A colourful Indian fusion wedding in Dorset
16 Dec 2019
Anjnee Kamlesh Shah and Harry White's wedding was a perfectly personal affair, paying homage to Anjnee's heritage while honouring Harry's rustic roots
How did you meet?
We met in September 2012. I had just started my final year of medical school in London. Harry had recently moved to London for work We had all been to see a gig and moved on to Clapham Grand (for those who don’t know it, it’s the less attractive younger brother to Infernos... equally hot and sweaty with sticky floors and cheap Jägerbombs).
Harry was at the bar buying a round of Jägerbombs for 12 girls (not including me). I stepped up to the bar and asked him if he could move up and make some room so I could order a drink. Harry, ever the gent, offered to buy me a drink, but I politely declined saying that I did not want to be anyone’s number 13. I also didn’t like the taste of Red Bull.
The night continued and we all parted ways. Six weeks later Harry attended the Halloween disco hosted at my uni bar. A 6ft something stranger dressed in a skeleton onesie approached me on the dancefloor with a shot of Jäger and no Red Bull bomb. He said: "I finally get to buy you a drink". With a look of complete blankness and confusion, I said to him: "I think you’ve got the wrong person. He said: "There's not many people who like Jäger but not Red Bull". I was mortified that I hadn’t remembered him and am not allowed to live it down to this day.
We danced together the whole night and at the end of the night he offered to walk me home. However, while trying to retrieve my house key from my bra, an embarrassing moment ensued where my keys got stuck so I had to undo my bra to open the door. Needless to say, Harry made a rather speedy exit without asking for my number.
Tell us about the proposal
Harry and I had been together for six years when we got engaged. We had so much going on in our lives at the time, that in my mind an engagement, let alone a wedding, wasn’t on the cards anytime soon.
I had never tried on rings but in December 2017 we were shopping at the London silver vaults for christening presents. A wonderful jeweller convinced me to try on a ring and made a huge deal about telling Harry my ring size… just incase. I assured her that we weren’t in need of a ring.
Unbeknown to me, he had designed a ring inspired by the one I had tried on and had it made. For several reasons, Harry's proposal attempts failed five times but our engagement story couldn't be more perfect...
We went to my parents' house in Surrey for dinner and as we drove home to London Harry turned to me and said: "You know we aren’t getting any younger and we really ought to get on with our lives." I thought this was a cruel start to a break-up but didn’t say much in an attempt to remain dignified.
We arrived back at the flat at 11.45pm. Harry immediately rushed off to make a phone call which I assumed was pre-emptively asking his friend to collect him after he broke up with me. I decided to try and keep calm and continued to pack my bag for work the next morning.
When I turned around, Harry was down on one knee; I asked him if he had hurt his back. He presented me with a ring box, to which I asked who it was for. I was so convinced that Harry was going to break up with me I couldn’t comprehend that he might be proposing. When he said it was for me, I burst out laughing. I was so happy to be marrying the person I love more than he could know.
About 10 minutes later and a few phone calls to our parents and my twin sister, Harry produced a notebook with endless lists of guests, bridesmaids, engagement party plans and venue ideas. When I looked alarmed but amused, he said: "Well, I’ve been waiting for this moment for a very long time."
What was the theme for the day, and did you have a colour scheme?
The theme was traditional but fusion to represent my Jain Indian East African background and Harry's Christian rural Dorset background. We wanted it to be fun but true to our own beliefs and reflect us as a couple.
We used foliage, white flowers and pops of traditional Indian red and touches of gold. The clothing for the wedding party was white, navy and gold. I love all things colourful, patterned and garish and Harry is the total opposite, simple and classic, so we found it a challenge to achieve a balance of both.
What venue did you choose and why did you choose it?
Harry has always dreamed of getting married on the farm in his family's back garden (Afflington Manor and Farm) and I have never imagined getting married. It was always going to be hard to find somewhere to fulfil and incorporate both of our traditions, so having a blank canvas and being able to shape and create everything from scratch was the obvious choice for us.
When did you know when you’d found ‘the’ dress?
I tried on two Indian dresses and three white dresses and none of them felt right. A traditional Indian wedding is about heavy, red material and lots of bling. During a traditional indian wedding you would normally wear about 10 dresses over several days of events.
My dad passed away a few months before the wedding, which was really tough, so much so that I didn't think I could go through with it. However, he wanted to me to make the most of my once-in-a-lifetime day and wear multiple outfits. So, in the end I had three dresses made that my twin and I designed from scratch.
The Indian dress was made in two parts so that I could wear the skirt for my twin sister’s wedding next year. The church dress was kept quite simple but with a full pearl droplet veil and an Indian twist. My evening dress was bright yellow… my favourite colour.
Who were the bridesmaids and what did they wear?
I had eight bridesmaids: my twin sister, my sister-in-law, two school friends, and five uni friends. The bridesmaids wore Indian lengha (skirt and top with a veil wrapped to look like a sari). They were navy and gold with pink floral tops.
What did the mother of the bride wear?
My mum wore three outfits, which we had made in India: an ivory outfit with pink and sage green flowers to co-ordinate with me in the morning for the Indian ceremony; a mauve and gold outfit for the church wedding, and a navy blue and gold lengha for the evening.
