Tahsina Islam and Saif Chowdhury first met in September 2012 at their college club fair and immediately hit it off as friends. But it took Saif "blurting out his love" for Tahsina for him to ask her on a date. Six years later, he made yet another grand gesture—this time, with a traditional Bengali proposal! “In Bengali culture, there is a formal event where the groom’s parents bring gifts and sweets to the bride’s parents’ home and present a formal proposal, then the bride’s parents go to the groom’s parents’ house with gifts to accept it," Tahsina explains. "So after we had our parents meet, the formal proposal took place.”
The couple knew they would have a huge wedding (with almost 900 guests over the course of three events!), and gave themselves nine months to plan their July 2018 celebration. On July 4, they were married in an Islamic ceremony called a nikkah, then on July 7 they celebrated with a Bengali pre-wedding ceremony called a gaye holud, and on July 8, they capped it all off with a huge reception with 700 guests in attendance. “The guest list was the hardest part of planning,” says Tahsina. “South Asian weddings are huge events, and you’re expected to invite everyone you and your parents have ever met. Our compromise was that each set of parents got to invite 300 people to the reception!”
With such a large guest list, Tahsina and Saif were pleased to find venues that could accommodate the crowd. Their religious ceremony was at a mosque in Long Island City, where Tahsina’s father is on the board, and the gaye holud took place at Five Star Banquet Hall, a Bangladeshi-owned venue that could easily fit 300. Finally, the reception was held at Crest Hollow Country Club, with beautiful outdoor space and ample room for 700 people, on day three. “It allowed us to have more rustic, American décor at the reception, which I really loved,” says the bride.
Keep reading to see this couple's colorful, cultural wedding week, as photographed by Towards the Moon!
“I found my red and gold sari at a shop in Jackson Heights called Pashmina,” says Tahsina. “It was made in India, and then the shop owner helped me customize it with sleeves and a scarf.”
Saif donned a gold sherwani with a scarf that matched Tahsina’s. The bride finished her ensemble with intricate henna and gold jewelry, as well as a mix of gifts from Saif’s family and pieces borrowed from her grandmother.
Before the religious ceremony, Saif followed another tradition from Bangladesh—negotiating with Tahsina’s family to agree on a sum of money that would "gain him entry to the venue." “It was hilarious hearing my family chanting ‘No money, no honey,’" Tahsina says with a laugh.
She and Saif followed the traditional ceremony, which was special to their families. But looking back, they wish they had added their own personalized vows to the Bengali ceremony. “We didn’t want to make our guests uncomfortable by adding American traditions, but we should have done it anyway,” says the bride.
On July 7, Tahsina wore another intricate outfit, this one a custom lehanga in bold blue with gold floral embroidery. “My mother-in-law brought floral jewelry from Bangladesh for me to wear for the gaye holud,” says the bride.
At a gaye holud, both families bring gifts and trays full of sweets and fruit to decorate the main stage. “We had performances by our friends, with lots of choreographed dances to Indian music,” says Tahsina. “I did a surprise dance for Saif with my friends that night, and he and his friends performed for us at the reception the next day.” The final performance was with all of their friends and siblings, comprising two songs and 37 dancers!
At the end of the night, guests waved sparklers while the newlyweds made their exit—they had one more celebration to rest up for!
For the reception on July 8, Tahsina donned a gorgeous blush dress, covered in luxe embroidery. “We had a hard time finding something that my mother and mother-in-law both liked, but when we spotted this one it took everyone’s breath away!” she says.
“I tried to give my bridesmaids as much flexibility as possible with their attire,” says Tahsina, who asked her friends to wear shades of light blue, sage green, or gray to the reception. “Everyone has their own style, and I knew asking them to get three different outfits was a lot, so I tried to be understanding and make it easy for them.”
Guests enjoyed a spread of Italian and Indian specialties as Tahsina and Saif took their places on a stage topped with rustic arches of hydrangeas and roses.
After the ceremony, the pair served a strawberry shortcake topped with a rustic cake topper and cascades of fresh flowers. “Our wedding was a whirlwind, and things did go wrong, but we made sure to have as much fun as we possibly could, no matter what,” says Tahsina. “Enjoying yourselves is the most important thing!”
Wedding Coordinator: Kaotic Soundz
Ceremony Venue: MAS Ibn Sina
Gaye Holud Venue: Five Star Banquet Hall
Reception Venue: Crest Hollow Country Club
Officiant: Khalid Latif
Hair & Makeup: Makeup By Shams
Bridesmaids' Dresses: Lashkaraa
Engagement Ring: Bianca Jewelers
Paper Products: Vista Print
Catering: Heritage Indian Restaurant
Music: Kaotic Soundz
Videography: Towards the Moon
Photography: Towards the Moon