Tell us a little about yourselves, what you do, what you love, what is unique about you and your relationship…

We met in high school in the good old days of MSN messenger and flip phones, and it’s been a whirlwind 12 years since then. Who knew my first boyfriend would also be my last?

Although it seems to have flown by in an instant, it’s been a slow burning kind of love. We grew up together in Wellington, all through the ups and downs of bad haircuts, questionable fashion choices, family illnesses and figuring out our places in the world. Sunil is a finance manager for a tech company and I work as a service designer in a design consultancy. We couldn’t be more opposite in so many ways – he’s the methodical, logical one who can always be trusted to organise our friend group’s finances a]er a holiday away. I’m allergic to spreadsheets, but love a good design challenge…so in the relationship I deal with, in his words, ‘the pictures and words’…including writing his best man speech at his brother’s wedding. These differences ended up being the perfect blend for planning our wedding while keeping our cool. There’s no other partner we’d want to do life with. 

Tell us about your special day, was there a specific theme or style? Tell us a little about the setting, the styling and some of your favourite details…

Sunil’s originally from the UK and has Indian heritage and my parents are Malaysian-Chinese. The challenge of blending our two cultures together in a meaningful and respectful way, while also reflecting us and our upbringing in Aotearoa, was so daunting that we almost decided to elope after getting engaged – while this might’ve appealed to our introvert sides, our families certainly wouldn’t have been impressed!

We’re grateful we didn’t elope in the end, as it was an opportunity to thank our nearest and dearest and introduce them to our cultures. To overcome the tension between appeasing traditions through having a large affair with multiple rituals, and having the small, in=mate wedding we actually wanted, we asked ourselves, ‘What makes this event uniquely us?’ This helped us decide on a mash-up of modern Aotearoa and Indian-Malaysian elegance as a theme, and to hold our celebration in Gibbston Valley. We love the epic mountains of the South Island from our road trips around there, and knew that a lot of family and friends would be travelling from overseas (some visiting for the first time); it was important to us that they would get to experience the beauty of it themselves, especially if they were travelling halfway across the world.

The most important part of our day was the guest experience and making the day feel like no one else’s but ours. Our colour theme reflected the bright reds, oranges and yellows that cross over in both our cultures with some fun pops of pink from Indian traditions. We wove in rituals from his Indian background like the varmala (garland exchange) and exchanging of the Mangalsutra (a gold necklace to signify a married couple’s commitment to each other), combined these with a whakataukī during the ceremony to honour the land we’ve called home, and layered it with a Chinese tea ceremony and choruses of ‘Yam Seng’ (Cantonese cheers) during the reception so that guests could participate in our cultures too. Our guests were encouraged to wear traditional dress, and came in a rainbow of colours. We had bubbles, colouring stations and activity books so the kids could have fun too – and because we’re huge foodies, the most delicious family-style planers from In2Food Catering at the reception. 

Tell us about your main outfits:

We decided to prioritise our budget for the guest experience instead of spending too much on our attire. Sunil’s tuxedo was the same tux he’d worn to his brother’s wedding and we purchased silk backk pocket squares for him and his groomsmen to reflect my heritage. My getting ready party and I wore traditional back wraps from Malaysia. I loved the idea of wearing a white Indian lehenga choli (three piece Indian dress) with a cape veil for the ceremony, but couldn’t find anything that matched what I wanted, so I sketched it up, sent it to a Malaysian designer who created it and had the gown altered in New Zealand. For the reception, it was important to wear something comfortable that I could dance in, so I worked with a local Indian designer, Jasmeeta, to create a simple and fun take on the traditional lehenga (usually very heavily embellished) – I sourced the colourful embroidered fabric and gold trimmings off Etsy for the dupana (shawl), and she helped stitch my dream into reality. She also created the beau=ful gold lehengas that my bridesmaids wore – I’ve always loved the elegance of a draped dupana and how they can be worn multiple ways to flatter the wearer. 

What were some of the most memorable/unique moments from the day?

We were astonished that nothing went wrong on our day. Unlike many brides, I was 45 minutes early for the ceremony! We had to do a lap of Arrowtown before our entrance, and I didn’t feel any jitters until I walked down the aisle. We can credit the feeling of calmness to our amazing wedding coordinator Steph from Holly & Co. Since we didn’t have to worry about any of the details and could just focus on enjoying the day, it took a huge load off our shoulders and we can honestly say it was one of the most amazing days of our lives. Despite the wedding happening in February, we were surprised with a spell of cold weather which ended up being in our favour – our photographer, Jim from Pollard We Are, took the most spine-chillingly epic mountain shots that we’ll treasure forever. It was truly special to have a moment alone together while drinking in stunning scenery before re-joining the party. We had decided against a first dance so we were worried no one would get up, but because our DJ was fabulous and we’d told people beforehand, everyone was up and dancing from the first song which was a huge relief. It was so amazing to see almost everyone, including our aunties, uncles and 8-month pregnant friend dancing un=l midnight. It might have helped that my uncles had livened everyone up with their rounds of ‘Yam Seng!’ previously! 

Any advice for other couples planning to spend the rest of their lives together?

Your wedding doesn’t have to be the most amazing day of your life. We didn’t plan for it to, and we know we’ll continue to work together to make each year top the last one. If you’re a bicultural or multicultural couple, don’t be afraid to mix up traditions – decide what the purpose of the day is (e.g. honouring family traditions, celebrating your unique relationship or even throwing an epic party), and make decisions from there. There’s also no such thing as a ‘timeless wedding’, so just plan for how you want the event to be remembered. When planning your wedding budget, figure out what kind of wedding you and your significant other want and the amount you have to spend, then investigate wedding quotes. Unless you’re in the wedding industry, it’ll just feel like plucking numbers out of the air when you tackle a budget for the first time – every couple is so different too! 

Photography: We Are Pollard | Videography: Acorn Photography & Cinema | Ceremony and Reception location: Wine House | Celebrant: Philippa Thomas Celebrant | Bride’s ceremony dress: Cindy Wang Bridal | Bride’s reception dress: Jasmeeta Boutique | Groom’s outfit: T.M.Lewin | Bride’s wedding ring: Everett Fine Jewellery | Brides’s engagement ring: Sapphire Engagement Rings | Grooms ring: Glamira | Bride’s shoes: Mi Piaci | Groom’s shoes: Julius Marlow | Ceremony earrings: Zoe & Morgan | Bride’s makeup: EVE Makeup Artistry | Bride’s hair: Beautiful Bridal Hair | Bride’s fragrance: Diptyque Paris | Bridesmaid’s attire: Jasmeeta Boutique | Entertainment: Queenstown DJ | Coordinator: Holly & Co. | Hire: Major & Minor | Flora: The Vase | Catering and Beverages: In 2 Food | Doughnuts: White Rabbit Cakes | Bud Vases at bar: The Dinner Table | Candles, voltives and dinosaur design: The Style Depot | Plant rental: The Borrowed Botanicals | Cookie favours: The Cookie Collective | Napkins: Tble. Linen | Faux fur rental: Nemo

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