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A Fitting Fete
By Elizabeth Jenkins | Photo: Lauren Scotti | December 9, 2016
The marriage between brand director Monika Shah and fashion executive Stuart Leung blended Indian tradition with Chinese culture, and SoCal style with a New York state of mind.
Like many couples, Monika and Stuart started out as friends. But a shared love of music brought them closer in 2010, during their first year of business school in Philadelphia. They hung out in the same circles at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and attended classses and concerts together. That summer, they both worked in Manhattan, and because Stuart had grown up in Chinatown and Queens, he was able to act as her guide.
Fast-forward five years to Big Sur, where Stuart had taken Monika for Easter weekend. After dating long-distance for more than a year post-graduation, they had both settled in Los Angeles. When a random man asked to take their picture during a hike, Monika was suspicious that Stuart might be proposing. As it turned out, that man was a complete stranger, but coincidentally Stuart had planned to pop the question the next day.
After accepting Stuart’s proposal, Monika spent the following year planning what she termed “an East Coast garden party in the desert.” Her family is Indian and his is Chinese, and it was very important to both of them to respect each other’s cultures. The celebration began with an intimate Chinese tea ceremony that only the bridal party and family members attended, at the Gene Autry Residence at The Parker Palm Springs. “That’s where I did all of my crying,” Monika recalls. “While the ceremony was Chinese, the values and concept were resonant with Indian culture, so it was a very special time for both sides,” she says.
To that, Monika wore a red lace qipao lent to her by a close friend. Afterward, she changed into a cream-colored beaded gown for the marriage ceremony on the lawn, where she and Stuart were surrounded by 240 friends and family members. For the reception, both the bride and groom changed again, this time into traditional Indian attire.
Guests got a literal taste of both cultures with dim sum-style appetizers during cocktail hour and Indian food served family-style for dinner. Women were offered bindis and bangles, and the henna station was a unanimous hit. In addition to a lavender-lemon wedding cake, guests were offered golden-fried sesame balls, egg tarts and boba. The dance party began right after the newlyweds’ first number, to “XO” by Beyoncé, and continued until 2 am. The couple’s friend DJ Phil Chang spun Bollywood, pop and ’90s hits. The final act? Nearly two weeks in Bali spent hiking, surfing and reminiscing about their extraordinary day.
Wedding Planner Samantha Dapper Event Design
Bride’s Gowns BHLDN; Frontier Heritage
Bride’s Shoes Stuart Weitzman
Something Borrowed Her dear friend’s custom Chinese qipao
Groom’s Tuxedo The Black Tux
Rings Korshak Diamond Corporation, 213.628.9878
Cake The Parker Palm Springs
Florals Angelena Moio
Venue & Catering The Parker Palm Springs; Natraj
Entertainment West Coast Music
Videographer Shark Pig Weddings