Thea and Rachit’s Two-Day Hindu and Jewish Wedding Celebration
Thea Bloch-Neal and Rachit Shukla have quite an unusual love story: They met on Twitter. The North Carolina natives had a mutual friend that mentioned Rachit on the social media platform in the fall of 2010 after he moved to New York City. Thea, the founder of Brooklyn-based bridal accessories company Hushed Commotion, had already relocated to the Big Apple, and decided to hit the “follow” button for Rachit, now the vice president of mobile development at Ticketmaster. As time went by, the pair noticed they had a lot in common, especially regarding food and the adventures they embarked on around New York. After three months of back-and-forth banter online, Thea asked Rachit on a “friend date,” and the two ended up having a blast.
Five dates and two-and-a-half weeks later, both Thea and Rachit could sense a connection. After Rachit returned from a three-week visit back home, the two arranged another date and the rest was history. “Five years later, we are still taking adventures and still obviously really excited (and in love) with each other,” says Thea.
The couple had a two-day wedding celebration, with a Hindu ceremony on October 31 and a Jewish ceremony on November 1, 2014. The couple chose the Hindu Society of North Carolina in Morrisville and The Inn at Celebrity Dairy in Siler City, both located near Raleigh, for the festivities’ settings. “The two-day celebration and the melding of our two cultures was so special for us, and something that all of our guests commented on a lot after the wedding,” says Thea.
The couple wanted their 150 attendees to feel a happy, comfortable sense of community and their wedding to be like one big celebration that fused their cultures together. Rich colors—especially red—mixed with neutrals created the color palette. Thea also blended her love of lush flowers and rustic touches with Rachit’s love of clean lines to create the overall theme.
The Stationery Suite
Since the bride attended design school, she knew she would have a lot of thoughts on the look of her stationery. She decided to create all of the paper goods herself, including the watercolor painting. “It was tough. Everyone has opinions to consider, but I love how we were able to combine the whimsical, romantic feel that I love with Rachit’s love for clean lines,” she says.
The Hindu ceremony on Friday took place at the Hindu Society of North Carolina in Morrisville; Rachit’s parents are part of the Hindu community there. The Jewish celebration was held at The Inn at Celebrity Dairy in Siler City. Thea visited Celebrity Dairy as a child and fell in love with the food and atmosphere—and that the working farm also houses goats and chickens—so she figured the venue would be great for her wedding.
The Wedding Guests
Guests traveled from around the world to attend the wedding, with Rachit’s grandfather surprising the couple by flying from India unannounced. “It was special because it was the first time that we brought all the closest people in our lives together to share this experience with us and one another,” says Rachit. “Despite coming from different cultures and backgrounds, Thea and I have a very special bond and it was remarkable to see that energy spread and be shared by everyone around us.”
However, the couple opted not to have a bridal party. “We both felt like we didn’t need to single people out,” says Thea. “We have a wonderful community of friends and family who all stepped up to help out during and up until the wedding, no questions asked.” Thea says that she and Rachit made sure to let all guests know how special and important they were to the couple.
Adhering to Indian culture, the bride wore a red, green, gold, and cream lehenga (an embroidered, pleated, ornately decorated long dress), and traditional jewelry, like bangles, rings, and a necklace, to the Hindu ceremony.
Rachit donned a sherwani (a long coat), a turban, and jootis (Indian shoes). The parents of the groom found the pieces on a trip to India.
As a personal touch, Thea designed and created the head chain and hand chains she wore with her lehenga.
The bride had henna painted on her hands and arms. Henna artists traditionally incorporate the groom’s name into the design. On the wedding day, he has to “find it” before he can kiss his bride. Rachit spent 15 minutes trying to find his name, and was successful only after Thea gave him a big hint. The groom admired how passionately his soon-to-be wife embraced the Hindu elements of the ceremony.
Members from both sides of the family were involved in the ceremony. First was the baraat, a processional parade that brings the groom, his relatives, and his friends to the wedding venue—in this case, the temple. The groom typically rides a mare while his loved ones dance around him, but Rachit arrived in a BMW. After the parade, the bride’s family and friends greeted and blessed Rachit and his family. Thea was “hidden away” during these events, so she waited an hour and a half before the start of the ceremony. “My friends brought me food!” she says.
