We love a good fusion celebration, and this one stole our hearts! SWAT Films shot this extraordinary highlight reel from Vanessa and Arif's Chinese and Indian wedding festivities in Long Island Sound, at The Sands Point Preserve, where Elegant Affairs Inc. wowed guests with their fabulous floral and decor work (and they'll wow you too!). Check out unforgettable moments from two ceremonies that each pay homage to the bride and groom's cultural traditions, and be spellbinded by some of Maharani Vanessa's bridal fashions — which include a pink and red lengha paired with an orange dupatta, and a traditional (red) qipao! Hair and makeup sensation, Sonia C, not only took charge of the bride's beauty details, she also played the role of mehndi artist, and did so beautifully as evident in the the first minute of the film. Following two unforgettable vow exchanges, the happy couple partied with their lucky guests at a reception to remember, DJ'd by DJ Raj Entertainment & Event Lighting! The post-ceremony soirée was complete with a lion dance by performers from the Wan Chi Ming Hung Gar Institute, and divine wedding cake designed by Elizabeth Hodes. We can't get to sneak a peek at the phenomenal photos that Salwa Photography took, and we hope to share them all with you soon!
Maharani Vanessa, on meeting the Raja of her dreams, Arif:
"I met Arif through a mutual friend whom I had gone to college with at NYU. He had just moved to New York after graduating from UPenn, and we were at a friend’s housewarming party. We would often run into each other in the city on weekends since we had mutual groups of friends, but never really got to know each other.
Nine months later, we were out in downtown NYC one spring night and ended up talking the entire time! We bonded over our Midwestern roots (I am from Milwaukee and Arif is from Chicago), shared sense of humor, and any other topic that came up. Soon, we found ourselves spending more and more time together. That spring and summer was a complete whirlwind -- we laughed, explored, shared stories, got to know each other, and fell in love. The next five years went by in a blur, as we traveled through the world and through our lives together, sharing many incredible moments along the way.
I knew he was the one because he was genuinely kind and caring in a way that most twenty-something guys in NYC weren’t. We would email each other every day when we got to work, and if I had a really busy morning or forgot to email him by 11 or 12, he would call me at work to see if I was OK, worried that I hadn’t been able to get to work safely! He could also make me laugh no matter what the situation was, from mundane to silly, and even through tears if I had a bad day."
The epic wedding proposal:
"The day of the proposal began with a 6:30 AM breakfast on the oceanfront as we were on vacation in sunny, beautiful Riviera Maya, Mexico. We were heading to Tulum for a day of exploration of Mayan ruins, snorkeling in deep blue cenote caves, and zip lining in the jungle - or so we thought. Unfortunately, our tour bus left without us and we were left stranded at our beautiful all-inclusive Blue Diamond resort (The horror!).
I was ready to simply book massages at the spa and enjoy the beach, so I was bewildered when Arif, normally a calm, level-headed and preternaturally happy guy, spent the next hour at the concierge, demanding that the tour bus come back to get us, NOW! After an hour of back and forth with the tour company, bus driver and hotel concierge, we settled upon moving the tour to the next day instead, and decided to do the Aztec Temazcal ritual and get massages at the spa instead - which I was perfectly happy to do!
A stormy and thick monsoon had settled onto the beach in the late afternoon, which apparently had worried Arif. One of the staff members at the resort turned his eyes upward to contemplate the smoky grey clouds, and answered Arif’s unspoken question, written in his furrowed brow - “It will be over in 40 minutes.”
All I knew about that evening was that we were going to the “nice” restaurant in the resort. We arrived at the balcony of the restaurant where we had eaten our breakfast that morning, so I thought perhaps the “nice” restaurant was on the lower level, right on the ocean as the restaurant staff asked us to walk down the stairs to our table.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a private tent on the beach and thought it was being set up for someone else’s wedding. I thought, "There's no way that tent is for me!" and promptly walked in the opposite direction to the main restaurant. As I was walking away, the waiter tapped me on the shoulder and gestured at the tent. I was shocked when Arif told me that he had planned a special dinner for us and that was our table!
