing in front of a barrel.

What were your wedding venue criteria?

  • ability to accommodate our guest count (500)
  • allowed us to bring in Indian catering
  •  customizable – it’s basically an open space and you bring in everything.
  • unique and represented us. We’re outdoorsy. Everything at our wedding and reception was outdoors.Indian bride and groom enjoying the vineyard photoshoot before their Hindu wedding ceremony.
    Indian bride and groom posing for photos during their pre-ceremony photoshoot

How long did you give yourselves to plan?
We booked the venue in February and got married 7 months later. My husband booked the DJ and the photographer. I took care of the flowers and rentals.

Share about some of the arrangements you made at the venue.
They have 3 bathrooms on-site. For a large Indian wedding of 500 we knew we needed more. We brought in a 10 stall executive bathroom.

The company that does this was recommended by Saddlerock. This was a revelation for me, as once I started Googling, I realized there’s a whole portable bathrooms industry – beyond the portable bathrooms one typically thinks about.


These were very elegant fully functioning portable bathrooms with wood floors, granite countertops, soap, mirrors. It was like  walking into a hotel bathroom but a fancified trailer instead.

Some of the additional considerations at a totally DIY venue are:

It’s all doable, but requires extra consideration and accommodations. 


Where did you get ready?
There’s a bridal suite onsite but I got ready for the ceremony and reception at the Sheraton. After the ceremony Amrish and I went back to the hotel to change and get ready for the reception. In all it took about 90 minutes to get to the hotel, change, and get back to Saddlerock.

Rolls Royce for the baraat at an Indian wedding.
Indian groom riding in a Rolls Royce for his baraat in Malibu, CA
Indian bride and groom eating churros on their way out after the vidai

Tell us about the baraat.
We didn’t feel comfortable having an animal for the baraat, so we rented a 1983 Rolls Royce which was driven down the main driveway of the Ranch. The baraatis danced their way on the driveway, over a bridge and to the mandap.

Your vidai was emotional yet full of joy! Share more!
My family organized a flashmob at the end of my vidai.  The way we pictured it was that Amrish and his family would be waiting for me at opposite end of the bridge at Saddlerock. I was to cross the bridge after bidding farewell to my family and friends.  As I was crossing, my sister pulled me back and told me to turn around.  So I turned around and my 4 sisters were dancing to “Don’t Stop Believing” (the Glee version of course because I love that show!). At the guitar riff, the rest of my cousins joined in and it was absolutely amazing!  Every time I see it, I tear up a bit. 🙂 Watch it in this video (starting at 1:25).
More photos from the ceremony

Some more photos from the reception

Bride and groom's friends posing for a photo at an Indian wedding reception.

Our Wedding Professionals Team

Catering: Manohar’s Dehli Palace; they came highly recommended in terms of service and food quality. We had a family friend of ours, who is a caterer make hors d’oeuvres for us. My sister and I explained what we wanted and how we wanted them to be served in a decorative way. In addition to a few other items, he made pani puri shots with a puri on top and pav bhaji bruschetta.

We also served Jain hors d’oeuvres before sunset as well as a separate Jain dinner buffet.

Day-of coordination: Bridal & Event Lounge. I found them to be very coordinated, great problem solvers. The day-of I put a lot on their plate from all the setup to little details like the wagons for the flower girls. Additionally they were getting input from multiple family members and I have to say they really handled the whole thing professionally and with great attention to detail. We gave them a plan but that morning of a U-haul arrived with a lot of stuff and they made everything happen.We were on time to the minute that day – and that was largely because of them.

coordinators from Bridal & Event Lounge
You can see the Subway cookies they helped setup that day!


Mandap: Three Petals: We wanted a simple mahogany structure that emphasized the beautiful surroundings around us vs. having a lot of florals as the focal point.


Rentals: Bridal & Event Lounge and Rental Connection.

Dessert: Cake Korner – they do the eggless and vegan cakes. We tasted a lot of eggless cakes and in our opinion theirs are the best. We had a big tier cake and then pre-cut slices that they brought in as well.

Bride and groom feeing each other cake at an Indian wedding reception
Indian bride feeding her husband cake at their wedding reception.

S’mores bar: We got a planter box from Home Depot, filled it with rocks and set it up at the end of the dessert table.  We bought a bunch of chocolate, marshmallows, graham crackers and skewer sticks and our guests made s’mores during our reception. We were outdoors, under the stars, it was like we were camping!

smores as a dessert an Indian wedding reception
The bride and groom DIY’d a s’mores setup to have at their outdoor wedding reception. How cool!

