Wedding venue with a difference
Atlanta based Sonali Vedak and Vishal Rao wanted to marry at a venue with a difference. “We didn’t want a destination wedding, at the same time we didn’t want a wedding venue with a typical banquet hall or hotel feel. So after a lot of research we zeroed in on The Foundry at Puritan Mill at the Joseph E. Lowery Blvd in Atlanta- a warehouse converted into an event space. It was a very unique venue with high ceilings, lots of skylights and exposed brick walls”, say the duo. They were elated with their decision. “The venue was only too happy to host us—since it was their first Indian wedding. And the vendors there went out of their way to please us, since most of them were working on an Indian wedding for the first time.”
How they Met
Says Sonali: “In October 2007, I had no idea that a birthday brunch was about to drastically change the rest of my life. Though it was three days before my GMATs, I promised myself I wouldn't miss my friend Meeti's birthday. At her brunch I sat next to the birthday girl and out of nowhere, Vishal – a guy I never heard Meeti talk about – stood at the end of table debating where to sit, next to me or someone else. I laughed and told him he doesn’t have to sit next to me, but he decided to do just that (I should have learned early on that this is how he generally operates). We ended up chatting, becoming friends, one coffee date led to another and I finally told him that I am free ALL weekend (hint hint)…maybe we can do dinner? So yes, I technically asked him out.” Says Vishal: “In late 2007, I was floating along wondering what to do with my life. Atlanta had become boring and I was looking for a change… London or Africa, I thought. I had actually started the conversations with work about the move when I bumped into this curious girl at my friend Meeti’s birthday brunch. Somewhere between coffee and omelets, I figured out that she’s the only other person I have met who had been biking in Wales and climbed Machu Picchu in the last few years. A couple of coffees and dinner dates later, I put my transfer on hold and decided to see if Georgia had more to offer.”
The Challenge: Wedding Date
Sonali is an engineer by profession and her parents live in Atlanta; Vishal, an alumni of Harvard Business School works in strategy and planning with an Atlanta based MNC and his parents live in Mumbai. So the biggest challenge was in figuring out a date which was convenient to all. “And besides looking for an auspicious date, we also wanted to marry on a weekend, so our friends from all over could the celebrations. While they had earlier planned to marry in December 2009, due to the date factor their beautiful wedding finally took place on May 30th, 2010. Sonali is a Maharashtrian while Vishal is from Andhra Pradesh, they opted for an Arya Samaj Wedding, because they could relate to its rituals and it was easier to organise.
Wedding Planning in the US
Sonali and Vishal wanted to make the wedding feel a little different than the traditional Indian format. They say: “ We deliberately chose to bring in some vendors who had not done too many Indian weddings to bring in a fresh, international feel into the celebrations”. Since they had ample time on hand, and the venue was most co-operative, Wedding Planning for them quite a breeze. “Moreover, we are the kinds who don’t sweat the small staff, and enjoy what anything has to offer. The only stressful part was trying to achieve a balance between what all the family members wanted—all because of the different tastes, opinions and style.”
Reception in Mumbai
Post the wedding, Sonali and Vishal proceeded to Turkey for a short holiday. They then came to Mumbai for a post-wedding reception hosted by Vishal’s parents at The Mayfair Rooms. Later, Vishal hosted a relaxed post-reception party for his school, college and b-school friends at the Bombay Gymkhana. Since Sonali has not attended a traditional format Indian wedding, the reception experience in Mumbai with a huge number of guests was a pleasant surprise. Vishal’s father, Ashok Rao is a well-known chartered accountant, while his mother Manjula Rao is a noted advocate—and since they have many friends, family and professional contacts, the turn-out at the reception was huge. Says Sonali: “We felt quite special—standing on the stage while a serpentine queue waited to greet and meet us. It was also exhausting... and this won’t be a surprise to anyone who’s had the big Indian wedding.”
My Best Friend’s Wedding
Vishal and Sonali’s portrait photographs courtesy Vishal’s best friend and Wedding Photographer Arjun Mahajan. A corporate executive by profession, Arjun now undertakes Wedding Photography assignments where he gets a chance to take candid shots and relaxed portraits.