Leah and Japesh’s Safety Harbor wedding blended the couple’s American and Indian cultures together to provide some unexpected moments for both the couple and their guests.
“We didn’t tell Japesh’s extended family that we were exchanging the flower garlands during the ceremony, which is very meaningful in Indian weddings, so that was a nice surprise for them. Then they surprised us during the reception with a traditional Indian ceremony where they presented us with gifts!” the bride beamed.
Reading Marry Me Tampa Bay for ideas, the couple kept things simplistic with their decor, choosing a color palette of blush and navy, with touches of greenery and gold.
“I love Marry Me Tampa Bay, especially the real weddings! Since it’s all local, it was a great source of inspiration for realistic ideas of what you can do in the area,” Leah shared. “We wanted to find a way to blend my idea of a traditional American wedding with his Indian heritage, so that the foundation for a lot of our decisions.”
After reaching out to ten Tampa Bay wedding photographers and meeting with three, the couple selected Luxe Light Photography based on their budget and style.
“I was looking very closely at the low-light images, since I knew all of our reception photos would be taken in a similar setting. Once we looked through Luxe Light Photography‘s photos and the packages Christina offered, her style and pricing matched us pretty perfectly. I’m still so happy we decided to go with her!” Leah gushed. “I was pretty anxious about the pictures in general, especially because we had our engagement session later than normal. However, after that, I knew we made the right choice; Christina has a very calming presence, so you feel really relaxed working with her. That was something I didn’t even know I would value so much, but the last thing you need on your wedding day is anyone, especially a vendor, adding to the chaos. I get giddy when I think about our wedding photos; it’s actually been really difficult trying to decide which ones to print because there are so many that we just love.”
For the bride’s wedding day beauty inspiration, she turned to Michele Renee The Studio to create an elegant hairstyle and makeup look that would last the entire day and night.
“I have really thick hair which gets so warm when I wear it down, and I wanted to show off the back of my dress, so I knew I wanted to wear my hair up. I hardly ever wear makeup, so I didn’t want to look too overdone,” Leah explained. “A friend used Michele Renee The Studio at her wedding, and they had a ton of good reviews, so I had a trial and hired them immediately after that. I can’t actually explain how happy I was with that decision; Jessica was so sweet throughout the whole process, and she did an amazing job. We stayed out partying until 4 a.m., and my hair and makeup were still perfectly intact.”
Looking back on their wedding day, the couple reminisced that their favorite moments were getting a glimpse of each other as the ceremony began.
“Seeing Japesh as I was walking down the aisle, even though we did a first look [was memorabe]. I don’t think there would have been any difference if we had spent the entire day together or if we hadn’t seen each other all day, there’s just something about that moment of walking to your future husband that is so special. It was such an emotionally intense and unforgettable moment for both of us,” the bride reminisced. “Another one that really stands out to me was doing a first look with my girls, who I’ve been friends with since I was four- years-old. We spent the morning getting ready together, but only my mom and sister helped me get into my dress, and then we did a reveal with my friends. Those are some of my favorite photos! Every girl should have friends who react like that!”
How did you incorporate you and your spouse’s personalities into the wedding?
We wanted to find a way to blend my idea of a traditional American wedding with his Indian heritage, so that the foundation for a lot of our decisions. We’re both pretty low-key people, which is the exact opposite of our venue; it’s beautifully ornate and formal, so we felt we should lighten things up a bit to make it more “us”. We had small things like “ceremony followed by dinner, drinks and awkward but enthusiastic dancing” on the invitations.
Our decor was very DIY. Japesh made the card box and cake stand, and I designed all of our stationery, signs, etc. and used Indian patterns. I had henna on my hands, we exchanged flower garlands during the ceremony, and we had Indian desserts as favors. We had a small bridal party. Japesh has one brother and I have one sister, so that worked out perfectly, but we wanted our friends to be as involved as possible. One of Japesh’s best friends officiated, and the three of us worked on the ceremony wording together to make sure it fit our personalities.
What was your hair and makeup inspiration?
I have really thick hair which gets so warm when I wear it down, and I didn’t want to be messing with it the whole time. Plus I wanted to show off the back of my dress, so I knew I wanted to wear my hair up. I hardly ever wear makeup, so I didn’t want to look too overdone. I ended up just searching all over the internet until I found something I liked, then showed the ideas to my hair and makeup artist and had two trials with her.
I want to learn more about hair and makeup services from Michele Renee the Studio
A friend used Michele Renee The Studio at her wedding, and they had a ton of good reviews, so I had a trial and hired them immediately after that. I can’t actually explain how happy I was with that decision; Jessica was so sweet throughout the whole process, and she did an amazing job. We stayed out partying until 4 a.m., and my hair and makeup were still perfectly intact.
How would you describe your theme/wedding design inspiration?
It was a blend of American and Indian traditions with vibrant pops of color and details from each culture. We knew that we wanted to incorporate elements of Japesh’s Indian heritage. We decided to wait on any kind of colors or other details until we picked the date and venue so we could narrow down our inspiration to coordinate with the venue and time of year.
What were your colors?
Mostly blush and navy, with touches of greenery and gold. We had a pop of bright pink in the flower garlands we exchanged during the ceremony. The ballroom we had our reception in has some very bold colors, and we didn’t want to try to compete with that, so we chose a pretty neutral palette overall.
