"Home weddings are hard," admits bride Kelsey Maher after planning her backyard wedding to Pra Chandrasoma. Yet, choosing the venue for their August 10, 2019, also happened to be the easiest aspect of wedding planning for the couple. They knew Pra's parents' home in Pasadena, California would be the perfect place to tie the knot, especially since Pra's older siblings had already done the same. "We liked the freedom the home wedding would give us and loved taking a new approach to the structure and flow of the evening so that, even though the venue was the same, the experience would feel different and fresh for our guests," she explains.
While the couple confesses that their still "not sure" what their vision was for the day, they knew they wanted a wedding "that reflected who we are as individuals and as a partnership." This came in the form of two ceremonies—a Western ceremony and a Poruwa ceremony (a Sri Lankan tradition)—to honor their faiths and heritages.
When it came to décor, they sought inspiration in contemporary, elegant, and modern details like ghost chairs, white blooms, and hedges and followed a color palette of olive green, ivory, gray, and gold. Kelsey and Pra also called upon their florist, Lisa Cardella of Ixora Floral Studio, to serve as a day-of coordinator. "She has been a part of every Chandrasoma wedding, so we couldn’t have imagined anyone else bringing our shared vision to life," shares Kelsey.
Keep scrolling for more on the modern nuptials, which featured custom wine, unique cocktails, and a wedding cake baked by the groom's mother, all photographed by Dennis Roy Coronel.
"We actually spent a ton of really wonderful quality time together hashing out all the little details of the day and dreaming about how everything would come together," says Kelsey. Their minimalist wedding invitation and save the date set the tone for the sophisticated day.
Sommelier Christopher Miller, a friend of Pra's brother, created two custom wines for the wedding day: chardonnay and pinot noir. The wines—named "Wolf Rider” and “Dr. Octopus," respectively—"Apparently our 'spirit animals' based on our Myers-Briggs personality types," says Kelsey—incorporated Oregon and California varietals, paying homage to the pair's home states.
For the Western ceremony, Pra wore a bespoke black one-button suit, white collared shirt, and cashmere loafers. He accessorized with the same Christian Dior tie his father married in.
Kelsey wore tsavorite and diamond earrings and ring, which belonged to her soon-to-be mother-in-law.
"The very first dress I ever tried on was the one I eventually decided on," reveals Kelsey. She first slipped into the strapless Vera Wang gown while shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills. "I remember thinking it was really lovely and suited me, but I had nothing to compare it to, so I didn’t feel it was 'the one' at the time." A month later, Kelsey was in a Vera Wang bridal salon and immediately gravitated towards this dress.
It was Pra who was initially nervous to do a first look (claiming he would feel self-conscious!). "In hindsight, he says it was one of his very favorite parts of the whole day," shares Kelsey.
The pair met in 2016 on the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel and their wedding photographer, Dennis Roy Coronel was on hand to photograph Pra's surprise proposal in 2018. "Pra had no doubt Dennis would be the perfect person to capture such a special moment," exclaims Kelsey. "He was totally right—and now we want Dennis to capture all our special moments."
Kelsey and Pra wanted their groomsmen to wear outfits that they could (and would!) wear again and went with olive jackets, black pants, and black ties. The finishing touch was white leather sneakers, Pra's gift to his groomsmen!
"One of the first things our bridesmaids wanted to know after I told them Pra and I were engaged was whether they would get to wear saris at the wedding! We were happy to oblige," says Kelsey. The bride collaborated with Buddhi Batiks in Sri Lanka to design the gray silk chiffon saris, which featured gold trim and white feather motifs.
The backyard of the Chandrasama home was transformed into an elegant and modern ceremony space with ghost chairs and minimalist programs.
The couple used an asymmetrical, flower-adorned poruwa for both their Western and Sri Lankan ceremonies, which they designed and built themselves. As Kelsey describes, "a canopy of inverted mini calla lilies suspended above us."
"My processional was pretty special," the bride recalls. "Pra is a classically trained pianist and he composed a piece of music for my walk down the aisle. I remember hearing versions of the song as he worked on it during our engagement, and he announced that he thought he 'had it right' after playing the version I was hoping would be the final one."
Kelsey and Pra actually didn't write their own vows. Instead, their wedding officiant—a friend of Pra's—wrote "absolutely unforgettable vows" for the couple.
Even before Pra proposed, we knew we would be getting married at the Chandrasoma house. Now, every time we visit Pra’s parents, we can glance over and see the spot where we got married and we’re reminded of so many special memories.
"Even before Pra proposed, we knew we would be getting married at the Chandrasoma house," adds Kelsey. "Now, every time we visit Pra’s parents, we can glance over and see the spot where we got married and we’re reminded of so many special memories."
