Imagine attending 10 wedding events in a total of four days filled with ceremonies and four nights packed with dancing spread out between two resorts in Bali’s Nusa Dua area. Meanwhile, invitees include hundreds of extended family members, top-charting stars and singers, and VVIP friends to the count of almost a thousand from all around the world, not to mention the finest food, drinks, transport, and more.
For Amit Jethani, the main organiser of The Samba Wedding, the challenge in executing Sanjana Hiranandani-Punjabi and Amrit Punjabi’s union was not about organising a majestic, colossal wedding worthy to be made into its own Crazy Rich Asians book, but rather how to do it above and beyond expectations. The name itself, as one might guess, was inspired by the couple’s love of the Brazilian dance and all the festivities that come with it; however, it also stands for the bride and groom’s name in the first three letters and the island of Bali in the last two.
Such scale is no sweat for Amit who planned his own wedding to Amrit’s sister, Kharisma, eight years ago in Hawaii. Amit also planned his own brother’s wedding three years ago, and has organised many morachi, Diwali festivals, and other parties for his extended families. “We had the same team who did my wedding, and for The Samba Wedding we had to do something different and out of the box,” Amit said. “It took 10 months to prepare the whole thing, and time flew by even faster after we booked The Apurva Kempinski Bali.”
Fitting everyone into the Kempinski proved to be impossible, which was why some guests and events spilled into the nearby Westin Resort Nusa Dua. For the first day on August 14, The Samba Night set off the string of merriments at the Reef Beach Bar—all to the colours and sounds of a chic carnival. Raam and Rakhee Punjabi, Amrit’s parents, welcomed everyone warmly and urged them to enjoy the four-day celebrations, including the performance of festive and feathered Brazilian samba dancers and Latin music to rival those of Rio’s famous carnivals. Dancing till morning followed suit at the Favela afterparty in the Candi Ballroom, where more samba dancers, the Soulful Band, DJ Outkast, and MC Gee Money lit up the starry night.
The same ballroom then morphed into an entirely different venue for the traditional ceremony of Mastani Mehefil—praying for blessings from above and to usher in good tidings for the bride and groom’s new life— which took place the next morning. Both Amrit and his bride, Sanjana, looked radiant in their traditional Indian attire among guests in similar garb and smart-casual looks. Besides dances by professional artists and actors brought directly from India, Rakhee also took part in a traditional dance with other family members to the delight of all.
Afterwards, some retreated into their plush rooms while others strolled around the area—the bride, however, enjoyed the important moment that is the Mehendi party before continuing on to more dancing that night. Akin to a modern bachelorette party exclusively reserved for the bride and her female family members from both sides and friends, Mehendi is even more special as the bride gets her palms, the backs of her hands, and her feet painted in intricate patterns with warm, red–orange henna dye. Sanjana went all-out to not only use motifs to symbolise luck, blessing, joy, and love—and which also included her and Amrit’s portrait.
Not before the henna dried, the bride donned an even more extravagant royal Indian sari to join the handsome groom on a special musical night filled with dancing performances. Just like the rousing and fiery beats of “Swag Se Swagat”, a famous song from the movie Tiger Zinda Hai, Bollywood’s well-known choreographers had vigorously trained family members from both sides for two months for this special night. Coupled with more special local and international appearances from dancers to the band and DJ, the Mangupura Ballroom at The Westin was truly alive.
Choosing Bali as their wedding destination had completed a loop that started when Amrit proposed to Sanjana amid the romantic settings of Mandapa, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Ubud. “It was quite the story because Amrit had to hide the ring all day long and finally managed to hide it in a big piece of fruit during dinner,” Amit said. “She almost found out, so he quickly got on one knee and popped the question.” Her “yes” fully resonated with the love they share between them, and also with Amrit and Sanjana’s own families as their strong support system.
Thus, entering the fully packed third day, beloved friends and family members were even more excited as this was the day for the main wedding reception—but not before they joined the prayers and preparations leading up to the fun Dhol and Bass procession. Along the length of the expansive Kempinski estate, Amrit entered a Mini Cooper and was paraded along the way with all of his beloved cheering and dancing, not to mention that he was hoisted onto the shoulders of one of India’s bests, DJ Khushi.
Once the sight of a gilded gazebo burning orange during the sunset came into view at the hotel’s breezy Ocean Front Lawn, the festive mood turned sacred and solemn: it was the time for vivaah. Tears flowed and smiles bloomed freely once the bridal procession walked up the carpeted lawn to meet her beloved groom who couldn’t help himself but to tightly hug his beloved wife-to-be. This Hindu wedding ceremony then went on with the exchanging of vows, followed by Amrit and Sanjana’s auspicious walk around the sacred fire to signify their bond as husband and wife, and many more rituals to bless their new chapter.
The full moon then rose as clear as the soulful voice of Neha Kakkar, India’s number-one female singer, during the enchanting Moonlit Bliss dinner and entertainment. With so much delicious menus from all around the world created by top chefs, pacing oneself proved to be quite difficult yet a necessity as the party continued on into the deep of the night—starting from switching saris and sherwanis for streetstyle outfits and sneakers perfect for yet more dancing.
No words could explain the energy that exploded in the Candi Ballroom that night as the Rhythm and Beats dance event thumped as fast as the footwork and heartbeat of Sanjana and Amrit, both at the centre of the action. More top DJs blasted their sets from the gigantic stereo-shaped stage made colourful with graffiti painted everywhere in the lively spirit of New York’s hottest hip-hop clubs during the 1980s—until morning rests and downy beds proved to be irresistible to even the most hardcore of partygoers.
This story appears in the September 2019 issue of Indonesia Tatler. For the full story, grab the copy at your nearest newsstand, or subscribe here.