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This Couple Pranked Each Other During their Indian Wedding Ceremony in California

By Cathleen Freedman | Photography by 

Sarah Falugo

|Planning by 

Beth Helmstetter Events

Harsh Patel’s cousin and Payal Patel’s cousin had just gotten engaged and hosted a dinner to celebrate. The party continued at the Edition in Madison Square Park where Harsh and Payal sat beside each other. They sipped drinks, and Harsh invited Payal to join him for brunch the next morning. Without thinking, she rejected the offer. All throughout the next day, she regretted it.

The weekend’s festivities continued, and at the next dinner, Payal saw Harsh. She attempted to make amends and started a conversation with him. By the end of the night, he left with her phone number. They started texting and had their first date soon after. The two had dinner and then walked along the High Line in Manhattan. Payal told Harsh this was one of her favorite parks—she even studied it while attending Parsons. But what Harsh didn’t tell Payal is that he decided this is where he would propose to her two years later in 2020.

Once engaged, the couple hoped for a destination wedding the South of France, they also wanted to minimize the chance of cancellation because of the pandemic. Payal’s family has a beautiful home in Newport Beach and own Tarsadia Farm in Riverside. Harsh and Payal felt like they would be able to create a special experience for guests much closer to home. The couple chose their date based on their astrological charts, as per Gujarati tradition. They were left with a narrow window in the summer of 2021 and seized the opportunity. Beth Helmstetter Events began planning an August wedding in California.

“The aesthetic was really defined by our shared history and heritage,” Payal explains. “Both of our parents migrated from Zambia and are also Gujarati, so for the farm dinner and sangeet, we pulled in influences from those places.” The food and drinks were inspired by the couple’s favorite dishes like the Italian Job from Lilia, the Bombshell from the Blond, and the picnic brunch from Blue Hill Stone Barns. “For the wedding, we were inspired by the location,” Payal says. They thought of their frequent walks along Crystal Cove in Newport Beach, the iridescent glow across the Pacific Ocean, and California’s shimmering golden hour.

Payal always envisioned herself in a traditional outfit from India for her wedding, but the pandemic and ban on travel meant she would not be able to travel. Instead of wearing the standard wedding outfit, she decided to choose something else entirely. “Something that felt layered and blended,” she muses about her dream dress and adds, “something that represented who I am.” A nude-colored Vera Wang dress with champagne gold lace was precisely that. She pulled the look together with traditional Indian jewelry.

For the part of the day at the farm, Payal donned a look by Anamika Khanna and Givenchy boots. Her pulled hair and elegant makeup was inspired by her days as a classically trained Bharat Natyam dancer.

For her reception look, Payal “channeled her inner J Lo.” Naeem Khan designed her jumpsuit, and it was so comfortable to wear; Payal never wanted to take it off. She reflects on her wedding outfits and says, “In the end, I felt like both of these designers represented what I value most: craftsmanship and the communities I come from.”

Payal’s mother and three sisters also wore Naeem Khan pieces that were customized to encapsulate their unique personalities. “I wanted my girl tribe to walk down that aisle feeling confident,” Payal shares. “I worked with stylist Tara Maietta to pull it all together and to make sure the girls found pieces that they also loved.”

The wedding weekend began on August 28 with the Pithi ceremony. The family blessed the couple by covering their bodies with a turmeric paste, cleansing the bride and groom in preparation for their union. “It signifies good luck, and as a bonus, leaves your skin glowing,” Payal notes. This event turned into a pool party right after.

The next day, the Ganesha Puja was held at a stunning temple in Chino. “This ceremony is the start of the festivities paying respect to Lord Ganesh for blessing us on our path forward and to remove obstacles along the way,” Payal shares. The celebration continued at Tarsadia Farm with a dinner in the blooming orchard, effectively serving as the sangeet portion of the wedding.

On sunny August 30, 2021, Harsh and Payal married. Before the ceremony, they held the Baraat. “Typically the bride is not a part of the Baraat, but I decided to crash the Baraat because thats one of the best parts, and I didnt want to miss it,” Payal says. “I joined for a few minutes as Harsh arrived, and then snuck out to go change back into my gown.”

The ceremony followed. A priest who has served in several other family members’ weddings officiated. Traditionally, pranks are planned throughout the ceremony. Payal’s grandmother encouraged her sisters and cousins to arrange a few. This included a Whoopi cushion under Harshs seat, handing a water bottle full of vodka to Harsh during the baraat, putting a ring pop inside of his ring box when they exchanged rings, and stealing his shoes.

When Payal remembers the ceremony, she shares, “I was full of love, surprisingly calm and present. The beauty of a ceremony like ours, was that being in my familys backyard, gave me the freedom to feel right at home. That being said, Beth and her team transformed the space beautifully.”

Cocktail hour and the reception came after with plenty of music, dancing, and incredible pasta dishes by Roomforty and The Food Matters. Never ones to follow  convention, the newlyweds forewent a cake and opted for a s’mores bar.