The Hindu Ceremony
Rachit’s friends and brother brought him to a stage, and then Thea’s friends escorted her in. The bride and groom performed several Indian wedding rituals, like circling the ceremonial fire seven times with seven blessings, placing toe rings on the bride, and tying the shawl that binds the bride and groom together. Trays of powder hosted betel nut, rose petals, sindhoor, havan samagri, candles, incense, and sweets for the closing of the ceremony. Rachit applied sindhoor powder to Thea’s head to symbolize the marriage. Thea and Rachit shared their first dance, and then guests continued the celebrations. Rachit’s family helped orchestrate songs that played before, during, and after the event.
Guests dined on a feast of vegetarian dishes, like masala chola and veggie kofta, provided by a local Hindu catering team. They also took home goodie bags filled with sweets made by Rachit’s mom, since attendees of Hindu ceremonies are traditionally sent home with a “sweet taste in their mouth.”
Thea knew she wanted a comfortable, vintage-inspired gown. She visited only one store and tried on dresses made by her designer friend, Rebecca Schoneveld. The third gown she tried on felt right, and Rebecca helped Thea customize it. Knowing she would have henna on her arms from the previous day, the bride opted for three-quarter sleeves so the dress would tie into the art. “It was an important part of my wedding weekend and I didn’t want it to feel out of place during any part,” she says of the henna. Thea also opted to raise the gown’s neckline. “Really, one of my favorite parts was how well the seamstresses fit the dress to me. That makes all the difference when wearing a gorgeous gown!” says Thea. Accessories were from the bride’s shop, Hushed Commotion.
Since Thea owns a bridal accessories company, she designed her own floral headpiece. The red silk flowers complemented her dress and tied in the color scheme of her traditional Indian wedding the previous day. Gold accents added a rustic touch, while crystal vine details completed the look. Thea worked with her hairstylist from New York City, Stacy at StylesonB, to figure out the best way to secure the piece to her head.
Using material from her headpiece, Thea embellished blush-colored heels with gold detailing.
A Bold Red Lip
The decision to sport a bold red lip came easily to the bride. Not only does she love red, but the color also accentuated the red flowers on her headpiece. To find the right shade for her complexion, Thea went to Sephora and worked with a specialist. She ended up with Sephora Collection Color Lip Last in Color 20: Wanted Red.
Before settling on flowers, Thea made a deal with Rachit. “He is very practical; he never buys me flowers as gifts. It’s always fun stuff like a new Kindle or a camera,” says Thea. “So, I told him I was going to make up for all the flowers he doesn’t buy me at our wedding!” Thea worked with Lindsay Rae, her friend and florist of Lindsay Rae Designs, to make her vision of lush and whimsical blooms come to life. Lindsay incorporated the red from Thea’s headpiece, some ivy from Thea’s parent’s house, and a few ferns peppered in with peonies, garden roses, ranunculus, spray roses, silver dollar eucalyptus, and bay leaves.
Rachit’s boutonniere included gold spray-painted bay leaves, spray roses, rosemary, and hypericum berries.
The First Look
For both ceremonies, Thea and Rachit did a first look. “I knew from being in the wedding industry that doing the first-look photos really just come out better, and it’s a nice moment to have before the whirlwind of the day,” says Thea. For the Hindu ceremony on Friday, the couple met up in the garden of a family friend’s house at which they got ready. On Saturday, Thea and Rachit did their first look and portraits on the grounds of the farm they chose for their venue.
On the RSVP card, Thea asked guests to add “Words of Wisdom” for the couple. She then scattered these pieces of advice across the outside of Saturday’s ceremony programs. Thea also crafted the drawing on the program. However, the task was “tricky” since Thea couldn’t share the drawing with Rachit prior to the wedding, or else he would have seen her dress.
Galia Goodman, Thea’s godmother who works as an artist and calligrapher, made the couple’s ketubah. The final result combined motifs and designs from both the bride and groom’s cultures. “We love our ketubah. My godmother is so talented, plus I am happy that someone so close to us made it,” says Thea.
