16 December, 2014

That Bride: Kanchan Porta Panjabi

16 December, 2014
This month on That Bride, we sat down and talked to events and PR maverick Kanchan Porta Panjabi about her traditional Indian marriage ceremony to Albert Porta Gutierrez. Pay attention brides-to-be, Kanchan planned a ten day long marriage programme and has loads of tips and tricks to share (as well as the most romantic firefly proposal we’ve ever heard).


All love stories have to begin somewhere. How did you two meet?
We ended up meeting at one of my dear friend’s famous Chai Wan parties. Albert happened to be at the window and I went over to get some fresh air, so I struck up a conversation with him. He seemed like an interesting guy and it helped that we could actually hold a conversation for more than 15 minutes.

Where was your first date?
We had dinner at Ricos (which I foolishly assumed he’d like seeing as he was Spanish) followed by drinks at the new Mandarin Oriental. They nearly didn’t let him into the Mandarin as he wasn’t dressed smartly enough; he was wearing flip flops and a wife beater. After some time spent convincing the lady at the door, she was lovely enough to let us stay.


Can you tell us about the first time he said he loved you?
It was when he asked me to move in with him. This was a few months after we started dating.

We’re dying to know about your proposal. What was it like?
It was February and Albert had planned a trip Donsol in the Philippines for us to go diving with the whale sharks. Since we both love diving, I was thrilled.

We arrived there late afternoon, checked in to our room and then sat by the beach. That night he told me he had planned a tour for us in the mangroves- something relaxing to start off our long weekend together.  Up till this point, he seemed like he was constantly on edge. I didn’t think too much of it as I just thought it was typical Hong Kong work stress. When we arrived at the riverside where the mangroves were, I discovered that he had booked a small private boat for us to go out and see the fireflies.

It was pitch black and we had a guide who unfortunately would not shut up. As the guide told us about the story of the grove, suddenly the trees around us lit up like Christmas. It was all the fireflies. I had never seen anything like it, these flies filled up the trees with a stunning symphony of pale yellow light.  I was curious to see what they looked like up close, so the guide went over to the top of the boat to grab a fly for me to look at. As he left, I turned away to look at Albert in excitement and there he was on one knee. He mumbled something very quickly and then showed me a small blue velvet box. I smiled, put on the ring and said yes. He was so nervous that although he had planned a speech, it was all a big mess.

It wasn’t over yet though! When I opened the door to our room, it was full of candles, flowers and, of course, champagne. Everything about it was perfect.


Tell us about the ring.
It was a bit different for us since I wanted to be a bit more traditional. He had to ask my dad for my hand in marriage before he bought the ring. Looking back on the whole thing, it’s kind of funny that I knew we were getting married before he had even given me a ring.

As I come from a family of jewelers, there was no doubt that my father would make my ring. Ever since I was a child, I knew that I never wanted a diamond ring. I just find them a bit boring. I told Albert what the stone I wanted was and left the rest to him and my father.

The stone I chose is called a Paraiba, which is a super rare stone sourced from Brazil or Africa. My uncle actually goes to the mines and buys stones, so he helped to source the perfect round, flawless stone.


What did you do for your hen party? We want the dirty details.
We had dinner in Soho and then spent a crazy night out dancing on tables in Dragon-I. Yes, yes, I know that it sounds like any other night out, but I grew up in Hong Kong and Dragon-I just feels like home.

Did you have a bridal shower? If you did, what did you wind up doing?
It was thrown by my close girl friends at Grass Roots Pantry, which is one of my favourite places in town. Amazing food, great games and just a beautiful day with the girls!


How did you go about planning your wedding? Did you go the DIY route or did you hire a wedding planner to help you out?
Where do I start? There was a lot to think about, but it was all so much fun. I started by looking at bridal magazines and books for things I liked, then I created an overall design around what I loved best. The first thing I decided upon was a logo, then a pattern for invitations and the day programme and then all the themes and ideas naturally followed.

I did get a wedding planner as I wasn’t in India all the time- I ended up doing most of my planning from a distance! He did a great job helping us secure the venues we wanted, but I ended up doing a lot of work because he wasn’t too detail-oriented. I had a clear picture of my big day in my mind and if things didn’t match up, I’d find a way to make it happen. I became quite good as solving problems at the last minute and had to learn to trust that it would all work out. Working in India isn’t the easiest thing; people are quite laid back over there.


