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Looking back, Riya Mehta Bhansali believes it was always only a matter of time. With a rich tapestry of grandparents, aunts and cousins who were familiar with each other, fate perhaps always planned to make her path cross with Anshil Devang Bhansali—but it would only happen on the brink of an unprecedented global pandemic. However, like a flower growing in a crack in the sidewalk, their relationship blossomed during the vacuum. “Witnessing loss, seeing new members join our families, health issues, successes at work as well as gut-wrenching failures… we have seen all that life can throw at you. Now, the most exciting part of our day is tending to our garden after a long day and living our routines together,” she smiles.

After a surprise proposal at the couple’s favourite picnic spot—replete with a violinist playing classics—the duo threw themselves into planning their wedding celebration, which would commence with an event at the dunes of Jaisalmer. Guests were transported in open jeeps through the sand dunes while the couple entered holding camels and guided by dancers in Egyptian garb.

Taking notes from the traditional Egyptian aesthetic, the couple opted for a dress code of black, white and gold for the event. While the groom looked dapper in an all-white ensemble from Rohit Bal with gold cupid detailing, the bride chose an all-black outfit from Anamika Khanna to evoke the yin-and-yang of their relationship. With diyas dousing the venue in their romantic glow, the guests indulged in mehendi and wine poured from long-spouted antique decanters.

The festivities continued with a quintessential mela in the courtyard of Suryagarh, Jaisalmer followed by the bazaar that had the perimeter of the courtyard lined with stalls. Here, guests tried their hand at block printing, made perfume, chose bangles and selected pickled mango to take home with them while a central stage put the spotlight on a traditional performance of garba by the couple’s mothers. For the event, the bride opted for custom Krishna Mehta outfits designed by her kaki and detailed with cross-stitched motifs of horses, elephants and camels, while the groom stood by her side in a coordinated bandhgala.

After a leisurely pool party, the guests convened for the sangeet behind the grand staircase of the property. To evoke the sense of entering a speakeasy, the couple created a hidden entry that they called ‘The Backroom’ as guests were directed through a winding maze with surrealist decor, including horse-headed mannequins and oversized chandeliers, before reaching the dining setup. Guided by flapper-style dancers, the couple made their grand entry with the bride making heads turn in a sparkling ensemble from Manish Malhotra with a corset-style blouse with a sheer tulle overlay and a sequinned lehenga in the hues of dusty rose. As an ode to her mother’s wedding, she rounded out the look with a 1920s-style finger wave hairstyle while her groom turned to Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla for a regal black bandhgala with red accents.

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