A Joyful, Vibrant Wedding at a Luxury Camp in Upstate New York
Sanjay, an innovation consultant, and Steven, an orthopedic surgery resident, met online in 2014. Though Sanjay was traveling at the time, the pair made plans to grab drinks eventually, and immediately hit it off. Just shy of the second anniversary their first date, the avid travelers were on a trip in the Cook Islands. It was the 100th country for Sanjay to visit, and the 25th for Steven. Despite an explicit verbal agreement that neither of them would propose until they'd dated for at least two years, Sanjay popped the question on their private lagoon voyage. Steven immediately accepted, and then proceeded to dance uncontrollably in celebration.
In planning for their big day, it was important to Sanjay and Steven that they weave in important parts of their respective cultures. Over Labor Day weekend in 2017, the New York City-based pair was joined by 180 friends and family at Cedar Lakes Estate. The festivities kicked off with the Sangeet (an Indian pre-wedding celebration) that had a dress code of bright yellows, marigold, and reds. The ceremony and reception followed the next day. "I will never forget how touched I was to see the love, support, and joy of our families echoed in their dress, demeanor, and dance moves throughout the night," Steven says.
The big day, though unseasonably chilly, was filled with the warmth of radiant colors during the baraat, and loving words exchanged at the mandap. The ceremony included both Catholic and Indian traditions, and words of wisdom from loved ones. The evening was lively with a choreographed first dance by the grooms, and a band that kept guests dancing and singing all night. "This was the first gay wedding for many of our guests," Sanjay says. "We were determined to ground the weekend in themes that everyone could connect with: love, community, and partying very hard."
The invitations, designed by Alex Rogerson at Suitesmith, were a nod to Sanjay and Steven's shared love of travel. Inspired by vintage travel posters, Alex created an original illustration of the venue, Cedar Lakes Estate, "evoking a sense of nostalgia and timelessness, while also hinting at a weekend full of excitement and new adventures," Steven says. Guests sent their responses with a postcard, befitting the getaway theme. Each suite was wrapped in green-and-white baker's twine and mailed in Kraft paper envelopes.
When thinking about where to wed, Sanjay and Steven knew they wanted an easy environment where they could spend as much time as possible with their loved ones. After touring Cedar Lakes Estate in upstate New York, they fell in love with the rustic yet elegant venue. Guests explored the grounds by foot, golf cart, and canoe, forging new friendships over the zip line and the blob on the lake.
Suave in Sherwanis
For the ceremony, the pair donned traditional Indian sherwanis from Maharani Fashion. With friends in tow, Sanjay and Steven made a day out of picking out the outfits. "This was the first time where we had to pick out outfits that didn't just need to look good individually, but needed to complement each other as a pair," Sanjay says. The grooms didn't have particular colors in mind, but they gravitated toward this blue and peach-gold combination.
Canoe for the Camera
Photographer Edward Winter of READYLUCK convinced the grooms to take a series of pictures in canoes. "I was nervous that we would ruin our sherwanis before the ceremony, but we managed to paddle around the lake for half an hour without so much as a splash of lake water on the outfits," Steven says.
Rishi, Sanjay's brother, and his fiancé Priyal, gave the couple a hand-carved box containing living succulent boutonnières, potting soil, and a heartfelt note. "Unfortunately, neither Sanjay nor I possess a green thumb, but the box lives on and is featured prominently in our home as a reminder of their thoughtful gesture," Steven says. "I am so grateful for my family, old and new."
The grooms posed with their mothers before the ceremony. Sanjay and Steven's parents each offered loving guidance for the newlyweds in speeches for them. "Sanjay's mother put it perfectly when she concluded her speech with, 'May your marriage be modern enough to survive the changing times, and timeless enough to last forever,'" Steven says.
Let the Baraat Begin
There was a brief flash of rain when the festivities were supposed to begin, but wedding planner Amanda Savory of Bespoke Moments was on it. She followed the cloud path on an app on her phone and made a call when it was time to kick off the baraat, which is the grooms' procession to the wedding venue on horseback, accompanied by their respective family and friends.
