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An Intimate Backyard Indian Wedding in California

By Cathleen Freedman | Photography by 

Vinuthna Garidipuri

|Planning by 

Blue Lotus Insights

Pooja Vig and Vijay Patel‘s first encounter was like something out of a movie. Pooja was at a friend’s birthday party in college when Vijay walked in and immediately locked eyes with her. They started chatting, and after the party was over, they continued the conversation over Facebook and formed a close friendship. After a while, they knew they should be more than just friends. After graduation, the couple maintained a long-distance relationship between Nevada and California, racking up airline miles as they flew back and forth.

One day, Vijay’s sister asked Pooja to meet her at the couple’s favorite Little Italy restaurant in San Diego. “This was the place Vijay and I always came back to when we would have date nights right, before we both had to go our separate ways,” Pooja specifies. But still, she thought nothing of the request and drove to San Diego for dinner.

When she entered the restaurant, it was empty…except for a trail of red rose petals that led upstairs. She followed the makeshift pathway and found Vijay with an engagement ring. “Not only was the proposal a shock, but he wasn’t even supposed to be in the state,” Pooja remembers. “It was a double surprise.” The newly engaged couple then went to the house Vijay rented in Little Italy, where their families were waiting to celebrate with them.

They began planning a wedding for July 3, 2020 but ultimately postponed it after the rise of COVID-19. Their family’s health was always their biggest concern and priority.

Throughout quarantine, Pooja and Vijay continued planning their now delayed nuptials. “We were really holding out on having a big fat Indian wedding,” Pooja admits, “but eventually realized that we would never get the ‘normal’ wedding we wanted.” By January 2021, after so many years of long-distance, Pooja and Vijay decided to have a backyard micro-wedding the following month in Corona.

Pooja does not spare the truth about the re-planning process. “Given that we only had a month, it was brutal,” Pooja confesses. “A lot of our vendors were still happy to stay on board, but some weren’t signed until two weeks before the wedding.” Thankfully, the couple enlisted Blue Lotus Insights to help with the fast-approaching day.

For her bridal outfit, Pooja wore the dress she found in September 2019. “Originally, I wanted to be very different from a traditional bride,” she explains. “I wanted to wear emerald green. It was a beautiful color, but when I tried it on, I just didn’t feel like a bride.” When she slipped on a strawberry-red lehnga, however, she knew instantly that that was the right hue for her. Her California-based jewelry designer aunt Archna made and selected all of her accessories for the minute, a remarkable feat considering the looming wedding date. Farah with the Good Hair styled Pooja’s bridal tresses, and Jax Makeup applied her final glowing beauty touches.

While Pooja ultimately strayed from her green color palette, she wanted Vijay to wear it. “I love the color green on him,” she divulges. “He has these hazel eyes, so it really stands out when you complement them with green. While we were shopping for inspiration, I saw this Anita Dongre look book for grooms and fell in love with the sage green turban and dupatta!” Vijay paired the dupatta with a traditional ivory outfit from Frontier. While some couples match on their wedding day, Pooja preferred the idea of their looks contrasting.

The wedding party color schemes were coordinated based on the bride and groom. Pooja’s family wore shades of pink pastels, while Vijay’s family wore hunter and pastel green.

On February 5, 2021, Pooja and Vijay married in an intimate backyard ceremony. “I couldn’t stop staring at everything: my husband, my family, the decor. I was trying to take it all in,” Pooja remembers. “We had greenery all around us, chandeliers dropping from the top, and ivory fabric flowing over.” Kismet Event Design arranged the florals for the day. The priest who officiated had known Pooja since was a baby, so the entire day was both emotional and, as Pooja notes, “perfect.”

Overall, Pooja remembers feeling as if she were in a state of bliss and shock. She shares that she “couldn’t believe from all the postponements and all the drama of planning the wedding in a matter of three weeks we were finally getting married.” Her groom felt similarly. She mentions, “On the mandap, Vijay kept trying to kiss me, so I’m pretty sure he was happy too!”

The newlyweds absconded in a Thunderbird for an evening of Mexican food, cake by Tasteful Cakes, and Mantra Indian Cuisine.

Organizing a micro-wedding during the time of COVID may have been stressful, but Pooja and Vijay know it was worth it. They both describe the sensation of “being on top of the world” on their wedding day. Pooja adds, “Being with Vijay for six years and finally getting to marry him…It was the happiest moment of my life.”