Today’s wedding took place at the gorgeous Penn Museum, with beautiful flowers, a chic bride, bold invitations, and a delicious cake… but the absolute best thing about today’s feature? The emotion in the bride and groom’s faces. And the dancing! These people are dancing machines! If you ever worry that your wedding won’t have enough little details to feel special, just take a look at Shannon and Nikil’s celebration and be reminded that it’s really all about the people and the energy and the love.
Why did you choose this location for your ceremony? We were looking for something unique, preferably outdoors, but within the city. We wanted to make it easy for guests to get there. We also wanted the ceremony to be in the same place as the reception. The less travel required the more time to party. Museums offered a variety of spaces that could accommodate a large wedding, and as soon as we realized that the Penn Museum was within our budget I knew it was the right choice. The front courtyard is a lovely – I used to eat lunch there sometimes as a grad student – and the interiors are stunning. Also, of course, the art!
Shannon carried a lush bouquet with a few white orchids, fiddlehead ferns, and a variety of foliage.
Are there any DIY details you’d like to tell us about? Nope. I’m very DIY in real life, but for the wedding I left things to the experts.
What was the best advice you received as a bride? Drink like a guest. For real. It’s a party. It’s important to enjoy it!
What advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding? My main advice is to focus on having a great time with the people you love. It’s easy to get hung up on the details beforehand. And no doubt the planning can be stressful. Nikil and I both had our moments. But really, as long as you have your friends and family, some food and drink and good music it’s bound to be a great time.
“The ceremony was the most difficult thing for us to plan, since we were starting from scratch. We wanted it to be lighthearted and funny, without being too flip. Our wedding planner, Chrissy, helped a lot by giving us a general template and guiding us through the traditional approach to secular ceremonies. We chose poems and pieces from some of our favorite writers for our brothers and sisters-in-law to read. It took us forever to find the right ones. We wanted readings that were about love and family without being overly sentimental. I asked my cousin Shawn, a pastor, to read a Bible passage and deliver a blessing. That made my mom happy! And then we handed off the really hard part of the job to Pete, Nikil’s brother, who we asked to officiate.”
Your ceremony in three words. Personal, funny, and, um, literary? There were a lot of readings. My husband’s a writer – we met in book publishing.
Who officiated your ceremony? We asked Nikil’s older brother, Pete, to officiate. He was the first person I thought of. He’s a wonderful guy, with a great sense of humor – I knew he would kill it.
Did you include any traditions in your ceremony? Not really. We were kind of aiming for non-traditional, but we did the walking down the aisle and exchange of rings – the basic stuff. We had a traditional Hindu ceremony in Bangalore in June 2014 – most of Nikil’s family lives there and wouldn’t be able to travel to the states for a wedding. We printed and framed photos of the Indian wedding and put them at tables around the venue.
What was your ceremony music? We had a great local bluegrass band, The Keystone Boys, play during the ceremony and at the cocktail hour. The processional was Ashokan Farewell, which my nerdier friends recognized as the main music used in Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary. The recessional was Cherokee Shuffle.
A Vision of the Garden by James Merrill
If Only I Could Force by Eugenio Montale
An excerpt from the novel, Pitch Black by Renata Adler
Some Trees by John Ashbery
The Mutual Delight of the Bride and Bridegroom, Song of Solomon, Chapter Six
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? Having all of our siblings participate.
What were your vows like? Pete wrote them! Thank God for Pete, we totally saddled him with all the difficult stuff! They were fairly straightforward but included a clause about caring for one another in health and in hangovers.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share about your wedding ceremony? Planning a ceremony yourself is hard! It was easily the most stressful aspect of our wedding and we put it off till the last second. But in the end it turned out beautifully and I’m so glad we did it the way we did.
“The Penn Museum is one of the most beautiful places in Philadelphia. I can’t believe we had it all to ourselves for the night! The building itself is really unique and the art and artifacts are just phenomenal. They didn’t have a lot of rules, either, which some museums and galleries have. And the event staff is a joy to work with. They made everything so easy.”
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? The Penn Museum and its beautiful collection of Asian and Egyptian art was the main inspiration. Generally, we didn’t want to compete too much with the space. Thousand-year-old works of art speak for themselves – we figured everything else should just accent the museum’s collection. Our planner and my mom were great with the table settings. Because I really didn’t know a thing about that I just left it up to them. For flowers I was looking for simple and mostly green. Something lush but nothing showy. Nikil and my Dad handled music suggestions for the DJ. Everyone kind of pitched in to help with the aspects of the wedding they cared most about. It was a real family affair.
First dance, father/daughter dance:
First dance: “Deborah” by Beck. The first dance was kind of wild. Nikil has a very distinct dancing style.
Father/daughter dance: “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder
How would you describe your reception? Non-stop dance party. Everyone was on the dance floor.
What was your favorite moment or part of the reception? Dancing ’til they kicked us out.
Did you have a signature cocktail? Budweiser. It’s my Dad’s signature drink. And I grew up in St. Louis. We passed around bottles for the toast.
What type of cake or dessert did you serve? Vanilla Pound Cake– we’re not big cake people, so we also had a dessert station with a bunch of other options.
If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently? Eat the mini cheesesteaks we served at midnight. I totally missed them! People said they were really good.
Is there anything else that helps tell the story of your wedding? Nikil and I put off getting engaged for years, and a big reason was we both dreaded the wedding planning. It’s a lot of time and a lot of money and we just didn’t want to deal. But in the end we both had such a great time. Even when the process was getting hectic we reminded ourselves that this is the only time in our lives we can throw a party and invite everyone we’d want to come – regardless of geography – and a lot of them will show up. I know circumstances are different for everybody and different couples want different things out of their wedding, but for us, this was perfect.