In our next ‘Inspired Weddings’ episode of The Feel Good Wedding Podcast, Dorothy (she/her) is joined by Ava Chand (she/her), to share the behind-the-scenes of planning her and Ash’s four-day Hindu wedding extravaganza.
Ava is a lawyer who works in financial services and is probably the epitome of a corporate millennial, she shares that ‘millennial work memes get me through my work week – not gonna lie!’.
When she’s not working, Ava has a couple of creative interests like styling and decorating her home, going for walks and generally incorporating mindful movement into her day, and reading and listening to true crime podcasts (it’s the suspense for Ava!).
Ava and Ash got married in May 2021 and just celebrated their first wedding anniversary.
It was so lovely to have Ava share her experience with us on the podcast.
Ava shares, “We actually stuck with most of the religious significance of the Hindu ceremony we kept because, you know, we’re not the most religious people in the world, but we knew that it meant a lot to our families and our parents and we wanted them to have that and be happy and kind of feel they were involved. But in saying that we did have little touches, that we added along the way, to make it a bit more personal to Ash and I, so for example, it’s quite traditional for Indian grooms to arrive on a white horse, but Ash actually opted for a white Cadillac. We just added in some contemporary 21st-century vibes!’
In this chat we discuss:
- How a four-day Hindu wedding celebration works
- How they started their planning and colour palette
- What cultural elements they kept in their celebrations
- And what modern personal touches they included
- Ava’s tips for couples planning a Hindu or cultural wedding
- And Ava’s tips for vendors looking to support couples planning an Indian or cultural wedding
We hope you enjoyed this episode! We’d love for you to share on your socials and tag @polkadotwedding and help us grow our listening community.
Find Dorothy & the Polka Dot Wedding team:
On Instagram: @polkadotwedding
On the website: polkadotwedding.com
The Polka Dot Wedding team is honoured to conduct our work on the land of the BoonWurrung, WoiWorung, Eora and Kuring-gai people. We honour the traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders custodians of the land and pay our respects to Elders’ past, present & emerging.
[00:00:00] Dorothy: You’re listening to the Feel Good Wedding podcast, a podcast by Polka Dot Wedding. My name is Dorothy and I’m the founder and editor, and I am passionate about wedding stories, but when it came to coming up with a podcast subject, we knew we wanted to dive in a little bit deeper. We knew there were subjects and thoughts and discussions that we haven’t really been having that we wanted to have.
[00:00:27] We knew there were people we were talking to that maybe we needed to talk to in front of you. So you could learn and get to know them as much as we did. We knew that there was room for something that was perhaps diving a little bit deeper while still having plenty of fun. And that’s exactly what we want to do with this podcast. We can’t wait to get to know you.
[00:00:46] The Polka Dot Wedding team is honoured to conduct our work on the land of the BoonWurrung, WoiWorung, Eora and Kuring-gai people. We honour the Traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander custodians of the land, and we pay our respects to Elders past and present.
[00:01:09] One of my favourite parts about Polka Dot Wedding is Polka Dot You. We launched it a couple of years ago as Polka Dot Weddings.
[00:01:15] And it’s always been the place for, well, you get to come on as a newly-wed or newly engaged, or even as a honeymooner and share your story your way. You get to decide what photos you use. You get to decide what text you use. It’s not us sitting there curating it. It’s you. So today I’m really excited to welcome one of our ‘You’ writers, Ava. Ava married her beloved Ash last year in a four-day Hindu extravaganza in Sydney. And while the wedding was steeped in tradition, what it also was, was steeped in how Ash and Ava wanted to plan their day and how Ash and Ava wanted to celebrate. And I feel that’s really difficult to do sometimes when family and society pressures are so heavy.
[00:01:57] So today I’m really thrilled to welcome Ava and share all her wonderful advice with you.
[00:02:03] Hello, Ava. Thank you so much for joining us today.
[00:02:06] Ava: Thank you. Thanks for having me on. I’ve been trying to plan it for a while, but it’s finally here and I think, yeah, it’ll be a nice little discussion. So thanks for having me.
[00:02:15] Dorothy: I’m really excited about our chat because we had so much fun sharing your wedding on Polka Dot You. And it was just such a feast for the eyes and feast for the senses, so I think it’s going to be really fun to dive a little bit more into it. I would love to start with how you and Ash met because you met randomly in Canberra at a museum.
[00:02:33] And from what you told us, you then pursued Ash to find him. Is that true?
[00:02:38] Ava: Yeah. I mean, I actually feel the whole experience of me seeing him and then finding him on social media was probably really weird for him. Yes, it’s major stalker vibes. I know, but it was so prior to Facebook actually there was a social media platform known as Bebo and this is probably, giving away my age now, but, I think we had some friends in common on Bebo and it just suggested that I add him as a friend.
[00:03:07] So I did, but mind you at this time, I didn’t know it was the same guy from the museum. So anyway, after he accepted, I went through his page. And then I figured out he was actually the guy from the museum because he had, you know, this really cool hair at the time that time everyone was kind of doing, and I noticed that it was the same car that he was in.
[00:03:29] And he had that as his profile picture anyways yeah, super weird and stalkerish I know, but that’s how he kind of got talking. And then eventually, I think it was only a couple of weeks after we met for our first ever cinema date and I think we watched ‘aliens in the attic’ and, you know, it was, it was kind of cute for me.
