Silpi & Shawn's handmade Indian-fusion cabaret wedding

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The Offbeat Bride: Silpi, aspiring drama teacher (and Tribesmaid)

Her offbeat partner: Shawn, arts and cultural management student

Date and location of wedding: Louise McKinney Park and Bonnie Doon Community Hall, Edmonton, AB, Canada — July 14, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We really wanted to put ourselves into our wedding, so we made a lot of things by hand. Our centrepieces were recycled Jones Soda bottles that we tinted blue with Mod Podge and food colouring, then filled with branches onto which we glued paper flowers.

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My mom went to India the winter before the wedding and brought back lots of fabric, which she, my aunt, and I then cut and sewed into table overlays. For table markers, we cut and sanded logs into slices, then burned the names of different fruits (after which we named our tables) into them.

Coffee table "guestbook"

We painted our old coffee table off-white and put it out with Sharpies to be used as a guestbook, and now have a living room talking point that is in turns touching and hilarious. For signage, we turned thrift-store picture frames into chalkboards, to pay tribute a little bit to my being a teacher.

Cocktails

Hand-painted cake toppers

We bought the flowers the day before the wedding at Safeway and my bridesmaids and I put together all of the bouquets and boutonnieres. We also made all of the invitations and programs, sewed curtains for the reception hall, and set up our own bar, candy buffet, and DIY Italian soda bar. Shawn's aunt made our amazing cake, for which I painted wooden cake-toppers to look like us and, at the bottom, our two cats.

Cabaret belly dance

Cabaret hula hooping

We met and both work in theatre, and a lot of our friends are performers, so to celebrate this we had a cabaret at our reception! Our incredibly talented friends sang, belly-danced, hula-hooped, and performed stand-up comedy for us and our guests. It meant a lot for them to share their art with us on our big day.

Cabaret- Shawn's surprise performance

Shawn surprised everyone, including me, when he and our emcees got up and performed a fully choreographed, boy-band style dance number. Before we were dating, one of our "things" was singing boy band songs at karaoke, and it set a fun and silly tone for the reception.

Mehndi

Waiting

My family is Indian (though I was born and raised in Canada) and Shawn's is not, so it was important for us to honour both of our cultural traditions. I wore a white dress, but with a red dupatta instead of a veil, since red is the traditional Indian bridal colour. I also wore the same bracelets that my grandmother wore at her wedding in India in 1955.

Family

Our food was a mix of Indian and Western cuisine, and at the reception we made sure to have a mix of music from both cultures. The best part was seeing everyone embrace the fusion theme; Shawn's parents both wore traditional Indian clothing and my Indian friends and family got everyone tearing up the dance floor Bollywood-style.

Ceremony

Seven steps around the fireTell us about the ceremony: Though neither of us are particularly religious, it was important to my parents that we be married in a Hindu ceremony. We were lucky enough to find an amazing priest, an old friend of my grandmother's, who specializes in fusion ceremonies. He helped us develop a ceremony that maintained the major rituals of the Hindu ceremony (exchanging garlands, taking seven steps to bless the marriage, circling the fire), condensed and explained in English, while making room for original vows and an exchange of rings.

I loved that we helped in writing the ceremony, as it allowed us to make sure it reflected the kind of marriage we want to have. This was especially important to us because it let us modify or delete portions of the traditional ceremony that we felt enforced gender inequality.

We asked my grandmother to give a Hindu blessing and Shawn's grandmother to say a Christian prayer to symbolize two families and cultures coming together. While we signed the legal documents, a close friend read e.e. cumming's "i carry your heart with me."

In the mandap

Our biggest challenge: Especially in the early stages of planning, it was difficult to reconcile my parent's vision of a big, traditional Indian wedding with our vision of a quirky, handcrafted, simple party. My mother and I both had to do some soul-searching, but in the end we came to understand and appreciate, at least to some extent, where the other was coming from. I was able to make my mother understand that even though in Indian tradition, the wedding is planned primarily by the parents, it was important to Shawn and me that this wedding feel like it was ours and like it reflected our personalities.

We found it was really helpful for my mom and me to list the key things that we cared about the most, and our main goals for the wedding, so that all the things that were most important to each of us would be included. While there were some definite periods of struggle during the process, I think in the end we came out of it closer and with a wedding of which we could both be proud.

Kicking ass and taking names

My favorite moment: In the days leading up to the wedding and on the wedding day itself, I was amazed at how our friends and family came together to help. It was really touching and made us feel incredibly loved and blessed to see all the people who worked hard to decorate the hall, set up the ceremony site, and make sure everything ran smoothly. Having my bridesmaids with me the morning of the wedding was also very meaningful, as they had flown in from all around the country.

Tying the knot

The most meaningful moments, though, definitely came during the ceremony. We both got very emotional during our vows, which both of us had written the morning of without talking about it. Our ceremony also included a thank you to our parents, where we each stood and locked eyes with our respective parents while the priest talked about all that they had given us. We hadn't gone through it thoroughly in rehearsal, and it was incredibly moving. All six of us were crying by the end!

Celebration

My funniest moment: The dancing at the reception had so many good moments! Everyone was stepping outside their comfort zone and trying new moves, but my favourite had to be the older Indian couple busting a move to Nelly's "Hot in Herre."

Our cake

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? We went the DIY route with the music for the reception. Each of my bridesmaids made a playlist of music from various eras and genres, but I didn't manage to get them onto my phone until the day before the wedding. This meant I didn't really have time to organize it and I was worried that it would be all over the place and nobody would dance! We also never found a chance to get any of the Bollywood music onto my phone, which I was really disappointed about. However, one of our emcees stepped in and saved the day. He collected iPods from a bunch of close friends and family, and played DJ all night with resounding success.

The shoes wait

The gentlemen

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? Shawn and I learned that even though it was a celebration of our love, our wedding wasn't only about us. It was just as much about the people who made us who we are today, and we realized through the process that when we made their happiness a priority as well as ours, everyone was happier in the end.

Twirling

Celebrating vandals

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!