Today I am bringing you the most immense interfaith wedding that came to my attention courtesy of the wonderful By Petronella. It’s a cultural extravaganza full of heart and sentiment, and anyone planning, or even thinking about, an interfaith wedding ceremony must read Neela’s W-day report.
I can’t promise that her wedding to Jeffrey won’t make you cry, as at the end of the post is the wedding film by Mae B Films and hearing them recite their personalised vows set me off… I may just have shed a tear or two over how pure and emotive it was. Instead of feeling constrained by their interfaith ceremony, as some couples do, Neela and Jeffrey’s was an undiluted celebration of love in its very purest form.
Apart from the obviously very happy and very in love Neela and Jeffrey, and the unbearably gorgeous setting (a deer makes an appearance!), this wedding is all about the magical blend of cultures for me.
Oh and there’s the sparkler send-off…yep an actual send-off with hundreds of sparklers — I love that idea – and what a great photo opp! Take it away, Neela and Jeffrey.
a rustic country wedding venue
Neela, the Bride: We chose the venue because of its natural beauty, rustic setting and low key vibe. We visited the area in the Autumn of 2013 and felt very connected. We also loved that no cell phone service was available in the area which allowed us and our guests to disconnect from the busy city life, reconnect and have a mini retreat. We fell head over heels in love with the barn on our first visit to Full Moon Resort. It simply brought a magical feeling the moment we stepped into it. Growing up in the country, the setting brought a sense of home for me. We both felt a sense of belonging and peace amidst the mountains.
For our Save The Dates, we bought a set of post cards in the Catskills on the day we booked Full Moon Resort. These read “Finally found a place we could afford.” On the card was a broken down building in the forest. These were very funny to us, we were engaged for two years before we announced our wedding date. Our friends and family always asked when we were getting married. We always replied “when we find a place we can afford.” We bought a “save the date” ink stamp and ink, we stamped the post cards. We hand wrote the date and location. Once again our guests loved them.
For the invitations, we used kraft paper tags and hand stamped “N&J”on them. We then tied one tag with jute to each invitation, and it was a DIY hit.
two wedding dresses and two pairs of shoes!
Instead of the traditional red lengha, I choose a pink,beige and silver floor length Anarkali (the traditional East Indian wedding dress) for the ceremony which was made in India. The white lace dress with Swarovski details and belt from Allure Bridal‘s collection I purchased at Lotus Bridal.
For my shoes I wore Pettal by Badgley Mischka in satin pink with a heel height of 4 3/4 inches! I did however change into more comfortable dancing shoes during the reception. These were French Connection Desiree platform wedges. They were cute, comfy and fitted right in with the rustic barn.
hair + make up
Abby Falore-Ayodeji of Juicy Looks did my hair and makeup. We knew it was going to be a warm first day of September and I wanted to ensure I was comfortable throughout the ceremony and reception. I chose a simple up do with a side bun which allowed the beautiful back details of both my dresses to shine. I loved the simplicity of my hair that day.
Make up was a bit tricky for me, I was torn with wanting a glamorous look to accompany my ceremony Anarkali (my traditional East Indian wedding dress) and a toned down look for my white bridal gown. Abby worked her magic and gave me a look that made me feel stunningly beautiful and worked with each gown. Abby and my best friend Kezyann got me into my Anarkali and pinned my veil also known as an ‘orni’. Kezyann assisted in getting me ready for the reception, she helped me into my white bridal gown and took on the role of “lady-in-waiting.”
The handsome groom
Ian wore a trim fit, two button, peak lapel black tuxedo which we purchased at Dante Zeller in Bayridge Brooklyn. He also wore the same yamaka and tallit he wore at his Bar Mitzvah. In addition he wore the watch I bought him on our four year anniversary.
sisters rather than bridesmaids!
I did not have bridesmaids however, I wanted my sisters to walk down the aisle and they did. They walked down the aisle along with their children who were the flower girl and ring bearer. My sisters wore identical sarees which reflected our East Indian heritage. Their sarees were purple, the colour palette we chose for our family to incorporate in their attire that day.
Our Indo-Trini-Jewish wedding ceremony
As Jeffrey stood under the chuppah he had the same look on his face as he did two and a half years prior when he proposed to me. He looked nervous yet so happy. He stared at me so lovingly, I felt so moved, usually I am moved to cry but I was gleaming with joy, I had the widest smile, I was so excited to get my man! I even pointed at him and said “I’m coming for you”.
