Wedding festivities began with a Hindu marriage ceremony at the Lakshminarayan Temple in Freeport and a “slamming” party at home to celebrate. The couple was then ready for their next main event: a glitzy reception at the Magdalena Grand, Tobago.
They wanted an outdoor setting and a destination feel that would remain accessible to their guests, so it was the perfect option.
The effervescent Dana was the picture of elegance in an Oleg Cassini dress and Christian Louboutin shoes. She wore mother-of-pearl and white sapphire earrings, a Swarovski bracelet, and an adorable fascinator—handmade by Hanna Sebestova (available on Etsy).
After a delectable dinner, which included Chicken Scallopini and Grilled Pink Salmon with Chimichurri, guests danced under the star-lit night sky and enjoyed a breathtaking view of the ocean. A fireworks display brought the memorable evening to a close, but not before guests were treated to some after-party snacks: wings and corn soup!
Photos by Gary Jordan
Both Anita and Zaheer were members of the West Indian Students’ Association at the University of Toronto where they were both studying. They began dating soon after Zaheer called up Amita for a coffee date, and not long after, Zaheer planned a special ‘one-month anniversary’ treat. Using a ‘reminisce’ theme, the couple retraced their dates and visited all the places they had gone together during that month.
Though the couple had been together for six years, Zaheer knew for a long time that Amita was ‘the one’. When he felt ready to provide for his future bride, he approached his parents, and sealed the deal with a custom-made engagement ring.
Venue & Program
Amita and Zaheer, both living in Toronto, chose the picturesque Ohana Villa in Tobago for their wedding and reception. Day 1, the wedding, featured a traditional Hindu marriage ceremony. On Day 2, the couple hosted a reception dinner and party with a ‘Trini flair’.
Theme & Décor
The wedding and reception were designed to feature two distinct looks. For the wedding, the mood was warm, inviting and tropical with hues of gold and red accented by crystals. The beautiful mandap (wedding area for a Hindu marriage ceremony) paired well with Ohana’s modern Tahitian-styled wooden villa. The reception featured a medley of white, silver, turquoise, fuchsia and orange that complemented the breathtaking ocean view.
Amita wore a brilliant yellow sari for the marriage ceremony, and then changed into a luxurious red lehenga for the afterwedding festivities. Zaheer wore a cream-coloured sherwani with deep red and crystal accents. At the reception, Amita was resplendent in a crystal-embroidered strapless gown from Mona Richie in Toronto, and her groom donned a grey suit, blue shirt and a white tie.
The couple’s cake featured the wedding colours: fuchsia, turquoise, orange and white. To accommodate their vegetarian guests, they chose an eggless vanilla cake with rennet-free fondant for the top tier.
The bride’s bouquet was a tropical mixture of pink and orange florals, while the centerpieces showcased bright pinroses as well as orange and pink tiger lily arrangements.
The couple tried to avoid (in the words of Zaheer), “a wedding where guests just come to the banquet hall, eat dinner, and cry!” The couple styled their wedding invitations like a boarding pass with travel stamps, since their guests were flying in from all over the world. To honor their Caribbean heritage, they designed a logo of a hibiscus flower—to highlight their Trinidadian origin—and a water lily, the national flower of Guyana, as Amita’s father is Guyanese. This logo was then emblazoned on their wedding stationery and guest book.
Amita is a woman who believes in signs. She remembers waking up early on the morning of her wedding to the sound of pouring rain—they had forgotten it was the rainy season! But just then, she experienced a nice omen when the clouds began to part, the sun began to shine, and she knew everything would go well for her wedding day. Zaheer’s favourite memory is when the DJ played “Palance” at the reception and most of their wedding party got up and began ‘palancing’ with them!
Photography: Relate Studios, www.itsgoodtorelate.com
Wedding Planner: Tricia Ng-A-Mann, Events by Tricia, 868-740-2015
Décor: Brian Pantin, Absolutely Fabulous Events, 868-355-0451
BELLE recommended food: Monix
BELLE recommended cakes: Cakes Your Way
At Roytec, where they were both students, Alana and Taurean were put into a study group by one of their lecturers. After two years of going steady, they became proud parents of their daughter, Lauri, and decided to get married one year later.
