This elegant multicultural Indian and American wedding united two lovely souls as one. Renu and Joey both live in Chicago, so even with the distance, they managed to pull off a fantastic event with the help of the bride’s parents who live locally. Luckily enough Events By Merida coordinated the details on this day, simply making their wedding dreams a reality. This couple’s day began with a traditional American ceremony, following an Indian ceremony, and ending in a night of fun at their reception held at Green Valley Country Club. All of the special moments and gorgeous details were all captured by Emily Wren Photography so get ready to swoon over all of the loveliness below!
From the Planner, Events by Merida: “Renu and Joey are the most fun-loving sweethearts. From the little details before the wedding- a “Future Wifey” letter, for example- to Joey’s entertaining expressions, you can tell they had fun the entire day. And what a day it was! They began hair and makeup at 5 AM! Let me tell you, that’s brave even by my standards.
After a gorgeous Catholic ceremony, they stopped over at Valley Green Inn for photos and then headed to Green Valley Country Club to change.
One of my favorite parts of working with Renu and Joey, was that I got to spend a good amount of time with Renu’s parents. As the couple lives in Chicago, Pat and Mahtma were their “boots on the ground”, so to speak. Down to the smallest detail, they made sure that everything was in place for us to take over. I adored working with them- it’s wonderful when your clients make it this easy!
I say this because after arriving at Green Valley, the bridal party was dressed in Indian attire, and began the Baraat. These days, most grooms will ride in a car. Not Joey! His one firm request for the wedding was that they go with the tradition: a horse. The horse had a sweet disposition but had a strong side-eye game.
One of my favorite conversations during this particular wedding was before the day of, with the Hindu priest. He was trying to explain how he ran the ceremony, and after a few minutes, admitted, “no one really knows what’s going on in a Hindu ceremony. We have fun and then tell everyone they’re married.”
Post wedding, everyone cut loose. The photos speak for themselves- these folks were animated and fun. The bride’s cousins performed. Pranks were played. They did the hora! It was a beautiful day, with a wonderful couple. We wish we could do it all again!”
How They Met
“We met at a birthday party at a bar in Chicago, where we still live, through mutual friends, just after Halloween in 2013. Funny enough, earlier that day, I happened to notice Joey on the train wearing a Halloween costume, which he then wore to the bar that night. When he walked into the bar, I pointed him out to one of my friends and told her I had spotted him earlier that day on the train, and she proceeded to inform me that was her boyfriend’s (now husband’s) best friend. Later that night, we were officially introduced to each other. It was several more months after the first meeting before I realized that being around Joey, his silly jokes, and his excitement for even the littlest things made life so much better, and we started dating.”
“Joey proposed at Thanksgiving 2016 at his parents’ home in Indiana, with the help of an ice cream cake that misspelled Thanksgiving as “Thansgiving” (courtesy of a high school student working at the local Dairy Queen). Ice cream cakes are a tradition in the Szynal family for special occasions. He proposed in front of most of our families — his three siblings (including one that bought a plane ticket from Seattle just a few days earlier when he found out Joey would be proposing), their spouses, his four nieces, and both sets of our parents. We had such a blast celebrating that night, eating ice cream cake, drinking wine and champagne, calling our family and friends, and hearing our parents tell us lots of great family stories! Coincidentally, I was wearing the same bright red sweater that I had worn on our first date – everything comes full circle!”
“My parents live in Pennsylvania, and my mom, who is retired, really wanted to help with the planning (and my dad is great at following orders!). Both of Joey and I were very busy with work (and living in Chicago) when we first got engaged. So, we decided to give the reigns on most things to my parents, and they ran with it, meticulously planning every detail. I jumped in a few months before the wedding when work slowed down and made decisions on the things that were really important to us, including the photographer, the music, the dessert, and a day-of coordinator. We came to Pennsylvania on two different weekends to do some of the more fun stuff — a walk through at the venue (which only my parents had visited before we booked it), meetings with each of the officiants, and best of all, the food tasting (and an ice cream tasting!) with my family. Having my parents do most of the heavy lifting really allowed Joey and I to relax and soak in the joy of the festivities without stressing too much about the details. It allowed us to go to two out-of-state weddings on the two weekends before our own wedding! We are so lucky – they put together a beautiful and fun wedding filled with so much love.”
