In the East Indian community, first weddings in the family are greatly anticipated events. The wines are kept in storage to ferment for at least a year in advance. Likewise for the masalas; and if you live in a town like Vasai, the reception grounds, brass bands, caterers and decorators, etc. are also booked a year in advance.
Everything is done for the first time and hence, has to be big.
My wedding followed this grand old tradition to the dot and here’s how I planned mine. If you are an East Indian girl about to marry in Bombay, it would probably be of good help to you.
It all started with an innocent shopping trip with my best mates. In a little lane in Lokhandwala, I spotted the first of my wedding purchases – a red spiral diary with sections that were perfect for jotting down appointments and fabric swatches and lists and everything else a bride could think of.
Whatever you do and however you go about planning your wedding, do not go anywhere without your diary. It is the focal point of all your plans and you will need all the organization you can have.
The very first thing that went in this diary of mine was the Bridal Gown tailor. Noreen from the Santacruz-Khar subway area of Mumbai was my tailor of choice. I decided upon her after checking out some other tailors.
Now, why Noreen?
In Bombay, you have tailors who stitch bridal gowns:
a. The traditional way (flounces, itchy lace et al).
b. That are big cupcake versions of every second bridal gown you come across.
c. That are far from the vision of bridal-wear you that you have and savour in your mind.
d. That are ridiculously expensive.
The petite and sprightly Noreen Coelho was none of these and blessedly, a tailor who works with the bride on the design. You need an appointment with her to discuss your preferences before she can take you on though. I suggest you contact her at least a year in advance if not later. This goes for other bridal tailors as well, they usually close appointments 6 months before the wedding season commences.
Noreen worked on the design I had in mind, using a simple Vera Wang gown I had come across online, and converting it into an impressive garment that felt just right on my frame. She advised me on the cut that would suit me and how we could modify it to flatter my pear-shaped frame. She showed me swatches of fabric (satin, taffeta, silk) from both the Indian cloth shops and from the foreign (Bangkok, Dubai) ones and gave me a wide selection to choose from. I went ahead with a gorgeous shade of cream in taffeta that she promised me she would procure for me during her next trip to Bangkok. The netting for the veil and petticoats too would be purchased from the same place to match it.
Three sittings later (over the next couple of months), I was in the most perfect gown I had ever seen and was absolutely confident that I could carry off the simple yet elegant design just the way it was meant to be worn. I nearly burst into tears at the perfection I witnessed on my last trial.
See? This is what happens when you get a tailor who is ready to experiment with you and play with fabrics the right way.
My Groom’s tailor was someone who came heavily recommended by my cousin Joel, who has been Best Man nearly as many times as I’ve been Bridesmaid. Located in a little shop in a narrow gully off Hill Road and bang opposite Elco Arcade in Bandra West is NM Design Studio. I have seen suits for Admirals and tuxedos for grooms and cravats in a variety of shapes and fabric and other finery displayed at their studio.
When I saw Melroy wearing his wedding suit for the first time and saw the huge grin on his face (he hates slipping into suits), I knew that this is a tailor worth spending your money on. Also, they are extremely reasonable, very efficient and work with fabrics purchased from elsewhere (in Melroy’s case – the wholesale cloth markets at Dadar). My Groom, the Best Man and groomsmen were looking amazingly dapper and to this date gush over the comfort and quality of the stitching whenever they meet.
The florals and accessories came next.
If you are a bride-to-be in Bombay, then chances are cousins who have been married or aunties who have daughters who have married or even your tailor might mention ‘Inspirations’. You simply cannot do without browsing through this charming boutique on Caesar Rd. (St. Blaise Church side) in Amboli, Andheri (W). Run by sweet Catholic ladies, this shop is where most Christian brides land for elegant hair sprays and wreathes, jewelery, elegant bouquets, garters, buttonholes, stockings, purses and every little thing that goes toward adding that final touch to their ensemble.
I picked up diamanté hair pins for my bridesmaids, a buttonhole for my groom, a delicate rose in gold foil for my hair, a garter and my bouquet from this lovely shop. The owner now stocks ready-made gowns from foreign retailers, so there’s another reason why you simply must visit Inspirations.
I had picked up glittering Alice bands and necklaces for the flower girls and for the bridesmaids on a trip to Bahrain prior to the wedding and combined with the stuff I picked from Inspirations, we were able to mix and match the accessories beautifully. Be sure to include your girls in the planning when deciding on their accessories and look. I have been a bridesmaid more than thrice and it sucks when we are clueless about how we are going to look while we are busy flanking the bride.
You could listen to me and save yourself trouble and place an order for your bouquet, the bridesmaid’s flowers and the groomsmen’s buttonholes with the people at Inspirations or like me go to smaller floral piece makers and place an order for it all with her/him and then run up and down getting them in time for the big day.
While I do admit I had a lot of fun going the roundabout way, you might want to save time and cut costs, so I highly recommend you give all your floral orders to one person.
