Couple: A College Romance
A fledgling romance that
was kindled in the idyllic hills of Vermont culminated in a
fairy-tale wedding in the splendor and magnificence of Rajasthan!
Designers and Advertising honchos, Pratima Sipahimalani and Gaurav
Bhatia, met on the first day of College Orientation, in Middlebury,
Vermont, in the United States. It didn’t take long for Pratima from
Kolkata and Gaurav from Mumbai to become good friends – a
relationship they still maintain is the only way to a successful
The Venue: Lots of History, Romance and Splendour
Wedding planning promised to be a
nightmare with the couple based in Manhattan and their parents in
Brunei and India! Not wanting the “quintessential wedding,”
Pratima and Gaurav began searching for the perfect venue! It took
months of research from New York to finally pen down the venue. Old
Bengali homes, a barge in the middle of the ocean, an old temple,
were all dismissed for the venue of their dreams!
Palace, Rajasthan. Pratima and Gaurav fell in love with it when they
spotted it casually in Vogue Living. Apart from being India's finest
symbol of rich history and majesty, it was also a venue that was “a
jewel, very much hidden from the rest of the world.” The couple
instantly knew they had a great secret in the making and that their
small guest list of “very special people” who were to soon have an
experience like no other!
Nestled among the
Aravali Hills, this seventeenth century palace, once home to
Royalty, is now rated as the fifth best hotel in the world by the
Times, London, one where no two rooms are alike. It has been a
favorite of high profile guests like the King of Jordan, Jacqueline
Kennedy Onasis and Carolina Herrera among others. Yet few in India
were aware of it!
A very private guest list of immediate
family, close friends, many from the U.S., Japan and different
cities in India attended the three-day revelry in December 2002.
Gaurav’s side of the family stayed at the evocative palace and
Pratima’s side stayed at the Samode Bagh, in luxury tents, a unique
experience in royal living.
The Engagement : A simple ceremony
leads to a dramatic Royal evening in the Sand Dunes!
3-day festivities began with the engagement that took place at the
Sultan Mahal, the azure verandah of the Maharaja of Samode. A simple
ring ceremony, in a milieu of old U.P. shaadi ke songs and fresh
marigold torans, was followed by High Tea at the Royal Courtyard – a
perfect prelude where our guests mingled and began to get to know
The evening had lots of excitement in
store with a Royal function in the middle of the desert! Amidst
flaming mashaals (torches) a Grand Royal Horse Salute was organized
on the sand dunes, followed by langas (musicians) singing, camel
shows and lots of dancing to add to the festivities. Cocktails and
a Royal Rajasthani Barbecue with atypical, succulent meats and
vegetarian fare followed. The Whiskey Sours and Mulled Wine, perfect
for the winter evening, personally supervised by Gaurav’s dad gave a
The Outfits: A Traditional Sari and Churidar Kurta…the ol’ fashioned
Pratima wore an unusual Mulberry temple sari with traditional
decadent gold gopuram motifs accessorized with old South Indian
jewelry, “my favorite Lakshmi necklace, a gift from my mother.”
Gaurav wore a
simple JJ Vallaya Churidar Kurta, with an aqua stole, something he
picked up off the rack from the designer’s New Delhi store.
The Mehendi : A languorous morning with lots of colour and spirit
Samode Bagh, with its Mughal Gardens, played host to the Mehendi
celebrations. “This was our favorite function,” claims Pratima,
“the overarching trees were draped with colorful dupattas…”
perched on a “Phoolon ka jhoola,” a beautiful swing, entwined with
fresh, multi-colored dahlias, as Mehendiwaalis indulged her hands
with the most intricate designs! “I was truly a Maharani for the
setting was created with Puppeteers, a choodi wala, and an
astrologer among others! Stalls with different cuisines from Chaat,
Kheema Pau, Dosas and other yummies to delectable Malpuas and
Rajasthani desserts were laid out while Thandai, Mojitos and Bloody
Mary’s, made way to the pampered guests.
