Wednesday, 02 August 2017 13:58

Jordan - The Uncharted Territory

From a very young age I had the fascination for travel and understanding people and cultures and I have been doing it ever since,  and doing it so far. Now, in these many years I have seen my share of things while being on the road, but the one thing that I have seen more than once was an Indian wedding happening where I was travelling (Kota Kinabalu / Hua Hin / Surabaya). I did a little search and found that we have not left a stone unturned when it comes to doing Destination Marriages, the middle east were no one would have thought of has also been explored. But the one place that did not show up was Jordan. So, early last year I set my mind on Jordan and took flight for this unexplored country and at the end of it all I was not at all disappointed. People out there who are looking for a new Destination, this is it, a place in the Middle East that stands out from the rest and a few reasons why you need to consider it as your place of choice.

 

Hospitable and Friendly People

‘Ahlan wa Sahlan’, which in English means ‘I welcome you’, a word which I kept hearing from the moment I was at the immigration counter to the streets of Amman while walking around the city. One thing that I noticed was that the people of this country seem to be at Peace with everyone and everything around them and with this has come along this very nature of being friendly and welcoming to travelers and guests alike. Who wouldn’t like to be in such a country for a special occasion?

Weather

The most important aspect of it all when to comes to marriages. Well, Jordan enjoys great weather throughout the year, with a maximum of 20 Degrees in October and a maximum of 24 Degrees in May, its just the perfect place, that’s the time when most Of the Indian Marriages Happen. This makes it an ideal Wedding Destination too.

 

Historical Venues

This was the most baffling and exciting part of being in Jordan, 53 kms from the Capital Amman is the City of Jerash, a historical Jem, a place famous for its Roman Ruins. It’s the only place outside of Italy to boast Roman Architecture. Another Venue that has its roots to the Roman times is the Citadel in the Capital city of Amman. You might be wondering why I am mentioning this to you all, simply because these venues can be hired from the authorities and one can have a magnificent and a memorable evening. And that’s not it, you can awe your guest with an hour long Gladiator show at the Hippodrome in Jerash.

  

 

Dead Sea

A visit to the Dead Sea is a must while in Jordan. Just 60 KMS from the capital city of Amman. One has to keep some time off after the marriage ceremonies to witness this natural wonder. Float on the water, try some mud  on yourself and soak yourself into the moment and relax at the lowest point in Earth.

 

Petra

The Fabled ‘Red Rose City’ situated in the south of Jordan is 243kms from the Capital Amman. I mention Petra and ask you all it to be part of your Event no matter the Distance because it makes up for a great Pre Wedding shoot . Every picture shot here will be worth the time and money spent, and with the permission from the authorities one can have a great Pre-wedding shoot during the evening hours when the Petra is lit up with candles around it, giving a heavenly look all around it.

 

Is Jordan Safe

I have only one word for this to tell everyone – Absolutely ! There is nothing to worry in the way most of them tend to think about. It’s the most Stable and progressive country in the Middle East. Honestly speaking, You just have to stop believing everything the media says, this is my own observation of it all.

 

I would highly recommend this place to  folks out there who are planning to Choose a Destination, a Destination which will leave you and your Guests awestruck with the beauty of this land named Jordan, see you soon there.

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Monday, 24 July 2017 07:05

Forts of Rajasthan or Castles of Italy

I was seven years old when we first went to Italy. I remember Venice with its gondolas bobbing on green waters - my mother refusing to get on a gondola stating that the waters of Venice were the same colour as the Ganges. 

I remember the delight of seeing glimpses of medieval castles driving into a Tuscan sunset. I remember falling in love with a country, its language and its castles. 

  

Twenty years later, I fell in love with a man who shared my passion for Italian food and movies. Two years later when he proposed over prosecco, I accepted. 

 

Italy would have been our choice to get married. We spent evening after evening pouring through castles online as we held hands and imagined our wedding.

We had looked at majestic castles in Apulia for large weddings, spectacular castles on the Italian Riviera for royal weddings and fairytale castles in Tuscany just outside Florence for romantic weddings.

Finally, we narrowed it down to Tuscany to a pretty castle surrounded by olive trees and vineyards. It was a short drive from Florence.

  

 

It seemed perfect. Maybe too perfect. 

Five months before the wedding, my mother was advised not to travel long distances because of her health. The news hit us hard. I remember holding her hand. We had wanted to postpone the wedding, but my mother said no.