Where did you find your suits?
We had them made in India. They wore gold and ivory sherwani suits.
Tell us about your floral arrangements.
The brief was bright, wildflower foliage and rustic with touches of red and gold with as much yellow thrown in as possible. I wanted big impact with foliage and hanging decorations. I loved the end result and the pictures captured that perfectly.
Often the aspect that makes a wedding original to the couple is the detail – tell us about the details of the day.
- Our save the dates and maps featured artwork commissioned by a local artist to represent the wedding and location, complete with our tractor wedding car and the four family dogs.
- We hired a double decker London Routemaster bus to transport our guests.
- We converted a hay barn for the wedding reception and food area, featuring lined muslin with hanging wooden ladders, foliage drapes, haybales, a converted horse box bar and a second horse box photobooth.
- Water troughs filled with 'help yourself' beer and wine.
- Handmade wax seals featured on everything and we made personalised name tags.
- Signed books for children’s favours; the author was a friend and sang my entrance to the church too.
- Wedding bands were made from my grandmother's ring.
- Jackets and bow ties for the four family dogs to match the groomsmen.
- We stocked baskets in the bathrooms with toiletries and personal touches including bindis, heel covers (to protect heels from sinking in to the grass), bamboo fans and even Epi pens!
- We provided umbrellas, lamp heaters, blankets and pillows for the evening.
How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?
I felt excited, happy and ready when I walked down the aisle for the Indian wedding. Without my dad present and having lost my uncle as well at the start of the year, my best friend Richard and my aunty walked beside me. For the church ceremony, I felt nervous without my dad, but when our friend Nadine start singing Over The Rainbow, I thought of my father on the clouds looking down on me, which gave me the strength to start walking.
How did you make the ceremony personal to you?
It was all planned from scratch, so it was a very personal service. The priest for the Indian ceremony invited our church priests, who know Harry's family, to join the ceremony. The organist was a family friend, as was the vocalist and Harry's parents' choir were also in attendance.
What was your most memorable moment?
We have three:
- The cocker spaniels jumping on to the stage and one bowing at my father’s photo for his blessing during the final part of the Indian ceremony.
- Walking into the church without my dad but seeing Harry and his wonderful hopeful smile.
- Looking around in the evening while on someone’s shoulders and seeing every single person on the dancefloor.
What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?
Organising an Indian wedding in Dorset, while staying true to us as a couple and sticking to a budget.
What was the most important investment for you?
Food and drink. My primary goal was for everyone to feel welcomed, loved and well looked after.
What song did you choose for your first dance, and why?
Ellie Goulding, How Long Will I Love You. Whenever I hear that song I think of Harry, so it seemed the obvious choice for me.
Did you have any evening entertainment?
We had a wonderful eight-piece band called The Groove Giants alongside two dhol players of The Drum Kings. They were brilliant and despite never having met, they perfectly complemented each other.
Tell us about your wedding cake.
The cake was made by my oldest and best friend, Sonja. It featured semi-naked buttercream frosting with wild flower decoration and giraffe Mr and Mrs toppers. The three tier flavours were: cherry bakewell, chocolate with Baileys buttercream and a salted caramel sponge.
If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?
To be less of a crazy bridezilla when planning and accept help.
Did anything go wrong on the day?
I lost my wedding ring about three minutes after leaving the church. It flew off my hand and wedged itself in the tractor and trailer wedding car. The tractor had to be dismantled at the road side to retrieve it.
Was there anything you wish you’d known before?
There is no such thing as perfect. Even though on the day it felt perfect.
Where did you go on honeymoon?
We are saving for a four-week campervan trip around New Zealand. We hope to go in November 2020.
Do you have any advice for couples in the planning stages?
Trust in yourselves as a couple. Be honest with each other and communicate what is most important to you and what is least important. Try and enjoy the planning.
Have fun and do all the things you've dreamed of, after all it’s a once-in-a-lifetime day and I've learnt you never know what life will throw at you.
This year has been the worst of my life with huge amount of tragedy and the wedding was the light that saved me. It showed me how loved and supported I was and that there is so much to be thankful for.
Steal their style:
Reception venue: Afflington Manor Farm
Choir: St Mary's choir, Swanage
Church: Corfe Castle Church
Indian priest: Hemang Bhatt
Organist: Simon Lole
Vocalist (ceremony): Nadine Wild Palmer
Photography: Lotus Photography and Finn and The Fox Photography
Videography: Heather Rees Photography
Youtube video: Marissa Andrews
Bridal hair and make-up: Aphrodite MUA
Bridesmaids' hair and make-up: Farhana and Gemma
Bridesmaids' outfits: Monalisa Sarees
Cake: Sonja Unwin
Catering: Heena's Kitchen
Floristry and design: Sian Ryan
Band: The Groove Giants
Dhol players: The Drum Kings
Marquee company and lighting: Taddle Farm Tents
Post- and pre-wedding barbecue: Rebecca Green Catering
Jewellery: Lotus of London
Photobooth and bar: Vintage Tipple Trailer
Routemaster bus: Quantok Motors
Mini campervan and bride wedding car: Wedding Wagons
For more Dorset wedding inspiration, browse the latest edition of Dorset Hampshire Surrey Sussex & Wiltshire Bride magazine.