When Christopher Neufeld got down on one knee on March 23, 2018, the Brooklyn Bridge glittering in the background, Maanasa Indaram couldn’t have been more surprised. “I thought we were just going to meet up with my sister that night,” she says of the proposal from her then-boyfriend of four-and-a-half years.
The pair lived together in San Francisco, where they’d both moved after attending Duke University and where they became a couple after reconnecting at a mutual friend’s party. Having both grown up in Long Island, though, “Chris wanted to propose in New York to allow our families to be part of the special occasion," Maanasa explains. "Everyone was in on the surprise—including my 80-year-old grandmother who can never usually keep secrets!—and afterward, we celebrated with champagne together at the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge.”
For their wedding, Chris and Maanasa opted for a celebration the following spring near their families’ homes in New York. “Though Chris and I live across the country, we both knew we wanted to have our wedding take place in New York since this is where both of us grew up," she says. "It was also really important to my family and me to have the Indian ceremonies leading up the wedding take place in our family home, as is traditionally done.”
As mentioned, the wedding took place at Cedar Lakes Estate, a former summer camp in New York’s Hudson Valley, on May 4, 2019. “We really wanted our ceremony to take place outdoors in natural surroundings to evoke the feeling of a traditional Indian countryside wedding and Cedar Lakes Estate was the perfect venue,” explains the bride.
On the evening before the wedding, guests gathered for the Sangeet welcome party at Cedar Lake’s outdoor pavilion. “It incorporated a theme of ‘street foods’ from both India, where my parents grew up and from New York, where Chris’s parents (and the two of us) grew up,” says the bride. Dancing followed dinner. "We surprised all our guests by jumping into my family’s Indian dance performance," Maanasa adds. "Chris definitely stole the show!"
Chris and Maanasa’s stationery suite included a creative program featuring cartoons of the couple in their wedding outfits and explanations of Indian wedding customs written by the couple. “My cousin, Nancy Moy, a very talented graphic designer, also created the cover of the program for us,” Maanasa adds. “It beautifully depicts our mandap with the Cedar Lakes Estate mountaintop background.”
The bride’s bouquet featured a mix of peonies, and bright pops of coral, pinks, and orange flowers including ranunculus, snapdragons, and tulips. The wedding palette was inspired by the vibrant hues of the bride’s traditional sari colors.
“Yellow is the color traditionally worn by brides with a Telugu background from South India,” explains Maanasa, who wore a buttercup-hued Kanjivaram silk sari with red border from an independent weaver in Kanichipurum, India.
Maanasa wore necklaces from both her paternal and maternal grandmothers. “Wearing these pieces of jewelry from two people who are very close to my heart made me feel like they were there,” says the bride. Her jhumka earrings and red-and-green bridal bangles were from Hyderabad, India, and, as a final touch, Maanasa wore jasmine flowers in her hair to honor another South Indian tradition.
The couple met for a first look on the grounds of Cedar Lakes Estate. For the wedding ceremony, Chris wore a traditional kurta and shoes from Manyavar in Hyderabad, India.
The scenery inspired several elements of the couple’s wedding, including their invitations and welcome bags. “We had a custom stamp with a lake backdrop made to decorate each of the bags, and we included both American and homemade Indian snacks in it, the latter in packaging with ingredient labels I made myself," says Maanasa. "We also included mini flashlights, bug repellent wipes, water, Tylenol, and a map of Cedar Lakes Estate that we annotated with our wedding events.”
Maanasa’s sister, her cousin’s wife, and Chris’s sister-in-law served as bridesmaids, wearing Kanjivaram silk saris in bright green, turquoise, and fuchsia.
The couple’s 250 guests received wedding programs, which were displayed on glass shelves near the ceremony site.
As shown on the ceremony programs, the ceremony space was enhanced with an abundance of flowers. “The aisle was sprinkled with soft gold rose petals and led to a traditional Indian mandap built on a stage covered with Persian rugs and adorned with lush greenery, mango leaves, and bright spring colors,” describes the bride.
Chris and his family processed up the hill, in the Edurukolu, to the mountaintop ceremony location where the bride’s family and friends awaited their arrival. “My immediate family then adorned Chris’s immediate family with flower garlands to welcome them,” says Maanasa.
Although traditionally not seen in Telugu weddings, my father walked me down the aisle as well as he felt this was a Western tradition he always wanted to do!
