To start off with, I thought I would give you a beautiful photo to look at before I started rambling. As you can see — their first dance was breathtaking. This is going to be a long post… so if you choose to sit in an uncomfy chair, you have been given fair warning. 😉
Where do I start? I had the pleasure of having two of my closest friends with me on this trip – Julie (my assistant and secondary photographer) and Gretchen (our it-wouldn’t-be-the-same-without-her friend). The morning of the wedding got off to a slow start in our hotel room. The day before had started at 3am in order to catch our 6am flight and hadn’t ended until around 2am following the Mendhi. Upon arriving in New York City, I imposed a “rule” — no eating anywhere you could at home. No Chili’s, no Applebees, etc. I obviously didn’t think far enough ahead and guess that Julie (who doesn’t drink a drop of coffee!!!) would impose my own rule on me when it came to Starbucks. AND THERE WAS ONE IN THE HOTEL LOBBY! Well, let’s just say that after five short minutes with my perky morning self — she looked at me, held out her hand, and simply said “give me money and your order… NOW”. What, you think feeding a sleep deprived, groggy & slightly cranky photographer 4 shots of esspresso will help matters? Lucky for them, it does… oh does it ever.
Now awake and looking forward to the afternoon wedding, we headed to the car to join Alexandra for the trip a bit north of Manhattan. The wedding was at the Sleepy Hollow Country Club. You know, the legend of the headless horseman – THAT Sleepy Hollow — headless horseman statue in the middle of town and all. Well, I had looked at the photos on the country club’s website prior to the trip, and while stunning, it was nothing like driving through those huge iron gates and seeing the gorgeous home on the hill — one of the Vanderbilt’s summer homes once upon a time, I’m told. We drove up and saw the beautiful hot pink and orange mundup (ceremony tent), the chairs on the lawn, the reception tent covered in flowing pink and orange fabric. COLOR! pinch me… COLOR, COLOR, COLOR! I was a little excited — just a little.
I learned that getting ready for an Indian ceremony requires more than hair, makeup and stepping into a gown. There is a hair and makeup, a three-part gown, necklace, gorgeous (and heavy!) earrings, then many, many bangles. None of that though would be nearly as beautiful without a smile like Alexandra’s. The texting queen — seriously, if there was a contest for texting at the speed of light, she would win!
This is Shalena (I think… my apologies if I butchered the spelling or just got it plain wrong!) who is about the most adorable mommy-to-be ever. I wish London wasn’t so far away or I would be talking her into letting met photograph her baby in a month or two. You’ll see her later in her hot-mamma dress.
I loved all the traditions and ceremony involved in getting Alexandra ready for the wedding. If I remember correctly, the uncle puts on the bangles and the aunt blesses them. Then, a cousin and a single friend tie these beautiful ornamental pieces (can’t remember the name of them, apologies) on the bangles. So pretty.
There she goes again — pulling that Angelina Jolie look. It made us do a double take more than a couple of times that day.
Sanjay also had a pre-wedding ceremony where the women in his family put on his headpiece. Alexandra mentioned that he couldn’t see well through it, and she wasn’t kidding!
While in the library for Sanjay’s ceremony, I had only seconds to capture these three cuties. All together now — awe!
Time for guests to arrive and enjoy appetizers and refreshing drinks on the lawn.
Right before the ceremony was the “milne” where family members exchange garlands and hugs. One of my favorite things about this wedding was how much it was stressed that this was not just a marriage of two people, but of two families. Traditionally, there are seven days of events leading up to the wedding so that the families get to know one another. I love that! So, when the women exchange garlands, they are sweet and hug – HOWEVER when the men exchange garlands there is a little challenge to see who can best the other by picking them up first. It made for first rate entertainment, that is for sure!
The fathers and mothers…
I’d like you all to meet the Tim half of Tim & Melissa – whose wedding I photographed four years ago. The second I saw this look (see bottom right), I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be ending well (see top left). I think I remember mentioning these to him and he suggested I use the delete button. Sorry, I think Alexandra and Sanjay would have my head if I deleted these priceless photos. Don’t hate me.
Let the games begin!
How else do you pick up your opponent? ha! You know, when there are as many guests with cameras as there were at this wedding, they are going to be in many of my images, there is just no way around it. That is fine – it is a part of their day that I am there to capture. I am curious what he got from his angle… I’ll bet it’s a good one.
Here comes the… groom. I remember Alexandra telling me that a traditional groom’s entrance is on a white horse, however, I’m thinking that it was probably a good choice to go a different route considering it was difficult for him to see. Per tradition, Alexandra was presented by her sister, Melissa.
Alexandra and Sanjay sat in the Mundup (ceremony tent) with both sets of parents and the Pundit. The sun setting over the valley below cast the most ethereal glow and set the stage perfectly.
Since it was so detailed, I’m not going to describe all the traditions (not that I could anyways!) and parts. This is already the longest post I’ve ever done. One thing I do have to mention was that everything in the Mundup was quite formal and ordered, while everything outside of the tent was very casual. Guests would get up, go get something to eat or drink, chat in groups in the back, come back and sit down. I didn’t have to worry about being disruptive with my camera as there were at least 3-5 people within a few feet of the tent taking photos or recording the ceremony at all times.
All the women in the family. I love how Grandma is the one with “camera radar”.
Speaking of cameras — check out this future photographer!
Our favorite part of the ceremony had to be The Promises. With guidance from the Pundit, the bride and groom would promise to fulfill each other’s specific wishes. I can honestly say I’ve never heard the bride promise not to attend a dance club without the groom. So funny! Of course, most were concerned with loving each other, respecting one another’s family, and providing for their new family now and in the future.
Exchange of rings and a much celebrated first kiss.
While it may look light at the end of the ceremony, I can assure you that was only due to strategic camera settings. The sun was setting, and it got very dark, very fast. What to do when you only have a couple of minutes with the bride and groom in the dark? You get creative, use a street lamp for light and go from there.
Alexandra with her dad. Julie and I fondly refer to him as Papa Lucar.
I’m not going to show many from the toasts and dinner, but for those of you who weren’t there — we learned that Sanjay and Alexandra are deeply loved and respected by their family and friends. Both friends and family members spoke and then Sanjay gave his own toasts as well. He said that it was so incredibly special to see all these people that they love dearly in the same room — there to celebrate with him and Alexandra. Oh, and we also learned Sanjay can sing! I was wondering what a musician with a guitar was doing sitting by their table, and then Sanjay just starts to sing the sweetest song to Alexandra. I actually had to force myself not to listen or I wouldn’t have been able to see through the lens and I’m pretty sure they prefer the photographs to be in focus.
PARTY! DANCING! Woo-hoo! The play list and the sound system were the best EVER. If you didn’t want to dance with the beat actually pumping your blood, I think you need to check your pulse.
Sanjay & Alexandra — Thank you so much for inviting us to photograph your wedding celebrations! We are so blessed to have met the two of you and your family. ~ Mary Beth and Julie