After the Western ceremony, Kelsey exchanged her Vera Wang gown for the French Chantilly lace sari that Pra's mother wore on her wedding day.
As a part of Pra's Sri Lankan heritage, the couple also hosted a Poruwa ceremony, a Sinhalese tradition that dates back to the third century B.C., in the backyard.
After Pra made his entrance, Kelsey was escorted to the poruwa by her parents.
Following the traditional rituals of a Poruwa ceremony, the bride and groom offered seven sheaves of betels to honor and ask for blessings from the past seven generations of elders.
Next, the ceremonial leader tied the couple's fingers together with gold thread to symbolize their union.
Pra then presented Kelsey with a gold necklace. Marking their union, the presentation of necklace represents the groom's pledge to always take care of the bride.
The pair shared their first meal together—milk rice—under the wooden poruwa.
Before the ceremony concluded, Pra's family gifted Kelsey a sari to wear after the wedding. His sister-in-law also sang the Jayamangala Gatha, a traditional Sri Lankan marriage song.
As Kelsey and Pra stepped off the poruwa (with their right feet first), a coconut was smashed in the aisle to "bless the newlyweds with children"
"At the end of the Poruwa ceremony, we lit an oil lamp under a tree Pra’s grandmother planted before she passed away," shares the bride. "Pra and his grandma had a really close and special relationship, and we organized our ceremony so that we could be standing near that tree—we wanted to feel closer to her. It was a still August day when we got married, but some of our guests mentioned to us—without actually knowing the significance of that tree—that it looked like the tree started blowing in the wind as we lit the lamp, even though every other tree in the garden was completely still."
Guests were escorted to another area of the backyard for an outdoor reception.
"We tried to make every aspect of the day a reflection of who we are and what we love. Each detail—from the cocktail hour playlist we curated to the cocktails we designed and the custom wines—reflected some part of who we are," offers Kelsey. Their cocktail hour consisted of fried chicken sliders, coconut "ceviche" tostada, and beet chips while their dinner menu followed a Mediterranean cuisine.
The couple also designed their seating chart, a clean sign placed on a hedge wall accented with white flowers.
The reception featured four different table and centerpiece combinations, although all were outfitted with ghost chairs, glass, and delicate blooms. The twenty-four-foot long mirror-topped center table sat under a hand-made suspension of orchids and copper pipes.
Each place setting featured black flatware, mirrored chargers, matte gray ceramic dinner plates, ivory salad plates, and dark gray napkins. The personalized menus, which also served as place cards, held single lisianthus buds.
Pra's mother baked the couple's three-tier wedding cake from scratch. The confection, which was topped with the groom's parents cake topper, was displayed in front of a hedge wall that housed a neon sign of the couple's initials.
Kelsey and Pra's friend Nikhil Gupta performed their first dance song, "The Book of Love" by The Magnetic Fields.
When the night was over, the newlyweds jetted to Mexico for a honeymoon in the Mayan Riviera. "It isn’t going to be the flowers, or the perfect menu, or even the most stunning dress or suit that you’ll remember," Kelsey says looking back. "The thing you’ll cherish the most is the feeling you get when you look around and see everyone you love all in one place."
Venue Private Residence
Day-Of Coordination Lisa Cardella of Ixora Floral Studio
Officiant: Fagan Harris (Western); Lal Thilakarathna and Daniel O’Connell (Poruwa)
Bridal Gown Vera Wang
Veil Vera Wang
Hair & Makeup Team Hair and Makeup
Bridesmaids’ Dresses Buddhi Batiks
Mother of the Bride's Dress Chiara Boni
Groom’s Attire Hunstman Savile Row
Groom’s Grooming Grit Los Angeles
Flower Girls' Attire Rachel Riley
Ring Bearer's Attire Appaman
Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands Custom
Floral Design Ixora Floral Studio
Invitations Aerialist Press
Paper Products Aerialist Press
Guest Book Artifact Uprising
Ceremony Music Jeremy Weinglass
Reception Music The Class Band
Catering The Kitchen for Exploring Foods
Late Night Food In-N-Out Burger Truck
Cocktails Faith & Flower
Beer Mumford Brewing
Custom Wine Christopher Miller of Seabold Cellars
Cocktail Ice Penny Pound Ice
Rehearsal Dinner Catering Guerrilla Tacos
Rehearsal Dinner Bartending Eric Lund, Pretty Dirty
Bathroom Rental Luxury Flush
Rentals Town & Country Event Rentals
Transportation Five Star Limousine of L.A.
Accommodations The Langham Pasadena
Videography Ale Vidal Films
Photography Dennis Roy Coronel