Contemporary Indian-Ukranian Fusion Wedding

Priyanka & Max

Snapshot

My favorite moment from the wedding…

For me, it was definitely the wedding ceremony. Indian weddings get so big, that it’s really easy to forget that the whole point of everything is the marriage part. Our wedding ceremony was really fun and relaxed, we could see our friends in the audience waving at us and our family priest kept cracking jokes throughout the whole thing, it was not what I had expected and yet it was perfect, I felt like it really encapsulated what our relationship it like. I especially loved when I got to see Max for the first time during the Antar Paath, he looked like such an adorable gora in his turban.

About The Couple

How we met…

Max and I met at a ‘Monash After Exams Party’ at the Colonial Hotel in 2008 that I was forced to attend by my friend. They thought it would cheer me up as my boyfriend at the time had just broken up with me me a few weeks earlier and I was still miserable. Max, a Melbourne University student, happened to be there with his friends for a night out. He didn’t think he would get lucky with any ladies as he was sporting a pretty dirty mustache because it was ‘Movember’. It was not very romantic, but we seemed to be attracted to each other and spent most of the evening talking and getting to know each other.  We met up for lunch the next week and after a month or so, we started dating.

How we are as a couple…

We’re a couple with a lot of differences. Max is this really active, chilled out and easy-to-please guy whereas I’m quite lazy, fiery and a little neurotic. Plus there’s the whole cross-cultural thing where I’m from a pretty typical North Indian Hindu family and Max is a second-generation Ukrainian with atheist parents. But our differences complement each other and because we know and understand each other’s flaws and strengths, I think this has made our relationship quite resilient. Also, we have a common love for all things to do with eating. 90% of our conversations/arguments are food-related and we’ll plan our weekends or even holidays around awesome places to eat. So that has helped!

The engagement ring…

My engagement ring is a sapphire and diamond ring set in the shape of a lotus flower. I always knew that I wanted a sapphire ring because as a kid I thought Princess Diana was the bomb and I wanted to be just like her. Because I have very strong opinions about everything, Max didn’t even try to pick for me and instead involved me in the process of finding the ring. At the start of 2014, we went to a few jewelers and always found that their sapphire ring collection was fairly limited and standard.

After a few months of looking, I became frustrated and told Max that he had to take charge and find something. He managed to find a jewelry designer, Atelier Paul Stewart, close by to us in Hawthorn, who primarily worked with colored stones and was influenced by the art deco movement and Islamic geometric art. We had three or four meetings, where first we chose the sapphire that would form the basis of the ring and then we went on to deciding on the design. Paul would sketch up various options until we eventually decided on the design. Paul is incredibly passionate about his work and it translates into the beautiful jewelry that he creates. My ring is really meaningful because Max and I both had input into it. It’s so unique, Paul recently told me that a lady came in with a picture of my ring from his Instagram account because she wanted the same design and he politely said no!

How he proposed…

Max is a bit of a musician, he sings, writes and plays the guitar. One of his friend’s girlfriend works for a music/entertainment agency and had mentioned that a lot of her corporate clients wanted acoustic guitarists, who looked ‘corporate’ to play at events. She asked if Max would be interested in occasionally doing a few gigs and he agreed. Anyway, his first gig was at a drinks launch and for a few months beforehand, Max started preparing. Whenever I’d call him up and he’d always be busy practicing songs for the event.

The day before the launch, he called and said he was really nervous about playing in front of people by himself because he was so used to playing with a band. He asked if I would come with him because it would make him feel less anxious if he knew someone. I didn’t think this was out of character, so I agreed. The next day after work he picked me up and we drove into the city to the pub. We walked upstairs to the room. There was no one there and the room was filled with candles everywhere. I didn’t think much of it and went to the bathroom. When I came out Max was standing there grinning. He asked if I recognized where we were and it suddenly hit me then that we were at the venue where we had first met.

I knew then, that he was no drinks launch and he was actually going to propose. Max took off his jumper and he was even wearing the same t-shirt he wore the night we first met. He took me to a sofa and for the next fifteen/twenty minutes he serenaded me with a few of the love songs he’d written for me over the course of our relationship. It was very sweet but we were both awkwardly laughing the whole time. After he finished playing, he got down on one knee and asked if I’d marry him and I said yes. A waitress brought us a bottle of champagne and we celebrated.

We then left the venue and when we got to my place, I was surprised again. Max had invited all our friends and family over for an impromptu engagement party. The whole proposal was so perfect and so us. Max later told me that he knew that he was going to be insanely nervous and had gone to his GP to ask for beta-blockers so that his nerves wouldn’t interfere with his guitar playing.

