Palka Patel was moments from introducing her date to a group of friends at the Brigantine Del Mar when she paused.
"I don’t want to sound rude, but I really don’t know your name," she admitted.
While a more fragile man’s heart might have sunk, Hrishi Iyengar, in town from Detroit where he was in the final throes of training to become a cardiologist, played it coy, "Oh, don’t worry about it; I’ll just introduce myself."
Palka, a biochemist, learned his name from her friends.
Hrishi’s sister had introduced the two at a family event nearly a decade prior, insisting they were a perfect match. There, Hrishi was known as Chickoo, a pet name of sorts. He was fresh out of college and moving away to pursue graduate studies, so little came of their meeting.
"There’s no way you can convince a girl from San Diego to move to Detroit," Hrishi says.
Fast forward nearly 10 years—with proper names finally learned, the two talked through the evening, both feeling an undeniable connection.
Over 7,000 miles from home, the stars aligned and, soon after, Hrishi proposed in Yosemite.
The pair celebrated their nuptials twice—once in India, where most of Hrishi’s family resides, and again last October at the Rancho Bernardo Inn in North County San Diego. The event was stress-free and marked by bright, exuberant colors and joyful song and dance.
Executing, it, however, was no small feat.
Palka spent a month in India shopping for both weddings.
"As a guy, I had never dreamt about the wedding day," Hrishi admits. "I was just happy to listen to what she had in mind and, if she asked my opinion, I would give her some semblance of an intelligent answer."
Hindu weddings consist of several events, each requiring the bride to wear a different sari. Palka donned nine in total for the eastern and western celebrations, while Hrishi wore a sherwani (a traditional coat-like garment) during the ceremony and a tuxedo for the reception.
"It’s superstitious; you can’t wear an old outfit for anything, otherwise bad omens come with the bride," Palka says. "To me, it was excessive. What am I going to do with nine outfits?"
Activities leading up to the San Diego wedding blended eastern and western traditions.
They gathered the night before the wedding for a sangeet sandhya—a musical party of 150 people, which was still more intimate than the forthcoming reception that would be attended by up to 400 people.
A Hindu priest from the Hare Krishna Temple in San Diego performed the ceremony, translating every element so that even the English-speaking guests could follow along. Veering from Indian tradition, nieces and nephews served as flower girls and boys, and Hrishi did not enter the ceremony on a horse or elephant.
"We switched it up and he came in on a golf cart since we were on a golf course," says Palka. A dancing procession of his family and friends, joined by Palka’s family, led Hrishi to the altar.
Guests dined on vegetarian Indian food from Jay Bharat, a Los Angeles– based catering company. For dessert, they were served an array of Indian sweets, along with a three-tiered cake.
Further blending eastern and western traditions, the music was an eclectic mix, from fusion Indian lounge music during the cocktail hour to jazz, hip-hop, ‘80s and even a few Bollywood hits.
The stress of planning a wedding for a guest list that rivals the population of a small town in rural America quickly melted with the laughter that surrounded the pair.
"I just wanted to have a lot of fun," Palka says. "I was just so happy to have all my family and friends there. If things went wrong, it didn’t really phase me."
Bridal Hair and Make Up: Audra Rene Bridal Party Hair and Make Up: Michael David Hair Ceremony and reception location: Rancho Bernardo Inn. Catering: Jay Bharat. Coordinator and floral: Peggi Walker Metro Floral. Cake: Edelweiss Bakery. Invites: Lotus Design/Tucson. Officiant: Dharmesetu Das, Hare Krishna Temple in Pacific Beach. DJ: Tim Altbaum. Ice sculpture: Socal Ice Productions, San Diego. Lighting: White Wedding Day. Linens/furniture: Peggi Walker. Photography: Suzanne Hansen, Mike Ofeldt and Kaleb Scott, Shewanders Photography. Video: Bob Hoffman Productions.