Rustic Indian Garden Wedding

Simmi & Chika

Snapshot

In this final chapter of the four-part series, The Original Crimson Bride invites us on a walk down memory lane as she shares details of her beautifully charming rustic wedding and what happened behind the scenes in the days leading up to the events. After a stylish pre-wedding shoot and a relaxing bachelorette weekend in Bali, Simmi and Chika's wedding celebrations began with the Haldi, Mehendi and Sangeet ceremony at Simmi's home. With a passion for DIY projects and all things creative, Simmi immersed herself in the planning, presentation and themes for her functions. A strong believer in 'being yourself' and being able to showcase this through your wedding events, this gorgeous bride brought her vision to life with the help of her near and dear. A consistent rustic-chic theme was maintained throughout the wedding events including an unconventional Sangeet at home - with bright, quirky pops of colour and luscious florals. The dapper couple looked like celebrities as they danced the night away to the tunes of Bollywood's greatest under the fairy lights that glistened across her driveway. While each event perfectly reflected their fun-loving personalities, it was their wedding ceremony that showcased the love and respect they have for their culture. Nestled in the heart of Melbourne's finest vineyards, against the rolling Dandenong mountains, this gorgeous wedding ceremony took our breath away. From Simmi's bridal look, to the coordinated colours of the floral accents in their mandap, to the colour scheme for the bridal party and heart-warming wedding shoot that followed; the rustic-chic theme blew us away. Captured beautifully by TCB Pro Shevan J Photography, the celebrations continued at their stylish Reception overlooking Albert Park Lake.

This wedding story being extra special, our Founder takes the time to intricately detail her experiences, the highlights, the lowlights, tips for brides-to-be and everything in between that ultimately formed the foundations of The Crimson Bride we know today (click on the Details tab for the full feature). Her learnings and insights have led to our enduring purpose and mission: To empower brides-to-be to celebrate their culture and who they are by providing a platform for them to discover beautiful inspiration, access accurate information and use helpful tools to plan her dream wedding. Sit back, and enjoy the journey through her eyes and don't forget to click the heart icon to save the feature and all the images to your Inspiration Board. This one's a classic.

About The Couple

 

I talked about Chika and my story in detail in my engagement post.

The Details

Wedding Planning

GETTING STARTED: Wedding planning officially started after our engagement party and took around 11-12 months. We didn’t use a wedding planner mainly because at the time we could not find someone who could provide an end-to-end Indian wedding planning service (like in India) at a reasonable price. So the wedding planning and execution were mostly by us and our close family and friends, who graciously gave up their time to help out in the lead-up and on the day. This required more organization (and more stress) on our part, but looking back, it felt like a true family wedding!

LOCATION: The first thing on the list was to decide where we wanted to get married. We considered some destination wedding options that would be convenient for our family and friends who lived all around the world however ultimately Chika and I wanted to get married somewhere meaningful to us. We decided on Melbourne as this is where we first met and where the majority of our friends lived.

WEDDING SIZE: One of the toughest parts of wedding planning was deciding whether we should have a smaller or larger wedding. Chika and I preferred an intimate wedding but my parents had a large community of friends in Melbourne that they also wanted to invite. After much deliberation, we agreed on different sized events that would meet everyone’s needs. We were adamant on having a more intimate wedding ceremony with only close friends and family as this was the most important day for us but were flexible on having a Reception so our parents could invite extended friends. We created a rough guest list on Excel with columns for whose guest they were (my family, Chika’s family or our own), and which event we wanted to invite them to. This helped give rough numbers that would help decide how big the wedding and reception venues needed to be.

WEDDING FORMAT: Another key point of deliberation was whether we should have the wedding and reception on the same day or on two separate days. Having it on one day would be quicker and more cost effective as we would only have to hire out one venue, but could have been more hectic and too short. Having them on two separate days would mean hiring out two venues but we would be moving at a more relaxed pace and enjoying the celebrations. In the end, we decided on having the ceremony and reception on two separate days even though it would be more expensive. At the end of the day, we wanted to take it easy, enjoy the celebrations and savor the special moments with our close family and friends.

FINDING INSPIRATION & PROFESSIONALS: Finding relevant inspiration and ideal professionals to help with my wedding, however was especially challenging. I wanted my wedding celebrations to represent who we were as individuals and as a couple. Although we were brought up in Australia, Chika and I were still proud of our Indian culture and heritage. We wanted to represent both these sides of us as throughout the celebrations. When it came to looking for inspiration and ideas, I had no idea where to turn to. With some Google searches, I came across a few Indian wedding blogs but I couldn’t relate to them. Everything I saw seemed over the top, too colorful and gaudy. It just didn’t seem like ‘us’ and was one of the core ideas behind starting The Crimson Bride.

I realized I had to look beyond the usual Indian wedding concepts and come up with my own ideas and as such the process was quite manual. Being interested in all things creative, I didn’t mind this process. Pinterest was a little helpful as it allowed me to discover wedding ideas and styles beyond the context of what’s generally seen at Indian weddings. The issue with Pinterest however, was that there was very little credible information on wedding professionals who could bring these ideas to life, or if it were available, the professionals were based overseas. Instead, I saved lots of pictures of decor ideas, color schemes and bridal outfits that I liked on my phone which I could use as reference when I found local professionals. In the end, this was super useful as I discovered that communicating with wedding professionals through images was so much more productive and was the key reason we included the Inspiration Board feature as part of our new platform.

While I had some great ideas stored on my phone, finding quality wedding professionals who understood our aesthetics and could also cater to our cultural needs was difficult - especially when it came to venues, mandap and decor people. Either we found professionals who could only offer very traditional decor or if we found someone who could work on the idea, they would charge an exorbitant amount to do it. It took quite some time to find good professionals and explain to them in detail our ideas and our specific requirements.

All of my challenges and experiences are what to led to working on The Crimson Bride. Bringing your dream wedding to life IS possible and that’s what we hope to enable on our platform through inspiration, information, and helpful tools. We want to make it easy for other brides like me who want to express their story on their big day and empower them to be themselves.

Wedding Events & Venues

WEDDING EVENTS: We considered various format combinations for our events, whether we should have them all together or spaced out over a couple of weeks. After much discussion, we decided it would make sense to have our wedding events all together as it would be more convenient and worthwhile for our overseas and interstate guests who were traveling all the way to Melbourne for the wedding.

In total, our wedding program included six key events of varying sizes in the last week of November to take advantage of the Australian spring/summer season. 

  1. Haldi - Wednesday 10am, Simmi's Parents' Home, 30 guests.
  2. Mehendi - Wednesday 6:30pm, Simmi's Parents' Home, 60 guests.
  3. Sangeet - Thursday 6:30pm, Simmi's Parents' Home, 80 guests.
  4. Wedding Ceremony - Saturday 9:30am, Stones of the Yarra Valley, 110 guests.
  5. Wedding Reception - Sunday 5:30pm, Carousel, 200 guests.
  6. Homecoming - Monday 5:30pm, Chika’s Accommodation, 20 guests.


VENUE SEARCH: Once we understood the general requirements and which ceremonies we were having, it was time to lock in venues. We wanted to have the pre-wedding events at my parent’s home, so the only venues to finalize were for the ceremony and reception events. Booking these venues would also be key to defining the theme and more importantly the date for the wedding events.

I started researching and short listing options soon after our engagement party as most good venues are often booked out more than 12 months in advance. Our few requirements for the venues were:

  • In terms of setting of the venue, I always imaged getting married outdoors or by the water. There’s something so fresh and organic about starting a new chapter surrounded by nature.
  • Given Melbourne’s temperamental weather, with an outdoor venue, we needed to have a wet weather alternative.
  • We also wanted a setting that would have a ‘wow’ factor and offered the best of what Australia has to offer for our overseas guests who were traveling here for the first time.
  • Wedding venue allowed fire for the Hindu ceremony.
  • Had good quality food/catering. We and our parents were flexible about not having Indian cuisine at the events. Although they preferred to have it at least one of the events, it definitely wasn’t a deal-breaker and helped open up a lot of choices in terms of venues for us.

I read various blogs and articles that helped shortlist venues with an outdoor event space or water view with the above requirements.

Inspecting the venues was a bit of a challenge as Chika and I lived in Sydney, but my parents helped by taking a look at some of them on our behalf. They took photos and provided their feedback which was a huge help in narrowing down the choices. Over this period, Chika and I also flew down to help with the inspections. After a couple of weekends of venue viewings, we had started to narrow our list. We had found some great options for the reception, but nothing had yet struck us as amazing for a wedding venue.

The only venues we hadn’t yet checked out were a few wineries and event spaces on the outskirts of Melbourne. When Chika’s parents were visiting Melbourne during this period we decided to make a day trip out of it and check them out. After a couple of venue visits, nothing had struck us. Just as we were about to call it a day, I insisted we check out Stones of the Yarra Valley, a winery just outside Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. The moment we entered the estate driveway that was lined with beautiful evergreen trees and stepped out, we were all blown away. This was it. 

