t wasn’t love at first sight.
It wasn’t even love at first date. But perhaps it was destiny.
When Namrita Nanjappa started a new job as a business analyst at Southern California Edison, she met Roman Vasquez II, an engineer who also worked at the company. Both had recently ended relationships, so the two decided to go out. But nothing came of the pairing, and after seeing each other for a few weeks, the duo’s brief courtship fizzled.
“We decided it wasn’t going anywhere, but we ended up staying friends,” says Namrita. “Every couple of months, we would email each other.”
Three years later, Roman decided to give things another try—and he was persistent. “He kept asking me out,” says Namrita, who was reluctant to date him again. After all, it didn’t work the first time around. Unable to reject him completely, Namrita began meeting Roman for lunch at work. Finally, Roman cajoled Namrita into seeing a movie—on the condition that they wouldn’t call it a date.
“I don’t know what changed,” says Namrita. But something obviously did—the movie date turned into a long night of talking and laughing. “The second time around, it just clicked instantly.”
The couple didn’t waste any time. “We were engaged seven months later,” says Namrita, who was stunned by Roman’s proposal during their vacation in Palm Springs—one she actually planned for his birthday. And even though Narmita’s family is originally from India and Roman’s family hails from Mexico, their two clans meshed instantly. “Our families are like mirror images of each other, except that they’re Hispanic and we’re Indian.”
With that in mind, Namrita set out to pay homage to both cultures in a wedding that celebrated the vibrant colors of India and Mexico. “It was just this big, ethnic, international party,” she remembers of the August 2006 event. But it was the warmth emanating from Namrita and Roman that made their day a true success. In fact, two of their guests who had been married for 30 years told the couple that the wedding inspired them to renew their own vows.
“I could not have dreamed it better,” says Namrita. “I just looked out and thought, ‘This is so perfect’.”
The Wedding Planner
Long before she actually had a wedding to plan, Namrita read an article about Lisa Vorce of Oh, How Charming! Event Production and Design. “I really liked her style, so I kind of tucked it away,” says Namrita. When they got engaged, Namrita and Roman auditioned a number of planners, but “the minute we met Lisa, both of us knew,” says Namrita. “The others just didn’t understand the multicultural element we wanted. The best thing about Lisa was that she got me right away.”
Vorce, whose work has been featured in a number of bridal magazines, proved to be Namrita’s lifeline during the process, leading the way through every element of the plan. “I didn’t want to have to delegate anything to my family or friends—I really wanted it to be completely stress-free. Roman and I are super busy, and I didn’t want to focus on the decision making. I trusted Lisa so much,” says Namrita. “She really made my life easier.”
Adds Vorce, who plans weddings everywhere from California to France, “There’s a particular type of client who comes to me, and it’s usually a very good fit. I interview my clients just as much as they interview me!” She took Namrita’s vision and brought in a team of experts to bring it to life. “I spend a lot of time with my clients. I get the grand vision and then translate it to my amazing team.”
Namrita and Roman knew they didn’t want a “typical SoCal hotel wedding.” But even though southern California offered plenty of other options, “You need at least a year to book the good sites,” says Namrita. “Find your site as soon as possible. It determines everything—what the wedding is going to look like, where your vendors are going to come from.”
With Vorce’s help, Namrita and Roman selected the Hahn Estate, a 10-acre private property in Montecito, 90 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The lavish outdoor setting offered fountains, courtyards and a tiered structure so that the ceremony, cocktail reception and dinner were all in different areas of the grounds. And it even felt like home: “It looked like the coffee plantations my family lives on in India,” says Namrita. In fact, the stunning locale hosted punk-pop princess Avril Lavigne’s wedding to beau Deryck Whibley just weeks earlier.
The Guest List
Like many Indian parents, Namrita’s originally wanted to throw a huge affair. “My parents wanted to invite 1,000 people, but I vetoed that the first day,” she says. “It was hard for them. They said, ‘How can we not have a big wedding?’ My dad wanted to invite everybody he’s ever known.” But Namrita knew that a huge guest list would have forced her to limit the type of wedding she could have.