[00:03:49] I felt it was a real first date because, mind you as a teenager, you know, who grew up watching One Tree Hill, Clueless things, a Cinderella story. It was a tick in my book, you know, popcorn, chocolate ice cream and just good old teen spirit. It was, yeah, it was a really good first date.
[00:04:09] And after that, you know, we kept up the talking and the phone calls and more dates and then I think we eventually became a couple after I had just turned 16. And I think the way that I remember it is because I had a party and he was obviously invited, but at the time, my mum didn’t know that we were dating.
[00:04:30] Because growing up, my mum was a little strict. She was, oh, you know, you can have a boyfriend when you finish high school and get to uni and all that. So anyways, I didn’t tell her, but he had bought me, as a present, he actually bought me a Tiffany necklace because I had wanted it for so long.
[00:04:46] And yeah, it was just, it was so nice. I feel it’s kind of became a legacy because that was the first Tiffany he ever gave me; the necklace and then actually proposed with a Tiffany ring as well, which was kind of nice. So yeah.
[00:04:59] Dorothy: Oh, so I feel when you first told your story, I was like, how did you even find him? But if you had mutual friends, it sounds it was a little bit meant to be anyway. So, you know, maybe it wasn’t completely stalkerish?
[00:05:11] Ava: Right. I mean, that’s what I to tell myself, because I think, yeah, I think it sounds super stalkerish and I completely get it, but…
[00:05:24] Dorothy: No, you just had mutual friends and you connected. It’s different.
[00:05:27] Ava: Yeah, that’s right.
[00:05:28] Dorothy: Exactly.
[00:05:29] Ava: Yeah that’s what I’ll tell people now… it was mutual friends!
[00:05:33] Dorothy: Yes.
[00:05:34] Ava: But we eventually found each other on social media.
[00:05:39] Dorothy: Exactly. Now you brought up your proposal, which sounded as if it was the proposal of your dreams, which happened on New Year’s Eve. Can you tell us how Ash proposed or maybe you proposed? I know Ash proposed, but you know, we’re being equal these days.
[00:05:54] Ava: Oh, that’s right, so it was actually New Year’s day. He, so Ash is just a big nature lover. He loves four things. Nature, loves being by the beach, loves the water, and so we always had this tradition of going to a beach on New Year’s day, just every year we’d do it. It was something that was, you know, meaningful to us.
[00:06:15] It was just us two, it was kind of nice. And so…
[00:06:17] Dorothy: It’s romantic.
[00:06:19] Ava: It is very romantic and the proposal was just that, it was so sweet and intimate because it was just the two of us. And it was something that I had always wanted and envisioned, I wasn’t, I wasn’t the type of person that wanted, that grand proposal in front of a lot of people.
[00:06:34] I mean, that’s nice. And, honestly it’s a personal choice for , whoever wants the grand proposal, that’s completely up to them, but for me, I think the intimacy and the closeness made it really more magical for me. But he had, he had told my family and his family before proposing on that day that he was actually going to do it.
[00:06:54] And I think they were kind of, well, it’s about time because by that time we had been together for 10 years and, you know, we weren’t getting any younger. So, I think a lot of people had seen it coming, but yes, it was just us too, which was really nice. And it was, it was something that I had communicated with the team, just you know, when you randomly talk about, oh, you know. You’d to, or what would happen when we get married? It was just something that I had mentioned in passing and for him too, remember it and actually do it the way that I had wanted was, yeah, very sweet. Very nice.
[00:07:26] Dorothy: And to be honest, it sounds completely opposite to your wedding, which was a four day extravaganza. Do you want to tell us a little bit about the basics of your wedding day? So where was it? When was it? I think you said it went for four days, didn’t you, uh, what are the sort of stats of your weddings? How many people did you invite – all that kind of thing?
[00:07:43] Ava: Yeah. So, we had a traditional Indian wedding, our ceremony was a Hindu ceremony, but yes it went for I think yeah, four days – you were right. Four days. And so actually I’ll start with perhaps the first day. So we had our Henna ceremony and traditionally that’s only done kind of the ladies and the women of the family.
[00:08:11] And it’s not really done together. So you don’t really do it as a joint bride and groom thing, but we to challenged the norm a little bit. So I was, I wanted to be together, because it was something that I had wanted to do. I wanted to get nice pictures of us together while I was getting my henna done.
[00:08:29] And so that was the first day and that was during the daytime as well. And that was probably important to us as well, as you would’ve seen from, you know, the wedding photos and the little article that we had beforehand, we opted to do a lot of things a little differently.
[00:08:47] Traditionally, you don’t have Indian weddings during the day and it’s not really outside. So we tried to change that because we wanted it to be a really warm kind of inviting feel. We didn’t want it to be static and we didn’t want it to feel – we just wanted people to have fun.
[00:09:06] We didn’t want it to be boring. We wanted to put a little bit of, you know, our Western upbringing. Because we grew up here, we went to school here. We went to uni here, we work here. So we also wanted to have the traditional cultural roots, but adding the Western flair to make it a little bit more personal to us.
[00:09:26] So, I think that’s how we did it. In terms of the pre-wedding events, I think the ones at my house were probably at between 50 to 70 people I had at home. And then Ash’s family is a little bit bigger. And so he had a lot more people, I think off the top of my head, he had close to 100 – 150 every day, for the pre wedding events, which, you know, it’s kind of a lot, for me, I had already communicated to my family and my mum that I wanted it to be, you know, just really personal for me.
