Hindu and Sikh Traditions Came Together at This Elegant Malibu Wedding

Sharan Keswani, the director of retention marketing at clean beauty brand Skylar, had just joined the dating app The League when Deepak Ramanathan, a director at a private equity firm, was one of her first matches. They exchanged a few messages and then decided to meet at a local restaurant called Little Sister for dinner and drinks. “He always says, ‘You tricked me!’ because I was living in Orange County at the time, but put ‘Los Angeles’ as my location. Can’t blame a girl for widening her net!” Sharan jokes. “His profile said he was Australian—and I loved Australian accents, so naturally, I had to meet him in person to see if the accent checked out.” Needless to say, it did, and after a few hours of good food and even better banter, they shut down the restaurant that night. The couple went on to date for about two years—“long distance” as Deepak likes to tell people because of the 50 or so miles between them.

In May of 2019, Sharan and Deepak drove to Malibu under the pretense of a celebratory “work dinner” after the closing of a big deal. Upon arrival, Deepak cruised right past the restaurant and simultaneously asked Sharan to put on a blindfold. “It was pretty clear what was about to happen at that point, but I still anxiously went along in anticipation,” Sharan remembers. “Moments later, as we walked out onto the beach, Deepak realized he forgot the ring in the car and told me, ‘wait here!’ I laughed in my head thinking, where am I going with a blindfold on? He returned and said, ‘You can remove the blindfold now.’” Deepak had adorned a nearby blanket with flower petals and photos of the couple from over the years. “Just as it began to rain, he asked me to marry him,” Sharan says. “I was elated. It was one of the happiest moments of our lives.” The surprises continued when they met Sharan’s family for dinner afterwards—and then their closest friends for an engagement party the day after.

The original wedding was supposed to be in Palm Springs. Both Sharan and Deepak love the outdoors, and they felt that Palm Springs—with its desert plants, starry skies, and mountain backdrop—perfectly encompassed their vibe. “When we ultimately decided to postpone our wedding [due to the pandemic], we thought things would get better after a few months, but unfortunately, things were still very uncertain,” Sharan remembers. “With Deepak’s parents in Australia and the borders closed over there for the foreseeable future, we made the tough call to cancel our four-day Palm Springs wedding.”

They still wanted to celebrate in some capacity, even if it meant that most of their friends and family would be attending via Zoom. “We decided to do something closer to home so that our local family and friends wouldn’t have to travel far under the circumstances,” Sharan explains. “Choosing Malibu felt like it was where our wedding was meant to be.”

They had two ceremonies—each representing one of their cultural backgrounds—and the couple worked with Smita Mohindra of Ethnic Essence to plan it all. On a Friday morning in February, eleven guests gathered at the Malibu Temple for a small South Indian Hindu ceremony, with a few friends and family and Deepak’s parents Zooming in from Australia. The temple, nestled in the mountains, set the scene for the kind of quaint, quiet ceremony that the couple was hoping for. Sharan wore a traditional Kanjivaram saree for the occasion. “They are woven from pure mulberry silk thread and designs are inspired by nature,” Sharan explains. “My mother-in-law chose this particular saree for me, in my favorite color yellow. I loved the delicate texture, intricate patterns, and subtly regal style of it.” Deepak wore the traditional South Indian groom’s attire—a two-piece garment known as a veshti and a silk angavastram draped around his neck.

“Having a small ceremony really allowed us to be present and in-tune with the different rituals and customs being performed,” Sharan says. “Each custom was so unique and symbolic…I truly felt like, ‘This is it, we did it!’ when we exchanged garlands with each other. We garlanded each other three times to symbolize our commitment to a life together.” 

In the first two exchanges, Deepak placed his garland over Sharan, but for the final exchange, they garlanded each other at the same time to show that they accept each other as equals. This was followed by their vows. 

“As someone who grew up watching rom-com marathons on TBS, I always imagined exchanging personalized vows that were filled with inside jokes and heartfelt sentiments,” Sharan says. “However, there is something really romantic and timeless about the seven vows, taken in steps, at a Hindu wedding. They have been honored, repeated, and followed through the centuries. As I held Deepak’s hand and we recited the vows together and stepped forward symbolically onto 7 flowers, one for each vow, I felt united.” After exchanging rings—three including mettis, or toe rings—family and friends showered the newlyweds with flower petals as a token of their love and blessings for the couple’s new life together.

On Sunday, the celebration continued at the Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, with friends who arrived with their negative COVID tests in hand. “It was truly a momentous day for us to see so many of our family and friends after a year long quarantine,” Sharan says. “That extended separation only made this celebration more sweet.”

Since Deepak’s parents and many of his friends and family from abroad weren’t able to attend in-person, Sharan wanted to make sure he still felt loved and supported during his baraat (wedding procession). “Many of my friends were with me getting ready, and it was the warmest feeling to be surrounded by them,” Sharan says. “Even though I wanted them to stay until the ceremony started, I urged them to join Deepak for the baraat to share with him that feeling of warmth that I’d felt in their presence.”

Traditionally, the groom enters on a horse, but Deepak is a car lover so Sharan surprised him with a convertible Ferrari instead. He cruised into the baraat accompanied by his favorite 90s and 00s hip-hop songs mashed up with Bollywood hits. Friends and family danced alongside him to kick off the Sunday festivities.

Once Deepak had made his grand entrance, the Anand Karaj (Sikh wedding ceremony) followed. “As I walked down the aisle with my parents, I felt at peace that we had finally made it to this day after so many ups and downs over the course of the past year,” Sharan says. “Sitting down next to Deepak at that moment I truly felt like a bride.”

For the Anand Karaj, Sharan wore a traditional Lehenga from Astha Narang. “I met with Astha in February 2020 to design what I was envisioning,” Sharan says. “I wanted something classic and timeless that would last forever in my closet. We focused heavily on embroidery and subtle floral motifs. Traditionally, brides wear red for their weddings, but I opted to wear a dusty rose in keeping with the soft hues I wanted for our overall color palette of our ceremony.” Sharan paired this with a Kundan jewelry set and red wedding Chura (bangles worn by a bride to signify her married life ahead).

“Sikh ceremonies are typically very serious in nature. During the kirtan, a shabad, or hymn, is sung to signify that marriage is not just a social and civil contract, but a spiritual process uniting two souls so that they become one inseparable entity,” Sharan explains. “After the year we had, we really have become inseparable.”

After the Anand Karaj, guests gathered for a mini-reception, and Sharan changed into a wine colored gown designed by Reynu Taandon. “I was absolutely in love with the deep cut back,” she says. She paired the dress with a diamond and ruby gold necklace and earring set that her parents gifted to her. Nida Gazi from Beauty by NG pulled together the bride’s look with romantic hair and makeup.

Typically langar, or food that is blessed, is served following the Anand Karaj. Because of COVID, tables were arranged by household, boxed lunches with fusion-style food like Tikka Ravioli, Chili Garlic Hakka Noodles, and Achari Paneer Tacos were prepared by Mantra Cuisine, and drinks like Mango Lassi and Mint Masala Soda, were individually served. “Making our guests feel comfortable was our priority,” Sharan says. “And while the traditional aspects of a post-wedding reception, like tearing up the dance floor and dance performances by friends were missed, the newlyweds were just happy to be in the company of family and best friends.”