In order to get her parents to accept her decision, Namrita says she had to compromise on other issues but remained firm on the size. She agreed to incorporate Hindu elements into the ceremony, and her parents eventually acquiesced. “Ultimately, my parents have been really great and just want me to be happy,” she says. The couple ended up inviting 300 people (up from their intended 100), and 230 people attended the wedding. “It was the perfect size,” says Namrita. “I could see everyone.”
“Growing up here, you dream of the white wedding,” says Namrita. “But I also wanted to look kind of like an Indian bride.” She found the perfect compromise. Namrita bought a simple Renella De Fina dress, which she then customized. “I incorporated my mom’s gold and fuchsia wedding sari into it,” she says. Working with another designer in LA, Namrita “cinched part of the gown up and sewed pleated sari material” so it peeked out the sides of the dress. She accessorized with mehndi on her hands (applied during a small, private event before the wedding) and the traditional wedding jewelry that her mother wore 33 years earlier.
Namrita and Roman’s wedding could best be characterized as an “explosion of color.” Vorce and her team assembled visual spectacles combining Indian and Mexican elements at every turn. Vibrant marigolds floated in a fountain near the ceremony, and as guests signed in before entering the grand gates, they passed a table—also laden with marigolds—that held bronze and gold bowls containing sandalwood fans they could take to keep them cool. Baskets of parchment-paper parasols flanked the table; parasols were also strewn casually around the ceremony area both for décor and for guest use. The fans and parasols doubled as guest favors.
And while the estate boasts plenty of gorgeous scenery, Namrita took advantage of its unique characteristics to add her own touches. A trellis walkway on the grounds was strung with red Indian lanterns Namrita ordered from RainTree, a lifestyle boutique in Bangalore.
The reception décor was a spectacle in itself. Guests picked up placecards from a beautiful tray of various colorful daals, and round, rectangular and square tables were decorated with sari table runners and centerpieces featuring floral (roses and calla lilies), citrus and vegetable arrangements in turquoise, ochre and fuchsia. Each centerpiece was completely unique, says Vorce, who says that in addition to fabric-wrapped vases, she and floral designer Rene Delacueva brought in “some rustic bronze urns to include a Mexican vibe.”
“When I design events, I love bringing in an amazing central focal point,” says Vorce. “So over the dance floor we built a Mexican-inspired, custom wrought-iron canopy.” Working with Lewis Barker of Barker Décor Services, Vorce decorated the structure with hundreds of tiny, turquoise glass lanterns containing LED lights. “During the day, you couldn’t see the lights in them, but at night, they lit up. It looked really dramatic,” says Vorce.
Snapshot: Elizabeth Messina
“Namrita and Roman were a pleasure to photograph,” says Elizabeth Messina, who captured their gorgeous wedding on film. “There were vibrant colors everywhere.”
But Messina is no stranger to beautiful weddings. She photographed her first wedding nine years ago and has been doing wedding photography ever since. “Much of what I know comes from experience,” she says, though she graduated with honors from the San Francisco Art Institute. “I challenge myself to both capture each couple’s memories and to also make images that are works of art. Every photo should be strong enough to stand on its own and all the images together should tell the story of their wedding day.”
Messina’s work has received plenty of praise. “Elizabeth is an amazing wedding photographer. Her images are truly works of art,” says Claudia Grimaldi, photo editor at Elegant Bride magazine.
For more information or to book, visit www.elizabethmessina.com.
“We didn’t want traditional wedding songs,” says Namrita. “We wanted a Latin feel.” So they hired two Latin guitar players to provide the ceremony music. The wedding party—which included bridesmaids carrying flowers built around crosses and Namrita’s young cousins bearing plates of betelnut leaves and lamps (signifying the sweetness a bride brings to marriage)—walked down the aisle to the guitar players strumming songs by Santana. When Namrita came out on her father’s arm, they played the Dave Matthews Band/Santana song, “Love of My Life.”
