All the years we have been doing wedding photography, we’ve seen so many different cultural weddings, and each time it has been exciting learning about each new tradition and symbolic custom. Yet there was one we’ve been waiting for years to see, and it was finally here. When Heena and Ruwan asked us to photograph their traditional Indian wedding in San Francisco, we were ecstatic! And then quickly realized we were about to enter a whole new world of wedding traditions that we had never encountered. Good thing the bride and groom were as clueless as we were about the meaning behind every symbolic gesture, so everything was carefully explained step-by-step on the wedding day. And in the end, we realized it was really just about the joining of two hearts and two families, like all other ceremonies, only this one was a couple of hours longer (smile).
The night before the big day, we joined Heena and Ruwan (and a whole lot of guests wearing beautiful sari!) for their Mehndi celebration—an evening full of henna tattoos, Bhangra, festive performances, and enough dancing to get us excited for the party to follow. The bride even made a surprise guest appearance in one of the performances to show off her dancing skills! After an amazing show by the Berkeley Bhangra team, everybody got busy filling up the dance floor and partying like the wedding had already happened. But we all knew this was just the beginning!
The morning of the wedding was rather quiet as our beautiful bride started putting on her outfit, piece by piece. Even though everything from head to toe weighed about fifty pounds (yikes!), all the extra weight was well worth it because Heena looked absolutely stunning! In the other room, a couple of confused groomsmen tried to figure out how to dress themselves in foreign outfits, which made for quite a funny start to an unforgettable day.
The ceremony was a colorful (and flavorful) affair, and behind every garland, stone, petal, and grain of rice, there was a beautiful story to be told. We watched (since most of the ceremony was performed in Sanskrit) as Ruwan patiently waited behind the veil for his bride to meet him, and as the two families gave their blessings to the newlyweds. With heartfelt words and an endearing, tearful goodbye, the new mister and misses began their new journey together with the prayers of all their loved ones close at heart.
The Julia Morgan Ballroom transformed into a beautiful reception space where a massive celebration was about to break loose. A couple of Heena and Ruwan’s guests even put together a surprise Flash Mob performance that reinterpreted their love story, Bollywood style! The songs and dances did a wonderful job of getting everybody off their feet and onto the dance floor for an evening of raw, unbridled, and unforgettable festivities. With everybody’s hands still in the air, we left the party with the beat lingering in our ears, and a sweet feeling of satisfaction that our first ever Indian wedding nearly rocked our socks off (smile). What a way to celebrate! Congratulations, Heena and Ruwan!