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This Couple Had Christian and Gujarati Hindu Ceremonies During Their Wedding Week in Chicago and Lake Geneva

By Cathleen Freedman | Photography by 

Sally Pinera

|Planning by 

JD Eventz

Esha Gandhi and Benjamin Belford became friends while attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and remained exactly that until their senior year. They began dating before graduating, ultimately realizing they had so much in common. “Once we figured that out,” Esha recalls, “we just knew!”

Three years later, Ben proposed to Esha—who was slightly suspicious when they took a trip to The St. Regis Aspen Resort—in a hot air balloon with a grand view of the Rocky Mountain sunrise.

The couple immediately considered wedding venues in their hometown of Chicago and decided upon The Drake Hotel. The golden pillared ballroom was enough to sway them—not to mention this is where Princess Diana stayed while visiting the Windy City in 1996. Esha notes, “It was so special to get ready in the ‘Princess Diana Suite’ with all of my bridesmaids and my mom and soon-to-be mother-in-law.”

Every event had a different feel with a balance of classic style and summertime colors. They enlisted Jankhana Desai of JD Eventz to plan the multi-day events with Sally Pinera to photograph the revelry. Kehoe Designs and La’Fleur Decor created the stunning decorations and blooming floral arrangements. Guests received a beautiful invitation suite by Shubhlekh by Kriti with a custom crest that detailed the stationery throughout the weekend.

The wedding week started with an intimate church wedding in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, on July 3, 2022. Esha turned to Over The Moon Head Stylist Anny Choi for the Christian ceremony dress, ultimately choosing the Beatrice dress from One/Of and accessorizing with a Daphne Newman veil, Jimmy Choo heels, and a Kwiat diamond necklace from her mother’s collection.

With only their immediate family and priest in attendance, the event was intimate. They all boarded a boat cruise together after the vows and enjoyed dinner. “It was made extra special by the fact that Esha, my family, and I have so many wonderful memories of time spent together at the lake,” Ben shares. “It also happened to be a picture-perfect summer day.”

To prepare for their Indian ceremony in The Windy City, the couple traveled to Mumbai and worked with stylist Ami Patel. She and her team guided their families throughout the whole trip and ensured everyone’s outfits were cohesive. Esha’s Anita Dongre lehenga matched the color of the henna she had for the Mehendi, while she wore traditional yellow for the Grah Shanti and jewelry from Tanishq; the groom sported Benzer. The bride showed up in custom Jayanti Reddy for the Sangeet, and Ben wore Shyamal & Bhumika. At their wedding ceremony, Esha dressed in another Anita Dongre outfit. The Face Pro applied her seamless makeup. When the reception was in full swing, Esha changed into a Shyamal & Bhumika ensemble with Kantilal Chhotalal jewelry. Ben and all of his groomsmen switched into tuxedos from their ceremony sherwanis. Esha’s bridesmaids regaled in purple Amsale gowns.

Less than a week after saying, “I do,” in Wisconsin, the main ceremony happened—and began with true spectacle, no less. To kick off the baraat, Ben rode in on a horse. Their friends and family wound up dancing for an hour and only stopped so the bride’s family could welcome the groom’s family, as per tradition. The Gujarati Hindu ceremony soon followed.

The events were a blend of East and West flair. “I wanted to mix up the music we walked into, so Ben walked into the classical Bridgerton cover of the Bollywood classic ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham,’ and I walked into the Bridgerton version of Taylor Swift’s ‘Wildest Dreams!'” Esha explains. The ceremony was a family affair with both of their respective parents accompanying them down the aisle and all of their siblings present on the mandap with them.

The reception was free-flowing and fun, ultimately feeling like a giant dance party with Punjabi and Western food galore. “We did not want anyone to be hungry,” Esha notes. There was even a bounteous dessert table with Cake Chicago, pastries, ice cream, macarons, and more. Both the bride’s and groom’s parents, Esha’s sister and maid of honor, and Ben’s brother and best man shared speeches before the newlyweds thanked all of their guests for joining them.

Then, the dancing began. DJ Sunny spun everyone’s favorite Indian hits, along with the Ken Arlen Indigo Band who serenaded with live music. Even the couple’s first dance to Leon Bridges’s “Beyond” had a Bollywood twist—the couple surprised the crowd with a transition into “Maahi Ve” from Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), thanks to Meher Dance Company’s superb choreography. The reception gave way to the after-party where everyone danced the night away. In the morning, the couple reconvened with guests at brunch. Esha adds, “It was so great to see all our family and friends off before they left—and a perfect close to the perfect weekend!”