Real Weddings

Ekta Solanki & Galia Lahav for a Colourful Wedding at Hawkstone Hall and Gardens – Reena & Chris

03rd August 2020 | Sarah Symonds

Combining English and Indian cultures into the most beautiful wedding, Reena and Chris know what they’re doing! We’re bringing you two very happy people, three stunning gowns and a whole lot of party!

Our couple have pulled off all the unbelievable vibrancy of a traditional Indian wedding (we’re particularly obsessed with the red and gold!) without missing out on any of the classic western elements of the groom’s background.

Planning a fusion wedding with two cultures involved meant that the flexibility and space of the venue was imperative, enabling them to plan their day exactly how they wanted it to work, with a change of location for each major part. And we love the concept of the booklets explaining what’s happening and when, so that all of the guests are included at all points of the day and everyone can throw themselves into having a good time!

But back to the dresses! We cannot get over these three! Reena looks absolutely stunning throughout the day, with each gown as beautiful as the last. Isn’t that just about every bride’s dream?!

With photography by Miki Studios


Reena says: On the 20th of April we went to Cebu in the Philippines and stayed at the wonderful Shangri-La resort. After a day of swimming with whale sharks and jumping into waterfalls, Chris took me to a private, secluded dining experience on “the Island”. The location and experience was beautiful and romantic, raised just above the sea, with beautiful lighting, fish swimming merrily below, romantic music and incredible service, food and bubbles. We had our own private chefs and waiter service, they were incredibly attentive and they would do everything for us. Everything, that is, but leave us alone… Chris waited for three hours, with a ring box in his pocket, for the right moment of privacy and intimacy, but it never came. In the end, the proposal was a simple one. Walking along the beach after dinner, Chris got down on one knee and proposed. Given the rock it was hard for me to say no! The rest is history.


Our wedding was on the 20th of December 2019. In the end, we didn’t want a long engagement and we live in Hong Kong and wanted to get married in the UK. So the date was partly for logistical reasons so that we could spend Christmas with family afterwards. Also, the idea of a winter wedding in a stately home with open fires and that festive feel was incredibly appealing and offered us a great opportunity to get all our families and friends together and start the Christmas celebrations early!

We were married at Hawkstone Hall and Gardens. The Hindu ceremony was first, in the Orangery, an open space big enough for all our guests and the mandap required for the ceremony. It was also a blank canvas, allowing us to apply our own touches, turning the room into a colourful Hindu temple for the day.

The English civil ceremony was held in the Chapel attached to Hawkstone Hall. A beautiful old Catholic Chapel which had been tastefully refurbished, offering a nice combination of tradition with a modern feel.

We chose this venue because it allowed us to have options of how we wanted to do our wedding and offered different rooms for that to happen. Our wedding consisted of a Hindu ceremony, an Indian street food lunch, a civil ceremony, the drinks reception, the wedding breakfast and a party! Each event took place in a different room and we had so much to pack in, so the availability of rooms was key to making this wedding work.


As Chris is English, from a Catholic background, and I’m from an Indian and Hindu upbringing, we wanted the day to be a fusion of these two cultures – focusing on the tradition, the food, the music and the dancing. We made our ceremonies personal to us, both Hindu and civil.

For the Hindu ceremony, we focused on the most important parts of the ceremony and the pre-events we would normally have at an Indian wedding, like a Mendhi party. Given it was just a one day wedding, we focused on the key elements and made sure the room was bright and colourful, to reflect the Indian culture. This ceremony took place in the Orangery, which was a nice blank space to work with. I wanted vibrant colours like red, gold and orange to reflect what a wedding looks like in the Indian culture.

For the English civil ceremony, we went for traditional and seasonal with lots of greens, white, church candles and fairy lights in the chapel. We kept to fresh colours but all of the candles made it warm and inviting and festive. We personalised it too, as we chose readings that were read by Chris’ sisters, and we had the best man and his wife singing too. This, alongside the experience of being in the chapel was so special.

We had Mehndi artists in the afternoon, following the Indian street food lunch, so our guests could enjoy the authenticity of a Hindu celebration, there was lots of dancing and it was all a real fusion.