The property was simply beautiful. Set on vast, open land against the Dandenong mountains on the horizon, the venue had an air of freshness with a rustic charm that we couldn’t resist. From a functional and logistics perspective, there were four venue spaces of various sizes all tastefully decorated with a rustic feel. There was also a chapel which could be used as a wet weather alternative. The venue really was a blank canvas and allowed flexibility for us to have a wedding in the style and structure we wanted. Although the venue had never held a Hindu wedding on their property before, Michaela, the events manager was extremely friendly and patient as she answered our numerous questions and helped provide ideas on how various aspects of the wedding, such as the baraat etc, could work.

With the 2014 summer dates already started to filling up, we were lucky enough to place tentative bookings for a couple of morning wedding dates in November, depending on our choice of reception venue availability.

Since the wedding venue was going to be outside of Melbourne, it made sense to have the Reception somewhere central. With my idea of wedding celebrations by the water, we looked at a number of waterfront venues. With a taste of the wine and countryside landscape of Australia, we thought having a waterfront Reception would be a nice way to end the wedding celebrations. At the time, there were only limited venue options in Melbourne that provided a waterview and catered for over 200 guests. From our shortlist, we chose Carousel for it’s location on the beautiful Albert Park Lake with a stunning view of Melbourne skyline and it’s modern, chic interiors. They had an Indian chef too, which was a bonus!

Wedding Shopping

With no quality wedding professionals locally, we had always slated a trip to India for wedding shopping. After locking in the wedding venue, we headed to New Delhi over the Christmas and New Year period. The key purpose was to purchase all the wedding event outfits for me, the wedding sherwani to match my outfit for Chika and all of my family’s outfit. We were only there for 10 days so things were hectic and stressful to say the least!

RESEARCH: In preparation for the trip to New Delhi, I tried to do some research into places for bridal wear shopping. My friends who had gotten recently married suggested a couple of places to check out and I had also found some blog articles that mentioned a few more outlets. I noted these down for the visit.

Before arriving, I had also started browsing outfit inspiration online and just like with everything else, I saved down lots of images of looks, styles and colours I liked on my phone. At this stage, I was completely unaware of any Indian designers and was only beginning to get familiar with the styles of SabyasachiManish Malhotra and Anamika Khanna as I seemed to be saving mostly their outfits for inspiration on my phone.

NEW DELHI SHOPPING: During our shopping trip to Delhi, we stayed with relatives in South and West Delhi so we did most of our shopping in South Ex II and Karol Bagh. I spent the first couple of days just familiarising myself with what was out there. Out of curiosity, I visited some of the designer stores at DLF Emporio and Defence Colony D Block both in South Delhi and of course a visit to the Sabyasachi store was a must. Although I appreciated the stunning pieces from such designers, with a price tag of $5-$10k for a bridal piece, I never seriously considered purchasing one for my wedding. At the time, it just wasn't the norm among my group friends to spend so much money on a bridal outfit that you're likely to wear only once. It was fair advice and as someone who had barely any awareness about fashion labels, never questioned it. I suppose in hindsight, it was also ignorance. I didn't fully understand nor was aware of the craft behind these pieces and so didn't fully appreciate why they cost so much. I was also completely unaware of the smaller designers that I now know of (through working on The Crimson Bride), whose pieces I would have loved to wear as part of my wedding trousseau. 

My best option at the time as a result, was to search for my bridal outfit at the non-designer retailers such as Frontier Raas in South Ex II (not to be confused with Frontier Bazaar which is different) which was highly recommended to me by all my married friends who had purchased their bridal outfits from there. As is the case in fast fashion, I noticed that most of the styles available here were inspired by the leading designers with distinct styles (mostly Sabyasachi and Manish Malhotra) but of course at a fraction of the cost. 

Although I shortlisted a couple of outfits from Frontier Raas, I also went to check out another place recommended by bloggers in Karol Bagh called Anarkali. “It’s much better quality and way cheaper”, they recommended. Anarkali was nothing like the brightly-lit, large retailers like Frontier Raas. It’s a small wholesaler/retailer operating out of a tiny, rundown storefront tucked away off the main Ajmal Khan Road in Karol Bagh. We were honestly a little worried at first, getting to the place but found some comfort in seeing other NRIs picking out outfits and placing their orders. We found that the workmanship at Anarkali was much better quality than Frontier Raas and the price was also 20-30% cheaper. I ended up finding and purchasing my dream wedding ceremony and sangeet outfit from here and was able to customise the final design, colour and size exactly to my requirements.

After an exhausting few days dealing with crowded bridal stores, we still had a number of things to purchase including jewellery, my reception outfit and clothes for my other family members as well as bridesmaids! I was quite specific about my reception outfit and wasn't finding much luck at any of the bridal retailers until I stumbled upon the perfect lehenga at Diva'ni, a new designer store that had opened next to Frontier Raas. I talked about my reception outfit shopping experience in detail here. The rest of the shopping items were purchased between Karol Bagh and South Ex II. For anything I couldn't find or didn't have time for in India, I purchased them online from Pernia’s Popup Shop, Exclusively and stores on Ebay. With so many more Indian fashion e-commerce now, I highly recommend online shopping where possible.

TIPS: Wedding shopping was certainly an experience and upon reflection, I was mostly figuring things out for the first time. Some things I learnt along the way:

  • Plan the trip based on what type of shopper your are. If you’re the type of shopper who likes to mull over your options, I would highly recommend going for a longer visit, or research and shortlist exactly what you want and make appointments beforehand. Alternatively, if you’re strapped for time, focus on purchasing only one or two outfits during the trip and buy the others locally or online. 
  • Allow 6 months to order your bridal outfits. If you are travelling to India for wedding shopping, I recommend going early and allowing enough time for the piece to be custom made. Most bridal retailers or designers require 3-4 months for the piece to be made and delivered. You also need time in case you require alterations, so it’s always safer to go at least 6 months in advance.
  • Find out your ‘designer’ style. The outfits you will see at non-designer bridal retailers will be heavily influenced by the leading bridal designers who each have distinct styles. I found that taking some time to familiarising myself with these styles and noting which ones I preferred was extremely helpful in communicating what I wanted at the bridal stores. For instance, I found myself saving lots of images of vintage Indian bridal pieces - mostly by Sabyasachi and realised I preferred his style. Asking the staff to show me ‘Sabyasachi-style’ pieces was a lot more productive a than asking for a ‘red lehenga’ and being bombarded with outfits that weren’t my style. Showing them images from my phone of what I liked was also extremely helpful as it helped narrow their recommendations as well. 
  • Take the first couple of days of shopping to see what’s out there. I found ‘window-shopping’ and trying things on really helped me better understand what styles and colours I liked but also what suited my complexion and frame. 
  • Focus on the outfit design and style. Indians love color and most of the sample pieces at the showroom are often in various colourful combinations. Instead of dismissing pieces based on colour, focus on the work and design as colours can always be customised to your requirements. My Sangeet, Wedding and Reception outfits for instance, were all originally in completely different colours but I loved their design and how it looked on me.
  • Anarkali delivered the goods, but don’t expect premium service. I would recommend Anarkali to any bride looking for a beautiful ‘designer-inspired’ bridal outfit but is sticking to a limited budget. They produced quality work at an extremely reasonable price. They delivered exactly what we wanted and on time without any alterations required. However, a word of caution if you plan to visit Anarkali: be prepared to deal with a pretty obnoxious owner who can be quite rude. As I mentioned, this is a small, rundown wholesale joint and not the place to expect premium 'bridal' service. We found the owner, an old man who sits at the front is the ringmaster, extremely rude and patronising not only to customers but his own staff. He was also quite astute about who the customers are and depending on whether you're an NRI, he would raise the price by 30-50% and no, he would not negotiate any lower because of "plenty of demand" for his pieces. Despite all this, we ended up purchasing two outfits from Anarkali because 1) we found something that we loved 2) the workmanship was great 3) pieces were extremely reasonably priced and 4) we had invested too much time with them to start all over again elsewhere.

Invitations & Stationery

Many people choose to order their invitations during their trip to India, but I had heard some horror stories about invitations with typos and ‘not what I ordered’ experiences. It seemed like a hassle so I looked for other alternatives. Probably a good thing, as I’m not sure if we would have been able to handle it in our 10-day mind-numbing shopping trip anyway!

RESEARCH: After some researching, I found the local invitation professionals would be quite expensive when adding multiple card inserts. Instead, I found recommendations of Indian based graphic designers who also worked on wedding invitations. I thought this would be a better alternative as their expectations of what is required of an Indian wedding invitation would be managed. After inquiring about price, I found this option to be quite reasonable and comparable ($12-$13 per set including printing and shipping), so went with a Mumbai-based graphic design company called Beyondesign. I was quite clear that I wanted a modern Indian wedding card and after looking at their portfolio of work, I felt their design aesthetic was very well aligned to what we wanted.

