After a long night of work events in New York, Shobhana “Shoby” Iyer and Michael Kelliher both decided to stop at a Persian restaurant in Chelsea called Pars for a quick bite to eat. They’d never met before but that evening they serendipitously struck up a conversation with a group of older ladies who were having their weekly girls’ night out dinner. “We were mutually impressed that the other was so unpretentious and having such a great time with these complete strangers,” Shoby explains. “As Mike and I talked to each other, the ladies assumed we were a couple—little did we know at the time how right they would be!” After their group conversation ended, Michael asked Shoby out on a date. A year later, he proposed over Thanksgiving weekend.
They’re both road trip lovers, so Michael planned a surprise mini-trip for holiday but kept the final destination a surprise. “We dropped into the mighty Appalachian mountains, parked, and trekked along the forest floor to a waterfall,” she remembers. “We got there right at dusk and there was not a soul in sight.” After sitting by the Rose River Falls, Michael starting reciting a poem to Shoby. “It was funny and charming at first, but it wasn’t until I really looked into his eyes that I realized that something life altering was about to happen,” she says. “The last line of his poem was ‘Will you be my wife?’ My knees buckled, and I was laughing and crying at the same time when I said ‘Yes!’”
Both Michael and Shoby agreed they wanted to have their wedding in Manhattan—to celebrate the city that brought them together—but things got a little trickier once planning actually began. “I’m Indian and he has Irish roots,” she explains. “We wanted a wedding that would fully showcase both cultures, but we didn’t want a fusion theme that would dilute either celebration.” In the end, they chose to highlight each of their individual backgrounds during one part of their big day: the ceremony would be a traditionally Indian one, while the reception would be a black tie affair complete with a bagpipe recital. As for the venue, they picked the Burden-Kahn Mansion as soon as they laid eyes on it. “The location, the grand architecture, the fluidity of the space, and the multiple indoor-outdoor areas it provided were perfect for the complex and dramatic wedding we had in mind,” explains Shoby. Considering the unique nature of their wedding, the bride ended up being her own planner.
The two-part wedding meant the couple and their immediate family would all need two different sets of outfits for the big day. “Everyone on both sides of the family was game and even extended family opted in for all the festivities and outfit changes,” she says. During a trip to visit Shoby’s grandparents in Mumbai, they ended up buying traditional Indian outfits for everyone participating in the ceremony. As for accessories: “My jewelry was already ready, according to Indian customs,” she explains. “My parents have heirloom jewels that get passed down from generation to generation that were being saved for my wedding.” For hair and makeup, the bride chose Luis Payne of Hairroin Salon and Dustin Patrick Ellis of M.A.C. Pro. “We had worked together before and they were undaunted by the challenge of getting me in and out of the Indian look and into black tie in the 30 mins between the ceremony and reception,” she says.
As an only child, Shoby is particularly close to her cousins, who all served as bridesmaids at her wedding. “I asked them to wear Indian and cocktail dresses for each event, but we didn’t have prescribed bridesmaids’ dresses,” she explains. “Mike’s two brothers and sister did the same.”
On the day of the wedding, the couple, their family, and close friends all gathered together at Burden-Kahn Mansion for a traditional Indian ceremony, featuring a number of celebratory rituals. “It begins with the groom and his family making a formal entrance into the venue, accompanied by a traditional wind instrument called Nadaswaram,” explains Shoby.“Then the bride enters and a fertility ritual for her ensues, while the groom seeks the blessing of his ancestors. Here’s where it gets interesting: In typical Indian ceremonies, at one point the groom has to pretend to get cold feet and has to try and run off the venue. His brother holds an umbrella over his head, while another brother fans him (given that he’s all hot and upset), while his friends and family goad him to run off while he still can. The bride’s family meanwhile pleads with him to come back and marry their girl. This is all very funny and the guests can pick a side—it gets pretty loud and rowdy.”
Many other rituals followed, including the garlanding of the couple, a moment on swing set, seven steps around a holy fire, and stepping on a grindstone—which symbolizes the rock solid foundation of their marriage. “Given how long and involved it is, guests are free to walk around,” says Shoby. Indian vegetarian food, including samosas, paneer skewers, and dumplings, and mint lemonade and Indian chai tea are offered during the ceremony.
After an outfit change, it was time for the second portion of the evening: the reception, which kicked off with a bagpipe recital. A pianist entertained during cocktail hour, and later guests were seated for dinner at tables that were each named after a different neighborhood in New York City. The menu included grilled salmon and lamp chops, and the meal ended with mini-cheesecakes. “How can you have a New York wedding and not serve cheesecake?” laughs Shoby.
When it came to their first dance, Michael and Shoby picked REO Speedwagon’s “I Can’t Stop This Feeling,” a song that has special significance to them. “Mike took me to a concert in Toronto where this song played and we immediately knew that it was our song,” she says. “This was long before he proposed.” A father-daughter dance followed and then the reception quickly switched into full-blown party mode, especially after Michael and his new mother-in-law danced to Whigfield’s “Sexy Eyes,” which Shoby admits “is my mother’s secret favorite song of all time.”
After the reception, some guests continued the party elsewhere in the city, but the newlyweds called it a night. “The next day we were having about 60 people over to our apartment for a post-wedding party on the terrace,” Shoby explains. Now married, Michael and Shoby are hoping to go back to that Persian restaurant on a random Tuesday night in search of that group of older ladies who helped them get together in the first place. “We really want to run into those lovely women to whom we owe so much!”
Hairstylist: Luis Payne of Hairoin Salon
Makeup: Timoth Pagan of MAC Pro
Decorator: Mallavika Shah
Ceremony Caterer: Kailash Parbat
Ceremony Musician: Roger Lipson, Shaadi Ki Shehnai
Reception Caterer: Creative Foods Catering
Wedding Cake: Palermo’s Bakery
Bagpiper: Al Gonzalez
Pianist: Bora Han