If there is one trend we’d like to see happen for weddings in 2022, it’s the two-day celebration. Stephen and Lakshmi held a Hindu ceremony in May, and then a white tie celebration a week later in June. Two big parties? Two celebrations? Count us all in!

The Ivory Story captured the double celebration. Day one? A traditional Sri Lankan Hindu wedding, described by Stephen as “bright, colourful, loud, chaotic, steeped in ceremony and tradition”. Celebration two? A moody, misty winter’s day  with a classic western ceremony, which Stephen calls “monochrome, intimate, inspired by understated elegance.”

The juxtaposition of the two celebrations is brilliant, the celebration intense, romantic and so full of old and new. Today, we’re lucky enough to share this dual story, as told by Stephen himself.

It was while studying, that Lakshmi and Stephen’s paths first crossed, the story, in Stephen’s words, goes like this. “Lakshmi and I met some 15 years ago in our undergraduate studies. She, the daughter of a traditional South Indian priest and me, middle-class middle-Australia, collided in the perfectly expanding universe of our shared intellectual enlightenment and personal growth at that time.

The cultural factors were a boon; enriching for each of us and equally requiring us to take our time… Our families met formally almost ten years later, and without hesitation embraced each other in the most profound and reaffirming gesture of our commitment to each other. We endured trial and personal and professional challenges, have been able to travel extensively, and after so many years together, the wedding planning (for two weddings!) went better than we could have hoped.”

The proposal was imagined almost two years before when it happened. “Lakshmi and I found a small nugget of obsidian on a special trip we took to summit Mt Kilimanjaro in 2018. I was able to have the beautiful jet black cooled-lava fashioned into a gem for a proposal ring, which I kept with me for almost two years until I eventually proposed while on holiday to Lake St Clair.”

The couple were lucky enough to find a venue that was also special to the bride’s family, Stephen explains “Hindu weddings ideally take place within a Hindu temple and we were very lucky to be able to hold our wedding in the South Indian Hindu temple of SA – Shri Ganesh Temple. It has a beautiful glass-domed ceiling allowing the sun to pour in throughout the day, surrounded by the idols Lakshmi and her family grew up with.”

The incredible floral arrangements (at both weddings) were the work of Pure Flower Designs. “Given just how much colour the temple wedding already involved, we wanted to try to tie it together with a palette of pastels and creams; our florist was amazing and intuited which species and colours would work best based on our ideas – it worked out perfectly with orchids and cream roses a feature. For the Hindu wedding, multiple symbolic garlands of fresh flowers of tuberose and rose in pale pink and white are essential (and incredibly heavy to wear all day!).”

Much of the decor for the Hindu wedding, was handmade. “Apart from the flowers, catering and clothes, almost everything for the Hindu wedding (decorations, decor, stationery, programs, menus, Save the Date cards) was DIY. I have a background in design and we had a lot of help from our extended “Bridal Bee”.”

For the May wedding, Stephen wore contemporary sherwanis, while Lakshmi wore a dusky pink and a red saree. He tells “I wore one that was bone and pink with a green accent to match Lakshmi’s first saree, then a pure white sherwani offset against Lakshmi’s beautiful centrepiece red and gold saree.

Lakshmi wore traditional Kanchipuram silk sarees, initially in dusky pink, and for the ceremonial moment of being wed, Lakshmi changed into the essential bright red and gold. Traditionally, Hindu weddings are held in the morning, so brides are often up from 2 or 3 am to get ready.”

The couple embraced everything traditional for their May wedding and took part in all of the ceremonies, traditionally held at a Hindu wedding. “Hindu wedding ceremonies typically last 2-3 hours of a series of prayers and rituals” explains Stephen. “Only certain moments (like the tying of the Thali) are formal and demand everyone’s attention, the rest of the time guests can mingle and watch and talk as they please.

The traditional wedding is as much about the families coming together as it is about the couple being wed. There are also a series of smaller ceremonies in the week leading to the wedding day.”