PRICING & PROCESS: Working with a graphic design company meant we worked on a fixed price basis for designing invitations and all the collateral (name cards, program booklets and anything else we wanted). We would pay separately for printing and shipping costs based on number of invitations and anything else we decided to get printed. The process commenced with an initial design brief over the phone and then the rest of the process and communication was carried out over email. This was helpful in allowing us to take our time with designing our wedding invitations and communicating our exact requirements so there were no misunderstandings. We could also easily send inspiration and ideas of what we were thinking between the Beyondesign team, us and our families.

STYLE & THEME: As part of our initial brief, we discussed the style and mood of the invitation cards. We wanted four cards for the key events that guests would be invited to (all except Haldi and Homecoming) and wanted each card to reflect the theme and mood of each event through color and symbols. Since my mother-in-law is extremely artistic and loves art and craft, I asked her to help out with the design. She was super helpful in providing inspiration and ideas of what we could do and provided honest feedback. Although we started with a more clean design with vector-based symbols for the cards, when we received the design proof, we didn’t love it. It didn’t have that ‘wow’ factor. With a rustic themed wedding, we needed something a little more soft and whimsical. My mother-in-law suggested a watercolor design that the Beyondesign team had recently done as inspiration. The more we thought about it, a watercolor invite in pastel colors would be unique and a perfect fit for our rustic spring/summer wedding.

Process: The Beyondesign team worked with the concept and provided some amazing design proofs to work with. They worked with a local watercolor painter to come up with themes for each of the event cards. Since we were doing only one set of cards for both families, the process had to be a lot more collaborative. There were lots of rounds of emails between family members after key iterations and changes were made so we were all generally happy with the design and the wordings. My mother in law and I worked together to look for inspiration of design ideas and color schemes and send them across to the Beyondesign team to take into consideration.

The team at Beyondesign were extremely patient even though watercolor wasn’t their specialty at the time (although it may be now!). They delivered beautiful cards and even went to the effort of tying each of the 250 invitation card sets with tweed strings and inserting them in the envelope. I absolutely loved the cards and received so many compliments when guests received them too.

TIPS FOR INVITATIONS:

  • Allow enough time for the design process. Even though you may have ideas, when they are interpreted and mocked up, they may not turn out to be what you imaged.
  • If you do have specific style or type of invitation design in mind, seek out people who specialize in that style. Every invitation designer does have a particular strength in a certain style and it’s always better to clarify that at the beginning by either browsing their portfolio or asking them. It’s better to work with someone who has a natural flair or strength in your preferred style than expecting they can do everything which may cause a lot of friction.
  • Be mindful of the weight of your card! For instance, a thicker card looked good, but weighs more and this adds to the shipping costs (if you are ordering them from overseas) and postage costs (if you are sending them to overseas guests). For instance, I chose thick cards because they looked great but didn't realize that each card set would end up weighing 600g which meant I would be required to pay for 40kg of shipping and extra postage. These were hidden costs that I hadn’t accounted for.

Pre-Wedding Planning & Logistics

With the wedding week drawing closer, planning turned into overdrive. As the bride and groom, we are often busy learning first dance steps and often brush over the countless hours our parents (particularly our mothers) spend in ensuring the finer details were taken care of. In our case, our parents not only had to ensure everything was in place for the wedding events (a few of which were at our home) but also prepare for relatives staying with us. I only realised the full extent of their planning efforts as part of writing this article and thought it was worth noting their approach to pre-wedding planning and how it helped.

OVERSEAS GUESTS: Both our families also had relatives arriving from overseas who were staying with us over the wedding week. Taking care of guests is just as important as the wedding events themselves so this required some forward planning and organisation to ensure their stay was comfortable. Fortunately, both our mothers were extremely organised and started planning well in advance for their stay so during the wedding week they could enjoy themselves too.

GUEST ACCOMMODATION: Both our families had relatives arriving from overseas and staying with us over the wedding week. My relatives stayed with us at my parent's home. Since we had limited bedrooms, we converted our family rooms into areas for sleeping at night. Family friends pitched in spare mattresses and spare pillows to help us with the arrangements. It was really lovely having family stay with us. It truly felt like a ‘wedding house’, bustling with activity as we prepared for the celebrations. It also allowed a way for the relatives to be intimately involved with all the preparations.

With Chika's family, it was slightly more work as they weren't based in Melbourne. During the week of the wedding, Chika's parents rented an entire house for them and their relatives in Fitzroy (central Melbourne) from Luxico Holiday Homes. The lovely seven bedroom, four bathroom Victorian terrace house allowed everyone to stay together as a family and served as the perfect 'wedding house'. They were also able to hold our final Homecoming Dinner (usually hosted by the groom's family) at the home. The house was fully serviced and my mother-in-law hired Raj Catering Services to arrange traditional Kannada food for the duration of the stay. 

GUEST SERVICES & PREP: In preparation for the guests' stay over the week, my parents planned a number of logistic details to ensure the stay was stress-free and comfortable. Some arrangements they made included:

  • Airport pickup - All the relatives provided their flight details in advance and my brother and dad relayed between home and airport to pick them up.
  • City tour - We prepared a Melbourne's attractions city guide for the relatives and on one of the days before the wedding, my dad took out the guests to visit the city and show them around.
  • Induction for the guests - Upon their arrival, guests were given a tour of the house and shown where things were so they could be self-sufficient even if my parents were busy.
  • Pre-planned meals - My mother pre-planned and printed a menu of basic meals for each day and posted this on an easel in a central location for everyone to consult during their stay. This way there was no confusion or debate on 'what to cook or eat that day'. 
  • Pre-prepared ingredients - Two weeks before the guests arrived, my mother prepared all the basic ingredients required for each meal per the menu and froze them. Each day, members of the family would consult the menu and simply cook the food. 
  • Dedicated pantry - My parents cleared out a separate cupboard for the guests so they had easy access to cereal, snacks, pickles etc.
  • Laundry - My mother and grandmother embroidered the corners of towel sets in different colours for each family so they can so it was easier to sort through after they were washed.
  • Hired help - My parents hired some home help for a hours each day over the wedding week. They mainly helped with the setup and the cleanup after each event and regular room cleans.

WEDDING PREPARATION: In preparation for the wedding events specifically, my mother also found the following things really helped

  • Wedding folder - My mother maintained her own wedding planning folder containing the names and numbers for all the family friends she had invited to each event and the key people who were delegated specific responsibilities. In the folder she also maintained a list of all the wedding professionals she was personally dealing with (caterers, venues, priest etc). Two days before the wedding event, she called every wedding professional to run through and finalise all the details. 
  • Bulk supplies - My parents bulk purchased bottled water, juice, disposable plates, cutlery, cups, and rubbish bags from Costco. They divided these supplies into separate boxes for each event based on event requirements and number of people. This meant that there was no last minute scramble to find cups or plates. There was also a separate box for the relatives staying with us.
  • Wedding clothes - My mother ironed each of our wedding outfits and labelled all the jewellery by event to ensure there was no confusion on the day on what to wear.

Pre-Wedding Events Decor

I love creative projects so organising the decor for all the wedding events became my personal DIY project. I especially loved planning for the pre-wedding events as they were held at my parents home so I really had a blank canvas to come up with creative concepts and bring them to life on the day.

Logistics & Planning: Planning for the pre-wedding event decor was a little tricky as all our events were all held one after the other at my parent’s home. To make sure we didn’t have to rush things on the day, we decided to setup and decorate as much of the base decor before the events officially started so we didn’t have to rush on the days. I arrived at my parent’s home the weekend before and rallied up friends, family and organised the necessary wedding professionals to help with the setup.

Base Decor: The key decor features we needed to setup before all the wedding events were the time consuming things such as fabric draping and flower strings in the main hall, lighting and some basic fresh flowers around the house in our colour scheme. Even though not all of these elements were being ‘featured’ at all the events at the same time, it was still useful have these main things setup beforehand. On the days, all we had to do was add, remove or turn on the items as planned for the event. In the end, the base decor also helped create a ‘wedding atmosphere’ during the week.

Base Colour Scheme: As we were setting up for all of the pre-wedding events in advance, we had to work out a colour scheme that would work for all the occasions. Since the house is mostly a neutral white colour, we used shades of pink and orange as the base colour for the home. We added and subtracted colours for the events on the days so it would look slightly different.

