Vibrant Traditional Waterfront Gujrati Wedding

Shailja & Utkarsh


Your favorite moment from the wedding… and his… 

My favorite moment from the wedding was secretly watching the baraat from my balcony and dancing to the music with my flower girls. His favorite moment was our Garba night. It was something he was dreading initially as dancing is not his forte, whereas I love dancing. Once he started, however, he couldn’t stop.

I had the most fun…

I had the most fun seeing what everyone was wearing at each of my events. It’s such a lovely feeling to see your loved ones looking and feeling amazing on your big day.

I cried when…

I teared up when my mum was applying haldi on me. I had been looking forward to my haldi for so long; it’s such a fun custom so I was really happy that day. Once the ceremony started, however, all the emotions of moving away from my family hit me. It was still really fun though once I stopped crying!

My wedding style was… 

My wedding style was traditional with the exception of my Mehendi, which was quirky and colorful. Utkarsh and I don’t drink so it was a dry wedding. I challenge all those skeptics that think the dry wedding isn’t fun because we had a blast!

It was most important to me that… 

The things that were most important to me were food, decor, photography, outfits, and makeup. Luckily enough, I have a big family who all made sure each aspect was taken care of.

Most valuable advice for brides…

Trust your close family and friends to take some of the planning load off your shoulders. I was trying to handle a lot on my own and finally, towards the end I let other people take over and they definitely made things happen that I would not have had time for.

About The Couple

How we met 

We live on opposite coasts; I am from California and he is from Virginia. Being South Asian, there always happens to be someone you know that knows someone they know. To keep it short and sweet, our mutual friends thought we would be really compatible and introduced us to one another after some skepticism and resistance on my side. As cliche as it sounds, we had an instant connection. A lot of phone calls, even more facetimes, and some flights later we were sure this was fate bringing us together and we didn’t want to wait any longer to tie the knot.

Our first date 

We had an entire weekend planned out for the first time he was coming to meet me. Since he was coming to California for the first time, I took him to the beach, hiking and my favorite cafes and restaurants.

When I knew he was the one

I knew he was the one when he asked if he could meet my family after just a month of knowing me. He realized that family is really important to me and I wasn’t going to completely open up to him unless I had their approval. So he met my joint family (consisting of twenty-five people!) who interrogated him and it was the most awkward thing either of us has ever been through. But he handled it like a champ and by the end of it, not just me, but my entire family knew he was the one.

The proposal 

He coordinated with my sister to plan a surprise trip to California while I thought he was going on a work trip. Once I saw him I figured out he was there for the proposal because he had recently bought the ring. I just didn’t know how or where. The proposal happened on a beach in San Diego where Utkarsh got me to find my way to him with some cute handwritten notes, poems, and drawings that led up to him standing to wait for me with the ring. He recited another poem he wrote and it ended with him getting down on one knee asking me to marry him. He also made a little movie with our families blessing us that we watched together after I said yes. Shortly after, my siblings and close friends came running and screaming to congratulate us and were followed by a quick photoshoot. It was perfect!

What marriage means to us

Marriage to us means growing together and from one another. We chose to get married at an age some may find young; I am 23, Utkarsh is 26), but we were in love and ready to make sacrifices for each other. I moved across the country so he could keep his job, and he is currently commuting 1 hour each way to work so that we can live close to my college.  Marriage is about finding the balance that makes both of us happy.

The Details

Wedding Planning

The wedding was planned by my family and took approximately one year. I gathered inspiration from Pinterest and The Crimson Bride. Planning the wedding was very time consuming and sometimes stressful, but with so many resources available, it makes the process much easier.

IF I COULD DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY: There are no major changes I would make except for starting to get ready earlier on the wedding day. Our wedding coordinator, Blue Lotus Insights, suggested that 8 AM was a good enough start time, but I took longer than usual as I was only ready an hour after the time I was supposed to be and therefore missed out on taking pictures with my friends and family outside. We had to make up for it by taking pictures in the room instead, which was a great recommendation by our wonderful photographers Lin & Jirsa.

After the wedding, Utkarsh and I also did not get pictures on the mandap with anyone besides immediate family as we needed to do our couple shoot before the sunset. Things seemed a little too rushed, so I would start it all earlier by an hour if I had to do it all over.


  • There are so many styles and ideas out there that it is impossible to choose; and of course, every bride wants the best theme, outfit, jewellery or hairstyle, but the truth is – there is more than a single best. Choose something you really like and then become married to that idea. Don’t get confused or tempted to change your mind because that will only make things harder.
  • If your decorator doesn’t have something you want, don’t be afraid to look elsewhere or ask another decorator to rent that particular item. I went to two other decorators, SYNX Events and Deepti’s Floral Designs & Mandaps alongside my event decorator, 2Create Designs as well as sourcing many things on my own.

