Disclaimer: I had the HARDEST time picking out photos from this multiday South Indian wedding. There are 2500 something photos in the gallery. I’m warning you! This is going to be a LONG post. Go get something to drink, something to snack on, and buckle up – LOL!
What comes to mind when you hear the words wedding and extravaganza? Do you think of a five-day-long series of wedding events that incorporates the very essence of the beautiful South Indian culture in all its glory? One that started with a snowstorm but ended with one of the warmest, most beautiful newlywed portrait sessions known to humankind?
Yea, I didn’t think so, so let me enlighten you ????
Suppose you’ve been hanging around here for a while. In that case, you know that I try to keep the blog updated with my most recent client events, telling their sweet love stories and showcasing their big day while it’s still fresh in my mind. This particular wedding was on another level, though, and it’s taken me this time to come down from its excitement to retell the story.
Shravani and Akash’s five-day wedding celebration was the best way to kick off the 2022 wedding season, especially for this Dallas wedding photographer :). Rooted deeply in their rich South Indian culture, this sweet couple’s family went above and beyond to throw the longest and most epic wedding celebration I’ve ever had the privilege of attending. So many moving parts and intricate details made for a celebration to remember!
The bittara appa station, also known as the Sri Lankan egg hoppers, was another highlight of the night as they have a very sentimental value with childhood memories to the families.
I am pretty well-versed in the South Asian/Asian culture, as I’ve done quite a number of traditional weddings since I moved back to The States. On top, I’m Turkish myself and I started wedding photography in Turkiye, where almost every wedding had traditional elements from the Turkish culture. Even though I had done many Indian weddings, I was still so thrilled to be invited and immersed in the celebration of Akash and Shravani, even if it was just for just a few days. Almost every wedding I have photographed has included different traditions chosen by the couple and their families. Speaking of, did you know that every state/region in India has different rituals and traditions? Akash and Shravani’s wedding was a beautiful representation of the Telugu people of South India.
Between the vibrant colors, splendid aromas, and sounds of laughter, I couldn’t imagine a better way for two people to begin the new marriage adventure.
Ok, ok – I have to start from the very beginning. It was one of those “Mondays-Tuesdays I’m off!” days when Sanjay called me. At the time my phone started ringing, I was just fresh out of bed, still in my pj’s (because I’m off – I had no reason to get up early, lol!) and I thought to myself,
“Naaaah, I still don’t have coffee in my system. It’s best I just let this one go to Voice Mail and get back to it later after I’m more post-coffee-friendly.”
As I was brewing my first cup, I hit play on the recording of Sanjay’s voice message,
“Hi, Tara! Gooood morning! My name is Sanjay. I am VERY excited to speak to you – my daughter is getting married in February and if you’d be so kind to give me a call back as soon as you get this message, I would love to chat with you. Call me, call me, call me as soon as you can thank you, bye!”
Needless to say, I didn’t even finish brewing my coffee before I hit “call back”- I had zero shame in telling Sanjay,
“I just loved your energy, and I bet your family is as sweet as you are. I literally just woke up – I’m currently STILL in my pj’s, brewing my first cup of coffee as we speak. TELL – ME – MORE!!”
We talked with Sanjay for almost a good hour – he told me he was ready to book with me at the end of our first phone call – and the same night he completed his booking. If you know, you know – I NEVER book a wedding without meeting the couple first but this one I had a feeling they were the perfect fit. And I wasn’t wrong! I met with Shravani and Akash the following week – we were already giggling and joking 10 minutes into our meeting while planning their engagement session.
Fast forward to two days before the Mehndi night that was held at On The Levee, it snowed like nobody else’s business here in Texas. Most events were canceled or rescheduled, the roads were closed, it was freezing outside – and I was pretty worried about what we were all going to do for this event as the family had 3 different events at 3 different venues booked, so many moving parts that I was hired to photograph…
Thankfully, Snowmageddon 2022 didn’t stop this wedding of the century from happening- even though it tried. No iced-over vehicles, no delayed flights, and no forgotten party booze could deter this celebration from happening- and it didn’t! While it was stressful at the time, I think it’s been long enough that we can all laugh about it now. Many out-of-town guests had their flights either delayed or canceled due to the storm on the night of the Mehndi celebrations, and yes- someone forgot to transport aaalllll of the alcohol to the venue *facepalm.* But ultimately, alcohol was consumed, and friends and family showed up dressed and ready to party, coming straight from the airport, lost luggage and all. The dedication was real. The party was even more real.
On the morning of the ceremony, the priest was able to hitch a ride after discovering his car was frozen overnight. We had to start the ceremony a little later than planned – but got all caught up with the timeline eventually. Hey – it wasn’t easy for anyone to brave the storm! LOL!
Ganesha and Gowri Puja
The South Indian Wedding Rituals
The traditional wedding rituals took place at the Arlington Hall on Turtle Creek. The entire venue, from the entrance to the stage, was BEAUTIFULLY decorated. Thanks to the wonderful lead planners at Lorraine Tomás, Rebecca, and Ricardo, along with their fantastic team did a wonderful job!
One of my favorite aspects of this wedding was how the family incorporated the past with the future. Sometimes that can look like childhood photos of the bride and groom. Still, in this case, cultural artifacts in the form of vintage Indian decor brought about some nostalgia for the couple. It was such a unique way to personalize the celebration and keep the family connected.
Before the groom and his family are brought to the Mandapam, the groom’s feet are washed by the bride’s family.
