Many brides talk about wanting to feel like a princess on their wedding day, and Priya Kothari did look the part, in her ruby red and dusty rose lengha with exquisite gold handwork. What is less common though, is hearing about grooms who hope to feel like a prince. That may not have been the goal of Shamik Patel – he just wanted to marry Priya – but his extravagant baraat (grand entrance) on a horse-drawn carriage through Columbus Circle in New York City did draw parallels to a visit from royalty. Such an entrance was not the commencement of wedding festivities, but the culmination of a multiple-day celebration. “We are both Gujarati so our families follow similar Indian customs for the wedding events and ceremony,” explains Priya. Her parents hosted a henna party and music night three days before the nuptials. The following day consisted of ceremonies to bless the bride and groom’s home and families, and on the eve of the wedding there was a dance and music program celebrating the couple’s shared culture.
Perhaps it was foreshadowing that Priya and Shamik met at an engagement party years earlier. It was an evening full of coincidences: “We found out that not only were we both pursuing Masters degrees at the University of Pennsylvania, but that we lived just three blocks away from each other!” reveals the bride. They were soon dating, and once their degrees were both finished, Priya moved to Berkeley, California, in order to study for her PhD. Shamik couldn’t stand to be across the country from his beloved, so he secured a job in San Francisco in order to be with her. It was in the Bay Area where he spent weeks planning the perfect proposal. “To completely throw her off, I decided to pick a random day of the week,” the groom shares. Knowing the hotel next to his office had a beautiful rooftop with views of the city and bay, he told his girlfriend that there was a charity happy hour for his office and everyone would be bringing their significant others. “Of course, Priya decided she didn’t want to come, just to make this a little more interesting for me,” notes Shamik. He was panicking and trying to come up with a plan B when Priya called back, saying she’d love to go. “I think the guilt trip worked,” laughs the groom. Once on the rooftop, instead of a happy hour, there was a long table with two chairs, flowers, and a bottle of Champagne. Twenty minutes after saying “yes,” the newly engaged couple’s parents and siblings joined them for a celebration.
The bride and groom turned to their married friends and the father of the bride for the majority of their wedding planning tips. They decided to go back to the East Coast, where their families are, and wed in New York. The majority of the décor was centered on Priya’s favorite hues. “Any shade of purple is my favorite color!” she exclaims. There were three different centerpieces for the reception, one featuring a tall vase with a hanging crystal dish filled with hydrangeas, stock, orchids, roses, phalenopsis orchids, gloriosa liles, and peonies, all in colors ranging from hot pink and fuchsia to violet and eggplant. Other tables showcased smaller floral arrangements with the same blossoms, as well as suspended crystals and ivory floating candles. The final centerpiece eschewed flowers all together, instead displaying grand candelabra with tapered candles and crystals.
With a wedding full of unique touches, such as a program made more concise and fun to reflect the bride and groom’s personality, a modernized ceremony that eliminated some outdated customs, and a bag of treats for every guest to enjoy before the nuptials began, there is a lot to remember from Priya and Shamik’s big day. But the bride’s most memorable moment serves as a reminder that the quiet moments are the most important. Upon reflection, Priya thinks fondly of, “The two of us, sitting on the ledge of the ballroom, looking out at Central Park at 3AM [while eating] leftover ice cream, after all the decorations had been taken down and one employee remained, vacuuming.”