A Big Fat Indian Wedding In Houston
As the year came to an end so did the extravagant three day long Indian wedding that witnessed an elephant, a palace, and the Mayor of Houston. There was nothing less than the majestic from start to finish at this wedding. It was the much talked about wedding of prominent Indian American Raj and Jugal Malani’s daughter Nikita.
Traditionally, the rituals in a Hindu wedding ceremony is surrounded by various festivities starting with henna/sangeet with Bollywood style dancing, followed by a ritualistic Hindu wedding without alcohol or meat, and finally a grand reception with guests adorned with silk saris and crystal studded outfits. Of course, all these was there at the Malani wedding, what left everyone spellbound was the magnificent replica of an Indian palace at the Hilton Americas on Saturday December 29, 2012 for the sangeet (song) ceremony. The event was generously attended by 1000+ guests from all over the continent, including prominent Indian Americans and a special appearance by Mayor Annise Parker who blessed the newly married couple and enjoyed Bollywood dance numbers and Indian street-food fare.
Jugal Malani is the real life story of success, who came to this country with just ten dollars and lived the American dream of a successful businessman with a noble heart. Malani is well-known in Houston for his generous support of many charitable causes for education, the underprivileged in India, cultural and religious activities and also reigns as the President of India House in Houston.
Wedding plans for their daughter Nikita and to be son-in-law Atman Shukla, who is a lawyer by profession, had began almost a year back engaging the local media, restauranteurs and wedding planners for suggestions and assistance on planning the perfect dream wedding. “It is our only daughter’s wedding and we wanted it to be grand, over the top and very special. An affair that Houston would love to talk about for a long time,” says Jugal. In this quest Malani came across Dipak Pindolia of Imagination 3D, a production studio that specializes in designing, manufacturing props, displays and custom interior themes. “What else! I right away proposed the idea to Dipak to create the facade of Rambagh Palace in Jaipur, India at our very own Hilton Americas. Dipak nodded his head and promised to make this dream come true,” informed Jugal.
“It took me about six months to create this palace replica, approximately 168 feet in length, that could barely fit in the grand ballroom in the Hilton Americas,” chuckled Dipak. Each column and dome was intricately carved by Dipak and then spray painted with a rust color for that exact palace effect. While the exact price cannot be disclosed for the palace, let’s just say more than you can imagine.
Ultimately the sangeet and reception ceremony was all about succumbing to Bollywood charms while effectively including elements of tradition and culture. While guests were immersed in applying henna on their palms, which is a traditional ritual, close family and friends entertained the couple and guests with various live Bollywood dance performances. The bride looked stunning on all three days in Indian based designers Sabyasachi and Manish Malhotra, who design outfits for Bollywood beauties like Arshwarya Rai, a former Miss World.
An elaborate wedding was hosted the day after the sangeet and henna ceremony, at The Chateau Cocomar, a French villa near Champions Drive where the groom showed up on an elephant along side a procession with dhols and drum beats. The procession is known as baraat which is led by the groom’s side with family and friends as a ‘royal arrival’ to take his bride home. The wedding was performed by a local priest under the witness of elders, several spectators, fire – a very auspicious element in Hindu marriages, and Lord Ganesha (the half man half elephant God that is considered the God to dismiss all obstacles).
The grand finale was a splendid reception hosted back at the Hilton Americas where there was an abundance of alcohol and food of all different kinds of cuisine. Wedding Consultants, Schwartz & Woodward, Jo Ann S. Woodward and John Woodward made special efforts to coordinate a wedding as large and grand as this one with intricate details of landscaping by florists Plants & Petals and Prashe Decor, and authentic linen overlays were created by the bride’s aunt from India. The entire lobby of the fourth floor was transformed into a garden with Maharja’s welcoming guests with garlands, decorative pins and other adornments.
In between ceremonies and photo ops guests schmoozed with the who’s who of town trying mushroom samosas and Bombay Martinis from Kirans Restaurant. First time Indian wedding attendee and celebrity in her own right Sharron Melton from ABC 13 confessed that she had seen nothing on this grand a scale. “It is just amazing, royal and grand. The Indian community is so full of culture and versatility that they never cease to amaze me,” says Melton.
Appreciating the fun and traditional aspects of these wedding ceremonies and joyfully ringing the New Year with the Malanis and Shuklas were: Harish and Shashi Jajoo, Sonal and Subodh Bhuchar, Sunny and Rashmi Sharma, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Meena Dutt, Nidhika and Pershant Mehta, Anu Bala, Swatantra, Bimla and Manish Jain, and the list goes on.