with Lynne and Leslie

Indian destination weddings: Upscale twists on tradition

by SweetMidlife

To me, a small wedding means less than 50 guests; a large wedding is north of 150. But the other day, over drinks with my friend, upscale Indian wedding planner Amen Pawar-Larosa, she mentioned her “very small” Indian wedding in her native England, one of three nuptial celebrations she and husband Derek had.

“So how many people did you have at that one?” I asked.

“120,” Amen said casually, as if she was saying “Well, just me and Derek and my cousin Jerome.”

Clearly, we’re working with a different ruler when it comes to Indian weddings. This was particularly interesting to us at Bride At 35, because there’s an even greater expectation of marrying young in this culture than in the mainstream American one –  “It’s between 25 and 30, nothing older,” Amen says of the brides she helps with her wedding planning company, Pawar Inc.

So we like Amen’s concept because Pawar, Inc., like this blog, is about making tradition beautifully, uniquely your own – “To marry tradition and modern style,” she says. She got her start working for another planner who happened to book an Indian destination wedding – the bride met Amen and saw a kindred spirit, “which helped seal the deal.” After helping several similar brides, Amen decided to hang her own stylish shingle. She’s even seeing non-Indian brides, like singer Katy Perry, having Indian weddings, which she sees as not an appropriation of a culture but a celebration.

Here’s what you need to know:

— Amen wasn’t technically a Bride at 35, but given cultural equivalency, she might as well be – “To be married and have children by (the age of 28) is so expected,” she says. “My mum would get invited to so many weddings and wonder why I wasn’t getting married. She tried – ‘I have a nice guy coming to meet you!’ It was not happening.” Amen eventually married an Italian-Catholic New Yorker named Derek Larosa (They had three ceremonies: One with the Justice of the Peace, the Indian wedding in England and a blessing by Derek’s pastor in New York).

“We wanted it to be about us, but we saw how things were affecting our parents,” she says. “So we had these awesome parties and said ‘Do whatever you want to do.'”

— Why Indian destination weddings?: Well, why destination weddings, period? Brides want something beachy and probably warmer than their home town, both improving the scenery and cutting the guest list. Where the average guest list is somewhere around 300 for Indian weddings, Amen says, the destination weddings she’s seen host around 150. Although Miami has become a haven for these, Palm Beach, with its swanky hotels like the Breakers and the Four Seasons, “is a hidden gem that no one knows about,” she says. “The beauty of it is that is that you can cut down the guest list. The thing is, that these are well-to-do families, and they hear ‘The Breakers’ and bring the whole family. You think people aren’t going to come, but it’s a good assumption that more will than you think.” (Ain’t that the truth?)

— Many upscale hotels on Palm Beach have Indian chefs already in-house, “but nobody knows this,” Amen says. Well, they do now!

— Traditionally, if the wedding is held in the bride’s home town, it’s a several-day affair that includes an entire community, where the bride’s parents pay for everything. She says that the biggest adjustment has been trying to convince fathers that since “it’s not in their hometown, they don’t have to feed everyone for every meal the whole weekend.”

— Amen says  more and more of the weddings are keeping some traditions but bringing some new twists, like having one partner of a different religion or race,  decreasing the guest list and more – “A lot of these brides grew up in America. They love Louis Vuiton.The ceremony keeps the family element and blends those element with the latest, hipper styles.”

— I have never met an ethnic person who didn’t believe that their ethnicity is traditionally…tardy. Seriously, black people, Cubans, and apparently Indians have a self-recognized reputation for not starting things on time. Amen says that timeliness is the number one obstacle at the weddings that she’s planned – “Indian Standard Time!” she says, laughing. “Keeping everything on time is the priority. With hair and make-up being done I need everyone to be on time. I run a tight ship.”


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