(Photography by Deborah Coleman)

Wedding Inspiration: Hindu and Chinese traditions blend at an East Bay winery

Linda Kuo and Nayan Desai had a perfectly picturesque engagement: just the two of them, beneath a waterfall, after hiking through a bamboo forest in Maui.

But such a moment is also a set-up. The question becomes: how to top it when the real big day comes.

In search of a stunning outdoor venue that was close to home for the couple and their local families and could hold a whopping 250 guests, Kuo and Desai settled on Nella Terra Cellars in sunny Sunol, where they would be surrounded by gilded rolling hills and fields of grapes. The place was "just what we were looking for—an oasis within the hustle and bustle of the Bay Area," says Kuo.

But the real trick was in pulling off a western wedding that would properly celebrate the traditions and rituals of their Hindu and Chinese cultures. The day before the wedding, henna was applied to the bride's hands and feet in a mehndi ceremony intended to bestow upon her and the marriage good health and prosperity (henna is also believed to cool the nerves). And in a pithi ceremony on the morning of the wedding, a gold-toned paste is applied to the face, arms, and legs of the couple to cleanse, purify, and offer good fortune. Afterwards, they had a Chinese tea ceremony, pouring cups for their elders.

"During the wedding ceremony, we incorporated three elements of a traditional Hindu wedding," Kuo recalls: "Varmala—exchanging of floral garlands (which symbolizes a pledge to one another); hastmelap—joining of the hands (which symbolizes unity); and mangala sutra—where the groom gifts a necklace to the bride (symbolizing a married woman)."

The couple aimed to let the natural surrounds shine, selecting a classic, muted palette of ivory and gold and keeping the decor and flowers to a minimum. A few handmade signs were set in place, string lights hung overhead, and coral-hued florals graced the arch, cake, and bouquets of the bridal party.

The lovebirds also created a wall with photos of every last one of their 250 guests; each photo carried the guest's table assignment. "It was a very time-consuming project finding everyone's pictures, especially those without social media, but it was worth it in the end," the bride says. "We loved seeing our guests' reactions when they found their photos!"

The newlyweds and their loved ones capped the night with cupcakes, dancing, and lounging by the fire pit.


Venue: Nella Terra Cellars

Dress: BB Bridal

Shoes: Badgley Mischka

Flowers: My Wedding Sense

Mehendi: Neeta Desai Sharma

Cake: Danville Bakery

Cupcakes: Cat's Cupcakery

Photography: Deborah Coleman