ome couples want their parents to be hands-off when it comes to planning their weddings. But Nina Mirchandani and Ankur Desai’s wedding was the epitome of a family affair.
It all started when Ankur took Nina to Laguna Beach, California, ostensibly to surprise his parents for their anniversary. But when they arrived, his parents informed the couple that they had already made plans for the evening, so Ankur arranged a “last-minute” day trip aboard a private boat to Catalina Island. “It was just the two of us and our captain who took us out to the middle of the ocean. I was looking out on the water, and when I turned around, Ankur was down on one knee,” remembers Nina, who had been dating Ankur for five years before the trip to Catalina.
Turns out, Ankur’s parents had been in on the plan from the beginning, and that family cooperation continued throughout the planning of their bi-coastal wedding extravaganza. “We were so fortunate,” explains Nina, a dermatology resident. “Our families took care of everything. I was doing my internship at the time, and Ankur works for a hedge fund, so between the two of us, we had very little time. We were involved with all the major and final decisions, but they were the masterminds behind every single event, they planned so much.”
That spirit of collaboration was especially important because Nina is Sindhi and Ankur is Gujarati, and both wanted to honor their respective backgrounds. “We sat down with our families and pandits and talked about how we wanted the ceremony to go and what traditions to incorporate. Our parents were so agreeable—we all have the same values,” she says.
But when you’re planning an event on two coasts, you need more than goodwill—you need great logistics and planning. The mehndi, sangeet, wedding and reception were in New Jersey, while the following week, a garba raas and second reception hosted by Ankur’s family were held in Laguna Beach. And because some of the guests would be attending festivities on both coasts, the couple wanted to give each set of events a distinctly different feel. As Nina puts it: “We were so fortunate to have a year and a half. All of Ankur’s family from California could come to New Jersey and vice versa. If you give people enough time they’re able to come to both events. But we didn’t want to repeat anything, so we made all our events unique.”
Nina and Ankur were delighted with their dual celebrations and enjoyed every last minute before they jetted off to the Greek Islands for their long-awaited honeymoon. Concludes Nina, “We were so fortunate so many people from the West coast were able to come to the East coast and vice versa. It was basically a 10-day long party for all of our family and friends!”
The Décor: East Coast
So how did the couple achieve a distinctly different look? The East coast events were designed to reflect the stately elegance of old New Jersey and were styled by Sharda Shenoy of Elegant Affairs event decorators. The mehndi and sangeet were held at the Hilton Parsippany, which was decorated in red, pink and white in a nod to both the couple’s wedding colors of red and white and the traditionally colorful mehndi ceremony. The next day, Ankur and Nina were married at castle-like Sheraton Parsippany Hotel—with Ankur completing the princely picture by riding in on a horse as family and friends danced to dhol beats. And the reception, held at Birchwood Manor, continued the elegant theme with Eiffel Tower-like centerpieces with orchids and roses that complemented the rose petals and red candles on the ivory tablecloth.
The Menu: East Coast
Most meals were provided by Mogul Catering. Lunch on Friday during the mehndi was a half-Gujurati, half-North Indian, all-vegetarian feast. But dinner that night was catered by local Indo-Chinese restaurant Ming, accompanied by South Indian vadas and dosas. The post-wedding lunch menu included a variety of salads, khati rolls, veggie burgers and dry foods. At the reception dinner, guests were fêted with an elaborate sit-down meal complete with several delicious dessert stations.
The Attire: East Coast
At the mehndi and sangeet, Nina wore a rust and ivory lengha because she “wanted something traditional, but with a modern flair.” At the wedding, to continue the variations on the red and white theme, Nina wore a bejeweled red sari and regal wedding jewelry from Jaipur, while Ankur complemented her in gold. The bridal party, which consisted of six women and six men, all close friends and relatives of the bride and groom, were also attired in red and gold. The bridesmaids wore gold saris and the groomsmen wore gold kurtas to harmonize with Ankur. The groomsmen even had shawls that matched the color of Nina’s sari. Nina’s hair was in a traditional bun which she wore under a dupatta purchased at Rukmini in Bombay. No detail was left unattended, down to the tiny row of roses in Nina’s hair that echoed the delicate embroidery on her red lengha reception outfit.
The Entertainment: East Coast
Entertainment at the sangeet was low-key and casual, with Nina’s brothers and their wives poking gentle fun at the couple in a variety of songs and skits. Bharati Mirchandani, the bride’s mother, remembers: “It was a little funny, about what Ankur likes and what Nina likes; she watches soap operas and he watches sports.” DJ Ricky of Magic Night entertained the guests with music for the reception.
The festivities continued the following weekend in California, where Nina and Ankur held a garba raas and another reception, both events produced by Barbara Wallace, whose work has been featured in print and on screen numerous times. And Nina and Ankur are no exception—their wedding is slated to appear on TLC’s Extreme Weddings on June 15 and 16.
