VARSHINI + ROHIT | An old world romance

Varshini and Rohit are a contradiction to the times we live in. They could easily pass of as royalty from a hundred years ago- everything from their personal style to wardrobe reflects their love for vintage. For their wedding, they chose the beautiful Suryagarh as the backdrop and we designed an aesthetic that was above everything else – classic.

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The Polo brunch:

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Rohit loves polo, so much so that Varshini claims he loves his horses more than her! Their brunch was inspired by his love for the sport- large umbrellas, cushions inspired by a photo of him playing, polo trophies and horseshoes defined the décor for the afternoon.

The Sangeet:

Was a recreation of Varshini’s love for designer Sabysachi and everything vintage. Velvets, sequins and beautiful lamps lay casually in the royal gardens to host a night of dancing.

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The Mehendi:

In our little imaginative world, we see a little differently. Sometimes through our eyes and often through the eyes of others. For Varshini and Rohit, we created a mehendi inspired by an imaginary setting - if Mary Antoinette and Maharani Gayatri Devi met for tea. We had macaroons and maharaja tents set under the vibrant desert sky. Royal, mad and entirely whimsical- only we can dream of such things!

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The Ceremony:

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We've always believed in a modern interpretation of the traditional. Brass, tuberoses and handwoven fabrics are a constant in our little universe.

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Varshini and Rohit wanted an elegant royal wedding, one that also personified their South Indian heritage. Guests sat around a stepwell filled with the fragrance of fresh tuberoses as the pheras took place under a beautiful canopy of natural greens.

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 The ceremony was followed by a sit-down meal. The Sadhya meal is perhaps the most beautiful way of serving food- it’s almost an art form. Long tables were set under an air-conditioned tent, draped with banana leaves and brocade runners. Comfortable charpoys were set out for a quick nap between courses. After all, a wedding is foremost about the food.

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Design and Concept: Devika Narain & Company

Venue + Food: Suryagarh, Jaisalmer

Flowers: Henna Bespoke

Structure and rentals: Rama tent house, Bombay tent house

Furniture: Silverline rentals

Photo: Stories by Joseph Radhik

Film: The Wedding Filmer

Planning: Shaadisquad

 

 

 

Suryagarh: A Postcard from Royal India

Home is where the heart is - whoever said that knows me all too well. And for a person like me who travels a lot, home is multiple places. Right from the ones that inspire my craft to the ones that make me feel comfortable and warm every single time I step in there. And among the many places I visited, Suryagarh stands tall, which is why you will have to forgive me for my utter devotion to this beautiful space.

Over the past two years, I must have been to Suryagarh over a dozen times, but it’s the first impression of the hotel that still stands strong in my mind. First, it’s a long, arduous drive from Jodhpur (the closest airport is roughly four hours from Jaisalmer- with two daily flights by Jet and Air India).

And after driving through the desert, you can’t see anything for miles other than sand dunes and camels. The drive itself is languid and breath-taking. You can slowly see your body and mind stripping itself of all the fast-paced city life. Armed with a playlist fit for a laid back life, the drive on the jeep is anything but ordinary.

Small towns crop up in regular intervals and you get a glimpse into the rustic world - maybe a few camels and a few women clad in colour-blocked saris talking in whispers. It is cathartic. And just as you’re sinking into the whole theatre of it, all of a sudden, you see the magnificent Suryagarh looming in the horizon.

The Grand Welcome

As you approach the hotel, lancers in an open jeep guide you into the palace where you are greeted by local kalbeliya dancers. Add to that, a few regal horses and the hotel’s adorable dogs Nala and Simba (More on them later!) and you’re mesmerised already.

By Indian standards, it is a “small” hotel. But, it’s heart is bigger and it’s beauty incomparable. That’s why it will be etched on your mind long after you have left the place. Because, truth be told, no other hotel in Jaisalmer, is quite like Suryagarh.

Designed for Kings!

