Drag nights, tattoos for rings and poop invites: How to host an unconventional wedding
Four couples who #tweakedit share their stories
The success of a Big Fat Indian Wedding is gauged by the number of sweaty baraatis per square metre. By the flight time to the destination wedding’s venue, the weight of the wedding lehenga and the number of crystal glasses you receive as gifts.
This celebration of a lifetime often tends to eclipse the two people whose names have been combined to create the Saifeena-esque wedding hashtag. On occasion however, couples are lucky enough, (or brave enough) to abandon convention and create magical, unique celebrations.
We shine the spotlight on four couples who tweaked traditions and came up with some of their own, ensuring their unions resonated with the spirit of their relationship.
Keshav Suri and Cyril Feuillebois
Keshav Suri, executive director of the Lalit Hotels, married entrepreneur Cyril Feuillebois, his partner of 10 years, in 2018. “I still get goosebumps looking back at my romantic marriage saga. The proposal was magical, as Cyril popped the question over a boat ride on the Seine in France,” says Suri.
The proposal was followed by the mayhem of planning a wedding. While wedding planning, Keshav was simultaneously working towards challenging Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalised a consensual relationship between adults of the same sex.
Later the same year, history was made as the Supreme Court of India struck down the draconian law on September 6, 2018.
The nuptials that traversed oceans
The couple tied the knot in a civil ceremony in Paris, attended by their loved ones. This was followed by an intimate dinner cruise on the Seine.
“When we were pronounced ‘husband and husband’ in front of our near and dear ones, I was almost moved to tears. Though, the ceremony closest to our hearts happens to be the one that followed in Goa,” says Suri.
In Goa, Keshav and Cyril’s mothers officiated their ceremony along with India’s first ever transgender high priestess. The couple exchanged vows on the beach with a setting sun as their backdrop.
“There were happy tears all around, it was truly surreal. But, at the same time, I was acutely aware that the beautiful ceremony would have meant zilch, if we hadn’t signed the papers in Paris,” says Suri.
“All couples go through the same crests and troughs. All marriages are the same, but for me I had to take a plane ride, and cross continents to legally call the love of my life, my husband,” he adds.
The mother of all after-parties
The ‘80s Bollywood-themed drag night was complete with choreographed dances by friends and family and performances by KittySu’s Maya – The Drag Queen and Rani KoHeNur. The scene stealer was a performance by Keshav, dressed in drag, and his mother on ‘Kaisi Paheli Zindagani’ from the movie Parineeta.
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Everyone i would like to present to you The mother of all Dances. The stage is not big enough to handle our fabulosity. #kitcyphrenia aka #kittysu aka me and #motherindia aka mommie dearest aka Dr Jyotsna Suri together can rule the world. Oh and she is a way better performer than i am, when i grow up, that’s who i want to be. Is this the first ever mother/son/daughter/drag dance ever in india? ?someone pinch me, i died, went to drag heaven, and my mother is GOD! It really has gotten better and better all thanks to the two people in my life, mother india and my husband number 1 @kronokare Thank you @gauravguptaofficial for making the most iconic and stunning gown ever, i mean joan collins called, she wants her dynasty body/look back, and @zeesh.ali how you managed to make me look like a woman is beyond comprehension, computer says no, #gagged! #kitcyphrenia #drag @rupaulsdragrace you have 2 new queens from india, this is our audition tape! ? @outmagazine @itgetsbetter @itgetsbetterindia @keshavsurifoundation video thanks to @ikf_official_ @kittysuindia @kittykoindia @violetchachki @mayathedragqueen @sushantdivgikr @bettanaanstop @isshehungry #lovewins? #lovewins
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“This night was our way of questioning the shackles of gender that bind us. It was a way to tell society all is fine. The world hasn’t come to end. Everyone experienced, and was a part of, something groundbreaking,” said Suri in an interview with Vogue India.
Lekha Washington and Pablo Chaterji
Writer-photographer Pablo Chaterji and actor-artist Lekha Washington’s unconventional wedding was a lot of things – imagine dogs accidentally on the loose during the ceremony, a gigantic installation of a moon that you could spot from miles away, and lots of dancing.
“We weren’t sure we wanted to do the whole marriage thing at all. We didn’t want an authority to label what we have, so we settled for a commitment ceremony. We still aren’t married on paper,” says Chaterji.
Both Lekha and Pablo were never really religious and were very clear about one thing – “There would be no religious ceremony, and we would do it in a way that would make us happy.” And that is precisely what they did.
Do it for you
“When we went to our parents to discuss the prospect of marriage, they unanimously believed we didn’t need to. We were already living together. In fact, they suggested we save the money and go travel,” laughs Chaterji.
The couple decided to have a ceremony that would be fun for everyone, and that wasn’t based on any existing prototype. “We assigned duties to all our friends and that worked out beautifully for all of us. They felt involved and were a part of the celebration as opposed to being just spectators,”says Pablo.
They also hosted a very intimate do – “We knew we’d rub some people the wrong way, but our parents supported us with whatever we wanted to do, so we went ahead.”
A ceremony with a twist
The couple were certain about the fact that they wanted a ceremony – “We wanted to give our loved ones a reason to be at one place at the same time to celebrate.”
