Anamika and Jean, California
A mix of the couple's Indian and Quaker heritage, this home-based garden wedding by the ocean was a serene one.
Anamika Goyal and Jean Mason took the leap of faith when they first matched on an online dating app. From then onwards, their journey has been a rewarding one as they remained true to their authentic selves and remained optimistic in the face of challenges. To celebrate their love, the duo took their vows at a stunning multicultural wedding ceremony by the Pacific ocean. Anamika shares their story with us.
How They Met
Anamika shares, “Jean and I met in 2014 via a dating app called Coffee Meets Bagel. Matching with Jean has always felt like the happiest accident in my life! I had just come back from a three-month stint in Sierra Leone and after witnessing the quality of life issues that people, especially women and girls face there, coming back to America was quite a shock. While in the states, I spent a few weeks at my parents’ house in New Jersey before heading back up to Ithaca for school, and during these weeks my best friend urged me to create a profile to help take my mind off things. I was reluctant at first but within a couple of weeks, I matched with Jean. We just hit it off instantly as we started texting and talking non-stop! Eventually, we went on a few dates while I was still up in Ithaca, and then started seeing each other much more frequently during my New York City semester.”
Anamika recollects, “I knew Jean was the one pretty early into our relationship but we took our time as we went through a few years of long-distance while pursuing our respective careers. In fact, while we were both still living in Philadelphia, we took the small step of picking out an engagement ring and wedding band for ourselves and asked the sales associate to send us an email with all the product, finish, and sizing information. Basically, we both had this email sitting in our inboxes for the next six months, just waiting for someone to pull the trigger!
But, to my very pleasant surprise, Jean had a plan brewing all along! The weekend of the proposal was packed with three surprises from her. I had just moved to San Francisco about six months prior, and Jean was in town for a visit. First, Jean popped the question to me on a rainy afternoon at the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. After that magical moment, we took a romantic stroll through GG Park and Panhandle together back to my apartment. Next, Jean had planned a surprise party and invited all our friends, many of whom hailed from different cities, to congratulate us. Seeing all those people in the same room smiling ear to ear for our happy news was an incredible feeling, and made San Francisco feel much much more like home even though I’d been there a short time. Following this get-together, Jean had also planned an incredible weekend getaway to a coastal cabin hotel in California. We hiked, drank in the views sans any cell reception, and spent the weekend alone!”
Anamika and Jean tied the knot in a quiet garden wedding ceremony where they both spent quality time together with their close friends. Anamika shares, “For better or worse, I think the COVID-19 version of our wedding worked out pretty well. Indian weddings are quite grand and action-packed which would stretch our budget to the limit. While all this can be really fun, it never felt quite right for us. Our half-day, nine-person wedding in a serene residential garden by the Californian coast was the dream wedding I never knew I wanted. It was so much fun as Jean and I along with my friends put up the decorations. The whole wedding felt uniquely crafted for us and we had our hand in every part of it. Due to the pandemic, the entire wedding was outdoors which was another aspect that I loved. But, the only part that I did miss was a traditional Indian wedding sangeet! But my little sister and my family members, who couldn’t be there because of the restrictions, surprised me by organizing a virtual sangeet. Dances were performed, songs were compiled and both our families made heartfelt speeches, And, to top it all off, my mom ordered us Indian food and champagne that night!
The ceremony took place at a residential garden owned by one of our friends at Bolinas, California. Dotted with lemon trees with hummingbirds flitting about, the garden gave us a stunning view of the ocean. We were incredibly lucky to find such a spot as commercial venues were hard to come by during the pandemic. We chose this venue because it was a happy convergence of a beautiful natural setting and having a friend who has a house there. Plus, it’s located one and half hours away from San Francisco, so it was a relatively convenient drive for our guests. The theme was loosely termed as ‘California nature meets Indian tradition meets Handmade’. The decor was highly influenced by the gorgeous coastal setting, the birds around us (hummingbirds and cranes), my Indian heritage, and Jean’s Quaker heritage. The ceremony itself was not religious but included some Quaker elements, like, a few minutes of silence and some Hindu elements, like, exchanging garlands and a precise explanation of the seven steps.”
On the outfit front, Anamika chose a saree from her mother’s closet and opted for a deep pink hue instead of the customary red worn by Indian brides. The ‘chunni’ or veil was particularly meaningful since it had also been worn by her mother on her own wedding day. Jean, on the other hand, added a sentimental touch to her outfit by choosing to wear a gold, gem-encrusted brooch that belonged to her late grandmother in her hair.
Anamika shares, “I chose to wear a saree on my wedding day and typically my mother would be the one helping me get ready. But in her absence, Jean stepped and helped drape the saree like a pro! I remember catching a glimpse of the two of us in our wedding outfits in the mirror before heading down and it was definitely a special moment. Another wondrous thing that happened was that the sky cleared up just as we were getting ready. It was raining the entire morning and we were apprehensive that it would encroach on the wedding too but just as I fastened my saree with the last pin, a beam of sunlight came in through the window at that exact moment!
Unfortunately, our families were not in attendance due to COVID-19, and hence, we tried to incorporate as many connections to our family and traditions as possible. One of these traditions was the mehndi ceremony that took place at our apartment where our friends came over and got henna patterned on their palms while following all safety protocols.”
“We are not formally a part of any LGBTQ+ groups but we do frequently talk to younger folks in our circle who don’t have anyone else from the queer community to reach out to while they are going through their journey. For me, especially, it’s been rewarding to converse with South Asian folks who often remark how helpful it is to have a fellow South Asian to talk to! I am happy to pay forward the kind of support that I wish I had more of during my coming out journey”, says Anamika.
Advice for LGBTQ+ Couples
Anamika advises, “Coming out to our families was really hard, and can be a very difficult conversation no matter regardless of the circumstances. In my case, I experienced five to six tough years with my parents. In my opinion, it’s better to approach these things as a long-term ongoing conversation rather than a single moment. Because in reality, it will be a slow process for parents or family members to fully understand what it means to have an LGBTQ+ kid amongst them. We are grateful every day that we chose to be our authentic selves and build the lives that we knew would make us happy. It was also challenging for us not to have many gay role models in our lives, and the few we did have were either distant acquaintances or didn’t have the life we wanted to create for ourselves. These days, both of us are very close with our families and our in-laws. While they weren’t able to attend our festivities due to COVID -19, they all still found meaningful ways to send their support from a distance. We intentionally chose to be engaged for a longer period of time because we wanted to ensure our families were fully onboard before we took the momentous step.
The first few years might feel messy but with patience, forgiveness, and optimism you will overcome all the challenges. For us, it has been well worth it and has led to a very happy and fulfilling life together.”
The Wedding Makers
Location: Bolinas, California
Photography: Cassie Valente