The lobby designed by Raghavendra Rathore is a visual treat. However, it’s the stunning courtyard in the centre of the hotel that defines the character of this hotel to me. The perfect chilling place where you sit with friends and family, have a few drinks and settle into the beauty. In a way, this courtyard is the living room of the hotel. In no other hotel in the world have I spent such little time in the room, and forgive me, the rooms are stunning but it’s the courtyard that takes your breath away.The rooms are beautiful and luxurious. I personally love the bathrooms that are as large as the room complete with a large tub and all the fancy trimmings. Each room comes with a comfortable sitting area and a powder room, such a wonderful detail. The suites and havelis are something else altogether, with a sit-out overlooking the desert. And let’s not forget the private pool that comes with them.

The Team

If Suryagarh is home, then I’d like to say that the team behind the hotel are like family and treat you like one. The only way you’ll know if you have made the right choice of a hotel is when you interact with the staff - the warmth and the dedication shine through. It’s always the smallest things. I loved Chukka dahi with papad the first time I was there and the minute I enter the place, they bring it to me. It’s not just the fact that they remember these tiny details about a person, it’s also a fact that they act on it. That’s why there is that comfort I experience every time I walk in there. Someone asks if you want to have some chai and always with a smile, just like at home.

The Outdoors and the Indoors

For a hotel with 77 rooms and multiple havelis, Suryagarh has event spaces that can accommodate much more, making it an ideal place for tasteful weddings. The lawns come with a waterbody to lounge around. With the hotel façade in the backdrop, this waterbody, makes for a stunning sight especially at night. It’s perfect for a Sangeet or a welcome dinner - a laidback evening. What defines it from the other venues is the fact that you can actually see barren land on one side and the entire hotel’s façade on the other. Quite a picture!

Concrete meets grass with a beautiful baradari set against the lake in the celebration lawns. Set on multiple tiers, it is beautiful for a an outdoor dinner. My personal favourite is the step-well which is perfect for a mandap. It seats about 250 guests and has a small garden attached to it. The hotel also has multiple courtyards which are perfect for smaller functions and dinners - so it’s a complete destination in itself. Languid and laid-back but packed with ideas and energy.

The Culinary Experience

The palace comes with it’s share of renowned masterchefs, each of them known for their grand menus - which is a mix of locally grown produce created with international flavours in mind. They offer fabulous old-school dishes and desert favourites which are unique and compelling. And their three restaurants: The Draksh bar, Nosh the coffee shop and The Legend of Marwar (a beautiful pink room) serve some amazing cocktails, great appetizers and mouth-watering desserts fit for royalty.

The Little Things

It’s the little things that make Suryagarh what it is ☺ They offer unique, yet fun experiences like a picnic by the oasis or a midnight drive to the haunted chudail trail. Every morning, you wake up to this beautiful folk singer singing in the courtyard, breakfast is available in bed though I recommend making it to the restaurant (don’t be surprised to find the hotel’s pet pigeons and turtles roaming around the pond. The fabulous spa comes with traditional therapies that can cure any kind of pain. They have an indoor pool and salon which takes luxury to the next level.

If you have dreamt of a beautiful intimate heritage wedding, I’d say Suryagarh is your best bet. The logistics are slightly painful (with all that’s on offer, this one’s do-able), you may need to charter flights or have your guests drive down. But once there, it is well worth all your time, money and love. For me, Suryagarh is the perfect “boutique”palace to have a larger- than-life wedding.

Sheetal + Nirav: Part One

Palaces, deserts and royalty, Rajasthan is  a beautiful place to host weddings. Especially Jaisalmer, a city where I planned my first few weddings and a place that gave me my most-loved, award-winning wedding experiences. That’s why when I got a call from Sheetal to tell me she was planning her wedding in Jaisalmer, I was both excited and scared. It’s always exciting to work in Jaisalmer, the city feels like home. But I was apprehensive about creating another unique experience at the same venue, yet again. To be honest, it can be very challenging but that’s the charm isn’t it? Creating newer experiences using local ideas.

