This Couple Made Their Traditional Indian Wedding in California Feel Exactly Like Them

Bride and groom in garden
Taryn Grey Photography

For Rohini Bagrodia and Anand Cherukuri, you could say that love was in the cards. In their seven years together, the couple have discovered they enjoy nothing more than relaxing over a lively game of gin rummy or big two. "We bring a deck when we travel," says Rohini, a PhD student in clinical psychology at Columbia University, in New York City. "For each city we've visited, we can probably tell you who won there."

So when she and Anand, a private-debt investor, planned their July 19, 2019, wedding at the Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore Santa Barbara, in California, they couldn't resist a few nods to their favorite pastime. They tucked decks into the welcome baskets for their 220 guests, along with jelly beans, namkeen (Indian snacks), Flamin' Hot Cheetos, mints, and Advil. And on the morning of the ceremony, Rohini surprised her husband-to-be with an ace gift: 52 playing cards, on which she'd written 52 reasons why she loves him.

Their celebration weekend was layered with many such personal touches. "We wanted a traditional Indian wedding, but we also wanted it to feel like us," says Anand, who like Rohini was born and raised in Southern California to Indian-immigrant parents. They chose to wed in Santa Barbara because it's where they first introduced their families to each other, and also because, says Rohini, "Anand is a die-hard California boy."

After a welcome dinner at the MOXI museum on Thursday night, the nuptials burst into full regalia the next afternoon when Anand, dressed in a sherwani, entered on a white horse for the traditional baraat (groom's procession). In a surprising twist, he supplied his groomsmen with colored smoke bombs that trailed emerald, jade, and fuchsia plumes. Rohini donned her mother's wedding lehenga from the 1980s, which had been expertly reworked by Anshu Modi, a designer based in Kolkata, India. "It's not the custom to wear vintage there," says the bride, who also wore 24 bangles down the aisle. "But none of the lehengas I saw were as beautiful as hers." After the Friday ceremony, which incorporated Hindu traditions from both India's north (Rohini's family) and south (Anand's), guests (33 traveled from India for the festivities!) enjoyed cocktails and a buffet dinner amid a riot of dahlias, roses, marigolds, and ranunculus.

Friday's events were just a taste of what was to come. A reception the next evening made way for the real partying: a whirlwind of Champagne toasts, favorite foods (biryani, arancini, and guacamole and mini tostadas, to satisfy the couple's love of Mexican cuisine), and a dance performance by the king and queen of hearts that drove their court wild.

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Colorful and Comprehensive

colorful wedding invitation suite
Taryn Grey Photography

An Indian designer, Artsy Design Co., created the invitation suite, with a separate card for each event of the weekend. "For both families, our wedding was the first for the generation born in the United States. It was an Indian wedding in the States for kids who grew up here, and that made it special," says Rohini.

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Hi, There

decorated white wedding horse
Taryn Grey Photography

"I was a little nervous," admits Anand about riding a horse for the baraat, so he introduced himself to the animal beforehand—a cute moment caught on video.

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All the Bright Moves

Bride and groom walking down aisle
Taryn Grey Photography

Rohini and Anand's Hindu ceremony took place on a Friday afternoon on the Four Seasons lawn, beneath a mandap awash in roses and greenery. After trying on more than a dozen wedding lehengas that felt "too heavy or overly embellished," Rohini decided that nothing matched the beauty of her mother's vintage one (it's 35 years old; they altered it to fit her taller frame).

Her diamond engagement ring is another heirloom: It represents the couple's love, but also the love of Anand's family. His father purchased the stone before he died of cancer, when Anand was still in high school. "He bought two diamonds, one for me and one for my brother, for whenever we were ready to get married," says Anand. "It was his way of giving his blessings." Rohini's nose ring and maang-tikka (a headpiece that goes from the part in the hair to the center of the forehead) were vintage diamond pieces belonging to her mother.

