Now that it’s crystal clear that hosting a big wedding at this time is just not possible due to the spread of COVID-19, we’re sharing the experiences of real couples navigating the re-scheduling, cancellation, and civil and commemorative wedding processes in an attempt to help others make informed decisions and to spread our support to all during this time.
Ashley Jain and Aanand Patel were preparing to hand-deliver the invitations to their 2020 Memorial Day wedding when COVID-19 became a nationwide epidemic. Ashley says, “Weddings are a source of joy and pride in our culture and the idea of celebrating without our extended family and friends seemed entirely impossible. Then enter COVID–the world was shutting down, and our wedding dreams seemed to be drowning in the process.” Ashley and Aanand were crestfallen.
And yet, the couple was eager to start their lives together. As Ashley and Aanand mourned the loss of what could not be, Ashley’s parents approached them with the idea of an intimate celebration. They kept their original May 24th date and relocated the venue from the Terranea Resort to their home in Palos Verdes. Ashley’s parents generously told the couple that they would plan the five-day “at-home” wedding celebration, so all Ashley and Aanand had to do was savor this time.
Ashley wanted a photographer who could perfectly capture such an incredible period in their life. Thankfully, Mili Ghosh and her team were thrilled to document the wedding festivities. “When I first came across Mili’s work,” Ashley remembers, “I loved the aesthetics—so romantic and timeless. Every picture told a story and made you feel something.”
The Indian wedding outfits were one of the couple’s main concerns during the planning process. Because of regulations during COVID, the outfits were denied shipping several times. Thanks to the family’s dear friends in Mumbai, however, their wedding outfits were granted special permission to finally leave India, safely arriving a few days before the wedding celebration commenced! Ashley’s beautiful Mehndi lehenga came from Aisha Rao and for the wedding day, the bride and groom wore exquisite clothes from Sabyasachi.
The multi-day affair began in high spirits with the Haldi, but the best part of this day was how it ended. Fully dressed in intricate Indian clothes, the couple’s families jumped into the pool! After sharing some wine in the jacuzzi, Ashley “went to bed that night thinking our wedding was already more than I could’ve hoped for!”
“Before my parents embarked on the full home wedding planning process, I wanted to make sure Mili Ghosh was on board and would be able to photograph the wedding,” Ashley insists. She wanted a photographer who could perfectly capture such an incredible period in their life. “When I first came across Mili’s work,” Ashley remembers, “I loved the aesthetics—so romantic and timeless. Every picture told a story and made you feel something.”
The energy and excitement from the previous night still pulsated throughout the Palos Verdes home for the Mehndi. Ashley’s makeup artist Drea even remarked that there was “a happiness in the air.” The couple basked in the gaiety of the day. As Ashley’s hands and feet were decorated in mendhi by Neha Assar, she watched on as Aanand danced with their families. Ashley’s father grabbed the mic at one point, regaling everyone in his version of “Kabhi Kabhi Mere Dil Mein.”
Ashley’s favorite memory from this day would have to be her mother’s impromptu dance to “Mendhi Hai Rachne Wali.” She and Ashley locked eyes throughout the whole song. “I could see and feel the emotions running of out her,” Ashley marvels. No one was ready for the night to end. Ashley and Aanand’s siblings stayed up playing games and kept the party going.
The rehearsal dinner was fantastically romantic, as Square Root Design transformed the Mehndi space for a candlelit dinner. The dramatic florals and stunning sunset made for a picturesque backdrop, and the family had too much fun taking pictures as they drank champagne. “The three hour, seven-course dinner was only upstaged by the roars of laughter from the family speeches and toasts,” Ashley says.
On their wedding day, Ashley’s mother and sisters got ready alongside her and listened while she practiced her vows. The rest of her family stayed close while she had her final touches. As the music started to roar, signaling the start of the baraat, Ashley’s brothers and sisters joined Aanand and his family. “As with everything in this wedding,” Ashley muses, “we were all in this together.” With her siblings gone, she simply had to take a peek for herself and caught a glimpse of Aanand’s groomsmen surprising him in the driveway. He lit up, and she could even see his grin from her view on the balcony!
She found brief reprieve from the bustle while standing on the balcony, admiring the mandap and listening to the sitar player outside. “At that moment, it all felt real,” Ashley says. “It hit me that I was getting married, and I couldn’t wait to see Aanand.”
The couple felt completely at ease while on the mandap together. Even though their family surrounded them, Ashley and Aanand could not keep their eyes off of each other—especially as they read their vows to one another.
The ceremony was live-streamed, so their families from the U.K. and India and friends near and far could cheer on the bride and groom. Despite the vast distances between their virtual attendees and the bride and groom on the mandap, it was easy to see the love Ashley and Aanand had for each other and their families. “We also set up a large screen monitor, so we could see all our guests after the wedding and say hello!” Ashley adds. Hundreds of others sent in their blessings through a tribute video.
After the ceremony, the family sat together for a formal lunch by the landscaped waterfall on the north side of the house. Aanand and Ashley thanked each family member, sharing an anecdote about them and elaborating on why they are so special to the newlywed couple.
While reflecting on their micro-wedding, Ashley and Aanand do not feel like they missed out on a big wedding any way. “In fact,” Ashley states, “getting married at home was my and Aanand’s original wish, but the logistics of a large wedding made it difficult, so these new circumstances actually brought us back to what really mattered to us.” Furthermore, their families were brought closer together.
“I think many brides–especially South Asian brides–need to see that a pandemic or intimate wedding does not mean a lesser celebration. In fact, it meant so much more to us,” Ashley says. “Weddings can often lose their original purpose as we focus on the logistics of planning, but the challenges of 2020 forced us to remember what really matters. A marriage is about celebrating love, bringing two families together, remaining committed through thick and thin, and finding joy in every moment.”