Serena and Rahul Sajnani’s love story dates back to when they were just 12 year olds playing imaginative games about pretending to work at an airport. They’ve been best friends since, and later the friendship blossomed into the love of a lifetime. So it was no surprise that when they decided to get married, Serena wanted to commemorate their milestones over the years on their big day.
How she did that is part of a growing trend of brides weaving the threads of their relationships into their bridal outfits.
The Dubai-based couple said their vows at the Dusit Thani in Pattaya, Thailand, in December last year, with Serena paying tribute to her great love on their wedding day by wearing a heavily embroidered outfit that told the couple’s story.
“Every detail on my lehenga is inspired by our love story,” the 24-year-old newlywed tells Friday.
“When we got engaged, I had no idea about what I’d wear at the wedding. But I just knew I wanted something I can cherish for years,” Serena says.
The primarily red and gold ensemble was designed by Mumbai-based Jay Makhija with Serena and Rahul choosing the most important elements of their relationship for the designer to bring to life.
The airport game they played as children growing up in Dubai was reflected on the lehenga with the emirate’s skyline across the border. Parts of London were stitched-in to celebrate their relationship going the distance while Rahul was away studying at Middlesex University. The Thailand horizon was drawn to mark their wedding destination. And on the back of both Serena and Rahul’s outfits, as an auspicious symbol, was a hand-woven design of the famous Golden Temple in Punjab, India.
“The Golden Temple was beautifully embroidered on the back of both of our outfits, with mine having additional embroidery on both sleeves depicting Rahul and me praying on either side,” Serena says.
The lehenga, which took three months to complete and cost about 30 per cent more than an off-the-rack dress, also included quirkier elements to show the bride and groom’s personalities and Moshi, their restaurant business.
Serena explains: “We have a section with each of our names and date of birth, with small icons of things we love. For example, mine had a cup of tea because I’m addicted to Karak chai, a bar of chocolate seeing as I’m a chocoholic, and a shoe because I’m obsessed with shoes. We also included our proposal date with a sketch of Rahul going down on one knee, and the wedding date shown alongside with a drawing of a girl in the doli [a palanquin on which a bride is sometimes carried into or out of a wedding].”
Pehli Nazar Mein, Teri Khair Mangdi and Raabta are names of some of the couple’s best-loved Bollywood tunes also woven into the canvas.
“Our restaurant’s name, Moshi, also has a dedicated panel on the lehenga because it’s like our little baby and it brought us closer together.”
Indian fashion designer Kresha Bajaj, who married jeweller Vanraj Zaveri last year, also stitched her love story on her bridal lehenga.
The Mumbai-based designer details the journey of creating her own white and gold ensemble on her website koecsh.com, and her label Kresha also offers ‘Love story Lehengas’ to other brides-to-be who want to portray their journey through embroidery.
Her inspiration came from Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Adrienne Maloof who eternalized her wedding dress by framing it for display in her home.
“In order to have a piece of artwork on our wall, it had to be something meaningful, something we wouldn’t get sick of looking at, and the one thing I knew we wouldn’t get sick of looking at was our love story,” Bajaj says on her website.
The couple’s dating milestones, the proposal and their love story were all intricately hand-sewn with zari (thread traditionally made of fine gold or silver). “The bottom of the lehenga and dupatta was finished with a hem of jumping dolphins, which was how our story began, as we worked on a protest against cetacean captivity together,” the designer adds.
However, while her final product was stunning and full of cherished memories, Bajaj admits she did get advice from family members not to design her own dress. Nonetheless, Bajaj describes wearing her lehenga as “the most exhilarating feeling”.
Serena recalls initial reactions to her love story lehenga were met with mixed responses, too.
“My mum told me I’m nuts and that it’s going to be real hard work,” she recalls, laughing, adding that even her designer did think the idea was crazy at first.
“But Rahul was a sweetheart and supported me throughout. He loved the idea instantly. We would sit with Jay (the designer) and his wife and they would just be laughing. We truly enjoyed the process and of course Jay thought we are nuts but he beautifully designed each panel and made me my favorite outfit for life.”
The final outcome brought many to tears, Serena says.
“I had tears when I saw it the first time. My friends were in awe. When my mum shed tears I knew this is the best outfit and nothing in this world could have looked better on the most important day of my life.”