The Indian Wedding That Stopped Traffic on Fifth Avenue
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 macaron towers, how do you see beyond the usual tropes and actually pull off a non-cookie-cutter affair? For the answer, we decided to interrogate the cool couples whose weddings we would actually want to steal — right down to the tiger-shaped cake toppers. Though we’re living in a moment where group celebrations are either being called off or adapting to extreme social distance, in many ways these pre-quarantine parties are just the escape we need right now.
Here, we spoke with Angela Jhanji, a strategy director at Grant Thornton, and Tyler Manco, a former Navy pilot who’s now an investment banker at UBS. They married in March 2019 and had an opulent three-day fusion celebration — a baraat on Fifth Avenue, a rose-filled ballroom wedding at the Plaza, and an after-party in the penthouse where everyone got kicked out.
Tyler: It was February of 2015 and I was out at this British pub in D.C. called the Brixton that got rowdy on the weekends. I remember hearing a British voice arguing with the bartender that their drink was wrong. I was like, Who is this person? I’ve got to talk to her.
Angela: We were debating over a Pimm’s Cup, which is typically a British thing that has been Americanized with ginger beer. After we got together, we both ended up attending Columbia for grad school and commuting back and forth from D.C. on the weekends while being employed full-time — I was working for the World Bank for Accenture and Tyler was working for the intelligence community.
Tyler: I proposed the day after we graduated, in May 2018, at afternoon tea at the Plaza. Our third date was afternoon tea, so it harkened back to the early days.
Angela: We had everyone in town — my parents from London, his parents from Kansas. Graduating from the school of my dreams and then getting engaged certainly fit my personality of running at a hundred miles per hour. I was a hyper-charged career woman. Power female. Meeting Tyler, I realized that you can do all of that and have a loving, calm center at home.
Tyler: I wanted a fusion wedding that embraced both of our cultures. Angela’s British-Indian and I’m a Presbyterian white guy from the Midwest.
Angela: Because we had a great many guests coming from abroad and out of town, we wanted to do it in Manhattan and we wanted a hotel. In all, 150 people attended.
Tyler: We needed to be able to have a fire indoors, as that’s part of the traditional Indian ceremony. That limited the selection a little bit. We met with the Plaza and snuck into a ballroom to see what the set-up was for a wedding, and we instantly knew, This is it. It looked so beautiful and elegant, and when you bring in a design person to really make it pop…
Angela: We worked with Reema from RB Event Design, who was lovely. I had a little bit of design in my background so I was quite particular, and she really did help with our ideas. The design for the Indian ceremony consisted of soft pastel colors, cream, light pink, mint, and gold. It was a cherry blossom-type feel, for spring.
Tyler: We decided to spread the wedding over three days.
Angela: On Friday, the Christian ceremony was held at Madison Avenue Presbyterian, then there was an afternoon tea at the Pierre Hotel. In the evening, we hosted a joint mehendi and sangeet at the Taj II in Flatiron. I wore BHLDN for the ceremony and in the afternoon — chic chiffon separates. I had a custom outfit made in fuchsia for our mehendi.
Angela: We thought we should give everyone Saturday off, because they’d need a day to get over the hangover.
Tyler: And then on Sunday we’d have the baraat, the groom’s wedding procession, followed by the Hindu ceremony, then a black-tie ball at the end. It was all set to culminate in that one moment, where people would all be wearing saris and lehengas and ball gowns.
Angela: I wore a pink lehenga by Sabyasachi. There was a big debate because my mom’s really traditional — God bless her — and she definitely wanted me to wear red. I went to India to get fitted and convinced her a bit about the palette. It was very soft, gentle, and elegant. Then, for the ballroom, it was all about glamour and partying, so we went with décor that was a heavier navy hue with wilting, white roses.
Tyler: One of the things I helped out with a lot was finding the horse for the baraat. Our wedding planner sent feelers out to a farm in New Jersey that specialized in Indian weddings, and they brought the horse in on a trailer.
Angela: We needed a permit, and God knows how we did that.
Tyler: I think it cost $3,000 or $4,000 to shut down a block of Fifth Avenue for an hour or half-hour, and we were like, “Do we want to do that?” But the Plaza controlled that whole courtyard outside its front door, and they said, “You guys don’t need to do that. You can parade around the courtyard and it’s plenty big enough.”
