As a huge fan of glorious colour, multi-cultural weddings are such a visual treat for me and I love all the creative ways that our interfaith couples fuse their varying cultures, ceremonies and traditions into one magical blended feast.
Today’s couple are a prime example, and Marcus, the groom, puts it brilliantly, “Quite simply we amalgamated both religions, building the symbolic chuppah/mandap and so weaved together a merry religious dance come ceremony.”
Roupa and Marcus’s wedding is extra special because it has two ceremonies and three (yes THREE!) gowns. So there’s thrice as much wedding pretty for you, and it all takes place in the heart of London at the super opulent Criterion.
But I digress… Marcus and Roupa planned their spectacular, yet very laid back day in incredibly timely fashion, and in a very authentic, creative way. Marcus says, “Roupa was the planner, I was the protagonist and thorn in her side and together we planned a wedding from booking the venue to wedlock in around 12-14 weeks. We brought 160 guests together from all over the world, requesting the soothing colours or cream, ivory or beige to be worn… apart from us! With the opulence of the Criterion, I added brilliant blues and greens, whilst Roupa wore gold and green, mauve, and a luscious red for her three outfits.”
You can understand why I love this wedding already, right? And I haven’t even told you about the Brazilian carnival dancers, the Blues Brothers style entrance up to the chuppah / mandap, the thoughtful home-made wedding favours, not to mention the the DJ playing Mauritian Sà©ga!
Roupa, our inspirational bride, provides the full inside story below, whilst all the stunning photography is by Matt Parry.
How we met
Roupa, the Bride: Marcus and I met on Match.com. I paid for 1 month and thought if I didn’t find anyone in a month then online dating wasn’t for me. Marcus was date number 3 and the rest is history!
A central London wedding venue
I found The Criterion by typing in ‘funky venues in London to get married in’ on Google and up it popped amongst many others. Given the fact that it was in the heart of London, and from the opulence I knew that The Criterion was the one. I cajoled Marcus into leaving a message that very night saying we were interested in visiting the venue for our wedding and the next day we got a phone call and we were booked in for a viewing. Whilst walking to the restaurant Marcus asked me NOT to push him in a corner to say yes…. and 20 minutes of being in the restaurant… that’s exactly what I did and the rest is history so to speak!
Bright colours for us, and muted colours for our guests
I knew exactly what I wanted from the day we saw the venue in May 2014. I envisioned Marcus and I in with a whoosh of gloriously rich bright colours amongst a sea of muted colours (i.e. white/cream/beige/ivory) that our guests would be wearing, the very time I went to see the venue. I had a hard time convincing Marcus that it would work but eventually with some help of friends and family he finally came round to the idea and it worked wonderfully!
An e-wedding invitation, designed by us, and created by our neighbour!
I am a hypnotherapist and so when one of our neighbours came for a session and was about to pay, knowing that he was a graphic designer I decided to be cheeky (my motto is: if you don’t ask in life, you don’t get) and ask him if he was willing to create our e-wedding invite in exchange for free sessions – and the deal was struck. We wanted it to be interactive so that doves would fly holding a banner in their beaks giving details of the wedding. I think Dave regretted accepting to help as he became very stressed out by the end of it all!
We used a very special picture taken in Mauritius for our ‘save the date’ email invite. Marcus very generously surprised me as one of my 50th birthday presents with 6 tickets to Mauritius in October 2014! Off we went in January for this holiday of a lifetime myself, Marcus, Shakira my daughter and her boyfriend Joshua. My eldest Anoushka and her boyfriend who were traveling around the world joined us from Borneo. We spent the most amazing 3 weeks together before Marcus came flew back to London for work and I stayed on for a further 3 weeks to spend some time with my eldest before she went on with her travels to India with Davide. We decided to book ourselves into a swanky hotel called The Outrigger in the south of the island 2 days before Marcus was due to return to London. We went for a long walk on the beach and a kind tourist who was passing by took the picture. The next day, he proposed to me in the infinity swimming pool!
A lilac wedding dress inspired by Vera Wang
A friend asked me to come over to her house to pick up a stash of wedding magazines as she had got married last year and no longer had any use for them. She then asked me to try on her £7000 Vera Wang dress on and it fitted like a glove. Up until that point I had no intention of wearing a ‘wedding dress’ as I had intended all along to wear an Indian outfit and then to change into a long dress afterwards.
