A Fashion-Forward Destination Wedding in Antigua, Guatemala

One summer morning, Tania Kottoor woke up engaged. A little backstory: She’d met analyst Jacob Kottoor at a mutual friend’s party a few years prior, and the two clicked immediately. “The moment I walked into that party on that fateful summer evening, Jacob and I locked eyes and we both felt an energy that pulled us together,” Tania remembers. “It was kismet.”

When it came to the proposal, Jacob didn’t give her a choice in the matter. During a glamping trip on Governors Island in New York Harbor, the duo biked, ate dinner at sunset, and had a bonfire. “Then, Jacob slipped the ring on my finger while I was asleep,” Tania says. 

They planned and celebrated their epic wedding in Antigua, Guatemala, before the pandemic. Even so, “nothing was easy,” Tania says with a laugh. “It was all hard work, but I did enjoy conceptualizing, styling, and designing the events and outfits.” Since she’s a visual consultant and wedding stylist by day, Tania had a very clear vision for every aspect of her destination wedding, from the welcome party to the reception. “I wanted every event to tell a fragrant story that impacted the guests' sensibilities,” she says. “Why not go the extra mile to create this experience that we will never have again?”

No detail was overlooked, especially when it came to the attire. Through the company she co-founded, WESTxEAST, the bride curated and crafted a total of 75 looks for herself, the groom, family members, bridesmaids, and more. “I had to travel to New Delhi, India, a few weeks before my wedding to make sure all 75 outfits were complete and shipped out to family members in the States,” she says. “It was an intense experience. I worked with my assistant and we traveled all around the city to source fabrics, work with artisans, and do quality checks. The best part was being able to watch it all come to life, thanks to the meticulous work of Indian craftsmanship.” 

The weeklong event, which included the traditional Knanaya wedding on February 2, 2020, was exactly the fashionable fête Tania and Jacob had dreamed of. Read on to see how their big event came together, planned by Saguzo Eventos and photographed by a bevy of pros: Zsanett Kovacs, Joseph Nance, Franco Giomi of Imagen, Daniel Lopez PerezThomas Brodtmann, and Pooja Dhar.

From the get-go, Tania created vision boards for each event of the wedding weekend and shared them with the vendors. “I incorporated color theory by studying the venues’ backdrops,” she says. “I needed to understand the canvas so I could play with color for the flower arrangement, lighting, furniture, tablescape, and all the custom outfits.” For the welcome party at Pensativo House Hotel, technicolor decor paid homage to the bride’s time spent studying abroad in Spain. “The tables were decorated with sculptural floral centerpieces that reflected the abstract works of Picasso, one of my favorite Spanish artists,” she says.

Bea De la Roca of Addy Florales incorporated bold colorful flowers, including anturios and leucadendron, in unique vases and planters to play off earth-toned sofas and rugs. Toffee-colored candles on the tables and string lights above lent a romantic vibe.

For the kickoff event, Tania donned a chartreuse crepe de chine jumpsuit with a silk wrap and layers upon layers of twisted fringe. For Jacob, she created a handwoven banarasi blazer. Thought went into every detail, including the fabric, known as kimkhwāb. “Ancient Indian literature proves the fabric got its name from kings who believed it was as beautiful as a dream,” Tania says. “The black satin weave base of this jacket is drenched with liquid gold royal zari motifs.”

For the dual Chantham Charthu and Mylanchi ceremonies—purification and beautification rituals for the bride and groom—Tania wore a pearl-drenched cape and corset lehenga. “It took 38 hours of artisanal precision to stitch the geometric gold threadwork and hand-embroidered caviar champagne gold pearls on the net base cape,” she says. Underneath, the corset was seashell-inspired and the skirt featured sequins that evoked mermaid scales.

It took 38 hours of artisanal precision to stitch the geometric gold threadwork and hand-embroidered caviar champagne gold pearls on the net base cape.

She accessorized the look with bangles sourced from various markets in Delhi, and her hands were adorned with Henna by Henna by Inder. Portraits of the bride and groom adorned the palm of each hand.

