We had to move our wedding date three times altogether because of Covid restrictions. The amount of emails we sent out to our guests was pretty bonkers… each time we started with a, here we go again! Zack and I got engaged in 2018, and we had our hearts set on Elmley Nature Reserve as our venue from quite early on. I’d booked a weekend escape from our busy Hackney lives for Zack a few years earlier for his birthday, as I knew he’d just love being surrounded by nature and all of the birds. They don’t have wifi, so it was an amazing place to actually switch off and spend time together.

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Zeena accessorised her yellow Stine Goya gown for the mehendi with a shell bag  and a flower crown crafted by her husband-to-be, Zack.

Our original date was 12 June this year, but when the government announced restrictions were going to be lifted just over a week later, we thought, we can’t go ahead – It’s an Indian wedding, there has to be dancing! Plus we have really big families, so a 30-person sit-down wedding just wasn’t possible for us. Elmley offered us another date, 26 June, which was five days after lockdown was meant to ease. But in the interim there was another announcement. I remember pouring a glass of wine, sitting down to watch Boris and wondering, what’s he going to say this time?

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The groom wore a traditional Indian sherwani that matched Zeena’s yellow dress.

In the end, decisions were pushed back onto venues and vendors to make calls about numbers and what they deemed Covid safe. We spent this incredibly stressful week scrambling to try and make it work, and eventually I realised, I couldn’t do it anymore. It was silly because it’s meant to be really fun. Zack and I love planning things, of all the people to get stressed out, we’re not the type.

It was heartbreaking having to move the date a second time, but we had 150 guests and it just wasn’t worth the risk, and we couldn’t un-invite our friends and family. The team at Elmley were lovely, and offered us another date on 11 August. It was a no brainer, we were so lucky to find another date just eight weeks later, and although I was really sad to move to a midweek date, when it finally arrived, all of the delays ended up making it even more joyful. To whisk everyone away for three days after not seeing them for so long was such a luxury. Plus, we just didn’t want to wait another year to be married.

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Family and friends showered the couple with turmeric for luck at the traditional mehendi.

Everything kicked off with a fabulous party on Tuesday night, called the mehendi party. It’s a chance for the family to wish you well, give you blessings and enjoy getting some henna art, and is then followed by a pithi ceremony, in which family and friends cover you in a turmeric, chickpea flour and rose water paste which gets really, really messy! We had the traditional Ganesh puja first, a blessing to Ganesh, the Hindu god, to bring all the positive vibes for the marriage ahead, and to welcome Zack into the family.

The party was in the garden of the farmhouse at Elmley, which is so beautiful. It’s such a versatile venue, it looks gorgeous as an empty shell, but also you can really make it your own. We worked with an amazing florist, who went above and beyond to help us realise our floral visions for the day. We’d put a moodboard together and then the rest evolved from there with her expertise. I was obsessed with the idea of having a heart-shaped arch – hearts are my thing, I’ve even got a little tattoo – and we managed to hunt one down from a garden centre in Maidenhead.

On Wednesday we had a humanist Hindu ceremony. We’re not that religious, but we wanted to join our two cultures together. It was really important for my family, but also to me: I wanted to acknowledge my heritage and to really celebrate the colour and vibrancy of Indian wedding rituals.

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I hate it when a wedding ends really abruptly at midnight, I wanted more of a relaxing vibe, and at Elmley after the clock struck midnight we were able to keep the party going around a fire pit. My sister even made marshmallows to toast on the fire. Everyone stayed that night and we were able to have a lovely hungover breakfast and debrief in the barn the next morning. Elmley does these incredible tours in a really old van called a saviem, and they took us out on a little trip around the reserve, it was such a nice way to finish everything off. As a final surprise, one of Zack’s sisters had arranged for an apple tree to be planted for us on the reserve, with a tag with our names on. I burst into tears.

I actually bought the Stine Goya dress I wore for the Mehndi back when we first got engaged. It popped up in the Net-a-Porter sale and I bought it before we had even set a date. It was meant to be. I hadn’t even tried it on until a week before the wedding finally went ahead. I’m one of those people. Zack also made me a flower crown, which I hadn’t planned for, but when it arrived on the day I was just like, oh my god, it’s perfect. Zack wore a traditional Indian sherwani in yellow. We stuck to yellow tones inspired by the pithi ceremony and use of turmeric, as it is such a positive colour.

We slipped out of our nice outfits into casual clothes – still yellow! – before things got messy. My aunties had mixed up coconut oil with turmeric and cocoa butter for the ritual. Your skin actually does glow afterwards. Everyone went a bit mad, they poured a whole tub on Zack’s head. After that we dashed off to have a shower.

All the delays ended up making everything all the more joyful says Zeena who sourced the heartshaped arch of her dreams...

“All the delays ended up making everything all the more joyful,” says Zeena, who sourced the heart-shaped arch of her dreams from a garden centre with the help of her florist.

The next day I wore a traditional Indian outfit called a lehenga in pink. I just loved the big skirt and the beading and the embroidery. It took six months to make. When I got it in April I was so excited to try it on with all my jewellery, but it was a while before I got the chance as it was lockdown, and Zack and I were working from home the whole time in our one-bedroom flat. I was like, can you just go out for a bit!?

It was incredible, but it was so weighty I knew I wouldn’t want to stay in it all day long. After visiting her studio and seeing the possibilities, I had done a little drawing of a dress with tiers of sequins, feathers and heart-print tulle. Charlie made me a beautiful bow that was meant for the dress, but I ended up putting it in my hair. She also made me a heart-print cape that I completely forgot to wear as I was quite drunk by that point! But the outfit is so versatile, it’s the kind of thing I will wear again.

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The feathers on Zeena’s Charlie Brear dress, her third wedding look, were a nod to the birds her husband loves, and that surround the Elmley Nature Reserve. She added a pearl bag by Shrimps and pearl-encrusted Jimmy Choo heels.


We wanted to make sure we worked with lots of women, lots of diverse suppliers, and that we spotlighted small businesses, too. We were careful with our stationary, and used seed paper for the orders of service and the menu that we designed and printed ourselves, so that guests could plant them afterwards. The idea was for things to be keepsakes, rather than throwaway. We worked with an amazing event stylist, Callie Petigrew, who I found on Instagram. She realised my vision perfectly – just as I’d imagined it.

All the little details made it so special. The beautiful day beds and umbrellas from Raj Tent Club, the pink plates with lovely gold rims and bamboo cutlery from Maison Margaux, and coloured glassware from Whitehouse. All those touches are what made the difference.

I think Zack and I threw ourselves into every element of the wedding because we are designers. Zack is a paper artist – he makes incredible sculptures from paper and wood. He has made a bird sculpture for Sir David Attenborough. It’s a big part of the reason why Elmley was such a perfect space for us, it’s a bird haven. That’s why I booked that original trip for Zack as a birthday gift in the first place, so he could get his binoculars out – twitcher on the go! I’m so glad we waited for the venue we really wanted and didn’t give up on it. It was perfect.