Angela: We got ready in the Penthouse Suite at the Plaza, which was multi-tiered. My bridesmaids were on the first floor and I had the second floor with my puppy, Pippa. We had our first look on the terrace outside the ballroom. After months and months and months of looking at swatches, going overseas, and making sure everyone had their measurements came that moment of silence, when I walked down those stairs and all you could hear was the jingle of my lehenga. I looked up and Tyler was just beaming. He looked regal. It was definitely very emotional.
Tyler: I tried not to cry. She’s the most beautiful person ever. We took some photos on the lake, just inside Central Park. You could hear all this chatter in the background and see people staring.
Angela: It was just one of those days. It was so bright that everyone was out in Central Park, and everyone was our friend. We told our guests to meet at the front doors of the Plaza at 2 p.m. I sat inside, on a FaceTime with the wedding team, and Tyler jumped on the horse. We secured an outdoor DJ to drum up some energy, and at some point, on the FaceTime, there were just … so many faces. Hordes and hordes of tourists were elbowing our family out of the way to film Tyler on the horse.
Tyler: There was a dhol drummer behind me and I was so absorbed at the moment, but when I stopped and got off the horse there was this sea of people and all the traffic had stopped. Everyone just stopped. The unfortunate thing about the baraat is that the bride doesn’t see you until you go inside. All this noise was being made, like, “The groom is arriving, the groom is arriving,” and the first people I saw were her parents, who escorted me in. Her parents took me to the priest and we went to the ceremony.
Angela: With Indian weddings, the ceremony can last up to six or seven hours — my brother’s certainly was all night. We found a fantastic priest, Pandit Sharma, who was super up for doing it in an hour. He did a great job walking everyone through the steps, speaking a bit of Sanskrit, and then translating it for our guests, so they could understand and follow along. We did the exchanging of the garland, then we did paces around the fire to take our vows — the Seven Steps to marriage.
Tyler: We actually took a two-hour break between the end of the ceremony and cocktail hour, so people could get changed and relax. One of the things that we didn’t really think about before the weekend was how little we’d actually see of each other. She was getting ready, I was away getting ready, and that’s sort of the tradition. Having those hours, when it was just me and her having a glass of Champagne together for the first time as man and wife, it was nice! Then, we made our big entrance, like, Okay, this is it — the final event.
Angela: We had some fancy Indian cocktail food upfront, like lamb chops. We worked with the Plaza to get Chef Gaurav Anand as our caterer, and paid a bit of a premium to elevate the menu. Chef Gaurav had his work cut out for him because my mom’s also a chef, so we had more than one tasting to get everything right. For the wedding itself, we had butter chicken, a sea bass coconut curry, and paneer kofta with a cashew sauce. We had a cocktail hour, then speeches, then dinner. My father gave a speech, then came my maid of honor, Tyler’s best man, another friend of mine. After those, Tyler and I gave our own speeches.
Tyler: We cut the cake right after we were introduced. The cake guy, Ron Ben-Israel, is pretty famous — he’s been on TV. We had hazelnut, chocolate, and caramel — we were trying to go for a Ferrero Rocher kind of flavor. We did our first dance to Frank Sinatra’s “Fairy Tale,” which I picked. Not only am I a big fan, but my grandparents and I used to listen to a lot of Frank when I was a kid. They’re not around anymore, so it was a chance to include them.
Angela: The rest of the music was a fusion of Indian and contemporary. Our DJ, DJ Insomnia, brought the dhol drummer out to the dance floor to add to the beat. That was the moment everyone just thoroughly let loose. I don’t remember anyone sitting at the tables.
Tyler: At midnight, when it ended, we brought everybody up to our suite for an after-party. About 45 minutes into it, security came up and kicked everybody out.
Angela: If you ask any of our guests, one of the highlights of our wedding was being kicked out of the Plaza penthouse. We led everyone to a dive bar.
Tyler: We ended up at P.J. Carney’s, with everybody in their tuxes. It was 1 a.m. on a Sunday night, Monday morning — not the most pleasant crowd in New York City. I think they were like, “Who the f-ck are these people?” Pardon my French.