[00:10:07] I didn’t want a lot of random people there. And by random, I mean, you know, an auntie of an auntie or a cousin of a cousin, I actually wanted people there who I had spoken to, who knew me and who us. Some type of relationship with, so it was a little different for both of us, but yes, for the pre-wedding events, I would say for mine, it was about 70, for Ash’s it was a bit more, but then on the wedding day we had 220 people at the wedding, which believe it or not is actually quite conservative for an ethnic Indian wedding.
[00:10:45] Dorothy: Yes.
[00:10:45] Ava: Because I’m not sure if, I mean, you might not be familiar with it, but traditionally, I’ve been to weddings, my cousin’s weddings and friends where there’s been 400 people or 500 people.
[00:10:57] It’s been, it’s been crazy. I think the main thing for me was that I didn’t want to feel I was overwhelmed. I didn’t want it to be a daunting experience because, you know, it’s the most important day of your life.
[00:11:11] Dorothy: Yes.
[00:11:12] Ava: You know, you just don’t want that added stress. So I think we got real lucky because, yes, we had 220, it was manageable and it was even.
[00:11:20] Dorothy: Did you get pushback from your families around that?
[00:11:23] Ava: We, did a little bit because sometimes I think in the heat of wedding planning, obviously you know, your family and your parents, they want to be able to invite, their friends and their family members that they know of. That maybe you don’t know that much, but still people that are important to them and that have meaning for them in their life as well. So I think we did get a little bit of pushback, but because it was still kind of in the COVID pandemic time, we got a little lucky because the venue that we had chosen, I think that was the max that they could do. So we were really lucky, given that we did go right up to the max.
[00:12:10] We did get really lucky because it was something that was manageable. It was 110. Yes a 110 each side, which is, when you think about it, it’s not that much because I have a lot of friends, we have a lot of family.
[00:12:26] Dorothy: Yes. So you have your two days, you have your Henna ceremony and then you have the Turmeric ceremony, which is called the Haldi ceremony isn’t it?
[00:12:36] Ava: Yes, that’s right. We had the Henna ceremony, and that was at my house and that was during the day. So we had a lot of dancing, cake cutting and then obviously Henna as well. And so actually for all of my pre-wedding events, (quick shout out to my mum), but we actually styled and set up the flowers and decor for the home events ourselves because my mum and I , we love flowers and plants and everything.
[00:13:04] So we actually did it ourselves. So we had a lot of Magnolia and maple leaves and stuff which was really nice. And it kind of went with our theme. And then, yes, so that was the Henna day and then on the 30th of April and the 1st of May, we had turmeric ceremony, which is the Haldi. So there’s a long held belief that it actually blesses the wedded couple but turmeric is also really good for the skin, for glowing skin.
[00:13:30] So I was, this is a win-win because I had zero sleep. I was surviving on zero sleep because sometimes the rituals and just having fun, being part of it would go so late into the night and then it would be a reasonably early start the next day and just the excitement. So I wasn’t getting a lot of sleep, but when, because of the Turmeric ceremony and everything, I felt my skin, it actually behaved. It felt nice.
[00:14:01] Dorothy: You were glowing.
[00:14:03] Ava: Yes. I was glowing. Did look a little yellow, to be honest.
[00:14:08] Dorothy: Because that’s of course the problem with turmeric. Isn’t it? Does it stain? Does it stain your skin as well though?
[00:14:13] Ava: Because I remember when I would finish for the day and change into my pyjamas, getting ready for bed. I had purple or lilac pyjamas and they came out yellow!
[00:14:29] Dorothy: And it doesn’t come out of clothes at all, either.
[00:14:33] Ava: Yes. You have to really scrub wash, and then the same thing with my shoes. My wedding day shoes. I had beautiful Jimmy Choo heels and they were white and because they put it everywhere, so they put the Haldi everywhere, all over your body, on your feet. And so when I had put it on, my white shoes were stained, the inside of them.
[00:14:55] So my mum actually, she left them out in the sun for a week and then it just, yeah, it went away, which was kind of nice.
[00:15:03] Dorothy: Oh, bless mum. Thanks, mum. They always know how to fix it. So if the four-day celebration is such an enormous thing to play, and most of you know, that couples are stressing out, over one day. So where do you even start with a four-day celebration in planning it? Did you start with your vibe, what you wanted it to feel like? Or did you start with vendors? How did you sort of begin it?
[00:15:25] Ava: I would say for the pre-wedding events that we had, I know for both sides. So for my side and for Ash’s side as well, we were really lucky because we had a lot of help and support from our parents. I pretty much left the catering or the pre-wedding events and just how the day would run and because we had a bit of entertainment on those pre-wedding events too, I kind of left it to my mum, we planned it together, but she was more in charge of the pre-wedding stuff. So she, you know, she had a lot of contacts that she knew of, for the catering and, and we had one of my cousins had recently got married before me, I think, six or seven months before. So the people that they had used for the catering and everything else, it was kind of a sharing circle. It was, you know, my cousin or my aunty would pass that information onto my mum. And, I think that’s how it works because when I have been to Indian weddings for my cousins or my friends, it really is word of mouth. If someone is a really good vendor you know, you enjoyed the food somewhere or you enjoyed a performer somewhere, it’s really, hey, can you let me know? Or can you give me the number to contact this person, that’s how planning goes, but I do think the first thing that we probably decided was our outfits, and then everything kind of flowed from there because the outfits that we had, we obviously situated our decor and styling and flowers around those colours. So I think the starting point was planning what I wanted to wear and planning what Ash wanted to wear.
