A Haldi Ceremony and a Welcome Dinner Kicked Off This Couple's Wedding Weekend in Napa Valley
Two nights before their Chinese and Indian wedding in the Napa Valley, Jenna Lam and Alok Patel kicked off their wedding weekend with a haldi ceremony. Family and friends were invited to the gathering, which focused around a holy ritual in which a mixture of turmeric, sandalwood, and rosewater is applied to the bride and groom as a way of blessing and purifying them before marriage. On Thursday, October 26, 2017, loved ones gathered at the bride's home in St. Helena, California, for the event—which was the first haldi Jenna has ever attended. The couple kicked off the party with a cocktail hour. After the conclusion of the ritual, everyone headed inside for a feast of Indian cuisine.
The following evening, all of the wedding guests were invited to a welcome party at Smith-Madrone winery. In the end, 140 people attended the celebration, which was designed in a neutral color palette as a juxtaposition of the vibrant wedding that would follow. It was a lively evening with customizable drinks (and signature cocktails named after a few of their families' furry friends), memorable speeches, and a surprise dance performance by the groom.
Both events were planned by the bride, who runs Jenna Lam Events, and were equal parts meaningful and stylish.
Dressed to Get Messy
A Traditional Ritual
"As our first wedding event, the haldi really introduced my family and friends to the rituals associated with Indian weddings," Jenna explains. "No one in my family had ever attended an Indian wedding before, so they were learning as the weekend went along."
In some instances, the haldi for the bride and groom are held separately, but Jenna and Alok thought it would be more fun to have them together in an effort to merge their cultures and bond their families.
"Our family and friends really got into covering us in the turmeric paste," Jenna says of the mixture of turmeric, sandalwood, and rose water. "I loved seeing my dad cracking up while applying it to Alok, and of course I loved smearing the turmeric all over Alok's face and hair."
Here, the bride and her sisters posed for a photo before getting messy during the haldi.
After the ceremony, the couple freshened up (Jenna changed into a sari from India and Alok put on a custom vest) and everyone went inside for a seated dinner of Indian fare (like chicken biriyani and saag paneer) paired with the bride and groom's favorite Napa Valley wines.
The bride's company, Jenna Lam Events, arranged centerpieces of orange flowers and greenery, with brass candlesticks holding darker orange taper candles. As it was a small group, guests sat wherever they wanted.
The end of October means lots of birthdays to celebrate in Jenna and Alok's families. Petite cakes from Bouchon were ordered for the four people turning one year older around that time.
Another fun part of the evening was when the couple shared Champagne that had been gifted to them throughout their engagement. Jenna and Alok had signed each bottle with the date and who gave it to them and loved sharing them with the people who gifted them in the first place.
The Welcome Dinner
The next night, the soon-to-be-newlyweds invited all of their guests to a welcome dinner. Jenna wore a Naeem Kahn dress from Mark Ingram Atelier, along with Amrita Singh earrings and M. Gemi shoes. Alok wore a Hugo Boss shirt, a vest from India, Bonobos pants, and Ferragamo shoes.
Like the other events of the weekend, Jenna planned and designed this one, and set out to give it a completely different feeling and color palette than the wedding. No flowers were used in the décor, which was done in shades of gray and dark blue.
The Welcome Dinner Venue
The venue was a special part of the event. "It's owned by our good friend, Meg Smith's, family. We did our engagement photos there and learned how to skeet shoot from Meg's dad. Smith-Madrone has one of the most amazing views of the Valley and it was a stunning way to introduce guests to the magic of Napa," Jenna says.
Cocktail Hour Outside
Guests arrived for cocktail hour in the olive grove. A trio of signature drinks were named after Jenna and Alok's family member's dogs. And the Oyster Girls provided a roving oyster bar by walking around and shucking oysters to order.
Camper Cocktails set up a huge gin and tonic bar so guests could customize their drinks based on flavor profile (citrus, juniper, or earth) and add in botanicals like dried hibiscus, cardamom pods, peppercorns, berries, herbs, or citrus wedges.
Fashionably Dressed Guests
Guests wore cocktail attire—and practical footwear—for the outdoor celebration.
A Cute, Custom Clutch
A friend gave Jenna a clutch with her new last name on it as a bridal shower gift. "It was the absolute perfect accessory for this night," Jenna says.
The Escort Cards
Escort cards by PS Paper were arranged in trays of fresh herbs.
Under the Clear Tent
Jenna found a block-print fabric to line sections of the clear-top tent. Clear chairs were set at tables covered in custom linens with white candles in hurricane vases.
A Modern Place Setting
Graphic napkins were mixed with Lucite-handled silverware and scalloped, silver-edged plates at each seat. Blue menus by PS Paper outlined the meal, which began with a simple kale salad (the bride's favorite).
Gerard's Paella served a classic seafood option, as well as a vegan one, and made both in massive pans outside the tent.
Time to Toast
Jenna, who has listened to hundreds of wedding-related toasts, says that her guests gave some of the most spectacular speeches she has ever heard. "I have never laughed, cried, or felt more loved than I did during those toasts," she says of the ten people who spoke.
A Fun Surprise
Alok choreographed a surprise dance with his mom (a classical Indian dancer) to kick off the evening after dinner.
"We gathered all our friends and family for arguably the most scenic dance party anyone has ever been to," Alok says. "We specifically wanted to host the party at a place with an amazing view of the Napa Valley. What added to the significance was that everyone took a moment to look at the valley, whose beauty withstood the horrific fires. It was a beautiful vigil to all the firefighters who valiantly fought to protect Napa."
Moroccan Lanterns in the Tent
Jenna had Moroccan lanterns left over from an event she had done the year before, and knew she wanted to use them in some capacity at her own wedding. The welcome dinner tent was the perfect opportunity.
Halva for All
Photography, Amanda Crean
Welcome dinner location, Smith-Madrone
Event planning and Flowers, Jenna Lam Events
Cocktails, Camper Cocktails
Menus, PS Paper
Welcome dinner music, Entire Productions
Bride's earrings, Amrita Singh
Makeup, KG Make-Up Designs
Welcome dinner lighting, Illusions Lighting
Welcome dinner transportation, Pure Luxury