The wedding day began with dueling baraats on opposite sides of the property, with dhol (Drums in Paradise) drummers and music from Ohm Mexico. “Guests paraded through the surrounding jungle to the waterfront, where our two baraats collided in a frenzy of cheering and competition,” Neil recalled. They then walked down the aisle to their rainbow mandap (complete with flowers from Zuniga Designs and Pentaflor Flowers) with their respective mothers, where Chicago priestess Hersh Khetarpal performed a modernized Hindu ceremony.
“She’s a trailblazer who performed her daughter’s same-sex wedding over 10 years ago, when it was only allowed in Massachusetts,” Hemang said of their choice. The reception that evening began with a cocktail reception and a performance by musician Miguel Hiroshi on the roof of the Nü Tulum restaurant. Guests then descended to the main veranda for a night of revelry. “The intimate energy of the first half of the reception flipped 180 degrees when the water drum performers of Drums in Paradise performed on the dance floor,” Neil recalled.
The multi-day wardrobe of the bride and groom has been carefully organized. They wore matching ivory linen kurta sets with embroidered bandis from Project Bandi for the mehendi night. For the next morning’s yoga session, they kept cool in kimono jackets and shorts from Thai brand Wai Wear. For the sangeet, Neil chose a tie-dye Bohame bandi over a pleated Anju Agarwal kurta set. Hemang went with a vintage white chikankari kurta with embroidered bandi by Anju Agarwal and corduroy leggings.
The couple turned to Pranay Baidya to customize their off-white ashkans, worn with linen and silk trousers, for the wedding day. They wanted to pair this with their mothers’ wedding saris as shawls, so Pranay drew inspiration from these heirlooms to create complementary embroideries on the ashkans. For the reception, Hemang chose an asymmetrical black Bohame kurta which he wore with a sequin vest from his high school’s Glee Club. Neil complemented her hubby in a tuxedo with a sequin jacket. The eco-conscious couple’s gold wedding bands came from Toronto-based Fair Trade Jewelry Co. and were made from 50% certified recycled gold and 50% fair trade gold. Brazilian makeup artist Alex Corbanezi, based in Mexico, was in charge of hair and makeup for all events.
Not only did the duo want to offer their guests a unique take on an Indian destination wedding, but they also wanted to work with wedding makers they had a personal connection with. For example, Neil’s sister Symrin of Studio Ru designed her invitations by taking inspiration from the Mayan sun and mixing it with vintage Bollywood and Mexican elements. The welcome bags were from Neil’s aunt’s company, Bags Go Green, filled with snacks from California, Tulum and Hawaii (where the bride and groom are now moving) and tea bags from Herbal Republic.
The food was a mix of Indian and Mexican fare, including mezcal cocktails and a rainbow cake with toppings fashioned after their dogs. “But what was most memorable was when our friends and family came to the mandap after the ceremony and told us how much our vows meant to them,” says Neil. Hemang adds, “All of our guests said the weekend helped them in their own relationships with each other, which was so heartwarming for us to hear.”