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How we met
The sunny beaches of Turks and Caicos Islands came alive with the wedding celebrations of the gorgeous couple - Neeraj Chandra, an investor by profession, and Melanie Kannokada, an actress. Comprising of 40 coral islands, Turks and Caicos in a British Overseas Territory that is situated southeast of the Bahamas, in the Caribbean. It was a fitting celebration of a relationship that started when he was a senior and she a freshman in the same college. “Neeraj had asked me out on a date but I was a little hesitant. It hadn’t stopped him from asking me out many times though. Then, three years later, I just ran into him in New York and that’s where I fell for him hook, line and sinker. By the second date, we were quite sure we wanted to be together for the long term, and though he proposed much later, for me, I had found my ideal man,” shares Melanie.

The Proposal
Neeraj took her on a weekend break to the Turks & Caicos Islands where they stayed at the Amanyara Resort. The proposal was something of a jigsaw puzzle with clues all around. Melanie recalls, “When we were at the resort, he asked me to meet him at the beach at sunset, but when I got there, he was not to be seen. I walked around looking for him when I saw a sign with my name on it. Then, I kept walking and saw a sign that said, ‘It began eight years ago.’ Many signs later I ended up at a secluded spot on the beach where I found a jigsaw puzzle. Puzzles are an obsession with me that Neeraj knew about! I started solving the puzzle right there on the beach. The picture was that of a boy and girl in love and the one piece missing was where the boy’s hands were supposed to be on the puzzle. It was cut in the shape of a heart.”

Melanie guessed what was to follow and sure enough - Neeraj came out of the shadows and gave her the missing piece, which was the picture of the hands of the boy, holding a ring, proposing to the girl. Neeraj then went down on one knee and asked her to marry him. “I was so happy at that moment and the look on his face when I said 'Yes'... These are the two things I will never forget,” recounts Melanie.

Wedding Planning
Melanie and Neeraj decided to have their wedding in the same location where Neeraj had proposed – the Amanyara Resort in Turks and Caicos Islands. They hired New York-based wedding planners, Sonal J Shah Events and Consultants to help bring their ideas to reality.

Wedding Events

Mehendi
The wedding festivities began with an informal mehendi on the first day with close family and friends. Melanie wore a crushed silk light blue embroidered Ritu Kumar skirt with pink motifs from Exclusively.com and paired it with a beige tee. The formal mehendi party was held the next day in the evening. The décor included candles and lanterns. Melanie looked fabulous in a Manish Arora lehenga with appliquéd golden hearts on the blouse and baroque embroidery on the skirt, while Neeraj wore a grey Nehru vest and white shirt with blue slacks.

Sangeet
The next function was the sangeet whose theme was ‘Bollywood Soiree’. Décor highlights of this function included huge movie posters with the couple’s faces photoshopped in, instead of the actors. Melanie again wore a midnightblue ensemble by Manish Malhotra which featured ‘gota-patti’ work. This was paired with a golden blouse and red net dupatta. Neeraj wore a maroon sherwani by Shantanu and Nikhil. The couple performed choreographed dance numbers, along with their bridesmaids, groomsmen and other friends and family.

Wedding Ceremony
The traditional South Indian wedding ceremony saw a surprise shower just before the event was about to commence. The elegant outdoor ‘mandap’ made a pretty sight with pink blooms and matching blush pink fabric draped along the roof and pillars. It was set against a view of the brilliant blue ocean behind, and the guests chairs were all done up in flowing chiffon bows with bright pink umbrellas that provided a pop of colour as well as protection from the sun.

Melanie again went with Manish Malhotra for the bridal attire and her ensemble comprised an intricately embroidered red and gold silk lehenga with a high-neck red choli and chiffon dupatta with brocade borders by Manish Malhotra. Neeraj looked every inch a handsome groom in his traditional custom gold ‘dhoti’ set from Tarun Tahiliani.

The bridesmaids wore pretty pink and red sarees with golden borders, and carried matching umbrellas. The groomsmen wore identical beige 'kurta pyjamas' with red stoles and matching 'mojris' on their feet.

Reception
Fireworks and an impromptu pool party revved up things at the formal reception where men wore summer suits and women donned traditional Indian wear or Western gowns. Melanie looked ethereal in her blush pink lehenga gown from Sabyasachi’s ‘Ferozabad Collection’ while Neeraj looked dapper in Shantanu & Nikhil’s custom made navy blue Nehru jacket with white slacks.

Wedding Shopping
Melanie did all her wedding shopping with help of close friends Mohini Boparai and Sunjay Gularia of Exclusively.com. She prepared mood boards for all her looks along with looks for her bridesmaids and family members and shared her ideas with Mohini. She then visited India to meet with designers and finalise outfits.

Challenges of organising an Indian wedding in the US
Melanie shares tips for couples organising an Indian wedding from overseas. “Always plan you wedding events keeping your guests in mind, try and meet all wedding vendors personally and always remember that everything may not go as planned and that’s fine – just stay positive and focused!”

The Wedding Makers
Venue- Amanyara Resort, Turks & Caicos Islands
Wedding Planner: Sonal J Shah Events and Consultants
Bridal Trousseau: Manish Malhotra, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Manish Arora, Ritu Kumar
Groom’s Trousseau: Tarun Tahiliani, Shantanu & Nikhil
Hair and Makeup: Style by Susmita
Henna Artists: Style by Susmita
Bridal Dressing & Styling: Style by Susmita
Bride and Groom’s outfits: Exclusively.com
Jewellery: Neerav Modi, Mallika Oberoi, Style by Susmita
Bridesmaids Outfits: Shehnaai Couture
Groomsmen outfits: Mallika Oberoi
Invitations & Stationery: Ceci, New York
Floral Décor: The Peloton Group
Catering: Amanyara Resort and Tulsi, New York
Entertainment: DJ Insomnia, Sally Greenwood, DJ Sam French, Raga Sitar
Dance School: Doonya
Dancers: SA Company, New York
Cinematography: Pacific Pictures

Photos Courtesy- Our Labor of Love (http://ourlaboroflove.com/)

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