When it comes to both of us, we knew one of the biggest things we both wanted was to personalize our wedding and reception. We were dating for over 10 years (eek, I know), before our wedding, which means a lot of memories! Within those 10 years, we spent 6 long distance. We called many places home, shared many firsts, and we really wanted to share our journey learning and growing from one another with all of our family and friends. Hence, our wedding was themed "Love is... a beautiful journey together." We incorporated the cities that were near and dear to us into handmade centerpieces at the reception. Chicago - since we both were born and brought up in the Northwest suburbs. Seattle - since we both moved there together after our undergraduate years apart, and where we adopted our little fur baby (Yogi)! The Caribbean - as I went to medical school there. And last but not least, San Francisco - as this is where we currently live and where we finally moved in together and started our first home with one another. We had a custom bar menu, where we tailored drinks to represent each of these locations, as well.
We are both pretty simple people, and wanted to keep things simple, yet elegant for the Wedding itself. So we went with a gold theme accented by roses. (Especially since roses are my mom's favorite flower!) We actually went through about 200 mandap designs before Mayank showed us one we both loved - these beautiful golden carved pillars enhanced with lights inside. We flanked our mandap with two 8 foot walls of fresh roses. To kick off the baraat - we handed out sunglasses that had our wedding hashtag on them (#GoingGoingGandhi), and they also contained a bottle opener at the end (JUST IN CASE!) We served coconut water out of a fountain, since this was a favorite of the groom's parents, the bride, and her mother. We wanted bold colors for our bridal party, and found forest green and gold outfits to complement our red and gold wedding. With the help of our wonderful sisters and cousins, we were able to design a wagon lined with red silk pillows, golden hearts, and flowers for our handsome ring bearer pup (Yogi). We also had every flower girl, including one newborn, strut a pearly gold decorated basket, matching our mandap. We designed a pamphlet to leave at each seat, so that our family and friends could follow along during the ceremony and understand the meaning of each ritual. We decided to add a little flare to our getaway car by taking all of the panels off of our cousin's lifted Jeep, adorning it with the most colorful balloons and streamers.. and eventually having our whole bridal party drive off with the both of us. (We couldn't leave our crew behind!!)
Aside from those three, huge events, we hosted a mixer event that was fiesta themed for all of our "young" folk, complete with Mexican food, a pinata, and sombreros. (From this, you can probably tell how much we love Mexican food!) Our lovely sisters threw me a bridal shower, completely FRIENDS themed, after my favorite show.
As for my hair and makeup, I found Gayatri after coming across one of her reviews, and I am so grateful I stumbled on her name. There are no other words to describe Gayatri other than phenomenal. From our very first phone call, I knew that I would be able to put my trust and confidence in her. She was so knowledgeable about the tiniest, yet important, details - like the type of flower that would suit my hair. She had a knack for knowing exactly what suited my face and hair, even when I myself couldn't explain what I wanted. She gave me the simple, yet glamorous look I always imagined, and she perfected every detail to the tee. Funny enough, we never even did a trial! Obviously, this is scary for any bride, but Gayatri's expertise gave me all the reassurance in the world. We went with a fishtail braid, adorned with fresh baby's breath for my Sangeet (Thank you to the groomsmen who ran out to the store to buy this for me!). We accented my orange and pink off the shoulder with golden toned smokey eyes. For the wedding, we decided to revisit the traditional Indian bride with Kundaan jewelry, complete with side tikka and nose ring. And lastly, for the reception, Gayatri was able to create an elegant, side swept style, finished with a hair piece. Throughout this journey, she was not only the best MUA I've ever seen, but such a loving friend. I wish I could get married again just so she could glam me up once more!
