Christian weddings in India's biggest city
I got to know about Rachel Pilaka, a copywriter through Twitter. Her husband Roman D’souza is a brand activation manager for Carlsberg India and both live in Ghatkopar, Mumbai. Little did I know when I was introduced to Rachel the utter delight that was in store for me when she said yes to featuring on Bombay Brides!
Ladies and gentlemen, please raise your glasses to the lovely Rachel of Infant Jesus Parish, Mumbai – our next Bombay Bride and her groom, Roman also from the same parish in Pantnagar, Ghatkopar.
Rachel Pilaka and Roman D’souza (such classic Bombay Catholic names!) belong to the Mangalorean+ community, and celebrated their nuptials in December 2011 at Infant Jesus Church. Their wedding combined the best of traditional and modern elements with Rachel switching into a saado+ halfway through the reception, as is the custom among the Mangaloreans of India.
As I read Rachel’s detailed answers to my questions, I was struck by the incredible attention she gave to each aspect of her wedding. Her bridal gown in particular, made me sit up and take notice and as she related the way she worked with her seamstress on it, I could imagine the gown taking shape in my mind. Needless to say, I’m enchanted, and with good reason too – Rachel’s seamstress, Mrs. Maggi Fernandes of Vikhroli is a highly experienced and accomplished tailor.
She is special, because she’s known to have made wonderful gowns for most girls I know. Plus, she played a huge role in my best friend Tina’s sister’s and brother’s weddings. That’s how I was introduced to her, years before I even knew I would be married in 2011.
Mrs. Fernandes granted Rachel her wish of a glowing bridal gown, essentially simple in design but worked with wispy, soft netting, exquisite hand-stitched lace and rich satin. The bridal veil, with a cathedral length train, incorporated lace and netting similar to the fabric worked into the gown, as did the gloves.
Rachel was saved the hassle of hunting down the perfect fabric for her bridal gown as Mrs. Fernandes took care of procuring the fabrics thanks to her extensive network of suppliers. It pays to have a seamstress with more than a lifetime’s experience in the business in Mumbai. As a bride, you end up saving a lot of trouble, money and energy thanks to your tailor taking care of things you would rather leave to an expert.
Rachel for her part, put in considerable research into what her final gown would look like. The Maggie Sottero website in particular, helped her decide the cut and fit and with Maggi Aunty’s help, they worked on designing a style that would bring out the best in Rachel’s figure.
I shall relay Rachel’s exact words about the impressive Maggi Aunty here, as they made me just a teeny bit envious for missing out on knowing about this wonderful tailor earlier.
She sewed the gown herself with finishing touches that were awesome. I absolutely loved the end result of the gown. Considering my upper body was my area of concern, she made it as perfect as it could get. She made it look very elegant. In fact, the lace designs that can be seen on the bust-line of the dress are hand-sewn by aunty.
Sigh. Doesn’t she sound like the dream seamstress!
As the gown was created taking Rachel’s petite frame into careful consideration, this was one bride who felt completely at home the instant she stepped into her gown. The crisscrossed corset-look back, the long trail, the lace – these were the parts Rachel loved best about her gown.
I couldn’t get myself to get out of it for over an hour. Maggi Aunty actually gave me a mouthful and got me out of it. A baby who was watching me intently while dancing in the gown said that I looked like a princess from her storybook. Thereon, my day was made and I had nothing to worry about.
Rachel accessorised well for her wedding. Her bouquet of orchids was created by the florist who decorated the church for the nuptials.
After much ransacking of the many large shoe showrooms in Bandra, Rachel found her shoes at a boutique opposite Elco Market on Hill Road, Bandra. Like many brides I know, she swears by the great deals and designs that are to be found in these small stores that dot the Bandra shopping strips.
Our choices and preferences differ, hence never underestimate the designs of the smallest of boutiques.
For jewellery, Rachel opted for white gold, going at a tangent to the wishes of the elders of the family, who wanted her to wear a gold necklace. As the bodice of the gown was wide at the shoulder, Rachel preferred to keep her neck piece delicate and avoided anything heavy clinging to her neck. A thin necklace of American diamonds, long earrings and two rings on her finger were her main accessories.
Side note: In my opinion, a bride who can convince the family that she wants to wear jewellery that is not traditional gold for the wedding is quite an accomplishment and one to be lauded. Twenty two carat gold has been worked into the Indian mindset as the only acceptable quality of gold grand enough to adorn a bride’s neck and even deviations like rose gold, white gold and (heavens forbid!) eighteen carat gold are frowned upon and considered inferior.
Oh the debts that would simply cease to exist if this adherence to gifting 22K gold in Indian weddings was to be discarded! I shall just have to remember to discourage this particular custom once it’s time for my progeny to tie the knot.
Returning to our bride, Rachel’s mother swears by the jewellers in Bhuleshwar, Mumbai who specialise in white gold, American diamonds and silver sets. The gold set that was gifted to her according to custom by Rachel’s parents consisted of a necklace, a pair of earrings, bangles, bracelet and mangalsutra+. These were designed by their family gold smith of more than a decade, Ashok Raikar (+91-986-933-6166) of Ghatkopar and is highly recommended for his low labour charges and quality of gold.
While Rachel received gifts of the traditional mangalsutra (two in her case) and gold from her in-laws, Roman was gifted a gold rosary by his in-laws. Another gifting tradition among the Mangalorean people is the exchange of sarees between the mothers in front of the family, signifying the beginning of a cordial and happy life for both the families.
The maama+ is given great importance on the wedding day as his blessings are believed to be with the bride throughout her married life. Rachel’s maama, apart from valuable household gifts, also gifted her the bridal chudo+ which she proudly wore over her gloves.
