This couple's outdoor ceremony was filled with romantic details, choreographed dance numbers, and new twists on traditions.
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The day after Sunny met Alpana, he told his boss that he thought he'd met his wife. The two were introduced at Alpana's cousin's wedding weekend, where Sunny was a groomsman. Though Sunny lived in Ohio and Alpana called California home, the two hit it off. "Even though we were very different and came from different backgrounds, our conversation fit together naturally—our talk had great flow and we lost track of time," he recalls. Naturally, the next three years involved monthly flights back and forth to visit each other.
Alpana wanted to pop the question before Sunny had the chance—even measuring his ring size one night while he was fast asleep—but Sunny beat her to it during a weekend trip to San Francisco. Alpana had a hair appointment, and when she met Sunny after in Alamo Square, their conversation took an emotional turn; ending with Sunny on one knee. He'd planned for her closest cousins to meet them afterwards for a celebratory brunch at their favorite restaurant.
On October 28, 2017, they were joined by 300 guests for a modern, romantic take on a traditional Hindu wedding. The couple's travels to Italy and the Spanish undertones of the bride's hometown inspired their choice of venue: Serra Plaza, in San Clemente, California. While they're both first generation Americans of Indian descent, Alpana and Sunny hail from different regions of India and practice different religions (Alpana, Hinduism, and Sunny, Sikh). Their celebration was a joyful fusion of cultures with rich detail, plentiful sunshine, and lots of dancing.
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"I was drawn to the royal looks of some of India's finest designers," says Alpana. Since those are exclusively made in India, she decided quickly on a lengha and matching veil (called a dupatta or chunni) by Tarun Tahiliani, whom she discovered at a California store, Fashion by Rohini. Her jewelry came from Toronto-based Banglez, where she picked a set that included a headpiece, earrings, a nose ring, and hand jewelry. She opted not to wear a necklace to let the detail on her blouse shine.
The bride wore Jeffrey Campell block heels for the ceremony—and went shoeless for the reception. "I have weak ankles, but I love to dance," she explains.
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A Lovely Lengha
"I loved that it was both non-traditional and Indian at the same time," says the bride of her look. "It wasn't red with heavy embellishments, but it was still very Indian in nature. To me, the Mughal-inspired silk print and French lace united my eastern roots to my western upbringing."
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The First Look
The bride and groom shared a first look at Mission San Juan Capistrano before the ceremony. Alpana loved the idea of a monochromatic, royal look for Sunny; he celebrated in a cream-colored sherwani from Sia Importer.
Sunny also wore traditional Sikh accessories: A turban, or pagg, to represent honor, self-respect, courage, and spirituality; a kirpan, which is a sword that represents courage to defend the wrongfully oppressed; and Indian shoes called iutti.
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Eleven bridesmaids, all cousins and a close friend, stood by Alpana's side. She and her maid of honor, Serena, discovered The Peach Project by Ayesha, who made them lenghas inspired by Western Champagne-colored bridesmaids' dresses. Each had an elegant pearl border and a sheer ivory dupatta with baadla dots. "I wanted something bohemian, royal, vintage, and minimalist to go along with our theme," says the bride of the ladies' looks. "It was hard to find as it's unusual for Indian clothes, which are typically brightly colored and embellished."
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A New Take on the Baraat
A traditional baraat entails the groom riding to the ceremony on a horse. Sunny opted for a military vehicle instead to honor to his family's background, and also because he's against animal cruelty. His eight groomsmen followed alongside him for the processional.
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The girls made quite the entrance, too, with a choreographed dance to an upbeat tune, "Uff Teri Adaa," that nodded to the Bollywood films Alpana and Sunny grew up watching. "Mood is everything, and with long Indian ceremonies, guests often lose interest, so I wanted to start it off with something sincere, unique, and captivating," says the bride.
Alpana then walked down the aisle with her father and brother to the sound of "Sunny" by Marvin Gaye. The song was an unusual choice for an Indian wedding, but a meaningful one for obvious reasons.
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The Traditional Ceremony
The Hindu Vedic ceremony was translated in English so everyone could understand the meaning of the steps and the prayers. The bride and groom recited vows in line with their spiritual values after exchanging personalized vows to one another during their first look earlier in the day.