Haldi

The Haldi was an intimate event with only our family and close friends. Since it was the first official event of the celebrations, we wanted to start by paying tribute to our ancestral roots of UP/Bihar through the rituals and food. The guests and priests arrived in the morning for a one-hour puja that officially marked the beginning of the wedding celebrations. It was a beautiful, fresh spring morning and everyone was dressed in various shades of yellow and white. The occasion truly felt auspicious. Afterwards, everyone took turns to apply haldi (turmeric) on me. While things started quite sombre, thanks to a cheeky aunty, the ritual broke into a full-fledged haldi fight! As people cleaned up, guests were served lunch prepared by my mum with some help from family friends. The food was 'yellow' themed and an ode to our UP/Bihar region with dishes that including yellow curry, rice, puran puri, kheer etc. 

DECOR: We worked with a yellow colour theme to match the ‘haldi’ occasion but kept the decor whimsical and minimal. Some features included:

  • Mini mandap - The Haldi ceremony required a ‘mini-mandap’ so we transformed a small canopy area in our backyard for the occasion. The canopy already provided the structure and the greenery, so we draped some yellow and white artificial flower strings hired from Rupali's Mandaps at various heights. It added a lovely texture to the space.
  • Fresh florals - I loved the idea of using fresh flowers for decorations. They don't just make for colourful decor, but also adds an aroma to any space. We found a really great local wholesale florist called Van Gogh Flowers who retailed beautiful, fresh flowers at a fraction of the costs at usual florists. The day before the haldi, my maid of honour, Priya and I picked out sets of flowers that would last a few days and matched our base colour scheme as well as the colours for each of the pre-wedding events. Red Temple Events, who were also assisting me with my Sangeet decor also arrived the day before Haldi to help arrange these flowers into small mason jars (a mixture of their own and some that I had purchased for my engagement) and helped place them around the house.

SIMMI'S OUTFIT: I wore a simple yellow saree with a red and gold border with a red blouse, gifted to me by my aunty who got it custom made in India.

HAIR & MAKEUP: I did my own.

Mehendi

The Mehendi was held in the evening of the Haldi. This was the first event Chika and his family would be attending so we wanted to infuse elements of both our cultures into the event. For it to truly feel like a mehendi event, I liked the idea of having my mehendi applied at least for some parts of the event. Bridal mehendi on hands and feet usually takes 7-8 hours, so my mehendi artist advised starting the mehendi application a few hours before the official event started so we could have a break when the guests arrived and resume during the event. Although this sounds great in concept, there are a few logistical things to be aware of! I talk about them here.

Friends and family began to trickle in slowly and Chika and his family arrived soon after with gifts and ‘mehendi’ cookies by Wedding Cakes of Melbourne in the colour scheme of my outfit - a lovely touch! The MC for the night officially welcomed guests and Chika’s family and and led the official program with song and dance performances among women. In the room next door, the men also mingled and celebrated with a ‘pagdi’ ceremony to commemorate the start of wedding celebrations together. My uncle had learnt how to tie a turban through a YouTube video and did the honours on the day.

FOOD & DRINK: Food was prepared by our Melbourne family friends who have known us for years and watched me grow up in India and Melbourne. It was a way for them to help out with the wedding and feel involved in the celebrations. We kept the food theme as ‘Indian snack foods’ such as chaat paapdi, dhokla, pakoda etc. My mum had printed and laminated the names of the food and labelled each dish for Chika and his family. For dessert, we distributed popular sweets from Kannada (Mysore pak) and UP (Balushahi) from India Sweets. For drinks, we served ‘nimbu pani’ which was the perfect accompaniment to the Indian snack food and was also ‘green’ in colour.

Mehendi Decor

We used the hall in my parent’s home as the main feature area for the Mehendi event. The colour theme for the event was ‘green’ to match the mehendi colour but we used accents of pink and orange as well. Since the room was mostly white, we added colour through some DIY decor features including:

  • Fabric draping: We used gold, pink and orange fabric to drape the the main hall in my parents home which would serve as the focal point throughout the pre-wedding celebrations. Draping is a great way to add dimension and texture to any space and it worked really well for our space as it added grandness and sense of festivity to the place.
    I researched some draping styles and saved pictures of them for the setup. Because the hall had high ceilings, DIY draping was actually a bit of a logistical nightmare. We had to reference DIY draping articles to understand how draping works and involved several trips to bunnings to look for fishing lines, nails and various other little tidbits. Even though it worked out and looked amazing in the end, it was actually pretty dangerous mission and I wouldn’t recommend doing it on your own. Best to hire a draping company that knows exactly how to do it.
  • Flower strings: I always loved the idea of flower strings lining the walls in Bollywood films (Love Breakups Zindagi and 2 States) and used it as inspiration for our base pre-wedding decorations at home. With the Haldi and Mehendi occasions, I really wanted marigold flower strings and scoured the internet looking for them. I found one local supplier, Fresh Jasmines, who did offer marigold flower strings, but the cost for what we required seemed exorbitant, especially as they start to wilt after a day.
    My friend instead referred me to Rupali's Mandaps who hire our artificial flower strings for wedding decorations. Although this wasn’t ideal, nor did they have the type of flower I wanted, in the end it was the best and most practical option we had, given our needs. The good news was that she had plenty of flowers in shades of pink, yellow, white and orange which worked with our colour scheme. We took three bagfuls for rent and used them to line the windows and door of the main hall where most of the functions would take place.
  • String of fairy lights: In between the flower strings in the main hall, I also added strings of fairy lights, which added an instant brightness and festivity to the event. The fairylights were hired and setup by the team at Pro Light and Sound.
  • Fresh flowers: We kept the flowers from the Haldi (bought wholesale from Van Gogh Flowers) for the other main room. We also added a large bouquet with orange and pink flowers for the main hall.

Mehendi Look

SIMMI'S OUTFIT: I had originally purchased a green and red salwar kameez from Frontier Bazaar for the occasion, but for some reason it didn’t feel ‘bridal’ enough when I tried it at back at home. Luckily I had a mint green and orange lehenga I had ordered on Utsav Fashion ages ago but never worn. It fit the colour theme perfectly and turned out lovely for the night.

JEWELRY: Gold and pearl maatha patti by Soranam by Sonia Malhotra purchased from Pernia’s Popup Shop. Earrings by India Trend.

HAIR & MAKEUP: My hair and makeup for the event was done by Aimmey from Miss Aimmey. Closer to the wedding events, I had started to become clearer about my wedding looks and I sent through pictures of the look I was thinking of going for. Since at all the other event, the plan was to have the hair up, I thought having it down in soft curls would work well. I was inspired by a few celebrity looks and saved images of these for reference on the day. Aimmey perfectly complemented the makeup look with the outfit and highlighting just the right aspects with balance. I felt like a princess!

MEHENDI: My mehendi was applied by a very close family friend who has watched me grow up over the years. She also happens to be the number one henna artist in Melbourne and operates her own business, Henna Art. She arrived 3 hours before the event officially started so we could get a head start. The idea was to pause for a couple of hours when the guests arrived and then continue at the event.

CHIKA'S OUTFIT: A green and gold kurta, churidar set.

Sangeet

VISION: Growing up with Bollywood movies, I was obsessed with having an evening open-air event with fairy lights shimmering among the trees. It seemed so romantic yet festive, and thought our Sangeet would be the perfect opportunity to bring my dream to life! 

VENUE: I was especially inspired by the outdoor sangeet scene from the movie Monsoon Wedding. I loved the amphitheater setup from the scene and originally started my Sangeet venue search looking for one in Melbourne but couldn't find anything at the time. I also considered some other open-air options such as the courtyard area at Abbotsford Convent and the lawn at Rippon Lea but with all the costs adding up, this didn't seem like a practical. Amidst thinking of a solution, I realized my parents’ home would be the perfect venue for our Sangeet, with plenty of outdoor space and most importantly a beautiful garden to sprinkle with fairy lights! Having a Sangeet at home would also provide an intimate and homely feel to the event - something that seemed to be lacking with Sangeets trending more towards larger, concert-type events. The only issue was convincing my parents - they were worried the space wouldn't be large enough but I was adamant we could make it work if we used the space creatively. Eventually, they gave in! 

SETUP: I was keen to create an intimate setting for the event. Taking inspiration from the cocktail-style setup of the sangeet event depicted in the movieYeh Jawaani Hai Deewani we opted for a free flowing standing party. Instead of the standard stage and theater setup of chairs, where we, along with the guests would gather in a casual circle around the performers. This allowed the event to feel so much more intimate than having the couple sitting out at the front of a room.

FOOD & DRINKS: We had Indian food served cocktail style throughout the night by SG Catering. My mother worked with the team to come up with a menu that would not only be tasty but also practical for guests to eat while standing (e.g. no curries). They chose 6-8 dry dishes that were of varying sizes including a couple of substantial dishes as part of dinner. The team at SG Catering were absolutely top notch - not only providing high quality and plentiful food, but the staff were extremely professional and attentive to all our guests' needs. We received lots of phone calls afterward asking for their reference so I couldn’t recommend them highly enough. Dessert was prepared by family friends and included cupcakes and Indian sweets. My mother also organised some snacks on a platter for guests who would be arriving early (before the catering started) so they wouldn’t go hungry.

