A Cultural, Garden-Inspired Wedding in California | Martha Stewart

2022-09-04 13:55:01 By : Ms. xinchun He

It wasn't exactly love at first sight for these two optometrists: Navi was originally one of Katie's patients at their school's student clinic, and the pair didn't speak again until the following year, when he asked her to accompany him to the annual Eye Ball in 2014. "While I said yes, I was ultimately unable to make it!" says Katie. "But we started dating shortly after." In April 2019, Navi proposed, says Katie, "during sunrise in Kawaguchiko, Japan, with Mount Fuji in the backdrop."

After planning a 200-guest wedding for September 2020 in Battle Creek, Mich., the couple scaled back their nuptials and stayed closer to home, hosting 80 friends and family on September 12, 2021, at Klentner Ranch in Carpinteria, Calif. The vision, says Katie, was "a wedding that felt like us!" This meant combining traditions from both their cultures, Vietnamese and Punjabi, into a seamless whole. "We both had varying views as to what we considered a wedding," says Katie. "I have always dreamt of the white dress with my Dad walking me down the aisle and greeting family in áo dài during the reception (chào bàn); Navi had always envisioned the baraat preceding the Anand Karaj (the Sikh wedding ceremony)."

With help from Nancy Park at So Happi Together, Katie and Navi both saw their wishes come to life. Their multi-part big day included a traditional Sikh ceremony with custom formalwear; an afternoon luncheon; a Western ceremony; and a dinner reception. They used the same outdoor space for both ceremonies but flipped the setup to provide two different backgrounds, and used complementary colors to divide the day into two distinct events. "Balancing both cultures and communicating to our families what the day would look like did have its own process as well," says Katie. "With some finesse and guidance from Nancy, we were able to execute a wedding that honored both families and cultures."

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The couple's original save-the-date included a hand-drawn illustration of their original Michigan venue; since they weren't able to incorporate the sketch after moving their event to California, they relied on the Michigan location's lush gardens to inspire their paper suite from Sugared Fig Paperie. A floral garden crest surrounded the text of their invitation and reappeared throughout the wedding-day stationery.

Katie and Navi began their day with a traditional Sikh ceremony, during which Katie wore a custom lehenga from Frontier Heritage. "We designed a beautiful dark red lehenga with colorful embroidered flowers that had a matching dupatta," she says. "The red we chose complemented my skin tone, and we were able to have Navi's pagri—Indian turban—match."

A stone wall covered with draping foliage provided an intimate spot for Katie and Navi to meet before their first ceremony. "Navi had seen my lehenga previously, but was still surprised by the full reveal!" says Katie.

One of the groom's visions for the couple's day was a traditional baraat, a celebratory procession. "Navi rode in on a beautiful white horse, Pearl, with dhol players and the accompanying DJ Raj [from Sound Nation]," says Katie.

A modernized, floral-covered version of a traditional mandap, designed by Heavenly Blooms, allowed guests to face the ocean during the ceremony. To accommodate the custom of loved ones sitting on the ground—with their shoes off, lower than the officiant, an elevated stage provided height, while an off-white carpet on the ground softened the seating area. Pink and white carnations lined the processional aisle, which connected to a stone staircase descending from the venue. The couple also provided parasols to shield guests from the afternoon sun.

After the baraat, Katie joined Navi for a traditional ceremony. "On the morning of the wedding, we began with a Sikh ceremony, Anand Karaj, with the laava phere (the four hymns)," says Katie. "We are both so happy that the milni (garland exchange) was also a time for our families to be involved in the day's events and to meet that morning to exchange the garlands."

The groom sported a Sehra, a traditional beaded headdress, during the ceremony.

At the post-ceremony luncheon, the couple served Northern Indian entrees from Ashoka the Great. A grove of olive trees created a "European garden picnic" atmosphere.

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For the couple's Western ceremony, Katie chose a strapless wedding dress from Oscar de la Renta. "I had tried on an extraordinary amount of dresses," she says. "After all of the appointments and various cuts and styles—many of which I had fallen in love with—I realized I was ultimately craving something timeless and classic. And how could one go wrong with an Oscar?"

After narrowing her search down to a single designer, she caught wind of a nearby sample sale—unfortunately happening during her workday. "In between seeing patients, I frantically called my mom and begged her to go for me," Katie says. "Thankfully, she made the drive, and haphazardly FaceTimed me while scouring the racks. In the end, she had found the perfect white dress with a subtle floral design."

Katie's bridesmaids wore pastel sarees for the first ceremony, and changed into blue gowns from BHDLN and Sachin & Babi for the second. "I asked the bridesmaids to choose their own dresses that would complement each other," says Katie. "I wanted my friends to be comfortable, and I wanted to give them the freedom to choose."

Navi—and his groomsmen—chose classic formalwear from The Black Tux. The groom added a personal touch with a Grand Seiko Snowflake watch that was a gift to him during the couple's Vietnamese Tea Ceremony. "It is customary to receive gifts from our parents to be able to bring luck and fortune into our marriage that could also be passed on," says Katie. "Navi had chosen this watch specifically because of its nod to snow, which is special to Navi and me because we started dating during a very brutal Northeast winter." On his other wrist, he wore a David Yurman cuff, a Christmas gift from the bride.

