MonthApril 2020

How to plan a not-so-big and not-so-fat Indian wedding

Indian weddings are usually a big affair. A series of functions and rituals precede and proceed the wedding ceremony, the preparations for which start months ahead. Do not underestimate the amount of effort and planning that goes in preparing for these wedding events. Especially when you want to throw a great show and not spend your parents’ lifetime savings on it. But it’s all too common to get so caught up in the makeup, the hair, and the outfits, and then totally forget about the actual experience of the guests!

Make sure your wedding is a reflection of you.

“We were the wedding planners for our own wedding – and it was the best decision we made in the whole process!”The whole experience of a wedding is not only about the final day but also about the whole process, just like a design project. The final day will get over in a blink of an eye but planning it starts months in advance and seeing people enjoy the great show you put up is very satisfying. Make it very clear to your families as well that everyone’s thoughts will be taken into consideration but the final decision will be based on what you and your partner like.

Set up a detailed budget

Celebrate this day but spend smartly. Make a detailed budget and set a spending limit for all important line items like food, venue, decor, clothes, gifts, and accommodation. Planning a budget is not about being miserly – a budget helps you prioritise and create a set of clear goals. It serves as a great framework to work within.

A small snapshot from my wedding budgeting spreadsheet which was a document with 15 pages
Decide the number of events

It is good to have all experiences but everything need not be done at a huge scale. Events like the Mehendi and haldi can be done at home itself with close family and friends. I love dancing and I knew that the Sangeet was the most important event for me. So, that was the biggest of all events with the maximum number of guests. The wedding was a smaller affair with a closer group of people.

Avoid a formal reception as far as possible as it is the most tiring event for the bride and groom and the most boring event for friends and family attending. For the most part, it is a complete waste of money.

The right venue is extremely important

This is one of the most important decisions that will define the entire wedding experience for each and every person who attends your wedding. So make this decision carefully based on your goals. Chose your venue and block the dates well in advance. Sometimes the venue might govern the dates as well. We finalized ours almost a year in advance.

Our big picture goals were:

  1. We didn’t want to get married in a banquet hall. Once you enter a banquet hall, they all look the same irrespective of where they are located. We wanted a beautiful venue nestled in nature, surrounded by trees. A location wherein once people enter, they actually feel good, happy and peaceful.
  2. Also, we wanted a venue which didn’t have a monopoly for caterers and decorators as our wedding food was going to be a completely vegan spread which every caterer would not be ready to do. A vendor with a monopoly has no incentive to give fair market value – it makes a big difference when you work with a vendor who is not entitled to the gig by default – both in terms of the commitment and the expense.
Wedding ceremony at Basho Bougainvillea resort, Karjat

Our wedding was in a beautiful resort in Karjat which is at a 2 hour driving distance from Mulund, Mumbai. It often takes longer to travel from Mulund to Borivali – a suburb at the other end of Mumbai! So, do not hesitate to have your wedding at the outskirts of Mumbai thinking that it will be inconvenient for other people. You can arrange some transport if required. In our case, the drive from Mumbai to Karjat was beautiful – a much more soothing experience than being stuck for a similar duration of time in Mumbai city traffic!

Accommodation for people from out station was also provided here but most of the guests were from Mumbai and chose to drive back at the end of a relaxed day at the resort. You can check out their website for more details here.

The venue had a farmhouse within the same property and the main wedding happened in the lawn adjoining the farmhouse with the hill range as the backdrop of the mandap.

Entrance gate to the wedding mandap area
The Wedding mandap, nestled in the hills and filled with peoples love and laughter
Sangeet ceremony at Marathon Futurex, Lower Parel, Mumbai

We chose a beautiful landscaped terrace in the heart of the city of Mumbai to celebrate our Sangeet ceremony. It was as close to nature you can get in the city of Mumbai. The night time view of the Mumbai skyline was the cherry on top.

Main seating area
Performance stage
Boubhat ceremony at Far Pavillions, Tollygunge club, Kolkata

This event was held at a small outdoor venue facing the eighteenth hole of the huge golf course at Tollygunge club, which is built more than a hundred years ago and has many lovely heritage structures spread across its extensive grounds along with a lot of beautiful flora and fauna.