For drinks, another family friend had created a fruit punch and we had this out in urns at a DIY bar in the front garden. We purchased beer and wine from Dan Murphy's and chilled them in an ice bucket. People mostly helped themselves but we also designated another family friend to be the barman for the night, serving mixed drinks during the night. 

HIGHLIGHTS: The evening turned out to be everything I imagined. From decor to setup to the whole vibe - it was absolutely magical and exactly how I had wanted it. Guests were treated to colorful fruit punch on arrival and served cocktail-style food throughout the night. The whole house from the front garden to the back was open for guests. We held the formalities in the front yard, using the driveway for some memorable singing and dancing performances by family and close friends. One of the highlights was an acoustic cover of 'All of Me' by John Legend performed by Chika's sister and one of our close friends. It was an emotional song that moved almost everyone to tears including Chika. The song became our wedding song and always associate it to our wedding whenever we hear it. After the formalities, the party moved indoors after 10pm (due to the noise restrictions) and we danced the night away to tunes by DJ Taran.

Sangeet Decor

With an outdoor evening garden party setup at my parent’s home, I was excited by the opportunity to work with a blank canvas. This was personally my favourite decor project and really allowed me to be creative and have fun with it all. For the Sangeet, we chose a colourful and bright colour scheme to reflect the spring/summer season and of course the fun atmosphere of a Sangeet. However, I still wanted it to look and feel tasteful and ‘chic’. We worked with the base colour theme of pink and orange from the previous events but added accents of blue to match my and Chika’s outfit for the evening.

Some of my favourite decor features from the event included:

  • Furniture: Whilst browsing for inspiration, I had fallen in love with the idea of having an outdoor lounge setting as part of a garden party. In the front garden, where guests would be arriving, I created a ‘feature’ corner with some seating around a sofa. I initially explored the idea of a vintage sofa from a furniture hire company, but opted to work with what we had to begin with to save on cost and hassle. Instead we used a neutral coloured sofa from my parent’s lounge as the base and added some colourful cushions and wire furniture and ottomans in our colour scheme hired from Dann Event Hire . We also placed blue and white wire high tables and cafe setups around the front garden and the back garden for a spring/summer garden party feel. The event stylist team there were helpful in providing ideas on furniture options that would work with my vision. Tip: Check your hire order before they are delivered. There was a typo on mine and was delivered the wrong set of things on the day... but thankfully it all worked out in the end!
  • Flowers: I worked closely with Red Temple Events who helped with floral decor for the event. The girls created floral arrangements of varying sizes in blue and gold mason jars which helped added pops of colour around the space. I loved their ethnic chic style and they did a wonderful job setting everything up on the day. My favourite features included the blue mason jars alternating with tealight and flowers that were hanging along the white fence.
  • Rustic props: To add to the ‘chic’ vibe, Red Temple Events also placed some rustic lanterns of varying heights in another corner of the garden. I also reused the birdcages from my engagement party and asked them to fill these with flowers. We hung these in the backyard from an overhanging tree.
  • Wooden carving: I had purchased a wooden carving of Chika and my name from a supplier on Ebay. It was originally for my engagement party but didn’t arrive on time, so thought it could be used as part of the Sangeet. Red Temple Events added some flowers to it and we hung it on the hedge in the front garden. Again, it added to the rustic chic vibe to the event.
  • Lighting: Lighting is the perfect way to add a sense of festivity and warmth to any space and used it extensively at our outdoor Sangeet event. I hired out yellow glow festoon and fairy lights from Pro Light and Sound. During the booking process, I shared photos of our space and sketches of my plan and the friendly team advised on how many lights we would need to hire out. They arrived a couple of days before any of the events started to help setup the lights and logistics of it all. They were true professionals and ensure all the lights were setup in a secure and safe way.
    They setup festoon lights over the front garden and driveway entrance where the performances would be held which on the night provided a truly festive feel. They also helped add fairy lights to the canopy at the back while my dad and I dispersed the fairy lights around the front and back garden including the canopy. We tied a few strings of fairy lights to the main trees which added a beautiful shimmer to the evening. The trick with fairy lights is to ensure they are balanced across the space. For instance, not every tree or hedge requires a string of lights or else it can feel quite overbearing.

On the evening, I remember looking around and thinking how magical it all looked. It was so nice to see my vision come to life and see the night unfold smoothly.

Sangeet Look

SIMMI'S OUTFIT: I wanted to wear something festive for the Sangeet event. I found a lovely lehenga design at Anarkali in Karol Bagh, New Delhi but customised the colours to fit our theme. I had seen a Sabyasachi lehenga which cleverly used different colour combinations for each of the outfit pieces and used it as inspiration for my outfit. I thought the colours worked really well without it being overbearing and went well with the festive spring/summer vibe of the event. The outfit was incredibly heavy for the embroidery and at times I did almost knock people out, so I would recommend going for something lighter for a Sangeet type event.

JEWELRY: I purchased the necklace, earrings and bangles from Much More in Karol Bagh, New Delhi. I planned to wear a maang tika for the event, but last minute, changed to a passa purchased online from Ebay. Since I was wearing maang tikka’s for other days, I thought it would be something different and worked really with the overall look!

HAIR & MAKEUP: Another perfect look created by Miss Aimmey. We went with an updo hairstyle and natural makeup with a bit of glam.

SHOES: Comfortable gold heels.

CHIKA'S OUTFIT: Blue and cream pathaan style kurta-pyjama set with a cream vest. These were designed by Chika’s mum and custom made by tailors in Dubai (where they were living).

SHOES: Brown loafers by Milan.

Wedding Ceremony

We had a day’s break after the Sangeet to recover and rest up for the Wedding Ceremony at Stones of the Yarra Valley on Saturday morning. The bridesmaids stayed over the night before and we had lots of fun giggling in excitement and discussing plans and strategies for ‘stealing the shoes’ on the wedding day. Before heading to bed, I gifted each of them earrings and a bangle from Amrapali along with a personal note as a way of saying thank you. Things got a bit emotional, but it was nice to share an intimate moment with them all!

The wedding day started quite early for us to ensure we could arrive at the venue by 8:30am for a 9am start. This meant our hair and makeup appointments started at 3am to ensure there was enough time for all the bridesmaids, our relatives, my mother and I. It was a hectic morning, but I tried to stop and savour all the special moments. My favourites was having my mum and my grandma (three generations of women in the family) together and helping me get ready.

We managed to arrive at the venue early which allowed our parents and family to setup the last minute details. Meanwhile, the bridesmaids and I waited excitedly in the Stables for the ceremony to commence. Guests began arriving at 9:00am for a 9:30am baraat and were greeted by the Stones event staff. Since it was an early morning start for them as well, we had setup a refreshment stand upon arrival so they had something to eat and drink before settling in for the ceremony - a thoughtful gesture that many of the guests appreciated.

After the baraat, the Hindu wedding ceremony commenced around 10:30am and was held outdoors - a picturesque location with the vineyard as the backdrop and the rolling Dandenong mountains in the horizon. As I walked down the aisle with my parents, it was a surreal moment. After months of planning, it was heartwarming feeling to see everyone and everything come together so smoothly and just as I had imagined. We had a condensed one hour Hindu ceremony carried out by Pandit Abhay Awasthi who also translated the rituals into English so everyone could understand and follow. He also provided some humour which helped the guests remain engaged with the proceedings.

I loved that our families had infused various elements of our culture and roots throughout the ceremony. For instance, my father-in-law sang an auspicious ‘shlokha’ in Sanskrit that originated from their ancestral town of Sringeri, asking the elements of the earth to bless on the day. For my parents, they served Indian sweets from UP/Bihar region (purchased from Sweet India) as soon as the ceremony finished - just like our ancestors would after a wedding. It was also worked out well from a practical perspective as it served as refreshments for people that were hungry after the ceremony.

After the ceremony, the guests were ushered to the ‘Dairy’ room for 45 minutes of canapes, celebratory champagne and drinks which were beautifully presented by the Stones team. In the meantime, we along with the bridal party snuck away for some quick photos around the property. We returned to the ‘Barn’, the main event space at Stones. The rustic space was beautifully setup by the Stones team with three rows of long wooden tables with us along with both our family and bridal party in the middle table. It felt so much more intimate and like a ‘family meal’.  With floor to ceiling windows, we were all treated to stunning views of the property.

Chika and I entered the room with our mothers as a way to make them feel special for all the effort they had gone to. They each made speeches and toasted to the auspicious day. After lunch, Chika and I were picked up by a vintage car by Triple R Luxury Car Hire and taken to Crown Towers in the city where we spent the night. It was the most perfect day and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. A huge thank you to the extremely professional and organised staff at Stones of the Yarra Valley who exceeded our expectations in making the guests feel comfortable and attended to.