What marriage means to us…

Marriage to us has been a really big change for both of us. Because my parents are fairly traditional, Max and I had never lived with each other while we were dating or engaged. So marriage has meant that we’ve finally been able to coexist and starting our lives with each other. For the six and a half years of dating, our lives sort of ran in conjunction with each other and slowly became increasingly parallel, but now I feel like we’re a lot more intertwined. It’s really nice knowing that you have this companion to share all of life’s miseries and triumphs with, plus someone who is guaranteed to annoy you forever and always eat your leftovers.

The Details

Wedding Planning

Our wedding planning took just over a year. At first we were quite confused and didn’t know where to begin, but my father is quite who also happens to be an Excel nerd. He took charge and set up a timeline. This was especially important because we were anticipating a lot of guests from overseas who needed enough time to get tickets/organize visas. Meanwhile, my mother and I looked online for a lot of inspiration, bridal sites such as The Crimson Bride and Wed Me Good. I also began following a lot of accounts on Instagram to look at outfits, jewelry.

If you have a lot of visitors coming from overseas/interstate, you also need to have some plans in place for them. My father, who probably should be a full-time event planner, went out of his way to make sure that our guests were well looked after. He organized for ‘Pre + Max’ bags and t-shirts to be made and each bag was stocked with essential items they would need. On the days where we had no events, buses were organized to take them on tours to Phillip Island and the Great Ocean Road. There were plenty of transport options available for guests, most of whom were staying five minutes from our family home in serviced apartments. My mother and he really did everything in their power to make sure that everyone was comfortable and looked after. It was so incredible – both of them were simply amazing in how they looked after our guests.

TIPS: I think the best advice I can give is to ask for help and always plan ahead. I think it’s also helpful to sit down with both parents and find out what is the one most important thing they want to see at the wedding. You can get wrapped up in arguing over who the wedding is really about; the bride, the parents, the extended relatives. Rather than having territorial fights, which my parents and I had many of, it’s helpful to acknowledge at the start that the focus isn’t on one person. That way all parties can choose certain aspects of the wedding that they would like to be in charge of. For us that was separating the events; while I had some input, my parents were largely in charge of the Sangeet, Mehendi and Wedding Ceremony. The Reception was my domain (and Max!). Max’s parents were really easy going with everything and just had a few suggestions here and there; like having Ukrainian performers at the Sangeet and doing a small ceremony during the Reception.

Wedding Shopping

All of our shopping was done in Mumbai, largely with the help of my Aunty who is a wedding shopping queen. She knew exactly where to go and how much to pay. Clothes, shoes, jewelry, decor, different materials – you name it and she knew the best place for it. We had just under two weeks to do our shopping, but thanks to her help we were able to finish it off in six days.

All my outfits, except for the Mehendi night and Haldi ceremony, were designed and custom made by Chamee and Palak. We decided to go with them because I liked their overall aesthetic, which was young, fresh and fairly understated, nothing too outrageous or over the top. Also, I liked that we could use their various designs and mix and match to create something custom. We booked an appointment with Palak before going to Bombay. During our meeting, we finalized the outfits and measurements for the pieces.

We also attended a Design One Shopping Exhibition that showcased various clothing and jewelry designers, I picked up my Mehendi outfit from the Gopi Vaid stall.

TIPS: I would suggest spending a lot of time researching what looks and style you exactly desire because otherwise you can get really lost in the plethora of choices available. I think also it’s important to be realistic and keep to a budget, it’s really easy to get sucked into this wedding vacuum and lose sight of reality. You obviously want to look amazing, but that doesn’t necessitate over-spending on something you might just wear once. I also knew that I wanted to stick to a classic look and I also prioritized comfort and practicality.

Wedding Events

The wedding celebrations were one week long and held in the summer of January 2016.

  1. Sangeet – Saturday PM, Malvern Town Hall, 230 guests
  2. Mehendi – Wednesday PM, Bride’s Home, 120 guests.
  3. Haldi/Chuda Ceremony – Thursday AM, Bride’s Home, 50 guests
  4. Wedding Ceremony – Friday AM, Shri Shiva Vishnu Temple, 350 guests.
  5. Reception – Friday PM, Aerial, 230 guests.

Sangeet

The event followed a standard Sangeet format with lots of dance medleys performed by friends and family members. I wanted the Sangeet to kind of kick off the wedding week and give our guests a taste of what to come. I think the combination of unlimited booze and Bollywood beats really made for one big party. Max and I made our entrance to the hall following two dhol players – that helped set the mood for the rest of the night. Guests were served North Indian cuisine from Lala’s Kitchen.

I think the highlight of the evening was the dance performances of Max’s very non-Indian friends. I had loaned all the girls’ Indian outfits for the nights and had bought kurtas for the boys. Plus they had been rehearsing for a month beforehand, so on the night, they all looked amazing. Max’s mother, Daria, had also organized an interactive performance by a Ukrainian dance troupe. The dances wore these beautiful traditional outfits and their performance was really high energy, plus they got all the guests involved at the end.

