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.
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?
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.
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.
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.