Related: Why You Should Consider Exchanging Personalized Vows Before Your Wedding Ceremony

Katie's gown, which she revealed before their second ceremony, was a surprise to the groom. "Navi had heard about my many dress appointments and fittings for the perfect white dress," she says. "It was the only dress that he hadn't seen previously and had not received any details about, and I was very excited for him to finally see it. The first thing he said when he saw me was, 'It is perfect.'"

The couple also took some time to privately exchange vows. "My brother passed the day prior to Navi asking me to the Eye Ball," says Katie. "In my personal vow, I had included that I believe that my brother Kevin brought Navi to me."

As for Navi's promises? "My vows also gave a nod to the time in optometry school, our abilities to stay with each other despite two years of long-distance rotations, and our journeys: past, present, and future," he says.

The stone steps that Katie descended before the couple's first ceremony became a flower-filled backdrop, which Heavenly Blooms also designed, for their next one.

Walking down the aisle with her father was a dream come true for Katie. He made the moment even more memorable with a few well-chosen words of encouragement. "While he walked me down the aisle he told me, 'You are a horse—with hard work, things will always work out for you,'" says Katie. "It was a nod to the year I was born on the Vietnamese/Chinese zodiac calendar, and also affirmation that he was as happy as I was about how the day had unfolded."

The flower girl made her way to the altar along a white bloom-edged aisle during the processional.

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Todd Rodarmel officiated the couple's Western ceremony. "I was raised Catholic, and he included a few beautiful blessings," says Katie. "He also did a wonderful job matching our personalities, while staying professional where he needed to be and lighthearted and warm at the right moments."

Katie and Navi chose a family-style meal from Omni Catering, which included passed appetizers—grilled shrimp with green curry sauce, spicy garlic and beef skewers, and ahi tacos served on fresh limes—and Asian-inspired options for dinner. "When Navi and I host dinner with friends, or when we have events, it is always family style," says Katie. "Food is a very important part of both cultures, and we both love trying new restaurants and different cuisines together."

As guests entered the reception area, they chose bookmark escort cards from a display that included a favorite photo of the bride's late brother. "I spent a lot of time during the planning process trying to figure out a way to honor Kevin," says Katie. "He passed at the age of 26, and was an avid reader."

Katie's vision for her wedding included greeting guests during the reception in traditional Vietnamese dress, áo dài. Thai Nguyen created the couple's outfits: "For myself, he designed a custom silver Chantilly lace áo dài with a silver hand-beaded phoenix pattern and silver silk charmeuse pants, and for Navi, he made a blue silk brocade áo dài with a matching hand-beaded phoenix pattern," says Katie. "And to complete the attire, he designed a matching khăn đóng—Vietnamese headdress—for both of us."

At the pair's tented reception, pale blue-gray linens were chosen to match the seaside location, while bistro lights added a cozy sparkle overhead as the sun set.

Low metallic vessels overflowed with white and gold blooms, while pink-tinged glassware and gold flatware added pops of color to the neutral linens. Elegant accents included white ceramic plates, custom menus, and glimmering taper candles.

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The couple attached hand-drawn tags featuring their three pets to their favors: homemade cookies. "The week leading up to the wedding had its normal level of stress, and to cope, I baked about 200 cookies," says Katie. "It ended up being the perfect parting favor."

A 10-piece band from Downbeat Agency gave Katie and Navi the "fabulous and fun" party they wanted.

For dessert, the couple served a Chantilly cream cake with berries from M Cakes Sweets. "Navi individually tried three or four different bakers before landing on this cake," says Katie, who changed into a strapless Ralph & Russo dress with feathers, pearls, and crystals for the second part of the evening.

"This was the ultimate party dress for me," she says. "I had seen Camila Coelho wear this for a feature she had done with Vogue India in May of 2020 and had saved it. I ultimately was able to find it later on and was over the moon. The previous dresses I had worn that day were beautiful, but this dress was just for me."

"To cater to all guests, we requested a mix of oldies and classics with pop, and during the band's breaks, we ensured the DJ played Punjabi music," says Katie. "They did not disappoint, and surpassed every expectation. My uncles and aunts are still—10 months later—talking about the band. I don't believe I left the dance floor during the entire set."

Photography, Sally Pinera Venue, Klentner Ranch Wedding Planning and Event Design, So Happi Together Catering, Ashoka the Great Cuisine of India (lunch); Omni Catering (reception) Flowers, Heavenly Blooms Videography, Hunter Floyd Films Officiant, Todd Rodarmel Stationery, Sugared Fig Paperie Cake, M Cakes Sweets Music, Downbeat Agency (ceremony and reception); Sound Nation (Baraat) Rentals, BBJ/La Tavola; Bella Vista Designs; Bright Event Rentals; Found Rentals Bride's gown, Frontier Heritage (lehenga); Oscar de la Renta Bride's accessories, Thai Nguyen veil; Miu Miu shoes (ceremony); Amina Muaddi shoes (reception); Jennifer Behr hairpins Hair, Tee Hsu Makeup, Julian Morales Bridesmaids' dresses, BHLDN; Sachin & Babi Groom's attire and menswear, The Black Tux Groom's accessories, David Yurman cuff; Grand Seiko watch Lighting, Bella Vista Designs Transportation, EOS Santa Engagement ring, Mark Broumand Reception dress, Ralph & Russo Vietnamese áo dài, Thai Nguyen Wedding rings, Cartier