It was a while before I was able to focus again. The idea of Rajasthan came to us one afternoon. My mother had gently suggested it while pouring tea as she did every afternoon. The distance would be short enough for my mother to travel. We could invite more family and there would be no visas or translators to worry about. I loved her for thinking of it. Our wedding was a fairytale. We arrived in Jaipur at dusk. There was a cool breeze and a big moon in the sky. We had chosen a palace, now a resort, and an hour’s drive from Jaipur. I remember feeling excited as a child as I saw craggy forts, dotting hills, bright lights twinkling and later, the occasional camel.

  

The resort was beautiful. We were treated like royalty the moment we walked up the marble steps. There was a traditional dance in the courtyard, which we watched as we waited for our rooms. He even allowed us a peek into our bridal suite. We had a small private courtyard outside, looking up I could see the stars. Inside, there was a king-sized bed, which would be lined with flowers, a huge bathtub in front of the bed and everything we could possibly want. 

  

Dinner that night was served in a dancing hall with mirrors everywhere and beautiful chandeliers that took my breath away. The food was exquisite. Our wedding was the next evening. We started off with a camel ride to the venue. Girls threw petals at us as we walked to the venue. Then the fireworks went off spelling our names for all to see. Tears were in my eyes at the beauty of the event and being surrounded with so much love. 

The ceremony was surreal. Afterwards, we were entertained by women dancing and jugglers as we sat for an outdoor dinner overlooking the mountains. My perfect night ended with a lot of laughter and dancing. Later, when we walked into to our room hand in hand, there was a bottle of Prosecco waiting.

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I know a lot of my friends think that destination weddings are really lavish affairs. Let’s face it: weddings can be expensive, but when you want to hold your wedding away from home - you’d think that things may get a little complicated. So I decided to do some research into whether it was possible to have a destination wedding on a budget.  And the answer is: yes! All it takes is a little planning. So I’ve decided to share some of what I found from couples who prove that it can be done!

  

Avoid Peak Seasons

There is some good news for you guys: destination weddings are hot. This means that there’s a lot of competition between destinations - which means that you can get a good deal if you plan carefully.  One tip that wedding couples shared repeatedly is that you should avoid peak season to get the best rates.  If you are planning to get married in a resort, rates are often slashed during off season periods. So that fancy hotel that you have been hoping to hold your wedding at may be a possibility. Another bonus of travelling off season is that your ticket prices may be reduced.

  

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Discounts

One of my friends is known as the discount queen in our circle. “There is no shame in asking,” she always tells us, “the worst they can say is no.” The same goes for destination weddings. We are assuming that you are travelling as a group and most hotels (and some airlines) are happy to throw in a group discount.  Now, a friend who works at a five-star hotel reveals that there are few factors you have to consider when asking for discounts:

 i. The minimum number of nights you are expected to stay

ii. The number of confirmed guests checking in (check if your guests can afford the hotel rates first before contacting the hotel)

iii. What is included in the package (if meals are included) - and what the extras are (extra costs can be very expensive so always check first!)

iv. Ask what extra services that the hotel can throw in for free

  

Stick To A Standard Package

Your location will be stunning enough to keep the wedding decor to a minimum. Often resorts will offer standard packages and there may be other weddings apart from yours.. Stick to what’s offered in the package as extras can cost a bomb. Wedding planners at most places have catered for hundreds of weddings before yours. So the chances are that your wedding will be a special affair. Of course, you’d have to cater for your guest’s dietary requirements. Instead of spending lots of money on the decor, a friend who got married in Goa, suggests that you enjoy the natural beauty around you and the resort’s gardens. It’s your surroundings that make a destination wedding so special.

 

Plan A Weddingmoon

A “weddingmoon" is a combination of a wedding and a honeymoon. To any wedding couple, it also means saving a lot of money if you are having your wedding and honeymoon in the same location. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to explore the place you got married in and spend time with each other after your guests leave!

 

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Saturday, 21 January 2017 09:05

Why Should You have A Beach Wedding

I spent most of my childhood running around in bare feet. There was something magical about feeling springy green grass under my soles during summer or the splashing in the warmth of a puddle with my brothers after the fresh monsoon rains. 

 Of course, I’ve grown up now and graduated into stilettos and city life, but there’s still a part of me that longs for my childhood summers, nature - and wandering around in bare feet.

 On another story, my parents had been looking for a match for me for a while. “There will be no more good looking men if you wait anymore!” my mother would say.

 At that point, I had agreed to her finding someone for me just to get her off my back. 

 Two years, later, she put me in touch with Rahul, a son of a family friend. Rahul and I clicked immediately. We were both chilled out and had similar interests. More importantly (much to the shock of our families), neither of us wanted an extravagant wedding. 

 It was Rahul who came up with the idea of a beach wedding in Goa.

 

Rule #1: You have to be chilled out

If you guys are planning a beach wedding like we are, you can’t afford to be fussy. There will be sand on your wedding dress and between your perfectly manicured toes. 