What did I do?
- I selected the artificial flowers I wanted and the size I wanted and ordered my bouquet 6 months in advance from Inspirations. They have a gorgeous selection of flowers, ribbons, styles and sizes.
- I picked up purple feathers, gold gauze-wrapped cream balls, ribbons, purple flowers and odds and ends from Something Special, Bandra West and assembled all 170 boutonnières myself.
- I picked up wreaths for the flower girls and hand sprays for the bridesmaids from Kaystell Wedding House on Hill Road, Bandra (near Elco).
- I found a wonderful lady called Rovina in Amboli (what is it about that place and flowers!) who created smaller matching hand sprays for my flower girls and completely transformed a sad old basket damaged from my best friend’s sister’s wedding for my flower girl. She did all this at the last minute and her handiwork impressed the perfectionist in me. I resolved to tell every bride I came across in the future all about her work and about how affordable and smashingly creative she is after I saw my revamped basket.
The bride’s jewellery is the second thing guests and on-lookers are interested in (first is the gown, of course), regardless of whether it is fake or real. Back in the old days, brides would go with the traditional East Indian Poth (a heavy necklace made of gold and coral) and necklaces and the Anjelaanchi Kaadi (a hair spray usually made of rubies, pearls and coral) and Kapote (earrings with chains to pin up in the hair) unlike the modern brides who prefer to match their jewellery with their gown and wear white gold, pearls or fake silver with American diamonds.
Since my gown was cream-coloured and pale gold was part of my overall theme, I decided to go with traditional 21K yellow gold – it would be the perfect contrast for my abstractly-patterned gown. The lack of bead-work or embroidery or lace on my gown also helped me deal better with my relatives’ need for decking me up with heavily designed gold sets (sigh … some things simply cannot be changed!).
The gold shops at Chira Bazaar in Marine Lines still house Marwaadi jewellers whose fathers and older generations have dealt with our formidable East Indian aunties. As such, these venerable smiths are the ones you can trust to craft exquisite necklace and wedding sets in East Indian patterns. Don’t forget to carry an elderly aunty or your nana or someone good at bargaining along.
I am an East Indian Valkar from Vasai and my mum’s from the Valkar stock from Uttan village while my dad’s from traditional Valkar stock from Vasai and hence, I thought to keep my jewelery a mix of both castes. I wore my maternal grandma’s Anjelaanchi Kaadi in my hair on the Umbraacha Paani night (the night before the wedding) with my mom’s Poth as a necklace. On the wedding day, I wore an intricate floral necklace set which we call the Wedding Set. My Sunday Set, which is worn to church with the wedding shaalu (gifted by the in-laws) to mass the next day too was created in a similar, albeit lighter floral pattern. The gold cross on chain that the bride’s parents gift the groom was selected from the same goldsmith.
My in-laws, who are traditional Vaadvals from Vasai ordered the jewelery that they would gift me the next day from goldsmiths in Vasai. Most Vaadvals order traditional jewellery for themselves from these craftsmen and you can trust a few names for jewelery specific to this caste. Vaadval jewellery is heavier and more stylized compared to the jewelery preferred by other East Indian castes. The Daagina (long chain, similar to the poth) and Mangalsutra I selected however, were more simplistic to suit my tastes and style. The Saasurkarin Set (the set that the in-laws gift) was a delicate gold necklace set that my mother-in-law and father-in-law purchased from a trusted Indian jeweler in Bahrain.
Traditional East Indian jewelery is beautiful when designed by a goldsmith who knows our ways and peculiarities and absolutely worth every penny, and if you are a bride who decides to go vintage and wear your mum’s, grandma’s or great-grandma’s jewelery, all the more power to you!
Our wedding rings were purchased from Bahrain and we got the goldsmith to replicate a pattern we liked (though he did a bad job of it) and inscribe the rings with our wedding date and an inscription from the wedding card on it.
Speaking of wedding invitation cards, I cannot even get myself to describe the woes I faced when working with the card printers. I figured it would take a lot of running around to get the cards printed from a press in Bombay, so I thought I would save on trouble, time and costs and hire a printer from Vasai to translate our wonderful plans for the cards into reality. Bad idea.
We began with a graphic novel/comic book idea for the wedding card and ended up with a simple affair that cost more than it appeared to cost. Thankfully the map of Vasai I created and the words Melroy and I decided upon saved the day and elicited more than its fair share of oohs and aahs from the guests.
If you are going offbeat with the wedding invitation cards and want to do away with humdrum wedding invites, make sure your printer is ready to see things your way. If not, its the highway for him and a better one for you. Also, begin work on the basic design of the cards a year in advance. By the time you get the artist, the right colours, the right design, the right style and finally, the right wordings, it’s going to be too frightfully close to the wedding date for comfort. Trust me, I know.
