Ranjani & Abhay’s Iyengar Hindu Wedding at the War Memorial

August 28, 2018

Ranjani and Abhay are both first generation Indian-American with families hailing from Chennai and Bangalore in South India. “Our parents moved to the US in the 1980s. Abhay grew up in Waterloo, Iowa, and Ranjani in Racine.” Though the two didn’t meet via arranged marriage, they did meet following a series of blind dates facilitated by their parents. After his dad assured him that Ranjani’s parents seemed to be “very nice people,” Abhay sent his first email.

At the time, Ranjani was in New York finishing up her pediatric residency and Abhay was in Iowa. A long-distance correspondence followed for four months, until Ranjani moved to Chicago for work. During one of their first dates — a picnic at Ravinia, watching the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform Beethoven — Ranjani remembers thinking, “I’m not sure I even like this guy yet, but I think I’m going to marry him.”

After setting the date for an engagement party, Abhay formally proposed to Ranjani by taking her to another Beethoven symphony, then getting down on one knee at a lovely favorite along the Chicago River. The couple, along with their families, planned a traditional South-Indian wedding. “We were both happy that we could follow our traditions and have an Iyengar Hindu wedding in the midwest. We were even fortunate to be able to follow certain customs that our parents didn’t when they got married.”

“We were also happy to be able to share our traditions with our non-Indian friends, many of whom had never been to a Hindu wedding. These wedding customs are centuries old and come from a time when the bride and groom were children. One of our favorite parts of the ceremony was when we were both lifted onto the shoulders of our family members and had to throw a garland around each other.”

Both the ceremony and reception were held at the War Memorial in downtown Milwaukee. “We had an amazing venue. Having both our wedding and reception at the Milwaukee County War Memorial was unique, and one of our favorite parts was being able to enjoy the view and see how much our guests enjoyed it, too.” The scenic Lake Michigan spot made a gorgeous backdrop for photos at at the War Memorial, the Art Museum, and the gates of the Villa Terrace — all captured by the team of photographers and videographers at The Artist Group.

Dinner was a catered meal of vegetarian Indian food. “Both of our families are vegetarian, and so are we. We also had an open bar at the reception, and our desserts were mostly Indian.” To keep the night running smoothly, Abhay and Ranjani asked their brothers to emcee. “We had asked them months before our wedding, but they didn’t plan what they were going to do or say until the night of the reception. Nevertheless, they were a hit!”

In addition to brotherly emcees, Ranjani and Abhay say they owe all the magic of the day to their parents and families. “Our parents meticulously planned the wedding weekend, worked with the vendors, and also hosted family from India who flew here just for our wedding. Abhay’s sister-in-law, Swati, also played a big role in ironing out details as the wedding weekend quickly approached. She even flew in from Los Angeles for a weekend to help plan! Truly, our favorite part of wedding planning was doing it with our families — because, without them, it wouldn’t have happened.”

As advice for future brides and grooms, Abhay and Ranjani would drive home the importance of open communication from the start. “It’s important to talk to each other about what type of wedding you want — how big, how much you want to spend, etc. — before you start planning or getting others involved.” Also, leading by example, this happy couple capped off their wedding weekend with a four-night honeymoon at Playa del Carmen in Riviera Maya, staying at the Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso. A perfect end to a wedding celebration and a perfect start to a new life together!

Make-up and Hair Pinal Patel, Wauwatosa, WI
Invitations Greenvelope.com
Ceremony & Reception The Milwaukee County War Memorial
Caterer Zilli’s (Milwaukee) and Sri Krishna Catering (Naperville, IL)
Bartending & Desserts Zilli’s
Flowers Poonam Creations (Grayslake, IL)
Music/Entertainment DJ Prashant (Schaumburg, IL)
Transportation MKE Shuttle, LLC
Photo & Video The Artist Group
Gown Chennai, India
Formalwear Brooks Brothers
Rentals Poonam Creations, Blue Peak Tents, Inc., and Zilli’s