[00:17:16] And then going from there in terms of, you know, what do you want it to feel like? What do you want it to look? And then seeing what kind of elements you can add to make it come to fruition, if that makes sense. But definitely a big part of it was the help that we had from our family members in planning the pre-wedding events, because yes, you know, organising for some of them, the priest actually comes to the house as well. Because the ceremony, they also put coconut oil on you as well at the same time, it’s actually a nourishing thing, it’s really nice as well. So a couple of the things that the priest comes to the house to kind of get it going.
[00:18:06] So all that, I was involved in, but I didn’t have a big part because my mum was kind of doing that in the background. And then the other thing would probably be, so there’s this thing, which is a big part of an Indian wedding is the sweet making. So we start a week or two before and, you know, with family members come and they help make lots of sweets and snacks.
[00:18:30] So that was more coordinated by my Auntie and my mum. And yes, I’m really grateful. I can imagine if you didn’t have the help and support of family and if you were kind of going it alone, it’s kind of daunting. It’s, well, where do I start? But I think having that support was really helpful for people that are doing it alone.
[00:18:54] I think it really helps to sit down and just make a list of things that you want, because a lot of the pre-wedding events, they don’t have as much religious significance. If that makes sense. It’s just a cultural, traditional thing, so yes, I think it would make sense to make a list and then some people do it all in the same day.
[00:19:18] You know, I’ve seen destination weddings where people have done the Henna and the turmeric all in one day, and then they’ve gotten married the next day and that’s completely fine as well. It’s completely how you want to do it.
[00:19:31] Dorothy: So you said your day started, the theme of your day started with your attire and your attire was incredible. And both you and Ash had your outfits made by the same person. Can you tell me about those and how you found that designer and how you found that process of having all your outfits? Because you didn’t just have one. Did you have multiple outfits?
[00:19:48] Ava: I think I had actually, I think I had about, well, me personally, I don’t know about Ash, because … so what happens is after the Henna ceremony that we had during the day, we don’t see each other till the wedding day. So we have the pre-wedding at our own home, so yes, we weren’t seeing each other but I think I had a total of six outfits for the whole, yes. For the whole, yeah, for the whole wedding week, which to be honest, I feel it’s kind of conservative. Because sometimes people do have a lot more – it actually really depends on what you want to do. Because if you want to wear eight or 10 outfits, that’s completely up to you.
[00:20:32] That’s whatever you want to do, but yes, so it was traditional attire for all the days, so my bridal outfit was what’s known as a lehenga, so it’s a skirt and a top and it’s got a little veil as well, and so when we were planning that I think when we started wedding planning, it was March, April 2020. That was actually the first thing we did. Because I said to Ash, you know, it’s that COVID is here and it’s happening. And if we don’t do it right now, we’re not going to have any outfits to wear for our wedding because everything was completely customised. It wasn’t even made here. Our supplier actually had it made from their supplier in India. Everything that we did – I had a certain vision in mind. I had seen something that I liked and then I literally just showed them a photo and I was, I want something like this. And you know, I tried something similar, but I knew what I wanted. I knew the material, I knew the colours and then we kind of designed it around that. And then Ash’s wedding day outfit was actually more customised than mine. So he matched mine in terms of, he had the turban that was the same colour and he also wears a little throw-over/shawl, I would say, but he had some really nice customised work on it too. So he had a really large rose on the back of the top half, and that was in honour of his late mum, which was really sweet and that was all hand embroidered as well. So it was, it was massive. It was, I think, 30, 40 or 50 centimetres.
[00:22:18] So it was quite big and prominent. And then he also had our names embroidered on the wrist, on the sleeves of his outfit, which was really nice too. So it was all this work that went into it. But I think that really set the tone because from everything on our wedding day, situated around the colour of our outfits, which, you know, it might sound weird to some people, but yes, all our flowers, even the wedding program, even the place cards that we had, everything was around the colours of what we were wearing, which, you know, I think it kind of just brings everything together in a nice way.
[00:22:59], It’s a cherry on top. So yeah, everything started off with the outfit and we were really lucky that we did it at the time we did, because yes, if we hadn’t put in our order and if we hadn’t done it, you know, I think we did it, we ordered it in May, July, probably July, 2020, but if we didn’t do it at that time, I don’t think we, it would’ve come in time for our wedding because there was, there was really big delays because obviously COVID and India was really bad. They had shut down. A lot of things, people weren’t working, people were really sick. And so production was slow, shipping was slow. It was, yeah, it was just, it wasn’t a great time.
[00:23:41] Dorothy: Planning a wedding in the time of COVID I think is just, you’ve got to allow so much more time. One of the things I loved most about how you and Ash planned your day was that you added all these special touches. You honoured Ash’s mother who sadly passed away – in a couple of different ways. You did a whole lot of DIY. Can you tell me about those special touches that you added to your day?
