Saarah Sadaruddin and Sunil “Sonu” Lalani’s relationship was fated from the very beginning. “We met in Cancun, Mexico, at a wedding—specifically, during the bouquet toss—in March 2019,” Saarah says. “We didn’t talk for months after, but then I DMed Sonu. He asked me on a date and we met up and never stopped seeing each other after that!” A relationship blossomed, despite inconveniences. “We lived in different cities, and I traveled for a living, so we spent the first year of our relationship traveling to 15 different places, including Japan,” Saarah says.
Shortly after that beautifully chaotic first year, Sonu proposed. “He set it all up: music, candles, flowers, and pictures throughout the whole house,” Saarah recalls. “He had planned the whole day, and had my sisters take me to brunch and nails. It was perfect and romantic and in our beautiful home.”
For their three-day wedding less than a year later, they knew they wanted to return to their relationship roots: Mexico. “We loved Puerto Vallarta because we wanted it to feel like Mexico, and Cancun and Cabo are very Americanized,” Saarah says. In addition to a wedding planner, they enlisted the help of a destination wedding travel agency, Shaadi Destinations, who helped them virtually tour locations and venues; it’s how they found the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, where they held all the wedding’s events.
“The planning process was really organized and fun,” Saarah admits. “We planned a luxury destination wedding in four months. Needless to say, we spent hours every day—and our team spent hours daily—to make sure we had the most perfect wedding. There are a lot of decisions to make; fortunately, we are decisive as a couple.” Read on to see all the colorful details of their June 26, 2021, wedding, planned by Neha Elhence of Nirali Shah Events with on-site coordination by Andrea Garza of Atelier A and photographed by Makenzie Rogers and Andrew Ling Creative.
Saarah and Sonu’s wedding weekend officially kicked off on Thursday with a pithi ceremony. “We wanted a bright, colorful, garden-themed event, so as soon as I laid my eyes on this particular ’fit, I had to have it,” Saarah says of her stunning yellow and orange ensemble.
“The pithi is a traditional ceremony to get the bride and groom ready for their big day and brighten their skin with a turmeric mixture,” planner Neha Elhence explains. The couple had fun with it. “It starts with family and friends blessing you, giving you some cash, and painting you with turmeric,” Saarah says. “Then, the hazing begins! I think this tradition probably started to make sure the man is really clean for the wedding—but today it’s a fun tradition filled with ketchup, raw eggs, mustard. It’s so gross!” She continues: “To keep true to the bright colors, we decided to have people haze Sonu with colored powder and it looked awesome—but his brother and cousins still brought ketchup, mustard, and mayo.”
I love bougainvilleas and the resort was filled with them—it felt like a sign!
The next day, Friday, was the sangeet—and the vibrant red-and-pink vision was led by the bride’s favorite floral. “I love bougainvillea and the resort was filled with them—it felt like a sign!” she says. It also gave her the perfect excuse to wear red. “Red is a traditional wedding color, but I didn’t want to wear it at our reception. I had a different vision,” she says. “But, I still wanted to incorporate it into one of the events, and it paired so well with the bougainvillea decor.” She found her attire for both the pithi and sangeet at Houston boutique Panache.
“The sangeet is a big party, filled with good vibes and dance performances that have been choreographed and practiced for months. It’s the groom’s family and friends versus the bride’s, and definitely the most fun event at traditional Pakistani weddings.” Adds Neha, “At the very end, Sonu surprised his bride with a special dance, and the crowd went wild.”
For the Western wedding day, Saarah aimed for a beauty look that was timeless. “I wanted to avoid trendy things like heavy contouring or lipliner, so that it’s still beautiful decades from now. [I wanted] a look I could go back to ten years later and still feel relevant,” she says.
When it came to her wedding dress, the bride knew it was going to be Pronovias from the start. “The moment I tried it on, I just knew,” she says. “My mom and sister cried.” She paired her long-sleeved gown with a simple gold bracelet that belonged to her grandmother.
The couple’s first look was cut short by impending rain—but was no less special because of it. “We wanted to ease the nerves and have a private intimate experience,” Saarah says. “We also had planned to share our vows privately, but that didn’t happen. We were absolutely rushed because of the storm.” However she notes, “It really did help shake away the nerves.”
The storm passed and they were able to have their ceremony outdoors as planned. Decor—all neutral roses and sage green tones—was lush but controlled. “We wanted it to look like a manicured forest,” Saarah says. An exquisite circular floral arrangement served as the backdrop for the ceremony, with ocean waves crashing just beyond.
Saarah walked down the aisle with her father as a live violinist played. She and Sonu got to exchange their vows after all, and the groom had a surprise up his sleeve. “The most incredible thing happened,” Saarah recalls. “Sonu never sings to me, even though he is very talented. But he sang our wedding vows to me and it was so amazing. I was shocked.”
Bridesmaids wore dresses from BHLDN. Saarah says, “Initially, the dresses was supposed to be sage green, but they didn’t arrive in time. So, we went with another neutral color, and honestly it looked better!”
The bride enlisted her cousin, the artist behind EK Vinyls & More, to create all the signage for the event. Their 110 guests grabbed single pink roses bearing their name from an escort board with a cheeky neon sign reading, “I pick you.”
“Our reception was on the beach. It was important to us to make that the main attraction, so we tried to keep our table decor sort of simple,” Saarah says. “We had large pampas centerpieces. It was also non-negotiable for us to have a platform because we wanted to have our guests wear whatever shoes they wanted to wear, and it’s not easy to walk on sand!” Keeping things al fresco was a game-time decision. “During our events, the weather wasn’t cooperating. But, we went with our gut and lucked out the whole time! Also, rain showers made for pretty sunsets.”
The reception speeches were a memorable moment for more than one reason. “My dad wrote me a poem; it was a tear jerker,” Saarah says. “I actually I got stung by a bee during the speeches at our reception, and for a few minutes I thought my arm was going to fall off. But, we have always had a joke about bees, so it was very fitting.”
“There was another moment that sticks out to me,” she adds. “When we were all dancing to Bruno Mars’ ‘Marry You’ and all of our friends and family surrounded us. It was so sweet.” The moment was captured beautifully by photographer Makenzie Rogers. “Saarah and Sonu’s wedding is one that will stick with me forever,” Makenzie says. “Their love is so strong for each other. It showed effortlessly in their photos. The emotion that came through each photo had me in tears when I delivered their final gallery.”
“We love our family and friends and wanted our wedding to be intimate but an experience,” Saarah says. “We did everything we could to ensure our guests had the best time.” Mission accomplished: “It was such a joyful wedding. We both left smiling, ready to start our marriage!”