If you’re attempting to plan a multicultural wedding – this is how to do it. Zahra is British but of Pakistani heritage and so wanted to include aspects of both cultures in her big day. I LOVE that she wore Pakistani dress, but in ivory, rather than the traditional red, meaning that she still felt like she had a ‘white wedding.’
Groom Jon also wore traditional dress, but changed into a sharp blue suit for the evening. The Bridesmaids were super excited to wear pink saris for the day and don’t they look beautiful? That shade of pink with gold is just so pretty!
And the best part of their multicultural day?? The surprise Bollywood dance from the Wedding party…
Zahra The Bride: I wanted our wedding to incorporate aspects of my Pakistani culture with the classical English country garden, which was our setting for the day. One of the ways that I did this was through my Bridal outfit. Although I was born and bred in the UK and very much identify with British culture, I always knew I would wear a lehnga to my wedding, as is tradition for a Pakistani bride. However I didnt want to go for the heavily embroidered, gold and red number as is traditional; this didn’t suit my personality or the wedding venue. A part of me really wanted to have a white wedding and so I decided on the colour ivory for my outfit.
I went to Karachi with my Mum about 6 months before the wedding to find wedding outfits, and she recommended a fabric boutique called Portia, which had a huge array of fabrics and designs for bridal wear. The bridal outfit I eventually found was a beautiful ivory raw silk piece. The skirt was an A-line cut, and the embroidery was all hand stitched in silver and pearl beadwork. It struck the balance between being intiricate and ornate yet delicate and light to wear, with a classic cut at the same time – it was perfect for me!
Jon didnt want to look as though he had turned up to the wrong wedding as I would be wearing something traditional for the daytime ceremony, he decided it would be really fun to wear something traditional as well that complemented my outfit. We managed to get a design on paper that was then made in India. His Sherwani was also made of raw silk, with very fine detailing along the collar and the sleeves. Before we enetered for the wedding breakfast he wore something more western, and looked great in a blue suit from Gieves and Hawkes – he could also take the jacket off and dance in the evening, something that wouldnt have been as comfortable in the Sherwani!
When we drove down the long tree lined driveway of Larmer Tree Gardens with my parents, and turned into the secluded calm of Larmer Tree Gardens, we just knew it was the venue for us, and we couldn’t picture getting married anywhere else. Larmer Tree Gardens is a hidden gem. It seemed to fit our wedding so well – the eastern inspired buildings within a beautiful, magical and mysterious english country garden, roaming peacocks and flying macaws – we were all sold the moment we saw the place and nothing compared to it. Additionally and very importantly, it was within our budget for a venue. To top it all off, when we met Gail and saw how she considered our individual needs, we knew that we were in great hands, and that she would do all that she could to make sure everything went smoothly.
The colour scheme for the wedding evolved over time! I knew that I wanted a bouquet of pinks and creams, and I wanted the bridesmaids saris to be a dusky shade of pink. I didn’t want too much additional colour as otherwise it might detract attention from the venue itself. I just wanted to complement the surroundings. My colour palette ended up being quite light and romantic, with ivory, hints of gold and light pinks, but also bold blues in the mens suits, peacock feathers on the order of service and of course the bay trees on the tables added a bold touch that was inspired by the gardens.
The flowers were organised at the very last minute! I was set on having bay trees as centrepieces, and the rest of the venue was a beautful country garden, so I didn’t feel it needed too much dressing up! I googled wedding florist Dorset and luckily found Clair Lythgoe. She was really excited about working at Larmer Tree gardens, and when we sat down and talked through what was needed, she was completely on board and encouraging, and did not once make me feel like I had left things too late! I talked through my bridal outfit and the bridesmaids saris, and we both agreed that simplicity was key; all was needed were bouquets that would complement our outfits, and not detract too much. We also sorted out some small posies of roses that were hung from the chairs on the aisles, and the final result though quite simple and understated, was very pretty and romantic.
The Wedding Party
The moment I asked the girls if they wanted to be my Bridesmaids, they immediately asked “do we get to wear saris?” Obviously the answer was yes! However my Brothers were not as keen on wearing traditional attire for the day, as they found the more formal wear quite uncomfortable. As Jon was planning on wearing a suit for the evening, we asked the Groomsmen to wear blue suits with dusky pink ties, to complement the Bridesmaids. This worked really well, it looked really stylish and elegant in the photos and the colours all complemented each other well. One of the Groomsmen really wanted to wear his kilt, which I thought would look really great!
We wanted our civil, legal ceremony to be on the same day as our religious ceremony. On the day, the civil ceremony came first, followed by our religious ceremony, which was conducted in English. We loved our readings and spent lots of time deciding on the ones for us. The first reading was ‘The Lovely Dinosaur’ by Edward Monkton. It felt like the reading was about us, and when Jon’s sister read it out at the wedding, it had all of our friends smiling – with a few happy tears as the reading came to a close! Our second reading was ‘A Blessing for a Marriage’, by the Sufi poet, Rumi – it is a lovely, short piece, filled with joy and hope for the future – my very good friend Deb had travelled from the states to be at our wedding and I was so happy that she agreed to read it. My little brother, who was 13, played his guitar in the 15 minute interval between the close of the civil ceremony and the start of the religious Nikah ceremony.
The surprise Bollywood dance! This was my second highlight of the day after getting married of course! After we did our first dance, Suzanne, the lead singer of iPop asked everyone to free the dancefloor as there was a special surprise for the Bride and Groom…as we had organised the wedding down to a T we had no idea what this was about…On came a well known Bollywood song, and on walked my sister and one of the bridesmaids, Farah who started dancing…as the song progressed, the rest of the Bridesmaids joined, followed by all of the Groomsmen! I was so impressed with the way they had choreographed it so well – the absolute cherry on top was when my parents jumped in and joined – that got the biggest cheer from the crowd! I still cant stop smiling about it!
