Issue 20 / Top 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Planning My Hindu-Jewish Wedding

Top 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Planning My Hindu-Jewish Wedding

Oct 24, 2015

Planning a wedding is no easy feat. Throw cultural and religious differences into the mix and it can turn into a day which can easily dissolve into anxiety and tears. Here is how acclaimed retail analyst Hitha Herzog (née Prabhakar) handled her interfaith wedding and what she wants you to learn from her day. 

A year ago I married a great guy. No, let me rephrase that: a stellar guy. He is funny, cute and gets me. It’s harder than you think to find that kind of trifecta in someone. So, naturally, when he asked me to marry him, I said YES! We had initially wanted a small ceremony: something quaint, nearby, short on the ceremony pomp and a great drunkfest dance party. "How hard could it be to pull together a wedding in nine months?" we pondered as we languidly made lists of possible venues, pulled together guest lists, and giggled our way through meetings with potential caterers.
Guess what? It’s really hard. Add on a difficult factor of 10 if you are from two different religious backgrounds. And near impossible if you both are working crazy, fourteen-hour-a-day day jobs. But we did it and it was wonderful. Here are the 10 things I wish I had known before I started to plan my wedding. This is real talk people, so listen up.

1. Know what you want. I was that woman who never put much thought into what I wanted in a wedding. Most of the time I was shocked a guy wanted to date me in the first place and didn’t think past the boyfriend stage. This proved to be a major stumbling block when it came to planning my wedding. The industry is rigged to throw as many choices at you at once, while you are at your most vulnerable and charge you a 200 per cent markup on it. Multiply it by two because we had two ceremonies. Do yourself a favor: write down a top 10 must-have list. Even if you aren’t engaged it will help tremendously when the time comes.

Sun sets over New York City for Seth and Hitha’s Jewish ceremony,
an homage to the couple’s love that grew in New York.  

Photo Credit: Jen Maler

2. Hire a wedding planner.  This is really important if you work more than 40 hours a week. Thirty years ago when families lived near by and most of us weren’t busy trying to “lean in” it was easier to go to cake tastings, venue visits, auntie’s houses to listen to them drone on about what you should and shouldn’t do, dress shopping, stationary selecting, and general organizing. In the 11th hour, I called up RiRi Patel from TanaRi Events who specializes in Hindu-Jewish weddings. She is a former Goldman Sachs analyst and together with Mayuri Parikh from Mayuri’s Floral Design ran my wedding like executive producers of a live telecast. RiRi wasn’t just an event planner to me, she was my friend, therapist and fixer wrapped into one powerhouse of a person. Find someone like her. I promise it will only help and not hurt.

Hitha and Seth re-used their wedding flowers from their Mandap for their Chuppah for their Jewish ceremony. 
Photo Credit: Jen Maler

3. Create and stick to your budget. Easier said than done when you are getting bombarded with choices, but you must do this. If you don’t you will end up spending $1,200 on canisters to hold your cathedral candles that you will only use once. I know you want perfection, but it’s not worth shelling out insane amounts of money for dumb things. The earlier you plan your budget, the more time you have to do your research and find deals on your must-have items.

Gorgeous canisters. 
Photo Credit: Jen Maler 

4. Don’t wait until the last minute. Okay, I get it. I am a little bit of an anomaly because I didn’t throw myself full force into the wedding planning the second we set the date. I had a crazy job that sucked up all of my time. If you are in the same boat, try to set a side an hour a day to plan your big day. Even with a planner, you are going to be asked questions that will take time to answer. Waiting until the last minute is a one-way ticket to Crazyville, and it will end up costing you more money and potentially your close relationships with friends and family.

5. Don’t fight with your mother. Or any close member of your family. It’s just not worth it.
6. Make sure you have good lighting. I am Indian and also work on TV. I know a good lighting package can make or break how good you look in photos. Brown skin needs to be well lit — and I’m not talking about changing the shade of our amazing skin — I’m talking about enhancing it so we look our best. Lighting can be expensive ($500 to $2000 in some cases) but well worth it.

Good lighting is key whether you are under a mandap in a closed room, or outside.
Photo Credit: Juan Patino Photography 2014

7. Pick a good hair and makeup team. I was lucky here. I had Maureen Pedala and her sister Claudia put together two amazing looks that were different for the Hindu and the Jewish ceremonies. One was in the morning, in natural sunlight and under a Mandap. The other was in the evening, on a roof under a Chuppah and the New York City sky. I was lucky enough to have worked with them before because they are two of the most coveted hair and makeup teams in television, but I get it, not everyone gets that kind of access. Don’t be afraid to ask the prettiest person you know where she gets her hair and makeup done and ask if you can get in touch with them. Interview the team like they are applying for a gig in Parliament. Make sure they know South Asian skin and hair. The last thing you want is to look less than flawless on your big day. Makeup tests are key. Bring photos of what you are going to wear and don’t feel bad if you have to do multiple tests until you are happy with your look. It’s your day, they will understand. One more piece of advice: don’t take advice from your auntie about how she can get the cheapest and best makeup team because it will not work out. Trust me.

The bride before her Hindu ceremony in the morning. Hitha and Seth had a two part ceremony:
the Hindu ceremony started in the early morning and in the evening the Jewish ceremony started at sundown. 

Photo Credit: Juan Patino Photography 2014

Hitha and Seth walk to their Jewish ceremony. The bride is wearing Reem Acra, the groom is in John Varvatos.
Photo Credit: Jen Maler 

The bride under the Chuppah for her Jewish ceremony outside on the roof of the Soho Grand in New York City. 

Photo Credit: Jen Maler 

8. Don’t make your friends to pull double duty as photographers or videographers (unless you are going to pay them). Friends are there to attend your wedding, celebrate and be happy for you. They do not want to take orders from you especially when you want the perfect shot of your family. And don’t convince yourself that the iPhone photos your 14 year-old cousin Venkatesh is taking will suffice; it won’t. Hire a professional. You’ll be so glad you did.
9. Things will go wrong, and that’s ok. In the frenzy of the wedding, no one reminded my husband to wear his kipa (head covering) before, during and while he stood under the Chuppah, which is a big no-no in the Jewish religion. Our photographer didn’t get crucial shots of the sunset over New York City, which tuned the buildings a beautiful rose pink just as we were walking out to our second ceremony. Our videographer complained to my mother that I was being unreasonable and started to cry which meant my mother turned around and yelled at me. We had wedding crashers. Things will not go according to plan. Do not get upset over it, they will become the hilarious stories you tell for years.
10. This is supposed to be fun. Unless this is a situation you really don’t want to be in (conversation for another time) remember: you aren’t paying all this money and asking your friends and family to be present for you to grouch around like Cruella deVille. This is your wedding and like everything in life goes by in a snap. Indulge, savor and relish it. And one more word of advice: don’t drink too much, unless you want to go home with someone who isn’t your groom. I’ve seen it happen. A present and clear mind is always better when you want to preserve memories for a lifetime.

The bride and groom dance in the streets of Tribeca making their way to their post Hindu ceremony luncheon.
Photo Credit: Juan Patino Photography 2014

Main Image Photo Credit: Juan Patino Photography 2014

Hitha Herzog


Hitha Herzog is a New York- based investigative journalist, author, associate professor at Parsons The New School For Design and an on-air contributor for Fox Business Network. Her book, “Black Market Billions: How Organized Retail Crime Funds Terrorists” was published by FT Press i...


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