When we ask newlyweds to think back on what they wanted most for their big day — and we’ve interviewed hundreds of them over the years — the most common response is: “For it not to feel like a wedding!” But in a monsoon of flower crowns and macaroon towers, how do you see beyond the usual tropes and actually pull off a non-cookie-cutter affair? For the answer, we’ve decided to interrogate the cool couples whose weddings we would actually want to steal — right down to the tiger-shaped cake toppers.
Here, we talked to Jennifer and Krupa Cox-Shah, a pair of brides who tied the knot this spring, two years after they both swiped left. The weekend-long, Indian-American celebration at a New Hampshire winery included a vegetarian feast (followed by Taco Bell), and a DJ who provided both the drums for the baraat and the Janelle Monáe tunes for the reception.
Jen: My whole life I had dreamed of having a wedding in New Hampshire. Which would mean planning it long distance, since I had moved from Boston to Chicago to be with Krupa.
Krupa: I knew I wanted a small wedding — and when I say small, I’m saying small in comparison to your traditional 700-to-900-person Indian wedding.
Jen: We were having a multicultural gay wedding: All expectations were out the window.
Krupa: We ended up with right around 170 guests.
Jen: We decided on the LaBelle Winery in Amherst, New Hampshire. And the coordinator and everybody we met there were so friendly and accommodating. We needed people like that, planning it long distance.
Krupa: I loved that it had these large open windows that overlooked the woods and the vineyards. It ended up being the perfect backdrop.
Jen: The wedding happened over two days. First, on Friday afternoon, we had a traditional Indian event called the pithi, and all of our closest family or anyone who happened to be at the hotel came and put turmeric powder on our skin. It’s supposed to make the brides glow — it’s very fun. Then, a mehndi-sangeet party, which I thought was just going to be like a welcome dinner, here’s a buffet; I didn’t really understand the magnitude of it.
Krupa: It turned into more of a sangeet, honestly. The difference is just that there was a lot more singing and dancing. Most of the guests came. We had henna artists set up. We wanted an Indian DJ more for this night because it was going to be more of an Indian event, and the reception would be more alternative, but we found this DJ who did both — they were even able to provide the dhols for the baraat, and his wife is a decorator who was able to help with the backdrop for the mehndi. A one-stop shop.
Jen: Overall we each had three outfits for the wedding weekend. We both wore Indian clothes to the mehndi party and wedding ceremony, and changed into Western dresses for the reception. We also wore Indian clothes for the pithi ceremony, which were less formal given they were prone to getting turmeric paste all over them. In the fall, Krupa’s parents and aunt were actually in India for another wedding, so they would FaceTime us at 4 in the morning to show us these grainy images of dresses. Literally, they were across the world finding those dresses for us, which was really special.
Krupa: Before they went to India, we flagged a number of styles that we liked online and sent those along with our measurements to get them fitted over there. Many American Indian brides go to India to buy wedding outfits because they’ve traditionally been less expensive there, though it seems like prices have come up a bit and the gap maybe isn’t as wide as it once was.
Jen: We wanted our respective outfits for each event to be unique from each other’s while still looking like they belonged together. For the mehndi, my outfit was shades of blue with most of the work on the upper half and had more visible pants [Lavish Couture].
Krupa: While my outfit [Sahil] was a deeper purple with most of the work at the bottom and looked more like a dress (though it did have pants). For the wedding ceremony, we really liked the idea of contrasting each other, with Jen’s outfit, from India, being all red and gold, while my outfit, also by Sahil, was all white and gold.
Jen: Similarly, for the reception we contrasted — I wore a more traditional white wedding gown by Romona Keveza, from a shop called Glamour Closet. Krupa wore a black Adrianna Papell gown that she got on Amazon. Krupa wears black pretty much every day of her life, so she wanted to wear a black dress, which is very true to her, very elegant and cool.
Krupa: Around 4 p.m., the baraat started. The baraat is typically a groom’s event in Indian weddings, when the groom arrives and there’s this whole procession with a drummer, and the group arriving to the venue. Participating in the baraat has always been one of my favorite parts of Indian weddings; I really wanted to have a brides’ baraat. Our DJ gave us this idea of doing a dueling baraat — basically, my side coming from the parking lot and her side coming from the other end of the venue. We met in the middle of the terrace and everyone was dancing together. Her dad and my dad — both the drummers taught them the dhols, the drums, so they were playing for a little bit, too.
Jen: Krupa’s mom made these laced canopies, and we had some friends and family holding them over us as we made our way together.
Krupa: The ceremony lasted about an hour. The officiant that we found, Hersh Kheterpal, I knew she’d done some same-sex weddings in the past. A couple of friends had used her before and had great things to say. We wanted to incorporate elements of Indian culture and Western-type things.
Jen: For me, the thing that was most important was incorporating literature in some way, and honoring queer artists. That’s sort of the church that I feel a part of, queer art.
Krupa: We both wrote our own vows. I definitely felt nervous. I love that Jen is a writer — hearing the way she talks and reading the way she writes. I’m more of a short-and-sweet postcard writer. I also knew what she planned to read — it was a letter she wrote to me shortly after we met — and it was beautiful. She read mine the day before, too, and I think it helped to take the pressure off to share them beforehand. Overall the ceremony probably looked a lot more Indian, just at a surface level.
Jen: We walked down the aisle to the song “1950” by King Princess, an instrumental version of that. We really wanted to make sure we played all our favorite queer artists like Janelle Monáe, Hayley Kiyoko, all those singers. We wanted every guest at our wedding to feel really seen and feel like there was something that was just for them.
Krupa: The reception was a sit-down meal. The wines were all from LaBelle; we did a tasting during which we chose six of our favorites. We chose a package that offered beer and liquor, and they were kind enough to add a local sour beer to the selection — we love a good sour beer.
Jen: LaBelle was wonderful because they typically only have one vegetarian option, but for us they did everything vegetarian. We are both vegetarian, and Krupa’s family as well. We had a farro bowl, mushroom-cheese tortellini, an arrabiata gnocchi. The cake was a three-tiered black matte cake with three flavors: vanilla cake with raspberry jam and chocolate ganache filling, chocolate cake with cookies-and-cream and vanilla buttercream filling, and red velvet cake with vanilla buttercream filling [Jacques Fine European Pastries].
Krupa: There wasn’t an official after-party — honestly, going two nights in a row was a little bit rough — but all of our guests were staying on the same floor of the hotel, and it had an open space in the middle. So we drank a little bit more there, and had Taco Bell.