She was absolutely delighted that she stuck to this custom, and I couldn’t agree more. The bright bangles stand out so beautifully against the pristine white of a gloved hand. I consider the photo below to be highly symbolic of the way Christian brides in India bring together the East and the West on their wedding day.
Another traditional touch Rachel opted for was the mehendi+ design on her hands – very rare among Christian brides in Mumbai especially. In Rachel’s case, her hands helped showcase the grandeur of her beautiful saado later in the night.
Maggi Aunty arranged for the tiara that Rachel wore along with the veil she crafted for the bride. She even took care of stitching the dresses for Rachel’s bridesmaids and flower girls, working with designs inspired by styles found on different websites. As the bridesmaids were her cousin sisters, Rachel had less to worry and the girls worked together to make the final decision.
The bridesmaids wore long sheaths of wine-coloured satin while the flower girls were decked in pretty pistachio-coloured satin frocks. The bridesmaids requested a wine and silver coloured wreath each for their headgear while the flower girls each wore headgear in gold and pistachio and carried flower baskets in the same theme.
The end result was B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L. A lot of relatives inquired about the dress and the maker. it made us very proud.
Roman followed Rachel’s lead to sort his wardrobe out, starting with a few designs he looked up online and then conferred with his tailor and good friend Aryan of Aryan Tailors, Ghatkopar to finalise design. He wore a three-piece suit in a deep black fabric with faint pin-stripes. Rachel decided his tie and matched it with the wine-coloured gowns her maids wore.
Aryan Tailors took care of the groomsmen and the page boy’s suits as well and took into consideration their suggestions on the designs and fabric.
There is always one part or another on your wedding day where things will seem like they are going out of control and for Rachel and Roman, it was the journey from their homes to the reception venue – delayed by more than an hour due to traffic!
I can imagine how the loss of an hour from the short reception time allotted to weddings in Mumbai (usually 7 pm – 10 pm) can drive tempers up and add to the stress of the day.
However, Allwyn Fernandez proved to be a most excellent Master of Ceremonies and deftly timed the celebrations to include everything that was planned. The pop music dance session, the first dance, the saado ceremony, cake cutting, the march, the mangalsutra gifting, opsun+ – everything proceeded smoothly and to much enjoyment by the guests.
There were about 700 guests at Rachel and Roman’s reception and not a single person felt like the celebration was lacking thanks to the wonderful music and food – a combination that is considered very important for the success of any Christian wedding celebration in Mumbai. Rachel reckons there were at least 250 people gyrating and hooting their hearts out on the dance floor with no signs of winding down even when the night was drawing to a end.
Ah … If only those sound curfews Mumbai has on celebrations eased up for weddings!
A few things did not go according to plan and Rachel nearly cracked with worry. If it weren’t for the cool and composed Roman, it would have shown right through all the smiling and waving. Rachel and Roman also had an incredible support system in their friend circle, who took much of the load off their shoulders and were there for them through every bit of their wedding.
The proof to my husband’s care-free state-of-mind was the dance he did while I was changing for my saado. He got off his suit, his tie and the waist coat and danced like a happy-crazy man. I loved to watch it on tape.
Looking at the photos that Rachel’s shared with us, it’s hard to imagine that this charming, smiling couple had anything stressful to deal with on their special day. Rachel has some tips for brides-to-be and was kind enough to share them with the readers of Bombay Brides.
- Get a trial round of facial and clean-up, at least a month before D-day.
- Avoid junk/street food at least a week prior to the wedding (I caught a stomach infection).
- No matter what, do not lose your cool on your groom on matters that concern family. Talk it out. Remember, he too is under pressure from his side of the family. He needs your support.
- Keep the gown and bridesmaids dresses ready at least 2 days in advance at your place.
- Maintain a wedding diary – a check list is a must.
- Ensure the shopping has been completed at least 15 days before the day.
- If changing into a saado, keeping an emergency kit of needle-thread, scissors, safety pins, bobby pins, petticoat nada (string) at hand is vital.
- Weddings today come with certain limitations with regards to ceremony time, weather, etc. and demands that the bride dress in a saado can be an unreasonable one. So if you aren’t ok with it, don’t do it. It’s your day.
- Hydrate a lot.
- Do not forget to enjoy. This day comes just once. Eat as much. Dance as much. Go crazy (even if in a saree).
While Rachel and Roman enjoyed every fantastic bit of their wedding celebrations, there were four vendors associated with their wedding that they were especially pleased with. The generous couple even provided their contact details so that Bombay Brides readers could have the pleasure of having them at their wedding.
Mrs. Maggi Fernandes – +91-982-007-7972
Behind St. Joseph’s Church & School,
Near Vikhroli Railway Station
Mr. Lawrence D’souza – check his Facebook Page, StudioGrey to view his work and contact details.
Bandra, Chapel Rd.
(Rachel’s note: His pork chilly and fish fry had people raving all evening and even had some of them carrying it home in plastic bags!)
Allwyn Fernandez, Borivali – +91-982-114-6454
Phew. This has been quite an exhaustive post and I couldn’t be more thankful to Rachel for providing me with so many heartwarming snippets from her wedding celebrations. I think I speak for the readers of Bombay Brides when I say that the contact details for the wedding vendors Rachel and Roman have provided us shall prove to be especially useful during this wedding season.
Don’t forget to wish this beautiful couple your very best and thank them in the comments section below for taking the time to speak with us. If you know of someone you would love to see featured as a Bombay Bride, or as a Bridal Vendor (or if you think you ought to feature) out here, let me know and I’ll get in touch with them/you!
PS: The photos in this post are not for personal and/or commercial use. The Need Help Browsing page has more information on using Bombay Brides content.
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