Sarah Jiang and Ashwin Thapar’s wedding was a colorful combination of cultures. The couple first met in 2004, as freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania. “We were friends all through college, but we didn’t start dating until we worked at the same hedge fund,” says Sarah. “We kept our relationship a secret, and most of our co-workers didn’t know we were dating until they saw our engagement on Facebook!” Speaking of engagements, a historic New York City blizzard nearly derailed Ashwin’s carefully laid plans: “He’d arranged an elaborate date, from lunch and ice skating to a spa date, then a scavenger hunt and proposal,” Sarah describes. “But almost everything was closed because of the snow!” Instead, he treated his bride to lunch at Eleven Madison Park while friends filled the couple’s apartment with candles that spelled out “Marry Me?” Sarah said yes, of course, and the next day they embarked on the (less snowy) scavenger hunt to some of their favorite East Village restaurants.
Sarah is Chinese and Ashwin is Indian, and the pair knew they wanted to take their guests on a weekend getaway where they could showcase both of their cultures. “We wanted an outdoor venue with a refined, rustic vibe, and Cedar Lakes Estate was the first and only place we visited,” says the bride of the summer camp-turned-event venue. On May 19, 2017, they celebrated with a Chinese tea ceremony—and then the next day, they had a colorful Indian wedding. With traditional details, family recipes, and 150 of their closest family and friends all in one place, this weekend-long celebration, photographed by Bia Sampaio, is unlike any camp wedding you’ve ever seen.
The weekend kicked off with a Chinese tea ceremony overlooking the lake. “This usually takes place at the bride’s and groom’s homes, so we used rentals to create a living room feel,” says Sarah. An ornate red-and-gold love seat was arranged alongside the Chinese character for double-happiness, with towering pines framing the scene.
Ashwin and Sarah (who wore a red and royal blue qipao) led drummers and lion dancers (and their guests!) to the reception. “I bought five dresses online before I found one that fit my vision,” Sarah says.
In addition to the couple's favorite food (like fried chicken and grilled Mahi Mahi), the staff at Cedar Lakes prepared some of Sarah’s mom’s recipes, including sweet-and-sour ribs, spicy cucumber salad, and cold noodles with chili oil. After the lion dancers performed, an indie rock band, MixTape, took to the stage for dancing.
The next day, the couple donned traditional Indian garb for the Hindu ceremony. Sarah purchased a coral gown with gold flower petal details, and then had a seamstress cut it in half to create a lehenga. “It wasn’t a traditional red Indian wedding outfit, but it fit the venue’s more rustic vibe perfectly,” she says. Ashwin wore a gold and dark coral outfit that featured embroidered trim and dark coral details.
Sarah’s bridal henna hid a poignant surprise: the Chinese double-happiness character on her palm! “We had a lounge area set up with a henna artist where guests could henna, as well,” she says.
A stunning mandap was arranged on the lawn, where Manzanita branches and vines were covered in brightly hued peonies and garden roses, and hot pink fabric was draped over the top.
“A Hindu ceremony features the saptapadi, or seven steps, where you take seven steps together as a couple and each symbolizes a promise you make to each other,” says Sarah. “Instead of the traditional version, Ashwin and I wrote our own so that each vow really resonated with us.”
Beneath a ceiling draped in string lights and neutral fabrics, centerpieces popped with bright colors. Arrangements of peonies and roses in shades of pink were surrounded by colorful lanterns and glassware.
Every wedding needs a good surprise, and Sarah and Ashwin’s was no exception. “I rewrote the lyrics to ‘Alexander Hamilton’ and rapped all about our relationship. The chorus was a nod to my joke that Ashwin would take my last name, becoming Ashwin Thapar-Jiang,” she says.
A DJ played all evening, then the couple splurged for what they really wanted at the after party: a 90s rock cover band playing Sum 41 and Blink 182. “As one of the last songs, they played ‘Shout’ by The Isley Brothers. Someone yelled ‘turtle,’ and all of a sudden the entire party was on their backs, flailing their arms and legs in the air,” the bride remembers. Now that’s an after party! It fits Sarah’s advice for other couples, too: “Get the alcohol and music right, and the rest of the decisions won’t matter because everyone will be having too much fun!”
Ceremony & Reception Venue: Cedar Lake Estates
Event Planning & Paper Products: White Hall Events
Hair & Makeup: Lauren + Vanessa
Floral Design: Design House Décor
Catering & Cake: Cedar Lake Estates
Lion Dancers: Wan Chi Ming Hung Gar Institute
Slow Motion Video/Photo Booth: SlowMO Party
Transportation: Rolling V Bus Corporation
Videography: Well Spun Weddings
Photography: Bia Sampaio