We waited what we thought was a long time to get married and we worked tirelessly on planning and executing our wedding. We both were looking at each other with so much love and joy, we couldn’t believe it was finally happening. My husband-to-be stood there in his Judaic gear looking absolutely handsome. I was so proud, he was mine. The setting completed the moment, it was all a fairytale.
Jeffrey, the Groom: Standing under the chuppah/mandap watching Neela walk down the trail and down the aisle, I felt such a strong feeling of love and she looked absolutely beautiful, we were finally getting married and I was overwhelmed with happiness.
Our interfaith ceremony incorporated elements from both our beloved cultures and truly made it a very different experience for our guests. Our guests exclaimed it was their first Hinjew wedding and the best wedding they had ever been to!
Jewish elements for our interfaith ceremony
- Rabbi Zoe B Zak gave a modern explanation for breaking the glass as seen in the wedding video. It was very meaningful to both Ian and myself. That lady can also sing! We adore her!
- Jeffrey wore the kippah (yamalka) and talit which he wore at his Bar Mitzvah 31 years ago
- Rabbi Zak sang in Hebrew to welcome the groom and blessing of the chuppah, and recited a wine blessing with the Kiddush cup that was used at Ian’s Bar Mitzvah.
- She also sang Dodi Li a Judiac love song, and recited the seven Judaic blessings
- Jeffrey smashed the glass!
Indo Trini cultural elements for our interfaith ceremony
- My eldest sister, Anuradha Hansraj, sang a hindi love song during the ceremony to celebrate our marriage. It was heartfelt and we were honoured to have her serenade us and our guests with her beautiful voice on our wedding day.
- My mum recited the prayer to Lord Ganesha meant the world to us and my mum. Jeffrey was especially grateful that we were able to include my religious beliefs and honour my mum and our family
- ‘Gath-Bandhan’ also known as tying the knot. My brother Videsh, tied my veil/orni and Ian’s talit symbolising that our happiness is in our bonding and unity forever
- Sindoor application – My sister assisted Jeffrey to apply ‘Sindoor’ (red vermillion powder) in the part of my hair. The wearing of ‘Sindoor’ indicates I am married
- Indian sweets were distributed after the ceremony by my sisters. We incorporated this to thank our guests for celebrating with us and also to celebrate the joining of our cultures. Distributing sweets during a Hindu wedding is also tradition.
‘Jaimala’ – the exchange of garlands between Jeffrey and Neela symbolising acceptance of matrimony
Neela, the Bride: The garlands were missing, then were damaged along the way and were not tied properly. While we scrambled to tie them during the ceremony Jeffrey laughed and said something that went like this “it’s fine, these represent the ups and downs and the craziness of our wedding planning process, and it’s the truth.” I laughed too and he was right, not everything ran smoothly during the wedding planning process or on the day of the wedding but we’re not perfect either and we were celebrating us, we were getting married and we were/are madly in love. Our garlands were beautiful and imperfect just like us.
Steel pans to represent Neela’s Trinidadian heritage
Traditionally in my Indo-Trinidadian culture the band accompanies the groom and his guests to the ceremony location. This procession is called the Baraat. It’s a time of celebration and dancing. The groom is celebrated by all the guests. This was important to me, growing up in Trinidad whenever tassa was heard everyone knew a wedding was taking place. The sound of the drums and the other instruments tug at your heart and creates excitement, it makes you want to dance. I wanted Ian to be celebrated in this way and I could not imagine not hearing the sound of the drums that would signal my groom was on his way. Simply put tassa was a wedding staple for us.
We wanted a chuppah and a mandap which essentially are the same thing. Four posts with a covering. It was a must-have for our ceremony since it was one of the elements that brought together our religious and cultural backgrounds. Since the ceremony space was tucked among the trees in the meadow and was simply breath-taking on its own we wanted a simple chuppah and mandap. Lydia of Catskills Flower Shop delivered with birched branches for our posts, a burlap covering and a statement floral piece. It was truly marvellous. The blooms were divine.
bouquets, buttonholes and centrepieces
My bouquet incorporated white and ivory roses with accents of pink garden roses, spray roses, pink spray stock and silver brunia. Ian’s buttonhole included pink and white rose buds, and silver brunia, and our centrepieces were ball jars with assorted flowers in shades of white ivory, lavender and purple, and pink roses, alstomeria, hydrangea, stock and larkspur.
We had wooden box signs that were placed around the reception space. These were handpicked by us and were meaningful to us, some of them read “I love you more than bacon” ( because Jeffrey loves bacon) and “I love you more than my phone” (because Jeffrey pokes fun at the amount of time I spend on my phone).
