When Neil emailed me about featuring his wedding to beau Eli, I got weepy. I know I’m the weepy kind, but their story was not only adorable but so much fun.
And we couldn’t be happier to support our community with a same sex wedding from the Bay Area, California. Neil and Eli had a classic Hindu ceremony that was updated to reflect modern, gender equal rituals. You need to grab a tissue box because their pheras will make you weep!
They also were super sweet and shared a few photos from their honeymoon. I think they’re sorta para-gliding in the photo below. Whatever water sport it is, it looks badass.
And that koala, couldn’t help but giggle because I think he was up to mischief.
Anyway, back to Neil and Eli’s wedding. They got married at the Wedgewood Banquet Hall in Brentwood (East East Bay for those in the know), California. The style was Bollywood and the colors blue and red in an outdoor setting.
Neil shares all the wedding day details with us!
Tell us about the wedding
Our wedding was the traditional north-Indian style wedding tailored to our ceremonial needs. Our style was Bollywood and a lot of ideas taken from the movie Kisna. We incorporated both Indian and American traditions during the ceremony and reception.
We wanted to gift each other an heirloom jewelry piece; something we could pass down to our children. So we surprised each other with gold jewelry before the wedding! We also had traditional sherwanis custom made.
We also wanted the traditional Indian ceremony, so we searched high and low to find a pundit who would perform a same sex Indian ceremony without hesitation. Dr. Shukavak Dasa had performed the same sex wedding last year for Shannon and Seema, and we contact Seema and reached out to Dr. Dasa for his thoughts. He was very open to the idea and walked us through an entire wedding and asked us which rituals we wanted to keep and which we didn’t. So kanya daan and mangala sutra were a couple of the items we took out.
Marriage is not just about rituals. Rituals were created by man and love by God. So we designed the ceremony to exclude all the rituals that were degrading to women and unequal…like kanya daan. Eli and I are feminists and believe regardless if we were getting married to women or men, certain rituals needed to go.
The rituals were tailored to represent us as equals in the relationship; including the satapadi and the pheras. We were happy that we could keep the ceremony as modern as possible without losing the traditional touch.
What was the inspiration for your wedding?
The big inspiration for a traditional Indian wedding was all the other Indian or interracial same sex couples who had always wanted a traditional Indian wedding, but were told it was not possible. So we decided to go big, and show the community this could be done without issues. We wanted to show that a same sex Indian wedding could be just as extravagant as a traditional wedding.
Eli and I always had difference in opinion when it came to some vendors and vision for the wedding. Also, sticking to the budget was impossible. It’s like something came over us and we upgraded everything. That was the one thing we saw eye to eye. LOL!
Did you do any DIY (do it yourself) or special projects/things at the wedding?
Yes. We did custom gift bags for our guests when they checked-in to their hotel. We made a “Welcome to our wedding” gift bag for all our guests staying the night. We also made custom water bottles with our picture and wedding date on them for all guests during the ceremony. We also made a custom framed seating chart.
We also choreographed our first dance and a group dance with our nephew. That was hard but fun!
What was your favorite part of the wedding?
Oh gosh! All of it. But there are a few moments which stick out more.
What advice do you have for future brides/grooms-to-be?
Be prepared to exceed your budget. The best advice here: plan around the original budget, but set money aside for the extras (Save double your budget amount).
Listen to each other’s ideas and concerns around all planning. Do things together, especially when shopping for vendors.
Get a mix tape of your DJs’ music before booking them. You don’t want to be stuck with a bad DJ on your special day.
We hope we have inspired other same sex couples to live their wedding dreams. We also hope others in the Indian community can open their minds, be loving, and accepting when one of their relatives decide to marry their partner.
Marriage is a beautiful thing, almost a right of passage in life, and it was so amazing to go through it.
Thank you so much Neil for sharing your wedding with us! We are all a bit weepy with love and happiness now.
Ceremony & Reception Venue: Wedgewood Wedding Banquet, Brentwood, CA // Decor: Satvir Bhogal, San Jose, California // Catering: Madhuban Restaurant, Sunnyvale, CA; Curryous Catering // Dancers: Azaad – UC Berkeley Dancer Troupe //
Priest/Pundit: Dr. Shukavak Dasa // Clothing: Roopam Sarees, Berkeley, CA // Bombay Jewelers, Berkeley, CA // Cinemtography: Jesse Johal Productions // Photography: Keith Lynds Photography // Singer/Songwriter: Riffat Sultana // Wedding Cake: TLCakes, Brentwood, CA