After Alicia’s mum read about optimum weddings in the Confeti magazine in Spain, she made a quick phone call and we set up a family meeting. On a sunny Thursday afternoon, we all met for drinks in Marbella and the bond was formed. We would plan both parts of this wonderful wedding, the first two days in the UK and back to Spain for the next four amazing days of events and ceremonies. This really was an extravaganza and we loved every minute of it. The optimum team really became part of this family, having fun together filling the guest welcome bags at their Marbella home whilst eating a wonderful Indian lunch made by mum whilst dad poured the wine… This was the only job we would let him do!
After many skype meetings and visits to Spain plus 1000’s of emails, the time was here, I flew with Jessica and Sara to the UK bringing along Nani and Antonio De Perez some of our favourite photographers as Alicia and Rafi wanted continuity throughout all the events. We knew it would be perfect and above all so much fun.
Planning with the two UK venues was super easy as the teams in each were so supportive that they were just like an extension of optimum weddings with us all working together as one.
On the first day, the family arrived for afternoon High tea in the Conservatory – Peramni @ Mercure Milton Keynes. This was such a special time filled with laughter, grandma the doyen of the family making sure that everyone was fed enough cake…. even Jess and I! That evening was the time to start to party, there was a lot of this over the next week. The parents and their friends gathered together for a musical performance, enjoying time to talk and get ready for all the upcoming events. There were speeches and games with everyone in a relaxed and happy mood. Meanwhile, the bride and groom stayed at the main venue for dinner with their friends.
Early the next morning we were up with the lark to oversee the set up for the religious wedding ceremony at Woughton House, MGallery Sofitel in Milton Keynes, the room was filled with thousands of white flowers. Whilst we waited for the bride to arrive the string quartet played gently.
Alicia arrived in style by horse and carriage with her very very proud father and we were ready to begin, Rafi was waiting for his bride with bated breath.
The ceremony was very moving with the almost 300 guests looking on in awe. Once the ceremony was over and guests had enjoyed the traditional drink of Sherbet, they moved to the cocktail reception and then onto dinner a delicious Indian meal prepared and served in style by Nitin and his crew at Laguna catering, there were speeches, much laughter before we moved into the party room where the whole group danced the night away.
The next day was Sunday… We had a lie-in and then as we have to do when in the UK we went shopping before leaving for the airport to fly back to Spain to start preparation on the next leg.
Once back in Spain it was full steam ahead to make sure that everything was ready as we had guests staying in three different hotels and events in El Gamonal on the first night, Shopping, golf and yoga on Puro beach in Marbella on the second day followed by the grooms Pithi back at Anantara Villa Padierna Marbella and afternoon tea. With a chance to change and get their dancing shoes on the guests were then whisked off to El Chiringuito on the beach at Puente Romano for the Sangeet night, the dance-off was fierce and of course, the girls won!!
On the third day with the excitement at its peak, we got ready for the humanist ceremony in the amphitheatre, the bride wore a stunning white wedding gown bringing in touches of blue with her bouquet.
Flamenco dancing, more speeches and a party so big that after many many one more song requests we just had to unplug the DJ and send them all to bed…
From here I am going to let Alicia give her view on the events giving you all the best of both worlds.
Thanks to the parents
Rafi and I met through our parents as they were friends and he used to come over to my parents’ house for Sunday lunch from time to time. It took five years, and me taking the wrong tablet and needing his medical advice for us to actually connect and for him to make a lasting impression, but when he did it felt like all the stars were aligned.
Three Times a Charm
We both come from an Indian/ East African background where a big family wedding is a must. My late grandfather also made my father promise to throw me a wedding I would never forget. It all culminated in three weddings… a legal registry wedding with our immediate family, our religious ceremony in the UK with our extended family and friends and our marriage blessing in Spain with our nearest and dearest. Three weddings over 10 days – what a task to undertake. We knew we were so lucky for our families to want to celebrate in such a way.
They say you either want your wedding to be all about you or all about your guests. We very much wanted to host events that everyone would enjoy and would represent the union of both families. For the UK wedding, it was an easy decision to do it at Woughton House, MGallery Sofitel in Milton Keynes. The setting is so picturesque with the stunning entrance and country feel with the sheep and cows as neighbours. It was the perfect quintessential British feeling we wanted to help mix our heritage with our upbringing.
Spanish Spectacle with a Bollywood Twist
For Spain, we fell in love with Villa Padierna at first sight. It is beyond stunning and we immediately saw how it could all fit together. We wanted to do a humanist wedding and the amphitheatre setting gave it the drama we wanted whilst keeping it intimate. Walking down those steps with my dad was everything I had dreamt of and more.
For the Bollywood night, we wanted something a little different from the norm and that’s exactly what Puente Romano provided. We transformed El Chiringuito into a mix of colour and dance with an Indian style dance-off and firework display.
