When Santhi and James told us there’d be fire wrangling and spirited dancing at their Indian/Greek wedding, we couldn’t be more excited. We had a blast with them during their Stanford engagement session and had no doubt their wedding day would be even more spectacular.
Indian weddings can span multiple days, and Santhi and James held their celebration over two, starting with a henna (mendhi) party at the David Brower Center in Berkeley. The multihued saris donned by many of the guests were dazzling, as was the intricate handiwork of the henna artists. Toward the end of the evening, Santhi’s sister and friend performed a smile-inducing Bollywood-inspired dance.
The next day, everyone converged on the lawn of UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science, which was outfitted with a mandap for our couple’s ceremony. Santhi was stunning in an orange and gold sari, with flowers woven into her long, braided hair. James looked regal in white traditional garb with gold accents. Also dressed in traditional Indian outfits, his groomsmen wore boutonnieres featuring pohutukawa flowers and billy buttons, which are native to New Zealand (James spent a good part of his childhood there).
The ceremony involved not only Santhi and James but their families and guests. The blur of non-stop action included the throwing of lime-and-turmeric solution to ward off evil, the washing of limbs and fruit, the wielding of fire, the feeding of ghee to said fire, and the crossing of pinkies (really!). In addition to exchanging garlands and wedding bands, Santhi and James took seven steps around the fire to represent their seven wedding vows. Their parents then sprinkled them with flowers and yellow rice to bless them.
After the ceremony, guests inhaled delicious grub from Udupi Palace while we whisked our newlyweds to the other side of the LHS for portraits and sweeping views of the bay. We loved that Santhi insisted on taking photos with the giant animatronic insect displays inside the interactive museum.
Before we knew it, it was time to make our way down the hill to their reception at the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens, which boasts more than 13,000 different kinds of plants from around the world on 34 acres. Santhi and her ladies changed into yet more colorful saris, while James wore a navy blue suit.
The festivities continued with music by the Klipptones, hilarious toasts, warm words, and more eating and drinking (we bet many of the guests were still stuffed from lunch but couldn’t turn down the amazing spread of Greek specialties nor the California and New Zealand wines). We knew that Santhi’s a mechanical engineer, but we were still impressed that she designed and laser-cut all the plastic charms (robot with heart, beaker with heart, octahedrals) for the Greek almond favors and assorted decorations. The honeycomb pattern in particular was actually the iridate structure of a family of materials that James (an experimental physicist) works on. Somehow, she also had time to paint their whimsical cake topper!
Alexis, a childhood friend who grew up with James in Athens, gave a rousing performance of traditional Greek wedding songs that compelled James to enthusiastically pull guests into a dance circle. In return, Alexis’s wife Marianna attempted to teach them how to dance Greek-style. (Alexis’s mom, by the way, was James’s kindergarten teacher. She attended the wedding and brought a framed painting that James had made when he was six years old as a gift. How incredible that she kept it after all these years!)
James and his groomsmen later surprised everyone with a Greek dance number. This kicked off a lively dance party, not to mention several serious dance-offs between James, Santhi, and her brother (happily, everyone walked away unscathed, although we wonder if James was able to walk the next day…). At one point, Jimmy, one of the caterers, picked up the bouzouki and started jamming with Alexis! Wow! Here are some of our favorite moments from an unforgettable day.
Wedding sari (tailored blouse): Nalli Silks (Chennai)
Wedding jewelry (gold): GRT Jewellers (G.R. Thanga Maligai, Chennai)
Head jewelry & waist belt: Chaahat Jewellery
Reception sari (tailored semi-stitched lehenga choli): Nalli Silks (Chennai)
Bridesmaids outfits: Designed by Santhi with material from Nalli; tailored in Chennai
Henna party outfit: KAY (designer Helina; Chennai)
Make-up: Maria Landoni-King
Hair: Violeta Obrera
Groom’s wedding outfit: Nalli Silks (Chennai)
Groom’s reception outfit: Kenneth Cole suit, Van Heusen shirt
Rings: Jewelry Exchange Co. (San Francisco)
Priest: Naga Venkata Sastri Marepalli
Favors: Mantoles (sugar coated almonds) from Lixouri, Kefalonia; organza favor bags custom-sewn in India.
Henna party food: Vik’s Chaat Corner (Berkeley)
Ceremony lunch: Udupi Palace (Berkeley)
Reception caterer: Mezes Kitchen and Wine Bar (San Francisco)
Cake & cupcakes: Angel Cakes
Boutonnieres & garlands: SoMa Flowers
Other flowers: San Francisco Wholesale Flower Mart, assembled by James’s mom and aunt
Band: The Klipptones
Equipment rentals: Hartmann Studios