Go online, ask around, browse through that trusted wedding directory for all things Christian and Bombay – Silver Pages, widen your search and I guarantee that you will find people in India who will dazzle your guests with the uber-fantastic wedding invites they design.
The camera and video people came next.
We wanted to do things differently here. We checked out a couple of avant garde photographers and were all set to select a really good one from Vasai who was to give us a photo album that looked like a book you could browse through at the end of it all. However, someone from the family suggested that delightful Catholic wedding fixture- the Jumping Jack and we dropped all our plans in favour of a crowd favourite.
Uncle Xavier turned out to be my paternal grandma’s sister’s son’s wife’s uncle. Phew… be warned that relations can crop up anywhere in an East Indian family during a wedding. He not only gave us an entirely old-fashioned photo album, but nearly every family that came on stage to wish us told us that he was the photographer at their wedding. It was charming to see them all greet our photographer like an old friend and it simply added to the happy family glow that suffused the air on our wedding day.
I will just say here that it would be best that you and your groom-to-be go ahead with a photographer whose work is well known, of good quality and at a good rate. And make sure you have someone from the family who knows the guests well to inform the photographer on whether to click them or not.
And then came the band. My parents had a live band for their wedding reception at Bandra and my dear brother-in-law, in a nod to their wedding hunted high and low for a band who would rock the music at our wedding. After watching our budget stretch like an elastic band in our search for a crazy-yet-classy wedding band, we settled on Crimson Rage.
I had heard this band during my days at the Mumbai Hard Rock and when I saw them advertised as a wedding band in Silver Pages and heard their price, I knew it had to be them. These folks are really good, let me tell you that. A band that draws a crowd that usually never dances (to English tracks i.e.) at weddings on to the dance floor IS brilliant, not to mention the fantastic covers they played of popular oldies and classics. Just make sure you commence with the reception program dot on time to enjoy the band or music till the music deadline that we folks in Bombay and around have to suffer through.
Incidentally, you may want to give The Full Monty a hear as well. Another great band and musical ensemble to have for a wedding reception. I know for certain that these two bands are guaranteed crowd-movers and entertainers.
What I really love about the Bombay weddings are the decoration options available for the nuptial and reception venue. While most grounds have their decorators and caterers fixed, it is a pleasure to work with people who use an assortment of fabrics and elements to bring out the mood and theme couples look for at their wedding.
We in Vasai however, have no such luck. Thankfully, the decorator we chose – Sachin, was an enthusiastic wedding decoration veteran and procured the right shade of purple for our reception venue. Though he was bemused at our choice of nearly black purple, he went ahead and implemented our idea of a combination of abstract and glitz. The caterer we chose worked with the decorator and set up impressively abstract displays for the food area. And to think I had completely forgotten about the food display! They worked so well with each other and gave us such great bang for our buck that we let out the breath we didn’t know we were holding when we entered the reception venue.
If the food, decor, drinks and music complement, you know you have a very successful wedding celebration to raise a toast to.
To add to it, Aunty Glenny’s cake and Shawn Lewis‘ centerpiece added the final touch to the whole look of the reception venue.
Aunty Glenny is a genius with marzipan and cakes made the traditional way and I chose to have a proper East Indian cake beneath all the icing and marzipan. For those of you living in Big Carpentary at Tamtalao, you will be familiar with Aunty Glenny’s yumtastic Christmas sweets and cakes. I can vouch for the goodness that pours forth from her kitchen and graces the cake table at weddings.
We did have a tough time trying to get the right shade of purple for the icing flowers as rendering colours in edible form is extremely difficult. So I took the easy way out (and lightened Aunty Glenny’s load, as it was a busy time for her as well) and picked up a bunch of flowers in the shade I wanted from Crawford Market. My resourceful bridesmaids helped Aunty stick them on.
Shawn Lewis, a dear friend and an intensely creative artist, fashioned a cake topper for us using glitter and wire. We decided to use the very smart monogram created from our initials that Gursimran, another dear friend designed for us on the stationery and other wedding paraphernalia. With Shawn’s craftwork, it appeared on the backdrop for the stage, at the entrance to the reception and on the cake topping as well.
The centerpiece Shawn created for us combined Melroy’s utter love for biking and my absolute fascination with books and also inspired us to leave the wedding reception on Melroy’s bike instead of the wedding car. Yes, that’s how we rode to our new home with each other – decked in all our wedding finery and looking like we were about to elope for good.
There you have it. My big fat East Indian wedding. I could go on and on about the little things that completed the idea of the wedding Melroy & I had in mind, but that would never end. If you can think of anything I’ve missed out, feel free to point it out and I’ll include whatever help and information I can remember.
A big sukaala to the East Indian wedding you might be planning!
Note: Some of you who read this post earlier will recall that the images you see here are different. This is because I decided to add watermark all my photos after an incident involving photos stolen from my blog by a well-known circular last year. Apologies for any inconvenience these changes may cause.