We also had smaller events such as a welcome dinner at El Gamonal, a range of activities for guests including golf at Villa Padierna, a shopping trip, and a beach chill out as well as traditional events to include the piti ceremony, traditional Indian gift-giving ceremony, music party at Mercure Milton Keynes and a farewell brunch. It’s all about the details… For both weddings, we felt everything was about the special touches.
In the UK we tried to bind our Indian heritage with our British/ Canadian upbringing. From our Beefeater MC, me arriving in a horse and carriage, to the Indian traditional ceremony elements we included and the tastiest Indian food at our wedding breakfast. The cake was a four-tiered wonder by Amara Cake Boutique with layers such as peanut butter and banana, lemon and poppy seed and scrumptious carrot cake. Poor Sara (the owner), had to work around my unfortunate wheat and lactose intolerances, but she did it with ease and it tasted out of this world!
In Spain, the wedding was far more intimate and embraced the theme of love. The love we had for each other, for our family and also our friends. To capture this, we tried to make everything tailored; from the welcome packs for the guests to the activities for each and transport to and from every event.
With so many events, we were constantly trying to bring in elements about us and our families to tie everything together into one big long party and celebration.
Time to Dress Up
We loved the opportunity to dress up. You don’t get to every day, so we threw ourselves into it. It wasn’t only us, but our whole family that were able to enjoy both Indian and English glam.
For the UK it was all about an English Country Garden – the flowers were white with green foliage. Everything was natural and gave a sense of the outdoors to encourage a relaxed formality.
The men donned tails whilst I wore a gold and white sari from my grandmother (in her favourite colours) for the religious ceremony, but then changed into a Zac Posen wedding dress for the wedding breakfast and dancing.
For Spain, although we kept it natural with the white flowers for the aisle and table seating, it was an electric blue that wove into my bouquet and boutonnieres as well as into my Gianvito Rossi shoes that accompanied my Vera Wang wedding dress.
The men looked dapper in their navy blue suits which matched the navy blue bridesmaid dresses, also Vera Wang. The groomsmen continued the electric blue with their floral pochette and ties from Eton. The pop of colour gave that vibrancy we wanted, whilst also keeping everything elegant and traditional.
I can’t speak more highly of Nani and Antonio, our photographers! I work in the content industry so I knew the quality I was looking for. With both Nani and Antonio it’s not just the equipment they use that is impressive, but the love and passion they put into it. We were all blown away when we saw the images and videos they created. We knew they were perfect to capture the essence of both our weddings, and so like optimum weddings, they worked across both weddings for continuity.
There are too many moments that stand out to pinpoint one, but a few that spring to mind are us walking out under the sea of bubbles in Spain, seeing everyone’s’ honest smiles on their faces! And the biggest moments came when we saw our families together, united. To us that’s what the wedding was all about – unity between both families. We were lucky our parents were friends before we met. It allowed for the perfect marriage of families and friends. We felt very blessed.
My favourite memories…
If I had to do it all again, I wouldn’t change a thing. We felt like we were living in a dream world and we wouldn’t want anything to have changed that. Every wedding is unique and different. I think the best advice I could give to future brides is to stay true to what you (and your families) want. The wedding is a representation of who you are. The bubbles were something everyone laughed at when I wanted them, but it still brings a huge smile to my face thinking of Rafi and I walking out under the sea of bubbles in Spain to somewhere over a rainbow, as they created a rainbow over us.
I’d also say to make sure you take the time to think through all the elements. How will your guest feel and what is their journey through your wedding?
To bring your vision to life, it’s all about the team you have around you though! We were so blessed to have the best people helping us from the very beginning.
We found optimum, our wedding planners in this very article a year ago just after we got engaged. With them and Charlie’s team at Woughton House, Yasmin from Villa Padierna and Tara from Puente Romano we had everything under control and the best black book in Marbella and London.
It takes everyone working together to create a wedding and everyone from our families, our planner, optimum weddings to the florists, hair and makeup artists and AV team built up my perfect #bridetribe.
We had the most amazing time, hard work and lots of laughs with so many guests from all over the world complementing every step of the way, we were even more delighted when we were asked to plan the wedding of Alicia’s brother Zam and his fiance Selena for October of the same year …. only five months later!!!!
This wonderful wedding took place in Seville… check back to the blog next week to see and hear all about it.
Meanwhile, enjoy reading about Alicia and Rafi and get in touch if this all sounds like the wedding you have in mind.
Wedding Planner: Optimum Weddings
Venues: UK – Mercure Milton Keynes
Woughton House, MGallery Sofitel in Milton Keynes
Spain – Villa Padierna & Puente Romano
Flowers: Pedro Navarro
Make-up & Hair: Nicola McGeorge and Alex Harrocks
Photographer: Nani de Pérez
Videographer: Antonio de Pérez
Production: Soul Events
Jas from Kudos DJ London