One month ago, I got married in a wedding merging cultures, family and fun. Get a behind the scenes look at all the details that made this day so special. Make sure you watch the two videos I included, one of of secret Bollywood dance and one of our wedding day highlights!
On June 1st, I officially tied the knot to my extraordinary man, Sebastian. We had been engaged for 18 months after he surprised proposed during a yoga retreat in Costa Rica. Immediately after the engagement, we decided that we wanted anything but a traditional wedding. With Sebastian being an artist, he wanted a personal stamp on every aspect of the day. To say we worked hard is a huge understatement. We poured over details and attempted to be unconventional in every way possible. With so much time to prepare, we carefully thought out each decision and came up with some really cool ideas. Here’s a behind the scenes look at our special day, what we affectionately refer to as “India meets Gotham City.”
First up, we needed a venue. I had my heart set on NYC but after searching high and low, nothing seemed to be working out. Either the venues were too expensive, too small to accommodate, not available on certain dates or just not our style. So I expanded the search to Brooklyn, Long Island City, Jersey City and countless other places. My brother and mother urged me to check out Staten Island (my hometown) but I adamantly refused. I haven’t lived there in 10 years and didn’t feel a connection to it anymore, aside from my entire family still living there. But after viewing 25 venues (yes, 25!) I reluctantly agreed.
Luckily, there was a new venue being built as part of the Hilton hotel complex on the island. My father had done the electrical work for the owners, Rich and Lois Nicotra, who happily met with us to discuss the possibility of using their new venue, Above. Because it wasn’t completed, we checked out artist renderings and learned about their intention to create a NYC venue in Staten Island...sleek, sexy, modern and affordable. I started to really consider this as a potential venue but it was Mr. Nicotra that gave me a final push.
He and my father worked together a few years prior when the Hilton was being built. My father did the electrical work for the building and over time, the two men became friendly. They often discussed going on a double date with their wives but unfortunately, my father passed away before that happened. As a way to make it up to my father, he graciously asked me to have my wedding there. Considering how I wanted to bring my father into my wedding as much as possible, I immediately agreed. Plus, it’s called Aboveand to me, that is where my dad is!
Since we both come from Catholic families, it was an obvious choice to get married in a church. As a devout man, my father want to Church EVERY SINGLE MORNING. Not only that, he was a huge believer in the religion and lived his life accordingly. To honor him, we decided to pick the local church he attended daily, St. Christopher’s. This also happens to be on the street where his office was for the past 35 years. AND two weeks prior to the wedding, it was renamed Kevin J. Walsh Way. (We took some cute pics under the sign too!) However, instead of using a priest from the parish, we chose another priest from Holy Rosary, Father Aufieri. He and my father were great friends and my father donated money, time and electrical work to his parish as well. In addition, he was the priest who gave such a beautiful funeral mass when my dad passed away. It was the perfect combo!
Sebastian and I decided to bring some new, fresh and creative elements to the ceremony. We hired musicians, Angelic Ensemble, to bring in live music. There was two singers, an organist, a flute player, violinist and a cello player. We also chose all of our own music and songs that we loved, plus readings from the Bible read by some of our favorite cousins. Sebastian and I even wrote our own vows. Ironically, both ended with the exact same line: CLEAR EYES. FULL HEART. CANT LOSE.
We also purchased our own unity candle hand-painted with a henna design. Instead of traditional programs, Sebastian created Indian scrolls that unfolded, listing all the important details of the ceremony. They were beautifully presented to each attendee in a long, rectangular box with a silver bow tied on top.
As part of the Indian tradition, Sebastian presented me with a necklace called a Thali. It has seven strands that represent parents of the groom, parents of the bride, the couple and the church. Sebastian’s sister also gave me my wedding day saree called The Manthrakodi, which was draped over my head. It symbolizes my entrance and welcoming into the Alappat family.
After we exchanged vows, pronounced husband and wife and kissed to make it official, we walked down the aisle to greet and hug all of our guests. Waiting at the back of the church were several of my cousins who were passing out a single white balloon to each person. After everyone had a balloon, Sebastian gave a brief acknowledgement to all those who have passed on before us and how we picked these white balloons as a way to honor and remember them. All at once, in unison, we let the balloons go and watched them float away into the crystal blue sky. It was emotional yet uplifting and our way of saying hello to all those in heaven.
We also stopped by the cemetery in our 1955 Rolls Royce (my dad loved old-fashioned cars!) on the way to the reception. Although we did many things to include my father, Sebastian and I also wanted a private moment to remember him. Plus, I wanted to make sure he saw me in my dress :)
The Cocktail Hour
Above is a beautiful, elegantly designed venue/hotel. Our cocktail hour (and a half) was held on the roof, which has an outdoor space in the form of a wrap-around terrance with cabanas and luscious white linens blowing in the breeze. We opted to have a sitar player, Roger, to bring in an ethnic, mystical sound and create a melodic mood. The sun set in the background as people gazed towards the beautiful skyline of Manhattan over a sea of lush green trees. International cuisine was served with a heavy Indian and vegetarian influence. There was a fresh, locally grown vegetable table with unique spreads, breads, olives and cheese. A brick oven served up flat bread pizzas and calzones. There was a sushi station as well as small plates passed around the room. Crowd favorites included chicken and waffles, veggie samosas and minted lamb chops. (I got overruled on a vegan wedding!) Unfortunately, I was too busy mingling and chatting that I didn’t eat anything! But from what I heard, the food was creative and delicious.