Entrance to the venue
Do not print your wedding invitations

By sending e-invites on Whatsapp you will not only save your printing and couriering cost and headache but also you will save the guests from the burden of what to do with those invites after the events are done. We all know these pretty invites would have ended up in the dustbin eventually!

We designed the Save the Dates and Invitations ourselves. I conceptualized the designs and made the sketches whereas R digitalised all of them to these pretty invitations you see.

The invitations and save the dates were a reflection of the ceremonies and their respective venues.

Lots of dance & music in a landscaped terrace located in the heart of Mumbai with an amazing view of the Mumbai skyline. (I sketched the Mumbai skyline as well)

Also, if you notice our invitations were common for both the sides with just the essential information only – date, time, and venue. We canned all the S/O , D/O, best wishes nonsense which led to a visually pleasing and incredibly simple final invitation.

Finalize the guest list

Only invite people you, your partner and both your parents really care about. Try keeping it as small as you can. Do not think twice before keeping different guest lists for different events if that helps you to reduce the number of people in some events. Take RSVP twice, once after you send out the invitations and a week before the wedding as well. This will help you to give an accurate number to your caterer.

Get quotes from multiple vendors

All vendors will try to exploit the fact that people spend thoughtlessly on weddings. Getting quotes from multiple vendors is extremely important – it helps you gauge the quality of talent out there as well as determine fair value for what you are getting. Our first decorator quoted around Rs 10 lacs for the Sangeet event – that was more than our total budget for that event! We eventually found someone who did it at a higher spec for closer to Rs 1.5 lacs!

Catering and food selection

While deciding the wedding menu make sure you do not over do it – it felt like the biggest priority seems to be how big and lavish the spread looks! Have a good, selective spread that people can cherish – don’t make it a bazaar of overwhelming options. Our biggest challenge was that the catering for all events had to be vegan. It was a big challenge trying to find a caterer to agree to make vegan food. In the end, we found someone who was very flexible and ready to work with us (Imagine cafe) collaboratively. We did numerous trials with the caterer, some where we made him cook using Imagine vegan cheese, vegan mayonnaise and vegan butter before finalizing every dish in the menu.

We used our wedding as an experiment and launched Imagine vegan catering service. Our vegan spread consisted of dishes like cheese Jalapeno poppers, Mexican shots, Pesto salad, unPaneer Kolhapuri, Jalebi, icecreams, pasta, cheese sticks, patishapta, and even Kolkata style keema cutlets with a soy mock meat.

We had an excellent experience with our caterers in Mumbai and Kolkata. Our caterer in Mumbai – Mukesh Bhai Catering – did an incredible job in collaboratively executing the vegan menu! He catered the wedding lunch, a couple of dinners at the Karjat resort, and the Sangeet dinner – there was overwhelming praise for all the spreads – from both the Gujarati’s and the Bengali’s!

Vegan dessert – Patishapta
Patishapta are thin crepes or pancakes made with refined flour, rice flour and semolina stuffed with a delicious caramelized jaggery and shredded coconut filling.
Corn cheese Jalapeno poppers
Vegan Jalebis

You can contact us on our Instagram page for vegan catering orders.

Decorator

Finding a good decorator within our budget was one of the toughest parts. We had chosen beautiful venues surrounded by nature so that we do not have to do too much decoration. In spite of having a limited scope, we got ridiculously high quotes. I had made presentations with reference images, and actual site photos and sent it to a bunch of vendors for quotes.

You can check them out here:

After receiving those first quotes, and shortlisting the vendors based on cost and the level of connection we had over telephone calls, we had to then visit the respective venues with each of them, work on the quote again and then finally decide who we wanted to go with. It was a lot of effort – because we were busy and decorators are always busy – setting up all those meetings and walk through’s was a herculean task!

In the end we managed to find a great decorator (Avishkar Decorators, Bandra east) with excellent workmanship and reasonable rates.

Wedding mandap being erected
Photography

We made a couple of unconventional decisions regarding photography at the events, but they worked out really well.

  • Instead of having two wedding photographers, the bride and groom can agree on sourcing photography work from one good photographer.
  • For the smaller family functions you can ask your friends or relatives who are good at photography to take some pictures. Again, this worked out exceptionally well – my friend Dhwani and my cousin Aashni are passionate photographers and they took some of the best photographs of the entire event. 
  • Instead of spending on pre-wedding photo shoots, take good couple shots on the wedding day itself in a natural location. This saves you the cost of an additional photo shoot and also the time, cost and effort of make-up and costume changes.