Anyway I got my friend to take some pictures of me in her dress on my iPad and then came home and showed them to Marcus and my daughter. They both said I looked fantastic in it and I should ask my friend to let me wear her dress given that she had offered it for me to wear if I wanted to. The seed of surprising Marcus with me in a wedding dress for the civil ceremony was sewn so I decided to look around for a second-hand Vera Wang dress on eBay. They were far too expensive and I just could not justify spending £2000 to £3000 on a secondhand dress for only a couple of hours.
I trawled the internet and came across a site called Etsy and a dressmaker who was able to make a similar dress for the smaller budget I had in mind. I contacted her and asked her if she could make the dress for me in less than a month to which she said she could, so I emailed her my measurements at the end of August and I received the dress on the Friday before my wedding which was on the Sunday – phew!
When I opened the package I screamed as all I could see was the shiny polyester lining and I thought that it was the dress itself but thank God it wasn’t! When I tried the dress it fitted like a glove and in the soft crushed lilac I had ordered – I was in tears….
A 2nd outfit — a red indian dress
My Indian outfit was bought from a shop called Daminis in Green Street in Upton Park. I know that I didn’t want anything too glitzy as Indian wedding outfits can a) be extremely heavy due to all the bead work and b) look like a walking Christmas tree so I must have trawled to over 50 shops in Southall, Tooting, Ilford, and finally to Upton Park.
From experience I knew that Daminis had some special one-off designer dresses and so I went there with great hope that I’d find my dress and I did! As soon as I tried it on, I knew it had to be the one although the skirt was too long and the tunic too big! The shop had one sent over from India for me as the one they had in the shop after coming back from being altered had a snag on the back. It arrived 3 days before the wedding – another phew!
A 3rd dress — a gold lamà© number!
I decided a few days before the wedding that I was going to change into another dress in the evening so that I could have a good old boogie! I bought it from After Shock in Great Titchfield Street near Oxford Street before planning my wedding and it fitted perfectly.
jewellery and accessories
For the ‘Vera Wang’ dress I wore a pair of long dangly Swarovski earrings with only a diamante bracelet – my hair was swept up with a rose in it. There was so much of the dress that I felt that less is more when it came to accessories and it worked like a dream.
For my Indian outfit I had a pair of red and gold hand bracelets, gold anklets and red and gold earrings and a simple red and gold ‘mantika’ which is a piece of jewelry that is placed in the middle parting of the hair and sits on the forehead. I had to wear a red veil as it was the custom in the Jewish wedding for the groom to unveil his bride before the ceremony started. Because the dress was so ornate again I thought less accessories would be more.
For the gold lamà© dress I had gold bracelets on both wrists and my gold anklets – simplicity again was what I was aiming for due to the dress being so glitzy in an understated way.
sparkling diamantà© flats
Not sure if Marcus would be happy with this little piece of info but we’re more or less the same height so I decided to wear flat gold lame diamantà© sandals for the civil ceremony and for the long gold lamà© dress bought from a shop called Unze so as not be taller than him in our wedding pictures. I did buy a pair of silver diamantà© 2 inch heals, again from Unze, but kicked them off just before walking down the aisle for the civil ceremony in my lilac dress.
hair and make up
Given my age (50!) I didn’t want to go for any heavy makeup and I wanted my hair down and flowing. I told the make up artist, Jessica Hunte exactly want I wanted and she suggested coming to house a week before for a dummy run which I was very happy about. As Marcus stated, she is a good friend of my daughter Shakira and also the in-house make up artiste for Katie B the singer. She met us at Claridges (which was a gift from The Critierion! )at 11.00am to start her magic on my hair and makeup as well as for the girls.
The handsome groom
We travelled to Italy to have Marcus’s blue suit made as he had a suit made by Andreas (Anoushka’s boyfriend’s uncle) the year before and was so happy with it. As soon as we walked into his factory I saw Marcus’s suit being made for another client on the table and I instantly said – “that’s the one” but he ummed and arred about it so I left him to it.
Three hours later he excitedly told me after I had gone for a walk that he had found the perfect suit and pointed to the same one I had initially showed him. The suit was then made and flown over for him a few weeks before the wedding. I have always wanted Marcus to wear a waistcoat and he has always found excuses to say that they didn’t suit him so I went behind his back and asked Andrea to make one and send it with the suit. When it arrived and he tried the suit on together with the waistcoat he was over the moon and didn’t stop looking at himself in the mirror saying how well it suited him! The dark green Indian outfit was bought from the same Indian shop as mine Daminis and his gold curly Arabian slippers in Upton Park too.
My two daughters Anoushka and Shakira were my bridesmaids. Anoushka my hippy chick daughter has NEVER worn a long dress in her life and when she said that she wanted something long, glamorous and glitzy I was not only shocked but also tearful. So off we went traipsing all over the West End looking for her dress and we couldn’t find anything that she like so we gave up after 5 hours of shopping and headed to the Criterion for a glass of champagne instead!