Rose petals were strewn about the sand, which was punctuated by a fiery heart drawn in the sand and lit on fire! We had a private romantic dinner on the beach at sunset between two palm trees. There were torch pillars on the beach lit in front of our white canopy with rose petals all over the table as well. We sat down to enjoy a custom menu cooked by a private chef. Every single dish had already been carefully chosen by Arif for our dinner.
I was speechless, it was so beautiful and thoughtful. In spite of the incredibly romantic setting, Arif was acting completely normal and did not seem nervous at all, so I didn’t really have any suspicions especially since the delicious food, conversation and beautiful sunset were so captivating. I felt so lucky to be enjoying this moment with Arif.
After finishing a particularly sumptuous quail risotto, we went for a walk on the pier in front of us on the beach. The stars were so bright in Mexico. As the night sky unveiled itself, a full moon rose in the sky, its luminous rays reflecting upon the glass sea and shining directly towards our table. I had never seen such a beautiful night.
When we got back to the table, the staff had re-lit the heart on fire and I really wanted to capture a photo for my Instagram! I looked for my camera, and as I was about to head over, Arif called to me, “Vanessa.” I looked back over and Arif had bent down on one knee in the sand, and said, “Vanessa, will you marry me?” in front of the fiery heart on the beach. I gasped, and for a moment time stood still for me as I looked into his eyes, earnest and waiting. I remember my hands flew to my mouth, I was in such shock. I didn't even really look at the ring, I just saw a very sparkly ring inside a box and went into shock. I managed to squeak, “Yes!!”, and of course promptly burst into tears as we hugged each other. We were both so caught up in the moment that he forgot to put the ring on my finger and even I didn’t realize this until 5 minutes later, when we went back to our table and apparently MORE FOOD was coming! I was so emotional, I couldn’t even eat. But champagne magically appeared and we managed to toast our magical moment. He even played one of our favorite songs as we danced under the moonlight, smiling and floating in our pure, unbridled happiness."
On her wedding style:
"I had never been the kind of girl who dreamed of her wedding day details – until I met Arif. I knew I wanted a fusion wedding that would combine elements of my Chinese-Taiwanese heritage and Arif’s Indian cultural background as well. I also love vibrant jewel-tone colors, and so I knew I wanted the wedding to be a very colorful and festive affair. I created mood boards and design briefs for all our vendors, which really helped them to understand our vision and bring it to life!
My inspiration was the concept of “Indian Palace at Sunrise meets Vintage Chinese Glam”. The idea came to me as I was poring over South Asian wedding magazines, Chinese decorative motifs and all of my Pinterest Boards. I actually sketched a few drawings including a lehenga, the Taj Mahal at sunrise, and decorative motifs from vintage Chinese tea lounges and landscape gardens.
Sunrise represents new beginnings, and I love photos of the Taj Mahal palace or Jaipur at sunrise. That is why I chose vibrant orange, pink and gold colors throughout the ceremony and reception. I also did a lot of research on Indian weddings and customs, and would read Maharani Weddings religiously! I loved the rich textile details of Indian clothing and incorporated elements like paisleys and heavy embroidery into elements like our cake, programs and of course, our outfits. I wanted all the bridesmaids’ saris to be different colors of the sunrise, so we custom ordered all of their saris as different hues of coral, blush peach, golden yellow, baby pink and teal. For the groomsmen kurtas, we selected different navy hues with intricately patterned silk.
For the flowers, I chose the same vibrant hues and wanted a “sunrise ombre” effect for our ceremony including a carpet of ombre rose petals and hanging bouquets from a draped ceremony arch of orange, blush pink and creamy cloud hues to emulate a sunrise in the sky. For the reception, I wanted lush and elegant centerpieces with a few wild pops of vibrant color and greenery with a golden vase. The bouquets included sunset pastel colors of pink peach, pale lavender and golden yellow roses with some vibrant pops of orange and fuchsia orchids and creamy hydrangeas. I also wanted some hanging green amaranth and gold leaves and branches to add a bit of a wild, flowing effect to our flowers. I selected the Golden Treasure orchid as the focal point of our sweetheart stage and centerpieces because it was my favorite, so we had hanging orchid lines in the backdrop. We layered it with an iridescent shimmering orange tablecloth and raspberry pink napkins.
