A Bright Wine Country Wedding with Indian and Chinese Elements
As symbolic tests of couplehood go, Jenna Lam and Alok Patel's first dance was ambitious. They choreographed (with the help of a dance studio) an elaborate cultural mash-up: foxtrot into Lindy hop into a retro-funk, '70s-era Bollywood number with five groomsmen. They practiced each step in secret, a surprise for their guests. And they did so on opposite sides of the country.
Since the start, Jenna and Alok's relationship has been bicoastal. Each has a thriving career—she's a Napa Valley, California, event and wedding planner; he's a pediatrician, television producer, and entrepreneur in New York City. It's a long-distance love that might never have happened if he hadn't fallen so hard the moment they met. In 2010, Alok was in medical school in Arizona, and Jenna was there scouting sites for a friend's wedding. "I was mesmerized by how beautiful, witty, and ambitious she was," he says. She didn't take notice, but a few years later they connected on social media, and he took the chance to flirt. When they began talking on the phone, things clicked. "I knew he was charismatic and funny," Jenna says. "But I hadn't understood how committed to his work and passionate he was until then."
They had their first real date in September 2015, when Alok flew across the country to take her out. It was a success, and a couple of weeks later, Jenna recalls, she was the one who said, "So, do you want to be my boyfriend, or what?" He popped the question the following April.
They decided to marry in the Napa Valley. It was Jenna's home and also near vendors she knows well—vital, given all the bells and whistles they wanted, starting with the Hindu ceremony that was a must for Alok. "There are so many cultures in our two bodies," Jenna says. "It was going to be a richer affair than I'd ever dreamed."
To make the traditional ceremony accessible for their mostly not-Indian guests, they shortened it (to one hour from three and a half ), created a guide to Hindu wedding prayers for the program, and found an English-speaking pandit (priest). At the same time, Jenna wove details of the Chinese heritage from her father's side into the mix; the color red—significant in both cultures—was key throughout. Traditional Chinese lion dancers, which the bride's dad insisted on, entertained at dinner. Jenna used elephant and pagoda motifs on stationery and programs, and crimson chinoiserie fabric for table coverings. The menu was a fresh "California" take on a classic Indian banquet, and there were six specialty drinks infused with Asian and Indian flavors—plus, for late-night snacks, dim sum. The whole effect was a playful, gorgeous blend that Jenna dubbed "chai meets dumpling" (also the name of their wedding website).
And that dance? "We brought the house down," says Alok. Two very different people, dancing steps they'd learned separately, turned out to be perfectly in sync. No surprise to the groom: "We were always meant to be together," he says. "It just took her a while to realize it."
A Layered Invitation
PS Paper created gold-printed, chocolate-brown invitations with a floral chinoiserie acetate overlay.
A Bento Box Welcome
Welcome bento boxes held layers of cookies, gummies, chocolate truffles, and savory bites.
Getting the Groom Ready
Before the wedding, Alok's mother, Priti, hand-tied his turban, with assistance from his sister, Payal. He wore a sherwani from Heritage.
Jenna wore a maang tikka—Indian bridal jewelry that adorns the forehead—with matching earrings. She also wore a lip stain and said she didn't worry at all about it smudging or wearing off.
Jenna's sisters, Abbey and Kelly, wore black and gold.
Here Comes the Groom
A white horse was dressed up for the baraat—the groom's arrival.
The Sounds of the Baraat
Drums called dhol were played as Alok rode in.
A Welcome Cocktail
Refreshments began pre-ceremony, with mint-and-peach rum lassi served in copper tumblers.
Program booklets with red covers and gold tassels provided guests with a guide to the Hindu ceremony.
A Golden Aisle
Over 600 marigolds dotted the aisle at the ceremony site, which was set with clear chairs for guests.
After the bride's mother welcomed the groom with prayers and escorted him to the mandap—a nuptial canopy—Jenna's father escorted her down the aisle and gave her away by placing her hand in her groom's. The bride hired 20 a cappella singers as a surprise for her groom at the ceremony. And Jenna's sisters placed grains of rice in her hands as she completed the mangal phera—"circling the sacred fire"—signifying their support and protection. In a final tradition, akhand saubhagyavati, married women from both families were to whisper blessings to the bride.
A Garland Exchange
The couple exchanged garlands of orchids, carnations, and stephanotis, signifying their acceptance of each other.
The newlyweds' red stoles were tied together as a sign of their eternal bond.
A Pause for Portraits
Following the ceremony, the newlyweds posed for a few sunset photos among the grapevines.
The Bride’s Bouquet
Jenna's bouquet was made using red amaryllis, garden roses, ranunculus, and 'James Story' orchids.
A Floral Seating Display
Floral panels by artist Janis Anzalone formed the escort-card wall.
A Closer Look
Each "card" was a leaf calligraphed by Anzalone on a crepe-paper flower made by PS Paper.
Escort Cards to Take Home
Each guest (including these former-clients-turned-friends of Jenna's) grabbed their crepe paper flower from the seating display. The blooms then doubled as another keepsake from the celebration.
Friends From Work
Jenna's longtime friends and industry collaborators made up a portion of the guest list. Photographer Meg Smith, stationery designer Jill Sasso of PS Paper, and planner Lexie Brooks were all smiles on the big day.
All the Drink Options
Six signature drinks were created by Camper Cocktail Company, including a tequila-spiked green juice and a boozy chai.
A Colorful Table
Flowers in shades of pinks, reds, oranges, and goldenrod were used throughout the celebration.
Chinese Lion Dancers
Traditional Chinese lion dancers surprised the crowd just after everyone sat down for dinner. "They arrived and I had almost forgotten them," Jenna recalls. "They were amazing."
Instead of Cake
Jenna and Alok didn't care much about the cake-cutting tradition: "We wanted to dance and make it fun," she says. So they skipped it and served up trays of single-bite sweets, like these white-chocolate-and-chai truffles, instead.
Another Sweet Option
Dark chocolate and toasted marshmallow bites were another sweet nibble guests enjoyed during the dancing portion of the night. The other two options included green apple and pistachio truffles and dark chocolate and passionfruit bites.
A Fun First Dance
Time to Dance
Guests joined the fun on the dance floor. "The ultimate reception playlist includes at least one Rihanna song," the bride says.
Reliving it All
At the end of the reception, everyone was in for a surprise. Video footage by The Cana Family that was edited throughout the wedding into a short film was projected onto a screen by the pool.
Late Night Tiffins
Tiffins filled with dim sum were warmed and then set out toward the end of the evening—serving as both favors and late-night snacks to fuel the crowd for the after-party.