Shumita and Michael met while we were students at the University of Pennsylvania, in a grant-based photography class that funded students to travel to India and make work for 3 weeks. They became friends over the course of the semester - then more than friends. Travel always played a big part in their relationship. Eight years and many packed/unpacked suitcases later, they did the marriage thing. Michael is a visual artist who also does marketing/sales for a real estate development company, and
Shumita is a radio journalist who works at WNYC. They live in Brooklyn ( in their own words -not the cool part, but the reasonably-calm-with-backyards part). and Michael loved the idea of a travel wedding - a chance to draw out the experience and create new memories with their families and friends. They chose Florence because it’s an incredible city from a historical perspective, as the cradle of the Renaissance. But it’s also a very dynamic city. They picked it because they figured whether people like the city life, art museums, churches, galleries, gelato… or preferred the quiet of the Tuscan countryside, wine tours, and rolling hills, they were confident they’d find something they enjoyed by making Florence their base.
Michael wore a suit that was a lightweight silk and wool blend that was perfectly tailored and perfect for the summer heat.
Shumita's dad is from India and her mother from Iran, so she wanted an outfit that nodded to both her cultures. "I went to India in February to visit my grandmother (she’s 91 and was unable to travel for the wedding - but she picked all of the Indian classical music that played during our reception!). I knew that I wanted to wear an all white lehenga, but after bouncing from store to store and being told they don’t have anything all white (“Saab white? Why??”), I knew I had to go custom. A friend of my cousin put me in touch with this designer named Gopa. She understood my vision immediately - a dress that’s a touch Indian, but also all white (which is a Western tradition but also fits what Iranian brides wear). I asked for a heavily beaded top (choli) and a simply designed skirt, using dupion silk." They also discussed her vision for the shape of the top, and within 48 hours the designer produced a prototype for a fitting. The entire outfit was made in less than 3 weeks, with all of the beadwork stitched by hand. "I was thrilled! And comfortable! And… I had a pocket. Truly my dream outfit. I felt totally like myself."
Shumita's was actually my her dupatta (light shawl, part of the top-and-skirt lehenga set). She brought her dupatta to a woman named Basia who runs a small veil shop out of a tiny apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. "I explained that I’d like to wear it as a veil for the ceremony but also use it as a shawl for the rest of the night. She loosely gathered it and stitched a comb into it -- after the ceremony, we cut the stitches out and voila, a functional shawl!"
The couple had just shy of 100 guests at their stunning wedding, which was held at Villa Medicea di Lilliano in Grassina, Italy, about 25 minutes outside of Florence. Caterina Testardi of Caterina Weddings planned the wedding. Their day was photographed by Francesco Bognin and Melissa Wahler from Sava Studio, as second shooter. A dear friend of the couple, Paul Fabozzi, officiated the wedding and Shumita's mother, who was a makeup artist did the brides makeup on the day.
The ceremony was definitely the most important part for the couple, followed closely by food and then music. "Neither of us are religious, so we created our own ceremony incorporating rituals that we find meaningful."
Their ceremony was made up of three mini-ceremonies. First, an Indian tradition of exchanging garlands followed by a poetry reading of the Bengali poet Tagore. Then, a poetry reading in the Napolitano dialect (Michael’s first language). Third, an Iranian ritual of grinding sugar over the couple to wish them a sweet life, with a reading from Rumi. Shumita's grandmother (from Iran) then burned esphand, which is a collection of seeds which gives off smoke and smell, almost like an incense. It’s meant to ward away evil spirits and protect those around you. Lastly, the couples vows and rings.
The couple put a lot of thought into the music for the whole day. As people were finding their seats for the ceremony, Shumita's grandmother’s favourite raga was playing. For the processional into the ceremony, the couple asked if they could play a vinyl record. It was Nina Simone playing the piano, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” "I love that recording! And I’m so glad we didn’t just go for a classic live-string-and-keys set up. At the end of the ceremony, we made our exit to this groovy Italian song “La Grande Bellezza.” For dinner, we loved the band we found and the band leader Celeste totally understood our music taste: jazzy, swingy, classic."
It was important to Michael and his mother to have a mother-son dance (they danced to Le Mamme, which Michael says reminds him of his maternal grandmother). In Shumita's culture, a father-daughter dance isn’t a common thing. "Instead of that, we did something we called a “Three Generations Dance,” where me, my mom, and my grandmother all did an Iranian dance together and then invited people up to join us. I guess we created our own, new tradition!"
Their advice for couples getting married? "Don’t spend too much money on flowers. (Especially if you’re getting married outdoors. You can’t take it with you!) Do wear comfortable shoes. You won’t regret it!
Make a budget. Adjust it. Be realistic. If you need to go over in one category, figure out where to cut back somewhere else Definitely write your own vows. There’s nothing like professing your love in front of all the people who matter most to you. We cried our way through our vows, and so did all of our guests! And don’t be afraid to buck tradition and create your own rituals!
Ceremony and Reception location : Villa Medicea di Lilliano
Videographer : Urania Wedding Films
Celebrant : Paul Fabozzi
Entertainment : Musica Evento
Planner: Caterina Testardi of Caterina Weddings
Flora: Il Giardino Delle Fate
Catering, Beverages and Cake : La Delizia
Groom’s suit : custom made by Mr. Ned
Groom’s shirt : custom by Frank Ercole
Bride’s lehenga: custom made in India by Gopa
Ring/s: Both rings made by Karina Noel
Shoes: Groom: Crockett & Jones / Bride: Walking Cradles
Veil: Basia Custom Headdresses.
Michael’s watch: vintage OMEGA Seamaster watch from the 1960s
Shumita’s earrings: from her mom, worn on her wedding day
Makeup : Shumita’s mom Roya
Hair : Shumita’s aunt Mahsa