Another element they wanted featured in their wedding was fire. “Fire is an apt representation of what a partnership is. It can nourish and create however, if you aren’t careful, you might get burnt,” says Chaterji.
Similar to a traditional Hindu wedding, the couple circled the fire seven times, but each one was preceded by a vow read out by one of their parents. “We asked our parents to say something they feel is important for a relationship to grow. So each time we circled the fire, they spoke of things like commitment, love, and trust,” says Pablo.
The couple didn’t exchange rings, they got tattoos on their ring fingers instead. Lekha got a tree that represented the grounded and quiet Pablo, while Pablo’s ring finger has a tattoo of a free-spirited and adventurous bird that encapsulated Lekha’s personality perfectly.
Dishant Pritamani and Rhea Rastogi Pillai
“Little did I know that my love for music would lead me to find the love of my life, and it makes perfect sense because without you, there would be no music.” While reading her vows, the bride beautifully summed up the essence of her and Dishant’s relationship – music.
Dishant Pritamani, founder of The Daily Bar and Kitchen in Mumbai, and fashion designer Rhea Pillai Rastogi met at a music festival that both of them weren’t supposed to attend, and a few years down the line, music became the common thread that ran through their unconventional wedding celebrations.
“We didn’t just live in together before marriage, but she stayed with me in my parent’s home,” says Pritamani. “My parents were pretty okay with it. They were glad that I was living with a family as opposed to living alone,” laughs Rhea.
Their proposal too wasn’t what one would call conventional. “We had set the wedding date before I proposed,” says Pritamani. The final proposal came after four failed attempts – while bungee jumping (“she had no idea, but the security guy took my ring right before we had to jump”), during a plane ride over the Himalayas (“I was told it was a private plane ride, it wasn’t. We were made to sit separately”), and the other two attempts tanked because Rhea was too vigilant.
“Even when I finally proposed, I dropped the ring before she could wear it and then the waiter and I had to look for it on all fours as she looked on,” Pritamani admits sheepishly.
Degrhetic Fields – A personalised music festival wedding
The wedding rituals lasted for a day and a few hours – unheard of in the world of levitating stages and choreographed sangeet performances.
“We made sure that the guests did not have to sit there for hours and just watch us. They were free to move around, food was being served, and we had a musician performing live so that they didn’t have to listen to the mantras that made no sense to them,” explains Rhea.
“We made the priest translate the important bits in English so everyone could understand,” adds Pritamani.
Then came Degrhetic Fields in Rajasthan. The name was a play on both their names and a humorous take on a famous music festival’s name. “When we told our friends that it was going to be a 2-day long music festival, they thought it was a regular party, but when they arrived and got a band and saw the line-up was when they actually realised what was happening,” recalls Pritamani.
“It was magical, everyone was just so happy. They felt love and that’s exactly what we wanted to achieve,” he adds. “Through the course of two days, the music was probably off for a total of maybe five to six hours,” pipes in Rhea.
The couple went all out and were also armed with morning-after kits to help the guests deal with their hangovers and get them ready to party. Again.
Ashwin Malwade and Nupur Agarwal
Ashwin Malwade, a chief officer in the Merchant Navy, and Nupur Agarwal, market researcher, met through common friends and bonded at a beach clean-up. It has now become their weekend ritual.
“I don’t think I’d be able to spend my life with someone who wasn’t equally passionate about the environment,” says Malwade. “It just becomes very hard to co-exist.”
A sustainable wedding was an obvious choice for the couple – “Our aim was to have a celebration that was carbon neutral,” balancing the carbon footprint generated as a result of the celebration.
Pulling off an eco-friendly wedding might seem easy, but what people don’t account for is the attention to detail required.
“It’s only when people ask about our wedding preparations that we realise how time-consuming it is. We’ve hardly had any time to focus on other aspects,” admits Agarwal.
#Tweakit to be eco-friendly
Maharashtrian weddings involve guests showering the newly married couples with grains of rice as blessings. “We decided to only use one bowl of rice for the whole ritual and donate the rest to those in need,” explains Agarwal. “The priest was equally enthusiastic to tweak the ritual to be more less wasteful,” adds Malwade.
The wardrobe, venue and decor too stick to the theme. The couple decided to make informed decisions to minimise the waste generated.“It was important that we have our wedding at a place that provided the resources we required. Pune has a very evolved recycling system, and that’s why we chose it as the venue for the wedding,” explains Agarwal.
The couple also decided to plant four trees for every person attending their wedding to make up for the expected carbon footprint.
Their wardrobes choices are affected to — “Upcycling is the way to go. I’m wearing my mother’s wedding lehenga,” says Agarwal. “We’ve also made sure we don’t have anything that has sequin work on it, as that is plastic waste too.” As for the decor, the couple is turning to DIY and using recyclable materials like cloth.
An unconventional wedding promises to come with a generous helping of unwarranted humour
After some convincing, the families were game for this unconventional wedding celebration. But when the time came to discuss the invitations, shit literally hit the fan. Rhinoceros shit, all the way from Kaziranga.
The couple wanted to use paper made from rhino dung, the proceeds of which would go to the management of Kaziranga National Park. “You expect us to offer poop in the form of invites to the gods?” asked one of their mothers.
Eventually, they reached a compromise – handmade paper invitations for the tech-unsavvy, and e-vites for the rest.
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