Pooja and Ajinkya met through an arranged marriage and though their homes in Pune, India were only three miles apart during their undergraduate years, they never crossed paths before. After spending some time talking on the phone and getting to know one another, they finally met face-to-face in Dallas, Texas where the love story began.
We asked Pooja and Ajinkya to tell us about their American-style surprise proposal at a Seattle park surrounded by family (and strangers!), their upcoming traditional wedding in India in December of 2019, and how their families are involved in planning the big day from over 7,500 miles away.
If you’d like to see the proposal for yourself, check out this video of when Ajinkya popped the question:
Tell us the details. Who proposed? When, where, and how?
Ajinkya: Our proposal was special. The planning started as soon as Pooja booked her ticket from Charleston, South Carolina, where she was living then, to Seattle, Washington to see me and meet my family (for the first time!). From brainstorming over the dinner table with my family to the jeweler’s recommendations, several proposal ideas were discussed and Kirkland Waterfront Park was chosen as the venue. Friends from work lauded my bravery for choosing a public place for the proposal!
The day—August 3, 2019—arrived, and I was reasonably nervous. The plan was to put the ring box in the front pocket of my jacket, but I didn’t realize the box was actually pretty big and bulged out. That idea had to be updated at the last minute, so I decided to carry it in my backpack.
When we drove to the park and started walking, Pooja looked at all the different people in summer dresses and asked me why we were so overdressed. We took a quick stop at Cafe Zoka, had the barista draw a heart on our latte, and then the moment finally arrived.
We entered the waterfront park, and Pooja was happy and surprised to see my family and a few friends with a beautiful cake and some decorative flowers near a bench they had reserved. My mom told her the cake was the surprise, as it was her birthday recently. As I let Pooja absorb the moment, her favorite song, “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran, started playing and she started to wonder why. She didn’t know that my sister and parents had arranged this with the guitarist who was playing live music at the park.
I held her hand, took a few steps toward the fountain, and told her I wanted to ask her something. She was a bit scared, and I was a bit nervous. Without thinking about the crowd around us, I told her how much she means to me and got down on one knee, popped the ring out, and asked her if she’d like to spend the rest of her life with me.
As soon as she said “yes,” the guitarist congratulated us on the speakers and the entire park clapped. We hugged each other, soaking up the moment, and went back to seek blessings from my parents. Then, as the evening turned into night, we cut the cake and even danced a bit.
Looking back, the whole evening was way better than any planned activity I have done in my life. There were so many variables, but it all fell in place so beautifully.
(P.S. I’m writing this sitting in the same café where we had stopped that day!)
What’s the significance of the location where you proposed?
Ajinkya: We loved spending time with each other at the waterfront park when I visited her in Charleston. Waterfront parks and coffee are some of our favorite common things. I also spend quite a bit of time at Cafe Zoka, either working on some project or just relaxing. That particular place was close to my heart and a natural choice for proposing to the person closest to my heart.
Do American proposals usually differ from Indian proposals? How so? How did you decide on an American-style proposal?
Ajinkya: Traditional Indian arranged marriages typically do not involve a proposal. The guy and girl are introduced to each other by family and decide to get married after talking to each other for a while. Love marriages (where the guy and girl know each other beforehand) may involve an American-style proposal, depending on the couple.
I had to propose American-style! While there are many traditions from Indian weddings that are exciting and enjoyable, I’ve always felt that American-style proposals are magical. Being an arranged marriage, and making a decision to marry the other person, the romance in the proposal depends on how you perceive it.
In our case, we were super comfortable even in the short time we knew each other, but I still wanted to make it special for her. Looking at her reaction then, and even now when she talks about it, I would say I did achieve that.
Where are your hometowns? Are the locations near or far from each other?
Ajinkya: I grew up in different places in India. I was not in Pune all my life. I was in seven or eight different cities growing up, but I was only in Pune for the latter half of my life (my undergrads and 11th and 12th grade). Pooja, on the other hand, was born and brought up in Pune.
Pooja: When Ajinkya was living in Pune, our homes were just three miles apart. Surprisingly, we hadn’t met there before.
Who introduced you? Was it an arranged meeting?
Pooja: Yes, it was an arranged marriage but not like typical ones. I was in Charleston, and Ajinkya was in Seattle. Our parents exchanged our phone numbers via a matrimonial website. Then, after we started talking to each other, we first met in Dallas and the fairytale began.
What do you like about each other?
Ajinkya: I like that I can talk to her endlessly about anything and everything. We’re super comfortable in each other’s presence. Things seem to naturally fall in place, and we’re at ease when we’re together.
Pooja: I like his simplicity and down-to-earth nature—how he makes me feel comfortable and how we can chat endlessly. We complement and complete each other, and we don’t need any other form of entertainment when we’re together.
Are there any plans you’ve needed to make regarding visas for residency or work in the US?
Pooja: I was in Charleston initially, but I’ve changed my job location so we can start our married life together in Seattle.
What are you most looking forward to about the wedding?
