Inside Neil Chawla and Hemang Saraiya’s Destination Wedding in Tulum, Mexico
The wedding day began with dueling baraats on opposite sides of the property, with dhol (Drums in Paradise) drummers and music from Ohm Mexico. “Guests paraded through the surrounding jungle to the waterfront, where our two baraats collided in a frenzy of cheering and competition,” Chawla recalled. They then walked down the aisle to their rainbow mandap (complete with flowers from Zuniga Designs and Pentaflor Flowers) with their respective mothers, where Chicago priestess Hersh Khetarpal performed a modernized Hindu ceremony.
“She’s a trailblazer who performed her daughter’s same-sex marriage over 10 years ago when it was only allowed in Massachusetts,” Saraiya says of their pick. The reception that evening was themed around a dramatic evening in the jungle – it began with cocktails and a performance by musician Miguel Hiroshi on the rooftop of trendy restaurant Nü Tulum. Guests then descended to the main veranda for a night of revelry. “The intimate energy of the first half of the reception flipped 180 degrees when the water drum performers of Drums in Paradise performed on the dance floor,” Chawla recalled.
The multi-day wardrobe of the bride and groom has been carefully organized. They wore matching ivory linen kurta sets with embroidered bandis from Project Bandi for the mehendi night. For the next morning’s yoga session, they kept cool in kimono jackets and shorts from Thai brand Wai Wear. For the sangeet, Chawla chose a Bohame tie-dye bandi over a pleated Anju Agarwal kurta set. Saraiya went with a vintage white chikankari kurta with embroidered bandi by Anju Agarwal and corduroy leggings.
The couple turned to Pranay Baidya to customize their off-white ashkans, worn with silk linen trousers, for the wedding day. They wanted to pair this with their mothers’ wedding sarees as shawls, so Baidya drew inspiration from these heritages to create complementary embroideries on the ashkans. For the reception, Saraiya chose an asymmetrical black Bohemian kurta, which he wore with a sequin vest from his high school’s Glee Club. Chawla complemented her hubby in a tuxedo with a sequin jacket. The eco-conscious couple’s gold wedding bands came from Toronto-based Fair Trade Jewelry Co. and were made from 50% certified recycled gold and 50% fair trade gold. Brazilian makeup artist Alex Corbanezi, based in Mexico, was in charge of hair and makeup for all events.
Not only did the duo want to offer their guests a unique take on an Indian destination wedding, but they also wanted to work with wedding makers they had a personal connection with. For example, Chawla’s sister Symrin of Studio Ru designed her invitations and accessories inspired by the Mayan sun, mixed with vintage Bollywood and Mexican elements. The welcome bags were from Chawla’s aunt’s company Bags Go Green – filled with snacks from California, Tulum and Hawaii (where the bride and groom are now moving) and tea bags from Herbal Republic.
The food was a mix of Indian and Mexican dishes, including Mezcal cocktails and a rainbow cake with decorations modeled after their dogs. “But what was most memorable was when our friends and family came to the mandap after the ceremony and told us how much our vows meant to them,” Chawla muses. “All of our guests said the weekend helped them in their own relationships with each other, which was so heartwarming for us to hear,” Saraiya signs.