We also served cookies from Subway. This might sound random, but my favorite cookies in the entire world are Subway cookies. We ordered them ahead of time and one of my cousin’s picked them up that day. They were ALL gone. The gulab jaamun and ras malai were still there but the cookies were devoured.

DJ:  Atul from 3D Sounds. They did an incredible job! In addition to the music they handled all of our lighting. They visited the venue a couple times to plan the setup. As you can imagine at a venue like Saddlerock, extra planning is required to figure out where to get power for the lights and speakers. That day, they arrived by about 8am. The baraat started at 1pm. So they had 4-5 hours to setup.


Garba Band: Jayshree Gohil + company

Hair & Makeup: Nida Gazi; She was recommended by my friends. She does amazing work! She did my engagement session photos as well as my wedding day.

Indian bride shyly posing in the camera, holding her dupatta.

Mehndi: Neha from Neha Assar Artistry. As I mentioned above, Neha is truly talented. She can create any design whether traditional or unconventional, like my mehndi. I’ve known Neha  for years. She was one of the first vendors I booked.

Indian brides mehndi and bangles on her hands

How much mehndi coverage did you have?
All of my wedding outfits were mid sleeve or full sleeve so I went mid way up my arm because it didn’t make sense to go all the way up.

Photography: John from Greycard Photography; We evaluated 8 different photographers. We felt a connection with John. He was personable, answered all of our questions and we felt really comfortable with him. Additionally he’s so experienced with Indian weddings and knows which moments to focus on and capture. And, we didn’t know it then, but that comfort level made a huge difference in our photos.

Indian bride and groom's wedding photo shoot

Videography: Andrew Ito from AKI Visuals. We came across our videography vendor while searching online for a video of our venue to show our families what it looked like. And we ended up liking their work so much we reached out about asking them to shoot our wedding day! They had a drone which Amrish really liked.

Where did you get your clothes?
We got everything, except my wedding sari, from Frontier Heritage in Artesia. 


For the ceremony I wore my mom’s wedding sari. It was red and gold with a white panetar. I got a new blouse made to match the sari. My mom was ecstatic about me wearing her sari.  Plus, I look like my mom so it was just a very touching moment. It’s my hope that when I have a daughter, to pass the sari on to her as well.

Indian bride dressed for her Hindu wedding ceremony, sitting with her mom
Rakhee-Amrish-gift-exchange-Indian-wedding-venue-photography-Greycard-Hindu-outdoor-dresses-bride-groom-vineyard-South-Asian-wedding-personalized hanger
Indian bride with her family and friends

Did you have bridesmaids and groomsmen?
We decided not to, as it was so difficult to choose whom to and not to include. Instead we incorporated our many family members and friends in various aspects of our whole wedding week.

Indian groom dancing in his baraat.

Who walked you down the aisle?
My cousin-brothers walked me to the aisle and my mom and her brothers walked me down the aisle. Since they’d never been to the venue before and we hadn’t practiced that we didn’t know how fast to walk. I suggest rehearsing the walking pace.

Indian bride walking down the aisle

Do you have any wedding planning advice?
1. It’s a celebration of your love to the person you’re marrying so it should reflect your personality and the things you value most. Don’t get caught up in what another person is doing or did for their wedding. A lot of stakeholders will have opinions – listen to them but be comfortable making decisions for yourself.

2. Wedding planning is stressful. Don’t be afraid to delegate to others – your family and friends probably want to help you. Just don’t be a bridezilla.

3. Make organizing fun. I had a craft party for the wine bottles, and we made dandiyas for the garba and assembled the program.

4.  I recommend working with vendors that have worked at the venue before. At our venue the rentals were extremely crucial. Because Saddlerock is an open field where electricity and power need to be brought in – we hired vendors recommended by the venue; and it was worth it because they really knew what they were doing. They educated us about what we’d need and that gave us a ton of peace of mind.

5. It’s really important to work with a DJ who understands electrical and acoustics for open, outdoor venues as that could make or break the reception.

6. Have the cake bakery make a tier cake to display and cut during the reception, but also have them bring pre-cut slices that are ready to be served. Again since Saddlerock Ranch is essentially an open field, there was no place for the bakery to cut the cake onsite and instead of just delivering and setting up the cake and leaving – they would have had to bring in additional staff to stay onsite to cut it.

7. Put a plan together for the day-of using an image of the venue from Google Earth and mapped out where everything was supposed to be.

Indian bride and groom wearing funny sunglasses, happily posing for the camera at their Hindu wedding

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