Areas were set up at Cedar Lake for each of the grooms, with balloons in the same colors (blue and peach-gold) as the grooms' outfits. "We mounted our horses separately and the festivities began," Sanjay says. "We had music and dhol drumming and all our guests dancing alongside to escort us to the mountaintop." Once they reached their destination, Sanjay and Steven's sides had an impromptu dance-off before lifting them into the air.
Embracing New Traditions
Though initially Steven was terrified of getting on a horse for the first time on his wedding day, the trainers eased his nerves and he was ready to meet Rosalita, his "sweet and docile mount" he says. "The energy of the event carried me through the baraat, and I soon forgot my fears." To this day, Sanjay's family remains impressed that Steven's baraat matched theirs in enthusiasm and dance moves!
The Welcome Sign
Guests were greeted at the ceremony with a welcome sign set on a backdrop of a vintage map, to echo the theme of adventure and "stepping into the uncharted," Steven says.
The mandap, which serves as the wedding altar in Indian weddings, came together beautifully, Steven says. "We wanted it to create a space that felt sacred, intimate, and open, all at once." The couple emphasized greenery over florals, but pops of color helped define the loose structure against the sky above and forest below. "The intricate rugs and stylized chairs gave the ceremony a sense of importance, but the weathered and rustic materials made it feel warm rather than opulent," Steven adds.
The ceremony, which lasted approximately 30 minutes, began with the grooms' parents processing toward the mandap. Sanjay and Steven walked down two diagonal aisles to "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles. The couple, their parents, Sanjay's brother Rishi, and Steven's friend, Kyle, removed their shoes and met under the mandap. Though the service was not traditionally religious, Sanjay and Steven incorporated several symbolic elements of their respective backgrounds. "We wanted our guests to recognize the importance of what was taking place, and to experience the universality of our loving, lifelong commitment," Steven says. "We sought to find commonalities wherever possible and promote inclusivity."
During the aeki beki, Sanjay and Steven put their rings into a bowl of rose water clouded with milk. Then, it was a race to find the rings in the opaque mixture. Traditionally, the winner of this ritual is said to lead the marriage. "Guess who won?" Sanjay says. "I would love a chance at a rematch," Steven adds.
In addition to the aeki beki, a unity candle was lit in a nod to Steven's Catholic upbringing. "Our officiant, Reverand Mary-Rose Engle, spoke with our families at length when designing the ceremony in order to capture the spirit we hoped to achieve," Steven says. She also read advice and well wishes she'd collected from some of the couple's nearest and dearest. "This made the whole ceremony feel more personal," Sanjay says.
The couple wrote their own vows, which coincidentally both touched on the theme of adventure. "All weddings are special because they bring families together," Sanjay says. "The one additional layer of significance for us was that both Steven and I had a long, often challenging journey to get to this point where our families could be so incredibly supportive."
Tying the Garlands
"Tying the garlands together symbolized our union," Steven says. He and Sanjay circled the fire at the mandap together, taking turns leading with subsequent revolutions. Then, they performed the septapadi, which involves taking seven steps around the fire, while invoking seven virtues essential to the couple's marriage. They mixed traditional virtues with some of their own that they deemed especially central to their marriage.
The newlyweds recessed up the aisle to The Zombies' "This Will Be Our Year." "It is one of my all-time favorites, and perfectly summed up the sense that we were finally arriving at the joyous future we had been working towards as individuals and as a couple," Steven says.
Portraits to Remember
In what Steven calls a "stroke of genius," Julie Guinta of Rye Workshop had the idea to incorporate vividly-colored smoke grenades in hues matching the grooms' sherwanis. Their photographer took some memorable shots of the grooms playing with these on the docks, and engaging in some impromptu smoke grenade choreography.
The colorful smoke also made an appearance during the baraat, and a final presentation during the recessional.
After the ceremony and signing of the marriage license, Sanjay was ready to shed the sherwani (the heaviest outfit he's ever worn), and change into something more "dance-friendly." The newlyweds rejoined their guests after changing into these Hugo Boss tuxedos. They opted for a bold blue and dark navy because they wanted to complement each other's looks, but not match exactly. Both men sported Sarar bow ties. Sanjay was envious of Stephen's blue patent Hugo Boss shoes, but was also happy to be comfortable in his high-gloss pair from Calvin Klein.