The ambience was
complete with the khatais with gaddis where the ladies languorously
indulged in the magic of Mehendi, while the men were kept busy with
a Cricket Match that was organized in the North wing of the Garden.
Of course there was lots of “gaana-bajaana” with Rajasthani singers
Phoolon ka Gehna
Pratima wore a self-designed, simple gold tissue lehenga with
delicate silver and gold dhabka work and a rich crimson benarasi
woven dupatta. She wore traditional phoolon ka gehna, jewelry
traditionally worn by North Indian brides made from fresh mogra and
Gaurav wore an
understated a custom-made beige tanchoi kurta with a pure pashmina
shawl with fine Kashmiri needlework for the cold winter morning.
Sangeet : Baroque and Straight out of the Arabian Nights
The Sangeet in the Darbar Hall was magical, “very
baroque and straight out of the Arabian Nights,” says Gaurav.
preview of the evening began with “aatishbaaziyan” – a display of
spectacular fireworks against the backdrop of the bejeweled and
illuminated palace. A red carpet welcome along the magnificent
staircase, leading to the Darbar Hall, awaited the guests. The
pathways and courtyards to the venue were bedecked with orange and
pink gerberas, inspired from the colours of Pratima’s outfit that
The Darbar Hall,
with its frescoes, served as perfect canvas for the glitzy and
glamorous evening. Champagne was popped with a talwar in true Rajput
style in the Sheesh Mahal. What followed was a traditional sangeet,
where family and friends danced to old Hindi film songs and some
traditional Punjabi wedding numbers. The couple danced to many a
song themselves refusing to be the “coy” bride and groom. “We had
to dance at our own sangeet and the guests just loved it!” The
traditional evening slowly transformed into “club and house” as the
Deejay’s took over to end the evening with a bang!
Chefs were flown
down especially from Hyderabad for the traditional spread that
included kacchhe gosht ki biryani, bagarey baingan, mirchi ka salan
and ambrosial shaahi tukda. Served outside in the verandahs under
orange and pink canopies, the evening had all the razzle-dazzle and
lots of allure!
The Outfits: It’s
Glamorous Resham and Zardozi all the way!
For the Sangeet, Pratima wore another self-designed flaming
tangerine and fuchsia lehenga with flamboyant resham and gold
zardozi work with lots of taaris and swarovski crystals – coupled
with her nani’s ‘navratan’ set, a favorite among the maharani’s of
yore, and matching lac bangles. She wore Red Roses by Jo Malone as
her fragrance for the evening.
The evening décor
at the Sangeet was carefully harmonized and inspired by Pratima’s
outfit…in sprays of pink and orange wild gerbera flowers!
complemented the look in an elegant, off-white and antique-gold
resham and zardozi embroidery, with a crush gold tissue stole and
lots of attitude!
The Wedding: “A ceremony we could relate to and identify with!”
The wedding was in a pristine, white marbled ‘baradiri” or pavilion
at the Samode Bagh redolent with romance, amidst peacocks and
alluring fountains among the rose bushes. "Its arches, gardens and
decorated candelabra'd hall is anyone’s fantasy of India come
alive!" says Gaurav nostalgically.
Orchids and Pink roses along with lots of gold tissue, adorned the
mandap and pillars and deliberately complimented the bride’s old
Bride with her
“We wanted a
simple Arya Samaj wedding, something we could understand and relate
to,” says Pratima typically in her practical style. “Our pandit was
super,” says Gaurav “he explained all the Sanskrit mantras, so we
all understood their relevance!“
traditional vegetarian, Rajasthani lunch was served in baltis, as is
customary locally, by the girls’ side. Guests were seated on gaddas
on the floor and served traditional delights like Daal Baati Choorma,
Sangar ka saag and missi roti in silver thaalis.
The couple had a
smashing island reception in Brunei held at The Empire Hotel and
Country Club. Resplendent and a perfect finale!