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Time to Celebrate

outdoor wedding reception
Taryn Grey Photography

After the ceremony and cocktail hour, a dinner of kati rolls, saffron-cream pasta, and salads was served alfresco.

As for the duo's approach to planning? Rohini sums up her area of study in clinical psychology as "emotion and trauma, with an emphasis on exploring cognitive flexibility." Her research shed a little light on how to prep for the big day. "What you learn when planning this type of event is that you have to keep your longterm goals in sight, while being willing to adapt along the way," she says.

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Bar with a View

wedding ocean-view bar
Taryn Grey Photography

For the Saturday festivities, the ocean-view bar at the resort's Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club was draped with vibrant floral garlands.

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Glam Accents

golden lanterns and candles at wedding
Taryn Grey Photography

Gold-accented hurricane candles added light and glamour to the outdoor lounge areas.

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Jelly Beans

jelly bean wedding favors
Taryn Grey Photography

Boxes of colorful jelly beans (a favorite of the groom) served as sweet escort cards.

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All on the Floor

Bride and groom doing dance together
Taryn Grey Photography

Anand and Rohini delighted their guests on the dance floor. "Before I even proposed to Rohini, I knew I wanted to dance to this song with her at our wedding," he says. At their reception, the sangeet—joyful dancing that's a signature of Indian weddings—brought down the house. The high point was when the couple did choreographed moves to a remix of "Latch," by Disclosure featuring Sam Smith—a two-minute-and-30-second-long experience Rohini describes as "totally exhilarating." Anand wore a navy Zegna tuxedo, and Rohini dazzled in a custom design by Jaya Rathore.

Instead of a wedding cake at the reception, the pair treated guests to a nitrogen ice cream station and a spread of popcorn pot de crème, s'mores bites, chocolate-cornmeal tarts, vanilla-cardamom mousse, and Indian sweets.

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Bold Blooms

Centerpiece with dahlias, roses, marigolds, ranunculus, berries, snapdragons, and fruit
Taryn Grey Photography

Juicy-colored centerpieces popped with dahlias, roses, marigolds, ranunculus, berries, snapdragons, and fruit. "We had no clue how many tiny decisions there would be to make, and it was daunting," says Rohini. "But in hindsight, it was very empowering and made our wedding so personal." For Anand, the learning curve was steep at times: "When asked about opinions on chargers, I said, 'For iPhones or Androids?'"

The newlyweds flew south for two weeks in Peru, Argentina, and Chile. In Peru, they stayed in bed-and-breakfasts and hiked Machu Picchu to watch the sunrise from 10,042 feet above sea level. In Argentina, they rode horses and had hammam spa services at the Entre Cielos Luxury Wine Hotel & Spa Resort, in Mendoza. But their most memorable lodging was a yurt in the eco-resort Patagonia Camp in Torres del Paine, a national park in southern Chile encompassing mountains, glaciers, lakes, and rivers. "After 10 hours of hiking one day, we plopped onto the bed and realized we could see blue sky and white clouds through the skylight, even at 10:30 p.m.," she says. "So we made the most of it and opened a bottle of wine to enjoy the sunset!"

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colorful smoke bombs at wedding
Taryn Grey Photography

Venue and Catering, Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore Santa Barbara
Wedding Planning and Event Design, Event of the Season
Flowers, Camellia Floral Design
Photography, Taryn Grey Photography
Videography, Sohi Productions
Stationery, Artsy Design Co.
Bride's Veil, Anshu Modi
Bride's Reception Lehenga, Jaya Rathore
Bride's Shoes, Tabitha Simmons
Bride's Accessories, Radha Bangle Shop
Hair, Xavier Chamoux
Makeup, Romina Murillo Makeup Artistry
Groom's Sherwani, Sabyasachi Sherwani
Groom's Tuxedo, Zegna
Groom's Accessories, Zegna (bow tie); Ted Baker (cuff links); Gucci (shoes)
Wedding Bands, Mirta De Gisbert
DJ and Lighting, 3D Sounds
Rentals, Town & Country

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