The Décor: West Coast
The reception at the St. Regis Resort, Monarch Beach, was the grand finale to a series of beautiful events, and Nina and Ankur’s entrance—both riding in atop an elephant—only emphasized the grandeur. Together with Fiori Fresco Special Events, Wallace created a night to remember, mixing tradition and modernity to elegant effect. Outside were regal, custom-made seating areas and tents designed specifically for the cocktail hour—and for one-time use. Inside, a the decorators created a “cool Indian lounge.” A red glow enveloped the ballroom, and a red and gold paisley motif adorned everything from the walls to the wedding cake. Translucent Philippe Starck Louis Ghost chairs dotted the glossy dance floor, and curving white banquettes were strategically placed for lounging beneath the high mughal arches along the walls.
During the reception, Ankur’s dad announced, “The theme of the reception is elephant, because the elephant is the most powerful animal in the world, but also the most humble.” Elephant ice sculptures adorned the reception, guests each received their own miniature jade elephants and the cake was decorated with elephants, as well.
The Menu: West Coast
The food at the St. Regis reflected the blend of modernity and tradition that characterized the entire reception. During the cocktail hour, guests enjoyed such appetizers as vegetarian autumn rolls with spicy peanut sauce, Peking duck and water chestnut wontons and Hawaiian coconut shrimp with spicy pineapple chutney, as well as desi wedding standard samosas. Dinner, served French style, included spicy Thai red curry with chicken and peas, Moroccan lamb stew and sweet and sour ratatouille with cauliflower. The culinary grand finale of the evening was the wedding cake, a vanilla sponge cake confection garnished with white chocolate mousse and fresh strawberries, served alongside refreshments such as coffee, herbal teas and, of course, chai.
The Entertainment: West Coast
Guests witnessed a number of spectacles during the reception, beginning with the elephant entrance, which was a complete surprise orchestrated by Ankur’s mother. But they were also treated to a performance by dancers who choreographed a routine specifically for the event. Wearing gold angel wings, the dancers dazzled guests and the couple—who watched from a balcony above the grounds. The party and dancing continued into the night.
The Attire: West Coast
For the garba raas held on Friday night, the couple veered away from their red and gold theme into new territory. Nina, for one, was happy to wear something completely different: “Both Ankur and I wore blue and turquoise matching outfits. I wore a flowy lengha from Ritu Kumar in Bombay. The blouse was modern with lots of sequins and stones.” At the reception, Nina wore an elaborately embroidered crimson lengha, while Ankur offset her in an embroidered ivory kurta with a red turban, which he later changed to a dark Western suit.
Three photographers worked together to capture the events of Nina and Ankur’s extravaganza. Farnaz Mirzabegi, who has been doing photography for 24 years, captured the East coast events on film. Nina and Ankur’s wedding “was one of the most romantic weddings I have had,” she says. Her rates start at $1,000, but she will “design packages according to clients’ needs.” For more information and to book, visit www.farnazstudio.com.
On the West coast, two different photographers worked on Nina and Ankur’s garba raas and reception. Lars Wanberg of Withers Wanberg Pictures, a husband-wife-and-son team that’s been shooting weddings for seven years, was hired to photograph the décor at the West coast events. He aims to capture “story, emotion and movement” when he’s shooting a wedding. “We document from beginning to end, capturing real-life emotion with a touch of fashion.” Fitting, as Wanberg and his wife began their careers in front of the camera modeling and acting.
The family’s work has been featured in Grace Ormonde Wedding Style and on television’s Platinum Weddings. To book Wanberg and company, who will travel for weddings, visit www.witherswanbergpictures.com. An all-inclusive commission starts at $7,500.
Yogi Patel of Global Photography also photographed the garba and reception in California. Named one of the top 10 photographers in the state by California Professional Photographers, Patel enjoyed photographing Nina and Ankur’s events. “Nina and Ankur’s wedding reception was one of the best in southern California,” he says. “The grand entrance of Nina and Ankur on an elephant to the cocktail area and the performance by the dancers was the sight not to be missed.” For rates or to book, contact Patel at 805.529.7557.
Décor: Elegant Affairs, 973.882.8001
Mehndi and Sangeet Venue: Hilton Parsipanny, 973.267.7373
Wedding Venue: Sheraton Parsipanny, 973.515.2000
Reception Venue: Birchwood Manor, 973.887.1414
Catering: Mogul Catering, 732.549.8809; Ming Far Eastern Cuisine, 732.549.5051
Entertainment: DJ Ricky, Magic Night
Wedding Planning: Barbara Wallace, 949.640.7843
Décor: Fiori Fresco Special Events, 562.691.2499
Venue and Catering: St. Regis Resort, Monarch Beach, 949.234.3200
Photography: Lars Wanberg/Withers Wanberg Pictures, 949.481.1338; Yogi Patel, 805.529.7557
Entertainment: Hetal Gandhi/Kumba Entertainment, 714.533.0061
Elephant: Have Trunk, Will Travel, 951.943.9227