I am so unbelievably fortunate to have the opportunity to plan and design a spectacular wedding in Bangalore, India. A number of years ago, I designed a beautiful wedding at a private home in Pennsylvania and the bride and groom were very taken by the art, architecture and design elements popular in Southeast Asia, so their wedding style was created with that vision in mind. It turns out that two of the guests, originally from Bangalore, loved the modern style with Indian influences so much that almost three years after that wedding, they invited me to design their daughter's wedding in Bangalore. That was about ten months ago, and now the big day (or big week, I should say) is only days away and what has been a career-changing opportunity is finally going to come to fruition. With only 5 days to go until I embark on my journey, I am equal parts excited, exhilarated, nervous and overwhelmed - this is a SERIOUSLY big project. I hope you will follow my experience as it unfolds over the course of the next few weeks as I attempt to share my adventures in creating a Western-influenced South Indian wedding.
First, some important stats that everyone inquires about: there will be 500 guests at the "main event" and between 50 and 200 guests at the various events before and after the actual wedding day. The bride and groom live here in New York City, the bride's parents in Pennsylvania and the groom's parents in Bangalore. Bangalore is in the South of India in the state of Karnataka. It is the fifth largest city in India and is best known as the major technology center in India.
In August, I went to Bangalore to get the lay of the land and to meet some of the prospective vendors that I would be able to contract for the wedding. I traveled by myself as the bride and her family were not able to go to India in the same window of time in which I was available. I had never been anywhere in Southeast Asia before, so this was an adventure on so many levels. I could write an entire book on the cultural experience alone, but suffice it to say that everyone whom I met, without exception, was warm, welcoming and hospitable beyond my expectations and the event vendors with whom I met were thrilled and fascinated to work with a New York planner/designer and to learn about the type of wedding that we wanted to produce.
Weddings in India are so different in so many ways. Most people's first reaction to my telling them about this wedding is "wow - are they having a million guests??" And while that is just one small thing that makes Indian weddings different from American weddings, it is actually very telling about the overall approach to a wedding there. Weddings are a community affair. They are as much about the families as they are about the couple. Because they are multi-day affairs as tradition dictates, there is less focus on the singular day of the wedding ceremony and reception and more on the overall concept of being married. Weddings there are so much more about people coming together than about small details, so it was no wonder that I got dozens of quizzical looks in response to my questions about production schedules, timelines, contracts and invoices.
These vendors are accustomed to making a wedding, not facilitating a production. And "custom" (or "bespoke" as would be said in India) is not integral to wedding style as it is here. So, therein lies the challenge: how does a type A+ designer from the most high-strung, contract-driven city in the world direct a team of talented and capable, but laid-back and last-minute, vendors to make a wedding that looks and feels like, as my client says, "something that no one in India has ever seen?" Stay tuned...
But before I go, just a few sneak peeks at the venue called The Tamarind Tree:
The Pond: In the early part of the wedding, guests will gather around the pond for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Later in the night, this area becomes the venue for their amazing 6-tier wedding cake (one of the Western traditions we are incorporating) and dancing late into the night.
The Gazebo: This is one of the highlights of the property. This centrally set round gazebo will be where the live band plays throughout dinner service.
The Ceremony Site: This patio area will be transformed into the mandap, or traditional Indian wedding canopy. Guests will be seated on the stone area and will be treated to some beautiful surprises along the way!
Next post will be from Bangalore in just a few days. Wish me luck! In the meantime, you can follow my play-by-play on Twitter @lindsaylandman. :-)