The way celebrity news editor Neha Prakash and software engineer Shehryar Hussain got together sounds like the meet-cute every parent secretly hopes for. They were both volunteering for the American India Foundation when they were introduced by a mutual friend. “We were friends for a year before we started seeing each other,” Neha says. “Despite Shehryar’s best efforts to date me earlier—I was scared that cultural and religious differences would mean we would never make it, as he’s Pakistani and I’m Indian, but I was proven very wrong!”

Two years and eight months later, he proposed on a Friday evening in January of 2018. “I was running late, of course, because of some breaking celeb news that I had to cover, and I got annoyed with Shehryar for trying to rush me out the door for what I thought was dinner with his parents,” Neha remembers. “I was shocked when we pulled up at Gramercy Park instead.” Shehryar had gotten a key to the private park, an oasis of charming green space right in the middle of lower Manhattan. “When he started to propose I thought he was just apologizing for rushing me earlier,” Neha admits. “Then he got down on one knee, and I realized what was happening. I saw the ring, and I started sobbing.” When they finally went inside the nearby hotel, they found a room decorated with rose petals, and they, fittingly, got drinks at the Rose Bar. “It was all so quintessentially New York, with cabs and people rushing by the park gates, but also so serene and romantic inside,” Neha says. “We still walk our dog by the park all the time now.”

From the start, Neha and Shehryar knew they wanted a destination wedding, and Italy just so happened to be halfway between the U.S. and their family’s homes in India and Pakistan. “We were researching places in Lake Como—we wanted to be by the water, but didn’t want a beach wedding—and Villa Passalacqua came up.” They were searching for somewhere with various indoor and outdoor spaces that they could use for different events over the course of the wedding. On a hill, with gorgeous gardens that overlooked the entire lake, Passalacqua seemed perfect. “We booked it over FaceTime!” Neha reveals. “We figured if it was that beautiful on the phone, then we’d be thrilled in person, and we weren’t disappointed.”

An “explosion of color” was the phrase the bride-to-be cited most frequently when trying to communicate her vision to her wedding planners Rachel Birthistle and Taimar Birthistle-Cooke of The Lake Como Wedding Planner and her florist Kiana Underwood of Tulipina. “I’ve always loved the traditional colors and elements of Indian-Pakistani weddings because they are so vibrant and joyous, so I really didn’t want that to change just because we were in Italy,” she says. “Luckily for us though, ornate baroque Italian style blended seamlessly with Indian-Pakistani design. But I did want to update certain elements and decor to feel more like us.”

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Neha used carnations, a traditional Indian wedding flower, throughout the decor, but Kiana mixed in dyed palm leaves for their mandap (Indian wedding altar) to keep it looking modern. Fruit, including lots of lemons as a nod to Italy, was also used all weekend long to add vibrant pops of color.

Neha and Shehryar changed seven times during the course of the weekend; so needless to say, the clothes were a major factor in the planning process. “Putting together my wardrobe was a giant puzzle that involved trips to Delhi and Bangalore, Pakistan, online shopping, borrowing things from my aunts, cousins, mom, and sister, and designing some things myself,” Neha says. “It was stressful, but also so fun, and I wouldn’t change a thing about any of our outfits or the work that went into creating them. It was truly a family effort with different members of our family having to lug stuff back and forth from India and Pakistan in suitcases.” Neha’s cousin Rachana acted as the bride’s unofficial wedding stylist, spending weeks in India helping buy the last few accessories, getting some things re-tailored, and designing the flower-girl outfits.? ? “I really wanted each one of my looks to be distinct and, much like the decor, traditional but updated with modern touches that felt more me,” Neha explains. “My beauty was done very much as we went. I really trusted my makeup artist Kelly Dawn and my hair stylist Viktoria S. Toth, so we just had fun and got creative as the weekend went on.”

For her mehendi, a pre-wedding celebration where the bride has red-orange mehndi stain applied to her palms, back of hands, and feet, Neha searched for something bright and blue to play off the event’s poolside location, ultimately finding her lehenga online. “I took it to a tailor last minute to have them cut off the bottom of the skirt so it would be more playful and breezy,” she says. “I also found some white sunglasses that felt very Sofia Loren, so I threw them on to complete the look.”

