Monday is here, ladies! And as you already know, it is time for another jaw-dropping celebration feature! When it comes to the planning and design of the most important day of your life, a lot needs to be taken into consideration, but this couple knew exactly what they wanted and how they wanted it. Raja Naresh's organizational and techy skills made the process even easier for Maharani Avani to chose all the details and glitter. What a team! Our friends from Since 1987 Films were at Tampa to document with their cameras everything that went on at the grand Hilton Tampa Airport Westshore. Our gallery of today totally screens accurately Avani & Naresh's grand vision. The spree was this beautiful ode to taste and of course, our couple was looking absolutely rocking. No less is expected when a Maharani ties the knot and our dear Michele Renee The Studio and her dolling up skills know about that! I am so excited for this, ladies, I am absolutely certain that you are just going to adore this pair. So enough with words and let us get to the images.
How did you meet your Groom and when did you know he was "the one"?
We met on the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel. Our first date consisted of a shared, vegetarian Thai dinner at Thai Prime next to the hotel where their wedding took place. They then enjoyed a really fun night out in Tampa Bay’s SoHo district (where the wedding after-party was) that lasted into the wee hours of the morning. In total, we ended up visiting seven or eight different places on that first night. Our second date was the very next day at the Laxmi Narayan Mandir, where Naresh has been visiting every Sunday for yoga, meditation, and prayers. Our third date was the next day after that, at P.F. Chang's for dinner. While Naresh felt like I was his "One," after the first date, I knew a few weeks into our relationship.
Share the scoop on your Proposal Story!
Weeks before the proposal day, Naresh’s friend Santosh Govindaraju sent an email invitation for his birthday party at the top of the Aloft hotel in downtown Tampa Bay. Coincidentally, on the same day as the party, a different friend of our, Michele Renee - who runs a hair and makeup studio - invited me to participate as an "Indian model" during training for her new artists. We decided to meet at the Aloft hotel for the birthday after my beauty session. On my way to the hotel, I received a call from Naresh telling me he had just gotten to the birthday and that a guy at the entrance would lead her to a special location for the occasion. When I arrived at the front, I found it odd to be met by a photographer. I followed the photographer up to the top floor of the hotel. As soon as I opened the door to the penthouse, I knew there was no birthday party. The room was filled with red balloons, hearts, roses, candles, and my favorite Ferrero Rocher chocolates. The photographer had me sit down to watch a video on the TV filled with sweet messages recorded by our families and photos of us together. Halfway through the video, I was confused about why I was watching this alone while the photographer was snapping pictures of my reactions. I legitimately thought Naresh was late to his own proposal. I couldn't even concentrate on the video because I kept gazing around the penthouse for him... but at the end of the video, there was Naresh, telling me to come out to the balcony. I followed a trail of roses from the TV couch to the balcony. Another pathway outside led me to Naresh, who was on one knee in a heart-shaped bed of petals bordered by candles. He said a few words about how it had been exactly 364 days from the day we first met and how his life had completely changed for the better. It was such a sweet and thoughtful proposal, and of course, I said YES! But it didn't end there... After an immediate photo session with the photographer around Tampa's Riverwalk, we returned to the penthouse, where about 30 of our close family and friends secretly gathered for a surprise engagement celebration! This was actually more of a surprise than the proposal!!! Some of our family drove or flew in from out of town. Other friends FaceTimed into the event. It was an eventful night of dinner, drinks, dessert, and love. Everyone celebrated the night and ended up at the hotel bar downstairs, which was blocked off for the group's party. Naresh, his parents, and I then spent the rest of the weekend in Orlando at a resort near Disney to keep the festivities going.
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.
We hired a month-of coordinator and separate day-of coordinator. We recommend hiring both even if you’re looking to save a few bucks. It’s important to feel as relaxed as possible the week of the wedding and during all the festivities.
Naresh handled a bulk of the long-term planning, event coordination, negotiations, and programming (of course, with the consultation of me :-). Naresh owns an online and digital agency, and one of the services they offer is online special events like webinars and virtual conferences. They know what’s entertaining, what’s boring, what’s expensive, how to negotiate, etc. His company has generated more than $10 million dollars for clients over the past few years, so planning an actual physical event like a wedding was much smoother than the horror stories he was led to believe. Naresh treated our wedding #Narvani2018 just like he does his tech work. He quantified prospective vendors, digitized processes, and outsourced the labor to speed up efficiency and effectiveness.
Naresh identified the three cheapest venues (through an Excel spreadsheet model he created, since each venue has different variable costs) in the Tampa-St. Pete area that could accommodate more than 350 people. I visited all three and picked my favorite.
About 100 locals attended at least one of the events. The rest of the folks (about 250 folks) drove in from Ocala or flew in from around the world.
The wedding ceremony took place inside our hotel venue’s ballroom. It was on a Friday late morning. The mandap was beautiful with fresh flowers, candles, votives, entry ramp, etc.
The baraat got rained out, so we did the baraat inside the hotel. They had an area where we could do it. We were very fortunate that our DJ Inderjeet is a dhol player, so we were able to do a truly mobile baraat inside.
Everything took place in the hotel.
I made centerpieces for the reception. They were trees with crystals.
Naresh choreographed multiple jaw-dropping dances. I made a slideshow that was running throughout the reception backdrop. Naresh also gave a speech with supporting slideshow that one person called “the greatest wedding speech given by a groom in the history of weddings.” Multiple people have requested access to this video of the speech. It will release next month. All attendees under 50 years kept in touch via a private WhatsApp group. The group chat got very wild and crazy, which made the memories and new friendships even more lasting.
How did you select your bridal lengha or wedding dress? Did you have a favorite color in mind?
I went to India. I tried on a bunch of outfits and picked the dresses I liked the most. I wanted a wedding outfit to be traditional red. I wanted blush and gold as the colors for the wedding theme because those are popular colors for Indian weddings. They are pretty and "in."
What was the most enjoyable part of the planning process, and why?
Food and cake tasting were the most enjoyable parts of the planning process. They were fun activities to do together as a family.
What did your guests particularly love about your Wedding?
We were surprised at the feedback we got regarding the joint priests (Telugu and Gujurati). The two priests worked amazingly with their teams (we had an additional three or four priests reading the Shastras), the DJ, and the thavil, shehnai, and nadaswaram musicians. You could truly feel holy vibrations during the auspicious muhurtham. "I've never been to a wedding with such talented and wonderful Vedic priests. It was a privilege to witness the divine merging of two cultures, traditions, people."
Was there a really special moment in your wedding that constantly replays in your mind?
It was very nice to see everyone - friends and family - coming from all around the world to celebrate under one roof.
Do you have any words of wisdom for Brides-To-Be?
I tried to do some of my own décor items, and we ended up not using them. We recommend not doing your own decorations. Spend the money to get a professional company to do it all. Don’t do anything yourself. Estimate that the liquor tab will cover your entire food and beverage minimum (assuming you’ll have liquor at your Sangeet and wedding).
Don’t get stressed out over this event. Get a good project manager and event coordinator to take on the workload and stress. The future of your marriage is far more important than your wedding weekend.
Stick around for more, ladies!