You know this isn’t going to be your usual fairytale when the conversation suddenly veers from how a bride met her husband to how the aviation authorities, the military and the coastguard played a starring role in her wedding.
Dubai-based film director Japinder Kaur’s wedding story is anything but typical.
The pal who played cupid is now her mum-in-law. She got hitched to Indian hotelier Harpreet Singh Chadha in November 2018 in what could easily be called one of Dubai’s most opulent nuptials. But while she did always dream of a grand celebration, Kaur chose to ditch the bridezilla-style hullabaloo and take an avant-garde approach to planning her big fat Punjabi wedding. Her focus, much like for her film productions, was simply to create a memorable experience, not just for herself, but for all her family and friends.
Kaur admits she was surprised to that people - even her own friends, relatives, family - only spoke to her about her clothes, jewellery and selection of make-up artist.
“These three things were seriously the last things I came to,” Kaur, 28, tells Friday.
“For me, it was about what the party was going to be like, what the guests will enjoy, the entertainment, who was performing, the menu, and the decor... that was my vision of wanting things to be perfect.”
Kaur put together a packed three-day itinerary for 1,000 guests to celebrate across lavish locations in Dubai, including the Palazzo Versace hotel, the Burj Khalifa and along the emirate’s coastline aboard the 220-foot Lotus Mega Yacht.
The events included a ring ceremony, Ardas (first prayer), Mehendi, Baraat, Laavan (marriage ceremony), and lunch and dinner parties that featured red carpets, imitation snowfall, ice sculptures, 25-litre champagne bottles, aerialist dancers, belly dancers, Bhangra troupes, glitter portrait painters and a six-foot Versace cake.
The most memorable of all, Kaur says, was her Mehendi – a pre-wedding ceremony where intricate henna designs are applied to the bride’s hands and feet – which took place on the yacht.
“We sailed past Atlantis, the Palm, and the Ain Dubai [Ferris wheel] - and the highlight of this party, which was one of my mum’s visions since I was a little girl, was a helicopter rose petal shower,” she recalls. 350kg of rose petals were sprinkled from the sky, adorning the deck in blanket of fragrant pink.
Prioritising her mum’s dream, Kaur persisted for six months to get all the permits required to make the first-of-its-kind stunt possible.
“Initially we thought it wouldn’t be a big deal, but once we started trying to plan, it wasn’t as easy as we thought,” she says.
“The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA) told us we need to get a pilot who can do this and then they can go through the process of giving him a no objection certificate,” she explains.
Months later, after hiring a pilot and securing DCAA permits, Kaur learnt that she also needed to get permission from the military and defence authorities, ‘since [petals are] a foreign body falling out of the helicopter. Then, because there were 350kg of petals going into the sea, we also had to get a permit from environmental and marine authorities, as well as coastguard permission”.
Remembering how thrilled her mum was to see her daughter showered with roses, Kaur calls it a “lifelong memory” and insists that such an experience could only be possible in Dubai.
“I would really give a lot of credit to Dubai... the way it is, that you really can make things as good as you want them to be,” she says, adding that none of the authorities said her idea was impossible.
“I had always wished for my wedding to be in Dubai. There’s just so much to do here that I wouldn’t ever want to leave and go to some other city to celebrate.”
The challenge lay in sourcing some of the very traditional elements locally, Kaur admits.
When her in-laws asked if they would be able to have a traditional Baraat in Dubai, Kaur immediately assured them it was all possible.
“I was super confident at the time... [but] eventually we did have a tough time with sourcing because even if something was available there was not much to choose from,” she says.
It fell into place eventually however, with horses, camels and even a chariot.
But Kaur insists her wedding wasn’t designed to be a Bollywood-like film production.
“Bollywood films have overtly Indian weddings,” she says. “I wanted mine to be international. It was real-life influence from Arabic, Lebanese, Indian and Punjabi weddings.”
The menu was also a combination of Indian and international cuisine, including delicacies like venison, rabbit and pigeon.