[00:24:01] Ava: Yes, so I think you’re right. We had little touches such as Ash’s, you know, the rose for his mum on his outfit, and then we also had a picture of her, framed. And then we had a little saying that was framed as well, next to her picture. It was actually, my mum actually found it. She was at a random boutique shop, but it’s a little vase in the shape of a moon. So every time she’d say to Ash, “I love you to the moon and back”. And so it was so sweet. Because you know, it’s in the shape of the moon. And then I wrote on there, “to the moon and back”, and that actually became our wedding hashtag.
[00:24:49] Dorothy: Oh, I love it.
[00:24:52] Ava: So our surname Chand actually means moon in Sanskrit, which is the language.
[00:25:01] Dorothy: So special.
[00:25:02] Ava: Yeah, it was, I was, oh, this is crazy. And I was thinking for so long, what, you know, I really wanted a wedding hashtag. I was, what is it going to be? And I was, oh, hang on, I know – so we had that. I did DIY a couple of things. So our wedding favours. We had little succulents in pots, which I DIY because I had a lot of those succulents, from my mum’s garden, and then I just got little terracotta pots that we put them in, which was nice. And you know, it’s something that people can take home.
[00:25:30] I actually have a friend, he came from Melbourne to our wedding and he still has that succulent and it’s still alive. I can’t believe it’s still alive. He’s “I don’t know how to take care of plants, but it’s still going strong”. And it’s so nice when people can say that. Because it’s something that, you know, is meaningful and that they can remember. So I thought that was really nice. And then I think, yeah, so we had that and then my sister-in-law actually made our welcome sign, and she’s amazing. She has the best handwriting and she was really good with the colours and what we wanted.
[00:26:10] So she made our welcome sign. And then I also opted for having e-invites and we used Zola. And that was really good because traditionally for Indian weddings, you know, you print it out and you send it out. And sometimes they actually are getting it made overseas as well. So you’d place in an order and then it comes over and then you send it out.
[00:26:32] But, yes, we opted for e-invites, you know, something for the planet which was nice. And yeah, I made out, actually made our wedding program booklet on Canva, and then I got one of my friends – her dad works in printing and he just printed it out for us. And that was, yeah, that was really good because Canva’s great if you know how to use it and you can navigate it, it was really good because I made our cards and program booklet.
[00:27:02] Dorothy: I loved all the love, those touches. And now you said, you mentioned some of the vendors there, as in Zola and the services you used. You and Ash were married all in one venue in the beautiful Doltone House. Can you tell me about your dream team and which were your standout vendors and who did you love working with?
[00:27:18] Ava: I would say that I would say all of our vendors were really great, from the venue, the entertainment, our outfitters, the florist, our DJ, the photographer video team, they were all really good. They were all really accommodating because mind you, planning a wedding during COVID and just, you know, having stress, but also having assurances in place that for whatever reason that, you know, it can’t go ahead or it’s postponed, just knowing that those people will be able to accommodate, we really had to make sure that that was something that they were able to do because you know, it was kind of front and centre for us that if something happened or if there was another restriction or another outbreak, we may not be able to go ahead with our day or we might need cull our numbers. So that was something that we kind of had to do with in the background. Weddings are stressful to plan as it is, but just having that looming over you. That was, yeah, that was another thing altogether. But I would say the standout vendors, I would probably say the people (who made) our wedding outfits because they were really, really good because they were the first people that we approached when wedding planning, because, you know, we chose our outfits first, and we actually also got both our outfits, my Henna day outfit was also from the same vendor, as well as Ash’s wedding party outfits. And the groomsman, his dad’s outfit was also from them.
[00:29:01] And then a couple of my family members also bought outfits from them as well.
[00:29:06] Dorothy: Wow. They did well out of your wedding.
[00:29:08] Ava: That’s right. That’s what I mean, I think it was good because they were really accommodating and everywhere else that they were honest with us which was nice, saying that, you know, it won’t be done before the wedding or it might be, and for some reason, these people were, “no, no, no, you know, just leave it to us. It’ll be fine”. And they actually delivered on what they said they would, which was really nice. So I think that really set the tone for our wedding and it kind of brought everything together because as I said, everything started from, choosing our outfits and the colours and choosing what we wanted it to look and feel like.
[00:29:46] So I think they were probably a really standout vendor and what we’ve bought from them before. You know, when we’ve gone to other weddings or just bought outfits from them and they’ve always been amazing. So I think, yeah, I think they were probably a real standout vendor as well.
[00:30:03] Dorothy: And you had ‘Eden and Bell’ do your flowers. So did they do flowers for all the four days or just your reception and ceremony day?
[00:30:11] Ava: It was just our ceremony and reception day that we had. Yeah, they were really good as well. They were, you know, super accommodating – the lady who is the owner of ‘Eden and Bell’, Sophie, her husband actually built our mandap, which is the four post structure that you sit under to get married, which is probably the most important, physical element of the ceremony. He built it for us, you know, I didn’t, I wanted it to feel really organic and earthy and luxe and really floral. And so I opted for a wooden mandap, I really wanted to feel just very natural, but also, as I said, just floral and an enchanted garden kind of vibe. So yes, he actually built it for us and to be honest, we had inquired with a lot of other places, but they weren’t just able to accommodate us and ‘Eden and Bell’ were really great because they were able to do that. And then the styling and the flowers at our wedding were amazing.