Sangeet Decor & Unique Details

The decor was by Bollywood Mandaps. We didn’t have any specific theme, we just wanted lots of colors. Our seating chart was created by a graphic designer at Where The Grass Is Green. We had 500 kaleeras shipped from India and these were suspended across the hall. They were a really pretty addition and something quite unique. My mother organized colorful silk potlis made and designed by Chamee and Palak as gifts for our female guests. Inside the potlis were Batik silk stoles sourced from Bali, Indonesia.

Sangeet Look

PRIYANKA’S OUTFIT: I just wanted to wear something bright and easy to dance in. I chose a yellow lehenga with pink and green flowers from Chamee and Palak.

JEWELRY:  Mother’s traditional gold jewelry.

SHOES: I’m all about comfort, so I just wore my Camper platforms.

HAIR & MAKEUP: I went to Edwards and Co in the city for my hair and I had Makeup By Stella Tu, a makeup artist from Bobbi Brown come home to do my make up.

MAX’S OUTFIT: Max looks adorable wearing Indian, so I just wanted him to wear something he was comfortable in. He wore a salmon pink kurta from Fab India.

Mehendi

I had wanted my Mehendi to be a small, relaxed night with all my girlfriends getting our henna done together. Of course, it turned out to be anything but that. There were the standard henna application and girls trying to Instagram/Snapchat their hands without ruining their mehendi. In the backyard, we had this beautiful shamiana that had been set up with fairy lights. A lot of the older aunties were sitting in there, playing the dholak and singing Punjabi songs. The men were standing around eating and drinking. It was a pretty fun night and I liked that we had it at my home, it made everything feel a lot more intimate. Guests were served chaat themed food from Lala’s Kitchen.

DECOR & UNIQUE DETAILS: We had a marquee set up outside in our backyard, with carpets set on the grass to allow our guests to sit down. We also had a colored backdrop with a swing – basically for photo opportunities. All decor was done by Bollywood Mandaps. All-female guests were given a set of colorful bangles and bindis.

PRIYANKA’S OUTFIT: Because this was being held at home and on a weeknight, I wanted to wear something simple and practical. I wore a pale pink, sleeveless dress with pale gold gota-patti embroidery around the neck from Gopi Vaid.

JEWELRY: I wore diamond studs that my grandparents bought me and this beautiful dancing diamond necklace from Tanishq.

HAIR & MAKEUP: Makeup was done at Mecca Cosmetica in Chadstone.

HENNA ARTIST: Sarika’s Henna D’lite.

MAX’S OUTFIT: It was pretty warm that day so Max was wearing navy blue shorts from Topman and a linen shirt from Cottonworld.

Haldi & Chuda Ceremony

This was a family event, where the main purpose was to complete the traditional Punjabi haldi and chuda ceremony. Every member of my maternal family tied kaleeras to my chuda. Guests were served Rajasthani themed food from Lala’s Kitchen.

PRIYANKA’S OUTFIT:  During the haldi, I just wore a kurti and my high school sports shorts. I knew I’d be getting haldi on them, so practicality was key. For the chuda ceremony, I wore a red and white salwar kameez from BIBA by Rohit Bal.

JEWELRY: I wore a gold jewelry set that my grandparents had gifted.

Wedding Ceremony

Our wedding Ceremony was a fairly traditional Hindu ceremony. Max’s friends and family took part in a short baraat, accompanied by dholkis. All his friends were dressed in bright colored churidars and pink pagdis, which was to the delight of many of the Indian guests. My bridal entrance song was to Kids by MGMT.

The ceremony was officiated by our family priest, Dr. Jayant Bapat. Although we had so many people, Bapat Kaka took the time to explain every step of the wedding process and even threw in a few jokes. Surprisingly the wedding ceremony felt very informal and relaxed, with our guests having the choice to remain seated at their tables or watch the ceremony from a few rows of chairs, closer to the stage. After the ceremony, we invited all guests onto the stage to take photos with Max and I. Everyone was treated to vegetarian South Indian lunch catered by Shri Shiva Vishnu Temple. At the end, we invited all the guests to take photos with Max and me on the stage.

Wedding Ceremony Decor & Unique Details

We wanted to keep the decor fairly neutral and highlight the all the bright colors that we had encouraged our guests to wear. My parent’s friends all got together the night before and made a huge rangoli, using fresh flower petals ordered from India.

Decor at the temple was organized by Bollywood Mandaps. On each table, we had a gold thali and bowl, with rose petals and candles as the centerpiece. We had a gold and white arc mandap, with frames that held lots of tea light candles. All families were given a box of fresh mithai by Sweet India.

Wedding Ceremony Look

PRIYANKA’S OUTFIT: A traditional red and gold lehenga, with a pink dupatta designed by Chamee and Palak.