On the tables we had doilies and frayed burlap as chargers. Lace was attached to the votives which added to the vintage country vibe. We also had vintage lights strung above the dance floor in the barn. We incorporated old books wrapped in kraft paper and lokta fine paper which added to the vintage look. The table numbers we purchased on Etsy, they were made with wood, then stained and hand painted.
Steelpan Bob Marley songs during the cocktail hour
Ian was adamant about having a relaxing, low key cocktail hour where we could chat and mingle with our guests. The sound of the steelpan was just perfect and it brought an island vibe also incorporating my Trinidadian heritage. Ian is a Bob Marley fan and Aston Ellis of Robanic Reggae Band played Marley songs. It was very entertaining, peaceful and fun.
music that highlighted our cultural backgrounds
Our DJ, Impulse Sounds, incorporated a mix of music that got our guests on the dance floor and which also highlighted our cultural backgrounds. Hindi love songs were played when my parents welcomed Jeffrey to the ceremony location, when our flower girl, ring bearer and my sisters walked down the aisle. A hindi love song was also played when my mom accompanied me down the aisle.
Having a DJ was very important to us since it gave us the opportunity to incorporate a lot of music we love and that celebrated everyone attending. Our DJ also played the traditional soca and chutney (which derives from Trinidad) during our reception.
dancing the hora
The hora was played during the reception which everyone thoroughly enjoyed. Being hoisted on the chairs by our family members during the Hora was one of the most special moments for me. Jeffrey waved the napkin for me to grab, and looking at him reaching for me ,and the joy on his face made my heart melt. I felt a different kind of connection to him, he was sharing a part of him, his culture, an outpour of love from him and his family during that moment. My family was so excited and joined in, and it was truly a remarkable experience. The true meeting of our families.
floral-filled bottles as escort cards and favours
Our escort cards were small bottles filled with assorted stems of pink, ivory roses, alstomeria, stock, silver brunia and larkspur. A hand written tag hung from the bottle neck with the guest’s name and table number. We invited our guests to keep these as a memento of the day.
We (and our guests!) loved this idea so much because it was an interactive process. Guests received their bottles of blooms upon their arrival to the reception space, they took it to their tables where they added to the decor. The bottles of blooms became part of the centrepieces. The hand written tags attached really personalised the experience for our guests. Many of them thanked us for handwriting them.
indian jewellery favours
Indian Bangles and Bindis were placed in a rustic tray along with a mirror and were ready upon our guests arrival. The female guests and the children attending adorned themselves with them. It was a way to immerse our guests into our multicultural wedding.
The after party was held after the reception in the road house. We had grilled cheese sandwiches and french fries along with an open bar and music played from our friend’s iPods. It was a time to chill and mingle, everyone changed from their wedding attire to casual wear and hung out in their summer dresses and shorts. Ian loved the grilled cheese and the time off camera. It was the pefect end to our night.
our wedding cake, and a ski-themed ‘groom’s’ cake
We love cake! Our cake on that day; three layers, two layers of chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and one with lemon cake with vanilla buttercream. We designed a simplistic, yet elegant cake. However, we did not receive the cake we designed on our wedding day. Since we love cake it didn’t bother us, we celebrated and danced the night away.
We also had a groom’s cake which was a surprise for Jeffrey from me! The cake was of course chocolate, Jeffrey’s favourite. The theme was ski-ing, with figurines of Jeffrey and two of his best friends. All three absolutely loved it, and it was a tribute to their annual boys only ski trips.
Our reception concluded with a sparkler send off, it was fun, pretty and created an interactive experience for our guests!
Reading Smashing The Glass
We only learned about Smashing The Glass recently and love the multicultural, interfaith and same sex celebrations that the you feature. We’re so excited and honoured to be featured. Thank you for sharing our love with the world.
Watch Neela & Jeffrey’s wedding film
Neela + Jeffrey’s LITTLE WHITE BOOK
Photography — By Petronella
Videography — Mae B Films
Venue + catering — Full Moon Resort
Bride’s East Indian wedding dress (Anarkali)— made in India
Bride’s white wedding dress — Allure Bridal from Lotus Bridal
Bride’s shoes — Badgley Mischka and French Connection
Groom’s tuxedo — Dante Zeller
Florals — Lydia Castiglia of Catskills Flower Shop
Favours — Save on crafts
Cake — Chef Adam Kowalsky of Full Moon Resort
Hair + Make up — Abby Falore-Ayodeji of Juicy Looks
Rabbi — Zoe B Zak
Invitations- Invitations by Dawn
Steel Plan – Aston Ellis of Robanic Reggae Band
DJ — Impulse Sounds
Tassa – Young Generation Tassa Group