Jacob’s look was perfectly coordinated with Tania’s for the Chantham Charthu and Mylanchi. He wore an ensemble traditional to the Indian state of Kerala: a Champagne gold silk kurta and mundu, with a border made from gold-threaded cotton known as kasavu.

Through WESTxEAST, the virtual design service for traditional Indian and South Asian garments, Tania outfitted dozens of family members. Eleven aunties wore handwoven mulberry silk banarasi brocade saris—gifted to each wearer with a matching silk polti bag—and 24 men wore hand-dyed kurtas and mundus foil-printed with a palm leaf pattern transferred from hand-cut wood blocks.

The couple chose the UNESCO-protected World Heritage Site Convento de las Capuchinas for the Chantham Charthu and Mylanchi. The location is actually the ruins of an ancient convent. They loved the venue for its resemblance in layout to a nalukettu mansion—four halls joined in a rectangle with a nadumuttam (courtyard) in the middle—traditional in Kerala, India, where both of their parents were born. 

The event had a “Lost in Paradise” theme manifested in every detail, from the blue color palette and greenery to the wooden accents. Green foliage—aralias, lemon leaf, and philodendron—was accented with pale pink roses. “On our first official date, I told Jacob that if he ever wanted to get me flowers, he should give me a preserved rose that I can keep for all eternity. Four years later, I still have that single rose he gave to me,” the bride remembers. The roses incorporated paid homage to that memory. “These flowers symbolize grace, gentleness, joy, and happiness," she shares.

Tania processed into the ceremony under a lush green wisteria vine canopy by floral designer Escenica Events. Eleven female cousins wore lustrous silk crepe saris hand-dyed in three shades of blue and foil printed with geometric patterns.

The venue was set with long wooden tables and gold chiavari chairs, and the guests of honor were seated in rattan peacock chairs with fan backs.

The Mylanchi night was the last time I performed with my maiden name, and I made sure to put on an unforgettable show with strobe lighting and fog machines.

“The Mylanchi night was the last time I performed with my maiden name, and I made sure to put on an unforgettable show with strobe lighting and fog machines,” Tania says. “I’ve been trained in Bharatanatyam—Indian classical dance—my entire life and I choreographed a dance and skit with my family. It included a narration with a voiceover in my parents’ native language and in English depicting two love stories: my parents and mine. It was probably the moment I felt the most joy.”

The next day, the couple celebrated their Knanaya Catholic wedding ceremony. Jacob wore a white tuxedo made from an Italian silk-wool blend; the groomsmen’s jet-black tuxedos contrasted his ivory one.

Tania’s bouquet by Expressions Artes Florales burst with jewel tones and was loosely structured in an organic array. But the bouquet was far from her only accessory: The bride was bedecked in emeralds: a pair of drop earrings and her incredible engagement ring.

Tania’s wedding gown was an ivory silk faille structured ballgown finished in satin and hand-embroidered with vintage three-dimensional dori work in lustrous satin thread. Her bridesmaids wore sari gowns in a range of chic shades—pastel onion pink, Bordeaux red, mulberry purple, and lavender—that complemented each other, and the bride, beautifully.

I think this is what I enjoyed the most—evolving with each process and creating my dream look.

“When it came to my wedding gown, I designed a simple but bold and voluminous silhouette with elegant sleeves that would make all the guests address me as ‘your highness,’” Tania says. “There were changes with each trial: I added a corset belt and a lace-back, and changed the hemline and altered the neckline to better flatter my body. I think this is what I enjoyed the most—evolving with each process and creating my dream look.”

The Catholic ceremony took place at Nuestra Señora de Belén. “It’s a small private church run by nuns,” the bride says. “The yellow exterior of the church was untouched and rustic looking, which was the aesthetic we were aiming for.” 

Tania’s father, Tomy, walked her down the aisle, which was lined with towering ivory cherry blossom trees. 

During the ceremony, the bride and groom knelt at the altar, which was decorated with blush and ivory cherry blossoms, seasonal flowers, and eucalyptus.