Rachit and his parents entered the ceremony to Fitz and the Tantrum’s “The Walker.” Thea’s parents walked her down the aisle to Acoustic Truth’s version of “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Working with the rabbi, the couple created a ceremony that combined Jewish and Hindu elements and involved many loved ones. They divided up the traditional seven blessings and gave the readings to friends and family.
The couple also recited personal vows, which Thea says was a “really powerful moment.” Another customary touch? Rachit circled Thea three times, then Thea circled Rachit three times, and then the couple circled each other one time. The custom wood chuppah was adorned with draped foliage that Thea’s godmother designed and crafted.
The weather forecast predicted chilly temperatures, so Thea planned ahead and brought an Ann Taylor ivory blazer from her closet. She wanted something modern to complement her vintage gown.
The Escort Cards
Thea designed the escort cards with the same watercolor painting as the stationery suite. She created the colorful backdrop, scanned it, and, using design software on her computer, highlighted each guest's name in white. “It took me a bit of time and a few drafts of the watercolor art, but it was so worth it!” says Thea.
Following the 45-minute sunset ceremony, cocktail hour began in the large dining room. Food included goat cheese with pairings like curry chutney or pear and balsamic, cucumber salmon bites, and samosas. The bar served red and white wine, as well as local artisanal beers and bubbly for toasts. The weather hovered around 45 degrees, so the reception was held in a heated tent.
Dinner was served family-style using locally sourced ingredients. Rachit’s family includes a lot of vegetarians and Thea’s family doesn’t eat beef or pork, so the specialized menu worked well. Fleming, the owner of The Inn, even incorporated some Jewish and Hindu dishes. The couple also shipped their own local beers and wine from their favorite shop in New York.
After dinner, guests danced until the music ended at 10:30 p.m. and then headed outside for a bonfire to continue the celebration.
The Hot Sauce
The hot sauce displayed on the tables doubled as wedding favors. Thea designed the labels using the same drawing printed on the ceremony program. Along with her mom and friends, the bride assembled the bottles a week before the wedding, using large Sriracha bottles to fill the small bottles. “Quite an endeavor, but so worth it!” says Thea. “I still get fun iPhone pictures from guests of them using their hot sauce bottles with morning eggs or evening stir-fries!”
In addition to arrangements of roses, ranunculus, and peonies surrounded with foliage, vases full of tall greenery were set on the tables. “It just looked so beautiful, not too fussy and wonderfully unexpected,” says Thea.
Both Thea and Rachit love to eat, so tasting wedding cakes was one of Rachit’s favorite parts of the wedding. The couple wanted a baker who focused on quality and made the cakes from scratch, and they decided on Kaiya from Details Cake Design. Instead of one large cake, Thea and Rachit served three cakes in different flavors: golden vanilla cake with maple buttercream icing, hummingbird cake with cream cheese and salted caramel filling topped with buttercream icing, and a spice cake with orange marmalade filling and vanilla buttercream icing. Chelsey, their wedding planner from Gather Together, worked with Party Reflections, the rental company, to provide a hanging table for the cakes. Ivy wrapped around the table’s chains. “I loved how unique it was and how it gave the extra vertical lines to the tent,” says Thea. Above the cake table hung a chandelier crafted by Party Tables out of old wine barrels.
The Cake Topper
Anthony Lamberty, a college friend of Thea’s, had started making cake toppers, so the bride called on him for the job. Based off a suggestion by Rachit, they decided on a figure of the bride and groom sitting in an old Bugatti car. Tony handmade the clay figurines, and the newlyweds now keep the car at home on their mantle.
The First Dance
The newlyweds danced to “I’ve Got You” by Meadowlark.
A family friend of Thea’s is part of a local klezmer band called Freylach Time. The couple recruited the band to play during the first part of the evening so everyone could do the Jewish dances properly. “It was so much fun, and literally everyone was up out of their seats dancing!” says Thea. Rachit also loved dancing, because he said everyone was able to be carefree.