Meet the gracefully hyper, beautifully creative and adorably motivated Bride, Meena. Her story is sure going to help you put those Wedding Jitters to some right use. With limited time to pull through her wedding, Meena totally managed and stole the show at the same time! Time to raise the Bride-To-Be Bar!
There you are, all set to read a beautiful wedding tale! Let's start with the lead- who else, the bride of course and that would be me! I'm Meena, a dreamer/an idealist (who grew up in Bangalore, Chicago and Chennai) working at Mahindra City in Chennai, when I met the guy destined for the Bridegroom's role in this tale. Shankar, a charming realist (who grew up in Tirunelveli, Jeddah and Chennai) was working in New Jersey at the time.
It's a modern wedding tale so it's only apt that our paths cross one another online. I met with his parents while my dad met him in New Jersey. We met for the first time when he flew back to Chennai and the first date was at Hilton Chennai hotel. Up until the moment I stepped out the car a million emotions and thoughts had racked me up. It was the first time I was in such a context, with marriage as the bigger picture. Conversations and dates later, we were bringing out the wedding bells.
My wedding, to me was a project I threw myself into with fervour and passion that had its roots in how mesmerized I was left as a child each time I found myself in the midst of the grandeur of a wedding. Most important of all, the showstopper and spotlight anchor ruling over the entire gala- the bride. It was the bride I looked up to in awe as a little girl.
This was a long-time passion to indulge myself in full time and I loved it. Many days I'd got dressed, hurried through breakfast and rushed out just as I had done for work. Except, this time it was to shop, research, visit multiple vendors, design, browse and window shop, experiment, sketch, select and shop some more.
Some weight loss and resistance training came in the form of trying on those heavy lehengas and anarkalis! For some of the exquisite anarkalis I needed another pair of hands to lift them up and help me duck into them! Balancing between the price and the gorgeousness was a toughie and that was a motivator to invest time browsing through many more outlets. My parents supported every bit of it and left it to their only child to pull this off with my dad dubbing me the CEO of my (BIG) wedding project.
The big twist (challenge to be exact) was that, instead of Chennai being the wedding venue as I had always presumed, both sets of parents zeroed in on the common native. Tirunelveli was decided as the final choice. I visited Tirunelveli with my parents to decide on the wedding hall and met Mr. Sailapathy of Senthil Decorations, an event manager with whom I teamed up to arrange a Tirunelveli wedding from Chennai.
We had two months to plan the wedding. Series of detailed emails with pictures, frequent phone conversations every few days with all the designs I had in my mind were exchanged: The archway decor of lights and green carpet for the pathway from the gate, the welcome display of a poo kolam as well as the arati plates that I crafted along with my mom and aunt, a slam board for guests to write their wishes on and tamboolam bag design, outdoor buffet arrangement, stage set-up and a manamedai with crystal lights acting as the traditional pillars, natural and artificial flowers, stage backdrop colors, the buffet arrangement and vegetable art for display, the entertainment, the sumptuous menu for the wedding feast and so on.
He would then pass this on to the decorators, caterers, suppliers and vendors he worked with. A week before the wedding in February, I met Mr.Sailapathy and the decorators at Tirunelveli. We went to the wedding hall where we finalized over the decor for each area.
One of the 3 different templates for our wedding invitations was exclusively for our cousins, colleagues and friends. A creative passport theme designed by Madhesh of Creative Wedding Cards in Chennai and customized by the both of us.
The evening before the wedding played host to the arrival of bride and groom in a decorated car with our friends and family accompanying us in a procession from the temple to the wedding hall with instrumental Melam by a Kerala band. I wanted an evening of celebrations with a wedding cake, mehendi corner with local mehendi artists, dinner buffet and dancing the night away.
Shankar wore a Punjabi men's suit with intricate stonework and embellishments complete with the turban, sequined shawl and mojari for footwear. We shopped for his entire outfit together and got it all from Manyavaar. I wore a turquoise-purple Lehenga with the dupatta draped over my head. A definitive but risky touch I experimented with was a jhoomar. My bangles had add-ons attached at Alankar in Anna Nagar.
Voila, a North-Indian theme!
One thing I had my heart set on was the Dandiya dance performance for entertaining our guests. This was something I first experienced at a best friend's wedding and I wanted my guests to see how fantastic it was too. This was a challenge to arrange for in Tirunelveli and it nearly didn't happen.
The practical outlook Shankar had, complemented my dreamer's approach. Whenever I hit a rut during this time Shankar would nudge me on keeping my sight on the deadlines, giving me a practical insight to balance perfection with reality and available time, helping me get over disappointments quickly on to alternatives. He'd encourage me to find a better replacement for an idea that didn't work out.
