A Vibrant Traditional Indian Destination Wedding in California
Gauri and Daniel
Gauri Nanda and Daniel Georgiev fused their Indian and Western backgrounds over a weekend-long destination wedding in the heart of California's Sonoma County (they call Michigan home). Guests flew in from all over the world to enjoy the various ceremonies and festivities in late August of 2009.
The Prewedding Rituals
The weekend began with the "mehndi" ceremony. Traditionally, the ceremony is just for the female wedding guests. However, Gauri and Daniel wanted to combine its activities -- henna painting in particular -- with a "sangeet" party (a larger affair involving dancing, singing, and eating) to create a daylong celebration for all guests. Family members brought "dhoki" drums; everyone sang and danced to Indian folk songs.
Gauri had her hands painted with a henna design that resembled the letterpress invitations.
In Indian tradition, there are no bridal showers or rehearsal dinners. Instead, there are many sacred ceremonies, such as the "chura" ceremony. During the chura, the bride's family adorns her with traditional red and white bracelets that have been dipped in milk (to cleanse them). The bracelets are then decorated further with gold ornaments, each placed on her wrists by different guests. Historically, the bride wears the jewelry for the next week -- Gauri wore hers until that night.
The first wedding day of the multipart wedding weekend took place at Viansa Winery, with 100 guests in attendance. The venue's beautiful setting was enhanced with vibrantly hued flowers. Orange, red, and magenta petals were scattered along its pathways.
Petals filled the fountain at the ceremony site, which was bordered with orange carnations. Susan Garden, of Garden Party, designed all of the weekend's floral elements.
A Special Touch
In keeping with the bright, bold palette, tangerine paper parasols were set out for guests to use during the sun-filled outdoor ceremony.
The Ceremony Decor
Leis of fresh blooms from noveltylei.com adorned the mandap (the customary altar) on which the ceremony took place.
Daniel wore a turban during the "baraat" -- the portion of the ceremony where the groom and his family are greeted by cheers, hugs, and the exchanging of "jai mala" garlands.
Daniel looks on happily while his bride-to-be strides towards him.
Gauri, accompanied by her female family members, walked down the aisle to music played by a classical Indian band.
The many rituals were outlined in the program, which also informed guests that "the marriage ceremony is the thirteenth among the sixteen 'samskaras,' or rites of passage. It is a sacrament that unites the couple and sends them on their way to a new life together."
The wedding contained many other rituals, including the bride's favorite, "akhanda saubhagyawati," where seven married women are called up to give the bride advice.
Three young cousins dressed in festive attire, including the ring bearer, Owen.
Daniel wore a traditional Indian wedding suit and a mark on his forehead to signify the day's importance.
Gauri dressed in the two-piece outfit called a "lengha," topped with a headpiece called a "chunni." She further accessorized with custom jewelry from India.
Following the cocktail hour, dinner was served in a tent. Long tables held simple centerpieces of vanda orchids, carnations, mums, and roses, plus taller arrangements of oncidium orchid sprays.
Amber Indian Restaurant catered the seated dinner, which included five traditional side dishes, four curried main dishes, and a duo of desserts ("ras malai" and "gulab jamun").
Bollywood dancing followed.
The Next Day
Audry Hill, the maid of honor, and her daughter Sadie (who is Gauri's goddaughter) walked down the aisle before the bride made her entrance.
During the secular ceremony, the best man read a passage from "The Little Prince."
Photographer Abdi from 3 Photographers snapped a few group portraits after the ceremony.
Gauri carried a bouquet of garden roses, dahlias, calla lilies, button mums, and chocolate cosmos.
Golden berries and greenery tied with antique gold ribbon made up Daniel's boutonniere.
The Reception Site
The Western reception, held on the beautiful Miraval Estate overlooking Sonoma's vineyards, had a muted palette, compared to the previous day. White, black, and peach decor played up the surroundings.
Tags on each chair featured a silhouette of the bride or the groom, and the guests' seating assignments.
The silhouettes were also rubber-stamped onto the favor boxes, which included a duo of desserts to honor the couple's heritages: "kalakand" (a sweet Indian treat) and "ovocny knedliky" (a Czechoslovakian fruit dumpling).
Glass and wire vases, encircled by flower petals, were filled with roses, spray roses, dahlias, stock, and Star of Bethlehem.
The three-course meal began with a red-butter-leaf lettuce salad with Haas avocado and Ruby Red grapefruit, and a ricotta gnocchi with summer truffles and peas.
The newlyweds, with the picturesque landscape behind them.