If frills and sequins are your style, a beach wedding may not be. I’m sticking to a simple yet elegant salmon pink lehenga with golden sandals. So, skip the Swarovski sister and while you’re at it, ditch the high heels.

  

Rule #2: The weather is worth it

I’m a nature lover and addicted to summer. Come winter and you’ll find me clutching my blanket. What I loved about our December wedding plans is that it’s going to be warm. The sky will still be blue and we don’t have to dress in layers. 

  

Rule #3: You don’t want the world watching

 My mother initially hated this part but Rahul and I loved it. With a destination beach wedding, you won’t need to invite extended family and friends. A lot of people won’t be able to make it because of their busy schedules. 

If it’s a small and intimate wedding by the ocean you want, then this is for you. 

We ended up with a list of 25 people apart from family who mean the world to us. My favourite part about our wedding is that we get to spend time with our near and dear ones. If we’d gone for a traditional wedding, we’d only have a few hours to spend with them.

 

Rule #4: You’re up for an adventure

My family eventually warmed up to the idea of a beach wedding. From experience, it only works if your family and friends are open to doing something different.

My brothers and the other boys are excited about water sports now while the women are keen to try out massages and Goan cuisine. In fact, I heard my mother tell my aunty that the Goan beach wedding was the best idea I’d come up with!

 

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Our family friend’s daughter, Sharmista, was one of my mum’s favorites. Growing up, we’d always be told: “Arre, look how good she is at studies!” or “Why can’t you be more like her?” It was no surprise that Sharmista won a scholarship for Economics at an Ivy League university where she graduated top of her class for her bachelor's. 

 

Coming home one day after work a few years ago. I saw my mum was a little agitated after a phone call. “Can you believe that Sharmista?” she exclaimed, “Hai Ram! She has met an Italian boy in America and they are planning a wedding in Italy!”

 

Sharmista had met Antonio in the library while she was studying for a MPhil. Even Sharmista’s mother was surprised. Everyone had always thought that she’d opt for an arranged marriage - including Sharmista herself.

 

“I honestly didn’t expect it!” she confessed. He was a banker who had taken time off to do his masters. She was initially scared to tell her parents. But he won her over with his warmth and sense of humour (he proposed by singing her favourite Bollywood song and giving her a diamond ring). After she’d met his parents, she knew she couldn’t keep it a secret anymore. 

 

Antonio’s grandparents and extended family lived in Southern Italy, although he was born and brought up in California. So Italy it was - much to the excitement and shock for all of us it was.

 

Sharmista and Antonio knew that they wanted to have Italian elements in their wedding. In fact, it was the only thing that she fought with her mother about. 

 

It was a lovely Sunday morning in Naples when Sharmista stepped out looking radiant in a floaty white dress that looked like it was made for her.

 

Include local customs

 

“The fun started from the moment we left for the church,” she later said laughing. True to local tradition, Antonio carried a little iron with him to ward off the evil eye. 

 

The ceremony was beautiful in its simplicity. Strong drinks were served as the festivities started and even Sharmista’s mother (remember, she was one of the strict aunties) joined in dancing to the tarantella. Much to her mother’s horror, the groomsmen cut Antonio’s tie into little bits as it was traditionally given as payment to the band. She gave a sigh of relief as Sharmista whispered how much the tie actually cost.

 

What I loved about Sharmista’s wedding was that you don’t have spend a lot of money in incorporating local culture into a destination wedding. All you need is a local wedding planner or friends well versed in the local culture!

 

 

Sights, sounds and action!

 

Of course you can go all out like my friends Ayesha who got married in Bali last year and went all out with traditional performers which were stunning. She had a super-efficient wedding planner at the resort in Bali. 

 

All guests were taken sightseeing around the beautiful island and treated to local Balinese massages before the ceremony. I wasn’t able to make it to Ayesha’s wedding but I did notice local elements such as beautiful local orchids. 

 

 

Food fare

 

If you and your guests are gastronomically adventurous, you can go ahead opt for local food at your wedding. Ram, a former colleague of mine, got married in Kerala. He had elephants as part of the wedding procession and a beautiful spread of local fare for his guests (which they are still talking about!).

 

It doesn’t have to be a great feast. Two of my closest friends got married in New Zealand recently (they are huge Lord of the Rings fans). Budgets were tight on both sides. Close family and friends attended. They included local culture with an exquisite bottle of New Zealand wine. 

 

If you personally ask me, I’d secretly love something like Sharmista’s wedding. It should be fun and I’d love to include local culture to make it an occasion to remember. Now all I need is an Italian man!

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