JEWELRY: A polka set with maang tika, earrings, nose ring and haath phools custom made in India. Kadas which are a bit of a family heirloom. My nani wore them for her wedding.

SHOES: Camper platforms.

HAIR & MAKEUP: Haffsah Bilal from Lajeen Artistry.

MAX’S OUTFIT: An off white, tailor-made silk sherwani custom made in India.

Reception

As my parents more or less had control over most of the wedding events, we agreed that the Reception would be left up to Max and I. We both just wanted the Reception to be a big celebration and for everyone to let loose and party. We also wanted to the Reception to be as culturally neutral as possible, so although we had some Indian and Ukrainian elements, it was a pretty standard ‘Aussie’ reception.

After we entered the venue, Max’s parents greeted us in Ukrainian tradition with a tray of symbolic gifts; bread, salt, honey, and wine. Bread represents nature’s bounty, salt is the necessity of life, honey is the sweetness of life and wine symbolizes prosperity. Max’s parents also gave us a Korovai, which is symbolic wedding bread. The Korovai is adorned with ornaments of baked dough, two doves to represent the couple and other birds representing family and friends. A wreath of periwinkle, a symbol of love and purity surround the entire arrangement. It was a lovely way to start the Reception and from then on, the night only got better!

We had some beautiful speeches from our parents and friends, Max and I did our first dance to a medley of three songs – First Day of My Life by Bright Eyes, Home by Edwards Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and, New Thang by Red Foo. Later Max even surprised me by performing a song he’d written. It was a nice gesture. Throughout our relationship, Max has always written me lame little love songs and even proposed to me this way, so it was cute that he included it in the Reception.

The rest of the night was spent either on the dance floor thanks to DJ Marcus from Allegro Music, in the photo booth thanks to Oh My Booth or at the bar. Along with beer and wine, Max and I had arranged for quite a few bottles of Indian whiskey and Ukrainian vodka for our guests to enjoy. Guests were served Indian and Ukrainian banquet dinner menu catered by venue caterers, Food & Desire. 

I think that our choice of the wedding cake by Dana Patisserie was also a big hit with our guests. After we were engaged, the first decision we made about the wedding was the cake. it was a no brainer. Max and I love hanging out in Carlisle Street and he discovered the Israeli-owned French patisserie. We spent many afternoons having her white chocolate and caramel cheesecake and it is just to die for. I’ve had a few friends tell me that after our wedding, they’ve made many trips to Carlisle St, just to have the cheesecake at Dana’s.

At the end of the Reception, we did a small ceremony where I dipped my hands in red water and left an imprint on some paper. Our exit song was to Island In The Sun by Weezer, because we both love Weezer and in a couple of days we were flying to the Maldives. There were no tears or anything because I was coming back to my parent’s place the next day. We had booked a suite at the Hilton as it was just a few minutes from the venue. A few of our close friends crashed the wedding suite, which had been decorated with rose petals by my darling cousin. We kept the party going for a few more hours into the night and early morning!

Reception Decor

When we met with our event stylists, the only thing we told them was that we wanted color and if possible, some elements of blue, white and gold. Our color theme for our engagement party had been blue, white and silver because those are the colors of my engagement ring. So when it came time to the Reception, I wanted to have some unifying element and switched the silver to gold.

Lucy and Michael from Where The Grass Is Green were really great to work with and gave us lots of ideas. Because Aerial has this amazing almost 180-degree view of the cityscape, we wanted to showcase that and have some kind of ceiling installation. I wanted to avoid having a floral chandelier because every second wedding seemed to have that. Michael came up with the idea of draping colored satin ribbons across the roof. It looked so gorgeous on the night and it’s something that I haven’t seen done before.

Our centerpieces were these blue-dyed and white disbud chrysanthemums in a gold chalice. The same flowers, with some leafy foliage, were draped over the balustrades at the entrance to the venue. Our seating chart and name place cards used the same font and border details as our engagement initiations. The seating chart was also displayed in a frame, draped with the blue and white disbuds and leafy foliage

Reception Look

PRIYANKA’S OUTFIT: Max and I decided to both wear blue, white, gold. I wanted the crop-top lehenga look for the Reception, something a bit ‘Indo-Western’. I wore a blue and gold piece designed by Chamee and Palak.

JEWELRY: A diamond jewelry set with earrings, necklace, and a bracelet.

SHOES: Camper platforms.

HAIR & MAKEUP: Haffsah Bilal from Lajeen Artistry.

MAX’S OUTFIT: A blue three-piece suit with a gold bow tie from Jack London.

SHOES: Brown derby shoes from Jack London.

Tips for Brides-to-Be

  1. Schedule a timeline and stick to it.
  2. Have a clear understanding of what kind of aesthetic and feel you want for everything, don’t be confused.
  3. Delegate tasks. It makes your job easier and makes friends/family feel more involved.

Featured Pros