I’ve been wanting to share this wedding for a while now. Serina is from Kent, England and Damien is from Cork, Ireland. Serina and I had been messaging before her wedding. She shared the kindest message which really made my day:
I just wanted to say that your blog is amazing and it’s an incredible job you’re doing, in a world that is becoming more insular. I got engaged last year to my Irish Catholic partner (I’m sikh) and I never gave thought to the issues we might face in organising a wedding that celebrated the best of both our cultures. We’re getting married very soon in just over a month and sometimes it’s been a struggle to reconcile that a religion I was once proud to be a part of for its openness is increasingly against relationships like ours. Your blog reminds me why it’s worth it every time. Love is love, no matter what it looks like. Thank you, S x
How they met
We met through my sister, who had just started dating Damien’s friend at the time. She decided that we would make a good couple and invited him along to a night out that I had arranged at the Lost Angel in Battersea. He always says that he spotted me as soon as he walked in, turning to his friend and wittily exclaiming with true Irish charm: “what do you mean Lost Angel, she’s right there!” From the beginning, I was drawn to his warm, genuine smile. 3 months later we started dating, 6 years later we’re now married and still going strong. I guess my sister was right!
Damien proposed on a Friday after work in Green Park, London, and then whisked me away to Bath for the weekend. To this day, I am stunned that he managed to ask (and get) my dad’s permission, hide a ring in our flat for so long and plan a surprise weekend away without me getting a whiff of it. He had even packed for me!
We had originally arranged to meet after work at our hometown train station for ‘date night’. As I prepared to leave work, Damien messaged to say that he was running late at a meeting near Green Park and it probably made sense to meet him and travel together. I met him outside the tube, none the wiser. It was quite a nice evening so I suggested we walk to Victoria station, as we had done many times before. It’s a really pretty, romantic stroll through the Park and past Buckingham Palace.
I played right into his plans! As we walked, I was rambling on about something that had happened at work and failed to register something was afoot when Damien mumbled “I’ve got a stone in my shoe…” Suddenly he dropped down on one knee and produced a ring box…I nearly fainted! In fact, I ran off in a panic and hid behind the nearest tree. Needless to say, he eventually managed to coax me back out and ‘put a ring on it’.
Afterwards, he told me that he had actually spent most of the day at home, packing for our two night trip. I ended up with one big suitcase, one little suitcase, my entire sock drawer, all my hairstyling implements, an array of outfits, 4 pairs of shoes, and 3 coats. Damien packed just one rucksack for himself. What a guy!
Trying to fit two wedding ceremonies into one day is no mean feat, and with 200 guests it can be a logistical mess, so we had a lot to consider when looking at venues. St Augustine’s provided the perfect backdrop to our fusion wedding, and I fell in love with it the moment we pulled up to the viewing. Previously a Catholic boarding school, it has a romantic, gothic feel and a beautiful deconsecrated chapel in which we held both the Sikh and the Civil ceremony.
Our accommodation for the weekend was the Royal Harbour Hotel in Ramsgate, which is about 20 minutes’ drive from the venue. The hotel is a boutique affair with each room styled differently, cheese and crackers left out for guests in the evening, an honesty bar, a vintage record player and wonderful artworks to swerve as you bring your bags along the narrow, winding corridors. We loved this quirky hotel so much that we booked a romantic getaway there 2 months after the wedding!
Like a typical Bollywood film, I had 3 outfit changes during the day and an amazing hair & makeup artist in tow – Vin Virdi – for a seamless transition. For the Indian ceremony, I wore a hot pink lehenga with a full ball gown style skirt and my hair up. The skirt was then swapped for a gold one with matching veil for the Civil ceremony, with my hair down. Vin was completely cool under pressure, managing the outfit and hair reshuffle within a tight timeframe – including whilst I was being interviewed by the Registrar! At the evening reception I wore a beautiful gold lehenga with a can-can skirt and burgundy trim by Velour Designs, which was a wedding gift from my parents.