Lakshmi even added her twist on the traditional celebration. “The Hindu wedding has a very strict set of observances although these vary from family to family. Lakshmi was eager to include a new tradition for her family, a dance announcing her arrival at the wedding as a bride, and we were delighted to be able to have the wedding during COVID in Lakshmi’s family temple. We loved the incorporation of so much history and tradition as well as the chance to try to have everything just how we wanted.”

Stephen and Lakshmi ditched the idea of a traditional wedding party, and instead asked their favourite people to bear witness to the day. “We did not want a traditionally gendered wedding party and instead across both weddings our long-standing 20-year friendship group (some 30 people, most of whom are our high school friends) supported us in innumerable ways to make the big days happen.”

At the June wedding, Stephen chose a white tie look, with pieces from Marion Dry Cleaners & Tailoring. “Choosing for the white wedding was harder” he tells. “I am fortunate to wear suits and black tie regularly, so I wanted to take the opportunity of our wedding to wear something really fun.

I went with the most traditional western cultural icon I knew of and wore classic White Tie, executed down to the obligatory materials for the bow tie, vest, silk socks, patent leather opera floats, and on and on; it took over 6 months to assemble and tailor all the required items; and matched with my best friend as well as Lakshmi’s father – the first time he has ever worn a suit! He looked amazing.”

The June wedding, white tie in formality, was held at Mount Lofty House. “The white wedding was at Mt Lofty house; freezing cold, misty, with the last remnants of autumnal gold and red the perfect backdrop to an altogether different wedding experience for us (and all our patient guests, who had to attend two separate weddings!).”

The venue was decorated with deep winter toned blooms by Pure Flower Designs. “For the Mt Lofty wedding we wanted to complement the muted colour palette, and Kerryn (our florist) gave us compositions of creams with caramel and toffee coloured roses and orchids.”

Lakshmi walked down the aisle to a life serenade. “One of my oldest friends sang Lakshmi down the aisle to an acoustic version of Frank Ocean’s “Pink + White”. It was perfect,” says Stephen.

The couple chose a completely different feel for their white tie wedding, noting “The white wedding ceremony was conducted by our close friend Ranvir as a civil celebrant, my aunt gave a reading by a Bengali poet, Tagore, “Unending Love” – everyone cried. We wanted this ceremony to be sincere and dignified and a real concentrated well of feeling, before the long-awaited reception for our friends and family to celebrate what felt like an unending wedding month..!”

Stephen shares this advice if you’re in the thick of planning. “Give yourself time to plan and prepare those things which are aspirational and important to you both, but try to keep the rest simple – after the fact, all that has mattered to us is how we were able to spend time with everyone we loved, so we’d say try to allow as much time to enjoy your friends and family on the day as possible. Keep your energy for the main things (for us, outfits, location, photographer and a few main vendors), and keep an open mind about the rest.
Consider staying at or near your wedding venue the night before!”

The classic white tie elegance of the night even extended to the first dance, says Stephen. “We stuck with the theme and danced to the studio version of Frank Ocean’s “Pink + White”. We went to weekly dance classes for a couple of months before the wedding to learn the Viennese Waltz (Lakshmi has a dance background… I don’t…) and even though I buggered it up a little on the actual night the very process of going to dance classes with our spirit-guide and dance teacher Francesco of Quicksteps was like the best pre-wedding couple’s therapy and we would thoroughly recommend this.”

And then? It was time to celebrate! “For the white wedding, we included some of the wedding games we were unable to manage at the Hindu wedding (like trying to throw a garland over each other from the shoulders of our friends and family) but otherwise really wanted that wedding to be a party for everyone who’d stuck with us through all the wedding preparation and events!”

The biggest of congratulations to the happy couple! Thank you Stephen and Lakshmi for sharing your stunner of a day with us (and thank you to The Ivory Story for sharing today’s beautiful images and films with us).