hat July night in 2005 might have been cloudy or clear, chilly or warm. Roshen Mathew can’t tell you—because the weather couldn’t have been further from his mind. Excusing himself from the table in the restaurant nestled underneath the 59th Street bridge in Manhattan, he seemed slightly distracted, but mostly determined. “I wouldn’t know until later, but he left to call my parents,” Jeena Chacko says. “Somewhere in the back of the restaurant, he asked for their permission to marry me.”
And there, overlooking the East River and the New York skyline, Roshen—blessing in hand—asked Jeena a question.
She said yes. This is what came before and after.
It was somewhere between Texas and New York that Roshen Mathew, 31, and Jeena Chacko, 27, found love. Introduced through friends—and with thousands of miles between them—the two learned about one another as best and as often as they could. “I was told that this is someone I’d really, really like, a guy I could relate to and enjoy spending time with,” she says with a laugh. “Every time we talked, which was nearly every day, I could see that. He’s devoted to his family, he’s ambitious and I admired all of that.”
Through constant phone calls and emails, they discovered both placed similar importance on their somewhat different subcultural and religious values—both are Christian but come from different denominations. American-born with a heritage rooted in Kerala, the two—just as mutual friends promised before the introduction—connected on “a million different levels,” says Jeena. “We were just on the same page in all these ways, which was so important for us.”
For Him: The Groom Speaks out
Be supportive. “Don’t resist your future wife’s pleas for help,” says Roshen. “Unless she has a team of helpful bridesmaids or family members pitching in, she needs you to help her get a handle on things.”
Be eager. Attitude is everything, Roshen says, and advises that future grooms remember that “she’s got so much riding on this day and on this experience.”
Be smart and savvy. Roshen suggests that if it comes down to “a choice between a photographer and a videographer, go for the photographer. In the end, more people are interested in seeing your pictures, and hardly anyone will be able to watch your video, with the exception of close family.”
Be involved. “I’ve heard of so many husbands saying they just stayed out of the way of their fiancées and just ‘signed off on major decisions.’ I did not have this experience.”
“What stood out in my mind, and still does, was her kindness and the softness in her voice,” says Roshen, an advertising executive from Dallas. When he was finally able to meet Jeena, a clinical researcher in New York City, that long-distance chemistry was immediately confirmed. “I was blown away by her beauty,” says Roshen. “By those eyes!”
As Jeena explains, “And really, it started with one drink, when he flew to New York. That turned into monthly visits, and a year later, there we were.”
During that year, the two constantly flew back and forth between their respective homes. “At one point, I went to Dallas and went to church with his family. [It all] felt really right for me,” Jeena asserts with unmistakable happiness.
And so came that night in July.
But that night was only the beginning. The couple settled immediately on a summertime ceremony in Dallas, because of the sheer number of people coming from the Texas-based Mathews’ side. “We eventually narrowed the guest list down to 600 people,” Jeena laughs before adding, “though believe me, it wasn’t easy.” After booking both the church and the downtown Hilton ballroom (“Take care of this early, really early,” she advises, “and as early as you possibly can.”), Jeena began planning everything else—long distance from New York—in the fall of 2005, working toward the quickly advancing deadline of the following July.
“Being in different cities made the wedding planning tricky and definitely more challenging,” she explains. “I’d fly to Dallas and have 10 to 12 appointments at a time. That’s when I knew I needed the help.” Considering it “absolutely, positively useful,” the couple auditioned dozens of wedding planners, finally settling on one only to liaise with vendors and handle things on the wedding day itself. “They usually do a full production, but I just needed them to give me options and do what I couldn’t do from here, away from Texas.”
Several months later—and just a few months before the wedding—when the couple was forced to change planners, Jeena resourcefully found a replacement through the recommendation of friends, having been told about a woman who had successfully arranged other weddings and events. “At this point, it was February, and I had to trust myself and this person to take care of everything,” says Jeena. The couple’s choice, Tebra Kolath, was neither a wedding planner by trade nor Indian. But because Kolath (who is Mexican) is married to an Indian man, she proved herself to be an expert on their preferences. Hired mostly to provide a range of vendor and service options—from the cake to the florists—Kolath, says Jeena, “really knew her stuff, and I was able to enjoy the day.”
Both Jeena and Roshen agreed that they wanted a ceremony inclusive of their combined heritage and worked hard to ensure every aspect, from the attire to the ceremony, reflected their individual backgrounds. “I’m born and raised here,” says Jeena, “but I really wanted it to be a good mixture of who we are and where we’ve both come from.”
Snapshot: Huy Nguyen
Huy Nguyen of f8studio in Dallas is a true artist. After starting his career as a photojournalist for major American newspapers, he realized that the images he captured were very transient. “You can take an amazing sports picture at the big game,” he told Range Finder magazine, “but there’s always going to be the next big game.” So he turned to wedding photography to shoot artistic photos that would preserve memories for a lifetime.
“I photograph real moments of the day,” says Nguyen. And he manages to make those real moments look spectacular on film. In fact, he was named the Wedding Photojournalist Association’s photographer of the year in 2005.
