Oh hiya, I’m back from taking some much needed time off over Christmas and the new year period. I had been meaning to get back to blogging earlier but certain things came up with required my attention. Including my own engagement party which I’ll share with you soon! (Spoiler alert – I did get a tad emotional). Anyway I’m taking you straight into the new year with this gorgeous Indian Jewish wedding and the lovely story of Puja and JJ.
How Puja and JJ met
The two were students at Binghamton University and both were returning from study abroad trips, JJ in Brazil and Puja from Turkey. JJ’s housing was in flux and he was able to land a house with 6 other guys in downtown Binghamton. This house was a duplex and happened to share an attic with 6 girls from the space next door, where Puja was living. The two met and bonded over both being psychology majors. The rest is history!
Their Proposal Story:
It was Puja’s birthday and they decided to take a trip back up to their first date spot, a thai restaurant back up in Binghamton, NY. The next day they woke up early to attend an annual hot air balloon festival. JJ had called beforehand to arrange a private balloon for the two of them, planning to propose in the air. Because festival-goers from a previous rain-date had been diverted to their scheduled date, they ended up having to share the basket with two other people – a married couple. JJ said “I was so nervous to propose in front of these strangers, there wasn’t much room and I kind of had to move them out of the way. The guy flying the balloon didn’t even know.” He ended up popping the question at the maximum height.
The Bride’s Dress
For their wedding in India, Puja wore her mother’s saree which had been previously worn by her older sister as well. Similarly, her engagement ring includes a diamond that originally belonged to JJ’s grandmother and then his mother who passed it down to the couple. Puja’s reception dress featured in these photos was designed in India by a boutique artist, Dolly J.
Groomsmen & Bridesmaids outfit and accessory details
While JJ’s siblings were in India for the festivities, they went shopping together for outfits to wear to the wedding and chose to wear them again for this reception here in New York. Puja’s older sister bought the fabric for her wedding outfit in India and had it tailored there as well.
Puja + JJ did not have a traditional theme or specifically chosen colors for their union. However, soft pinks came across as an overriding tone appearing in both of their outfits and in details such as the table napkins. As for a theme, the couple were truly interested in celebrating their cross-cultural blend. JJ’s traditions were practiced with a Jewish wedding ceremony and Puja’s Indian heritage was apparent in their chosen cloth.
Wedding Traditions Practiced
Earlier in the year the two were wed in India, and not everyone was able to attend. So in addition to having a jewish ceremony, they also wanted to throw a party for friends and family who missed their Indian wedding.
An interesting parallel is that both in Indian and Jewish weddings, the couples are wed under a canopy. For this ceremony, the fabric of the chuppah was picked out by JJ’s mother while she was in India. Also after the jewish ceremony JJ breaks a glass which was mirrored in the Indian ceremony when he stepped on a clay pot.
Because rabi’s are unable to wed non-jewish people, they decided to ask JJ’s bar mitzvah tudor who was currently in training to become a rabbi.
The night before, the two surprised their families at their rehearsal dinner with an impromptu mini-wedding in front a judge to make their bond legally binding. When they were initially wed in India, their marriage did not count on paper because they were not Indian citizens. So at an Italian restaurant the day before in front of about 100 of their closest family and friends they were married for real. For the ritual they had to take off their rings and re-exchange them, however JJ was having some trouble slipping his off. That’s when he remembered there was olive oil on the tables served with bread and he used a bit to remove his ring.
The rehearsal dinner was also a very special moment of their cultural blend because members of Puja’s family who had never worn western dress before bought outfits specifically for this event, just as JJ’s family did for their Indian wedding.
Of course no Jewish wedding is complete without the Hora, or chair dance. In this tradition, a few strong and brave guests hoist the bride and groom high above the crowd on chairs to the festive sounds of “Hava Nagila.” Puja’s Indian family and friends had never experienced this before but somehow the joy of it felt familiar to all. JJ and Puja described their Indian wedding experience as a few days of non-stop chaotic joy and extreme happiness. As members from both families were hoisted up into the air on chairs, this brought everyone together in such a beautiful way, is hard to define with words.
What was the easiest part of wedding planning?
For Puja and JJ, the decision to be married in India took most of the planning off of them and transferred the responsibility to their friends and family. Traditionally, in India it is the family who takes is on while the bride and groom take a back seat are treated somewhat like royalty for the day. Whereas in Western culture a wedding ceremony is greatly about the bride and groom’s desires and tastes, in India the union is more focused around the union between two families.
What was the hardest part of wedding planning?
The hardest part for Puja and JJ was getting his family ready to travel to India. They had never left the country, not even to go to Canada. Some of them had never even been on an airplane before so as you can imagine a great deal of preparation and emotions were involved. Despite all of this, they never could have imagined it would go over so well. His family was floored at how kind and generous Puja’s family was in making sure everyone was so comfortable, showing incredible hospitality that is sometimes hard to come by in the U.S.
Is it harder to plan a wedding when the couples are from different faiths/culture etc?
Puja and JJ believe this is completely dependent on the families. Their families loved them both and were open to merging cultures. No one on either side had strong personalities or demands. For them the sum was greater than the parts. Of course it took compromise, but that is what truly made it so special.
Advice to give to other multicultural couples
Puja and JJ’s advice is to build a multicultural marriage from the beginning on a foundation of constant and open communication. Being transparent about expectations and what you want as a couple is very important. A clear vision for your marriage, shared among husband and wife is most valuable especially when society’s view of the relationship can cloud that vision.
When a multicultural marriage works, the couple takes bits and pieces from each of their unique backgrounds to create a new experience.
Photography: Stephanie Naru Photography
Bride’s Outfit: Dolly J
Groom’s Outfit: Telon India
Groom’s Siblings Outfits: Shan Wedding and Designer Clothing in Mumbai (no website)
Food: Royal Palace
Dessert: Macarons Lagustas Luscious
Bridal Hair and Makeup: MG Hair and Makeup
Flowers: Arcadia Floral Company
Party Favors: Succulents