A Traditional Indian Wedding… In Tuscany!

In October of 2009, Helena and Vivek were both living in Tokyo, and headed to a bar with a mutual friend. “Vivek says he remembers thinking that I was the most beautiful girl he’d ever spoken to, but I don’t remember meeting him!” says Helena. Thankfully, they met again a few weeks later at a Halloween party and became fast friends. In fact, they were friends for over five years, moving to Hong Kong for work and traveling through Southeast Asia, before Vivek finally built up the courage to ask Helena out on a date. She surprised him by saying yes!

A few years later, Vivek and Helena were in Arizona on a hiking trip, and she woke up bright and early for their day in Antelope Canyon. “I was about to head out the door when I noticed that Vivek was wearing a polo and jeans instead of gym clothes,” says Helena. He suggested she change, but she ignored him. Who dresses up for a hike, anyway? To Helena’s surprise, they weren’t hiking Antelope Canyon: They were taking a helicopter ride over it! Somehow Helena still didn’t see a proposal coming, even when the only other person on their tour was a "photojournalist for a local newspaper." They landed on a stunning rock formation, and Vivek asked the pilot to take a video of the two of them overlooking the canyon. “I was about to ask him why we needed a video, when Vivek took my hand and started to propose,” Helena remembers. Of course, the photojournalist was actually there to capture the moment, making it one they'd never forget.

The couple had two goals for their July 28, 2017 wedding: to take their loved ones on a fabulous four-day getaway, and to give them a taste of Vivek’s Indian heritage. “We took over every room in Castello di Casole in Tuscany, filling it with our 90 guests,” says the bride. “With people traveling from the U.S., Chile, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, Germany, and England, it was a destination everyone would be excited to go to.”

Local wedding planners SposiamoVi made long-distance planning a cinch, creating a colorful weekend filled with al fresco dinners, wine tasting, and, of course, a wedding! Take a peek into Vivek and Helena’s vibrant celebration, as photographed by Nicola Tonolini, below.

“I searched Google for boutique hotels in Tuscany, and Castello di Casole was the first one I looked at,” says Helena. “It was the perfect size, and only an hour from Florence. We booked it sight-unseen!” Helena had never pictured herself wearing a lehenga on her wedding day but says she loved the process of designing the traditional garment with a tailor. She especially loved the embroidery and beading that added extra shine.

Vivek wore a sherwani that Helena selected, and arrived to the ceremony on a white horse accompanied by a dohl player, part of the baraat ceremony.

In Indian tradition, either the brother or the uncle of the bride walks her down the aisle, but since Helena doesn’t have a brother, her older sister, Cristina, did the honor.

So much of the hour-long ceremony is in Sanskrit, so Helena and her sister Olivia found a way to translate. “My sister studied graphic design, so she helped me create wedding programs with graphics that walked our guests through what was happening," Helena explains. "It was important to Vivek and me that they were all able to follow along.” From exchanging floral garlands to saying the vows they’d written for one another, the proceedings were full of love and ritual.

“It was so fun to see our friends dressed up in traditional Indian attire,” says the bride of the vibrant dress code.

“During our vows, one of our friends got sunburn lines on her cheeks,” says Helena. “Her sunblock was washed away by happy tears!”

Cocktail hour was held by the pool, where bright linens and exotic gazebos contrasted with the rolling Tuscan hills. The pair also served nontraditional signature drinks. “Vivek’s drink was a Pickleback, and we brought pickle juice with us from the States!” says Helena. The bride’s drink was a combination of Red Bull, vodka, and champagne called Champion.

The authentic Indian menu was served in the hotel’s courtyard, surrounding a central fountain. Tables were topped with lanterns and bright blooms, and each place setting featured a purple napkin. The hotel’s restaurant prepared a buffet of vegetable samosas, chicken tikka masala, raita with Florentine tomatoes, and shrimp curry.

“Vivek and I surprised everyone with our first dance,” says Helena. “We learned a Bollywood routine that was fast-paced, with lots of arm movements and knee spins. People’s jaws dropped!”

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