I had three dresses. The first was an Indian dress by Etka Solanki. I kept it traditional and went for red and gold to reflect a traditional, regal looking bride. I loved the look and was only sad I couldn’t stay in the dress for long! I also wore Christian Louboutin shoes.

My second dress, for the civil ceremony, was a white, fitted, backless gown with a small train. This was a very romantic, elegant, classy dress. I was genuinely shocked by the reaction of guests when I wore this! I have always loved the designer, Galia Lahav, and I always knew I would have a dress by her. Her backless dresses are so feminine and sparkly – everything I wanted! I was lucky enough to attend a trunk show and to meet Galia Lahav representatives. They were so professional and helpful and I knew I had to have my dress by them.

For the reception I wore a gold princess lengha filled with sparkles, also by Ekta Solanki. I wanted to wear a dress with a western yet bollywood feel and, whilst this was so heavy to wear, I loved it. It also represented a fusion of both of our cultures and it was so beautiful to end with that dress. From start to finish, Ekta was so professional and a perfectionist. She really listened to what I wanted and made that vision come to life. She was an absolute pleasure to work with and made the wedding planning process so much fun!


We purchased Chris’ Indian outfit from India and we were so happy when it arrived as it fit perfectly! He also wore a blue suit from Suits Direct with a white shirt, red tie, handkerchief, brown shoes and a waistcoat.

The best men outfits were also from India and they wore a sherwani that was a rich purple colour with gold embroidery. Then, for the civil ceremony, they wore the same as Chris but without the waistcoat. Suits Direct were incredibly good value and very accommodating.


Bridesmaid dresses were from ASOS. They were a mixture of blush and grey colours. The range of dresses and different styles made it easier to pick the right dresses for my bridesmaids. There was something to suit everyone and it was good value.


Reshma Patel was my makeup and hair artist. Her work is stunning and I knew I wanted her for my big day. We had a FaceTime meeting and she put me at ease immediately when working out the logistics for the two looks I was going for. On the wedding day, she was calm, professional and a really fun person to hang out with whilst I was getting my makeup and hair done. My bridesmaids were all done by Emily Arnold.


Miki Studios’ Ash was our photographer. Photography, for me, was going to be one of the most important areas we invest in, given that photographs are for life. Coming from an Indian background, I am so used to going to Asian weddings where you often see four or more photographers that are loud, invasive and ask you repeatedly to do the same thing over and over to get the shot. I did not want this and, together with Chris, wanted candid, natural, in-the-moment photographs. We agreed that we wanted to see emotions captured in our photos, along with the significant events occurring throughout the day. So I began my research by looking up websites online and using Instagram. When I came across Miki Studios, I instantly fell in love with the way they captured images and their style.

Our wedding day itself, Ash was so professional and discreet to the point I didn’t remember seeing him very much but I am glad to say, having seen our photos, we have some beautiful memories captured.


Mick from Miki Studios then filmed our big day. I first spoke with Mick via FaceTime to talk about his work and the possibility of doing our wedding. On those first impressions, I immediately knew that he would be the kind of person I would want on our special day. He was personable, asked such important questions and made an effort to get to know who Chris and I were as a couple.

Chris and I met Mick to do a pre-shoot in London and he immediately put us at ease and we just had a laugh!

When we received the video we were blown away, Mick managed to capture all the key moments with such incredible quality it was almost better than the real thing. Chris and I felt like movie stars, our family and friends rave about the video and I must confess I still watch the trailer almost daily over 6 months on (and still get emotional).


I carried white cascading orchids which were so beautiful, whilst my bridesmaids carried white roses. Joseph Massie used roses, hydrangeas, and other white flowers with lots of greens for the venue styling too. The team were so professional to work with and they met me at the venue to work out what was needed. This was done so well and I appreciated their thoughts and guidance on this.

We also had hanging tea lights and candles and fairy lights. Perfect Petals & Co created a feature wall and, even though they stumbled across an issue, they got on with it and made sure our jungle wall was a cool feature in our wedding.


The bags we put together as favours reflected our lives; Hong Kong with a small metal badge symbolising double happiness, treacle toffee (‘Treacle’ is what Chris calls me) and heart-shaped Cumbrian butter fudge because Chris is from Cumbria. Both of which were made by Chris’s best man’s business Country Flavour. They outdid themselves and our guests still talk about the fudge and toffee, and they made the heart shapes especially for us!