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Alpana's family has a tradition of serving ice cream halfway through Gujarati Hindu ceremonies, as a symbol of their hospitality and a refreshing snack for what can be a long service. They're usually passed in plain cups, but for a creative take that still honored the ritual, the bride enlisted the help of Jay's Catering to serve coconut ice cream in miniature shells with a mint garnish. Alpana chose the flavor as it's common in Indian cuisine and also one of her favorites.
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A Serene Touch
An abundance of peach, white, and pink flowers highlighted the fountain at the venue. "It was one of the reasons we decided not to have a raised stage for our mandap, so that the fountain could be seen and heard in the background of our ceremony," says Alpana. It also served as a backdrop to their sweetheart table later in the evening.
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The couple shared traditional vows and performed Hindu rituals, including one that involves tying their garments together. The newlyweds recessed to the same cheery song that played as the bridesmaids danced down the aisle.
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After the ceremony, guests moved to the patio and salon located in the back of the venue for cocktail hour. A signature drink, aptly named the "Simply Sunny," was made from a mix of gin, elderflower liqueur, rose water, simple syrup, lime juice, and a pretty garnish of edible flowers. A mix of Indian and American appetizers by Jay's Catering were served: chicken tikka, samosas, roasted tomatoes and ricotta on olive baguette, and a fig and goat cheese tart.
The bride and groom carefully compiled a playlist to induce certain vibes, starting off with softly remixed Bollywood throwbacks, then transitioning to mellow hip hop and Indo-American music by up-and-coming artist Vidya Vox. By the time guests moved to the reception space, they were feeling the sophisticated party theme.
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During cocktail hour the ceremony space in the venue's courtyard transformed into the reception area. Mismatched tables, chairs, and floral arrangements varying in size created a cohesive look without everything being identical. Ten chandeliers hung above a collection of tables, adding elegance to the romantic setup.
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Soft Tones All Around
The blush pink linens and drapery around the reception space further highlighted the floral arrangements, which were surrounded by mercury glass votives and warm gray taper candles.
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Clear sheets with calligraphed table numbers led guests to their seats. Mismatched glass and silver goblets contained berries and figs for the centerpieces.
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The tablescapes were a priority for the bride. For a modern, moody vibe that still felt classic, she chose gray velvet linens, black chargers, and dusty pink napkins. Arrangements included dahlias and roses in shades of lavender, peach, and cream.
Dinner was served buffet-style, with offerings of paneer tikka masala, saag maloo, saffron rice, and more.
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Churros and More
To prioritize dancing, the couple chose a mix of desserts (also served buffet style), instead of cake. The spread included churros with ganache (a favorite of Alpana's), cheesecake bites (which Sunny loves), lemon curd tarts, and more.
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Letting Loose on the Dance Floor
The evening of dancing kicked off with the newlyweds sharing a dance to Mike Posner's "Please Don't Go," a song that Sunny often played during the long-distance days of their early relationship.
For the reception, Alpana changed into a Saira Shakira dress with glamorous embellishments that matched the palette and floral details of the day, and Sunny swapped his traditional attire for a tuxedo from Nordstrom.
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During the reception, Alpana's male cousins led a Bollywood dance, and the bridesmaids joined in for the finale. "Watching them all band together to put on a performance was one of my favorite moments of the day," says Alpana.
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A sparkler finale wrapped up an evening of dancing.
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Photography, Melissa Gayle
Location, Serra Plaza
Event planning, Intertwined Events
Catering, Jay's Catering Company
Flowers, Inviting Occasion
Videography, White Rose Production Cinema and Photo LLC
Calligraphy, Pirouette Paper,
Sitar player, Ronobir Lahiri Music
DJ and Lighting, 3D Sounds
Bride's reception outfit, Saira Shakira
Bride's and bridesmaids' jewelry, Banglez
Hair and Makeup, Flawless Faces
Henna, Gopi Henna
Bridesmaids' lenghas, Peach Project by Ayesha
Groom's sherwani, turban, and scarf, Sia Importer
Groom's reception tuxedo, Nordstrom
Transportation, Five Star Military Vehicles
First look location, Mission San Juan Capistrano