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The 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 didnt 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 marriage!  

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!

Samode 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. Gauravs side of the family stayed at the evocative palace and Pratimas 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!
The 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 each other.

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 Gauravs dad gave a personal touch.

The Outfits: A Traditional Sari and Churidar Kurtaæthe ol fashioned way
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 designers 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 dupattasæ

Pratima was 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 day!

A Mela-like 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 Marys, made way to the pampered guests.

Musicians at Mehendi Ladies indulge in Mehendi

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 and dancers. 

The Outfit: 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 tagar flowers.

Gaurav wore an understated a custom-made beige tanchoi kurta with a pure pashmina shawl with fine Kashmiri needlework for the cold winter morning.

 The 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.

A 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 Pratimas outfit that night!

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 Deejays 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: Its 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 nanis navratan set, a favorite among the maharanis of yore, and matching lac bangles. She wore Red Roses by Jo Malone as her fragrance for the evening.

A Royal Welcome

The evening dÃÆ’©cor at the Sangeet was carefully harmonized and inspired by Pratimas outfitæin sprays of pink and orange wild gerbera flowers!

Gaurav 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 anyones fantasy of India come alive!" says Gaurav nostalgically.

Freshly flown Orchids and Pink roses along with lots of gold tissue, adorned the mandap and pillars and deliberately complimented the brides old rose outfit.

The Groom Arrives
The Bride Arrives
Bride with her mother

…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!…

A 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!

Their Ensemble: Old Rose meets Classic Chikan 
For the morning wedding, Pratima wore an old rose net and tulle jeweled lehenga with antique zardozi and aari work. The wedding dÃÆ’©cor deliberately complimented her outfit with freshly flown orchids and pink roses. 

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 Goodmans 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 mÃÆ’©lange of Bulgarian roses with ambergris and musk, was originally created for Grace Kelly for her wedding with the Prince of Monaco! 

Just Married!

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 brides lehenga.  Gaurav wore his signature perfume ‚ Tabarome, again by Creed, a sophisticated cologne with rich notes of tobacco leaves, green tea and ambergris that was originally created for Winston Churchill, and was a favorite of Humphrey Bogart!

For the their Reception they were dressed in: An antique motifed Benarasi Kooba Sari ; A spanking Calvin Klein suit!

…Gauravs 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 Gauravs 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 Gucci shoes. 

Classic all the way!

The Honeymoon 
Pratima and Gaurav whisked away to the Raj Vilas in Jaipur for a two-day break, before a much-deserved luxurious Honeymoon at The Ritz, Bali! 

Seven Simple Tips to planning a successful Wedding!

  1. 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.

  2. Personalize! 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. Its 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!

  3. Trust Your 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 reason!

  4. Plan Well. 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.

  5. Mingle at the Wedding. While you are the Guest of Honour at your wedding, you are also the Host! So dont be stationed on a ridiculous platform at your functions! Move around and be with your guests.

  6. Smaller is 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!

  7. Finally, ENJOY 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 dont worry. Just chill. Live every minute of your wedding like we did! And you wont need just the photos to remind you of it!

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