We had a three-tier classic white cake with gold leaf and gold initials. We went for elderflower and lemon and chocolate flavours. Fiona Hackshall from Bespoke Celebration Cakes made our cake. She was lovely to work with and was so adaptable to what we wanted! Plus the cake was delicious!


For the Indian street food lunch, we had a mixture of canapes that reflected Punjabi street food and all foods you eat at a time of celebration.

For the wedding breakfast, we gave our guests three options from the starters and main, and two from the desserts. This was a lot of logistical planning on my part! One of the dishes, pie and mash, was chosen because Chris and I love it! One of our most fun dates in East London was at a pie and mash restaurant!

In addition, there was mulled wine served to add a festive element and evening food of cake and cheese boards!

Tanners, the local wine merchant in Shrewsbury, supplied the wine. We had Veuve Clicquot for the top table, Tanners Prosecco Brut, Treviso, Tanners Sauvignon, Pays d’ Oc 2018, Las Pampas Malbec, Mendoza 2018. The venue also had a well-stocked bar, including our special request of Thatchers Cider for Chris’ Dad’s side of the family, who come from the West Country.


We had Craig Owen playing the violin accompanied by a pianist. We found Craig online and his cover of All of Me by John Legend blew us away. He added a feeling of style and sophistication to the day. He plays incredible music and a really nice guy.

We then had DJ Jas (Jas Singh), who played the dhol during the Indian ceremony and then the tabla during the street food lunch. He provided the entertainment for our reception party. DJ Jas was chosen because he’s a family friend who has performed at a number of family events and always does a great job.

We had Mehndi artists in the afternoon, following the Indian street food lunch, so our guests could enjoy the authenticity of a Hindu celebration, with the food and classic Indian music playing. Sunny B Mendhi Artists was chosen because of her great Instagram profile. Sunny B was so friendly and professional to work with and our guests had a wonderful time getting their mendhi done.

The evening entertainment was again a fusion. As Reena is Punjabi too, her family love music and to make an entrance. We had the dhol players and our families danced their way in! To kickstart our reception party, we had Lions of Punjab do a bhangra dance performance. We’d seen them before at my sister’s wedding and they created a lot of energy and excitement in the room!

Special touches

We had ceremony booklets for the Indian part of the day, which outlined all the steps performed during the ceremony. Our friendly and engaging priest also ensured the audience was involved and part of our ceremony, which was really special for me and Chris.The civil ceremony booklet included the roles of everyone special who was involved in our wedding and why.

The fact that my sisters did a speech was special to me and the lovely things they said, which I’ve never heard before! We were also touched to have both Hannah and Catherine, Chris’ sisters, do readings during our civil ceremony, and we had Chris’s nephew, Aaron, as the ringbearer whilst Amelie, his niece, was our flower girl.

We loved the neon sign that said The Gogmells, a hybrid of our names, at the reception party and the way it was positioned on the jungle wall we had hired.

The theme of the table plans was Christmas movies, to get everyone in the mood for Christmas. We had fairy lights during the wedding breakfast to create warmth, and then there was mulled wine and mince pies put out at the reception party alongside the cheeseboard.

Best bit

The ceremonies were our best bit! They were so personal to us, and that is where I could truly be with Chris and it was about us. The meaning behind the ceremony was shared with our families and I felt like everyone was there with us, supporting us.

Because the hindu ceremony had the booklet explaining all the steps, I loved seeing how much our guests embraced it.


We had decided that we would go on our honeymoon later on in the year but we knew that it would be nice to have some ‘us’ time after a crazy build up of the wedding and then the wedding itself! As Chris’ family live in Cumbria, he had arranged for us to stay at Linthwaite House Hotel near Windermere, in the Lake District. We had a beautiful room with a spa tub! We also were able to dine in Henrock, Simon Rogan’s restaurant. It was a wonderful few days of reminiscing on our wedding whilst relaxing and eating amazing food! We are planning to do a bigger honeymoon to New Zealand, south island and Fiji.


Just make sure on the day you have appointed roles for your bridal party, as you’ll be too busy on Cloud Nine and in the moment of enjoying your day – as you should be! Try and take time out during the day to just take it all in, it is a special day and flies by.

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