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By Margit Bisztray | Photo: Aaron Lockwood | June 25, 2012
How better to celebrate a couple’s differing cultural backgrounds than with contrasting back-to-back weddings?
Many couples face the challenge of having their two cultures meet in one celebration. Holding two weddings hardly sounds like simplifying things, but Sasha Chatani and Chadd Lucas did exactly that.
The couple’s first date was, literally, a historic one. It was Sept. 11, 2001, and, like most Americans, the University of Miami undergrads had watched the news all day. To unwind, they met mutual friends at a tavern in Miami’s Coconut Grove, and that first attraction lasted. After graduating from the MBA program at Emory University in 2008, the couple—she of Indian descent and he, a Lutheran from Pennsylvania—settled in New York. In 2010, Chatani returned to her apartment after “a normal workday” to find it brimming with roses. As Lionel Richie’s “Endless Love” played, Lucas bent down on one knee and proposed.
The couple shopped for venues and chose the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club for its elegance and old-world charm, and because it had sufficient venues to accommodate a multiday celebration for 250 guests.
Festivities began two days before the weddings with a mehndi, or henna ceremony, where the bride and female guests had their hands and feet intricately painted, symbolizing luck.
For the Indian ceremony Friday, the couple wore apparel custom-made in New York. The families congregated on a covered, pillared stage known as a mandap with the pandit, or officiate. Rituals included a “walk around the fire” (a fire pit) representing the journey of marriage.
“As a child, I always imagined my wedding as an Indian one,” says Chatani. “It’s about families joining, not just individuals.”
A sangeet party in the Sunset Ballroom featured Indian street food (chaat) as well as Thai and Southwestern cuisine. Friends performed a Bollywood dance and the music of Indian DJ Firoz soon had everyone on their feet dancing.
On Saturday, it was time to do it all over again, this time in a classic, Christian, white wedding (the bride is Catholic) in the hotel’s tea garden. The groom’s hometown pastor officiated. In a Melissa Sweet dress with lavish detail and Jimmy Choo shoes, Chatani married Lucas for the second time. A plated four-course meal, with entertainment by the Miami band Higher Ground, finished the evening.
Shannon Wilson, president of Table 6 Productions, enjoyed planning the contrasting events. “The Indian ceremony was fun, colorful and unrehearsed,” she says. “The Christian one was solemn, moving and deeply religious. After, it was the only time I saw the bride cry.”
To celebrate diversity, sometimes it takes two.