“It was a wedding
you would imagine in old historicals, evocative of a bygone era.
The only regret is that it ended to soon!”
Old Rose meets Classic Chikan
the morning wedding, Pratima wore an old rose net and tulle jeweled
lehenga with antique zardozi and aari work. The wedding décor
deliberately complimented her outfit with freshly flown orchids and
The decadent, regal fineries were complimented
by an heirloom, piece de resistance, vintage uncut diamond and ruby
necklace. “I indulged in a to-die-for pair of satin and crystal
Badgley Mischka stilettos with real pearls!” After days of trials
at Bergdorf Goodman’s private salon, the make-up and perfume was
decided upon. The brief was clear – elegant, understated to
compliment a classic look. To complete the ‘old rose’ look Pratima
wore Fleurs de Bulgarie by the House of Creed, one of the oldest and
finest French perfumeries. The fragrance, a mélange of
Bulgarian roses with ambergris and musk, was originally created for Grace
Kelly for her wedding with the Prince of Monaco!
Gaurav wore a timeless and understated Chikan
Sherwani with detailed, ultimate in luxe, murri work. A blush,
antique benarasi ‘patka,’ fuchsia and gold safa, and a jadau and
Basra pearl haar complemented the bride’s lehenga. Gaurav wore his
signature perfume – Tabarome, again by Creed, a sophisticated
rich notes of tobacco leaves, green tea
and ambergris that was originally
created for Winston Churchill, and was a favorite of Humphrey
the their Reception they were dressed in: An antique motifed
Benarasi Kooba Sari ; A spanking Calvin Klein suit!
“Gaurav’s side of
the family gave me an antique motifed Benarasi Kooba Sari from the
celebrated Indian Textiles store in Mumbai and an over hundred-year
old ‘laadli’ set, a rare yellowish pink stone!” says Pratima who
wore this ensemble with an antique jadau teeka, which Gaurav’s
grandmother had worn for her wedding!
Not wanting to
compromise, Gaurav handpicked a spanking suit from Calvin Klein on
Madison Avenue and teamed his look with a classic Hermes tie and
Classic all the
Pratima and Gaurav whisked away to the Raj Vilas in Jaipur for a
two-day break, before a much-deserved luxurious Honeymoon at The
Seven Simple Tips to planning a successful
Send a Save the
Date. Borrowed from “a very American concept,” this is a formal
note, usually sent by the parents, but can also be sent by the
couple themselves. The note informs prospective dates for the
Date, Venue and Travel Details (how to get to the venue by Air,
Train and Road). Practical, it helps both the hosts and guests
to plan ahead.
Every detail of our wedding was planned by us i.e. the family.
Which is one of the reasons we really think it was memorable.
It’s better to have a few imperfections and yet have your
signature, rather than have a “clinically perfect wedding.” Even
if you have a wedding planner to help you, make sure your
wedding is your vision!
Partner. Weddings are Emotional, Expensive and Elaborate
affairs. Fights between the couple on the smallest of issues are
bound to happen. They did with us as well! Be calm and trust
your partner! Ultimately you are marrying him or her for a
Outstation weddings like ours can be fun, but need immense
planning. Be prepared for detailed follow-ups with Hotels and
coordinators. Good or bad, be your own wedding planner first!
You will cherish the rewards later.
Mingle at the
Wedding. While you are the Guest of Honour at your wedding, you
are also the Host! So don’t be stationed on a ridiculous
platform at your functions! Move around and be with your guests.
better! Do not be a guest at your own wedding. Smaller weddings
with more attention to detail and the people you / your family
truly wants is far more desirable than a wedding with thousands
which are so impersonal!
your wedding! A lot of people feel like their weddings are a
blur since they were so preoccupied or stressed. After your
basic planning, leave it to God! You have done your best and it
will go off well! If accidents happen, no one but you will know,
so don’t worry. Just chill. Live every minute of your wedding
like we did! And you won’t need just the photos to remind you of