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April 16, 2016. Dana Point, California

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Her sorority sisters and his fraternity brothers were all in agreement, Nirali Shah and Avinash Sharma would make the perfect “Bollywood” couple. “The more I saw of her, the more I agreed,” says Avinash. When he finally got up the nerve to ask her out, they hit it off right away. “It all felt very natural, and we slowly fell in love,” says Nirali.

After graduation, he went off to medical school and she to pursue her dreams. “We agreed never to create roadblocks for eachother’s goals,” explains Nirali. Living in the age of Facetime and texting, they were able to develop their relationship while on separate paths for eight years.

When Nirali’s beloved dad passed away, Avinash and his family were there for her. That year, she decided on a low-key birthday and Avinash, who had a surprise ready, had to persuade her to go out. They headed for Newport Beach where a private sailboat was waiting. While sipping wine and cruising, Nirali heard her favorite song from the speakers and turned to find Avinash on one knee pouring his heart out to her.

“When he opened up the ring box, I started crying,” says Nirali, who recognized the stone her father, who had been in the diamond and jewelry business, had selected and put aside for her. Their siblings had been hiding below deck the entire time and popped up to take photos and celebrate.

A week of symbolic Hindu celebrations and parties led up to a noontime ceremony on Saturday at the Monarch Beach Resort. “It was the perfect setting,” says Nirali, “romantic and beautiful with a timeless beach backdrop and space enough for all our guests.”

During the traditional rites, a picture of Nirali’s dad was displayed, assuring that his spirit was with them. Breaking from the usual riotous color of Hindu wedding garb, Nirali and Avinash dressed in elegant cream and gold embellished attire. A sketch artist captured essential moments live on canvas at the ceremony.

Instead of waiting for their grand entrance during the reception, the newlyweds enjoyed cocktail hour with their guests, then ran back to their room to change for the evening. “It was amazing to hear the emcee say, ‘Presenting Dr. and Mrs. Sharma,’ before the doors swung open,” says Nirali, “and the day just got better and better.”

The couple kept the program “short and sweet” so they could get to the dancing. Even so, the speeches were “emotional and hilarious” and just what the bride had envisioned. A same-day video wrapped up the presentations. Nonstop dancing followed and was interrupted only when Avi, a talented drummer, surprised the gathering by accompanying the DJ for three of Nirali’s favorite songs. “He got the whole party pumped, and I felt like a groupie, front and center, waving my arms in the air,” she says. A late night pizza truck made sure no one went home hungry.

The bride and groom honeymooned in Santorini and Mykonos, Greece, to relax and recover from their many wedding events and steel themselves for their upcoming cross-country move to Washington, D.C. for Avi’s residency.

> Written by Francine Kaplan

Location: Monarch Beach Resort Dana Point, CA; Planner: Elegant Events by Nutan Orange County, CA; Ceremony Dress and Groom’s Attire: Sabyasachi Couture; Reception Dress: Jade Couture; Bride’s Shoes: Giuseppe Zanotti Design;

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