At the welcome dinner later that night, she wore an Oscar de la Renta dress that she borrowed from Nova Octo, a designer rental company in Tribeca. “Oscar de la Renta is my favorite wedding dress designer and even though I hadn’t originally planned on wearing an western wedding dress, it fulfilled a fashion fantasy of mine,” Neha says. “It had a gorgeous train that I kept twirling around in, and the gold detailing on the dress felt very Indian and Pakistani as well, so it just came together flawlessly for that event.”

For the Devara Oota, or religious ceremony, Friday morning, beautiful oversized parasols from East London Parasol Company dotted the garden. Neha wore her traditional South Indian look, which included a silk sari that she got with her mom and aunt in India. “It’s a rite of passage to get your first silk sari as a married woman, and I chose a color my grandmother loved to wear as a homage to my roots,” Neha explains. “My beauty for this look was very traditional but again, updated to feel unique: I wore a braid, but we did a fishtail side braid and my hairstylist Viktoria wove red and orange carnations through it that picked up the accents of the sari perfectly.?“

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That night at the Sangeet—a pre-wedding event where both families come together to sing and dance—Neha wanted the decor to look whimsical. Kiana delivered, decorating the tent for dinner with a cloud of hanging flowers suspended from above. The planners also sourced a patterned tile dance floor that, according to Neha, somehow managed to look Indian, Pakistani, and Italian all at the same time. “It felt like the colors of the garden and floor were dancing around us as we all danced,” she says.

The traditional Hindu ceremony Saturday was officiated by a priest from Neha’s hometown of Bangalore, who also happened to officiate her sister’s wedding. “Even though it’s customary for an Indian-Pakistani groom to enter a wedding on a horse, Shehryar opted for a vespa—because when in Italy!” Neha jokes. “It was hovering around 95 degrees thanks to a heatwave in?Como, and because of all the colors on guests, everything looked like it was melting together in this bright, beautiful mirage.”

The bride wore a Sulkashana Monga mint green lehenga that she got in Delhi, paired with a custom-made peach veil. “The pastel colors reminded me of Jaipur’s architecture the second I put it on,” she says. “The veil had a couple riding in a boat embroidered onto it, and it seemed like a sign.”

Neha walked down the aisle to the same song her sister did—a favorite from a Bollywood movie about a royal wedding. “Shehryar and I really did feel like royalty at that ceremony,” she says. “It was a little over an hour because Hindu ceremonies by design are just long. But there are so many playful elements that there was a lot of laughter as well.”

Later that evening, it cooled off just in time for the Nikah, or Muslim ceremony. “This ceremony was much more quiet, serene, spiritual, and peaceful,” Neha says. Shehryar’s uncle officiated and spoke about what it means to be married in the Muslim faith, but also how, no matter the religion, they all believe in goodness and being there for your partner. The couple exchanged rings at the end of the ceremony, and as they exited, guests showered them in rose petals.?“Our favorite part of both ceremonies was when the church bells happened to go off right after we got married both times,” Neha says. “It felt magical, and everyone was clapping and laughing in disbelief.” ? For the reception, Shehryar wore a bespoke tux from Indochino, while Neha’s red lehenga was from Anushree Reddy. She borrowed her mother’s jewelry for the event, wore her hair down in Hollywood waves, and did a bold red lip. “This look just fit together—we didn’t even have to think about it much,” she says. All four parents gave toasts, and the bride and groom said mini toasts to each other, as Hindu and Muslim religious ceremonies don’t involve the bride and groom saying vows. The DJ played a mix of Bollywood and American music, starting off with the couple’s first dance to Otis Redding’s version of “My Girl.” The party went on until 4:00 a.m. “After the DJ packed up, people took turns DJing with their iPhones,” Neha remembers. “I think at one point, my brother-in-law was doing rap battles against groomsmen and bridesmaids. Everyone was drenched in sweat thanks to the heat wave, and aggressively dancing!”