“When we exited the church, all the men in our families chanted ‘Nada Nadayoo! Nada! Nada! Nada!’” Tania remembers. Known as nada vili, the chant is a Knanaya tradition. 

Tania and WESTxEAST also dressed her parents for the wedding day, with Tomy in a black velvet tuxedo and her mom, Nancy, in a raspberry-colored silk sari with floral gold threadwork. Here, the bride is holding her manthrakodi, the “blessed cloth” traditionally gifted from the groom’s family.

Tania and Jacob relished their first moments as newlyweds and arrived at the reception in style. 

The venue, Convento Santa Clara, encompasses the ruins of an ancient monastery dating back more than 300 years. The enormous open domes “allowed for blue skies at cocktail hour and stars during dinner,” Tania says.

Tania’s vision for the reception tablescape? “Victorian meets Last Supper,” she says. Emerald was the key color—it showed up in velvet chairs flanking the two extra-long tables—and was accented by more jewel tones like sapphire, topaz, and ruby. Plated atop rose gold linens, dinner included a cherry tomato salad with Guatemalan cheese and rosemary honey, roasted beef with sausage, and sea bass with chipotle sauce. Guests imbibed Chilean wine, Guatemalan beer, sangria, and Freixenet Cava. 

Deeply colored florals filled centerpieces, and handcrafted tapers rose from gold candlesticks. “The composition was tall and low, with the goal of creating ‘movement’ above the two imperial tables,” Tania says.

The two-tier cake was decorated with pearls and gold foil. Inside? “Cardamom!” the bride says. The flavor was an homage to their destination: Guatemala is the biggest international exporter of the spice. 

Upon arrival at the reception, the bride and groom changed into their second look of the day—and this one had extra special meaning for Tania. “I reimagined my mom’s wedding sari for my reception,” she says. “It was recreated, restored, and transformed; no one could tell it was the same sari my mom wore for her wedding day.” The look also showcased Tania’s “something borrowed”—her grandmother’s ruby ring—and “something new,” a 22-karat yellow gold choker necklace, ear studs, and bracelet handmade by artisans in Raipur, India. 

I reimagined my mom’s wedding sari for my reception. It was recreated, restored, and transformed; no one could tell it was the same sari my mom wore for her wedding day.

The stage was set for a few more ceremonial traditions: An emerald sofa sat atop burgundy and ivory Persian rugs, and an asymmetrical floral installation framed the couple, while the props needed for the rites rested on infinity-shaped side tables, a nod to the couple’s eternal love.

Tania’s final look of the evening was a shimmery silver sari with plunging neckline, Swarovski crystals, and ostrich feathers. A pre-stitched pallu had a finger loop so her movements would be emphasized while dancing. 

For their first dance, the couple performed a Latin ballroom rumba to “Help Me Make it Through The Night” by Michael Bublé and Loren Allred. The dance was accompanied by live conga drummers and ended with surprise fireworks.

It had been an epic celebration, but it wasn’t over. “In lieu of a conventional honeymoon, we invited our closest friends and family to join us on a ‘buddymoon’ in Lake Atitlán,” Tania says. There the group gathered for one final ceremony, a Mayan ritual officiated by a female shaman that paid homage to the four basic element, the universe, and the couple’s union. Of course, WESTxEAST created two final outfits for the occasion: a cabernet red lehenga and cropped blazer for Tania, and a cotton satin kurta with semi-precious gold buttons for Jacob. 

The night of Tania and Jacob’s engagement back in New York had ended with a bonfire, so it was only fitting that’s how the wedding was wrapped up, too—this time as part of the Mayan ceremony. Every detail having been brought to life, every outfit executed to perfection, every moment cherished, the newlyweds were finally able to relax.

The creative bride's piece of advice to those planning their own weddings? "Design details may seem unimportant when planning your wedding and are the easiest thing to let go of when the process becomes overwhelming," shares Tania. "These details are what set your wedding apart from the rest. They're your signature, and together they can create a unified aesthetic that your guests will remember."

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