Published on December 28, 2019

What do you do when your family is scattered throughout the United States, India, and Pakistan, and your hybrid Hindu-Muslim wedding has to fit seven different festivities into one weekend? You find a really flexible location. Neha Prakash (a writer-editor) and Shehryar Hussain (a software engineer) met through a mutual friend while volunteering for the American India Foundation, and they share a love of travel. His extended family comes from Lahore, hers from Bangalore, and they both wanted a destination wedding that “felt like a giant family vacation,” Neha says.

Through “a little bit of luck and a little bit of research,” she found a villa in Lake Como, Italy, roughly halfway between the U.S. and India. With several terraced gardens, lake views, and a glassed-in greenhouse, Villa Passalacqua offered multiple spaces for the three-day schedule that typically accompanies a traditional ceremony. “Indian and Pakistani weddings are all about joy and celebration of life,” Neha explains. “To be true to our heritage, I wanted the wedding to be bursting with color.”

To create a varied but cohesive color palette for each event, Neha enlisted help from floral designer Kiana Underwood of Tulipina and wedding planner Rachel Birthistle, of The Lake Como Wedding Planner. They saved money by using flowers in unexpected ways. Roses, carnations, baby’s breath, and palm leaves complemented fruit—including lemons, limes, and papayas—to create “an explosion of color.” Underwood spray-painted the palms and baby’s breath, repurposing flowers to create a different look and feel for each event. The result was a vibrant wedding that married old and new influences to make all feel welcome. 

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Photography by Lucy Cuneo

From Mehndi to Sangeet
The festivities started with the bride’s family gathering poolside to have henna applied to their hands and feet in a mehndi ceremony, followed by a welcome dinner. Neha received a Hindu blessing, then the revelry started with the sangeet—a giant dance party. “I wanted it to feel like the flowers were dancing and twinkling,” she says. From the tent ceilings, Underwood hung a canopy of spray-painted baby’s breath. “It was magical. The sun was setting and it felt like the space was alive,” recalls Neha.

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Photography by Lucy Cuneo

A Modern-Meets-Traditional Mandap
The next morning, the couple were wed in a traditional Hindu ceremony under a mandap. To create the altar, Underwood used the full palette of flowers and spray-painted palms, twining them around the pillars and stringing classic carnation garlands from the frame. “It captured the vibe of our wedding,” Neha says. “The sense of traditional-meets-unexpected is represented in that one structure.”

A lunch followed, then the weekend came to a close with a Muslim ceremony, followed by the reception, which took place in a glass conservatory under greenery and twinkling lights. “It combined everything we wanted,” Neha says, “with a pinch of magic.”

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Photography by Lucy Cuneo

Ombré All the Way
One of Underwood’s standout arrangements came from creating rainbow-hued table runners from spray-painted baby’s breath for the wedding-day lunch. Neha, an editor steeped in celebrity culture, found inspiration in interiors. “Kylie Jenner’s home had just been on the cover of Architectural Digest,” she recalls. “She had a dining table with ombré chairs, and Kiana styled the flowers in a similar way.” 

Neha’s rapport with Underwood and her other vendors led to many inventive ideas. “The best moments came when I gave them permission to use their creative energy,” she says. Trusting her team also gave Neha the strength to speak up when she needed to: “Florals are pricey, but we did a lot of work with the planners to cut back.” Paring down made the statement pieces, like the tent canopy and table runners, that much more meaningful. “Sometimes you get carried away,” Neha says, “but simplicity can be just as dramatic.”

See more wedding stories:
Gothic Florals and a Tattoo Station: This Couple Planned a Wedding on Their Own Terms
This Candy-Themed Wedding Is Every Bit as Sweet as It Sounds
This Couple’s First-Date Spot Was the Only Logical Wedding Venue

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