The dance troupe gave us one huge wedding surprise by surrounding us at the entrance and leading us up the stairs to the main hall in a choreographed sequence to the song 'Dandiya Attammum'. I hadn't planned this detail out and it was their innovation of guiding us into the hall that made that evening way too special!
Leave it to the kids to be the brave ones to run onto the dance floor first, then my friends and cousins ventured out into the spotlight. But much to my surprise even my relatives including my grandmother were joining in by the end of the night! The dancers helped by guiding them with simple steps and making them feel comfortable. This had to be that moment when I had to stand back, watch and love it. My relatives whom I had judged as a highly conservative bunch were also enjoying the party and dancing on the floor- in Tirunelveli that too!
My make-up, hair, sari draping were all the sole responsibility of Mrs. Kavita Sharma who travelled from Chennai for my wedding. I had met her for a pre-bridal where I had described to her that I desired a full-scale makeover for each event. She told me what facials to get and how to space them. The daily onslaught of beetroot, apple and carrot juices? My mom took care of that one.
We spent the week before the wedding at Hotel Sri JanakiRam in Tirunelveli. This was a special time filled with a lot of pampering and making new friends. Local beauticians took care of manicures, pedicures, hair packs, massages and facials right there in the hotel. My mehendi took another half a day of fun and laughter at the hotel and by then I was well-acquainted with the beauticians/mehendi artists. With family also visiting and adding cheer around the soon-to-be bride was extra fun. The hotel was abuzz with this activity and got so used to our room service calls including requests for ice or limes (for the mehendi), veggie and fruit juices that even the staff pitched in to the wedding spirit with some of them later attending the wedding gala as well!
It was a North-Indian theme for the evening of kick off celebrations, a traditional South-Indian make-over for muhurtam and an Indo-Western look for our reception.
Saris came from a host of stores in the shopping hubs of Chennai. My muhurtam sari was a discovery at Tulsi Silks in Mylapore, after days of hunting for the sari with a sunshine/golden sheen. I chose a violet Vastrakala from Pothys and a plain sheer ink-blue sari from Tulsi Silks for the Nichayathartham and an Uppada from RMKV for the Nalangu (wedding games). I have to mention how my mom and aunt accompanied me to tirelessly rake through umpteen colors and kinds of silks.
With just a little over 2 months to stitch my blouses/choli, I stuck to the adage of not putting all my eggs in one basket and enlisted the help of 5 different tailors/boutiques. My muhurtam blouse was the centrepiece from Kama boutique. When I insisted that I wished to have a sun motif designed on the sleeves and back of the blouse, the designer was initially hesitant as they previously hadn't encountered this particular motif on a blouse. The end result? Apart from the wishes a lot of the women at the wedding also admired how the blouse was glistening on the TV screens, perfect against the sari.
I shopped for authentic jewellery with my mom but also chose to rent sets of fashion jewellery for different outfits. My muhurtam antique pieces particularly the eye-catching vanki and hip-chain were from Swarnam Bridal Jewelry Hire. A sparkling white stone set for the Nichayathartham saris were rented from MAS Fashions Rental in T-nagar. I bought specific pieces I needed like chokers, nose ring and a jhoomar in other stores in Pondy Bazaar and the Pothys Boutique.
We had two talented photographers capturing our wedding moments. Our traditional photographer was taking care of framing all the guests while Ananth of @84-mm# Studio was chasing after the candid shots, making sure not to let the precious moments and expressions slip by.
The goodies for guests in the tamboolam bag were card-holders customized with our names printed on them and saplings. It was Shankar's suggestion to choose a few saplings and plant them in the garden lining the outer walls of the wedding hall. Something for us to contribute and leave behind at a place, that had played a special part in the story of our marriage.
Our honeymoon was on top of the world! Literally, at the snow glazed mountain peaks of Switzerland. Shankar arranged for this Swiss Dream through MakeMyTrip. The agency provided us with the vouchers and Euro-rail passes for visiting Mt.Titlis, Jungfrau (top of Europe) as well as Zurich. The Swiss really are the time keepers with trains reaching and departing on the dot!
In the months leading up to the wedding you will find yourself feeling that there's a lot to juggle at once. You learn to find ways to look fresh and vivacious yet to spend days hopping around town, shopping, planning, finalizing and perfecting. (I did face disasters with a blouse, with a decor idea not working out during the event, one set of rented jewellery almost not arriving on time.) But it will be one of the sweetest journeys. You can recollect all of these during bouts of nostalgia and it will be worth all that frenzy you are going through now. So saying, I wish that all of you experience this time to the fullest, bringing your dreams to life on the stage and making beautiful memories on the way!