Amita and Pete had a Bengali Hindu ceremony at Kew Gardens in May this year. They first met in school. When they reached their A levels, their two schools combined for 6th form so they met in the common room of their first week of year 12. They were friends from then until the week before study leave, when Pete asked Amita out in a local pub garden. Over to the couple to tell us about the proposal and their big day.
Pete had been working abroad for a while and he proposed during one of his trips back to London, a few months before he was due to move home for good. We took a few days off to explore the Surrey countryside, and on a really rainy and muddy day, Pete insisted on us walking up Leith Hill, the highest point of Surrey. He completely surprised Amita by going down on one knee (in a puddle!) and proposing.
We had our Bengali ceremony and reception in Kew Gardens. Amita went to a viewing with her mum (Pete was still abroad) and fell in love with it straight away. It was important to us that the venue was beautiful, green and in London, as almost everyone we know are from here. Our ceremony was in the Nash Conservatory, followed by a drinks reception in the Princess of Wales Conservatory ending with dinner and dancing in the Orangery.
Amita’s wedding sari was bought in one of the oldest sari shops in Kolkata; the same store where her sister’s wedding sari was bought 6 years previously. Amita was shown a few saris to choose from, and picked her one in about 15 minutes.
The groom’s outfit
The rest of the day was spent finding Pete’s sherwani! We looked everywhere, but finally found one in the tiny shop in the market where Amita’s brother in law’s sherwani was purchased.
Groomsmen & bridesmaids outfit and accessory details
Pete spent more time looking for his groomsmen’s’ outfits than his own! We searched a lot, and ended up with 3 really lovely matching sherwani coats.
Amita and Pete left for Kolkata with list of the bridesmaid’s favorite colours, and spent a few days shopping around for them. Indian weddings are so colourful, we didn’t want to ask them to wear a specific colour, we were happy for them to mix. After we bought all the saris, we took them to a little bangle shop where the owner proudly put together lovely contrasting bangle sets.
Wedding theme or colours if any
Our wedding didn’t have a ‘theme’, we wanted the focus to be on the Bengali ceremony so we didn’t want a theme to fight with it. The main colours ended up being traditional red and gold.
Food and catering (including drinks)
Catering was by the brilliant Saffron Culture. We felt that the civil ceremony the week before was the ‘English’ part of the wedding, and the Bengali Hindu ceremony in the afternoon was the ‘Indian’ part. For us it was really important that the reception bought both of these together. Saffron were the perfect caterer to do this for us; they created an incredibly tasty fusion menu (the Goan lamb shank was a hit with our guests!)
The flowers were by Flower Bird, a lovely local freelance florist Amita found on Instagram. We met Sarah at the crack of dawn in the middle of winter so she could show us around the wonderful New Covent Garden Flower Market in Vauxhall. We gave her a vague colour scheme brief and she used her skills to do the rest. We loved the displays she put together, and told our guest to grab a bunch at the end of the night so they didn’t go to waste!
The ceremony and traditions (if any)
It was really important to us to have a classic Bengali ceremony; Amita’s dad is from Kolkata, so we wanted to respect as many traditions from a Kolkatan ceremony as possible.
Pete and his family arrived to be greeted by Amita’s friends and sisters, who were ‘holding of the gate’, a silly game at the beginning of Bengali weddings where the groom has to negotiate a deal with the bride’s girls in order to be allowed to enter. Amita’s girl’s drove a hard bargain and £100, 20rs and a few pairs of shoes later Pete was allowed inside.
Amita’s entrance was just as traditional; sat on a small wooden seat called a piri, she was carried down the aisle and around Pete seven times by five of her closest brothers and friends. Her face was covered in decorated betel leaves during the circles, then removed to see Pete ‘for the first time’. The rest of the ceremony was just as traditional; we had a great priest who explained the several stages to our guests so everyone could follow what was going on.
Favourite part of the day
Aside from the ceremony itself, which was great because there was so much planning involved we were so happy it came together the way we wanted it to, our favourite part of the day was the drinks reception that followed in the Princess of Wales Conservatory. The best part of the Kew venue package was exclusive use of this incredible space. It was amazing to spend a couple of hours with our guests, who had all made such a great effort to dress in Asian clothing, in such a beautiful and interesting environment.
Easiest part of wedding planning
We actually really enjoyed planning our wedding! After we got engaged, we started discussing our vision for the wedding and were able to agree early on how we wanted it to look and feel for us and our guests. Because we agreed from the outset, it helped us be decisive on the big elements, venue, caterer, flowers, photographer etc.
Hardest part of wedding planning
One of the hardest parts was slightly unexpected, but it was choosing our first dance song! We spent a lot of time researching popular songs, and what might work for us, but we really struggled to settle on anything for a while. One Sunday morning we were listening to the radio, still trying to decide, when a really sweet song by a band we’d never heard of came on and we loved it straight away. We did some research and found out the band, Parekh and Singh, were actually from Kolkata so it just seemed perfect to dance to I Love You Baby, I Love You Doll. To make it even more special, Pete arranged the groomsmen to play it as our first dance song. Not only did they surprise Amita and all our guests, they surprised themselves at how well they pulled it off as they were up until 1am the night before frantically rehearsing!
Is it harder to plan a wedding when the couples are from different culture etc
We wouldn’t say it is harder for different cultures, as long as you agree from the beginning that you both approach it with an open mind and interest of each others roots.Then it becomes a journey of discovery through the cultural aspects of the day, if anything bringing you even closer together.
Advice to give to other multicultural couples
Be respectful and honest with each other, and to each other’s families. For us, our multicultural wedding was about understanding what is important to both cultures, and finding a way to bring these together on the day in a way that works in harmony.
Photography: Photography by Krishanthi
Venue: Kew Gardens
Flowers: The Flower Bird
Hair and Make up: Beauty by Anuja
Clothes: All Indian clothes purchased in Calcutta!
Mandap: Exquisite Mandaps
Cake: Little Bear Cakery
Caterer: Saffron Culture
Entertainment: Oxygen Entertainment
DJ: Owen Cutts
Stationery: PDA Card and Craft