For the Chinese part, 1930s Shanghai was largely influenced by 1920s Gatsby/flapper style, and our venue, Hempstead House, is said to be one of the original 1920s Gatsby style mansions in East Egg, Long Island. I felt that a great way to combine our venue’s 1920s vintage style and the Chinese part was to do a vintage Chinese glam feel. A great style reference point for me was the current costume exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, China Through the Looking Glass. I am obsessed with blue-and-white porcelain and chic Chinoiserie patterns and tassels, so it was like a dreamland there! I loved the opulence and western influence mingling with elegant East Asian details. I bought blue-and-white chinoiserie tea cups for our cocktail hour centerpieces, Chinese lacquered parasols for the bridal party, a tasseled fan with an ancient Chinese painting print, and a 1920s inspired fascinator with a birdcage veil. I also wanted to include a few traditional Chinese elements for the Chinese tea ceremony, like Double Happiness pillows, a red and gold tea set, a family altar board, and Dragon-and-Phoenix incense and candles.
Our ceremony programs by Ceci NY were distinctly Indian and Chinese at the same time. They were double-sided and shaped like a fan, with a deep red ribbon entwined in a knotted tassel at the end, since red is an auspicious color for both Chinese and Indian weddings. One side was for the Indian ceremony and included pink and orange Indian dome architectural patterns and translations in Urdu, and the other side was decorated in a Chinese blue-and-white porcelain floral pattern with gold Double Happiness characters and Chinese calligraphy. In the July heat, the program also doubled as a real fan for guests during our outdoor ceremony."
On what she enjoyed most about planning her dream fusion wedding:
"I enjoyed the fusion element the most, even though it was at times the most challenging. We had a mehendi in NYC, followed by our wedding day in Long Island which included a Baraat, an Indian ceremony, Chinese tea ceremony, 2 cocktail hours, and a reception that also included a Chinese Lion dance! There were so many cultural elements to include – from a Baraat horse to a Chinese lion dance team - and when I would search for “Chindian wedding” the only results I could find were in Singapore, Malaysia or Canada. Our Indian-Chinese/Taiwanese-American wedding had literally never been done before in New York! We even chose a wedding date, July 25th, 2015, that was auspicious according to both Chinese and Indian lunar wedding calendars.
I also enjoyed working together with my fiancé as a team. He was actually very involved in the planning and organization process and led the search for the caterer, venues and DJ; I created our wedding website (www.arifandvanessa.com) and coordinated the cultural, creative and design elements of the wedding.
The most exciting part was shopping for all 4 outfits and dreaming up the 4 different bridal and makeup looks I wanted for the Indian mehendi and wedding ceremony, Chinese tea ceremony, and the American reception look. I had 2 lehengas, both which I found and purchased in Edison, NJ after shopping in Manhattan, Jackson Heights, and Singapore. My aunt took me shopping in Singapore and we found a beautiful red Chinese qi pao dress with a mandarin collar and dramatic illusion beading and ruffles in the back. I had to beg the store to buy it and take it home with me to NYC, because most wedding dresses are only available for rent in Singapore! For my American dress, I must have tried on at least 50 dresses. I knew I wanted something with a low back and I was open to blush tones in my white dress, so I went to the Galia Lahav trunk show and actually found myself literally breathless when I tried a low-back dress with blush tulle on. That’s how I knew it was the one!"
On shopping for her dream bridal fashions:
"I spent months researching online via Pinterest, Maharani Weddings, South Asian wedding blogs, and buying the 1 copy of Asiana magazine at Barnes & Noble every month! I visited a few bridal salons in Manhattan, Jackson Heights and even Singapore, but never was able to find “the one.” Some of my married South Asian friends suggested we visit Edison, and they were kind enough to accompany us on some of our bridal shopping trips in Edison to help us navigate the desi shopping world. We would power through 5 hours of shopping on a samosa and chai, and reward ourselves with a nice dinner afterwards.