Taurean, in his own words, decided to be “intimate and corny” and chose New Years Eve 2011 to ask Alana to be his wife. Armed with an engagement ring, Taurean proposed under a backdrop of celebratory fireworks and waited all of two seconds for Alana’s enthusiastic “yes!”
The couple chose the backyard of Alana’s mom’s home in Point Fortin, known for its starry nights and panoramic view of the Gulf of Paria. They even named it Clifton Hill Manor before sending out their invitations!
Theme & Décor
The couple chose a blend of classic and modern elegance to showcase their personal style and creativity. Taurean, an event planner by profession, worked alongside Alana to emblazon their personal style onto every aspect of their day.
Set against the ocean, aisles lined with white blossom trees led up to a pergola, designed by the groom, under which the couple exchanged vows.
The evening cocktail area was reminiscent of a sunset and featured purple lotuses with black and yellow linens. To mark the transition from evening to night, the couple designed the open-air reception area with black linens and contrasting fuchsia and apple-green accents. Tall cylindrical vases of crystals, LED lights and green apples surrounded shorter vases of pink tiger lilies and green foliage.
Taurean constructed a parquet dance floor which was decorated with ambient lighting. The deco trees styled to resemble weeping willows, set off by pink and green lighting, created a light and whimsical feel. The couple even used Alana’s mom’s dining furniture to remember their special moments every time they looked at her chairs.
Alana wore a ball gown with a sweetheart neckline from Everlasting Vows in Price Plaza, and Steve Madden crystal-studded ballet flats (since she and Taurean are almost the same height). Taurean opted for a locally-designed suit by Junior Findley of Findley Brothers. He wore classic black with a tailored white French wing tip collar shirt, white cravat tie, black Calvin Klein shoes and belt, and Kenneth Cole cufflinks.
Wedding Party Attire
Alana visualized her bridesmaids looking like ‘garden fairies with lots of tulle’—and got exactly that! The girls wore short, black dresses cutely accented with fuchsia pumps. Taurean favored a sharp, clean look for his groomsmen and chose classic black suits that featured fuchsia ties, except for the Best Man who wore a lime green tie.
The 3-tier fruit cake, designed by the creative couple, was fashioned with a polka dot ribboned base and simple pink and green flowers at the top.
Alana and Taurean chose their music tracks to reflect their personal taste and special moments in their relationship. As the couple’s entry was announced at the reception, two moko jumbies (the decoy bride and groom) sauntered in, followed by the real couple.
Their first dance was a Bollywood piece, Pehli Nazar Mein, during which the couple twirled under a display of fireworks and softly falling rain. Romantic moments over, it was time for serious partying. Carnival was less than two month’s away, so not only was there a popular soca artist, but a rhythm section and a tassa band as well!
Dedicated family and friends, a keen spirit, and a great photographer! The couple recounts that hospitality should be at the forefront, as guests should be well-taken care of and given no reason to complain, and items such as entertainment and food should be well thought out. They also advise keeping a box of safety pins handy, as so many people asked for them on the day!
The couple risked having a completely uncovered, open-air event. Despite a brilliant sunrise, at around 10 am on the wedding day, the weather changed. A massive scramble of people, tables, chairs, centerpieces and every possible item of décor ensued, with everyone trying their level best to prevent any damage from the rainfall. Taurean entered nervous breakdown mode and locked himself in a room where he listened to the rain pour. At one point, the winds were so strong, trees and furniture got blown away, and they even experienced an electrical shortage in one part of the building. Meanwhile, the bridesmaids simply closed the blinds as the bride also suffered major panic and exclaimed, “He should have used the tents!” It was, officially, a disaster.
But, the couple’s amazing family and friends took action and transformed the catastrophe into a manageable situation—they washed, dried, and reset the linens not once, twice but three times during the course of the day. Then, five minutes before the ceremony started, the groom and groomsmen were still scrambling about trying to figure out which trousers belonged to each of them as all the suits had been laundered together!
Almost to the end of their eventful day, the newlyweds danced in the rain to their favourite song, hair flopped and soaking, under the fireworks. To them, it was perfect.
Photography: Gary Jordan, www.garyjordan.com
Décor & Event Management: Taurean Design Studios, email@example.com
Food: Clifton Hill Manor Ltd, firstname.lastname@example.org
BELLE recommended venues: Crews Inn Hotel and Yachting Centre; Anchorage Beach Club
BELLE recommended sweet treats: Cakes Your Way
JoMaria and Jonas
In the Arab culture, the bridegroom would solicit the permission of the bride’s father before he proposes. Thereafter, a date is set for the “asking”, where his family goes to the bride-to-be’s house to ask her family to consent to the union.
Thirty-five members of Jonas’ family arrived at JoMarie’s house with a cart filled with bread and fruits to signify the breaking of bread between two families. After a dinner feast, the engagement party and wedding was planned.
The bride’s agenda on the morning of the wedding included the Blessed Sacrament and Confession with her family (which provided her a sense of peace for the day). Thereafter, bridesmaids arrived at her house and groomsmen at Jonas’ house. The bridal party proceeded to the church, and finally to the reception after a quick detour at an aunt’s house to take photographs.
Dress, shoes and jewellery
JoMarie bought her Vera Wang dress from Ever After boutique in Miami. It was the first dress she tried on; she fell in love with its simple sweetheart bodice and ballroom skirt with individually ruched silk organza and tulle bunches. Her shoes, with its tulle and organza front, perfectly complemented her dress. Her earrings were “something borrowed” from her godfather’s wife.
The couple wanted an earthy, natural and elegant indoor garden affair. They used bamboo chevalier chairs and lots of white, draped fabric, key lighting and strategically placed garden statues with floral baskets and arrangements.
The bride’s bouquet, arranged by Sandra Debs, comprised vendela roses; the bridesmaids each held a bouquet of mango calla lilies (which complemented their golden dresses); the groomsmen wore mango calla lily boutonnieres. The church was decked in hydrangea roses, spider mums, bells of Ireland and white carnations.
The wedding reception décor comprised centerpieces elevated on glass pedestal martini glasses with white dendrobium orchids imported from Indonesia. The head table was adorned with orchids, roses and anthuriums. The corridor leading to the ballroom was transformed into a magical secret garden with hanging vines and trellises. Fresh flowers and foliage were used throughout.
The five-tier wedding fruitcake was designed by the bride’s mother and mother-in-law to complement her gown; the designers’ vision was executed by Ann Whitby.
Guests were greeted with a mezze spread on their table with assorted items such as hummus, kibbe, raw kibbe, Arabic cheese, pickles, nuts and bread. A buffet styled dinner comprised sushi, a seafood bar, shrimp, mushroom ravioli, pork tenderloin, and stuffed chicken with spinach. The desserts contained an array of pitted dates (stuffed with orange peel, almonds and pistachios), jelly fruits, imported Arabic sweets, chocolates and colorful macaroons.
The couple opted for drumbaki (Arabic) drumming in addition to their disk jockey. The bridal party entered the reception ballroom to the sounds of both Arabic music and drumming.
(Point of View)
What were the most memorable moments?
JoMarie: My bridesmaids were lifting my dress and singing, “We’re going to the chapel and we’re going to get married” as we walked to the car which would take us to the church. I started to cry as the reality that this was my wedding day sunk in.
Walking into the reception, with my husband and the bridal party, to Arabic drums, and waving handkerchiefs, was a moment that I would never forget. This is also the moment where the bride is welcomed into the groom’s family.
During an interlude my mother had my cousin sing Martina McBride’s I Hope You Dance as a surprise to me. This was very heartfelt and touching. I would also never forget dancing with my father and looking over to see Jonas dancing with his mother.
The most sentimental moment?
JoMarie: Our four grandmothers carried the Offertory at the church; it was extremely special to us to have all four grandmothers present as our grandfathers have passed away, and not many couples can boast this honour.
What were the most unique things about your wedding?
JoMarie: We wanted our wedding to reflect our Trinidadian and Syrian/Lebanaese cultures so we included a Chow bar, an Arabic coffee bar, an argyle/hookah station with Arabian rugs and couches as well as doubles (which came out later in the night after the party got under way). Another unique element was a picture slide show of what happened that day, before the wedding (my bridesmaids and I getting ready as well as Jonas and his groomsmen), as you don’t usually get to see this taking place.
Alaric and Ngozi
The ceremony was held at St. Joseph’s R.C. Church, Scarborough, with the reception at Brash Villa, Mt. Irvine, Tobago. The grounds of the villa were beautifully lush and full of character, thanks to the Spanish-influenced architecture. The swimming pool—of great significance to Ngozi, Nigerian Olympic swimmer—provided a serene glow, while the unobstructed view of the Buccoo Reef was simply breathtaking.
Theme & Décor
The couple set out to create an enchanting, romantic, and sophisticated outdoor experience for their wedding. White with vibrant accents of blue and berry—expressed in different elements and luxuriously illuminated—effectively showcased their personal style: minimalist and elegant, with punches of colour. Ngozi and Alaric designed every element of their wedding, with ample help from their family and friends in putting it all together. The entire event was the couple’s ‘DIY labour-of-love’, as almost every aspect of the wedding was emblazoned with personal touches.
The bride had her dress custom-made at Designer Loft in New York. Designer Elen Paumere created the lace, open-backed, V-neck item with an empire waist, ending with layered lace and chiffon at the bottom. Her shoes were by Calvin Klein and jewelry came from thebridaljewelrystore.com and Akribos.
In line with incorporating splashes of color throughout their wedding, the couple thought that colourful socks for the groom and groomsmen would be a hit. Alaric’s berry-coloured striped socks matched his tie and the lining of his custom-made suit, complementing Ngozi’s berry crystal-accented shoes, flowers and bridesmaids’ hair accessories. The groomsmen’s blue socks balanced their blue-checkered ties, which was well-paired with the bridesmaids’ blue dresses.
Wooden “I am His” and “I am Hers” signs hung at the back of the bride’s and groom’s chairs, and other wooden signs spelling out words such as “Love”, “Dream”, “Laugh”, and “Live” decorated various areas of the venue. The guest book was a unique wooden box containing wooden hearts on which guests could write their wishes.
The favor boxes, accessorized with a blue ribbon and a heart label, each contained a bracelet—as a token of the donation that the couple made to the charity One.org on behalf of their guests—along with Serbian sweets.
Candle holders on the tables and the white Chinese lanterns framing the dance area added a soft, romantic glow to the setting. The couple took advantage of the outdoor setting with its breathtaking views to send berry-coloured lanterns wafting into the sky along with their hopes, prayers, and wishes. It was an absolutely beautiful moment as Alaric and Ngozi each sent off their lanterns, while the guests lit and held sparklers.
This wedding symbolised not only the union of two families, but also the harmonious blending of three cultures: Caribbean (from Alaric’s side), African (Ngozi’s Nigerian roots) and European (Ngozi’s Serbian background). Aside from hosting the wedding in Tobago, the Caribbean isle was also represented in the wedding cake—a traditional black rum fruit creation. Nigeria was represented by a special ceremonial tradition of the Igbo people (Ngozi’s Dad’s tribe): breaking of the kola nut, performed by Ngozi’s Dad at the start of the reception.
Then during the reception, the newlyweds, along with the wedding party and the bride’s parents, changed into traditional Igbo-inspired attire and performed a dance. Serbia was abundantly represented by the sprig of rosemary that adorned every guest on arrival, symbolising good luck, warding off the bad, and bringing the couple fertility. The rosemary sprig was also incorporated into the bride’s bouquet and the groom’s boutonniere. Everyone also had the chance to sample Serbian treats, some of Ngozi’s favorites, as part of the wedding favors.
Danielle & Phillip
The Wedding as told by the Bride!
Although St. Finbar’s is my parish, we decided we wanted a smaller, more intimate church, so we went with St. Anthony’s Church in Petit Valley for the ceremony. For the reception, we wanted an open-air venue with a seaside view, so we decided on Pier 1 poolside. We did have a little scare, since it rained for three days before the wedding; but thankfully, the sun stayed out for us on the big day!
Gustavo did an amazing job with the decor. He transformed the venue into a fairy tale with lots of soft lighting – candles on the tables and lanterns hanging from the tent – and crystals sprinkled everywhere.
My most memorable moment has to be the “Ants’ Nest Incident”. I felt a sharp sting on my knee as we were taking pictures at the old church in Chaguaramas. I lifted my dress and saw that my entire cancan was full of stinging ants! I ran out to the road and started jumping up and down to get them off. Of course this all happened just as the bus carrying the whole wedding party and our families pulled up. I could only imagine how funny that must have looked; too bad the videographer wasn’t there to capture it!It’s amazing how the things that go wrong turn out to be the funniest memories…another being the unsuccessful flight of the Chinese lanterns. I don’t know if it was the strong sea breeze at Pier 1 or if it was just bad design, but they simply refused to take off. There were about ten floating in the sea by the end of the night. I guess Poseidon would have to grant any wishes sent with those lanterns!
Our wedding was very much a family affair, which made it very personal. My great uncle was the priest at the ceremony; my cousin, Zach, played the steel pan as the prelude; my aunt did my hair; my grandmother’s cousin came from Florida to make the cake (she also made my parent’s wedding cake so that was extra special).
Certain things I made myself such as my headpiece (which I based on my mother’s, but updated with crystals rather than pearls, to match my dress), our bride and groom champagne glasses and the bridesmaids’ earrings.
Other than that, we tried to add little things that we hadn’t seen before, like the bottle and spoon table (which was a hit when the party got going) keepsake matches, and cake charms for the bridesmaids.We are both traditional people, but are in no way formal and we thought the wedding reflected that beautifully. The ceremony itself was very traditional, even with the “ole time” wedding songs like the Trumpet Vuluntary and Latin hymns.
The reception was very laid back; we had the traditional speeches of course, and the first dance and father/daughter dance, but there was no fancy sit down dinner or anything like that, just plenty hor d’oeuvres, drinks flowing and great music!
Apart from the dress, which was the first thing to be organized, the most important things for me were: good food, good drinks, great music, and, of course, a great photographer to capture all the memories!
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to shop on Miracle Mile in Florida for my dress. It was a big ordeal; my father, mother, grandmother and maid of honor came with me. We finally found the dress at Brides of Florida, about fifteen minutes away from Miracle Mile. The dress was a Sottero-Midgley called Hillary. I knew I had to have it from the minute I put it on; it was the first dress that I actually didn’t want to take off.
We used very traditional songs. My dad walked me up the aisle to the Trumpet Vuluntary whilst Phil and I walked down to the Wedding March.
My dad actually chose both the first dance song, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, and the father/ daughter song, Am I That Easy To Forget, which is quite perfect when you listen to the words. He called me randomly from his car, cracking up, saying, “I have the perfect songs for you,” whilst all the while I’m hearing his Engelbert Humperdinck CD blasting in the background! Funny enough, I thought they were perfect too!
Photos by Aaron Dieppa Photography
The couple envisioned a wedding weekend that would significantly incorporate their guests, as all 28 were flying to Mexico to witness their marriage. Thara and Aaron prepared welcome bags for each guest with snacks, games, and even a personal newsletter from the couple! The newsletter included an itinerary for the weekend and suggested activities that guests could enjoy while at the resort: snorkeling, tennis, spa, fishing, kayaking, etc. The wedding guests also got a handmade map of the hotel and surrounding area, a Spanish/English page of phrases, sun hats, and little painted wooden turtles to keep by their bedside with a note that said: “In Mexico, these hand-painted wooden figures are believed to keep bad dreams away”.
The day before the wedding, guests were treated to a ‘tequila tasting’. A representative from a major tequila manufacturer joined them at the resort, explained the process of making tequila, and administered the tasting of different varieties.
Thara and Aaron chose the extraordinarily beautiful outdoors of the El Careyes Resort for their ceremony and reception—the same place where they got engaged.
Theme & Décor
The couple went with a Mexican theme and wanted to incorporate their personal, simple yet elegant style into all the elements of their wedding and reception. They opted for light orange and light blue as their colour scheme, and created an emblem with their initials, “T&A”, which was used on the wedding invitations, welcome bags, wedding program, and other printed items.
Tall, white umbrellas were set up around the cocktail area for shade, and hanging lanterns lent a soft glow to the setting for their dinner reception at the hotel. The evening ambiance was made even more exquisite with a bonfire.
On the morning of the wedding, after breakfast, Aaron—accompanied by his two groomsmen and a few of the other male guests—went to the Polo grounds. They split themselves into two teams and played a friendly game. The women had their own agenda too: after a tear-jerking champagne toast and light breakfast, they joined together for a private outdoor yoga class overlooking the water. The wedding ceremony itself was in the late afternoon, followed by cocktail hour with a live Mariachi band and canapés (appetizers). The reception with dinner, cake, and dancing brought the unforgettable night to a close.
Although neither Thara (Toronto-born, of Guyanese parentage) nor Aaron (born and raised in Indiana) is Mexican, they incorporated one special Mexican wedding tradition into their ceremony. Mothers of the bride and groom both wrapped a lasso of orchids around the couple, symbolic of protecting the love that would bind them together for the rest of their lives.
Thara’s dress, by designer Jim Hjelm, was an all-lace, V-neck, and very low-back number, and her veil was custom-made by designer Sara Gabriel. Her only jewelry was a pair of earrings—that Aaron had gifted her on one Christmas—and her engagement ring.
Orange roses lavishly decorated the top of the white-curtained ceremonial structure under which the couple exchanged vows, and potted flowering plants decorated the border of the area. The lasso used in the ceremony was made of orange orchids. Roses featured prominently in the bouquets: Thara’s had red roses (that were actually supposed to be orange!), and her two bridesmaids (her sisters) carried orange roses mixed with an array of tropical flowers.
In keeping with the Mexican theme, of course, nothing less than a tres leches cake would do—deliciously created by the hotel chef. The cake topper (ordered from etsy.com) was a custom hand-crafted paper representation of Thara and Aaron, dressed as they were on their wedding day (the bride’s favourite detail of the wedding).
The Mariachi band and a solo guitarist provided the Mexican-flavored music during the cocktail hour and dinner, and everyone danced to the couple’s selected playlist at the reception.
The groom and groomsmen wore chili pepper boutonnières (an idea the couple got from a magazine), and bells, parasols and maracas were all keepsakes for the guests. Thara and Aaron hand-crafted name tags for each guest’s place setting at the dinner table, where they also placed a small bell with a note saying that the newlyweds would kiss anytime a bell rang!
Parasols were set up in baskets so that guests could each take one and use it as sun-shade during the ceremony. Pairs of maracas were also placed in baskets so that guests could take them to shake after the ceremony as the couple walked back down the aisle as husband and wife. As a parting gift, the couple gave guests a hand-painted Mexican Christmas tree ornament (Christmas would have been celebrated in two weeks).
One moment that really stands out for the couple was having Aaron’s grandfather perform a reading during the ceremony. Aaron’s grandparents were almost 90 at the time, yet still made the trip for the wedding. After the couple’s first dance during the reception, they played their grandparents’ favorite song…and the once-upon-a-time newlyweds danced alone with everyone watching.
Yogita and Ramiz
“Putting Away” the Bride
The bride wore two outfits, the traditional red sari, and yellow sari, purchased at Arman’s Bridal Fashions in Jackson Heights, New York. Yogita says, “There was all this jewellery, and my skirt alone was twenty-five pounds; my veil was five pounds in itself. So you have to get someone to put it all together.” Michael Salickram, co-founder and art director of Shiv Shakti dance group, helped her to do just that; he put the bride away as they say.
Yogita comes from a very traditional Hindu family, hence culture and rituals are very important to her. “I wanted that…the actual ceremony…to be the focus of the day. I really wanted people to witness our wedding.” The couple loved the style and flair of western weddings and sought to marry that with tradition. Hence, the marriage rituals were witnessed by guests in a banquet setting, with a reception immediately following. Yogita says, “I did not have a home wedding in the traditional way – I had it at the hall. When you’re (a Hindu woman) getting married you can’t leave the house the day before, so I could not go to the hall to see the decorations; I just had to remind myself to breathe.”
Yogita has been dancing Indian classical dance, one of her greatest passions, for the past twenty-five years. She quips that Ramiz does not enjoy Indian dance and movies as much as she does; his passion is football. Thus there was also a merging of personalities at their wedding, reflected in their unique place cards, where those for the “girl’s side” were named after Indian dancers, whilst those for the “boy’s side” were named after football stadia, such as Old Trafford.
The red and gold colour scheme of the jewelled invitations, the first glimpse into the event, was translated throughout the wedding. A jewelled Indian woman appears on both the invitations for Yogita’s guests as well as the place cards, whilst the counterpart male appears for Ramiz’s guests.
The bride walked into the mandap with rice in her hands. Rice in general, in the Hindu tradition, symbolizes prosperity and good fortune. Hence rice is also traditionally showered upon the bride in a celebratory manner. Ramiz was greeted by Yogita’s mom as he entered the wedding venue; in fact, he’s not allowed to enter until he’s greeted by her. Yogita’s brother then washed his feet and ensured that he was comfortable. Traditionally, when a guest comes to your home you honour them by washing their feet.
Ramiz then came out to the marriage area, or mandap, where Yogita’s father greeted him; afterwards the bride entered the wedding hall, to the tune of the Indian song, Tujh Mein Rab Dikhta Hai (I see God in You), accompanied by close family members. The song is special to the bride and groom (it’s the song from the first Indian movie they saw together), who in that moment, saw each other for the first time that day, and sat opposite each other. The bride’s parents actively participate in a solemn giving away – the mother places her hand under the bride’s, whilst the father places his under the groom’s; the groom’s other hand is then placed beneath.
The wedding vows, or Saptapadi, is thought to be the bringing together of two compatible souls. It involves seven mounds of rice, symbolizing seven steps together, or a journey. The first three mounds symbolize the part of the journey where the bride walks alone; from the fourth mound onward, the couple join hands and walk the rest of the way together. Yogita says, “For me, those vows were transcendental; the actual moment of joining together.”
When ancestors brought tradition – they also brought vows. One such vow, for the bride, was to be punctual in domestic duties, in order to avoid discomfort to her husband. This flummoxed Yogita, who had not heard about this particular vow until the wedding day, and who made it clear to the Pundit that she could not agree to it. She says, “ The Pundit did not know what to say to me at that point, so eventually I agreed to share domestic duties with my husband, and he happily agreed – he was relieved that I agreed to something.”
Sometimes, the most memorable moments are unplanned – often being the things that went wrong. Yogita recalls: “It was raining really heavily on the day, just as the barath (the groom and guests) were making their way to the venue, and a tree fell across the road. They were all stuck there, waiting for someone to clear the road. This happened close to where they were building a smelter; there was an alternative, forested road and the guard agreed to let only two cars go through. But Ramiz’s parents were left behind, and the wedding could not start without them; we waited two hours for all our guests to arrive.”
The Days Before
The engagement: In Gujarati tradition, the bride’s family sends gifts and sweets for the groom as well as his family. In this case, the bride’s brother was dispatched with gifts, including fruits, and money, to be presented to the groom. In return, the groom sends the ring.
Mehindi Night: This event was held a few days following the engagement. The bride invited only family and close friends – the people she wanted to feel very connected with. Celebrated Mehindi artist, Varsha Roodal, was at hand to provide intricate designs for guests. The bride’s sister and cousins organized dance rehearsals for this night, as a group among them were actually practicing to perform at the wedding.
Matikur Night: This night follows the Mehindi night. Some friends from Yogita’s dance class performed a dance medley, and Yogita recalls that the aftermath was like a scene from an Indian movie, where everyone just came out in impromptu song and dance – that strangely enough, seemed choreographed.
Laawa night: To celebrate, women and men gather to cook dinner for this night and prepare for the following day. Apart from food preparation, one of the main rituals is the “parching of the laawa.” Laawa (rice paddy), is heated on a flame – the same happens at the groom’s house – and there is a little competition to see who parches the first or most – the saying goes that if the groom’s parches first the bride’s won’t parch, and vice versa.