After a series of serendipitous events throughout their lives, fate took its course for Zahra Rawjee and Anoop Shah to finally become a couple. One evening, the pair planned for a lovely dinner out with family at a luxurious steakhouse. Anoop was thrilled that Zahra didn’t suspect anything out of the ordinary, until she realized the restaurant had been filled with roses and they were the only ones there.
“We walked into the beautifully lit courtyard where Anoop got onto one knee and proposed,” she describes. After a few moments, close friends and relatives revealed themselves. “Anoop had arranged for a delicious three-course dinner and cocktail party for the group… It was a night to remember.”
Zahra began to visualize their big day and dreamt of a grand Indian wedding. “I wanted to celebrate our love with all of our friends and family, as well as share more of our culture with my non-Indian friends,” she illustrates.
Like most engaged couples in 2020, Zahra and Anoop had an unexpected decision to make: continue with their planned wedding on a smaller scale or postpone it until a later date. “We decided to move forward with our celebration in whatever capacity we could,” affirms the bride who elected to have the special day at her family’s home.
Deciding upon a white wonderland for the ceremony, the bride worked closely with her planner and designer Alyson Fox of Levine Fox Events, Inc. to create a modern-day mandap (Hindi word for altar) filled with white roses. The stage would host the Indian fire ceremony led by Hindu priest Pandit Dilip Bhatt, best known for his appearance on the Netflix show Indian Matchmaking.
“We were so fortunate to have an incredible priest,” Anoop reveals, “because Zahra and I have attended Indian weddings where guests get impatient or fall asleep because they are stuck listening to long religious ceremonies they can’t understand.”
“Be open to things changing, and remember that what matters most is sharing the day with your partner as you commit to a lifetime together.”
For traditional Indian weddings, the groom arrives riding an elephant or horse, but since neither were possible, Zahra surprised Anoop with a custom floral elephant placed at the entrance. At 5PM, with the picturesque view of the Bel-Air canyons at sunset, the bride made her grand entrance alongside her uncles. She wore a gorgeous silver ensemble embellished with glittering embroidery and beaded details.
“Latika’s Theme” from the movie Slumdog Millionaire played as she gracefully walked towards her beloved. “It was such a memorable moment when the curtain opened for me to walk down the aisle and the only person I could see was Anoop,” she muses of the romantic memory. Her groom was equally in awe. “She looked absolutely stunning. As Zahra walked towards me, I could also see the emotion and pride on our parents’ faces, and I cried a bit myself,” he admits.
Guests were offered the couple’s signature drink “Mumbai Margarita” as a nod to the place where both of their families originated, then sat down to enjoy a traditional Indian family-style dinner. Table settings highlighted beautiful muted grey charger plates, cut-crystal glassware, and sterling-silver flatware.
Taper candles and twinkle lights created a romantic glow in the open-ceiling tent. The reception was inspired by vintage elements and also incorporated details symbolizing the couple’s heritage. “Alyson did an amazing job bringing our vision to life and creating a fairy tale under the stars,” muses the bride.
Though there were only 35 people in attendance, the groom remembers the DJ bringing so much energy that it felt as though there were a lot more people present. The lively set included a mix of traditional Indian, Bollywood, and American hits. As the group danced, the newlyweds felt so grateful to have one another.
Of course, they wished they could have hosted a large, three-day Indian wedding, but they felt content with their decision. Zahra emphasizes to other engaged couples: “Be open to things changing, and remember that what matters most is sharing the day with your partner as you commit to a lifetime together.”