Wedding Shopping

I did all of my wedding shopping in Mumbai, Maharashtra and Ahmedabad and Surat in Gujarat. We went in August to avoid the crowd in December and it was the best decision we made. The designers and shop keepers were more attentive as boutiques weren’t as crowded and this made things so much easier. We purchased everything from my outfits, jewellery, ritual materials, and home decorations on this trip.

I originally wanted outfits from luxury designers, but because that was out of my budget I went to other designers that were more suited to my budget and custom made my outfits unique to my style. I scouted out decor that I would want in my events from the alleys of Bhuleshwar in Mumbai, and sent pictures and the pricing to my decorator. She was willing to buy the things I wanted so that the purchases would not impact my shopping budget and this way, she could use it these items for other weddings too.


  • Do your homework on the terminology of specific embroidery and fabrics so you can describe exactly what you are imagining. This way, it is more likely that you will get what you are after – especially if you have garments that are custom made.

Wedding Events

Our wedding events were held over a few days in July 2016 in Orange County, California.

  1. Ganesh Puja & Haldi – Thursday AM, My Parent’s Home, 200 guests.
  2. Mehendi – Thursday PM, My Parent’s Home, 300 guests.
  3. Garba – Friday PM, Hotel Irvine, 650 guests.
  4. Wedding Ceremony – Saturday PM, Montage Laguna Beach, 400 guests.

Ganesh Puja & Haldi Overview And Decor

OVERVIEW: The Ganesh Puja and Haldi took place at my maternal home and was followed by lunch.

DECOR: The inside of our home was decorated by my family with artificial flower garlands and other decorations from India. The backdrop for my pithi was made from scratch by my cousin brother. I wanted a traditional type of wooden grid. Then my grandmothers and friends strung flowers into small garlands and hung them. The other hangings were bought from India. Centerpieces were made by my siblings and friends. We bought tablecloth from downtown Los Angeles. It was fun to put together and a great way to save on decor.

Ganesh Puja & Haldi Looks

SHAILJA’S GANESH PUJA OUTFIT: For the Ganesh Puja, I wore a saree I from Kalki in Mumbai. This was complemented by anklets given to me by my grandmother, which was gifted to her by my great-grandfather. This was very special to me. I entered the puja dancing in with my sisters with a dhooli in the background.

SHAILJA’S HALDI OUTFIT: After the Ganesh Puja I changed for Haldi. The flower jewellery I wore was made of fresh flowers and came from Gujarat with my relatives in a cooler box. Each ornament was wrapped in leaves to preserve it and we refrigerated it as soon as it arrived. My uncle from India gave me the idea and took on the task of bringing it to California. We all loved how delicate and beautiful it looked. I chose to go with a simple blue saree from Asopalav for my Haldi to contrast the yellow paste.

HAIR & MAKEUP: I had my hair and makeup was done by Dolled Up By Lulu, which remained the same for both events as they took place one after another. I had my hair pinned half-up, with the bottom flowing in soft wispy waves. The makeup artist gave me a dark eye and a pop of color on the lip.

Mehendi Overview & Decor

OVERVIEW: The Mehendi began in the evening and also took place at my maternal home. The evening consisted of having my bridal henna applied, delicious Mexican food and an entertainment program with speeches and dancing. I also sang with my siblings as a surprise for my parents. It was a touching song called ‘Laadki’.

DECOR: The Mehendi function had a bird theme which was brought to life by various decor features. We had a quilted backdrop that we found at a street vendor in Ahmedabad and it looked so beautiful when the light hit it and as a picture backdrop. My uncle surprised me by having real parrots at the event to bring life to the bird theme. It was a real crowd pleaser! We also had props with funny Hindi and Bollywood phrases that my brother designed and had printed.

Mehendi Looks

SHAILJA’S OUTFIT: I wore a custom made gown by Suruchi Parakh Couture, a designer from Surat. The birdcages on the outfit complimented the theme for the evening.

HAIR & MAKEUP: I had my hair in a wispy updo and kept my makeup was kept minimal. This was done by Dolled Up By Lulu.

JEWELLERY & ACCESSORIES: To compliment the quirky, bohemian theme I wore a floral crown. A satlada I purchased from a boutique in Mumbai added a touch of elegance to the look.

UTKARSH’S OUTFIT: Utkarsh’s outfit was from Khatri Creations in Bombay. He wore a deep green kurta.