Mostly, Kaur wanted her wedding to be reflective of her life in Dubai.
“I always knew what I wanted in terms of quality, hospitality, and in terms of making it grand,” she says, which is also why she chose the Palazzo Versace as her venue.
She explains: “When I went there for the first time, I was really taken aback by its sheer luxury. Being in Dubai we’ve all kind of gotten used to such things. But the kind of detail the venue holds, not just in terms of the ballrooms or flooring or chandeliers and ceilings, but even thing like if you have a 1,000-person party, every guest is served champagne in Versace glasses.”
And finally, after working hard to plan the unique experience for her guests, came the dress.
“I just felt like doing my clothes will be the easiest bit and it was,” Kaur says. “I chose my outfits in a day each.”
For her ring ceremony, Kaur went with a 17th century architectural-inspired scallop handwork ball gown by Dubai’s Dar Sara High Fashion, complete with a 5m train. Millions of sequins were hand sewn for the 3-D peacocks on her 20kg Mehendi ensemble by Delhi-based Shaveta and Anuj. The Baraat lehenga was designed by Manish Malhotra with deep purple sucha badla (pure metallic thread) work created in contrast with maroon to match Kaur’s whopping 175-carat rubies from Indian jewellery designer Farah Khan Ali. For the Laavan, the bride wore a coral-and-gold embellished sharara and dupatta by Pakistani designer Faraz Manan, with a 120-carat polki set with Burmese rubies and Zambian emeralds.
But amidst all the grandeur and festivities, Kaur says she was most overwhelmed by the emotions she hadn’t anticipated.
“It was way more emotional than I imagined,” she shared. “While I was busy planning for a red carpet moment, instead I was overwhelmed with all the attention and love that Harpreet and his family showered over me, and all the affection and care from my family and friends. Looking back, it was a magical experience.”
Japinder’s top three tips for brides-to-be
1. Plan the look, not just the dress
It’s your complete look that matters. For instance, sometimes your hair accessories tend to be the last thing you pick up because you’re concentrating more on your clothes and jewellery. But if you think about it, your hair accessories are going to be the most visible thing in all your selfies and photos and videos because how many full-length photos are you going to take?
2. Don’t clog up your last week
Even if you plan things to perfection, you’re going to have new things crop up in the last week, so keep it open and relaxed. For example, I found out a week before the wedding that one of the islands I was travelling to on my honeymoon needed a different visa, which I didn’t have. I had to dedicate a day, for which I had other things planned, to sort my visa out.
3. Keep your emotional balance
What I felt in the process is that you’re getting so many opinions from so many places, and each one of them is probably correct, and most of them might be different than what you’re thinking. But at any point don’t lose your cool if something is not going according to what you want because eventually the whole idea is for you to enjoy your day and have a great memory.
The people who made Japinder and Harpreet’s stunning wedding happen
Planner: Love Details, Dubai
Venues: Palazzo Versace; Dubai, At.Mosphere, Burj Khalifa, Lotus Mega Yacht
Accommodation: Palazzo Versace
Priest: Akal Takht, Head Granthi of the Golden Temple, who came from India
Catering: Palazzo Versace
Photography: The Wedding Salad
Videography: Wedarazzi Films
Hair and make-up: Noreen Shah
Wedding decor: Dantel Flowers
Cake: Palazzo Versace
Invitations and stationary: Versace
Jewellery: Farah Khan Ali
Shoes: Christian Louboutin, Gina
Entertainment: Sophie Chaudhary, Meet Broz, DJ Shadow, DJ Hani
Ardaas and lunch party: Faraz Manan
Ring Ceremony: Dar Sara High Fashion
Mehendi: Shaveta and Anuj
Baraat: Manish Malhotra
Laavan: Faraz Manan
Ring Ceremony: Brioni
Mehendi: Rohit Bal
Baraat: Rohit Bal
Laavan: Faraz Manan