During the ceremony, Namrita’s cousin read a passage by Gandhi, while Roman’s sister recited verses from the Bible. “Neither of us are very religious, but our families are,” says Namrita. To honor their Hindu and Catholic backgrounds, Namrita and Roman combined traditions from both religions. “We incorporated the candle lighting from Catholic ceremonies,” says Namrita, whose family is Coorgi Indian. “But we used traditional Coorgi oil lamps, which each of our moms lit, and then we lit one together.”
The ceremony was officiated by J.P. Reynolds, a non-denominational Master of Divinity. “He did bring up god, but it wasn’t specifically Hindu or Catholic,” says Namrita.
“My favorite part of the wedding,” says Vorce, “was when they kissed and our hidden mariachis appeared.” As Namrita and Roman locked lips, traditionally-attired mariachi players appeared from behind the guests to lead everyone to the cocktail reception. “It’s so important to have really solid transitions, instead of saying, ‘everyone move.’ So the guests just followed the music to the beautiful croquet lawn where cocktails were served.” The entire cocktail hour, complete with margarita bar, had a “Mexican, cantina” feel, adds Namrita.
The wedding was catered by Maili Brocke, who runs Maili Productions and has fed an array of celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney. “I wanted the wedding to look Indian, but I wanted the food to be Mexican,” says Namrita. But Brocke saw Namrita’s wedding as a unique challenge and decided to spend time with Namrita’s mother to learn about Indian spices. She ended up creating a fusion Mexican menu that included chicken in pomegranate walnut sauce and ancho chiles stuffed with cardamom-infused picadillo.
“I did an enormous amount of research on Indian food, because I wanted to make sure that I would make something Mexican that would still be appealing to all the Indian guests,” says Brocke. “I was shocked to find out how many herbs and spices the two cultures have in common. In the end, I also served a trio of chutneys and naan for appetizers.”
Brocke concocted a signature drink made of mango, passion fruit, mint, lime and sparkling water. Dubbed the “Del Marco” after the hotel in which Roman proposed, it was a hit with all the guests. For dessert, Brocke served “Indian sweets” of ground pistachios mixed with sugar—a recipe she learned from Namrita’s grandmother.
The wedding cake, which was served alongside traditional chai brewed by Brocke, was the creation of Sylvia Weinstock, New York’s reigning cake diva. Boasting two flavors split down the middle (chocolate cake with strawberry and vanilla crème and fresh sliced strawberries; carrot cake with apricot and coconut crème), the octagonal cake was iced with chocolate butter crème and decorated with the same mehndi pattern from Namrita’s hands.
Event Production & Design: Lisa Vorce/Oh, How Charming!, 310.927.1696
Invitations: Rachelle Schwartz/Wiley Valentine, 949.764.9338
Floral Design: Rene Delacueva/R. Jack Balthazar, 626.844.3000
Lighting & Set Design: Lewis Barker/Barker Decor Services, 818.838.6333
Catering: Maili Brocke/Maili Productions, 805.642.5959
Cake: Sylvia Weinstock/Sylvia Weinstock Cakes, 212.925.6698
Linens: Carlos Novoa/Tabella Design, 310.659.9972
Officiant: J.P. Reynolds, 818.985.7620
Photography: Elizabeth Messina Photography, 310.779.9151
Videography: James Reid/Manifest Media, 323.478.9387
Latin Guitars: Roger Espinoza/Espi Music, 818.445.4596
Mariachis: Juan Jose Almaguer/Monumental de America, 626.482.0566
DJ: Tony Liebetrau/Red Shoe Productions, 213.309.0084
Rentals: Curtis Markley/Classic Party Rentals, 310.202.0011
Dress: Renella De Fina, 866.736.3552
Make-up: Erin/Giorgio Armani, 714.549.8300
Hair: Melissa Fausone/Adiana’s Salon & Day Spa, 714.921.0211
Henna: Sheetal Menon/Shital Arts, 818.274.4791