Vibrant Norfolk Wedding Celebrates Love and Heritage

Photography by Fowler Studios

Who: Shaoli Sarkar, family law attorney, and Alex Katana, analyst for the United States Government

When: May 5, 2018

Where: Hilton Norfolk The Main

Guest List: Shaoli and Alex were surrounded by 400 of their closest friends and family members on their big day. Guests traveled from nearby cities, neighboring States and as far as Dubai and Bangladesh.

Where They Met: The Katana’s love affair began just two years prior to their Norfolk ceremony when the couple sparked an online romance in 2016.

The Engagement: Alex, hailing from Guadalajara, Mexico, spent many childhood summers along the sparkling Colima coast. Wanting to share his nostalgic spot with his soon-to-be fiancé, Alex invited Shaoli to dinner at a beachside restaurant. “He surprised me with a mariachi band that played traditional Mexican love songs and then proposed to me under the moonlight,” remembers Shaoli.

Wedding Wishes: Making their wedding especially colorful and unique was the incorporation of the couple’s shared Jewish, Hindu, Mexican and Indian faiths and traditions. “We wanted to share our varied religious and cultural heritage with our guests throughout the wedding weekend,” says the couple. “We wanted everyone to enjoy a great party [too].”

What’s Next: The couple honeymooned in Cancun and plans to return this summer to celebrate their first year of marriage. They also look forward to purchasing a new home, traveling and planning for a family.


ALL IN THE DETAILS: Shaoli flaunts her detailed henna once again, but this time dripping in bright pinks and shimmering golds. On her crown is a mukut, an elaborate Bengali headgear worn to enhance the bride’s wedding day look. Shaoli wore the mukut throughout the duration of their wedding ceremony. “We were married under a wedding canopy that is used by both religions—chuppah in Jewish, mandap in Hinduism—as a symbol of home and pillars of marriage,” they say.

HUSBAND ON HORSEBACK: “The Baraat, or wedding parade, is an Indian custom where the groom travels to the wedding venue on horse, accompanied by friends and family,” explains Shaoli. Alex strides through Downtown Norfolk on a stunning white stallion draped in traditional wedding colors. Once the procession arrived at The MAIN, Alex was greeted by Shaoli’s mother and a welcoming Barana performance that deters darkness and evil spirits.

FAMILY AFFAIR: Bridal party members fawn over the newly wedded couple. Comprising the green and pink ensemble are siblings, relatives and friends from Texas, Virginia, New York and Washington, D.C.

GAYE HOLUD: This intimate and brightly colored setup was arranged outside The Main for the Katanas' Gaye Holud ceremony. The couple takes a seat on the patterned stools and allows guests to take part in the Bengali wedding tradition of applying holud, or turmeric, to the couple as part of a cleansing and blessing ritual. “We had this ceremony on the morning of our wedding day so that we would glow even brighter for our wedding ceremony,” explains the couple.

FIRST LOOK: Alex stands patiently in the Varia lobby awaiting a first glance at his bride.

SOUNDING THE SHANKHA: The blowing of the conch shell is a Hindu ritual that promotes longevity, prosperity and purification. Its sound announces an auspicious event and reflects both the ocean’s hum and natural vibrations of cosmic energy.

WEAR YOUR HEART ON YOUR SLEEVE: Local henna artist Sidra adorned Shaoli in a plethora of hand-painted designs holding special significance to the couple’s Hindu and Jewish faiths. Shaoli displayed lotuses for the expansion of the soul; Hindu deity Ganesh to remove life’s obstacles; and pomegranates to represent fruitfulness, knowledge and learning in Jewish culture. Alex’s name and both the Bengali and Hebrew translation for “love” were hidden on each arm as well.

TAKE FIVE: Shaoli and Alex slip away from their reception to capture a few intimate moments beneath Downtown Norfolk’s sparkling lights. The two also sport their last of many outfit changes for the day. “We wanted to have fun with our attire and enjoy beautiful wedding outfits,” they say.

LET THEM EAT CAKE: One of the major highlights of the Katanas' ceremony was the food. “The food all weekend long was fantastic,” raves the couple. “We had Mexican and Indian street food, delicious traditional Indian sweets and Mexican churros.” The cake had a hidden twist too. Beneath the layers of floral fondant was a jalapeño-chocolate wedding cake capturing a taste of home for Alex.



Flowers: Isha Foss Events

DJ: DJ Valente with Astro Entertainment

Hair & Makeup: The Makeup School by Sarah Rillon

Rentals: Mad Hatter Vintage

Cake: Hummingbird Macarons and Desserts

Planner: Cherry Blossom Planning Factory

Childcare: A Helping Hand

Stationery: PaperDolls Design

Travel: Smithfield Horse & Carriage

Grace Silipigni Headshot
Grace Silipigni
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Grace Silipigni is an elementary school Spanish immersion teacher based in Virginia Beach and a regular contributor to Coastal Virginia Magazine, covering a wide range of topics such as health and wellness, education and learning, food and drink, happenings and events, travel and getaways and more.

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