I recently attended a destination wedding in India, which took place in a heritage palace in Jaipur, Rajasthan. And yes, it was everything you think a Bollywood wedding should be! The royal treatment starts from the beginning, when you are greeted with a garland made from marigolds. The magnificent palatial architecture of Chomu Palace created the perfect setting for a magical wedding. For Indian brides the festivities include multiple events over the course of several days.
The festivities kick off with the mendi (henna) ceremony which is still a significant tradition even for the modern Indian bride, it signifies beautification and is a chance for the bride to celebrate with her close family and friends. It usually takes place the evening before the wedding and it is when the bride is adorned with intricate patterns of henna, hand painted on to her arms and legs. This event was filled with music and dancing with rich, vibrant colours and textures and took place in the front garden of the palace. Decor accents included Rajasthani up-lit umbrellas lights, with puppets hanging from the trees. The seating ranged from gazebos and banquets to mattresses draped in satin with neon cushions. The tables were decorated with organza bows in kitsch contrasting colours.
The bride and groom made a grand entrance on a elephant lead by dancers dressed in tradition Rajasthani attire amidst a group of drummers and fire breathers. It was a spectacular royal procession up the red carpet as they made their way up to the swing seating on the stage. The traditional Rajasthani dancers gathered the crowds creating an authentic Indian Performance to welcome the bride and groom. The food was designed to recreate a street food vibe with food stalls from around Rajistan. To add to the Bazaar feel, there were vendors gifting bangles, and bandana dupattas (fabric shawls) and a tarot card reader answering life’s most puzzling questions for the guests!
The next day was the wedding ceremony. The ceremony took place in a mandap, which is a covered structure surrounded in column pillars. This was in a totally different part of the palace, outside, under the blue sky and was dripping with fresh floral curtains. In the centre of the guest seating was a fountain decorated in traditional Indian flower patterns. There was also a gerber daisy placed behind every chair with a love mission attached to it for guests to gift each other with, since the wedding was on Valentines day. The procession begins with the groom arriving on a white horse adorned with mirrored and colourful decorations. This is lead by drummers, who gather the guests to take the groom to the mandap to wait for his bride. Guests were offered fresh coconuts as they waited for the bride to arrive. The bride made her way down the aisle accompanied by her bridesmaids all dressed in an ombre arrangement of peach hues, all walking to the sounds of vocal chantings by a fusion qawwali band.
After an untraditional wedding ceremony led by the brother and sister of the bride, the guests enjoyed some beautiful music by the fusion sufi band during the cocktail reception and dinner. The dinner which felt like a fairytale, was set in the garden under fairy lit trees. The long tables were covered by jewelled candelabras with fresh florals hanging from a canopy.
When the bride and groom cut their cake, the guests held up heart shaped utensils (https://iheart-this.com/ ) to shower love into their first bite of married life. Once the speeches and photographs were underway, the guests were invited to a late night screening of a classical Bollywood movie and enjoyed a light snack of masala flavoured popcorn and hot chocolate.
A wedding reception dinner was the final event, it took place in the courtyard of the hotel, this gave it the perfect palatial feel to the end of the festivities. Surrounded by four of the palace walls trimmed in fairy lights and fabric, the intricate detailed architecture gave a stunning backdrop to wherever you were sitting. There were small round tables scattered on either side of the stage with the ‘pink city’ themed table linens. The centrepieces were unique statues of Rajistani dolls in the midst of flowers and candles. The bride and groom yet made another grand entrance as they zoomed in on a rickshaw which was decorated with dangling strips of marigold flowers. The rickshaw was then used as a backdrop for the Photo Booth. Guests gathered on either side of the aisle, we were asked to light up firework sticks as the bride and groom drove through us. The ceremony ended with a dance performance by the bride and groom that ignited the firework display, making the night even more magical. The dancing and festivities continued into the night until the early hours of dawn.
The wedding was grand and magical, worthy of a maharaja. It was a fairytale wedding and a memorable experience. Destination weddings feel exotic and magical because you’re in a foreign land, however they can also seem like a logistical nightmare, and not everyone can afford to do it! So here are some ideas on how you can incorporate some elements of a destination wedding to your hometown to give it a similar feel:
- Grand Entrances – Wow your guests by making a memorable entrance, make it local to your hometown or your history as a couple. Whether it be arriving on a horse and carriage or Toronto’s very own street car.
- Venue – One of the best things about a destination wedding is that you’re surrounded by your closest family and friends in the same space. This gives you a chance to spend quality time with all of your guests. You can still create the same experience somewhere closer to home by renting out a cottage or part of a hotel/resort and having all your guests stay in the same place.
- Decor – Instead of opting for the typical decor, incorporate unique elements that are related to your culture or a faraway exotic land. For example using sand and shells to bring out the beach vibe or for the flowers instead of using popular or local flowers, opt for tropical flowers that are more exotic like birds of paradise, bougainvillea or marigolds.
- Music – Music is a big part of weddings and rather then hiring out the ‘typical band’, see if you can find a cultural band or have the band incorporate instruments that are specific to a culture or a type of music. For example a sitar or tabla from Indian Classical music or the bongo which is popular for reggae music.
- Invitations – Make your guests feel like they are going to attend a destination wedding by designing your invitations in a way to incorporate travel elements like postcards, maps, routes or images of passports, stamps etc. You can also use tropical graphics and colours.
Photography by Avnish Dhoundiyal and Asiya Khaki | Decor by back2culture