Photos by Greg Finck except where otherwise indicated.

Sanskrit ceremony: The wedding of Meghana Chalasani and James Walter Steves

A south Baton Rouge backyard was transformed into a scene straight out of south India for the wedding of Meghana Chalasani and J.W. Steves.

It was the culmination of several days of colorful traditional Hindu rituals that began with haldi and “making of the bride and groom” ceremonies, during which turmeric—the traditional “spice of life”—was smashed and later applied to the bride’s and groom’s skin by friends and family members. The couple borrowed from north Indian tradition by also having a sangeet, or, as Meghana calls it, “just a big dance party!”

Tradition also played a role in the couple’s choice of venue for the big day. “My mom married my dad in her parents’ backyard, and it meant a lot to me to have my wedding at my family home,” says Meghana. “My mom had someone build the altar—known as a mandap—in our backyard, and she insisted that it be built into the ground so it would be there forever.”

The bride and groom chose richly detailed wardrobe pieces from India for the wedding events, including two saris for the wedding itself. “My mom and I went to India about eight months beforehand to do all the shopping,” Meghana says. Though brides traditionally wear red, “none of the red saris I tried was the one,” she says, so she and her mother selected a yellow sari with accents of pink and green, accessorized by traditional custom-made south Indian temple jewelry including a gold belt and a diamond and ruby bridal necklace. Meghana’s second wedding sari was white and gold, and for the reception she wore a pale pink lehenga, or blouse and skirt outfit.

The décor for the day featured vibrant colors for the ceremony, followed by a serene white setting for the reception. “Marigolds are a very popular flower in India and are used for the most auspicious occasions, but they’re very rarely seen here,” Meghana says. “So I had this vision of strung-up marigolds hanging from my mandap as I married J.W. under the trees. It sounded so simple in my head, but I learned later how hard it would be to execute! It was absolutely magical and so worth it.”

Though Indian grooms traditionally enter the wedding site on a horse or elephant, this couple opted to give a nod to their first date, a motorcycle ride through rural south Louisiana, by having J.W. ride up on his motorcycle. “We thought this would be a fun way to extrapolate from that tradition but at the same time add a bit of our personal history and flair,” Meghana says.

The ceremony itself was performed in Sanskrit, the world’s oldest surviving classical language, and included rituals based on centuries-old traditions. Meghana entered the mandap holding a coconut, a symbol of prosperity. The couple began the ceremony separated by a curtain; their hands were placed together beneath the curtain, and they placed a mixture of crushed cumin seeds and brown sugar on each other’s heads to signify that they would be inseparable through bitter and sweet times. Later, friends and family members showered blessings on the couple with flowers and rice. The ceremony ended after J.W. and Meghana took seven steps and with each step took a vow.

The reception was held under a clear tent filled with white flowers and candles. Guests enjoyed savory dishes catered by Bay Leaf Indian Cuisine and desserts flown in from India, and they danced to the music of the Michael Foster Project. “I wanted our guests to have a pleasant evening under the stars,” says Meghana.

Many of Meghana’s family members from India, including her grandparents and aunts and uncles, flew in for the festivities. “We had an absolute ball,” she says. “It absolutely would not have been the same if they hadn’t come. What I remember most is how serene and happy I felt as I married J.W. under the trees and our families became one.”

April 1, 2017

Ceremony and reception: Bride’s parents’ home
Coordinator: Sarah Turner
Caterer: Bay Leaf Indian Cuisine
Nannette Mayhall
Florist: Peregrin’s Florist
Invitations: Raga Wedding Cards
Bridal attire: Multiple outfits purchased in India
Bridesmaid dresses: Saris from India
Groom’s tuxedo: George Bass
Rings: Lee Michaels/Robert Roth Jewelers
Hair: Lynn Johnson, Beehive Salon
Makeup: Sasha Ahart
Videographer: Dyle Films
Entertainment: DJ Shivas/Michael Foster Project
Honeymoon: Lake Como, Italy

Click on the photos in the gallery below for a closer look at this wedding: