For high school sweethearts Serena Gupta and Dayan Gandhi, marrying in traditional Indian splendor was their dream. "We had always wanted a big, traditional Indian wedding with all of the festivities and rituals that accompany it," explains Serena. But, according to the bride, it was equally important that certain updates be made to these celebrations to reflect the contemporary tastes the couple shares as a result of being raised in the United States. With five different events set to take place over a week-long period, there were plenty of opportunities to incorporate their vibrant personalities and modern lifestyles into the extended celebration. The couple enlisted the help of both Square Root Designs and Nikki Khan of Exquisite Events to keep the copious decor and organizational details in check.
Before the couple could be united as husband and wife, both families of the bride and groom hosted sangeets -- pre-wedding events marked by music and dancing. Dayan's sangeet kicked off the wedding week at his family's home on December 29, 2006. The celebration took place beneath two clear-sided tents -- one decorated in shades of orange, rust, and chocolate brown for the customary Indian meal, and the other done completely in white to create a lounge-like atmosphere. Serena, her entire extended family, and close friends caravanned from her home to Dayan's, where the ten-car processional was greeted by a gathering of drum players. "I just remember being welcomed by my mother- and father-in-law and all their friends and feeling like a princess," she says.
At Serena's sangeet the following evening, the bride put a spin on tradition by assigning the event a Moroccan-meets-Middle Eastern theme, which harmonized nicely with the Roosevelt Hotel's distinctive architecture. The ballroom was transformed by a palette of jewel-toned "peacock colors," belly dancers, fortune tellers, a Middle Eastern-inspired buffet, and an authentic Moroccan tea service. She even had a celebrity DJ flown in from London for the entertainment. "It was more beautiful than I ever thought it would be," she gushes.
Four days later, guests gathered at Serena's home to participate in the mehndi, otherwise known as a "henna party." Seated on cozy floor pillows beneath swags of red, saffron, and green fabric, Serena had her hands painted with traditional scrolling designs while guests dined on Punjabi fare. Dayan's mother also performed a flower ceremony, adorning her future daughter-in-law with flower-shaped jewels -- an especially cherished moment for the bride.
On January 4, 2007, the day had finally arrived for Serena and Dayan to be married. A red carpet was unfurled in the street in front of Serena's home, and the groom (arriving in a horse drawn carriage) and his entourage paraded their way toward the property. The bride will never forget watching the pageantry from an upstairs window. "Traditionally, the groom and his family are supposed to make the bride's family wait as long as possible and draw out their arrival. So for almost an hour, they sang and danced outside my house before they came up the stairs to the entrance."
With the help of an infinite array of blush pink roses, a tent on the grounds of the Gupta residence became a romantic Victorian wonderland for the Hindu ceremony and celebratory dinner. The soft color scheme and delicate decor considered unusual for an Indian wedding were updates requested by the couple, and the lush, garden-like look provided a dramatic contrast to the week's previous events. Serena and Dayan participated in several Hindu rituals during the ceremony and even added a Western ring exchange to the end of the proceedings. The 280 guests then celebrated with a seated vegetarian feast served from traditional silver platters called thalis while being serenaded by romantic Hindi music.
The following evening, a final wedding reception was held for 600 people at the Beverly Wilshire hotel in Beverly Hills. It was a celebration in the contemporary American sense, and the ballroom oozed with glitz and glamour, providing yet another detour in style. The white-draped walls and white centerpieces were accented by hints of crystal and silver; everything from Serena's Indian lengha (gown) to the gemstone cake topper lent a luminous affect to the space. An energetic mood also radiated throughout the room as the large gathering took advantage of the live dance music and the slideshow of photos and video clips (some with footage from the previous wedding celebrations) that Serena's mother and sister compiled for the couple.
With so many events, the potential for heightened levels of stress could have been great, but Serena was able to nip any tension in the bud at the onset of her planning experience. "In our culture, a wedding is a union of two families, not just two people. The second I was able to relinquish some control and understand this, everything went much smoother." She goes on to say, regarding the integral role her parents played in the whirlwind wedding week, "They were truly the ones making sure everything went smoothly. They worked very hard to make my dreams come true."