You have already seen some of the amazing photos our photographers took of us and the venue in my previous post and this post. You can check them out – Je taime photography on Instagram and Facebook

Shopping

You can read in detail about how to make your wedding shopping easy here.

Delegate and do not forget to have fun!

Make sure you delegate all the work to be done on the day to your friends and/or relatives. No really, don’t forget to have fun. Let it go, brides and grooms! The last thing you need to be thinking about is that your flowers weren’t as large as discussed, or that the fans are not working and the music isn’t the way you imagined. It’s your day which you have planned for months, now it’s time to sit back and enjoy.  Things might not work out as planned, but it’s your attitude you can control.

Plan your honeymoon

In midst of all the wedding preparations, do not forget to plan a long honeymoon trip for yourself. If you are crossing your budget make some cost cuts in the wedding preparations but be sure to have a nice long trip. After all spending on yourself is more important then spending on throwing a party for others. You will need it after all the hard work you will have to put into planning your wedding!

Feel free to email me on vidhi228@gmail.com for any queries,advice or suggestions regarding your wedding planning, especially in Mumbai!

Wedding dress shopping made easy

Planning a wedding is not an easy job. Especially when you want to throw a great show and not spend your parents’ lifetime savings on it. 

In my next few posts I plan to cover several aspects of wedding planning like – Budgeting, Invitations, Venues, Catering, Decorations & Photography.

But today, let’s focus on: dream outfits for the special occasion!

Wedding outfits are something girls go crazy about! Since there are limitless options available out there, it can become overwhelming and leave you confused about what you want!

It is always good to have a clear mind, and a solid set of goals in place before you venture out.

  1. Do your homework. Make sure you have a clear vision of what you want. It’s not just a world full of outfits, but a world full of pushy salespeople as well! It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the limitless options out there, but it’s also easy to put together a mood board using apps like Pinterest.
  2. Stay true to yourself. Everyone has her own vision of how she wants to look on this special day. If you have a distinct style, stick to it. Dress classy or quirky, or simple or glamorous – stay true to your personality. If you are happy with what you’re wearing, it will show. The shopping comes with an endless supply of not-so-gentle advice – be prepared to stick to your convictions and battle to the end.
  3. The outfits should be reusable. It is quite common for the bridal dress to never be worn again after the wedding day. My dress had to be something that I could wear again, not something that’s permanently stashed under my bed.
  4. The outfits shouldn’t be exorbitantly priced. I didn’t want to spend lakhs of rupees on a single outfit. Parents and relatives completely lose their sense of value when picking outfits – I knew I had to be the one setting the budget and exercising some financial restraint. And do not worry, there is something out there for all budgets.
  5. It had to be vegan. Now what are vegan clothes you might ask? As far as we are talking about wedding clothes, it mainly meant no silk in the outfits and no leather in the footwear. And in India, celebratory clothes usually mean silk! Wedding shopping was way more challenging for me than usual.
  6. Start early. I started shopping around 3 months before the day of the event. There are some good reasons to start early:
    If you have a job, that just leaves the weekends. If your shopping companions (my mom in this case) have a job, that might not even leave all the weekends.
    There’s a lot to see and a lot to consider before you make such an expensive and emotional decision.
    The tailors or shopkeepers will need quite a bit of time, and you have to factor in some time for a couple of rounds of alterations.

Mandwa+Haldi

The sari that I had worn for my Mandwa+Haldi ceremony is a Patola made of art silk. And trust me: no one can tell the difference! The weave of the thread, the silk like border, everything looks as good as the original one. Also, it’s much cheaper! So then why be an accomplice to thousands of silkworms being tortured?

Art silk Gujarati Patola saree
Don’t the details look exactly like the original Patola sarees?

Cost: Rs 12,000 (a similar silk Patola could cost anywhere between Rs 60,000 – Rs 1,00,000)

Wedding dress:

I wanted my outfit to look modern with a traditional flourish. I chose this off white lehenga with a beautiful mix of traditional Gota and modern pearl work & then I paired it with a red-pink Bandhani dupatta.