Last but not least, we couldn't have had such an amazing wedding without our day of planners. We all know that sometimes Indian people aren't the most punctual/easiest to direct. However, Chandani was somehow able to make that magic happen! She helped us organize everything - from sorting contracts, making sure our payments were taken care of, setting up our handmade decor, laying out a detailed itinerary shared with all necessary parties, & making sure my new hubby and I spent some quiet time alone on our busy day! They even helped us include Yogi within our events! Honestly, I could easily say that because of them - Nihar and I didn't stress at all. We were able to thoroughly enjoy every event! Her and her team helped us with even the silliest of details, like how to secure particular hotel rooms to capture photos we wanted, or even setting aside time to say hi to our parents. They helped our families pass out gifts in an organized manner at the reception, ensure that our grandparents had the best view, & even made sure my bridesmaids and I had coffee the morning of! Nihar and I were well taken care of during the entire day - we joked that her team were kind of like our CIA security guards, & we felt like Mr. and Mrs. President of the day (haha). They saved us from distractions, hydrated us when we needed, and even made sure we got seconds of our cake, with her team on deck for touch up lipstick after cake. It was incredible. At the end of the day, Chandani & her team were honestly the reason our wedding was so smooth.
How did you select your bridal lengha or wedding dress? Did you have a favorite color in mind?
So - I am probably the least up to date on fashion and the least capable of choosing bridal wear. I can't even put on my own falsies! I went into all of my events knowing that I wanted something "different" and something that was very "me." I actually designed my own mehndi outfit after buying some fabric online and using jewelry I pieced together from Rajkot, India. I attached a kundora to the blouse, instead of wearing it traditionally around my waist, and ditched the dupatta - leaving me with a beautiful white and green lehenga that was easy to move around in and complemented my dark mehndi.
I designed my Sangeet outfit with the help of a friend, Rajika Mehra Agarwal and her company Extraordinary Designs. They specialize particularly in South Asian bridal wear, and together we were able to sketch and design the outfit of my dreams! I really wanted to incorporate floral into one of my outfits, along with an off-the-shoulder design. At the time we designed this, not many people were comfortable with the "off the shoulder" as a bridal piece. Rajika and I worked together with her designer, and altogether we pieced together floral vines in the lehenga, along with a bright off the shoulder that was easy to move around in for the Sangeet itself! (Funny enough, this outfit was a last minute replacement of another orange lehenga I had originally purchased from Mumbai at Seasons). (Ladies - it is totally okay to change outfits. After so much contemplation, I had absolutely no regrets!)
For my wedding outfit, I visited Mumbai and fell in love at a boutique called Kala Kruti. This was a funny story, since the two things I did not want were velvet and two-tone. However, once I tried on this THREE-toned lehenga with a velvet blouse, nothing else felt right. I learned really quickly that it is so important to keep an open mind while shopping for a lehenga, ESPECIALLY your wedding lehenga! I loved the beige chaniyo, albeit 18lb too heavy, but I had it tailored to a mermaid shape, with a very traditional, maroon cap sleeved blouse, finished with heavy tassles and a bright red dupatta.
Lastly, for the reception, I knew I wanted to shy away from the traditional reception lehengas we had always seen - the navy blues with thin pleated dupatta or the new sleeveless gowns. Thanks to the tailors at Ella Fashion in Mumbai, my icy blue gown was reconstructed from a three piece lehenga, which originally had a sleeveless blouse and fairly plain chaniyo. Thanks to ideas from my in-laws, and Elsa from the movie Frozen (!!), we were able to add diamond work to the entire piece, and connect it to form a beautifully fitted gown, finished with an open back and sheer, long sleeves. I felt like an absolute princess. I knew this was not a very common reception color, let alone style. I felt unique, and felt like the gown really ended my wedding outfits with a bang!
What was the most enjoyable part of the planning process, and why?
We really enjoyed customizing the decor for our wedding, particularly for the reception! We really wanted our "Love is a Journey" theme to shine through, and Mayank's team at Shaadi Creations helped us bring these vague ideas to stunning reality. We really enjoyed recalling the various places we had spent time together over the past ten years, and brainstorming all kinds of crazy objects we could try to use from those cities as centerpieces. We eventually settled on the cities of Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, and the island of Grenada in the Caribbean, where Nehal went to Medical School (and Nihar visited!). One particularly daunting part of this was assembling twelve 3D puzzles of the Sears Tower skyscraper, which would serve as the centerpiece for the Chicago themed tables. Having to assemble these in Chicago prior to our arrival from California, we enlisted the help of our sisters and cousins who volunteered their evenings and weekends to help assemble the puzzles. The Towers turned out to be a big hit, and a very memorable part of the wedding that highlighted the theme. Since we had purchased the puzzles, we were fortunate to be able to thank some of our friends and family who had helped us throughout the planning process by gifting them a Sears Tower of their own!