The rituals started with Akash’s Ganesh Puja. It is believed that Lord Ganesha removes any obstacles in the way.
The ceremony was BEAUTIFUL! Even though I didn’t understand a single word spoken, as usual, hehe, I could feel the positive energy in the air. After Akash’s rituals, Shravani’s Gouri Puja took place, followed by their marriage ceremony.
During their separate wedding rituals, both Akash and Shravani were given a woolen thread, tied around their wrists with a turmeric root. This ritual prevents bad events and evil omens from interfering with the rest of the ceremony, where the bride and groom’s union will be finalized.
Before their wedding ceremony began, a very special guest from India, Padma Shri winner, Aruna Sairam performed a magical set for us.
Aruna is an Indian classical vocalist and Carnatic music singer. She is a recipient of the Padma Shri award and was elected as Vice Chairwoman of the Sangeet Natak Academy by the Government of India. Aruna is not only a master at her art, but also is recognized as the first Carnatic musician to perform at the BBC proms in London as well as the first Carnatic musician to perform in the Oud Festival of Israel.
After the wonderful performance, we proceeded with the wedding ceremony of the lovely couple.
Shravani finally joined Akash with the Addutera placed in between them as they are not supposed to see each other (in theory!) until the Jeelakara Bellam is completed.
Kanyadanam, meaning “giving away of the bride” is the ceremony where the bride’s family officially gives her hand to the groom. The ceremony is performed by the bride’s parents washing the groom’s feet considering the groom as the manifestation of Lord Vishnu who has come to marry their daughter.
Then, Jeelakara Bellam, a paste of cumin and jaggery is placed on the hands of the couple. Exactly at the Sumuhrutham, the couple places the paste on each other’s heads officially uniting them as man and wife. At this point, the curtain between them is removed.
Sumuhrutham is the “wedding time”; the auspicious time that is determined by matching the astrology of the bride and groom.
The paste of bitter cumin and sweet jaggery indicates that the couple will stick together through bitter and sweet. It is also believed that with this ritual, the couple interchange each other’s thoughts and destinies by interlinking their lives while applying the paste on each other’s heads.
Akash and Shravani held that paste in place as their family and friends blessed them. Literally, THE ENTIRE TIME! It was a crowded event and I can say, pretty much everyone came on the stage to bless them. I’d say that has to be the greatest arm workout! 🙂
The most fun part was the Talambralu, where Akash and Shravani literally got into a rice-throwing game. Needless to say, Akash won by pouring the entire tray on Shravani’s head, lol!
Finding the ring ceremony is another fun-filled ritual in a Telugu wedding. Two rings, one gold, and one silver is dropped inside a pot filled with water. The couple put their right arms in and race to find the gold ring first. This is done three times and whoever finds the gold ring twice is the winner and is said to be the upper hand in marriage.
Dandalu, the exchange of garlands, signifies the bride and groom accepting each other as partners.
For the final ritual was the Arundhati Nakshatram, where the couple is taken outside by the priest to see the Arundhati and Vasistha, a star that is good for the couple’s future. The priest asked the couple to look up and point to the star in the sky. Arundhati and Vasistha represent an ideal couple and they’re shown to the couple as an example.
After finishing the first part of the wedding day, we all got on our way to The Crescent Court for the reception.
The South Indian Wedding Celebration
As always, I did the lay-flat photos of the bridal details, followed by some getting-ready photos of the newlyweds.
After grabbing a few getting-ready shots, I went over to The Crescent Club where the reception was going to take place. Saying that my jaw dropped on the floor would be an understatement! From the florals to the ice sculpture surrounded by sushi – everything was picture perfect!
The reception started with the receiving line, where the newlyweds and their families welcomed their family and friends for a night of endless fun.
When I asked Shravani and Akash their thoughts on those five long days, they both laughed and agreed that the hiccups were part of what made it extra special. If we’re being honest, they were both primarily concerned about nailing their first dance- not any of the other stuff! I suppose that the ten days of consecutive dance lessons really paid off because you can see from the photos that it was lovely. LOL!
When I say endless, trust me! At some point, I and my videographer finished our coverage and left – while Shravani and Akash partied the night away.
After closing the Crescent Club, I heard they continued the night with an after-party at their suite! Akash even sent me the proof! HAH! Seriously you guys, tell me your secret! I’m in my mid 30’s and I’m as good as a sack of potatoes after an 8-hour wedding day! 😀
Sometimes, the bride and groom are rushed about for prep and pictures due to the hustle and bustle of a busy wedding day(s). They get to the end of the night only to realize that they never even ate because they were so busy socializing and dancing. That was the case for both Shravani and Akash. Even though they laugh about it now, I understand that there was some hanger involved on one or two nights of the celebration. Shout out to Deep Ellum for serving late-night fried chicken to hungry and exhausted brides in the greater DFW area! You’re the real MVP 😉
At the end of it all, even though they were sleep-deprived and probably still hungry, we wrapped up the wedding extravaganza with a breathtaking newlywed portrait session of just the couple (and their pup, Pepper) at The Crescent Court and surroundings. It was the perfect wedding close-out slash start to their new life together as husband and wife. Here are some bonus photos to boost your joy! 😉
The Post-celebration Newlywed Portraits
I want to thank Shravani, Akash, and their wonderful families. Thank you for allowing me into your family and documenting this beautiful celebration that I will remember forever.
I hope that you continue to share your beautiful life together for me to photograph. Oh! And also never go too long without food ever again 😀