She reassured me that she would eventually find what she wanted and hey presto, the next day she showed me a gorgeous long soft pink dress on eBay for £80 We had it altered when it arrived and she must have bought 10 pairs of shoes from ASOS tried them all on with her dress and finally found the one she wanted and her outfit was complete.
Shakira my diva baby made me see red! She was so fussy about what she wanted to wear and ended up ordering a number of dresses from ASOS and other online shops but still couldn’t find anything that fitted well or that we all liked so she gave up a week before the wedding and said “mum you find whatever you want me to wear and I’ll wear it.” So I did! I ordered a long gold glitzy dress and it fitted her like a glove although she thought she looked like a Quality Street wrapper.
music for the ceremony
We had a professional harpist, Diego Laverde playing from 3.30pm onwards throughout the evening. He played two beautiful tunes as I waked down the aisle (twice!) — one of the tunes was for the civil ceremony at 4pm in my lilac dress in front of a 100 guests (it was the requirement of the venue that only 100 guests were permitted for the civil ceremony so we had to invite our family and a few close friends only.)
The rest of our guests arrived at 5.30pm for the HinJew Wedding, where I changed into my red Indian outfit and Diego played another tune whilst again being escorted by my 2 brothers Khevir and Roy. I didn’t know that they had concocted a plan to wear sunglasses to escort me down the aisle, and so there they were synchronizing at which point they were going to remove their shades while I was whispering / hissing under my veil “stop your monkey business — this is supposed to be serious!” They completely ignored me and like a scene from the Blues Brothers they took off their sunglasses together in tandem half way up down the aisle where Marcus was waiting under the mandap/Chuppah. This got the whole room roaring with laughter including me!
The HinJew wedding ceremony
My sister Rekha who lives in Spain recently ordained as a Buddhist monk and therefore we asked her to stand in as our ‘Hindu’ priestess and Marcus’s good friend Greg with whom he often goes to the synagogue with was our rabbi. They put their heads together and wrote out their part in the HinJew ceremony fusing the two faiths into one.
A home made chuppah / mandap
The mandap or wedding canopy is the focal point of every Hindu wedding ceremony, and like the chuppah it is a sacred structure supported by four pillars under which the bride and groom are seated and exchange their wedding vows. I knew from the onset that we weren’t going to hire a plastic one but construct it instead.
We wanted white birch but couldn’t find it for a reasonable price so Marcus put a request up on Facebook asking our friends and family for help. His sister Vicky suggested contacting a park, and he got in touch with Highgate Woods. He was given permission to choose and cut down two Rowan trees. We then took four paint pots, filled them with cement with a plastic pole in each one, and used these as a base for the 4 tree ‘pillars’. We then slotted the tree trunks into the poles and voila, we had our 4 stands!
We then used four rattan plant post for them to stand in and covered the top of the cement with moss. I bought lots of a beautiful burnt orange organza material together with gold organza material from Tooting Market, and my Maid of Honour’s sister, Cavita (who is a costume designer) came over to the house and I explained exactly how I wanted the material draped on the chuppah. She oversaw that it happened as such on the day, and we added lillies on each pillar as they are one of my favourite flowers.
Because The Criterion already had their own flower arrangements and displays I decided to forgo flowers and focussed on making my own bouquet and boutonnieres instead. I chose white and crushed pink roses for bouquets for myself and my daughters and a two tone orange and red rose for the boutonnieres. My daughter Anoushka and (Shakira’s boyfriend) Josh made the bouquets the night before the wedding and our Spanish lodger Jorge and I made 30 boutonnieres. The two garlands, which were used for the HinJew ceremony, were made by my mother and a friend. All the flowers were bought from local florists and Lidl!
our amazing reportage style photographer
We used an amazing photographer called Matt Parry. Having been to so many Hindu weddings I promised myself that I would never go for one of those photographers who dictated where my left foot should go, in what direction my face should turn to and how much teeth I should show…. I typed in ‘quirky photographer’ on the net and I found Matt… and our wedding pictures speak for themselves.
