Monday, December 27, 2010

A Look Back: A Magnificent Indian Wedding

I can hardly believe that it has been a whole year since my amazing experience in Bangalore, India planning and designing Rushmi and Vikram's wedding. It was a project that was exciting and challenging in so many ways, from the solo international travel to learning the religious and cultural customs of a South Indian wedding to deciphering the services and talents of wedding vendors who had never pushed their own limits in the ways I was requiring. I know for certain that this whole project could have fallen flat had I not had the unwavering trust of the bride and groom and both of their amazing families. They took a risk by hiring a White, American, Jewish New Yorker who had never even been to Southeast Asia to plan a traditional Hindu wedding with a little Western flare, and I will forever be grateful. It was an experience that made me a better designer, a better planner and a better person. I eagerly await the next opportunity to explore a new part of the world and a new part of myself. You can read my original posts here(1), here(2), here(3) and here(4).

Take a look at this beautiful couple and enjoy...

This is the traditional entrance gate at the front of the property. Notice that in between the two doorways we hung a large mirror to ward off evil.

The venue is called The Tamarind Tree, aptly named for this magnificent tree just inside the entrance gates. We enhanced its beauty with strands of lights and hand-strung flowers.

This is the view of the front of the property from the entrance. The pond was home to hundreds of floating lotus flowers on lily pads and the steps were lined with varying sizes of pillar candles. The large structure was set for cocktails upon guests' entrance, but was later transformed into the dancing area.

The groom was escorted on the patterned petal aisle by the bride's brother and followed by her family. In the background, you can see the mandap created with gold, red and amethyst fabric and adorned with strands of jasmine.

During the traditional Hindu ceremony, the bride is showered with rice under the mandap.

This is the interior property at a glance. Because of the rain that followed soon after this photo was taken, we don't have any pictures of how this looked when the sun went down and the candles and the lights started to glow. The head of my Indian production team, upon first seeing it all illuminated, said it looked just like heaven. That was just one of many times that the amazing, talented, and earth-shatteringly hard working Geethanjali Santosh melted my heart. The structure on the right with the flower strands on the poles housed the dinner buffets. The rotunda in the center was where the band played and the structure on the left was the bulk of the dinner seating.

The long tables were adorned with a landscape of pieces... tall branch arrangements with hand-strung orchids and hanging candles, low vases with red mokara orchids, small glass with submerged orchids and floating candles and low pave'd collections of vibrant flowers.

Bangalore's first ever 6-tiered wedding cake was decorated with chocolate by Henna artists to create the authentically Indian motif.

The bride and groom's fathers embraced under a sky illuminated by fireworks. This was my first time ever facilitating fireworks at a wedding - and it was amazing!

Amidst 500 guests and a lot of excitement, this wedding was warm, intimate and full of love. Strangely enough, I found that to be true of my entire experience in India. Certainly, it is busy and crowded and a tad chaotic, but I cannot remember ever being embraced as warmly and openly as in my time in Bangalore. Now, it will forever hold a special place in my heart.

All photos by Sudhir Ramachandran

Happy anniversary, Rushmi and Vikram! And a very happy and healthy New Year to all of you!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday entertaining... LLE Style!

I think the difference between the art of styling and the art of design is often muddled... In my opinion, styling refers to taking existing elements that you are given and organizing them into an aesthetic whole that is more spectacular than the sum of their parts. Design, on the other hand, is about creating a look from the ground up, where you are the innovator of all of the elements.

I absolutely love doing both styling and design, so it was great fun to work with my good friend and genius businesswoman Amanda Allen, on behalf of her brainchild NewlyWish, an online alternative registry service for chic, sophisticated New York couples, to style a gorgeous seasonal tablescape. Design guru Isaac Mizrahi had approached Amanda to put together a stylish and contemporary holiday table for his weekly "webisodes" using tabletop items from her registry merchants on NewlyWish. Naturally, I was honored to be asked to enhance the style of the elements she wanted to showcase on behalf of her merchants.

Isaac's studio is a stylist's heaven as you would imagine! It was props galore! So, I was able to take the gorgeous tabletop items Amanda had selected from merchants like Bobby Berk Home, Fish's Eddy, Bowery Kitchen and Michael Aram and really enhance them with beautiful furniture and finishings to create a cool, but still homey holiday tabletop.

Mismatched plates set the scenes for a tabletop that is friendly, but still formal - an appealing alternative to uber-fancy china and crystal. Also, altering the purpose of tabletop and home items gives them fun new life - these sweet glasses hosted our "Bloody Mary" shrimp and a simple pashmina worked double-duty as a table runner.

Using hand calligraphy for any event or dinner elevates the style and adds a personal touch, so my friend, calligrapher Anne Robin, lent her hand to write these gorgeous place cards. Instead of stands, I used fresh dahlias to prop up the card which tied in perfectly to the simple centerpiece of dahlias, kangaroo paws and baby purple artichokes.

As a side note, this was my first time professionally styling food... and I loved it! I want to use food in every photo shoot from now on! Everything from finding the perfect angle at which to slice the bread to pouring the wine to the perfect level was great fun. And, as with all at home entertaining, adding food to the tabletop made it truly look and feel like a celebration was about to take place.

All photography by Sofia Negron

You can see the Webisode in which this tablescape was featured here.

Happy holidays!