Kaizad Jehangir had a traditional engagement in Mumbai. Fiancée Zhiying wore a sari, Kaizad a dark suit. Guests were friends and relatives from Mumbai, in their suits and silks. The location, a traditional outdoor party at the Willingdon Club where guests come, chat, eat and leave, and the couple spends the evening greeting people. Their wedding, they decided, had to be different.
From the word go, my fiancée Zhiying, who is Chinese, and I, knew we wanted neither a traditional Parsi wedding nor a traditional Chinese wedding. Weddings are often the least fun for the couple and we decided to change that. We wanted to enjoy our wedding and wanted everyone attending to have lots of fun as well. It had to be a beach wedding, that much was clear. And it had to be simple, non-denominational and contemporary. But then just any beach wouldn’t do; we wanted it to be in the Caribbean. Part of the reason we picked the US Virgin Islands over other islands in the West Indies, is because Indians with a US visa don’t require an additional visa to go there. And, of course, the fact that it is a spectacularly beautiful place. We first checked out options such as the Ritz-Carlton and other big hotels, but realised that was not our style. Then, quite by accident, Zhiying found the website for Silk Cotton Villa (www.silkcottonvilla.com) on the Internet. Silk Cotton Villa is a fabulous five-bedroom villa on Mafolie Hill on St Thomas, with a terrace and pool, offering extraordinary views of Charlotte Amalie Harbour. Booking on the web left us a bit apprehensive, because one is never quite sure if the villa will be as good as it looks in pictures. However, once we got there, we saw that the villa and its facilities completely surpassed our expectations.
The wedding celebrations were spread over four-five days, but unlike the traditional Indian wedding that is spread over the same time, ours was about getting outdoors and having a good time. We went on a trip to St John’s National Park, which is the neighbouring island. We took a sailing trip, went snorkelling, scuba diving and relaxed. The night before the wedding, we organized a lovely dinner at a local restaurant serving New American seafood. The wedding itself was held on the public beach. I wore a simple white linen shirt, casual trousers and chappals; Zhiying wore a big white dress and a light veil. A local minister solemnized the ceremony, which was concluded just as the sun was setting and the sky had turned a brilliant orange. Most guests attended in shorts, floral print shirts and sarongs; the atmosphere was quite informal.
Forty guests came from all over the world, my family from India, and close friends and relatives from London and the US. One friend from Toronto spent $1,000 (Rs44,000) flying in, just to be with us for one day. Everyone who came was just as involved in the wedding preparations as us. It wasn’t the traditional set-up in which the host slogs and the guests eat, drink and leave. For instance, the first day we reached there, 10 of us went to the local grocery store and bought hundreds of dollars worth of alcohol for the celebrations.
At some point during the wedding week, my uncle, like a true Parsi, who likes to find out who is related to whom, found out that Scott Schenck, the owner of Silk Cotton Villa, was one-time skipper of Bill Gates’ yacht. Silk Cotton was an amazing find and we were lucky we jumped in to book it. The villa’s owners suggested a wedding planner who, for a very reasonable fee, organized the dinner, reception, flowers and a host of things that would have been a pain for us to get done.
After the wedding, we came back for a reception at the villa’s poolside. Zhiying downed a lot of the potent local cocktail called Painkiller (a rum-pineapple juice combination). By the end of the night, many of us were happily drunk and several jumped into the pool with their clothes on.
Of course, there are some disappointments with a wedding choice like this, particularly when older grandparents can’t come, but we did it our way without a white dugli or sari and without 1,500 guests we’d hardly have known. It was, instead, a wedding that was a super vacation for us and our guests.
As told to Niloufer Venkatraman. Email your feedback firstname.lastname@example.org