The Cocktail Hour
Though Sanjay and Steven weren't able to experience the full cocktail hour themselves, they made sure to inject their presence in the décor, Steven says. Rye Workshop decorated the high-top tables with vintage postcards from some of the couple's favorite prior vacation spots—including South Africa, Iceland, and Spain. After guests wrote a note to the grooms, they attached the cards to a cork board, which later became the basis for the couple's guest book.
Epic Escort Cards
Guests found their names (written by Mimms Cross) on blue paper airplanes arranged around the words, "Come Fly With Us." Originally, the couple had thought of turning their invitations into paper airplanes, but decided it would be too informal. "We were so pleased to see the concept reemerge as escort cards," Steven says, of the design by Rye Workshop.
The reception took place in the barn in the center of Cedar Lakes Estate. "The barn already has an amazing retro-chic hipster bar and dazzling chandeliers at the center," Steven says. Rye Workshop added suspended wreaths of greenery around the chandeliers and dressed up the bar to signal to guests that it was "time to make merry." The grooms entered to the throwback tune of Real McCoy's "Another Night."
The grooms' table was facing the dance floor toward the stage, and their guests sat around them. Sanjay and Steven mixed their family and friends when creating the seating arrangements, to promote a renewed sense of unity after the separate baraats. "To say we held our reception in a barn doesn't quite do justice to how surprisingly elegant the whole affair was, but it does hint at the degree of festivity," Steven says.
The Place Settings
To up the elegance factor, Sanjay and Steven had shades of dark indigo and warm metals at the reception. The menus were printed with gold lettering on deep blue cardstock. Dinner was served family-style in large platters, and included short ribs and parsnip purée. Overall, the menu fused flavors from South Asia and the American South—with buttery, flaky roti, and rich, creamy mac and cheese.
The First Dance
For their first dance, Sanjay and Steven grooved to a mashup of three songs—"Are You That Somebody" by Aaliyah, "California Love" by Tupac, and "Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' "Empire State of Mind." "We're very grateful to our dance instructor, Alan Watson, for giving us the moves and confidence," Sanjay says. "It was cheesy, but it did the trick to get people energized." Plus, Steven is known for his audacious dance moves.
A Lively Celebration
DJ Rishi was in charge of music for the baraat and ceremony, and then shared the stage with the live band, Suit & Tie, for the reception. "They were out of control good," Sanjay says. "Just take a look at some of the photos of our guests in front of the band; they look like they're at the best concert of their lives."
The couple served a cake from Momofuku Milk Bar, with multiple tiers of chocolate malt and salted pretzel. "It was absolutely decadent, and so good we ate the last slice two days later," Steven says. "We couldn't wait a full year!" The grooms found the topper on Etsy—"simple, custom, and elegant, while still fitting into the nostalgic summer camp weekend," Steven adds.
At brunch the following morning, Sanjay says one of their guests summed up the wedding pretty well: "We've been going for 12 hours of nonstop dancing and laughing…please don't stop!" Sanjay's most memorable moment came Sunday when everyone had left. "Steven and I had our first moment alone as husbands," he says. "What a rush!"
"Our wedding brought people together in a spirit of joy," Steven adds. "Our families and friends became one big, loving community." Next, the newlyweds were off to a mini-moon in Beacon, New York, for some peace and quiet after their vibrant weekend. The couple plans to add Madagascar to their list of countries traveled in April for their honeymoon.
Location & catering, Cedar Lakes Estate
Event planning, Bespoke Moments
Flowers, Rye Workshop
Officiant, Rvnd. Mary-Rose Engle of Engle Heart
Calligraphy, Mimms Cross
Cake, Momofuku Milkbar
Rentals, Patina Rentals (furniture & lounge)
Sherwanis, Maharani Fashions
Grooms' tuxedos, Hugo Boss
Grooms' bowties, Sarar
Steven's shoes, Hugo Boss
Sanjay's shoes, Calvin Klein
Cake topper, Etsy
Dance instructor, Alan Watson of Easy Wedding Dancing
Horses, Echo Lake Stables