Green Valley Country Club
“We had two ceremonies, a Catholic ceremony at Holy Family Catholic Church in Philadelphia, and a Hindu ceremony at Green Valley Country Club in Lafayette Hill, where we also had the reception. We chose both spots sight unseen — only my parents had seen them before we booked them. We ultimately chose the church because it was not only beautiful but because the staff was incredibly helpful when my parents stopped in to check it out. We loved Green Valley’s beautiful outdoor space for the ceremony and the beautiful indoor space (which had just been redone) for the reception. Most importantly, though, Green Valley had previously hosted a Hindu wedding for a family friend and had executed it well, so we felt like we were in good hands — and they did not disappoint. Their in-house coordinator, Trish, could not have done a better job — she was very accommodating with some of our unconventional requests (for example, bringing a horse onto the property for the baraat, the groom’s processional), very responsive to my inquiries, incredibly organized, and extremely patient. She gave us confidence that things would go smoothly on our wedding day — and they certainly did.”
“I am generally drawn to (and generally dress in) more muted tones, like pale pink, ivory, and grey, which were reflected in the Catholic ceremony — in the bridesmaids’ dresses, my dress, the flowers, and the suits worn by Joey and the groomsmen. By contrast, the beauty of a traditional Hindu ceremony is the explosion of bright colors, so we incorporated plenty of bright, vivid hues, which were reflected in my Indian outfit, Joey’s Indian outfit, the bridesmaids’ saris, the groomsmen’s outfits, the Indian outfits worn by our family members, and even what the all of our guests wore. I loved the contrast between the two ceremonies, both in terms of culture and tradition but also in terms of the aesthetic.”
“Joey’s favorite part was the baraat. One of the most exciting parts of a Hindu wedding is the baraat, or the groom’s processional, which takes places just before the Hindu ceremony. A baraat involves the groom, accompanied by his family and friends, processing to the ceremony, dancing along to festive music to greet the bride’s family. The groom often rides a horse or an elephant. We opted for a horse. Joey’s favorite part of our wedding was the baraat, and more specifically, riding on the horse. Traditionally, the bride doesn’t participate in the baraat, but I really wanted to be a part of it, so I joined for a few minutes of dancing. How is it that Joey’s favorite part of the wedding day only involved only a few minutes with me?!”
“As for my favorite memory, there were so many fantastic moments that it’s hard to pick just one. We decided to incorporate a Jewish tradition, the hora, into our reception, simply because it seemed like it would be a lot of fun. For those who are unfamiliar, the hora is a dance in which the guests dance in a circle around the bride and the groom, who is hoisted on chairs and held up by some brave (and strong!) guests. Joey didn’t know that we were doing the hora, so he was surprised by the whole thing (which you can see on his face in the pictures!). During the hora, you could just feel the incredible amount of energy and electricity in the room, and practically everyone was on the dance floor. I felt so much joy and so much love at that moment. It was so amazing to me that so many people had traveled to celebrate with us that night.”
Wedding Planning Advice
“Outsource. You are only two people, and you can’t do everything yourself. And, you won’t be as stressed leading up to the wedding if you aren’t exhausted from trying to do it all yourself. You will thank yourself if you enlist the help of trusted friends and family members, along with a day-of coordinator, if your budget allows for it (or if your venue already has one). Having a reliable day-of coordinator helps in the weeks leading up to the wedding, by coordinating with the other vendors (so that you can focus on other things!) and helps to minimize the things your friends and family need to do the day of the wedding, thereby allowing them more time to enjoy the festivities. We were lucky enough to have two coordinators — one from Green Valley, and one that we hired (given our multiple sites and complicated logistics for the day)– and they did a fantastic job of working together to make sure everything got done properly.”
“We had more vendors than what is probably typical of a wedding, given that we had two ceremonies (and in particular, a Hindu ceremony). We had planned a long day with somewhat complicated logistics, and thanks to our vendors, everything went incredibly smoothly, despite some hiccups along the way. All of our vendors executed their jobs well, and some went above and beyond. If there were any major problems that day, they were all fixed before we even knew about them!”
Vendors | Photographer: Gabby from Emily Wren Photography | Coordination: Events By Merida | Reception Venue: Green Valley Country Club | First Ceremony Church: Holy Family Catholic Church | Caterer: Palace of Asia | Hair & Makeup: True Beauty Marks | DJ: RhythMix Entertainment | Florist/Hindu Decor: Kalash Wedding Decorators | Church Decor/Personal Flowers: Anderson Flowers | White Dress: Weddings 826 | Red Dress: Kalki Fashion | Hindu Priest: Ghanu Dave (Bhai) | Ice Cream Company: Strasburg Creamery | Baraat Horse: Caliber Farms | Bridal Party Transport: Chic’s Limousine | Guest Transport: Klein Transportation | Baraat DJ: Vik Patel | Chairs for Ceremony and Reception: Lily V Events