[00:31:22] And, you know, sitting under the canopy. It was so nice. It was so refreshing. It smelled amazing. And yes, I loved it.
[00:31:30] Dorothy: One of the things you said earlier, which I loved was that you wanted to challenge the norm when it came to Hindu weddings. So how did you do that with your ceremony? Because I know a Hindu ceremony as well, and the four days before it, is very full of tradition and the things that you are expected to do. So what did you do in your actual ceremony on the wedding day? That was personal to you both?
[00:31:48] Ava: So I think we, we actually stuck with most of the religious significance of the Hindu ceremony we kept because, you know, we’re not the most religious people in the world, but we knew that it meant a lot to our families and parents and wanted have that and be happy and kind of feel they were involved.
[00:32:12] So we did stick with majority of the religious steps with the guidance of the priests on the day, but in saying that we did have little touches, that we added along the way, that kind of, you know, made it a bit more personal to Ash and I, so for example, it’s quite traditional for Indian grooms to arrive at their weddings on a white horse, but Ash actually opted for a white Cadillac added in.
[00:32:40] Dorothy: Same thing!
[00:32:40] Ava: That’s right. We just added in some contemporary 21st-century vibes which was nice. And then the other thing which I think I briefly touched on as well. Our ceremony took place outside and it was actually during the day or afternoon. So it was, it was just on the wharf, on the gantry overlooking the wharf. And traditionally they’re done inside, so inside a hall or any type of imposed area and usually more towards the evening time. So I think that was something that was a little twist that we had because it was such a beautiful day and it’s beautiful weather. I was, I’m not going to give up the opportunity to have really nice and vibrant photos , so yes, we decided to opt for the daytime ceremony. And I think the other thing I would say is that traditionally, the bride walks down the aisle alone but I actually had my mum walk me down the aisle, which is, you know, it’s kind of unheard of. And I think the reason why is because she’s also a single mum, so I think that’s even more unheard of because there’s just, yeah, there’s really outdated kind of misogynist view that, you know, if you’re a single mum or a single dad that you shouldn’t be participating in all of the religious rituals and other things part of your children’s wedding day.
[00:34:11] But I was, no, I’m not having it any other way. I want my mum to walk me down the aisle. So that’s what we did. And then we also had little things here and there. I had a cellist who played Ellie Goulding as I walked down the aisle, which was really nice. And then the other things that we kind of did was the speeches. We tried to keep it at a minimum, I think because we didn’t want our guests to be bored. We really wanted them to feel entertained and, and feel appreciated that, you know, they were there and that we appreciate them being there and being present. So we kept the speeches to a minimum and then we kind of amped up the performances and entertainment.
[00:34:51] So I think we had three or four on the night and most of them actually involved audience participation, which was so good because it kind of got people out of their shell, because I don’t know, sometimes, you know, Hindu weddings and receptions, they can be a bit modest if that makes sense, I feel, it’s not like a Western reception.
[00:35:18] Dorothy: There’s more traditional, I think, in an Indian wedding. So it’s a little bit more pulled back and maybe a little bit more restrained. Yes.
[00:35:24] Ava: Yes. A bit muted, I would say, it would be a bit muted. So I think we tried to change that a little bit, just by adding in those little things, audience participation was really good. I mean, if I could recommend that to anyone, if your entertainment vendors can do some type of audience participation, then go for it because it’s such an icebreaker.
[00:35:46] And, you know, we had Latin dances.
[00:35:50] Dorothy: I was going to say, you didn’t just have one entertainment company. You had Dance With Me Sydney. You had Mitch Billick and you had SK Bollywood. You just went all out on your entertainment.
[00:36:01] Ava: Yes, because, you know, we thought we wanted something different. We didn’t want people to feel they weren’t having a good time. We kept our ceremony with the traditional religious vibe, with the addition, the little touches that we had that kind of made it personal to us, but then the reception, even though it was vegetarian and alcohol-free, that kept us kind of in sync with the religious side of it, we still wanted it to be just as entertaining and, you know, just as fun that it would be if you were to go to any other type of reception, So I think that was really important to us. We also actually had a surprise performance by Ash’s groomsman and his cousins and family and that was, I think that was the last entertainment of the night and that opened up the dance floor. Yeah, that was so good. It was, it was just so it was jam-packed, but it was nice. There wasn’t a lull ever, and I think it was really entertaining. Well, I mean, I enjoyed it.
[00:37:10] Dorothy: That’s all that matters, to be honest. Now let’s talk about what it’s like planning a Hindu wedding in Sydney in 2021. Did you have any issues with vendors? Did you face any vendors that are like, what are you talking about? I don’t know how to do that.
[00:37:26] Ava: Look, I would say that I guess the mandap thing is probably, as I said, we had approached other florists and stylist and asked if they could, you know, build something or if they hire something similar and then get someone else to decorate it because we were really wanting our florist – is what I should start with.