During the cocktail hour, we also played a photo montage we created on a huge 30 foot screen. With over 1500 pictures, the slideshow played the length of the cocktail hour. We included pictures from our childhood, trips around the world, family holidays, parties with friends and all the other adventures we have shared since the day we met. It was amazing to glance up and see snapshots of our story.
Also during the cocktail hour, we hired an artist to paint henna designs on guests’ palms. In the Indian tradition, henna is worn by the bride as decoration and good fortune. Our henna girl, Sandhaya, was especially talented; even after working on tons of people, no two designs were the same! We also had a box of bangles (multiple bracelets worn together) and a selection of bindhi's (sticker jewels placed on the center of the forehead) that we purchased on our last trip to India so guests could get festive.
Since our theme was India meets Gotham City, we decided to have an outfit change in between the cocktail hour and reception. Our first outfits were along the traditional line. I purchased a gorgeous yet simple white dress from the sweetest boutique, Lovely Bride. It was the first dress of the first store I tried when shopping for a dress! My mom suggested we give it a vintage flair so we purchased a lace embroidered caplet, silver headband and matching belt. She also let me borrow my grandmother’s old diamond bracelet, ring and earrings to complete the look. I opted for make-up that was light, natural and sweet - nothing too dramatic as I wanted to look like myself. To bring in my dad, I took one of his old shirts and had my tailor cut out a heart and sew it on the inside of my dress, right over my heart. I wanted to keep him close all day!
Sebastian wore a suit that we had custom made last summer in India. A single breasted form fitting cut, it boasted silvery gray hues and caught the light of the day brilliantly. He wore with a light gray shirt and mini-checkered tie. I must say, he looked right out of the pages of GQ! (definitely a hottie!)
While everyone was enjoying cocktail hour, Sebastian and I snuck away to the bridal suite. I changed into my wedding day saree, an intricately sewn, be-dazzled traditional Indian wedding dress that his three aunts and mother needed to help me put on. With tons of wrapping and folding material and about 100 safety pins, the saree was secured. My make-up was enhanced, darker liner around the eyes, contoured cheeks, an obvious pink lip. My hair was let down and a tikka, or Indian headdress, was strewn across my forehead. Honestly, I felt like a goddess! Sebastian also transformed into a Maharaja prince. He wore a Sherwani, which is a long jacket to the knee and matching pants, plus curly toed shoes, a red scarf and a turban hat. We looked like Aladdin and Princess Jasmine!
We couldn’t have the bridal party in regular clothes so when we traveled to India, I bought 8 matching sarees for each bridesmaid. They were also teal with silver paisleys and they looked absolutely stunning on each girl. I also scooped up matching bangles, earrings and bindhi's to complete the look. Since these girls never wore sarees before, I was super impressed at how well they managed. Not only did they keep them on, but they danced and partied too!
To keep with the Indian theme, we dressed the groomsmen in black Nehru jacket, which is a hip-length tailored coat. Underneath, we had them rocking teal colored tie to match the girls. I must say, they all looked pretty dapper, too.
But what really stole the show was the ring-bearer and flower girls. I don’t think they even noticed me once these kids started walking down the aisle!
Months before the wedding, Sebastian and I started taking dance lessons in preparation for our first dance. We wanted to surprise our guests with something crazy and decided a Bollywood dance would be a perfect way to get the party started. After we were announced by the DJ, we started slow dancing to our wedding song, “Steam Engine” by My Morning Jacket. We secretly discussed it with the DJ so after about 45 seconds into the song, he purposely starts messing up the music. Of course we tried to look surprised and embarrassed. Once Jai Ho started, we broke out into our 2 1/2 minute choreographed dance. It was amazing! I’d rather you watch for yourself so please check it out here.
We put a lot of little touches on the wedding to make it unique. We had a photo booth during the reception with lots of funky hats, scarves and glasses for guests to take hilarious photos. At the end of the evening, all the photos were compiled into a book for us to keep as a reminder of our wedding day.
In lieu of a guest sign-in book, Sebastian illustrated an extremely detailed barren oak tree with myriads of branches stemming from the center trunk. At 2.5' x 4.5' on white bristol board, the “Thumb Tree” was set up on an easel at reception. We asked each guest to pick a color ink pad and 'ink' their thumb on one of the branches. After leaving a thumbprint, each guest signed their name underneath. After the evening was over, we had a colorful tree full of thumbprints from family and friends. Now with the wedding is over, our "Thumb Tree" is blooming with the prints of all our beloved family and friends. We are framing it and hanging it as a piece of art in our home.