The Bandhani dupatta added all the vibrancy and traditional touch the outfit needed

I have thought of the following ways to reuse this outfit:

  1. Wear this dress as is, but with much lighter jewelry. The heavy jewelry gave a regal air to my outfit on the wedding day. A change to lighter jewelry would instantly make it suitable for other occasions as well.
  2. Wear the bandhani dupatta separately to jazz up some simple salwar suit or lehenga or a skirt and crop top.
  3. Pair the lehenga with a simple pastel net dupatta for a much lighter and modern look. 

Cost – Rs. 33,400 plus 2000 for blouse stitching.

Mehendi dress:

For my mehendi ceremony, I wore a light green lehenga with beautiful embroidery all over it paired with a crop top. I found it while we were shopping for sarees in Kolkata and it was love at first sight. On top of that, it was in the sale section! Can’t get better than that!

Cost: Rs 10,400

Bou Bhaat reception saree:

I was, and probably still am, not a very big fan of sarees but there is no doubt that sarees are way more reusable than lehengas. They also take less space in your wardrobe! So, it is always good to have a few classic sarees as a part of your wardrobe. If you are trying to look for non silk sarees, Georgette, Chiffon, Net, Tissue and Organza are some good options. For my body shape and type, I loved the fall of Georgette sarees on me. And since the event at Kolkata was a day event I chose a peach Georgette saree with Kashmiri Ari work embroidery in pastel colours. I paired it with a plain linen blouse which will pair well with sarees of many colours in the future.

Georgette saree with Kashmiri embroidery work

Cost: Rs 19,900 for the saree. Rs 2,000 for the blouse (with material)

Sangeet dress:

This was the last outfit I had to buy and by that time I was very confused about what I wanted. The wedding date was nearing and I had bought an outfit of every style possible and was completely out of ideas. I had no clear vision for this one. I knew the kind of colours I wanted but beyond that I was lost. I went to a couple of fashion designers but that confused me more. I was finding it very difficult to visualize exactly how the dress will turn out based on their descriptions. And what if I didn’t like it at the end? It was too great a risk. So I tried a different approach for this one. I just decided to visit all the shops with an open mind and no a specific goal. Finally, after a lot of visits all over Mumbai and multiple visits to the same shops as well I found something unique and beautiful. A Lehenga full of abhla(mirror) work with pastel embroidery in different colours around it along with a beautiful pink dupatta. Again not at all overbearing and completely reusable.

Close up of the mirror+embroidery work

Cost: Rs.30,000

Wedding Jewelry

While your bridal lehenga may obviously be the showstopper of the wedding,  it’s the jewelry and accessories that add the final touches to your look. The kind of jewelry you wear can govern whether you want your final look to be heavy, royal, simple or elegant. 

Art Jewelry for the win!

I love jewelry, but I also love wearing matching jewelry with each dress. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on buying real jewelry which ends up becoming a non-liquid asset gathering dust in your bank locker. Instead, I put all the money my family had saved up for my jewelry in a Fixed Deposit and bought art jewelry for all my events. Over time, the quality of art jewelry or imitation jewelry is so good that no one can tell the difference. Trust me! Also, I didn’t have to compromise on the kind of designs and the heaviness of the jewelry due to budget constraints.

Renting vs Buying, the age old debate

For the wedding day look, I went one step further. I wanted a royal, heavy look for the wedding and I knew I would never wear those heavy chokers, maang tikka and haath phool ever again. So instead of buying the art jewelry, I rented it. It was amazing as I got the exact look I wanted without any budget constraints and I didn’t have to retrofit hereditary jewelry that had an aesthetic I didn’t like.  

The only jewelry I bought for my wedding day was the Chudla (set of bangles). A Gujarati chudla has a lot of cultural significance and is supposed to be red and white in colour made from acrylic/plastic and gold. For my mom’s sake I did visit real gold jewelry stores and was thoroughly disappointed by the lack of variety in design available. After that, it was very easy to convince my mom as well and instead of going down the gold route, I went down the art route. I shopped for some very artistic pieces individually and put together a set for my wedding Chudla. All the pieces, individually can be reused as bangles with any dress, lehenga or saree.

The centerpiece of the Chudla was adorned by exquisite hand painted motifs

To conclude, you need to know what you want and be comfortable in your own skin. Once you’ve embraced your personality and channeled your inner confidence, you will look beautiful in any kind of dress.