Couples who hire Nguyen to photograph their weddings can expect attention to detail. He meets with each couple two weeks before the wedding to discuss their final timeline and locations, and he makes a point of taking expected and assigned shots early in the day so he can focus on being creative during the remaining time.
Visit www.f8studio.com for more information and rates.
For the couple, that meant adhering to certain traditions from their respective religious and cultural backgrounds while incorporating the extra touches that would make their wedding distinctly theirs. “There was a lot to remember,” admits Jeena, “and our families have slightly different traditions, so it wasn’t easy.” But the two worked hard to make sure that everyone was included: After her father walked Jeena down the aisle of the church, Roshen was instructed to tie a single, gold thread called minne (also known as a taali) around her neck, an act meant to symbolize the now inseparable shared bond. And thanks to the couple’s preparation, the different customs were seamlessly woven into the ceremony—with the printed programs further explaining the family traditions.
Nevertheless, their tireless efforts weren’t enough to prevent the small mishaps. Against a backdrop of pounding rain, the priest, according to tradition, began explaining to the couple the importance of overcoming the inevitable obstacles. “And then, all of a sudden the electricity just completely cuts out,” says Jeena. “And since it’s Texas, and it’s the summer, it’s 90 degrees outside. Everyone must have been miserable.” But the couple moved forward, letting the priest continue reading vows “using the floating and upright candles all around the church for light.”
“Because it was all I could do, all I kept telling myself was, it’ll be OK. It will be fine. Everything will be fine.” And by the time the bridal sari was draped, according to tradition, over Jeena and removed by her sister-in-law (who takes the place of the maid of honor, to symbolize the joining of the bride to her new family), the couple was calm. “I mean, I’m thinking that the pictures are ruined, the videographer won’t have the ceremony on tape, and there won’t be music, but we just kept going forward. It was so important to just keep moving forward.”
But when Jeena and Roshen Mathew took their very first step as husband and wife amid the rose and tulle-lined pews, the lights flickered back on.
Working with a friend, the couple chose a theme of pinks and browns—which included vases, roses and candlelight on the tables and around the space, highlighting a stunning and classic reception area. Using mostly peonies, they placed the larger, more elaborate arrangements near the front of the reception area and scattered the smaller flower and candle centerpieces throughout the tables.
Shopping required both local and international travel (“On his last day in India, Roshen found me exactly the sari colors I wanted”), colorful perfection (“We found the bridal party’s pink saris in a separate trip to India”) and tireless coordination. Traveling between Kerala, New Delhi and New York, the couple masterfully prepared for several stunning wardrobe changes. “I had a wedding dress and two saris, one pink and one maroon—the former for the engagement and the other for the reception,” says Jeena. “[It was] worth the effort.”
The Hair and Makeup
“This was something I was worried about initially,” recalls Jeena. “but only because I had some pretty bad experiences before.” Her concerns were put to rest by the Texas-based Saima Bukhari, who transformed the bridal party’s beauty wish list into reality. “She even ran to the church before I walked down the aisle to put in the diamond hairpins we had been looking for all day!”
Choosing to have a shorter program, the couple called on comedian Paul Varghese to emcee the festivities, which included dances by their nieces, a song by Roshen’s family, the speeches and first dances. Adds Jeena, classical Malayalee singer “Yesudas was there at the wedding, which ended up being entertaining and exciting for most of our guests!”
From the programs to the favors, the couple took a detailed, thoughtful approach to the overall color scheme. Topping candy-filled pink gift boxes with chocolate ribbon for small yet customized favors, Jeena and Roshen also added other special touches. “We even had a signature drink and a chocolate fountain,” Jeena says, before adding, “and a cigar roller. Things making our wedding really ours!” Setting up the ever-popular cigar station in the hotel’s outdoor lounge, they splashed the indoors with the signature pink lemonade and vodka drink—coined “Happily Ever After”—and served them with matching coasters and match boxes.
“In the end, that’s what mattered: Not stressing about the small things and trusting that it would work out,” says Jeena. “It always did. I just remember going to my cousin’s wedding—I was around 9 or 10—and thinking that it was just about the most beautiful wedding I’d been to,” she recalls. “And honestly? I feel like my wedding was exactly like that, just exactly like I imagined.”
Wedding Planner: Tebra Kolath
Invitations, programs and favor boxes: Priya Patel
Reception Venue and Catering: Hilton Anatole, 214.748.1200
Floral Design: Asian Flower Designer, 972.253.7299
Linens: Carolyn Weeks, Chair Covers and Linens, 800.315.2714
DJ: Rizwan Moosa, 214.724.3727
Emcee: Paul Varghese
Cake: Frosted Art, 214.760.8707
Chocolate Fountain: Mary Wilson, Chocolate Fountains of Dallas Fort Worth, 817.658.6756
Cigar Roller: Ernesto Velez, 214.680.9545
Transportation: Tina Lee, American Limos and Transportation, 214.574.5900
Wedding Dress: Kleinfeld Bridal, 646.633.4300 (by appointment only)
Tuxedo: Men’s Wearhouse
Hair and Makeup: Saima Bukhari, Glow Salon and Med Spa, 214.466.1970
Photographer: Huy Nyugen, f8studio, 972.669.2274
Videographer: Chad Wandel, Artistic Image Photography, 817.454.9283