Sheetal and Nirav were special from the very start, a couple who were so tuned in to what they wanted and were willing to give me a free hand to achieve it. Sheetal, the bride is knowledgeable and well-informed, someone who knows her mind. Armed with a background in fashion and a Pinterest-worthy closet (one day maybe, I will get her to share images of it!), her attention to detail will beat mine any day.  Nirav on the other hand, is the most chilled-out groom I have ever met. They were so different from each other and yet so connected.

I often write about couples and forget to mention their families. Excuse me if I sound cheesy, but this wedding was the coming together of some of the most beautiful people I have ever met. From the first day, Sheetal’s parents, brother and sister-in-law (Anisha- who you will hear about later!), felt like family.

The wedding began with a Sangeet and that’s unique because the usual rulebook works with a specific chronology of events. Somehow, welcome lunches, cocktails, Mehendi evenings and a host of other functions are preferred over a groove-all-night-long Sangeet. But having that party on Day One is a sign that things will be fast-paced and exciting. No, this wasn’t a slow build-up of sorts, this was an energy-filled beginning to a beautiful love story.

Day two was the Mehendi, a chilled out afternoon that continued at the dunes where guests enjoyed the sunset and came back to a chilled-out dinner.

When planning a destination wedding, balance is key. Your guests should not feel rushed with one hectic event after another, neither should it be so slow that they get bored. The most important thing is that everyone needs time to chill, chat and take in the experience. Sheetal and Nirav’s wedding was all that and more!

Sangeet: Modern Mughals

Sheetal’s only brief for this day was that she wanted it to be glamorous. As for her outfits, she wore a mirror-work lehenga and wanted lots of shimmer for the evening to compliment her look. That’s how two things I love the most came together to make this evening special: lots of sequins + Ikat fabric. 

The lehenga was my Pinterest board this time around. The colour palette moved from muted gold to fresh greens to purple table covers. Inspired by the patterns at the Jaislamer fort, I created cut-out jaalis with candles in between them, they became the backdrop for the bar and the stage.

The bar was entirely covered with small pieces of mirror mosaic to match her dress. The ceilings of the lounges were draped with chiffon and finished with flowers made to resemble Wisteria. Dinner tables came with purple ikat table covers filled with lush purple flowers. The outdoor Sangeet had beautiful lighting with retro bulbs used to create an installation that swayed prettily in the evening breeze. I also made sure we had a piece de resistance at the Sangeet, a tree made of bulbs to stand up as a centrepiece, a conversation-starter. By the end of the night, it was instagram-worthy and served as a backdrop for every photo-op.

Mehendi: Of Earthy Vibes and Desert Songs

If the Sangeet was all about evening glamour, then the Mehendi next day was a contrast, it was lush, vibrant and beautiful. The inspiration was the oasis in the middle of the desert, a place where one find the elixir of life, water. It is also a place where plants thrive, animals prosper and people rejoice. As for Sheetal, the opulence of the oasis appealed to her, it was grand and flamboyant. And so we had afternoon lunch under the tents next to the oasis with lots of vintage desert elements like charpoys, kilim rugs and colourful lanterns.

The colours of the afternoon were simple - muddy olives, sandstone yellows, dirty mustards and laid-back cactus greens. I also used prints that were inspired by the birds and flowers commonly found in palace gardens. The lawns were dotted with block-print tents, low seating and hand-embroidered cushions. A marketplace was set up like a grand souk with parrot readers and bangle-makers, the puppet show was an added attraction.

The centrepieces were a mix of flowers and fruits that guests could pick on and eat. Most often at Mehendis, the men feel left out. It is indeed a woman’s ceremony but hey, it’s a destination wedding and that means entertainment was for everyone. So, to keep up with those standards, we got the boys a maalishwala, lots of kite-flying and a person who made them block-printed pocket squares.

The day came to an end with lots of dancing, live stalls serving mouth-watering Indian fare and fun drinks to suit the mood of the day.

Stay Tuned For Part Two Of Nirav & Sheetal’s Lush Desert Wedding.