The groom’s outfit
I did offer Damien the opportunity to wear 3 outfits, but two was plenty for him to contend with. He wore a gold and cream sherwani with royal blue trim and a matching scarf for the Indian ceremony. His blue turban matched the colour of the headscarves we provided for the groomsmen and guests. For the Civil ceremony and the rest of the evening he wore a royal blue brocade jodhpuri suit with gold detailing. Both of his outfits were by Velour Designs.
Groomsmen & bridesmaids outfit and accessory details
As some of our wedding party are (a lot) taller than your average Indian and two thirds do not live in the UK, trying to find matching off-the-peg outfits for everyone was difficult. Then there was the sheer number of them – I had 7 bridesmaids (my sister, Damien’s 3 sisters, and 3 of my closest friends) and Damien had his 6 closest friends as groomsmen plus my brother as an usher. Bespoke was the easiest option.
The girls wore gold, royal blue and hot pink lehengas, and the boys wore royal blue jodphuri suits with gold and hot pink collars – all by Velour designs. I was eager that, with having so many bridesmaids, it did not look like a production line. They were given free rein on the style of their tops, hair, makeup, and their accessories. For the morning, Damien’s sisters wore gold net scarves and my sister and friends wore pink net scarves, which they all swapped for bouquets of cream roses in the afternoon. Damien’s groomsmen had pink scarves for the morning and hot pink button holes for the afternoon.
Wedding theme or colours if any
I wanted to vary a little from the traditional red worn at Indian weddings, and choose colours that complimented the two of us as well as each other. Our wedding colours were hot pink, royal blue and gold.
Food and catering (including drinks)
Dream Days catered our Friday night pre-party as well as breakfast, canapes and the evening reception on the wedding day. Darminder Cheema and his team were absolutely amazing – the food was plentiful, the service was impeccable, and all of our guests thoroughly enjoyed everything they ate. Both nights, the head waitress kept a watchful eye on me and made sure I actually ate some of the food myself which was brilliant! The venue provided a lovely buffet lunch and all the drinks. Again, there was a dedicated bartender making sure Damien and I always had a fresh drink in hand!
Our wedding cake was by Cakeaholic Bakery. I’m not big on cakes (unless they are double chocolate fudge cake!) so we had a mixed flavour cupcake cake with cute little figurines of us on top. The cupcakes were then served as part of a trio of desserts. Cakeholic Bakery also provided pretty henna-style patterned biscuits which were handed out as party favours on my mehndi night.
We wanted to ensure a mixture of Irish, Indian and mainstream music for our guests. Damien achieved a real coup with the band, Ceili Max, which came with an Indian drummer (Jeevan Singh Chauhan) in tow. The mix was incredible. At first, the band led the drummer and we had some great attempts at Irish dancing and the Siege of Ennis with a background dhol beat. Then the drummer led the band and it was an amazing Irish bhangra fusion which packed the dancefloor! When the band wrapped up and everyone was thoroughly warmed up, the DJ, Dreamteam Roadshow, took over and delivered a terrific mix of bhangra and mainstream music to end the night (including a rendition of the Macarena, of course).
We also had a Magic Mirror Photobooth for guests to enjoy, which takes a full length picture – the first few photos are hilarious as people (including me) were standing awkwardly not sure what to do with their bodies! As it was a really long day, we also hired a wedding nanny service for the evening. The minders supervised naptimes and organised games for the under-fives in a secure environment. The kids loved the entertainment, and the parents enjoyed the free time.
ChicWeds provided all our decoration, from the flowers, to the table decor to the beautiful canopy used in both ceremonies. I am not much of a flower person myself (I’ve prematurely killed off every plant I touch, including a cactus), so I left a lot of these decisions including my bouquet to my mum. For the Civil ceremony, I had hot pink roses, my bridesmaids had cream roses, and the men had hot pink button holes.