So happy shopping guys!

You can read more about the other aspects of planning a not-so-big and not-so-fat but beautiful here.

Feel free to email me on vidhi228@gmail.com for any queries,advice or suggestions regarding your wedding shopping, especially in Mumbai!

A thousand thoughts on marriage

Just a few years back, I was one of those people who always made fun of married people. I didn’t have a lot of faith in the institution of marriage. I was not at all excited about changing my whole life  for one person. Especially in India, where the concept of an arranged marriage is so big! I have never and I never will understand how people muster the courage to spend their entire life with someone they have met just a few times. 

Fast forward to today and as a partner in a happy marriage, I’m honestly surprised by how easy it was for me to transition. In fact, it feels damn good! 

My journey to being married and happy though was very rocky. Like every other woman in her twenties, there was a lot of pressure from my parents and family to get married. They would constantly ask me if I have someone in mind or if they should start looking for someone. Every birthday I would feel extremely sad as if with every passing year my life, as I knew it, was nearing the end. 

And then something magical happened.

The right person changed everything for me!All the fears that dwelled within me regarding the idea of marriage just disappeared within a matter of months. He was, and still is, my best friend – we have similar worldviews, values and visions for the future. For the first time, marriage seemed like an exciting new beginning instead of ‘the end’. In fact, for us, marriage was only a license we had to procure to live together. When I say the idea of marriage seemed exciting, what I actually mean is the idea of living with someone I love seemed exciting.

But, I still don’t believe that it is essential to marry (or get society’s approval) someone you love or that marriage is the ultimate path to a lifetime of happiness and/or success.

For everyone out there living through similar situations, do not panic. Make sure you –

  1. Do it when you feel it’s right. There is no perfect age to get married.

Despite the fact that everyone on your Social media circle seems to be either engaged or already married with a ton of kids, there really isn’t a right age to get married. Maybe you’re just not ready yet, or maybe marriage just isn’t a priority for you at the moment or something you don’t ever want to do. Whatever your reasons for not tying the knot just yet, you’ve got to stop worrying that you’re behind. Finding the right person is a tough road. Be patient. Life is not a race. We’re all different, and everyone’s life has a different way and pace of working things out.

2. Do not do it under pressure from anyone! Not even  your own parents or your current partner.

Pressure from parents – Family pressure to get married is backed up by the heavy weight of culture prevalent in the societies we live in. It is this societal pressure that in turn leads us to pressuring ourselves, which leads to making mistakes. And this one mistake often ends up messing up many lives. At such times the only thing to do is to be calm. Stay focused on what you want in life and your priorities. Work towards achieving those. Don’t organize your life in such a way that making other people happy is the most important aspect of it.

Pressure from Partner – The tenure of your relationship not only makes you aware of what you want, but also about what you don’t want, in your significant other. It’s okay if you think that all the time you spent with a person cannot result in marriage. Committing to someone by getting married amplifies all facets of your relationship. Be it either love and respect or be it your problems with each other. If you’re bad at communicating in your relationship, miscommunications will only get worse in your marriage. If you don’t have respect for one another, you won’t gain it by getting married. You’ll probably lose it even more. Basically, when you get married, things can get even better if they’re already good, but they only get worse if they’re already bad. It’s alright to not know why you don’t want to marry him or her either. Don’t be in the pity dating game, where you’re just there to not break a person’s heart. 

3. Do not do it because you are scared to be alone.

Yes, being alone can really suck. But what sucks even more is marrying someone you are not sure about without thinking it through simply because you’re tired of being alone and then they turn out to be terrible for you. Develop yourself into who you want to be first. Become financially independent. Get serious about your career. Eventually you will find someone who you love, are excited to be with and who loves you back.

4. Do a trial run, move in together.

If possible, try living with the person you love for sometime before tying the knot. Marriage is all about dealing with the most irritating habits of your partner, all day, everyday. You will also get a better idea of how home responsibilities will be shared. Because let’s just face it, finding out that you’re expected to do all the cooking, cleaning and laundry wouldn’t be cool. And its good to have a trial run. It will give both of you a lot of confidence and make the entire process of marriage much easier. This might sound horrifying for most Indian parents but it is very common in rest of the world, and India is slowly catching up.  