Ajinkya: I’m looking forward to going to India, meeting my family, relatives, and friends, and celebrating the occasion with them. Marriage is like a festival in India, and our families back home have already begun the celebration and are awaiting our arrival there!
Besides the planning itself, the start of a wedding is like a festival back home. It’s more of a celebration of the families getting together, so we had that even before beginning the planning of wedding-related activities. So, you can imagine how connected these things are.
Pooja: Shopping, Mehendi (Henna), rituals before and after the wedding, taking lots of photos, celebrating our life moment with our near and dear ones.
Have you encountered any challenges in planning your wedding remotely? Who is helping with wedding planning?
Ajinkya: No challenges, as our families back home are doing the majority of the work! Our parents are the main guys, so they are doing the bulk of the planning, but there is also extended family helping us. Right from the venue search and booking, to the nitty-gritty of decorating, everything is being taken care of, so we’re very fortunate for that.
We kind of feel like we are missing out on the fun, but they do a good job of either video-calling us or recording stuff and sending it to us in the form of pictures and videos. We have a few preferences with certain things that we share with them, and they make sure to accommodate. Of course, we’re using Joy to send our save the dates and invites to friends and family, as well.
Where will the wedding be?
Ajinkya: It will be in a wedding hall in Pune, India which can accommodate around 500 people and has amenities for the marriage itself and the food. We wanted something close by because we have a lot of relatives staying outside of the city, in a different state in India. They will be traveling to attend the wedding and, logistically, it would be easier to have something close by. During December in India, especially in Pune, finding a venue is super hard. It’s been said that if you are planning to get married next December, it’s high time for you to book the hall now.
Pooja: A wedding hall is the basic structure or tradition of an Indian wedding. Afterward, it’s followed by a wedding lunch, so we wanted a hall that would have all the amenities. Based on the wedding halls that were available, we chose our wedding date: December 28, 2019.
What will the wedding space be like?
Ajinkya: In terms of visualizing, it’s going to be a huge space indoors, but it will have a lot of decoration.
Pooja: It will also have a stage where we will be. After all the rituals and the exchange of the garlands, we will be there and guests will come and meet us.
Ajinkya: It will look like a throne, similar to where a king and queen would sit.
Can you give us some details about your wedding? Will there be elephants or horses? Will you have fireworks?
Pooja: It will be a traditional Hindu Maharashtrian wedding. Ajinkya would love to have the procession on a horse, and our families are working on making that possible. We’re also working on getting permission for fireworks at our wedding venue. It’ll be nice to have them go off right at the time we exchange garlands.
Ajinkya: There are a lot of traditions that take place. On the wedding day, there are various small customs. As Pooja mentioned, the exchange of the garlands and going around a fire seven times—which is a signature ritual—are the biggest ones. But even before the marriage starts, there is a kind of tiebreaker between the two families, where we meet, which happens two days before the wedding.
One day before the wedding, we have people getting together to sing and dance. We’re enjoying performances, and people who are interested can come onto the stage and perform whatever they like. We have music and we have dancing, so it’s kind of a celebration. Also, the bride, Pooja, will wear Henna on her hands, legs, and feet. So the festivities start even before the wedding.
What are some unique customs of Indian weddings? Ear twisting? Shoe stealing?
Pooja: Ear twisting by the bride’s brother will be there to make sure Ajinkya takes proper care of his sister! Shoe stealing is typically not a part of our wedding customs, but seeing the bride/couple in a mirror next to the groom’s mother would be interesting. This is an Indian tradition in the old days where the groom’s mother, standing in the center between the couple, would use a mirror to look upon her daughter-in-law’s face on the wedding day.
Ajinkya: But more than that, another custom that is more popular after the marriage is the ‘welcome’ when we go home.
Pooja: The ‘welcome’ will be a small vessel filled with rice, and the bride is to just slightly kick it to enter the house.
Ajinkya: It’s usually a copper pot containing food grains. The bride kicking it signifies she’s bringing prosperity to the house. That’s the most religious and symbolic thing we do after the wedding. Traditionally, that would be the first time the bride would enter the home. No longer is that true. Now, she would have been at the home before the marriage at some point. But, we still do this tradition because after the wedding, that first ‘enter’ into the home is special.
What are you most looking forward to on your wedding day?
Pooja: We’ll be enjoying our big day with family and friends. We would also like to understand the meaning of traditions and customs while we’re performing them, mostly from our family but also from the priest who will perform these rituals. I would like to enjoy them but also know what they are for—not just that the priest is telling us to do this but why we are doing it.
Ajinkya: We’re interested in these rituals, understanding their meaning, and being a part of them. People have different ways of looking at the wedding. It’s a celebration, which is what we want, but we also want to understand the meaning behind the traditions.
Will you be holding a wedding reception in the US?
Pooja: We would love to have one for our friends over here.
Ajinkya: We’ll probably have some sort of reception here for our friends who weren’t able to make it to India.
Do you have a sweet proposal story? Do you want to share it with Joy? We’d love to hear it! Email us with your story and photos.