“We met on November 10, 2017 after chatting for a few weeks on Bumble (a dating app.) We originally connected over our taste in music but the conversation easily blossomed into much more, so the first meet up felt seamless. I was running late so I texted Anuj to let him know that I'd be there soon and he'd recognize me as soon as I came in - I love how he remembers this moment because he says when the doors opened and he saw me wearing disco boots and a big smile, he knew something special was about to happen.”
If you are anything like Maharani Erica, you haven’t given your wedding a sliver of thought until the day you end up with a ring on your finger. In the expert hands of Denise Lillie, Erica formed her own vision for the event by delicately blending her laid back California style with Indian customs and a dash of color. Together they crafted a creatively gorgeous seaside wedding in Half Moon Bay.
Originally set for three magnificent days of events with 300 guests from around the world, Erica & Anuj had to change all their plans. What they ended up putting together was a wonderfully intimate wedding that felt dreamy, authentic to themselves, and we might add drop dead gorgeous!
The venue was changed from Carmel Valley to her father’s best friend’s private estate in Half Moon Bay. A spot very special to the bride, she grew up swimming at the beach, playing cards with my sisters on the deck, and drinking milkshakes made using his vintage malt blender. The perfect setting for her to start her next chapter. With so many changes to their original wedding the biggest piece was the family who couldn’t make the journey, like the bride’s sister and the groom’s grandparents. While photography and cinematography have always played an important role in weddings, we are so grateful to have the talented team of Emily Jean Images and Wedding Documentary on hand to capture the day.
In true covid fashion, the dance floor became a no no, so the room was adoringly filled with eloquent, hilarious and tear-inducing toasts for the bride & groom that flooded the evening with warmth and humor. Having your loved ones pour so much effort into showering a couple with love is one 2020 tradition we hope is here to stay!
Since the couple paired down three days of celebrations to just one, at the last minute,the bride really wanted to have a mehndi party. By keeping it small she quickly planned an intimate gathering in her home for friends - both men and women - so the ladies could get henna designs on their hands and they could all come together for a pre-wedding event to kick off the celebrations. While everyone was socializing, something really beautiful happened - all of the women decided to wear saris instead of cocktail dresses to the wedding the next day! With their friends glowing back at them in saris and salwars, Erica & Anuj began their happily ever after.
How did you meet your Groom and when did you know he was "the one"?
We met on November 10, 2017 after chatting for a few weeks on Bumble (a dating app.) We originally connected over our taste in music but the conversation easily blossomed into much more, so the first meet up felt seamless. I was running late so I texted Anuj to let him know that I'd be there soon and he'd recognize me as soon as I came in - I love how he remembers this moment because he says when the doors opened and he saw me wearing disco boots and a big smile, he knew something special was about to happen.
The next few months had their ups and downs, as all new relationships do, but he took a trip to visit family in India and during that time, we spoke on the phone for about an hour each day - and I don't normally like talking on the phone! That's when I knew I really wanted to get serious. When he came back, I had made him his favorite lasagna and left little notes all around his apartment and from that point on, we fell into a beautiful, healthy and adventurous relationship.
Share the scoop on your Proposal Story!
We had just gotten back from an amazing vacation in Costa Rica and Anuj was adamant about taking me out for a "belated birthday lunch." We went to the Cliff House - a historic landmark at the beach in San Francisco - on September 29, 2019 (a full month after my birthday.) After a lovely lunch and some champagne, we walked down to the old Sutro Baths ruins. It was warm and sunny, which is quite rare for Ocean Beach, and we found the perfect spot to stand and watch the waves. At that moment, Anuj got down on one knee, told me that he loved me and wanted us to be together forever, and proposed with the most gorgeous diamond ring I have ever seen! I was thrilled to say yes. Luckily, this entire experience was captured beautifully by a covert photographer Anuj had hired in advance so we will always remember the details of that day. Afterward, we went to my parents house, where Anuj's family was also waiting to surprise us with an engagement pooja and celebration.
Tell us how you went about planning your wedding, and your overall experience with the Venues, Hair & Makeup, Outfits, Decor Theme, and all of the other important details.
I was never the type of girl who imagined her wedding from a young age - in fact, I rarely thought about getting married and didn't have a clear vision for my ideal event. I found an amazing wedding planner (Denise Lillie) and we clicked right away - she understood that we wanted a fusion blend to make sure my California style was equally represented along with the Indian customs, traditions and look. She was understanding, creative, knowledgeable, funny and had an impressive portfolio of magnificent weddings.
We worked together to plan a beautiful wedding in Carmel Valley - three days of events with around 300 guests from all over the world - but then the pandemic hit and everything had to be canceled. Although we had to take some time to grieve that loss, we ended up starting from scratch and putting together a wonderfully intimate wedding that felt dreamy, authentic and lovely.