FOOD & DRINKS: Lunch was a three-course sit down meal with modern Asian and Middle-Eastern fusion cuisine catered by in-house team at Stones of the Yarra Valley. Both our mothers worked with the chef to create the menu for the occasion. Each of the meals were delicious and top quality and presented so beautifully on rustic tableware. It made for a truly vineyard dining experience. Guests also had a choice to enjoy the wine from the Stones vineyard.

MUSIC: We picked music for various points of the wedding day and ensured they represented both our North and South Indian culture. The Wedding Zone, who provided the audio and mic setup for the outdoor ceremony and we allocated a family friend who was responsible for the music changes.

  • Baraat - The baraat was acommpanied by a live dhol music by Richi Madan.
  • Pre-ceremony - We played soft classical Carnatic music compiled by my father-in-law as guests were being seated for the ceremony.
  • Bridesmaids entrance - Manwa Laage from Happy New Year. It was the perfect upbeat summery song.
  • Bridal entrance - Pehla Nasha from Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikkandar - one of my all time favourite songs with a nostalgic feel and beautiful lyrics.
  • Exit song - Leaving the ceremony back through the aisle, we chose ‘Gal Mitthi Mitthi Bol’ from Aisha for a festive and celebratory vibe.
  • Over lunch - My brother and I created a playlist of old Hindi songs that we provided to the Stones staff and they played as background music.

Wedding Ceremony Decor

With the stunning vineyard and beautiful rustic event spaces available at Stones of the Yarra Valley, we wanted to keep the decor elements minimal and work with the rustic / vintage theme the setting provided. Even though traditional Hindu wedding ceremonies are usually colourful, we still wanted to ensure the decor would complement the setting rather than clash with it. After lots of discussions with family, we all agreed that with the greenery and natural surrounding, we should go for a softer base colour scheme so Chika and my feature wedding colours of crimson and gold would stand out. The base colour scheme we chose was off-white / champagne with hints of dusty pink (to match the bridal party) and accents of red to match my bridal outfit.

PLANNING & LOGISTICS: Since the wedding was going to be held outdoors and in various spaces around the venue, there was quite a bit of logistics and careful planning required to ensure all the key elements (e.g. mandap, chairs, props, audio) came together to enable the wedding to take place. Since we didn’t hire a wedding planner, we sourced and co-ordinated our own wedding professionals and worked closely with the venue's event staff who helped managed and coordinated the setup with all the professionals. In the end, it was a joint effort by The Wedding Zone who provided the staging, structure and chandeliers for the mandap, small decor items and audio equipment for the ceremony, Place Settings who provided the ceremony chairs and The Eleventh Flower who provided the floral decor and styling for the day.

To help ensure we were all on the same page, 6-8 months before the wedding, we arranged a site visit at Stones with Vonnie, the venue owner, Denise from The Wedding Zone and Rose from The Eleventh Flower. The meeting was crucial in allowing us to consult our ideas and more importantly clarify the logistics for how things would be setup and work on the day. We discussed in detail exactly where the mandap and chairs would be located based on the flatness of the grounds and what would visually look good from a photographic perspective. We also discussed wet weather options and other things from a guest point of view e.g. what if it was extremely hot that day, how could we provide shade? Denise from The Wedding Zone, took ownership and lead of recording and finalising all the nitty details from the start time to the dimensions of the mandap we would require (4m x 4m in case you’re wondering). She shared these with the other professionals and kept the Stones staff informed as well.

Decor & Unique Details: Some of my favourite decor elements from the wedding ceremony included:

  • Floral Mandap: Of course the mandap is usually the main feature of any Hindu wedding so this would be an important feature for the event. I searched for various mandap companies in Melbourne but unfortunately, I could not find anything that would work with an outdoor winery/garden setting. Everything appeared a little too over the top and bulky, whereas we wanted something soft and elegant.
    Browsing through some inspiration however, I loved the idea of a floral mandap for the occasion but didn’t know who could create one for me locally. Finding the right professional was a bit of a challenge. I enquired with a number of local florists but found it difficult to explain what we were creating and so was often quoted prices that required them to build a mandap structure from scratch and would therefore, be well over our budget. I changed my approach and started to look for people who could perhaps rent out a structure which could then be dressed up in flowers.
    This proved to be a lot more fruitful as I came across The Wedding Zone, who specialise in setting up decor and structures for outdoor weddings (along with other requirements such as audio and microphone setup). I worked closely with Denise and sent through a lot of sketches and images of inspiration to help communicate my vision for the ceremony setup to help provide some context. She was really patient and friendly and provided lots of helpful advice from a logistics point of view in terms of what to consider and how to approach things.
    With my floral mandap concept, she suggested working with Rose from The Eleventh Flower who would could dress up the structure as we liked. I sent Rose lots of images of inspiration I had saved and we discussed various colour schemes and textures that would work with the setting. She even took photos of my bridal outfit so she could work in the colours accordingly. She was excellent and patiently and creatively worked with our ideas within the budget we had to bring to life our vision. The result was a gorgeous rustic floral mandap that we loved!
  • Chairs: Instead of the standard white garden chairs, we chose wooden brown chairs from Place Settings which complemented the rustic theme of the event. Rose of The Eleventh Flower added aisle flowers at the end of them to tie them into the theme. For the mandap, we needed low chairs for the puja. Again, it was difficult to find something that would suit our rustic theme. We ended up hiring a beige set from Royal Events along with the other puja items. 
  • Signage: Since there were lots of different spaces the guests would be moving through, we thought it would be useful to mark the various areas using some blackboard signage. Rose of The Eleventh Flower sourced these for us and provided the writing and added small floral arrangements to the corner to tie the theme together.
  • Refreshments table: The Stones staff helped organise a refreshments table with tea, coffee, juice and some biscuits for guests arriving early in the morning for the ceremony. We added blackboard signage for a vintage / rustic feel.
  • Parasols: It turned out to be quite a warm and sunny morning which meant that the guests were in direct sunlight when the ceremony started. Luckily we had discussed this as a possibility as party of our planning so The Wedding Zone placed colourful parasols for guests at the entrance of the aisle. The parasol umbrellas ended up adding to the overall setting and were an unexpected feature of the event!
  • Barn Decor: We kept the decor in the Barn (the lunch space) very minimal and worked with the already very rustic decor of the place. We used the table decor that Stones already provided including wooden candelabras and tealights and reused as much of the florals from the mandap for simple table flower arrangements and hanging florals from the pillars. The Eleventh Flower and the Stones of the Yarra Valley team did an excellent job working creatively and efficiently with what we had. At the end, the guests were able to wrap the flowers and take them home.
  • Stationery: Beyondesign. We used pink watercolour from the wedding invitation to create name cards and ceremony program which helped tie everything together on the day.

Wedding Ceremony Look

SIMMI'S OUTFIT: I found my wedding outfit whilst shopping at Anarkali in Karol Bagh, New Delhi. The sales staff brought out a beautiful monochrome sand gold ‘Sabyasachi-inspired’ piece that originally came with a long jacket style blouse. The colour and style stood out instantly amongst everything else we had seen. It was understated but still had a regal feel to it. I tried it on and we all fell in love with it. Although the gold colour was gorgeous, I always wanted to wear some element of the traditional Hindu ‘crimson’ on my wedding day. On the other hand, I also felt wearing a solid red colour wouldn’t suit me either.

In the end I made slight adjustments to the outfit design and colour. I replaced the long jacket-style blouse with a standard blouse in ‘crimson’ red and gold. I kept the blouse design vintage with a slightly longer blouse, a covered back and three-quarter sleeves. On the day, the blouse provided quite a structured and formal look to the outfit, which I loved. With the lehenga skirt design, we kept the unique layered look the jacket provided so you could still the the embroidery through the shimmery net layer. We added bits of the red in the lehenga as well as the dupatta but it was used more as an accent colour.

Since the dupatta was quite heavy to place on the head, I later purchased a second dupatta from a local Indian clothing supplier as I wanted to wear something light that would flow and would be easy to remove after the bridal entrance.

On the day, I used Sabyasachi’s vintage styling as inspiration and asked Caroline of Caroline's Final Touch to drape the dupatta in a saree style which also helped provide a more formal look to the outfit. I felt like a princess in the outfit and loved wearing it!

JEWELRY: My parents had purchased a beautiful gold necklace and earring set from Hazoorilal Jewellery but when I tried it on with the lehenga, the set didn’t match the lehenga at all. The gold in the necklace set was a completely different tone to the gold in the lehenga.

