For Neil Shah and Urvi Tailor, cramming the night before a chemistry exam their freshman year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign paid off — with more than good grades. “I noticed her around campus, and when I saw her at the library studying the same book, I decided to ask her a question,” says Shah. That moment led to countless study sessions, a proposal upon medical school graduation and, finally, a wedding, nine years after they first met. Starting May 23, Shah and Tailor kicked off four days of celebrations with mehndi, an Indian tradition that involves Henna application for the bride and her bridal party to symbolize a strong marriage bond and fertility. The next day, 400 guests gathered at Jay Shree Swaminarayan Temple in Itasca for raas-garba, an evening of folk dancing and performances by friends and family. Day three marked pithi, a ceremony where the bride and groom — celebrating separately — were covered with a turmeric-based yellow paste for good luck.
The celebration culminated May 26 with Shah and Tailor’s wedding ceremony. The groom arrived at Rosemont Convention Center on horseback, and Tailor entered wearing a red lengha. They were led to the mandap, a pillared structure, where — in front of more than 500 guests — the couple circled a fire four times to solidify their marriage. After leaving by horse and carriage, Shah and Tailor joined guests at the reception, where authentic Punjabi food and desserts flown in from India kept guests fueled until 3 a.m. “It was the little traditions that made the day special,” says Shah. But it was the emotion-filled moment when Tailor’s family gave her away that stood out most. “They were tears of joy and love,” says Shah.
Story by Katerina Bizios | Photos courtesy Pramod Rathod Photography