“Traditionally in Telugu weddings, the bride is escorted by her maternal uncles,” Maanasa explains. “To incorporate both sides of my family, I walked with two paternal uncles and my two maternal uncles. Although traditionally not seen in Telugu weddings, my father walked me down the aisle as well as he felt this was a Western tradition he always wanted to do!"
During the meaningful walk, Maanasa's uncles held a canopy made from her late maternal grandmother's sari. "By using her sari in this way, I felt that she was part of our ceremony, and it served as a symbol that she would always be watching over me from above," she says. "My mom later told me that when she saw me walking down the aisle toward her in the mandap, she could see my grandmother (her mother) walking alongside me as well. It was a very emotional moment for all of us.”
“The wedding ceremony was officiated by both a Hindu priest as well as one of Chris’s family friends to incorporate both Indian and Western traditions,” says Maanasa.
The couple chose to write their own vows, with Maanasa including an anecdote from the year they were long distance (with Maanasa Boston, and Chris in San Francisco) in hers. She says, "He sent me flowers and loves notes for every month that we were apart—something I looked forward to each time.”
“As part of our traditional Hindu ceremony, Chris and I showered each other with turmeric rice, a part of the ceremony referred to as Talambralu, as a symbol of fertility, prosperity, and happiness,” says the bride. “It was a really beautiful and joyous moment.”
The couple was surrounded by family members as they shared their vows—and first kiss!
“We had live traditional South Indian musicians for our processional and recessional, including a nadaswaram (type of wind instrument) and thavil (hand drum)," Maanasa says. "They played throughout the ceremony as well in key moments.”
Following the ceremony, Maanasa changed into lace-and-crepe gown by Sarah Seven. “After having gone dress shopping several times in San Francisco, I was prepared to show my mom, mother-in-law, and sister the dress that I was intending to buy while on a trip back to New York,” she recalls. “However, when we walked into the studio, all our eyes caught this dress. It was comfortable but flattering, sweet but also very chic." The icing on the cake? The designer was in the studio and gave the Maanasa her seal of approval. She says, "Sarah immediately stopped by our group to give me the thumbs up when she saw me in it!”
Chris donned a custom suit by Indochino monogrammed with the couple’s wedding date.
At cocktail hour, guests nibbled on a colorful display featuring cheeses and fresh produce. The meal at the reception was just as fresh with guests dining on a fresh green market salad, seasonal summer vegetarian pasta, roasted chicken, and wild salmon. “We also passed desserts including a salted brownie, funfetti macarons, carrot cakes, and mini oreo milkshakes that reminded us of something we had at one of our eateries in college!” says the bride.
Floral arrangements in the same bright colors of the mandap decorated rustic tables, while statement-making chandeliers cast a warm light across the property’s barn, where the reception was held. Adds the bride, "There was also a nice, big dance floor for all our guests to dance the night away!”
The couple shared their first dance to Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” Chris also danced with his mother to “How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved By You)” by James Taylor, while Maanasa and her father swayed to “Aatala Paatala” by Jagapathi Babu, followed by “In My Life” by The Beatles.
If the bride has one piece of advice to offer, it’s to get both parts of a couple involved in wedding planning. “Chris and I were equally involved and both really proud of the way it turned out,” says Maanasa. “We found that doing it together made the experience much more fun, converting any stress to excitement instead!”
Ceremony & Reception Venue: Cedar Lakes Estate || Month-Of Coordination: Pink Bowtie Events || Bride’s Dress: Sarah Seven NYC || Bride’s Accessories: Olive + Piper; Jimmy Choo || Groom’s Attire: Indochino || Hair: Boho Hair Salon || Makeup: PreDame || Henna: Mehndi by Monika || Engagement Ring and Bride’s Wedding Band: Nick Engel & Co. || Groom’s Wedding Band: eWeddingBands || Floral Design: Faye & Renee || Invitations: Minted || Wedding Programs: Etsy || Guest Book: Etsy || Music: DJ Jay McElfresh || Rentals: Orange County Party Rentals; Eden USA || Transportation: West Point Tours || Lighting: EventLights Inc. || Sangeet Catering: Bliss Kitchen || Videography: Josh Rank for Elario Photography Inc. || Photography: Edward Winter for READYLUCK