Unsure of what to do, last minute, I decided to source a custom made costume kundan set from Deeya Jewellery, a UK-based jewellery designer I had discovered on Instagram. I worked with Nadia over Whatsapp, sharing inspiration and sketches to come up with a custom design that would work with the outfit. She was really patient and provided really helpful suggestion and was able to make sure pieces arrived in time. In the end, the the kundan set complemented the outfit really well and provided a vintage feel to the overall look. I ended up wearing my parent’s gifted jewellery at the Homecoming event. Tip:- Pick out jewellery after your outfit or alongside each other so they don’t clash.

On the day I also wore some heirloom pieces - a beautiful delicate gold bangle provided by grandmother and the silver anklets from my other grandmother. It felt special to be able to wear a piece of our family history on my special occasion. My mother also gave me red bangles made of lacquer that are quite typical to the UP/Bihar region. I complemented these with costume kundan bangles I purchased on Ebay.

I also loved the unique mangalsutra gifted by Chika and his family at the wedding. It was designed by my mother-in-law and made by Pratibha Jewellery, Bangalore.

SHOES: Gold sandals by ​Jimmy Choo.

HAIR & MAKEUP: I worked with Aimmey of Miss Aimmey to come up with a hair and makeup look for the day. Again, I shared lots of images of looks I loved and we had utilised our makeup trial during our pre-wedding shoot to test some of these out. For hair, we decided on a classic bun but thought we could add red roses on the side of it for some colour and would tie in nicely with the floral theme from the wedding.

For makeup, we went for a fresh, dewy look since it was a morning ceremony. She insisted on bright red lips as the feature of the look (even though I wasn’t sure if it would be too much) but balanced it out with gold eyeshadow so it wasn’t over the top for a morning ceremony. To complete the look, I wore a traditional ‘crimson’ round bindi I had ordered online, which I absolutely loved. In the end the look came together beautifully and I couldn’t be happier!

BOUQUET: The Eleventh Flower.

CHIKA'S OUTFIT: An understated off white and gold custom-made sherwani from Frontier Raas. We purchased a gold silk material as a dupatta for the sherwani separately.

SAAFA: We looked at the ready-made saafas in India but we all agreed that they looked too structured and would be out of place with the soft, regal look we were going for for Chika. We purchased silk saafa material in gold to match the gold in the sherwani from a small store in Karol Bagh, New Delhi. My mother-in-law did an amazing job tying the saafa herself using Youtube video tutorials!

SHOES: Matching shoes from Frontier Raas.

Bridal Party Look

To complement Chika and my outfits, we chose a dusty pink, gold and white colour theme for the bridal party.

BRIDESMAIDS: The bridesmaids all wore a dusty pink saree with a gold border and a vintage gold lace blouse. I purchased all the material for the outfit from a small store in Karol Bagh, New Delhi and my mother-in-law had the sarees and petticoats dyed and stitched in Dubai. My bridesmaid, Nishi helped design the blouse and we got them stitched in Melbourne by a local tailor called Sajnee.

The bridesmaids wore matching gold and pearl earrings that I had also purchased from Much More in Karol Bagh, New Delhi. We bought gold bangles in bulk on Ebay and a vintage gold and pearl brooch from Etsy. Although my sister-in-law was also a bridesmaid, we wanted her to stand out so she wore a slightly different outfit - an anarkali but still kept with the theme wearing the same earrings. All the bridesmaids carried bouquets by The Eleventh Flower.

GROOMSMEN: The groomsmen wore neutral off-white kurta and churidaar sets along with the shoes from Manyavar, Bangalore. My mother-in-law dyed the material for the dupatta for the groomsmen in the same pink as the bridesmaids saree in Dubai. She also purchased the off white material for their saafa there. On the day, she style the groomsmen and helped tie their saafa on the day with the help of YouTube video tutorials. Just like my sister-in-law, although my brother was also a groomsman, he wore a slightly different outfit - a white and gold sherwani from Manyavar, New Delhi but still kept with the theme as the groomsmen by wearing the pink dupatta and the off white saafa.

FAMILY OF BRIDE & GROOM: We asked all the family members to wear outfits in neutral colours of off white or gold to match the soft theme of the wedding day setting. The colours not only added a touch of regal but also helped the wedding setting feel a lot more cohesive as it tied all the colours together and allowed my, Chika and the bridal party colours to stand out.

Reception

The Reception was held at Carousel the next day after the Wedding and was mostly a chance for us to let our hair down and party!

Chika and I got ready slightly earlier and went for some location shoots around Melbourne city. We arrived at venue slightly early and asked our bridal party and family to meet us for a last-minute private civil ceremony on the deck. Although the official civil ceremony was already incorporated as part of the Wedding Ceremony, I wanted the opportunity to say out loud our vows to each other among our friends and family.

Guests began arriving around 5:30pm and enjoyed some welcome cocktails and canapes on the deck and enjoyed the stunning waterfront and Melbourne city skyline views the venue had to offer. The official program commenced with our bridal party entrance. Before our entrance, BLVD played a same day-edit video for all the guests who could not attend all the event. We didn’t have a cake, so commenced with heartfelt speeches by our fathers, siblings, bridesmaids and groomsmen. In between the formalities my parents displayed a compilation of photos of Chika and our childhood photos and at one point Shev of Shevan J Photography also surprised us with a touching video with images of all the special moments he had captured over the four-day event. Finally, we opened up the dancefloor with our first dance and enjoyed a wonderfully relaxed evening filled with emotion.

FOOD & DRINKS: Both our mothers worked closely with the chefs at Food & Desire (in-house catering company) to come up with a modern Indian three-course menu.

MUSIC & ENTERTAINMENT: We hired live band for the Reception as we felt it created a much more lively atmosphere. We did search for bands which could play English and Hindi live music, but unfortunately couldn’t find anyone. In the end we decided to go with a Melbourne band called Baker Boys Band who we had heard at another friend’s wedding and loved their performances. We arranged for a seven-piece band and before the event we picked out songs from their song list for them to play at the reception.

On the night they were fantastic and played four 45 minute sets throughout the evening incorporating our requests but also taking on guest requests. They were great fun and had the room pumping! During their breaks, we provided them with an iPod with playlists of Indian songs they could play during their breaks which worked well for the Bollywood fanatics.

In terms of other special music during the night, for the Reception entrance, we danced to Just The Way You Are by Bruno Mars. For the first dance song, we chose Can’t Help Falling In Love but we created a mix that started with the Ingrid Michaelson version and picked up beat with a UB-40 version. The music then transitioned to an old-school Hindi rock and roll song called Jaaan Pehchaan Ho where I dragged my dad and Chika brought up his mother up for a father-daughter, mother-son dance off which opened up the dancefloor for the rest of the night.

Wedding Reception Decor

With the reception decor, again, we wanted to work with Carousel’s stunning waterfront and city views but also tie in the rustic and whimsical floral and lighting elements and the colours from the previous events.

Along with the floral decor, I also considered some draping and lighting options that could work with the venue. My family and I arranged a site visit appointment with the Carousel staff, Renata from Pro Light and Sound and Rose from The Eleventh Flower. We discussed various options and ideas for lighting and decor including chandeliers and festoon lights, but somehow it felt too repetitive or didn’t seem to tie everything together or felt too over the top. We wanted to keep things simple, elegant and sophisticated. After looking at a few inspiration images I had saved on my phone, we all agreed that a woodland themed decor with lots of florals and foliage would work well with the venue and setting.

Since florals would provide majority of the decor, I worked closely with Rose to finalise our ideas and she executed the vision to perfection on the day. We chose to work with a peach, pink, orange colour scheme to highlight the colours of my lehenga.

Some of my favourite decor features and unique details from the day:

  • Lobby / entrance decor: We wanted guests to be acquainted with the theme as soon as they entered the venue. The Carousel lobby was transformed into a whimsical, woodland theme with a feature table that The Eleventh Flower decorated it with floral arrangements of varying heights. In the shelves, she added wooden branches and small bottles of flowers and rustic photo frames with our photos. Towards the entrance, she placed the same blackboard signage from the wedding with the updated event details.
  • Floral chandelier: As the guests moved past the lobby, guests saw a beautiful whimsical chandelier made from foliage and florals hanging in the middle of the room. The Eleventh Flower created this from scratch and intertwined fairy lights to add an enchanted wonderland look. The circular chandelier was the feature piece of the room and hung above the dancefloor.
  • Guest table decor: We used a beautiful oatmeal coloured table linen from Table Art as a base for Rose to continue the foliage / floral theme to the table decor as well. We had one long table in the middle of each side of the room with smaller table setup around them. For the long tables, she created feature table runners made of foliage and flowers for the middle of the table and dotted these with candles and tealight glasses.
  • On the smaller tables, she spaced out the arrangements to break things up and balance out the room. We added accents of blue through the name card stationery printed in the watercolour blue from the Reception invitation card.
  • Outdoor decor: Rose also added colour to the cafe tables and high tables in the outdoor deck area with small little flower arrangements. We also hired some colourful throw cushions from Table Art for the sofas outdoor.
  • Guestbook: I created a simple guestbook on Snapfish.com using the photos from our pre-wedding shoot and placed them on the feature table so people could sign it before they left. The books served as pseudo photo albums with memories after the event!
  • Favours: We wanted to gift our guests something that incorporated our personalities but also could use well after the wedding celebrations and remember us by. After browsing a lot of inspiration, we agreed on the idea of providing chai (to represent North India where I’m from) and coffee beans (to represent South India where Chika’s from). I sourced coffee beans and a beautiful aromatic chai blend from the wonderful Good Tea Co.. I provided them with 250 personalised muslin bags I ordered on Etsy with our name, date and the phrase ‘The Perfect Blend’ stamped on the front. The team at Good Tea Co. were absolute superstars and packed half the bags with coffee beans the other half with the chai leaves and shipped it to us in Melbourne. On the day, the Carousel staff placed the bags in custom steel glasses my mother-in-law ordered from Bangalore and gave every alternating guest either chair or coffee beans.

