An Indian wedding at Pebble Beach // Shivani and Saurabh

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Before reading any further, grab your favorite cup of tea and settle in because Shivani and Saurabh’s Indian wedding at Pebble Beach was one of epic proportions. My personal choice would be Chai Masala – black tea slowly infused with fresh ginger, cardamom pods, whole cinnamon, fennel seeds, and black peppercorns – sweetened to taste. An Indian Hindu wedding unfolds over time – typically several days to a week – this post won’t be quite that long…

Shivani and Saurabh’s relationship began with a long conversation on his terrace one March night several years ago. It was Saurabh’s birthday and Shivani was there as a guest of his cousin whom she attended UCLA with. Her only expectation was that of a “dorky fobby cousin” so she was taken aback at how “handsome, fun, and awesome” he was upon their introduction. The fact that they both have the same last name probably served as a perfectly awkward ice-breaker as well.

Despite the immediate chemistry on their first meeting, it would be a few years (2 years and 6 parties later to be exact) before the two would formally reconnect. Time, however, did nothing to dilute those original feelings and when they finally did have their first date, it evolved quickly into a year of adventures. Saurabh is a well traveled, adventure-seeker and Shivani was all-in as his willing accomplice. Their first year together, they travelled the globe and had so much fun – it was only a matter of time now before they took things to the next level. That following spring – on April fool’s day to be exact – Saurabh asked the most important question of his life and despite his wit, she knew this was no joke. And of course… she said yes!

Indian weddings are revered celebrations, where friends and family come together to frolic and celebrate the joining of the couple and their families. The celebrations are intentionally spread out over several days culminating with the marriage on the final day. Shivani adores Bollywood films and Saurabh loves Game of Thrones so you knew that their wedding day was going to be visually dramatic. What could be more incredible than having your wedding on the lawn at the 18th hole of an iconic resort overlooking the Pacific, arriving on horseback brandishing a mighty saber? Well, nothing really.

Arriving at the ceremony site, overlooking a slice of the American west with unsurpassed raw beauty in all directions, guests took a few minutes to enjoy some light food and find their seats. Saurabh had a bit of fun unsheathing his shiny saber. It’s not every day you get to even use the word saber, let alone unsheathe one, so he was well within his rights. After the saber was re-sheathed he and his family moved under the mandap in anticipation of Shivani’s arrive. A pinnacle of emotion for Shivani who recalls: “The most emotional part was walking down the aisle having our first look. When Saurabh and I made eye contact I was beaming from ear to ear and so excited to marry him!”

The ceremony was full of rituals and some unlikely humor. The couple took the seven steps (saptapadi) around the sacred fire and made a binding pledge to one another with vows following each encirclement. I think they’re quite meaningful so I’ve including a description of each below the gallery. (I highly recommend reading them)! At some point in the exchange of vows , Shivani had what was certainly one of history’s cutest Freudian slips when she referred to Saurabh as “her lord”. That provided a bit of lightness to the gravity of the ceremony and instantly connected guests and the bride, groom, and the family on the stage. There was an immediate disarming of the formality and re-focusing on the pure and silly love these two have for each other.

As all these events unfolded, across the world in India, Shivani’s 95-year-old grandfather watched the whole ceremony, streamed through her aunt’s phone in the front row. Even at 3 AM local time for him, he wasn’t going to miss it and he gave his blessings throughout the entire ceremony.

After the ceremony, we took Shivani and Saurabh down to the cliffs overlooking Stillwater Cove when Saurabh thought it would be funny for them to quickly run onto the 18th hole for a quick photo opportunity before the next set of golfers came into range and put their lives at risk. On a day full of great little moments, that was the highlight for me. Shivani and Saurabh are the best of both worlds and our type of favorite people; they are serious when they need to be and not serious when it’s unnecessary. It’s rare that someone catches me outside my comfort zone, but I was concerned about getting kicked out…they were not. Thank you both for that and I’m just happy I kept shooting!

The time between the ceremony and reception offered some time for the couple to regroup and change outfits as we made our way to the Lodge at Pebble Beach where the rest of the evenings festivities would play out. Just before heading in for their grand entrance, we took Saurabh to the boat dock at the edge of Stillwater Cove for first look number two of the day, as he had no idea what Shivani had in store with her outfit change. All I can say is that her dress should be preserved and put on display in their home for their kids and future generations to appreciate. Absolutely incredible and it had to have weighed 30 pounds (although she made it look so effortless). Despite a bit of drizzle, we enjoyed the last of the twilight alongside the Hoo Films  crew before setting them free to enjoy the rest of the evening with their loved ones.

As the ocean and horizon blended into a common darkness outside the dining-room windows, dinner was served and speeches began to paint some colorful pictures of the bride and groom’s past escapades. No speech ever got too scathing, there was definitely a lot of love for them individually, and as a couple. The brother of the groom gave one of the best speeches ever and a group of Shivani’s best friends gave a poignant recount of their early days when sparks were first igniting.

After so many days in high gear, it’s incredible that at 11PM on the day of their wedding, the dance floor was packed and…that we were in no hurry to get to bed! A testament to what incredible people Shivani and Saurabh are and the dedicated family and friends that brought such great energy to their time along that special part of the California coast for their Indian wedding at Pebble Beach.

The Seven Vows:

Groom: You will offer me food and be helpful in every way. I will cherish you and provide welfare and happiness for you and our children.
Bride: I am responsible for the home and all household responsibilities.

Groom: Together we will protect our house and children.
Bride: I will be by your side as your courage and strength. I will rejoice in your happiness. In return, you will love me solely.

Groom: May we grow wealthy and prosperous and strive for the education of our children. May our children live long.
Bride: I will love you solely for the rest of my life, as you are my husband. Every other man in my life will be secondary. I vow to remain chaste.

Groom: You have brought sacredness into my life, and have completed me. May we be blessed with noble and obedient children.
Bride: I will shower you with joy, from head to toe. I will strive to please you in every way I can.

Groom: You are my best friend, and staunchest well-wisher. You have come into my life, enriching it. God bless you.
Bride: I promise to love and cherish you for as long as I live. Your happiness is my happiness, and your sorrow is my sorrow. I will trust and honor you, and will strive to fulfill all your wishes.

Groom: May you be filled with joy and peace.
Bride: I will always be by your side.

Groom: We are now husband and wife, and are one. You are mine and I am yours for eternity.
Bride: As God is witness, I am now your wife. We will love, honor and cherish each other forever.

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