The ceremony and traditions (if any)
I found this very blog when I was looking for fusion wedding inspiration right after we got engaged. The ‘Love Conquers All’ story really shocked me; I had failed to realise just how much attitudes to multicultural marriages had darkened within some parts of the Sikh community. Very quickly I understood that we would not be able to have a ‘traditional’ Sikh ceremony – we wanted to start our marriage surrounded by love and acceptance, not fear and hate.
Our ceremony was instead officiated by Dr Freedom & Leela, a multicultural couple themselves, and genuinely the most radiant, vibrant and kind people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Freedom really brought the ceremony to life for everyone, and took the whole congregation on a beautiful spiritual journey. It was incredibly moving and personal, and Damien and I couldn’t stop smiling at each other the whole time.
They brought such warmth and love to our day and won over many of my more ‘traditional’ relatives. Our Civil ceremony was a little more formal and perhaps familiar to most of our guests. I was still on a high from the morning ceremony and was eager to get down the aisle, so much so that one of the venue coordinators had to tell me to stop peaking round the corner to see when it was time to go!
We were also keen that everyone should have the opportunity to experience the pre-wedding rituals, not just my family, so all were invited to the maiyaan and henna party on Thursday, and the choorah and jaago at Friday’s pre-wedding party. It’s not quite the norm having the bride and groom together for these functions but it was amazing to be able to share those moments together, and with our families and friends. The dance floor was so full at the pre-wedding party that it actually rivalled our wedding reception!
Overall, we wanted a wedding that combined the best of our characters and our cultures, and hopefully we achieved that. As we had many guests travelling from different parts of the world, we opted to fit two ceremonies into one day, and condense the Indian pre-wedding traditions into the two days beforehand. It was a mighty undertaking that required good organisation and pre-planning as well as the ability to be calm and flexible if things went wrong or got delayed. I look back now, and I can’t believe we did it and were still standing at the end of it. Saying that, I slept for the first two days of our honeymoon to make up for it!
Favourite part of the day
I enjoyed everything about our wedding, so it is honestly hard to choose just one favourite part! There is one moment, however, that makes me smile every time I remember it. I had been on a high all day and then, during my third and final outfit change, I was suddenly completely overwhelmed by everything that had happened. In that moment, all I wanted was Damien. I sent everyone out of the room, including my mum, and my sister went and found him for me. He just hugged me until I felt better and was ready to go back out and enjoy the evening. That right there is why I married him, he’s my best friend.
Easiest part of wedding planning
I fell in love with the venue as soon as I saw it. Once it was booked, it was a lot easier for everything else to take shape.
Hardest part of wedding planning
Coordinating our large global wedding party! We had to work around conflicting time zones for England, Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, New York, Chicago, Canada, and Australia.
Is it harder to plan a wedding when the couples are from different faiths/culture etc
I think it can be, if you want to have a mixture of ceremonies and traditions. Sometimes you may feel like you’re trying to please both sides, and the real reason you are getting married gets a bit lost in that – that you love each other and want to spend the rest of your lives together. Damien’s father gave us the best advice: as long as we are genuinely happy and enjoying our day, then everyone else will too. Every time things got a bit overwhelming, that sentiment helped us to re-centre ourselves. And he was right of course! We had a great time. In the end, it was all worth it.
Advice to give to other multicultural couples
Other than my father-in-law’s advice… Don’t be afraid of your differing cultures. Embrace them and be willing to compromise with each other. At the end of the day, underneath all the religion, tradition, pomp and ceremony, this is about a lifelong commitment – a marriage not a wedding day.
Venue: St Augustines Kent
Hair & Makeup: Vin Virdi
Shoes & Bag: Jimmy Choo
Bridal Henna: Henna by Preet
Ceremony Officiant: Freedom and Leela
Wedding jewellery: Kyles Collection
Wedding Party Outfits: Velour Designs
Wedding cake: Cakeaholic Bakery
Photographer: Nishit Parmar
Décor: Chic Weds
Band: Ceili max
DJ: Dream Team Roadshow
Photobooth: Photobooth Magic
Wedding Nanny: Bearsted Babes
Wedding Party Accommodation: Royal Harbour Hotel