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A Hindu Ceremony Meets a Black Tie Affair in Washington, D.C.

By Alexandra Macon | Photography by 

Rachel Naft of RMN Photography

Uma, a policy researcher, first met Steve at D.C.’s Darlington House Cantina. “It was just a few blocks north of where we ended up getting married,” Uma remembers. The Washington couple had been dating for five years when one day they went out for a jog on the National Mall. “At one point, he asked if we could stop and stretch off to the side,” Uma recalls. “I was very focused on stretching my calf, and when I looked up he was down on one knee proposing!” Needless to say, the jog was cut short, and the two hurried home to call friends and family to share the news. “The same day we flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to meet Steve’s Aunt Carole for the annual hot air balloon fiesta,” she adds. “It was such a colorful way to celebrate our engagement.”

The couple jumped into the planning process and immediately settled on D.C. as the location for their wedding. Not only was it the city where they met and where Steve proposed, it also was a central location for guests coming from as far as Australia and India. They narrowed it down to a few locations before ultimately settling on The Mayflower, a gorgeous hotel that has served as the venue for a number of presidential inauguration balls. It also helped that the hotel offered a variety of spaces. “That was very important to us because we were hosting a marathon of events: two ceremonies, an afternoon tea, a cocktail hour, and a reception—all in one day,” Uma explains.

They set the date for September 16, 2017 and started working with Andrea Rozo at The Mayflower on the wedding preparations, while simultaneously working on some of the smaller, more intimate details of the big day, such as the welcomes bags and personalized notes, themselves. “The bags were brightly colored Indian jute bags purchased at a market in Hyderabad and filled with standard goodies and some fun surprises like mango juice and our favorite chocolate tea biscuits,” she says.

Uma picked two bridal dresses for her wedding: a red lengha for the Hindu ceremony and a white wedding dress for the Western service. “For the Indian ceremony, I didn’t really know what I wanted, but when I came across my dress I really loved its bold color and beautiful gold and green accents,” Uma says. She later went to India with one of her cousins, who helped her design a blouse with custom crystal embroidery and matching jewels. For her western ceremony, Uma knew what she was looking for: something elegant but comfortable enough to dance in. She ended up choosing a crepe mermaid gown from a Barcelona-based designer with an illusion neckline and embroidery on the back of the dress.

Meanwhile Steve chose a red and gold Indian sherwani suit for the first ceremony, and a traditional shawl collar tuxedo for the second. Uma’s bridesmaids wore gold sequin floor length dresses and the groomsmen were in classic shawl collar tuxedos like Steve’s.

The couple’s wedding day kicked off with the Hindu ceremony. “It was such a wonderful experience because it was nice knowing that we were doing the same rituals that my side of the family has been doing for centuries,” says Uma. And yet the second Western half of their wedding was equally special since Steve’s father Mark, a retired judge, officiated the ceremony. “I also wore Steve’s mother Charla’s veil. She passed away before I met Steve, so this was incredibly special.”

A reception full of dancing and toasts followed, with music that included a mix of oldies (the couple’s first dance was to Otis Redding’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is”) and top 40 favorites, as well as Indian music. “The Indian music really got guests on the dance floor, which was amazing,” Uma says. “Our fathers gave sweet speeches, as did Steve’s brother Matt and some of my bridesmaids.”

The menu of the day consisted of mainly Western food but with a few fun Indian twists. Think: macarons, pastries, and tartlets served with Indian chai tea and samosas—and at the reception, each place setting featured elephant cookies with intricate Indian henna designs. After more dancing, the party continued at Edgar Bar until it was closed down, and the next day was spent catching up with friends and family at a farewell brunch at The Mayflower. “It was a great time, apart from me struggling to speak because I had lost my voice,” Uma says. “I guess that’s the sign of a good party though!”