Finally, after poring through all the lehengas, I sketched my ideal lehenga based upon the embroidery patterns and silhouettes I liked and brought it with me to Edison. I think it scared off some of the sales girls, to be honest! Initially I thought I would want a lehenga with a lot of bling for my ceremony, but as I tried many lehengas on, the one that actually brought tears to my eyes was one that had a very traditional paisley pattern on the red choli blouse. I loved that it was a twist on the traditional red bridal lehenga because the dupatta was a mango orange color with gold, pearl, silver and red velvet embroidery, the blouse was a rich red color with gold paisleys, and the skirt was a brilliant fuchsia shade with heavy embroidery at the bottom, but lighter bling on the rest of the skirt, which allowed the beautiful pink colors to shine. It was literally the color of an Indian sunrise.
As for my mehendi lehenga, my fiancé actually spotted it while we were shopping and noted that it was my favorite color, turquoise! It had a gorgeous ombre effect with dazzling bling, and was paired with a baby pink dupatta. I felt like a fairy tale princess in it, and actually, my favorite Disney princess while I was growing up was Princess Jasmine from Aladdin, so I didn’t mind the similar color palette at all!"
On her and her Raja's first dance song selection:
"During the wedding planning process, I watched a lot of Bollywood movies and even took some Bollywood dancing classes. I just loved the energy, outfits, music and beats! We wanted to surprise our guests with some Bollywood moves, so we started our first dance to Coldplay’s “A Sky Full of Stars” and then transitioned to “Dum Dum Mast Hai” from Band Baaja Baraat. When some of our seated guests heard the Bollywood music, they literally came running to the dance floor to cheer us on! We had a few practice sessions 2 weeks prior to the wedding, but it literally came down to the night before the wedding, when we had to sneak away after dinner and do a 15 minute mini rehearsal at our hotel so that we had the confidence to pull it off the next day!"
On her hair and makeup:
"I have worked in the beauty industry for years and love playing with different makeup looks, so I was really excited about the hair and makeup! My primary concern was finding a makeup artist who could create Indian bridal looks but also work with Asian features. I had several makeup and hair trials but really loved Sonia C, who had a very elegant and timeless approach to hair and makeup, but also was able to work with my eye shape and execute trendy looks as well. I was so relieved when I found her! She was my hair, makeup and henna artist for all my wedding events and was able to execute a diverse range of looks flawlessly even on East Asian brides.
I created a makeup and hair brief with visuals of how I wanted to look. For my mehendi, I wanted a long braided updo with orchids, and a smoky turquoise eye with a pink lip. Because our event was in NYC and we took photos in Madison Square Park, there were a lot of little girls (and even a few adults) passing by who earnestly asked if I was a princess!
For the Indian ceremony, I wanted gold and burgundy eyeshadow with a softly defined crease and luscious fluttery lashes, bold brows, a matte fuchsia-toned red lip, and flawless dewy skin. I wanted to look like an Indian bride! The jewelry really took the look to the next level, and the transformation was really stunning.
For the Chinese tea ceremony, I wanted a vintage Gatsby feel to the Chinese look, so we went with a deeper matte red lip color, and more classic cat-eye eye makeup. We only had 30 minutes in between ceremonies to completely change my hair and makeup, so we left the updo from the Indian ceremony, added the vintage-inspired bridal birdcage veil and fascinator, and changed the eye and lip looks. It took longer to take off all my Indian clothing and jewelry than it did to change my hair and makeup for the Chinese ceremony!
Finally, for the reception, I wanted to look like an American bride but keep a few Indian elements like kundan jewelry and bangles. I was initially worried that my bridal henna would clash with my white dress, but it actually complemented the lace embroidery perfectly especially since I had wanted jewelry-inspired henna with more airy, organic-feeling designs and even a Chinese character for Double Happiness, which is always featured in Chinese wedding decor.
For my reception makeup, I wanted a smoky eye and baby pink lips. By then I was ready to party and enjoy my wedding! I definitely felt most like myself with this look, and even Arif agreed (although he loved all the different looks!). For my hairstyle, Sonia did a half-up wavy hairstyle that looked deceptively effortless (at the end of the night, my maid of honor helped me take out more than 40 bobby pins and multiple hair extensions!)."
One final Filmy feature is on its way, Maharanis! Don't miss out!