New York couple Sonia Kotwal and Tarun Bhan returned to their Pennsylvania roots to tie the knot.
By Lisa Dukart
Photography by Tyler Boye Photography, tylerboye.com
A Chance Encounter
Like a jigsaw puzzle, with each passing day of their relationship, Sonia Kotwal and Tarun Bhan saw the final picture more clearly. But it wasn’t without a helping hand from fate, which they like to joke brought them together.
After all, the odds of them meeting—at least in the City of Brotherly Love—weren’t good. Though they both originally hail from Pennsylvania—she from Blue Bell, he from Lititz—neither called the city home at the time. They both just happened to be home visiting simultaneously. And of all the bars in Philadelphia, Sonia and Tarun both ended up at Ladder 15 with their respective groups of friends on an evening in March 2013.
As fate would have it, the pair got to talking and they quickly discovered that they both lived in New York City. But not just New York City—they lived on the same intersection.
When they returned to New York, they kept in touch, but Sonia soon headed off to Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management to earn her MBA. Fate would continue to be on their side, though, as one of Tarun’s friends was also headed to Kellogg. Sonia and he became friends and through their friend, she and Tarun kept tabs on each other from a distance.
Sonia returned to New York in June 2015 and she and Tarun officially started dating. The wait proved more than worthwhile. “He was also a very family-oriented person, very warm and driven,” says Sonia, who says she knew pretty soon that he was the one.
Two years later, on Aug. 26, 2017, Tarun popped the question. The couple was on the back patio of a café in the New York City neighborhood of Chelsea where she put together a puzzle he’d had custom-made. On it was a drawing of him proposing, the image becoming clearer with each piece placed. “As I was doing it and realized what was going on, he got down on one knee,” Sonia recalls.
The surprise didn’t end there. Tarun had both of their families waiting nearby, who joined the couple for a champagne toast, followed by dinner. Later that night, Sonia and Tarun’s friends arrived for another celebration.
Tradition Meets Modernity
Knowing they wanted a larger wedding to celebrate their Indian heritage, they quickly set out to find a venue. They wanted something large enough to hold their 250 guests, but that still felt intimate. Sonia and Tarun soon landed on The Lake House Inn in Perkasie.
When they found it, another piece of the puzzle fell into place. “It felt so intimate. The two of us are very close to our families, we have a great group of friends we keep in close touch with, so relationships are very important to us,” says Sonia. “[The Lake House Inn is] secluded, it feels very Pennsylvania—you have the greenery, the lake in the back, and the ballroom is beautiful.”
It proved the perfect backdrop for their nuptials, which were in the Indian tradition, but combined their American roots. “We had a bridal party, which typically isn’t something found in Indian weddings,” says Sonia. Because of the vibrancy of Indian weddings, Sonia and Tarun kept everything else in a more neutral palette, including their stationery and their bridal parties’ outfits. “I feel like neutrals with a very vibrant Indian wedding just worked well,” adds Sonia.
Each of her bridesmaids wore a lengha with a white blouse and a peach skirt, both with gold embroidery. The groomsmen each donned a kurta in cream and light green, “sticking to the pastel tones,” says Sonia.
Sonia opted for a sari, “which is traditional for where my family is from in India,” she says. Her choice of red wasn’t traditional, though. “It was a bold and pretty color that felt bridal.”
Their entire ceremony, which overlooked the lake, was in the Hindu tradition, complete with a baraat, milni and Tarun riding in on a horse.
For the reception, held in the ballroom, both Sonia and Tarun changed outfits. He opted for a blue tux with black lapels, while she changed into a gold embroidered lengha. Each outfit, save for Tarun’s tux, was purchased on a trip to India. The couple, along with their parents, visited family that couldn’t travel for the celebration and shopped for their attire, much of which was custom-made.
The reception was the perfect cap to the evening. Like the rest of their big day, it blended Indian and American traditions, from the DJ, who played both kinds of music, to the cuisine, which was a fusion. “We worked with the caterer at The Lake House, as well as an Indian caterer, to really customize each dish,” says Sonia.
At the end of the day, each piece of the puzzle fit together perfectly, forming a complete picture of love and happiness, much like the one Tarun proposed with. Today, it hangs framed in their Manhattan home, a reminder of their journey and the curious ways in which fate works.
Ceremony and Reception
The Lake House Inn
Hair and Makeup
Decor and Flowers
Brian D’Souza, Wedding Design
Wedding Planner (Day-of)
DJ Ravi Jackson
“Stay With You”
by John Legend