From the masquerade ball engagement party to the Friday night “funfest” featuring photobooth pictures, a Willy-Wonka-like candy counter and fake moustaches, to the actual ceremony which combined elements of Hindu tradition with readings from Winnie the Pooh and Rilke, the wedding of Parul Vora and Jeff Weber was unlike any other. Which is befitting for the couple who many joke, not only march but bike to the beat of a different drummer.
It began in Cambridge, MA, seven years ago, when Parul met Jeff and they bonded over their shared love of fixed-gear bikes and Polaroid pictures. It culminated in a most unique wedding on August 29, 2009, at Atwood Ranch in Sonoma, California.
Framing the entire weekend was the shared passion Parul and Jeff have for making things themselves. Jeff, a robotic engineer, makes robots and prosthetic limbs at Mekabot, a company he started in 2007 and whose clients include MIT and other technology powerhouses. Parul, who has a Masters from the MIT media lab, works at the intersection of design and technology and studies creative uses of technology to better user experiences. Calling upon their talent for making things with their own hands, Parul and Jeff set the tone for their wedding with the save-the-date they sent out in March, which contained a metal pop-up cut-out of two figures on a swing. The actual wedding invitation turned tradition on its head by juxtaposing the formality and elegance of letter-press with the modernity of balsa wood.
Always having made things together, from fixed-gear bikes to larger-than-life Halloween costumes, it wasn’t difficult for Parul and Jeff to dive into the endeavor of crafting a DIY wedding. Parul remembers: “We would be in a restaurant on a Friday night talking about what we thought our invitation or menu or mandap should look like and then we’d find ourselves at home, plans cancelled, making sketches, sewing pieces of paper together and playing with fabric samples. All of a sudden it would be 2 a.m., we’d have an invitation completed, and no idea how the time passed or how we’d done it.” Jeff adds, “When Parul’s parents came to town, it was awesome to see how much this ran in the family. Dad would take out his briefcase full of sketchpads and fabric, mom had all of the versions of the custom menus and booklets. And my mother would be shooing us off the phone because she was busy stitching pouches for our rings and constructing her handmade dress!”
With the constant presence and help of Parul’s parents, Shailesh and Lakshmi Vora, Parul and Jeff fashioned a vast array of other unique, hand-made accoutrements for their elaborate, one-of-a-kind wedding. As guests entered the sprawling Atwood ranch in Sonoma, they were greeted by gold hand-stitched images of a modern Ganesh, waving in the wind on deep red raw silk flags. The bicycle rickshaw that Jeff rode on through the baraat was procured and fixed up by Jeff himself, after he found himself enamored by rickshaws during his first trip to India with Parul and her family. From the ultra modern and airy mandap overlooking the lush vineyards, and glittering with strings of gold ornaments and gorgeous white flowers, Parul and Jeff could see their friends and family reading the handmade wedding booklets and poring over the custom map they had sketched of all the food and fun spread across the grounds.
The entire aesthetic of the wedding was punctuated by Parul and Jeff’s penchant for unique modern design, as well as their child-like love of all things fun. A central motif for the entire event was a bright red dot, which translated from clown noses for every guest at the Friday night party before the wedding; to the emblem on the ceremony booklets and custom CDs Parul and Jeff made, and the design cornerstone of the dinner table arrangements—guests were seated in one of three “pods” of square tables, all of which surrounded one red circle table. Hanging in the billowing willow trees around the wedding grounds were festive red lanterns, as well as swings for the guests to laze on and enjoy the views of sunset over vines doubling over with grapes, right before the harvest.
Immediately after the wedding ceremony, guests were ushered to a shady courtyard that was transposed into a cocktail lounge, with hand-shaken artisan cocktails. Thirsts quenched and appetites whetted, the guests were then ushered to the main dining area—a raised platform designed by Parul’s dad to create the feeling of floating over the vineyards. While strolling musicians played requests, Parul’s father sang, as a toast, the lullaby he used to sing to her growing up. For the reception, the bride dazzled in a cream silk mermaid-style dress with zardoshi work that she designed herself, with the help of San Francisco designer Jin Wang.
At the end of the night, many of the guests were found picking up the handmade wedding booklets and menu cards as souvenirs—a fact that brought smiles to Parul and Jeff’s faces. They can still vividly remember how a simple dinner out would turn into a planning session and they would find themselves sketching images of the mandap or the invitation on the restaurant napkins.
But some of the wonder of the wedding was in memories others made for the wedding couple.
“We thought we had planned every minute of the wedding, so when my mom read a Winnie the Pooh reading during the ceremony or when Parul’s sister Deepa sang ‘Book of Love’ a capella, it was amazing,” recalls Jeff. Of the many highlights of the evening, Parul and Jeff say they will never forget the moment when the entire wedding assembly strolled behind the just married couple in their rickshaw. “It was one of those moments that literally took our breath away,” says Parul. It was a sentiment echoed throughout the wedding congregation, as friends and family slowed down to bask in the calm Sonoma night, celebrating the made-for-each-other couple who also made a wedding for each other.
Deepa Sood is an associate in the San Francisco office of Latham & Watkins LLP. In between chasing around her kids and her husband in Berkeley, California, she also authors the blog “Devis With Babies.”