Reception Look

SIMMI'S OUTFIT: With traditional outfits for all other events, I wanted to wear something Indian but with a fresh, modern take. I was also obsessed with the idea of wearing black for a more formal look, but I didn’t want the colour to be overbearing as it was still a waterfront, spring/summer event. It proved to be quite challenging to find something that fit the brief but I found the perfect outfit at Diva’ni. I talk about my experience in detail here.

JEWELRY & ACCESSORIES: I purchased some beautiful statement earrings and a hand harness by Outhouse on Pernia’s Popup Shop that perfectly matched the colours and modern feel of my outfit. I also wore a cuff on the other hand from Vasundhara jewellery and accompanied the outfit with a gold clutch by Lovetobag from Exclusively.

SHOES: Gold strappy heels by Jimmy Choo.

HAIE & MAKEUP: Miss Aimmey. For my final look, I wanted something chic, modern and glamorous. For hair, they created a side swept updo. For makeup, Aimmey highlighted the eyes with smokey eyes and balanced it out with light pink lips. It was one of my favourite looks from the celebrations!

BOUQUET: I reused the wedding day bouquet by The Eleventh Flower.

CHIKA'S OUTFIT: Chika wore a tuxedo hired from Spurling and a pink bow tie from Le Noeud Papillon.

SHOES: Black formal shoes from Aquila.

Bridesmaids: They wore their own outfits and along with both our mothers added a floral corsage pin by The Eleventh Flower to their outfits.

Groomsmen: All the groomsmen along with both our fathers, wore matching tuxedo sets and bowties hired from Spurling. They added floral buttonholes by The Eleventh Flower.

Homecoming Dinner

The day after the wedding, Chika’s family invited us to their home for a Homecoming Dinner. It’s a symbolic occasion in Karnataka culture where the groom brings the bride’s family to his family’s home for a meal. This was a family only event so it was quite intimate.

We all enjoyed a lovely evening of mingling, reminiscing and discussing the past day's events. It was a chance for our families to get to know each other better, in particular, the extended family members who we don’t see so often. Chika’s aunty sung a beautiful Kannada song for the occasion as well!

FOOD & DRINKS: We had some delicious traditional Kannada food such as pulyogre, bissi bella bath catered by Raj Catering Services.

DECOR: Simple with some traditional elements. My mother-in-law surprised us with a mural of the wedding invitation on a large blackboard.

SIMMI'S OUTFIT: I loved dressing up in a traditional silk kanjeevaram saree and jewelry set gifted to me by my mother-in-law. I also wore a vintage multi-stranded gold necklace gifted to me by my parents from Hazoorilal Jewellery.

CHIKA'S OUTFIT: Traditional dhoti and kurta attire from Bangalore.

Honeymoon

After all the family headed back, Chika and I headed off on our honeymoon.

It was organised by Chika as a surprise and he did very well! After the mayhem of the wedding week, we spent a week in the Maldives and another week in Udaipur.

MALDIVES: We headed to the Maldives for some instant rest and relaxation after a hectic few days. Chika and I love beach and sun so this was the perfect start to our honeymoon. We stayed at a luxurious, adult-only private over-water bungalow at Cocoa Island by COMO. We were surrounded by nothing but stunning turquoise blue water. It was the only resort on the small island with only limited amount of bungalows so the place had an air of calm and privacy. We pampered ourselves to some spa treatments, romantic dinners and headed out for some snorkelling along the reef nearby.

UDAIPUR: I had always told Chika how Udaipur one of the most romantic places on earth and how it would be amazing it would be to stay at the Taj Lake Palace, a royal palace situated in the middle of Pichola Lake and surrounded by the charming pearl-white city of Udaipur. Of course, I was stoked when I heard we were heading there for our honeymoon! Staying at the palace was perhaps one of the most memorable experiences we have ever had. We were treated like royalty from the moment we arrived and treated to delightful surprises throughout our stay. The palace grounds are just as picturesque as the view of the city and the City Palace on the banks of the lake. We took it easy enjoying relaxing spa treatments and eating delicious local and international cuisine to our heart's content. I had packed a couple of Indian outfits so we could enjoy a formal dinner at one of the palace restaurants which was fun! We also ventured out for some sightseeing arranged by the hotel staff on a couple of days. It was the perfect way to end our two-week honeymoon and would highly recommend the Taj Lake Palace it as a honeymoon destination to anyone!

Tips For Brides-To-Be

I’ve tried to provide tips along the way for specific things, but some additional things I learnt:

  1. Be The Crimson Bride. In other words, be authentic! Your wedding is an important celebration of love and coming together of two families, cultures and traditions. Rather than getting carried away with trends and making everything look amazing, remember to be true to yourself and your culture. Find ways to incorporate your culture and personality at each event.

  2. Look after guests. So many people think the wedding day is about them and what they want, but often neglect to think about their guests’ experience. Your guests are taking out time to be present with you on each of your days. They are just as important as anything else at your wedding. Guests may or may not marvel at that floral arrangement or that outfit, but they will definitely remember how they felt at your wedding. So take the time to think through their experience at each event and how they will be looked after or made to feel special. Small touches like greeting and welcoming them to the events, ensuring food is of good quality, refreshments are available at the right times (e.g. a long drive to the venue or a long ceremony) and wet weather or hot weather plans are in place, all add to experience that guests carry away with themselves.

  3. Pick a venue that’s naturally beautiful and work with the setting. The advantage of choosing a venue that already has a wow-factor is that you then don’t have to invest further in decor to make it look better. Let the venue speak for itself. For instance, choosing Stones of the Yarra Valley meant that we didn’t have to add too much to the decor - especially in the Barn where we had lunch. The space already offered stunning views and the interiors were already naturally rustic so we only had to add some florals. Equally, if you have invested in a beautiful venue with a stunning setting - don’t go overboard with with the decor that it ends up taking away from the venue’s beauty. Choose one or two decor features that will enhance and add to the venue setting. Also pay attention to the venue and work with its style. Placing a heavy mandap in the middle of an outdoor setting not only an eyesore but takes away from the natural beauty of the venue. Instead, opt for a floral mandap or a soft fabric mandap that doesn’t clash or compete with the setting but aims to tie in with it.

  4. Have a vision and a consistent theme throughout your wedding. Whilst there may be lots of exciting ideas you want to incorporate as part of your wedding, it’s important to step back at a point and think about a consistent theme throughout the celebrations. For us, it was the rustic theme that remained consistent throughout the celebrations - from the engagement party to the reception a year later.  It doesn’t mean the celebrations or the decor have to be repetitive. The theme could be a style or a colour that could be added as a small touch at one of the events which helps add some consistency so it feels like it’s part of the one event rather than 5 completely different ones. Hopefully the consistent theme is something that is authentic and true to yourself - a favourite colour or a style e.g. vintage or glamorous or water that you both love as a couple.

  5. Balance is key. In an age of social media and information overload, it’s easy to get carried away with the latest trends - whether it’s decor, whether it’s your outfit or a makeup look. However, like with most things in life - balance is key and always pays off e.g. if you’re wearing an incredible outfit, balance it out with a simpler hair and makeup look and jewellery. If you are going to go all out on the mandap decor, then keep the table decor relatively simple. If you are splurging on the outfit, go for lighter decor.

  6. Invest in a good photographer. These are the memories that will stay with you for ever and every time you open your photo album, you want to remember them just as beautifully as when they happened. A good photographer has eye for detail and moments and a way of expressing them with a certain emotion. Take time to explore and research good photographers.

  7. Do your research. Use platforms like The Crimson Bride to understand your style and organise your wedding. It’s easier than ever before to store your details, collaborate with professionals and pay for their services all in one place. It makes those final months so much more stress free!

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