Tell us about the dress.
Well, there was more than one dress since the wedding was 10 days long! One thing I learned from the whole experience was to go with your heart- if something feels right, it probably is.

Each of the dresses was quite unique; I spent months looking at magazines and visiting designers. For the Indian outfits, I decided to go with choosing between a mix of designers and also some off the rack pieces as the beadwork on the dress takes about 6 -8 months. If you design a dress and don’t like the finished product, there’s hardly time left to change it. For the reception dinner, the dress was a 10kg Lengha (a traditional skirt, top and swal) in fuchsia and gold.

We also had a western sit down dinner and I designed the dress for that myself. The tailors who made it for me in Hong Kong really screwed it up though, so I had to take it to India and get the bottom half redone. After about 50 metres of fabric and lots of fittings, I must say that I was in love with it. So be sure to go with your gut and get what you want!

To anybody choosing their dress right now, I’d say:

  1. Do your research.
  2. See as much as you can- there’s so much out there.
  3. Go with your gut! And relax, everything will work out.


What was the wedding like?
Um, well, the wedding was 10 days long and each day was full of special memories. The official wedding ceremony was on November 9th at the Gurdwara. It started at 6 am with a hair appointment and I was ready at about 9 am.

Then at 9:30 am the groom arrived on a horse with the traditional Baraat. A Baraat is a procession of men and women from the groom’s side of the family accompanied by cheerful music and ends with the bride’s family welcoming them with shehnais (Indian flutes) as they fetch the bride. This gives place to the actual Milni, which literally means and is a meeting. The groom arrived at our house where the meeting of parents, families, bride and groom took place. After this a small prayer was recited, then Albert and I got into our vintage car for a 30-minute ride to the Sikh temple.

Traditional wedding ceremonies are usually officiated by a Guru. Since my family has a Guru that we’ve followed for years, we flew him down down from Amritsar in Panjabi to perform the ceremony.  I must say that I was a bit nervous about this, as sometimes in cross-cultural marriages, people can find the traditions a bit long and impersonal. However, it ended up being a beautiful ceremony that left everyone in tears. It was followed by a lunch at our home and then that evening was the wedding reception at the City Palace.


Everyone remembers their first dance. What song did you choose?
Bonita by Chacho Brodas Remixtape.

What’s the most valuable thing you learned while wedding planning?
It was one of the best times of my life and I realised that I have a real passion for event planning. That’s why I decided to start my own PR & Events business.

IMG_0197Have any tips and tricks for brides-to-be?
I have so many! This list can go on and on but here are a few:

  1. Enjoy the moment, you only get to experience it once.
  2. If things don’t go exactly as you envisioned, don’t worry about it. Just let go, relax and remember to enjoy yourself.
  3. Remember to focus on yourself as well! There’s so much to do that it’s easy to forget about your own well-being.
  4. Be spontaneous, that’s when the real magic happens.


What do you remember most about the entire experience?
All the love that surrounded us – it was such an incredible feeling. It’s probably the only time that your family and friends come together to celebrate your love and happiness like this. There were so many people from all over the world and having everyone in one place for ten days was just the most amazing thing ever. I could not have been more blessed.

Is there anything you would have liked to do differently?
I would have tried not to get too stressed in the lead up to the events.


And that brings us naturally to your honeymoon. Where did you end up going?
Our first mini honeymoon was right after our wedding. An uncle of mine bought us a one-night stay at my favorite place in Jaipur: The Rambagh Palace Hotel. We also got an amazing couple’s massage. It’s such a spectacular place and the trip was full of meaning as my parents spent their first night after their wedding there too.

A month later, we ended up spending long weekend at The Farm in the Philippines for some much needed rest and relaxation.

Who helped you look and feel your best on your big day?
Being a health coach, I am continually working on my self. But the one activity that helped was yoga. My yoga studio in Jaipur, Yoga Peace, was absolutely incredible. In Hong Kong, I regularly go to Pure Yoga.


What companies, individuals and businesses in Hong Kong helped you out to create your perfect day?
My hair dresser, who I’ve been using for over 14 years now! His name’s Kenny Pau from Il Culpo Group in Prince’s Building. Juhi Ahluwalia from VLCC in Jaipur did my make-up as well.


We love a good wedding story, which is why we have our own treasure trove of That Bride interviews on the site. Sate your fill and check out other cinematic romances, or if you’re planning your own wedding, take a look at our Hong Kong wedding planning guides!



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