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S

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.

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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.”

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From left: Nina and Ankur in their rust-colored sangeet outfits. Nina’s parents receive Ankur. Nina and Ankur are wed.

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.

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Clockwise from top left: Nina and Ankur at the East coast sangeet. Nina getting ready. The couple outdoors.
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.

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Clockwise from left: The West coast garba was blue. Nina and Ankur in their blue suits. Ankur dances at his garba.
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.

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Clockwise from left: The outdoor cocktail hour. Performers on stilts. Nina an Ankur arrive on an elephant.
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.

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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.

The Photography

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.

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Clockwise from left: The elephant-themed cake. Banquettes lined the walls in the reception hall. Nina and Ankur dance.

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. n

Deepa Kamath thinks that two wedding celebrations are definitely better than one—as long as it’s to the same person!
Published on June 4, 2007.

Vendor List

East Coast
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

West Coast
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

Comments are closed.
  1. June 7, 2007, 8:32 pm BECKY POTHAST

    My daugther was fortunate to have been a guest at this beautiful wedding. I was so excited for her that she was able to experience such a beautiful event. What was foremost in my thoughts as I was viewing these beautiful pictures is how highly she regards the bride and groom. She works with Ankur, and has said repeatedly that Nina and Ankur are the 2 nicest people you could ever meet, and that they are a very special couple. Congrats to the bride and groom, and thanks for taking Sarah under your wings.

  2. June 13, 2007, 11:07 pm RJR

    Although this was a beautiful wedding in its own way, why not also give a post on a simple, less lavish wedding? Not everyone can afford or even want such a giant one. South Asians tend to have elaborate (sometimes ridiculously so) weddings, but in my opinion the cozier smaller ones are the sweetest.

  3. June 15, 2007, 1:39 pm Dr. Rajendra & Lata Rana- Friend like family

    We enjoyed your wedding. Now we are enjoying and happy about you as weding responsible couple to share your life with us with opened arms big family to hug and be helpful.

  4. June 15, 2007, 6:45 pm Nirmala

    Big up to Nirali for your great reporting on desi weddings! I myself am getting married in September, and while I’m not having anything near this scale, it’s nice to read about someone else’s dream wedding. It gives me a vicarious satisfaction.

    But on that note, it would have been nice to have had some stories on weddings on a much smaller scale. Neither me nor my folks have a ton of money, so I’m having a small yet elegant affair. If you are planning on future coverage, a story about modest weddings would be nice!

    Also, might have been nice to have had some South Indian representation here, because I know that styles of Indian weddings vary depending on region (e.g., lots of South Indian brides tend to wear saris rather than lehngas). But overall, I’ve loved the stories for the wedding issue, so keep up the great work!

  5. June 15, 2007, 8:04 pm Nirali Magazine

    Thanks for reading our weddings issue and offering your comments! Nina and Ankur’s wedding was not the only one we featured—we tried to showcase a range of weddings from different backgrounds and sizes. Check out Namrita (who is South Indian) and Roman’s bi-cultural affair; Deepika and Rinku’s Punjabi celebration; and Syma and Aamer’s Muslim wedding at home.

    On Monday, June 18, looking for another South Indian wedding; a Hindu-Catholic ceremony; and a couple who actually held their wedding in India.

    For more real weddings from different backgrounds and sizes, check out Real Tips From Real Brides (with a second installment on Monday).

  6. June 16, 2007, 3:19 am alej

    very nice !

  7. June 18, 2007, 2:41 pm MK

    I agree with others that while this weddings issue was so lovely and so desperately needed for South Asian brides living in the US, I also wished that there had been a little less emphasis on elaborate, expensive weddings. With the cost of weddings in the US on the rise, it is becoming a lot more difficult for Indian families to have large-scale weddings– they are simply out of reach for all but the most wealthy families. So brides from lower to middle class families are still at a loss for ideas they can use or weddings they can look to for inspiration.

  8. June 24, 2007, 3:25 pm G Shah

    I think that judging people you don’t know is in poor taste.

    Please remember that people celebrate their momentous occasions in different ways.

    I understand more low-budget weddings are in demand but I think everyone can take some ideas from all the weddings profiled and find ways to make it fit their own budget. Please don’t be bashing other people.

  9. July 8, 2007, 12:20 pm Nirmala

    To the previous commenter–I specifically said that I enjoyed reading these stories and that I get a vicarious thrill out of them, even if I can’t afford a lavish wedding myself. My only suggestion to Nirali was to include stories on people who were opting out of the ginormous Bollywood weddings as well. Don’t put words in my mouth and mistake a comment/suggestion for “bashing.” I’ve seen that in other threads on this site, and that most certainly was NOT my intention.

    Also, Nirali, thanks for the addition of stories about people from different backgrounds. When I was reading the stories from the wedding issue, there were only a few on the site, and it looks like you added some a few days later. Again, thanks for this–I keep coming back to read and re-read tales of people’s big days!

  10. July 8, 2007, 10:35 pm G Shah

    Hi Nirmala,

    Oh, I agree with you… My comment was so not meant for you! There was a comment up that was outright very mean to the couple and their parents. It must’ve gotten deleted.

    Sorry for the confusion! 🙂

  11. July 9, 2007, 1:03 pm Nirmala

    Ah, I hear you! Sorry for the confusion on this side, too! I just didn’t want to be lumped in wit the haters, since I’ve been loving all the stories on here. 🙂

  12. December 4, 2007, 12:42 pm Suji

    Any idea where a cake like this can be made. My sister is getting marreid and would like a cake like this??

  13. December 8, 2008, 12:57 am jop

    I agree with RJR. there are millions who die hungry everyday maybe could have donated some. but then again u get married once and ppl die anyways

  14. May 6, 2009, 12:56 pm Desigal3929

    Amazing pictures and write-up. I have shared some of the things from your wedding with my mandap decorator Aayojan. For those in the Southeast, you should definitely check them out. Indian Wedding Decorations by Aayojan. Sarita aunty is fantastic and I have just loved working with her. I cant wait for my big day! 🙂

  15. May 16, 2009, 4:32 pm SRM

    I think we have some haters in here.