Marriage is a gamble

What is a marriage? Marriage is just a socially sanctioned relation where man and woman live together, have sexual relations and produce children.But this definition completely overlooks the fact that you can not generalize relationships and emotions. Just like every person is different, every relationship is different and so are the good’s and bad’s in a relationship. Marriage should be an equal and willing union between two people in love, not something to fulfill one’s sense of identity or self-worth, or for validation.

Whether it is an arranged marriage or a love marriage – marriage is a gamble. It might turn out to be really good for some, horrible for others and average for the majority of the people. It is an institution that makes you make an, often, impulsive decision at a very young moment in your life, about a person you have to spend the rest of your life with. But moments pass.  Continuing to feel the same the next moment isn’t promised. Few things in life are. Sometimes, you just grow out of love. It does not mean what you had wasn’t real. Sometimes you just realize you have entered into a relationship with a toxic/abusive person. Isn’t it better to realize and understand things, rather than let the other person be with someone you know does not love them? And at such times, don’t be afraid to come out of a relationship. The institution of marriage today entitles men with a lot of power. For example: In our country, men are legally allowed to rape their wives without fear of any consequences and taking undue advantage of the fact that their spouses are dependent on them financially. People should have a right to walk away from bad relationships whenever they want without any societal pressure or stigma. Why does the system and society make it so difficult for people, especially women, to divorce their spouses?

Divorce

Shasvathi Siva, 28, who runs Cowvathi, a vegan business that provides alternatives to dairy products, went through a divorce that was finalized last year. It was a tiresome 15 month long process for her.

“Divorce isn’t easy. I’d say it isn’t easy regardless of gender, but it is infinitely harder on the women – as most things are. Many reasons for this, finances/ support/ children/ stigma/ dependency/ fear of the unknown future etc all stops women from seeking out a new life beyond the marriage they’re in. Divorce rate in India is at 1%, which is heavily disappointing. It reflects on how unhealthy we are as a society. We put undue pressure on women to ‘keep the household’ together. Despite all this, even if the woman is out of the marriage, she is looked down upon and judged for her choices. Getting remarried is a whole other task in itself. This is why setting up safe spaces where people can interact and find support is very crucial – because nobody deserves to be in a relationship that they don’t want to be in.”

Shasvathi Siva

She threw a party once her divorce got finalized and now celebrates her Divorce-sary (just like anniversary) every year. She also runs a support group for people struggling with divorce. She said her own experiences during and after the divorce gave her the idea of trying to create a non judgmental safe space for such people. Kudos to people like her who are trying their best to develop a community and be there for each other.

India is known for its low divorce rates. But that doesn’t indicate that we have very few unhappy marriages. It just shows that most people (mainly women) in India are living a compromised life as they are afraid of the social stigma and/or they are financially dependent on their spouses. It isn’t a metric, we as a country should be proud of. A true metric would be something like a ‘Happiness index’ for married couples which might give us a clearer picture of how successful the marriages we see around us are. 

Besides stigma, financial dependence is an important  reason because of which women compromise themselves their whole lives. They don’t want to be a burden on their parents and they don’t know how else to take care of themselves and their kids. But all that is changing now. Most women today are financially independent and capable of taking care of themselves and their children if needed. 

Also, most cultures see marriage as the foundation to family life and raising children, and they are bound to place more pressure on those around them to get married and more importantly stay married. This is one of the main arguments in favor of marriage. It refrains most women from taking a divorce. But as Andrew Cherlin argues in The Marriage-Go-Round, what matters for children is “not simply the kind of family they live in but how stable that family is.” That stability may take the form of a two-parent family, or, as Cherlin points out, it might be the extended-family structures that are common in many communities. If stability is what matters for kids, then stability, not marriage, should be the primary goal. And  the work of this care falls disproportionately to women. Without marriage, this care and support could be redistributed across networks of extended family, neighbors, and friends.

To conclude this rant, I would just like to say marriage is complex and a choice. People should have the freedom to opt for it or not, if they do opt for it then they should be able to do it whenever they want, however they want and if the need to break out from it arises they should have the freedom to do that as well, without having to worry about the society judging them.

References : Articles – What You Lose When You Gain a Spouse – The Atlantic,

Websites – markmanson.net , theeverygirl.com, globalnews.ca/marriage-pressure