Lavish is an understatement

A palace, an elephant and the Mayor rocket this three-day Hindu wedding into the stratosphere

A palace, an elephant and the Mayor rocket this three-day Hindu wedding into the stratosphere

016, Malani wedding, Big Fat Indian Wedding, January 2013
Atman Shukla , Nikita Malani Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
028, Malani wedding, Big Fat Indian Wedding, January 2013
Jugal Malani , Raj Malani , Mayor Annise Parker , Kathy Hubbard Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Malani wedding, Big Fat Indian Wedding, January 2013, groom on elephant
The groom arrived by elephant for the actual wedding ceremony. Atman Shukla Photo courtesy of © J. Cogliandro Photography
001, Malani wedding, Big Fat Indian Wedding, January 2013
No expense was spared for the elaborate decor of the three-day wedding. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
030, Malani wedding, Big Fat Indian Wedding, January 2013
Rashi Agrawal , Keshuv Agrawal , Khushpn Agrawal Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
027, Malani wedding, Big Fat Indian Wedding, January 2013
Pershant Mehta , Nidhika Mehta Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Indian wedding, statue, January 2013
Recreating the intricate carvings of the Rambagh Palace in Jaipur took Imagination 3D six months. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
008, Malani wedding, Big Fat Indian Wedding, January 2013
Henna paintings on palms and feet are part of the wedding tradition. Rupa Shah Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
032, Indian Wedding, Joe Pachoili, January 2013
Joe Pachoili Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Indian wedding, arches, January 2013
The setting at the Hilton Americas-Houston was a vision of light, color and Indian-inspired design. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
012, Indian Wedding, Mae Safi, Steve Mieczkowski
Mae Safi , Steve Mieczkowski Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
031, Indian Wedding, Samreen Hanin, January 2013
Samreen Hanin Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
005, Malani wedding, Big Fat Indian Wedding, January 2013
Beautiful trinkets were given to wedding guests by "maharajas." Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
023, Malani wedding, Big Fat Indian Wedding, January 2013
Rashmi Sharma , Sunny Sharma Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
021, Malani wedding, Indian Wedding, January 2013, Sharron Melton, Ruchi Mukerjee
Sharron Melton , Ruchi Mukerjee Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
011, Malani wedding, Big Fat Indian Wedding, January 2013
The Hilton Americas-Houston ballroom is readied for the ceremony. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
016, Malani wedding, Big Fat Indian Wedding, January 2013
028, Malani wedding, Big Fat Indian Wedding, January 2013
Malani wedding, Big Fat Indian Wedding, January 2013, groom on elephant
001, Malani wedding, Big Fat Indian Wedding, January 2013
030, Malani wedding, Big Fat Indian Wedding, January 2013
027, Malani wedding, Big Fat Indian Wedding, January 2013
Indian wedding, statue, January 2013
008, Malani wedding, Big Fat Indian Wedding, January 2013
032, Indian Wedding, Joe Pachoili, January 2013
Indian wedding, arches, January 2013
012, Indian Wedding, Mae Safi, Steve Mieczkowski
031, Indian Wedding, Samreen Hanin, January 2013
005, Malani wedding, Big Fat Indian Wedding, January 2013
023, Malani wedding, Big Fat Indian Wedding, January 2013
021, Malani wedding, Indian Wedding, January 2013, Sharron Melton, Ruchi Mukerjee
011, Malani wedding, Big Fat Indian Wedding, January 2013

No one will soon forget the elaborate, wedding extravaganza that closed out 2012 for Nikita Malani and Atman Shukla, who spent the last three days of the year celebrating their marriage in sumptuous grandeur as only Indian tradition can command.

More than 1,000 guests witnessed the elaborate Hindu wedding festivities that began on the first evening with the traditional henna and sangeet celebrations in the ballroom of the Hilton Americas-Houston. It seemed that the bride's parents, Raj and Jugal Malani, spared no expense for the wedding.

"It is our only daughter's wedding and we wanted it to be grand, over the top and very special. An affair that Houston would love to talk about for a long time," Jugal said.

As is often tradition, the dashing groom arrived on an elephant amid a procession of musicians . . . 

In addition to arranging for the music and dance and bountiful servings of food and drink, Jugal Malani tapped Dipak Pindolia of Imagination 3D to recreate the elaborate facade of Rambagh Palace in Jaipur for the evening. Six months in the making, the palace replica extended 168 feet across the beautifully-decorated ballroom and extended 27 feet high with domes and columns as intricately carved as those of the original in India. 

Guests, who included Mayor Annise Parker and Kathy Hubbard, donned their finest bejeweled saris and silk nehru jackets to join the vibrant festivities that featured the music and dance of Bollywood.

While guests were immersed in applying henna on their palms, which is a traditional ritual, close family and friends entertained the couple and guests with various Bollywood dance performances.

(The bride's father, CEO of Unique Industrial Product Co., is a leader in the Indian community, known for numerous charitable endeavors including raising funds for education of the poor in India. He is president of India House Houston.)

The day after the sangeet and henna ceremoies, the wedding was held at Chateau Cocomar, a French-style villa in Champions. As is often tradition, the dashing groom arrived on an elephant amid a procession of musicians beating dhols (double-headed drums) and traditional drums. The procession is known as baraat, which is led by the groom's family and friends and is considered a "royal arrival."

Throughout the three days of ceremonies, the bride looked stunning in Indian fashions created by designers Sabyasachi and Manish Malhotra. 

The wedding ceremony was performed by a local hindu priest under the witness of elders, several spectators, fire (an auspicious element in Hindu marriages) and Lord Ganesha, the half man half elephant God that is considered the deity to dismiss all obstacles.

The grand finale of the three days was a splendid reception hosted at the Hilton Americas where food and drink were bountiful. Coordinating the extravaganza were wedding consultants Schwartz & Woodward, working with Plants & Petals to create the lush setting. The ballroom lobby was transformed into a lavish garden with Maharja's welcoming guests with garlands, decorative pins and other adornments.

Throughout the three days of ceremonies, the bride looked stunning in Indian fashions created by designers Sabyasachi and Manish Malhotra, who design outfits for Bollywood beauties like Arshwarya Rai, a former Miss World.

Appreciating the fun and traditional aspects of these wedding ceremonies and joyfully ringing in the New Year on the final night were Harish and Shashi Jajoo, Sonal and Subodh Bhuchar, Sunny and Rashmi Sharma, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Meena Dutt, Nidhika and Pershant Mehta, Anu Bala, Swatantra, Bimla and Manish Jain and the list goes on.

Ruchi Mukherjee is a lifestyle feature journalist for TV Asia and host of Lights Camera Action, an online magazine that covers Houston South Asian American society news.