Avni and Pavan, Jaisalmer
The duo followed their heart into the desert for a royal Rajasthani wedding.
Love blooms in the desert for Avni and Pavan. The bride says, “He proposed in the desert, we had our legal wedding at Burning Man in the Nevada Desert, our Indian wedding was held with the Thar Desert as backdrop, and now we live in Dubai.”
The couple chose Jaisalmer as their dream destination for their wedding celebrations and WeddingSutra Favorite Shreya Sen Photography caught every wonderful emotion on camera.
How We Met
We met when he got in touch about a writing fellowship I’d done at a university in the UK. He wanted to know if he should take the course or not and we stayed in touch. When he next came to New York in September we made plans to have lunch. Lunch turned into a whole afternoon, and s we haven’t gone a day without speaking to each other since.
At first, I wasn’t sure how it could work – long distance between Dubai and New York is tough. But we took it seriously and made sure to meet every month, and in February 2015 he proposed in the desert outside of Dubai. Our entire relationship has a desert theme!
We had discussed rings, so I knew he was thinking about it. However, when he proposed at a beautiful hotel in the desert outside of Dubai only three months into our relationship, I was completely shocked!
Our wedding planning took a few twists and turns. We had a difficult time picking a location because we lived on opposite sides of the world. We couldn’t find an intimate enough space in Dubai. Mumbai is a city that was meaningful to both of us and we even began planning the wedding there, printing Save the Dates and meeting florists, but in the end that didn’t feel right. Then, only two and half months before the wedding, we finalized Suryagarh, a beautiful hotel in Jaisalmer. In the end, I think the location helped clarify what the wedding would look like. (Planning a wedding in such a short time is definitely not ideal, but it can be done!)
Planning a wedding in India can be tricky, particularly if you’re a micromanager like I am. I found details were often lost in translation and that I had to repeat things many, many, many times over if I wanted them to get done.
Suryagarh, however, was a really wonderful hotel to work with, and the management took a personal interest in making sure everything was done to our satisfaction – especially in terms of the décor, which was a tall order! I had very specific ideas for how everything should look and they really made sure it was done. They invited us to come for a few days leading up to the wedding to taste all the food and finalize the venue details. We had only only two and a half months to plan the wedding, so we were lucky to work with a hotel that had so much experience.
In terms of decor and styling, we wanted something beautiful, intimate and minimal. (Keep in mind this was an Indian wedding, so minimal was a relative term.) But those are the values and aesthetics we wanted to bring to our home and our future life, so we decided they would work well for our wedding too.
We also didn’t want individual themes for each event, but instead an overall mood that would carry through the three days with variations on the theme. We made sure to use marigolds, jasmine, lanterns, tealights, Rajasthani handicrafts and textile, and the color orange throughout the wedding.
Shreya Sen Photography took care of the photography at our functions and captured some beautiful images of the wedding.
The Welcome Dinner was the most informal event for guests arriving after their long journeys. Guests were welcomed by Rajasthani dancers and saluted by guards on camelback. The grounds were decorated with orange marigolds and lanterns and the courtyard was covered with beautiful orange fabric that remained for the entirety of the wedding.
The evening brought local Rajasthani fare and music, followed by a performance by The Other People. Everyone forgot they were tired and the dancing continued into the wee hours of the morning. For this event, I wore an outfit by Manish Mehta and paired it with jewellery by Samir Mehta.
The Mehndi Lunch was hosted in the open desert at the side of the hotel, and the details of this event were truly amazing. Raj style tents were put up, and clay objects made by local artisans dotted the venue. We had lots of rangoli as part of the décor, and the food was beautifully presented in colorful stalls. The lunch included a large chaat selection. There were flowers included jasmine and marigold. The DJ played a combination of Bollywood and 90s Hip Hop favorites.
For the day events, including the Mehndi, I went for colorful Rajasthani looks from Anita Dongre with a lot of thread and gota-work. For Pavan, it was a dusty rose outfit by Shantanu& Nikhil that made the cut.
