Hailing from the UK and Australia, yet living in the UAE, meant the logistics for arranging their perfect wedding were not easy for Sonali and Edward. “As both my husband and I live in Dubai, but all of our close family and friends live abroad, we wanted to have a wedding party staged over a few days,” Sonali expains. “We already had an engagement party in Sydney earlier in the year where only Edward’s family had attended, so this was the first time we would be bringing both families and friends together!” After a wedding ceremony on the beautiful beach at Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirah, two days later the happy couple plumped for a traditional Indian ceremony at Al Sahara Desert.
Was there a theme to your wedding?
We had a few events as we wanted both a Western wedding and an Indian wedding. We had the Western ceremony on the beach at Al Qasr, followed by an Indian ‘Sangeet’ party on the beach. The Indian wedding was at Al Sahra Desert, followed by a reception party at the same place. Given that we were in the Arabian desert and we had guests from the UK, Australia, India, USA, Singapore and Pakistan we went for an elegant Arabic-themed wedding.
How did you choose the location for your wedding and reception?We wanted to take advantage of being in a very scenic and diverse country, in terms of [taking advantage of the elements of] city, beach, desert and sea. For this reason, we did all the events outdoors, as you could be in a ballroom in any part of the world and not know any different.
Did one person take on the bulk of the organising and was it stressful?
We had a wedding planner but my husband and I also did a lot of running around. There were times when it was very stressful and we relied on our family and friends at home to provide us with remote support.
Did you have a religious ceremony and if so, where was that?
We exchanged vows of two types at our wedding. The Western ceremony is where we expressed our own vows that were written by us, and at the Indian wedding, the bride and groom both have to take seven steps, each symbolising a vow which are universal in all Hindu weddings.
How long did it take to find your dream dress?
It didn’t take me long to know what I was looking for and where to find it. Coming from a family of Indian designers, they were able to offer me great advice on the latest trends and styles. They helped to shortlist a select few places where I was guaranteed to find the perfect dress. I had to get three outfits for the Western and Indian weddings and only had to visit four different shops to obtain all three! My Western dress was from Gauri and Nainika, and the Indian outfits from Frontier and Study by Janak, all from New Delhi.
How did you decide on the dresses for your bridesmaids?
The bridesmaids’ outfits were custom-made and were long, elegant, dusky pink dresses to complement the Western bridal gown. They had a border on the breast-line and a slim pink strap to complement the shoulder-line. They were long and fl owing and fell in line with the decorations and beach setup. I also had flower girls who were dressed in white dresses from Monsoon for Kids.
Did the groom get to choose what he wanted to wear?
Like all couples, we wanted to be in complementary outfits for the wedding ceremonies, so the theme was eggshell white and dusky pink for the Western ceremony. Edward wore an eggshell white linen-silk tailor-made suit from Kachins with a Paul Smith dusky pink tie. For the Indian wedding he opted for an Indian outfit which was blue with gold embroidery, tailored by Study by Janak in India.
What mattered most to you when planning your wedding?
To leverage both cultures and religions, ensure our family and friends bonded and form the start of a strong relationship, whilst also having a lot of fun!
What detail stood out on your day?
The strong connection and bonds between our families and friends. We were so overwhelmed with how well everyone got on with one another. It was like they’d known each other for years!
What was on your menu?
The diversity in the menu reflected our guests and where they came from, as we had guests from both the East and the West. We wanted to have many different types of food as well as local delicacies, so we had the burger bar, the Indian spice corner, the Arabic Mezze as well as Mojitos and champagne to complement!
Tell us about the entertainment…
Weddings involve special moments, events and memories you want to cherish, and you especially want your guests to have fun. We had our family and friends perform dances during the Sangeet party, henna artists to decorate the hands of family and friends, a DJ, a belly dancer and butterfly dancers. Edward arrived at the Indian ceremony on a horse and we also had a fun photobooth for our guests to take wacky photos!
Was the music important to you?We had our family and friends perform dances during the Sangeet party and – given that we were celebrating three cultures - Ed’s, mine and the Arabic culture - we had the DJ, the Indian dancing and the belly dancers. We felt that there was something for everyone.
What was your song for your first dance as a couple?
We danced to Lovely Day by Bill Withers as well as an Indian song called Peelon from Once Upon a Time in Mumbai. We chose the first song as we both find it inspiring, uplifting and so positive, and that’s how we want to live our lives together.
What was the atmosphere on the day like?
The atmosphere was great – the weather, the food, the drinks, the venue and especially the people! We could have got married anywhere and I don’t think it would have made much difference, we are so blessed to have phenomenal friends and family who were part of our big days!
How many guests were there?
Is there anything you would have done differently?
Not really, although the speeches probably lasted a little too long. It’s probably best to limit the speeches to five minutes each and have three people speaking, rather than six!
What was the most rewarding part of the day, and the most stressful?
The most rewarding part of the day was dancing with my husband for the first time and having our friends and family there. The most stressful was thinking that things might go wrong. There were a few hitches that happened on the day, but that’s all in the past!
What’s the one element you will remember forever?
The energy between our family and friends during the events. And Ed and I glancing at each other throughout the days with a look that said ‘this is it!’ In Indian culture, when the woman gets married, she leaves her parents’ house and is no longer considered part of that family. At the end of the Indian wedding, saying ‘bye’ to my mum and dad was very moving, emotional and significant.
Where did you honeymoon?
Well, it feels like we are still on our honeymoon! Since we got married we’ve been to the Maldives, Australia and New Zealand.