What did your guests particularly love about your Wedding?
One of the biggest complements we keep getting (even months later) is that we included everyone within our wedding. We absolutely LOVE this complement and couldn't have asked for a better response from our family and friends.
We allowed each family member or close friend to be a part of our wedding in some way, shape, or form - whether it be a part of the bridal party, part of the home ceremonies, part of the group that carried Nehal down the aisle, part of particular group photos, or even as part of an impromptu dance at the reception! We allowed for our guests in the "audience" at the reception to give us advice in our marriage and for our futures, we gave our grandparents a special honor during the wedding ceremonies, and we ensured there was something "fun" to do for guests of all ages during our cocktail hour. We even hosted various functions throughout the week - such as the mixer fiesta for the younger generation, bridal party, cousins, and friends to get to know one another before the big day. We hosted dinners where both Nihar and I could meet extended family for the first time with plenty of quality mingling time. We incorporated everyone's ideas in various decor within our homes, cars, and music selection through many google docs leading up to the wedding weekend (which was well received!) Essentially, we tried our hardest to incorporate everyone into our wedding weekend and made it a point to let everyone know how utterly grateful we were that they were there celebrating with us.
Was there a really special moment in your wedding that constantly replays in your mind?
With all the chaos that is a days-long Indian wedding, it's easy to get caught up in the activities and the throngs of friends and family to greet and party with. With all the activities, people, planning, and schedules, the few moments we spent alone really stood out as the most memorable. The one moment that keeps playing back is the first look that was so professionally orchestrated by the Events by C team. More than ten years after we met and two years since we had gotten engaged, not to mention a long summer of intensive wedding planning and a week of nonstop festivities, it was finally time to meet each other--as bride and groom. On the dew-covered back lawn of the Waterford, with the morning Sun flickering through the surrounding tree leaves, we had a chance to experience each other in tranquility. There was a climactic tension building as we could sense each other's presence, and as we finally turned to catch each other's eyes, we were overcome by emotion. This wasn't just another party or gathering of families--this was the beginning of our lives together.
Anything else you want to tell us? We'd love to hear all about your other details! (jewelry, mehndi, venue, cake, bouquets, etc.)
Here is a quick "about the bride" and "about the groom"
About the Bride
Nehal was born and raised in Schaumburg, IL. She studied biology at the University of California, San Diego, and she has earned a medical degree from St. George's University.
Aside from medicine, dance has always been a major part of her life. Nehal spent 8+ years training in Bharatnatyam (classical Indian dance), and spent years after performing an competing on various Garba/Raas and Bollywood dance teams, where she was the leader of a national championship winning team. She enjoys spending time with her doggies (Lexi & Yogi), trying new foods, and traveling - especially with her sister, Kinjal. Also a Chicago sports fan, she ensures to never miss a game.
About the Groom
Nihar was born and raised in Des Plaines, IL. He studied engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and he currently works as an aerospace engineer in San Jose, CA. Aside from his work, his hobbies include photography, designing and building all sorts of gadgets, and traveling. He enjoys spending some quality "man-to-man" time with their dog, Yogi, and taking him on all sorts of adventures. He is a huge fan of Chicago sports, minus the White Sox, of course.
Over the last 10 years, he has mastered the art of fixing everything that Nehal breaks...
About my mehndi -
I had Kamini Aunty from Kamini Mehndi to help design my bridal mehndi. I incorporated two cities near and dear to Nihar and I - both Chicago where we grew up, and SF where we live now. I added a plane flying between the two cities, representing Nihar's work as an aerospace engineer. I added paw prints for my little man, Yogi, as well as a stethoscope to represent my work in medicine. I added elephants to my feet, as well as peacocks to my forearms, representing two animals I deem especially beautiful.
Check out the sequel of this Indian love story in our next feature!