Doctors Melissa and Niru’s destination Hawaiian wedding incorporates their Indian and Filipino heritages
Niru and I met when we were 10 years old at our friend Bharvi’s birthday party. Niru had moved from India at age 7 and then moved to our part of Houston a few months earlier. After meeting, we became best friends remained that way until we were 16 when friendship turned into something more. It was a little scary at first, particularly since neither of us had ever had feelings for another girl before, but it really felt too real to deny. We ultimately started our relationship then and have been utterly smitten ever since.
We started college together before Niru transferred to NYU. I then followed the year after to Columbia University. Likewise, we got into different medical schools initially, but she ultimately transferred to follow me there. Residency programs run on a match system, but there is an option for couples matching. Even though it was only a few years ago (2008), times really have changed so much. I still remember being on residency interviews and the interviewer being so uncomfortable when the interviewer saw I was couples matching with a “she.” One actually (I think in an attempt to be encouraging?) actually said, “Oh we have people like that here. Let me look at your schedule… oh yes she’s one of those!” Needless to say we did not rank that program but did happily end up in Chicago for our residency trainings.
Instead of just one proposal, we had two! Niru proposed first. We were in Maui on vacation. It was February 7th, 2012 (the day of our 14th anniversary). We were driving the road to Hana and pulled off into Nahiku. We walked along past the end of the road and were sitting watching the waves crash and eating perhaps our eighth piece of banana bread from along the road. Then, she turned to me and was on one knee with a beautiful black diamond ring in her hand. I, of course, said yes.
Then, two years later, it was my turn (originally scheduled for our 16th anniversary Feb 7, 2014 but due to family stuff moved to Feb 2). I enlisted the help of some friends, family, and a film editor as well as hiring some actors and put together a pretty epic wedding trailer proposal. Niru’s favorite movies are these terribly overblown action movies (i.e. Armageddon, Jurassic Park, etc. are her favorites). So, I made a mini film where these two girls are asked by the president to help because there are four disasters happening all at the same time.
On the day of the proposal, I had taken her to a nice restaurant where she knew something was up so she kept checking her food to make sure there wasn’t an engagement ring she didn’t know about. Then, I took her to a private screening room where we watched Pacific Rim. After the movie ended, the credits started and the film came on. (See below.)
The last few lines of the slideshow I read the English as the Latin was playing. Then, I got down on one knee and proposed too.
We decided to get married on Maui for a few reasons: (1) So beautiful. (2) We had spent our 10th anniversary there and our 14th anniversary there (during which she proposed) and (3) It has a national park nearby! We have a thing for wanting to visit every U.S. National Park and have been to Haleakala and O’heo gulch / seven sacred pools almost every time we’ve visited the island.
In addition, we wanted a pretty small, intimate ceremony for just close friends and immediate family. Destination all the way!
We had a vision of elegance but also fun and personal. So you’ll see that there are several more classic elements like the dark wood chairs, trellises, and simple white / light green florals (mostly succulents and themed off the color of the green cymbidium orchids which are what I gave when I proposed to her). But then we wanted it to be tremendously personal. So we personally designed a lot of it based around our interests: medicine (both of us are physicians), ukulele, photography, board games, Latin language, our cultures (Indian and Filipino), national parks, electronics (hence the drone!), and our doggies (as our cake layer inhabitants!)
My wedding dress was an awesome find in the clearance section at David’s Bridal for $129. It was the first dress I tried on (before knowing the price even). I walked out and a stranger gave me a compliment and I decided it was done.
Niru’s was a little more fancy. While most Indian dresses are traditionally red, where she is from (Hyderabad) they actually are white. She had a beautiful traditional sari for the ceremony and then a salwar kameez for the reception. Both were custom made in Los Angeles.
Here are some details that made our wedding extra personal and special for us!
• Wedding rings: they have the first lines of our favorite poem carved into them: “da mi basia mille” (give me a thousand kisses) is in mine and “deinde centum” (and then 100 more) is in hers.
• Save the Date magnet (used an old national parks postcard of Hawaii and inserted our wedding info where there had been “visit our national park” text)
• Day of letter: Niru wrote mine on a lovely stationary. For mine, I actually wrote mine after hand-punching our song (Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel”) onto a piece of long paper that was part of a build-your-own music box. I’d bought it years before secretly and had been waiting for the right moment to use it!
• Wedding invitations (I did graphic design, woodcut, and we had them built in India)
• Wedding programs (they were in the style of a medical chart with the usual folder opening, etc. Instead of standard text, we wrote it as an “operative note” the kind you would dictate after finishing a surgery).
• Cocktail hour tables (had our favorite board games and a make-your-own Cards Against Humanity section)
• Sign-in table (combo of lomography instant camera + album and also signing in with acrylic marker onto a ukulele)
• For the wedding itself, we incorporated a lot of elements from each of our cultures, e.g. the coin passing and tying around of the veil and cord is Filipino, the seven steps is Indian as is the jockeying for the rings in the vase.
• Also we asked our wonderful videographer Ohana Films to fly our wedding ring down attached to a drone! It went awesomely!
• Probably the biggest personalization was that I surprised Niru with my walk down the aisle. My dad walked me to the end and then went around the back which surprised Niru. I came down the aisle strumming and singing to the first song I learned on uke for her (Jason Mraz‘ “I’m Yours”) and then after the first verse it turned into a ukulele flashmob where suddenly 4 other friends/family jumped in with ukes and another dozen started singing to her as I finished my walk. So fun.
• In terms of the table decor, our favors were playing cards with the Save the Date Hawaii postcard as the back.
• Also each person’s name placeholder was actually a personalized Taboo card (based on the game where you have to describe the top word without saying the other four descriptive words).
• Our table names were actually 8 x 10 photos I’d taken in our various national park travels that we converted to black and white.
• The food itself was again a cultural blend: samosas and sweet lumpia to start and then curry based appetizers, ribs for dinner and a halo halo bar at the end.
• The doggie cake toppers were actually made by a lady on Etsy in Lithuania. They are modeled after our and our family dogs.
NEED MORE MELISSA + NIRU? WATCH THEIR ENGAGEMENT VIDEO!
PHOTOGRAPHY: Anna Kim Photography
PLANNER: Aloha Maui Weddings
FLOWERS: Mandy Grace Designs
HAIR AND MAKEUP: Maui Mira
CATERING: Cafe O’Lei Restaurants
TREATS: Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice
DJ: DJ Ron
MUSICIAN: Derick Sebastian
VIDEOGRAPHY: Ohana Films
CALLIGRAPHY: Miss B Calligraphy
CAKE: Maui Sweet Cakes
DRINKS / BARTENDER: Maui Bars Are Us
ENTERTAINMENT: Manutea Nui E
VENUE: Olowalu Plantation House