Denise helped us assemble a cohesive vendor team, most of whom would have been helping with our original wedding, although we made a few small changes along with the venue. We had our wedding at my dad's best friend Jeff's house in Half Moon Bay - a place very special to me as I watched him build it from the ground up and I grew up swimming at the beach out front, playing cards with my sisters on the deck and drinking milkshakes Jeff made for us in his vintage malt blender.
The vendor team Denise built out for us was wonderful - they all took time to understand our style. They were adaptable, followed all covid safety precautions and worked together to help execute our dream. AAB Creations (along with InnoFarm Retreats) built the most fantastic mandaap imaginable and decorated the venue in a manner that far exceeded my expectations. Morsal Z created two wedding looks for hair & makeup that made me feel like a movie star and my best friend Meghan planned and prepared cocktail hour food that was better than any professional catering company I've tried. The photos and videos are incredible and I'm so proud of and thankful for Emily and Vijay capturing the details so beautifully. The only thing that wasn't perfect on our big day was the fact that we were missing so many of our loved ones, including my sister Cait and Anuj's grandparents.
How did you select your bridal lengha or wedding dress? Did you have a favorite color in mind?
In February, I went with Anuj and his parents to India to meet his extended family and do all of our wedding shopping. It was my first time in India and I had an incredible experience - the colors, flavors and hospitality of the country and its people greatly impressed me and spending quality time with Anuj’s grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins was an invaluable pleasure.
Now, I can’t really take credit for finding my bridal lengha - my mother-in-law spearheaded a week of shopping in Delhi. I wanted to go with a fully traditional style with red and gold, but I’d never even worn so much as a sari before, so I didn’t know anything more than that. She shepherded us around to all the various shopping districts, consulted the staff, negotiated prices and, in the end, I fell in love with an intricately detailed (but not too heavy) tomato red outfit with gold beadwork and a custom-made gold dupatta with a celestial look.
I changed into a wedding dress from BHLDN after our ceremony - long white lace, plunging neckline and sheer back with a long line of pearl buttons. I also got a custom denim jacket from Etsy with “Mrs. Kucheria” printed on the back as a surprise for Anuj and it’s a good thing I did because it got a bit cold and windy in the evening :)
What was the most enjoyable part of the planning process, and why?
In the beginning, we loved touring venues and testing caterers - it was so much fun to imagine the possibilities and refine our desires! Looking back, I also really loved writing my vows and working with my team to think through the aesthetics of the event. I really wanted it to look and feel organic, bohemian, romantic and culturally blended. I’m so happy with the outcome and what we achieved.
What did your guests particularly love about your Wedding?
Everyone raved about the cocktail hour food! Meghan put together a vegetarian menu of individually portioned and delightfully plated snacks like baby heirloom crudites, vegan spring rolls, wild mushroom empanadas, rainbow beet stacks with pistachio-crusted goat cheese, and roasted garlic polenta and olive tapenade bites. Our guests also loved the decor - very bohemian, ethereal, warm and charming.
Was there a really special moment in your wedding that constantly replays in your mind?
There are a few moments that play on repeat but the main thing that comes to mind is the first look. When Anuj saw me all dolled up in my traditional Indian bridal outfit, dripping in gold jewelry and with glam hair and makeup, the look on his face will forever be etched in my mind. The videographer captured it perfectly and in our highlight reel you can actually see the amazement in his eyes as he says “oh my god”. To me, he looked like a prince and I was equally blown away.
Another moment that was very special was the speech portion of the night. Because of covid (as well as venue restrictions) we didn’t have a dance floor, so people got really into the toasts. Our friends and family prepared eloquent, hilarious, and tear-inducing speeches that flooded the evening with warmth, humor, fond memories and well wishes. It meant so much to use to have our loved ones pour so much effort into showering us with love.
For events other than your ceremony, please tell us as much as you would like about the decor, style, dances, and all the special details.
After canceling our original wedding, sangeet, mehndi and farewell brunch, we were only planning on having a one-evening event for our wedding. At the last minute, however, I wanted to have a mehndi party. We kept it super small and did an intimate gathering in my home for our friends - both men and women - so the ladies could get henna designs on their hands and we could all come together for a pre-wedding event to kick off the celebrations. While everyone was here socializing, something really beautiful happened - all of the women decided to wear saris instead of cocktail dresses to the wedding the next day! My friend Beth had enough saris to outfit everyone and then she made the rounds around Half Moon Bay on the morning of our wedding to dress my friends. Everyone looked beautiful and it really provided an extra jazziness to the day.
Do you have any words of wisdom for Brides-To-Be?
Don't put too much pressure on yourself or your wedding - your attitude will dictate everything so be present, be flexible and be loving. The process can be stressful if you let it so keep things fun and light and don’t make your entire life about one day.
Anything else you want to tell us? We'd love to hear all about your other details! (jewelry, mehndi, venue, cake, bouquets, etc.)
The baraat! Anuj came down the block in a vintage Porsche, led by a dhol player and surrounded by our friends and family dancing in colorful clothing. It was one of the most beautiful, unique events I have ever witnessed. I got to watch the whole thing from above.