Food and drink
I really did not want to play God and decide who would sit with whom, and have people stuck on a table for two hours or more so I convinced Marcus to drop the conventional three course sit down affair and go for a more casual one; an informal setting where our guests could move around with ease and mingle whilst eating and drinking. We made sure that there was seating for those who preferred to be seated and there were also a number of high tables for those who preferred to perch instead. Given that many of our guests had flown in for our wedding, it was a great opportunity for people to meet one another. We also had to bear in mind that as it was on a Sunday, we only had the venue until 1am. The food was served in small bowls and we had at least six or seven different dishes being brought out. Our piece de rà©sistance was the gazpacho soup in a shaker with dry ice! Five different canapà©s were served after the Civil Ceremony at 5.30pm with mojitos and the bowl food came out at 8pm.
a red velvet wedding cake and a 5-tiered cheese wedding cake!
I wanted a red velvet cake and for it to be gold in colour so as to match the venue but when the cake was brought out I was so disappointed as it was nothing like I had ordered — it was more yellow! It tasted delicious but didn’t look how I envisaged it would at all….
We both are great lovers of cheese and so we also had a 5-tiered cheese wedding cake, which looked stunning as I decorated it with crushed pink roses, ivy, grapes and figs!
our first dance… and two Brazilian carnival dancers!
Our first dance was a love song/ballad sung by Atif Aslam called Pehli Nazar Mein. I organised two surprises for Marcus — both were suggested in the planning very early on but both suggestions were turned down so I decided to go ahead and make an executive decision and have them anyway! One was our dear friend Nat and Elsa were to perform a tango dance for us and the other surprise was I arranged for two Brazilian carnival dancers to make an entrance just after our ‘first dance’. Marcus and our guests received both surprises with great zeal and excitement!
My daughter Shakira, who works in the music industry, was responsible for finding the DJ for the night. The DJ was called DJ Mikey and played various songs, which we had requested, including the Mauritian Sà©ga
Home made favours for our guests
We gave out pink flip-flops for the ladies with ‘tired feet’, and my sister who lives in Spain provided all our female guests with a beautiful gold organza bag containing a bar of handmade Ayurvedic ‘Karmasutra’ soap and a personal message.
Marcus also picked damsons from our allotment and made damson coulis for all the guests to take home – it was a true labour of love!
Creative details that made our day extra special and personal to us
1 – We had a ‘love table’ where all Marcus’s cards that he had handmade for me over the past 7 years together were placed on it together with poem of Pablo Neruda:
“I love your feet
only because they walked
upon the earth and upon
the wind and upon the waters,
until they found me.”
2 — Marcus had over 30 pictures of us in lovely gold frames dotted around the whole place.
3 — We had gold and red petals strewn all over the place, on the low and high tables as well as on the window ledges and banisters.
4 — We had the wedding picture invite of us blown up and framed and sitting on an easel for all our guests to sign.
5 – Two close friends had polaroid cameras and went around taking pictures of the guests and stuck their picture in a leather bound album and got the guests to write something for us beside their picture.
6 – Freeze-dried petals were handed to the guests to throw on us after the HinJew ceremony was performed.
7 – Aspirins, hairspray, mints, deodorant, dry shampoo, plasters, safety pins, hair combs and brushes were placed in both the men and ladies’ toilet.
11 — We bought a kilo of red lips (sweets) and put them in bowls which were placed around the venue
12 — Both Marcus and I chose a poem that we loved and had two of our very close friends read then during the civil ceremony
13 — We wrote our own wedding vows
14 — We had a large birdcage for cards, which I decorated with crimson ribbon and crimson roses
15 — We had a guest-signing book, which was filled with pictures of us taken over the years
16 — Marcus took weeks to write a poem for me, which he read during the speeches
advice to other brides
From booking the venue in mid May to turning up as the bride-to-be in mid-September I had 5 months to plan the wedding. I knew exactly what I didn’t want and that made it easy for me I guess. Marcus and I worked differently, he focused on the small details whereas I had the overall plan in my mind and could envisage how it would look, i.e. the ‘bigger picture’ so to speak.
Most grooms (so I’ve heard) don’t get involved in the nitty gritty of the wedding planning but Marcus DID! My advice to all brides whose fiancà©s want to be involved in every aspect of the wedding is to give them the impression that they are being involved but in reality they aren’t! If they are against anything that you desperately would like, then agree with them but then go ahead and have it anyway as I did with my sexy Brazilian dancers!! Marcus’s jaw dropped as my sexy girls made their grand surprise entrance right after our romantic first dance…
Roupa & Marcus’s LITTLE WHITE BOOK
Venue + catering — The Criterion
Photography — Matt Parry Photography
Bride’s lilac dress — Etsy
Bride’s red Indian outfit — Daminis
Bride’s gold evening dress — After Shock
Bride’s shoes — Unze
Bridesmaids — eBay and ASOS
Hair + Make up — Jessica Hunte
Harpist — Diego Laverde