[00:37:51] So we didn’t want to. There is an option to get or to hire it from somewhere else and then get them to decorate it and stuff. But it’s just easier if, I guess one person does all of it because they know what they’re kind of doing and they know how to decorate it. And they know, you know how to wedge things in certain places and keep it in place so it doesn’t fall apart, you know, stuff like that. So it was difficult in the beginning as we didn’t go for the traditional mandap. We went for a wooden one, which is kind of hard to find, not everyone does it. And I think that was one of the issues that I came across because I was initially going to hire it from someone else and then get another vendor to style it, and then some people that you hire it from they get kind of weird if if you don’t use them to also style it. So it was just, it was becoming such a headache for me. And I was, oh, I don’t know what to do. And then the other thing, we were thinking of at the time, because it was just difficult for me at the time, we were thinking of getting Ash because he is, you know, he’s really good at building and on the tools and stuff, I was just going to ask him to build it and then we could just drop it off there and they would, you know, style it and stuff.
[00:39:02] But anyways, Eden and Bell were really great because her husband, so her husband actually built it for us. So that was really super accommodating. And that’s the first time they’ve done an Indian wedding. And it was amazing. I couldn’t believe it.
[00:39:17] Dorothy: Because I was going to say, I think part of the way that you got through it without much pushback from vendors – it sounds like you chose vendors who had worked on Hindu weddings before. Doltone House has obviously had Hindu weddings before, so they know the different structure to a traditional Western wedding. So is that key, but then you say ‘Eden and Bell’, hasn’t done Indian weddings before.
[00:39:39] Ava: No first Indian wedding. And, Sophie was great. She was so excited. Because it was her first, you know, cultural Indian wedding, which was really nice. And yeah, I mean, I would say the other thing would probably be the venue, for example, it’s just important for Indian couples or anyone really that’s planning an ethnic wedding to be able to have some flexibility in the venue higher times, I would say is one thing and also menus because most of the time when you are going to an Indian wedding, there’ll be Indian food there. And sometimes when you, book some of the bigger venues or the ones that are quite popular, they don’t always cater for that type of cuisine or food, but again, it wasn’t a big issue for us because we had actually curated and tried customised our Indian and modern Australian menu. So we had vol au vent canapés, risotto entrees and traditional Indian mains, you know, kofta paneer and naan and saffron rice and all that. And then we have, oh, it was great. It was so good, and it was actually all catered by Doltone House.
[00:41:00] So you have the option. There was two things that you could do when you book them out. And I think it was only for certain rooms, but you have the option of having an external caterer, so we had that option or you could just do the catering through them and they could, spruce something up. So that’s what we opted for.
[00:41:19] Because we’ve been to weddings ever before and we’ve had their food and they’re, you know, it’s quite good. So we’re, “we’ll try and put together something and see how it works”. And it was really good. Our guests enjoyed the meals. So I think that was a big hit. The other thing I would also say is, and I think this is probably a thing for all weddings, regardless of, you know, Indian or Western, I would say that the number of seats you get for your ceremony is not nearly enough. They only give, I think they only cater for 30 seats in weddings that I have been to Doltone House was different because we asked really, really nicely and we were able to, you know, conjure up extra seating and they also put up projector screens for those people seated inside so that they could see the ceremony that was happening on the get go, which was really nice, but I would say that’s probably a little barrier because you know, our ceremonies can go for up to two hours.
[00:42:25] Dorothy: Yes. And it’s making it accessible too, isn’t it? Because you don’t know which of your guests are, you know, are ill or have a chronic illness that might be invisible. So if everyone can sit comfortably, it makes it that much more comfortable.
[00:42:39] Ava: Very true, and I think that’s probably one of the biggest feedbacks that I have about venues and just trying to make it more accessible for these, you know, different type of cultural weddings and ceremonies. I would say that seating is probably an issue, but again, most of the time, if you ask nicely and try and set it up way in advance, it’s something that they should be able to cater to. Because Doltone House was quite accommodating even with our venue hire time, traditionally, for any type of, you know, wedding celebration, I think there’s a max of four or five hours. Venue hire time for most places. But we were really lucky because we kind of told them, look, you know, our wedding ceremony might go for up to two hours and then we want to get photos as a couple and with our wedding party, and then, you know, we have the reception bits. So we need it for a lot longer than the time that’s traditionally given to other type of celebrations.
[00:43:44] And so they were quite good because I think we ended up actually booking out the double time slot that would’ve otherwise gone to another event or another couple, so I think that was really nice. They were very accommodating in that sense.
[00:43:58] Dorothy: What do you wish as, someone who’s gone through a Hindu wedding that, and what you and I talked about before we started the podcast, was the lack of representation around Hindu weddings. What do you wish the Australian wedding industry could know or would know about a Hindu wedding? And how to make it easier for Hindu couples?
[00:44:20] Ava: I would say probably those things that I spoke about just earlier. So I think just having the ability to certain catering menus, to be able to accommodate for Indian meals, or if you can’t accommodate for in house, then least having an option to kind of get external caterers as well. I think that would very helpful. And then I think the other thing as well, the other two things that I spoke about – the venue hire time, and the seating ceremony is quite important because, you know, it’s not traditional in the sense that, you know, sometimes a Christian or a Catholic wedding, maybe it’s done in under an hour, depending on, you know, what the couple wants, but for Indian weddings, most of the time, ours is pretty short. I think we, we kind of,I was saying to the priest, no, I really want it to be only an hour, hour and a half. And he was, right. We can do an hour and a half, but nothing shorter.
[00:45:20] So I think just, yes, being able to accommodate and just kind of having that in the back of your mind, or maybe even having a dedicated cultural wedding specialist or just accommodate educating staff. Yes. Or even educating staff on, you know, how much a cultural Indian wedding can vary or any type of ethnic wedding.