We were in the process of apartment hunting and had plans to meet one of his friends for drinks at the Hollander, which also happened to be where we had our first date. Japesh mentioned that he found an apartment close to downtown and said we should head out early to go check it out before drinks. The building’s office was closed, so we went to Mirror Lake, which is where he told me loved me for the first time, until it was time to meet his friend. We had been casually ring shopping for a little while at that point, and as we were sitting there talking, he mentioned that we should go the following week to look at rings. A few minutes later, he leaned over and kissed my cheek and told me all the reasons he loves me, then got down on one knee and pulled the ring out of his shirt pocket. I was completely surprised, especially since he had just told me he wanted to go ring shopping. After I said yes, I’m pretty sure I screamed “you’re such a f***ing liar!” while simultaneously laughing and happily crying. It turned out that there was no apartment to check out, he just wanted to get me to that spot and needed a reason to leave our place early. When we got to the Hollander, all of our friends were there for a surprise engagement party that Japesh and my sister had been plotting for weeks.
What did you look for in a wedding photographer?
I placed so much importance on our photographer; the photos are all you have left to remember the big day! I think I reached out to about ten photographers and ended up meeting with three. Their photos and style of photography were our top priority, but budget played a big factor as well. Once we had it narrowed down to two, I was looking very closely at their low-light images, since I knew all of our reception photos would be taken in a similar setting.
I want to learn more about photography from Luxe Light Photography
Once we looked through Luxe Light Photography‘s photos and the packages Christina offered, her style and pricing matched us pretty perfectly. I’m still so happy we decided to go with her. I was pretty anxious about the pictures in general, especially because we had our engagement session later than normal. However, after that, I knew we made the right choice, and I was surprised at how I wasn’t just at ease about the photos, but actually looking forward to the wedding day. Christina has a very calming presence, so you feel really relaxed working with her. That was something I didn’t even know I would value so much, but the last thing you need on your wedding day is anyone, especially a vendor, adding to the chaos. If either Christina or her assistant, Joanna, felt any stress during our wedding, they didn’t let it come out in their attitude or work. And I get giddy when I think about our wedding photos; it’s actually been really difficult trying to decide which ones to print because there are so many that we just love.
What did you look for in a wedding DJ?
We wanted to make sure everyone was dancing and having a good time, and so much of that is dependent on the DJ. I usually hate wedding DJ’s because they tend to be a little too much like the wedding is all about them, and it’s hard to know how to choose unless you’ve seen them in action, so we were very reliant on reviews from various wedding websites.
I want to learn more about DJ/Lighting services from Grant Hemond & Associates.
Grant Hemond & Associates had something like 1,500 five-star reviews. We figured that a company couldn’t have that many good reviews and not be really good at what they do. They lived up to every expectation; the dance floor was never empty, and our DJ, Tony, made sure it was a party for everyone, incorporating Indian songs throughout. A friend who came all the way from Tokyo texted me the next day saying her plus one, who does a lot of wedding photography, kept raving about our music, and we’ve heard a lot of similar reactions since.
What advice would you give to other Tampa Bay couples?
Don’t let outside opinions influence yours and stay true to yourselves. The only two opinions that matter are yours and your fiancé’s. You can get suggestions from family and friends if you want, but ultimately it’s up to you. Japesh had to constantly remind me of that because I would get excited about an idea we had, then somebody wouldn’t like it, and I would end up second guessing myself. It got to the point where we just stopped sharing our plans because there was always somebody who didn’t like it. You’re not always going to please everybody, so you may as well be the ones who are happy.
On the day of, have fun and don’t stress! You’ve stressed enough with all the planning, and now you should just relax and enjoy it. Guaranteed there will be something that doesn’t go according to plan, but you just have to laugh it off. We had a couple of guests who walked in late in the middle of the processional; the bridesmaids, ring bearer and flower girls were already down the aisle, music had stopped to switch to my entrance song, everyone was standing and looking at the door waiting for my dad and I to walk in, and instead it was this couple; they were that late. Then they walked right down the center of the aisle, all the way to the front, and had to turn around because there weren’t any seats up there. What can you do? Be angry on your wedding day? The end goal of the day is to get married so as long as that happens, your wedding was successful.
Ceremony and Reception Venue, Caterer: Safety Harbor Resort and Spa *Marry Me Tampa Bay Preferred Wedding Venue
Photographer: Luxe Light Photography *Marry Me Tampa Bay Preferred Wedding Pro
Videographer: Digital Video Productions
Florist: Eve’s Florist
Linens and Chargers Rentals: Fancy That Linens
Cake: Designer Cakes & Desserts
DJ: Grant Hemond & Associates – Tony *Marry Me Tampa Bay Preferred Wedding Pro
Officiant: David Goode
Invitations: Leah Lauber (the bride); printed at Cards & Pockets
Dress Shop and Designer: David’s Bridal
Bridesmaid Dress Shop and Designer: Nordstrom, Jenny Yoo
Hair & Makeup: Michele Renee The Studio *Marry Me Tampa Bay Preferred Wedding Pro
Ceremony Music: Sunset Strings