Monica Shukla & Kushal Shah

Monica Shukla & Kushal Shah

Some men choose a palm-laden island as a proposal destination. Not Kushal Shah. He popped the question to his girlfriend, Monica Shukla, at curbside pickup at the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Anything more extravagant, and his smart, doctor girlfriend, who was returning from a job interview, would have been onto him. “He was looking for shock value,” Monica says. He got it. After Kushal slipped the round-cut diamond onto her finger, the couple hopped into a limo and made an evening of it, retracing the sites of their first dates.

The pair was set up through a friend in 2011, while each was in a residency program just about a mile from each other. Though she didn’t know it was going to be forever from their first night out, she did know a second date was a sure thing. “Kushal is pretty different than me,” she says. “He’s very funny and carefree, a little bit more of a dreamer.”

When her residency ended in June 2014, Monica had already landed a job as an attending physician at Milwaukee’s Medical College of Wisconsin. Less-than-desirable winter-weather conditions nixed Milwaukee from the running as a wedding locale for their February nuptials, and ultimately, Dallas won out, due to both having family in the area.

The couple wished to honor their families by incorporating traditional Indian wedding rituals, but they still wanted the day to reflect to their Americanized sensibilities. A fusion wedding featured on the After Yes website caught Monica’s eye, and she hired the wedding-planning company to produce her own exotic nuptials. “I’m not a big ballroom girl,” she says. “Big poufs of flowers and fussy decor aren’t my cup of tea.” Planner Amanda Connolly suggested the Trinity River Audubon Center as a venue and called in The Southern Table to create cascading bouquets and garlands, loosely arranged centerpieces, and hanging floral chandeliers.

The couple chose to observe Indian rituals, enlisting a Hindu priest to marry them on February 21 and engaging in the Baraat, a dancing procession leading to the wedding venue. The tradition calls for an elephant or a white horse to transport the groom to the ceremony. But with white horses and elephants in short supply, the groom found alternative transportation in a John Deere Gator, inspired by his father, a longtime employee of the agricultural equipment manufacturer.

The bride blended American and Indian customs for her walk down the aisle. “In the Indian tradition, it’s usually an uncle who takes you to the area of the wedding ceremony,” she explains. So she made her march—uncle on her arm—donned in a lavish red Lehngha and ornate jewelry in gold, emeralds, and rubies. The reception was equally colorful, with Monica changing into a glittering gold gown perfect for dancing. And to the surprise of the newlyweds, Kushal’s sister orchestrated a flash mob to “Uptown Funk.”

But more than the video photo booth and blaring bhangra music, what Monica remembers most about the day is the speech made by her father, who passed away just six weeks after the wedding. “I’m so happy that one of the last things he experienced before he passed was my wedding,” she reflects. “It was such an overwhelmingly happy time.”

Ceremony/Reception Site: Trinity River Audubon Center
Photographer: Apryl Ann Photography
Bride’s attire Retailer: Studio Elite (ceremony); Sahil (reception), both Chicago, IL
Hair/Makeup: Alex Gonzalez
Flowers: The Southern Table
Cake: Jackie Spratt
Caterer: Bolsa Mercado
Music: DJ Happy
Lighting: Astounding Sounds & Lighting
Videographer: Saltbox
Wedding Rentals: Posh Couture Rentals; Prashe
Sari draping: Diana Thomas, Draped 2nines
Wedding Planner/Designer: Amanda Connolly, After Yes