[00:45:45] Because it’s very different in terms of culture, to a traditional wedding, I would say. So I feel just having that awareness is important and then maybe having policies around that awareness, you know, being able to cater to different requests or even just considering different requests is important to some places that I had looked at for doing our ceremony. For example, because a big part of it is lighting the fire and then doing the rituals when that fire is lit and a lot of places weren’t letting you do it because you know, it’s a fire hazard or whatever the case may be. So I think just having that awareness that you know, it’s such a big market, Hindu weddings are a big market.
[00:46:35] And just having that awareness that you know, if you’re able to cater to and able to accommodate these types of cultural weddings, I think that would just make it a bit more inclusive for people trying to plan a Hindu wedding as well. In saying that though, I think there is quite a big market for booking traditional Indian wedding vendors as well.
[00:46:58] As I said we opted for Doltone House. I’ve been to temples for example, or, you know, other venues that are more popular, more accommodating to Hindu and cultural weddings. So I think there’s quite a big market for it. Now, most of the time with Hindu weddings, it is, as I said earlier, word of mouth.
[00:47:22] So word travels really fast if you go to a wedding and a vendor or you a photographer or the entertainment that was there, you just ask and, you know, you’re kind of given that knowledge and you’re kind of passed on to the right person. So I think, I think it is, it’s quite a big community and, and it’s growing as well, and then I do think as much as those things and those ideas of mine will make it more accessible I do think if you do go with just, you know, regular vendors that aren’t, you know, that don’t specialise in Indian weddings, I feel if you find the right person and the right vendor, they can be quite accommodating and they can change things around to, you know, try and bring your day more into alignment into what you want, because that’s what I found, aside from our outfit and Photographer and videographer, all our other vendors we just, we found through Instagram and Google, to be honest. The colours, this car or Ash was, yep. This is, you know, he chose the cars, but even, you know, where we bought our shoes from, where we found the venue, our chandelier suppliers, et cetera, I think.
[00:48:44] There’s a lot of information on social media and most of the time now when people do their way that has done something or added elements into their day, you can just find it, go on the Instagram page or even reach out to them and find it that. I feel when you do talk to people it’s quite inclusive and there’s rarely been an occasion when someone hasn’t provided you with, you know, advice or guidance or even just a referral.
[00:49:25] So I think nowadays it is a bit more inclusive and accessible.
[00:49:30] Dorothy: I feel we’ve spent the last hour, not only talking through your wedding and immersing myself in your wedding again, after reading your beautiful post, but also you’ve just had so much amazing advice that I think anyone, whether they’re having a Western or a Hindu wedding can take something from I’ve taken things from that I haven’t even thought of. Do you have any last words of advice for couples planning their big day, whether Hindu, Western, or any other culture? Yeah.
[00:49:55] Ava: Yes. I mean, I would probably, and I feel everyone probably says this, but just really, stay true to yourselves as a couple. So if there’s something that you both want and you don’t compromise on, or, you don’t want to compromise on and you know, you have room for it in the budget because that’s also an important thing, then do it, by all means, do it because you’re not going to get that opportunity again. Do you know what I mean? You just want to make sure that everything that you dreamed of, everything that you kind of imagined for your big day, what’s important to you, both what’s at the core of your values is included in your wedding day, because at the end of it, it’s a reflection on you as a couple. So if it’s, you know, if you want to stay true to your ethos, if you have different ideas or, you know, something that kind of strays from the norm, if it’s a bit left field and you think, oh, I don’t know if it’s, if it’s going to work or I don’t know what people will think, or maybe I’ll get pushback from family.
[00:50:57] Just put it out there. Because the worst thing people can do and the worst thing family can do is say no, but you just do it anyway, because, it’s your wedding, it’s your day. And I think that’s probably the most important advice. We obviously try and accommodate to family and, you know, what they would also want because it’s a big day for your parents as well.
[00:51:22] It’s, you know, their children are getting married, so obviously they want to be part of it too. But I think it’s important to also remember that it’s your first big decision as a couple, it’s something that you’ve planned together and it kind of sets the tone for not only your wedding day but your marriage, which is the bigger picture, you want your marriage to also be a reflection of, you know, how you were able to plan your wedding, how you were able to pull everything together, how you work as a team because I feel that’s what it’s all about.
[00:51:54] Dorothy: I feel you lived and breathed that through every part of your day with every little special personal touch you did and doing it all your way. And I’m really thrilled we got the chance to talk. Thank you so much.
[00:52:04] Ava: Thank you so much. That was really good. I’m so glad I got to do it too. And I hope someone gets some type of inspiration or, you know, if they’re, doubting something or if they don’t have, you know, the confidence to change something about their wedding that they’ve always wanted to change or are not sure on, then I hope they’re able to do it based on what we spoke about.
[00:52:27] Dorothy: I think there is no doubt that your words will be golden to so many couples. Thank you so much.
[00:52:33] Ava: Thank you so much.
[00:52:34] Dorothy: Thanks so much for listening to today’s episode. If you’d like to see more of Ava’s wedding, you can head on over to polkadotwedding.com/podcast. Over there, we have a full transcript of today’s episode, along with all the links from Ava’s wedding. You’ll even see her full feature with all the photos and all the vendor credit.
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