Garba Overview & Decor

OVERVIEW: Our garba was held at Hotel Irvine. For our grand entrance, I entered with my sisters to the song ‘Albela Sajan’ from Bajirao Mastani, holding thaalis adorned with flowers and then greeted Utkarsh once he entered. As we sat down on the swing, my side of the family entered to a choreographed garba routine to ‘Mor Bani Thanghat’. They then greeted the groom’s side as they entered. Between Garba and Dandiya there was a dessert break followed by dance performance where I did a surprise dance for Utkarsh.

DECOR: The theme for the event was Radha Krishna in the beautiful gardens of Vrindavan. We incorporated peacocks into my outfit and the decor. There was more greenery than flowers in the decor to add to the garden look. We had dinner served in true ‘mela’ style with a vast array of booths serving various foods. We chose colorful tents to keep things bright.

Garba Looks

SHAILJA’S OUTFIT: My Garba outfit was custom made by Fast Fashion, a boutique in Surat. The interesting thing was that I did a buy-back system, which means that I paid only half of the actual price and sent it back to the designer after the wedding so he could rent it out to other clients. I chose to do this because as beautiful as it the lehenga was, I knew I wouldn’t wear it again. So to be able to get something tailored to my size with the colors and designs I wanted, but pay only half was worth it to me.

HAIR & MAKEUP: My hair and makeup was done once again by Dolled Up By Lulu. She gave me a side swept fish braid and dramatic makeup to compliment the look; with dark eyes and a vibrant lip.

JEWELLERY & ACCESSORIES: I wore a nath, maang tikka, choker, earrings and bangles that I purchased from a boutique in Mumbai.

UTKARSH’S OUTFIT: Utkarsh’s outfit was from a boutique in Mumbai. He wore a bright pink and blue kurta.

Wedding Ceremony Overview

The Wedding Ceremony was held at the beautiful Montage Laguna Beach. We started getting ready at about 8 am and were completely ready by 2 pm. Then we took pictures with family and friends in my room while the guests had lunch. Utkarsh and I did not take pictures before the wedding because we wanted to stay true to the tradition of not seeing the bride before the antarpat on the mandap. He had his own photo session with his family at his hotel. We then did a faux-first-look, being on either side of the door with just our hands out, which was cute and built up the excitement of seeing each other soon. The baraat went along the coast with a beautiful view and I got to secretly watch part of it from my balcony. For the ceremony, I walked into instrumental music from a TV show, Siya Ke Ram.

After the wedding ceremony, we took pictures by the ocean at sunset while everyone else had appetizers on the mandap lawn enjoying the view. The interval was followed by a dinner that was in a ballroom at the same venue. We had our grand entrance that led to a cake cutting. Both Utkarsh and I said a few words along with some of our family members. After dinner was the vidaai. I was carried out in a doli as per the traditional ending to a Hindu wedding.

Wedding Ceremony Decor

WEDDING CEREMONY: It was a hot July day so there were plenty of water stations and wooden fans on the seats. My family had sprayed each one with sandalwood spray to give it a beautiful scent. The colour scheme of the day was a deep pink with an abundance of fresh floral decor. We had a grand floral mandap set up against the beautiful waterfront venue with rows of gold tiffany chairs.

WEDDING DINNER: The ceremony was followed by a dinner for our guests. We continued with the pink and orange theme, with bright floral centrepieces in pinks and oranges on each of the guest tables. The head table was also decorated in beautiful vibrant floral arrangements.

Wedding Ceremony Looks

SHAILJA’S OUTFIT: I decided to go with a very simple red and pure white silk panetar from Roopkala in Ahmedabad. My dupatta was custom made by Kajal’s Couture in Surat. I told the designer exactly what I wanted so there would be no surprises. I sent her the elephant and flower design and told told her I wanted gota patti work with some pearl and zardozi touches as well.

HAIR & MAKEUP: Dolled Up By Lulu made me feel like a princess. I had my hair in a low slicked bun, dark eyes and a red lip.

JEWELLERY & ACCESSORIES: I wore a mathapatti, nath and polki jewellery on the day that I bought from a boutique in Mumbai.

UTKARSH’S OUTFIT: Utkarsh’s sherwani was custom made by Kora in Surat.

Bridal Party Looks

BRIDESMAIDS: I had a bridal party of four which consisted of my two sisters and two cousins. The theme for my side was pink so my maid of honor wore a silk lehenga and the other three matched, also with elements of silk in their outfits. All of the men on my side of the family had custom made matching outfits and the women all wore pink and orange.

FLOWER GIRLS: In keeping with the pink theme, I had my three flower girls in custom made pink, orange and yellow lehengas. They looked adorable.

GROOMSMEN: Utkarsh’s groomsmen wore blue sherwanis.

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