hen writer Pallavi Sharma thought about her wedding day, she’d always assumed that she’d be married in her home state of New Jersey, surrounded by family and friends. But aside from her immediate family, most of her relatives still lived in India. She and fiancé Amol Dixit, a marketing manager for General Mills, were basking in the afterglow of a friend’s destination wedding in Puerto Rico, when the inspiration struck—why not have the wedding in India? “All my grandparents were there, and it was really important for me to have them, and he had half his family there. We thought India might be a nice way to include all of our family and a nice experience for our friends,” she says.
Having decided on Delhi as their destination, the duo dove into the painstaking planning that preceded the celebration. “I don’t know how I would have done it if I didn’t have so much family there. Definitely have people there that you can count on,” she advises. “Another thing that helped was I had tons of pictures from magazines of the way I wanted things to look. It helped with dealing with Indian vendors, because the weddings that they planned are different than Indian weddings in America. It helped bridge the gap.”
Pallavi and Amol, who met as students at the University of Pennsylvania, also wanted to “bridge the gap” for their non-Indian friends and ensure that their stay was both fun and comfortable. “As soon as we had the date, we started to let our friends know, through email, about visas and vaccinations. We sat down and thought about everything they would need to know to travel to India. I spent a lot of time coordinating transportation. In Delhi, logistics are really difficult,” she explains.
The bride and groom even sent their guests “survival guides” in the mail: “Inside was information about what to expect in India and at our wedding, things to do in Delhi, basic information about the airport, hotel, attire and fun things about us.” Amol, whose background is in marketing, came up with the wedding theme of “Destination Delhi” and its corresponding logo, which depicted “an image of India with a star that showed where Delhi was.” It was emblazoned on everything from the little peach-colored luggage tags and mugs all the attendees were given to the signs at the venues directing guests to the various event sites.
Pallavi and Amol’s devotion to detail certainly paid off. Their decision to have a destination wedding not only enabled them to include beloved family members who lived far away but also allowed them to share aspects of their cultural traditions with their non-Indian friends.
The mehndi was held on the lawns of her uncle’s farmhouse on the outskirts of Delhi. The sangeet was at the Taj Palace Hotel, while the wedding ceremony was at the eco-friendly Uppal’s Orchid. “It’s kind of like a small boutique hotel. It has [a] really beautiful lawn. I wanted to have the ceremony outside,” says Pallavi. The couple chose the palatial Hyatt Regency Delhi for the reception site.
Lime-green couches with matching pillows and tables shaded with lime-green umbrellas dotted the landscape of Pallavi’s uncle’s farmhouse on the day of the mehndi. At the sangeet, brilliant pink, silvery gray and scarlet fabrics draped the background and set the stage for the numerous performances by family and friends that night. Creamy white and pale pink flowers and fabrics decorated the wedding mandap, and violet-colored petals spilled from urns lining the aisle down which Pallavi was escorted by her brother. Yellow and white flowers complemented the shimmering golden fabrics decorating the reception hall.
At the sangeet, Pallavi wore a midnight-blue lengha from famed bridal designer Ritu Kumar. “I had friends and relatives in India who had been going with more flashy designers, and I had looked at the work of different people, but I kept coming back to Ritu Kumar. Her work is more beautiful and traditional, and I felt that was more me.” Amol matched her in a midnight blue kurta and cream pajamas. While they had no official groomsmen, the two gave navy kurtas as gifts to several of Amol’s friends. “They were matching during the reception, which was nice,” says Pallavi. Her own four bridesmaids wore peach-colored saris.
Snapshot: Jay Seth
Jay Seth has been doing professional photography for 30 years. Though he started as a concert, fashion and commercial photographer, he couldn’t resist capturing “the emotional and exotic elements of Indian weddings,” he says. “Having done concerts in the 1970s, I am able to capture the emotional, candid and fluid moments of weddings. Also, having done fashion photography, I apply the elements of posing and fashion in my photography of weddings.”
Though he had already planned a trip to India independent of Pallavi and Amol’s wedding, he does travel anywhere in the world. Prices start at $5,000. For more information or to book, visit www.jaysethphoto.com.
For her wedding outfit, Pallavi stayed with Ritu Kumar and donned the designer’s trademark—an elaborately embroidered red lengha. An antique piece of gold jewelry her mother had worn to her own wedding was pinned to Pallavi’s lengha. “It was really meaningful,” she says. Amol, she remembers, “was so handsome—he wore a cream-colored sherwani and it had very fine embroidery in gold and maroon, but very subtle.” At the reception, Pallavi wore a baby-blue and candy-pink lengha, while Amol accompanied her in “black pants and jacket with gold and peach-colored shimmery work on the trimming,” which had been purchased in Bombay by his family.
The sangeet was essentially a talent show, with several song and dance performances by both family and friends. The bride even surprised the groom with a dance performance. (He returned the favor by singing her a song at their reception.) “For me,” says Pallavi, “one of the highlights was Amol’s high school buddies singing [at the same event] with my Indian relatives.”
The Special Touches
The groom’s uncle married the couple. “He performed the whole thing in English and he incorporated traditions from both of our families,” explains Pallavi. The family touch continued with her mother-in-law’s efforts to procure Indian outfits for the non-Indian guests to wear. “They loved it,” she recalls, “and it was nice to see everyone really embracing India while they were there.
For Pallavi, one of the best aspects of her wedding was the work of her photographer, Jay Seth. Though based in America, Seth was already planning a trip to India, so she was able to avail herself of his services. “I think that was the best day of my life, I was so thrilled!” she laughs. And Seth was able to add a more Western touch to their Indian nuptials. “He took us out to a market in Delhi to do a photo shoot of us walking through the stalls. Those ended up being some of my favorites because the pictures were casual and we were having a lot fun. [It was] different from the traditional staged wedding pictures you see.”
The guests also took in sights beyond the wedding festivities—the couple took them sightseeing on a trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. “Two days after the wedding, we rented a bus and did a Delhi day trip. We wanted to make sure people saw more than just the wedding, so we picked out a few things. It turned out to be fun for us, because a lot of times when we go to India it’s mostly family and no sightseeing.”