We also had a section of the reception room dedicated to our collection of scrapbooks. After every big trip Sebastian and I take, I always put together a compilation of pictures, receipts, postcards and any other memorabilia. We had books from Costa Rica, India (both trips!), memories from our relationship dating back to 2008, the Maldives and Peru. During the reception, guests would pursue over and take a glimpse into our adventures.
We had handmade henna champagne glasses for the toast, which was epic. Sebastian’s best man, Kaz, gave a hilarious, comic infused, heart warming speech about their friendship spanning almost 20 years. He highlighted favorite memories, teased Sebastian about his exaggerated love of life and had the entire crowd in stitches. But the best part was when he ripped open his shirt to reveal a Batman t-shirt and proceeded to fasten a Batman mask to his face. Every single person in the room was on the floor!
My sister in law gave a much more emotional, sweet and endearing toast, expressing her love and appreciation for us both. She looked like a goddess (even as a mom of 3!!)
Since Sebastian loves his whiskey, we also had a special section of the bar dedicated to whiskey tasting. Favorites included Johnnie Walker Blue, Jack Daniel’s White Whiskey, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey and Bulleit Rye. This inclusion was a big hit among alot of the guys in the wedding. I usually don’t drink but I found myself involved in more than one round of shots!
Instead of favors, we decided to make a donation to the Edeyo Foundation, the organization I traveled with to Haiti to teach children yoga. Our donation enabled one child, a 8 year old boy named Chelsey, to attend school for one year and have one nutritious meal a day. Better than any favor we could find!
We set up a small memorial table next to our dais of family photographs of those no longer with us but who were at the wedding in spirit. I loved looking over and seeing my pop's smile. We also included my uncle and both our grandmothers (who both passed away within hours of each other). Their presence has been felt thoughtout our lives and it was truly wonderful to have them there as well.
The flowers were done by my mom’s best friend, MaryEllen (part of Carrolls Florist) and she took great lengths into making it unique, vibrant and colorful. She opted for bright orange and fuchsia flowers to stand out in the large white room of Above as well as against the bridesmaids’ sarees. Extra flair was added using feathers, ribbons, beading and crystals. The centerpieces varied from table to table and when you walked into the room, they definitely popped!
The cake was carefully created by Sebastian to reflect the design of the invitation he had crafted. It was four square tiers, stacked on top of each other with silver and teal intricate paisley designs. It was incredible! The baker, Jackie, nailed it and topped it with our special wedding monogram. As a special treat, because Sebastian is a hugeBatman fan, she created a small Batman poking out of the edge of the cake! (He did find a way to sneak Batman into the wedding after all!)
Batman on our wedding cake!
The reception was the ultimate bash. Our DJ, Jack Bermeo of LJDJ's did an amazing job of keeping the energy high. After we finished our dance and invited everyone to join in, the dance floor was packed for most of the evening. We only took breaks for food, which was presented in three courses. Sebastian shared a lovely dance with his mom and instead of a father-daughter dance, we had the DJ create a mix of all my father’s favorite songs. We asked everyone to dance there hearts out as the music flooded guests’ memories with times they shared with him. It is special and celebratory and even though many got choked up, it paid tribute to the party animal my father was.
Sebs leading the charge!
I spent most of the night dancing, jumping, singing and getting crazy. At one point, we were lifted on chairs and several strapping young men moved us up and down. Aside from being a little tipsy, I was sure I was going to fall off and break a bone! I was half-laughing, half-screaming and squeezing my abs so tight for balance. Luckily, they grew tired and eventually put us down. Shots were delivered right to the dance floor so we didn’t even need to leave the dance floor to get a drink!
Later in the evening, the percussionist came to the dance floor, beating some drums and allowed some of our guests to play. It was so fun!
We skipped tossing my garter because it was made out of fabric, lace and pearls from my grandmother’s old blue blouse but I did toss my bouquet to a crowd of ravenous women.
And then the dancing continued....
Sebastian's parents getting down!
We had over 20 kids at the wedding and even they were dancing!
At 1am, the reception ended but the party continued....
Since we love to party, we had an afterparty back on the roof for any guest that was still standing. We reserved a corner cabana with a blazing fire pit and hookahs we imported from Morocco. Not everyone made it out because it was already after 1am but there was a large group of us that lasted until closing at 3am. I was one of the last people standing, still in my wedding dress!
The next morning we shared brunch with our guests reliving stories of the evening. In all honesty, it was perfect. Every detail, every extra effort and all of our energy was totally worth it. We created a really special wedding and many guests told us it was the best wedding ever! I was sore for 3 days but worth every ounce of pain.
Now my intention is to have a marriage as epic, perfect, fun and beautiful as our wedding.
The Honeymoon - Coming soon....South Africa in August !
Check out a highlight video of the wedding here.
All photographs/videos used in this blog are taken by our amazing photographer and videographer, Michael and Jason Roberts.
Props to my amazing make-up artist, Lisa and hair stylist, Adriana. You did a great job!