Sangeet and Garba
10,000 tealights that lit the ground, several globe-shaped candle stands over 6 feet high, and marigold arrangements on the tables were the sights that welcomed our guests.
A KutchiGarba band played music, followed by a DJ, and a performance by Garba Dancers from Gujarat who taught everyone the steps. This event was important to me because my family is Gujarati and I wanted to include something to honor our tradition and brings all ages together. Even my grandmother was teaching us the steps she used to do!
I played statement colors for all our evening functions. For this, I opted for a red lehenga by Shantanu & Nikhil and Pavan wore a black achkan by the same designer duo.
Suryagarh did a wonderful job using flowers and fabric to decorate the Puja areas, and they created a flower rangoli in the courtyard during lunch. I wore an orange and golden lehenga by Anita Dongre.
The mandap was made of marigolds and tealights and people sat on colorful chairs and cushions to watch the ceremony. A Ravanhatha (Rajasthani string instrument) player performed while the ceremony was conducted.
I had my heart set on a white Shantanu & Nikhil lehenga and I decided to wear that for the pheras. Pavan matched my attire by opting for designed by Tarun Tahiliani in the same color.
The wedding went right into the reception, and the path was decorated with under-lit umbrellas with ethnic patterns. The tables during the reception were decorated with tuberose and tall crystal candelabras, and the chairs were hung with strings of mogra. Pavan’s friends performed a dance medley, and he jumped in for a surprise cameo.
While Pavan wore the same clothes as the wedding at the reception, I changed into a black and gold lehenga by Manish Mishra.
Advice For Couples
1. Educate yourself about the ceremony. I didn’t really know what was going on, and now I wish I did!
2. Don’t overindulge in food and drink at your wedding – your stomach won’t be able to handle it. I ate toast and rice with yogurt for three days. At the time I felt sad to be missing out on all the yummy food but now I realize I made the right choice.
3. Don’t make shopping decisions when you’re emotional (or in a fight with your mother!)
4. This one might be hard for most brides who are rushing around the weekend before their weddings, but if you can, try to take some time out. My husband and I went to Jaisalmer three days before everyone else and spent a blissful weekend glamping at a hotel called the Serai. We treated ourselves to massages and went on sunset desert drives. It was a nice time to reconnect before the madness began.
5. If you are doing a big Indian wedding, but have the urge to do something more alternative, I would suggest planning the civil/registry wedding in a way that’s totally for you. My husband and I did our civil ceremony at Burning Man in Nevada a few months before we did the religious wedding in India. It was dusty, crazy fun – something we will never forget.
6. And of course, don’t forget to check in on the groom. My husband seemed so relaxed leading up to the wedding – I couldn’t believe how calm he was. But it turns out he was actually repressing all the stress, and the day before the wedding he came down with a fever.
Venue: Suryagarh Jaisalmer
Bride’s Outfits: Manish Malhotra (Welcome Dinner), Anita Dongre (Mehndi and Ganesh Pooja), Shantanu & Nikhil (Sangeet and Garba, Wedding), Rahul Mishra (Reception)
Groom’s Outfits: Shantanu & Nikhil (Mehndi, Sangeet, and Garba), Tarun Tahiliani (Wedding and Reception)
Jewellery: Samir Mehta (Welcome Dinner), TresorJewelers at the Oberoi (Mehndi), Amrapali Jewels (Ganesh pooja)
Makeup Artist: Mitali Vakil
Mehndi Artist: Tehmina
Invitations and Stationary: Manali Doshi of DriftingInNYC.com
Wedding Favors: Manali Doshi of DriftingInNYC.com
Entertainment: The Other People (Welcome Dinner), The Manganiyar Seduction, Musicians from Suryagarh
DJ: DJ Amit
Photography: Shreya Sen Photography
Videography: Karan Boolani and the team at Anil Kapoor Productions