Another special moment – sparklers and fireworks at the goodbye – goodbyes at a Muslim wedding can be quite emotional for the Bride and parents…as a send off all of the wedding guest formed an archway of sparklers that we walked through as we left – it looked really magical and surreal! As a final lovely surprise Jon arranged for some fireworks to be set off as we drove off into the distance!
I spent ages putting together an old school Bollywood music soundtrack during the tea party reception, to carry the East/West theme through the day. It worked really well playing through the grounds, and set a happy vibe for the tea party. The evening entertainment was provided by iPop who are an amazing covers band that Jon found. They played an amazing variety of music – all really up to date songs, and they really got the crowd going – the night went so quickly!
The cake was made by my dear friend Lizi who I have known for 11 years. I initially asked if she knew anyone who did cakes for weddings, and she said “I’ll do it!” I didn’t believe her initially but she was really happy to do it, and I knew she was an excellent baker. Jon and I didn’t want a fruit cake, so she made a cake with 4 layers – Red Velvet, Chocolate and Coffee, Carrot, and Victoria Sponge – DELICIOUS.
We decided to do a tea party reception after the ceremony, and asked friends and family who were keen bakers to each contribute to the tea party spread! It made the afternoon feel really relaxed as everyone had contributed to make it work so well! Amongst the spread were Rose and Pistachio cupcakes, delicious Rocky Road bites, and I can’t forget to mention that Jon (the Groom) made about 100 cake pops all individually decorated!
Our caterers were fantastic, they considered our needs to have a halal food menu and it did not once seem like a burden to them, even in deepest darkest Dorset where hog roasts and cider reign supreme!! We had a non alcoholic reception and they took care to make sure we had a nice array of non alcoholic drinks – pink lemonade with fresh raspberries, non alcoholic mojitos, and mango and lychee juices. Alcohol was served at the wedding breakfast but the caterers ensured that alcohol was only served to those who consumed it, and this just added to the excellent service!
We didn’t have an Eastern food menu, and instead went for a three course british menu – when we went for the initial food tasting, we couldn’t quite decide on a single menu to serve everyone, and we also considered the fact that not everyone likes the same thing, and so we gave our guest a choice of three starters and three main meals – it meant that we had to keep an organised spreadsheet, but it wasn’t too much of a hassle. The dessert is one that we chose for personal reasons – on our first dinner date, Jon had tried to cook a pavlova but it hadnt quite worked out, and so we turned it into eton mess! And so we decided that we would have a raspberry and white chocolate Eton mess as our dessert!
Starters – choice of salmon, quails egg & focaccia crouton salad with lemon and dill dressing, marinated chicken kebabs served on seared little gem with mango and chili chutney or wild mushroom, spinach and butternut squash risotto cake with salad rocket, truffle oil and old Winchester shavings.
Mains – choice of roast Somerset chicken breasts stuffed with Cornish blue with a chive potato cake, Chantenay carrots sugar snap and a creamy leek sauce, roast beef fillet on wild mushrooms with fondant potatoes, roasted cherry tomatoes, green beans and a peppercorn sauce or mushroom wellington (flat mushroom, Duxelle, cheese and tomato wrapped in Dorset puff pastry)
Dessert was raspberry and white chocolate Eton mess.
I am very interested in photography and art, and I had a very clear idea of the style of photography we were after. The photos from our wedding are ones that we will cherish forever and so the photographer is something that we allocated a larger proportion of our wedding budget to. We were looking for a laid back, natural style of photography, with not too many posed or cheesy photos (except for the obligatory family photos), but more of a reportage style. I started by googling photographers that had worked at Larmer Tree Gardens before, as I felt that they would have good knowledge of the venue and what would make a good shot, and they would not be completely overwhelmed by the space available. As a plus point I wanted someone who might have some knowledge of Eastern influenced weddings. Razia’s style was exactly what we were looking for and so we arranged to meet for a cup of tea and some cake!
The colour and tones that she uses in her photos make them look incredible and I was so happy to find that she was free and excited to photograph our wedding. We were completely reassured that she would live up to my high expectations. During the week of our wedding, she got to know both of our families well and was so easy for the guests to get along with, not once pushy, which meant that everyone was really relaxed with her around – making for some really great photos on the day!
1. Pick three things that you think are the most important aspects to your wedding and that you want to allocate your precious budget to – for us, the food, the photographer and the venue were the most important. (Followed closely by the beautiful outfits!)
2. If you are a creative person use the wedding to show off! I made all my own wedding invitations, menus, order of service and placecards. Use the people who are creative around you to help – it won’t feel like work, it will just be fun to do! I enjoyed spray painting picture frames gold, and using Eastern designed block printing stamps for my placecards, and sticking peacock feathers to each order of service…it gave me a lot of satisaction, especially when those attended noticed these details and complemented them! It is relatively inexpensive, and considering most people throw these things away, it is sometimes silly to pay loads to make something look good when you can do a great job yourself – that way you can put more money into the things that you can’t do on your own, like your wedding dress, photographer, or the catering.
3. Don’t worry about leaving things too late – it will always be ok on the day! I booked my florist with 6 weeks to go, the wedding car with three weeks to go, and the rings with just two weeks to go before the wedding! But it all worked out fine in the end!
NO ONE HAS A TERRIBLE WEDDING, and everyone enjoys their wedding day!