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photo courtesy Nadia D Photography Groom and bride, Abhishek Dhingra and Avni Patel, join a family procession and circular dance known as a garba during some of the most elaborate Indian wedding rites ever staged in Utah. The ritual, held at the home of Patelís parents, Dinesh and Kalpana Patel of Holladay, was one of several on the first day of a three-day wedding ceremony Thursday, July 19, 2014. The wedding concludes Saturday.
From India with love — splashy Hindu wedding comes to Utah

Utah philanthropist Dinesh Patel throws an elaborate marriage bash for his daughter.

First Published Jun 20 2014 01:42 pm • Last Updated Jun 20 2014 09:07 pm

Holladay • They ruled out elephants.

But Dinesh and Kalpana Patel spared few other details in a deeply traditional three-day Indian wedding ceremony given for their only daughter, Avni, and her future husband, Abhishek Dhingra.

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The series of private events, held at the Patels’ spacious home in Holladay and culminating Saturday in front of hundreds of guests at Salt Lake City’s Grand America Hotel, amount to one of the most elaborate renditions of authentic Indian matrimonial rites ever witnessed in Utah.

Family members and friends watched beautifully staged scenes, each with its primordial meanings, in a string of rituals one might see in rural villages anywhere across India. Holy men sprinkled water carried to Utah from the sacred Ganges River, among scores of sanctified objects brought from the mother country.

Nearly 800 guests are invited to the formal reception, in the hotel’s ballroom. The groom’s party will ride through closed city streets to Saturday’s ceremonies on horses — instead of the customary elephants.

"It has made me very happy," said Hindu pandit Satish Kumar, leader at Sri Ganesha Temple in South Jordan and officiant at the ceremonies. "Today, the world is becoming very modern, modern, modern, and yet they are devoting much attention to these rituals. For me, they are compromising nothing."

Starting early Thursday, the couple’s nuptials brought a dazzling burst of millennia-old customs, stunning colors, holy substances, delicious foods, music, dancing and Hindu ritual to a U.S. state otherwise known as the global capital for Mormon marriages.

"We wanted to make it something that everyone will enjoy," said father of the bride Dinesh Patel. The wealthy venture capitalist and philanthropist, considered a pioneer in Utah’s biotechnology industries, seemed to move through the weekend’s events with a gratified, subdued air.

As to the wedding’s cost, Patel joked, "We probably won’t worry about that. Daughters get what they want."

Media access to the wedding was tightly controlled, but Patel said in an interview that it was a joyful expression of the merging of two people and their extended clans. The succession of carefully researched and executed rites, he said, also offered a cultural showcase reflecting the Indian community’s growing numbers in Utah.

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"We have made our presence felt," said Patel, who was born in Zambia to Indian parents and came to the U.S. in 1985. "That’s part of having a big ceremony.’’

Avni Patel, reared in Utah, met Dhingra, who is from Houston, while visiting mutual friends in Austin, Texas. He proposed in Las Vegas in 2013 after a treasure hunt with clues across the city.

He works in finance for Wells Fargo. She is in social-media marketing.

"Being first generation in the U.S., our parents tried to make sure we stayed in tune with our cultures," Dhingra said. "Even though we didn’t grow up in India, we understand what is important and our cultural heritage."

Atlanta-based wedding planner Nirjary Desai said the weekend events took nearly 15 months to research and plan, including a five-week trip to India. Between arrangements, designers, decor, catering, DJs and the rest, a staff of up to 100 people is working to ensure all goes well. The focus on authentic customs has been unwavering.

"Design and food are a major part of south Asian weddings," Desai said.

As with so much in India, virtually every step in tying the Patel-Dhingra knot has involved a mix of things. Ceremonies blended modernity with the ancient and stirred together several of India’s distinct provincial cultures, while also joining two young people quite obviously in love.

The Patel family traces its ancestry to Gujarat, a province in western India. The groom’s parents, Ashok and Vijay Dhingra of Houston, are Punjabi, from India’s north. Kumar, meanwhile, is from the religious enclave of Tirupati, in southern India.

"We are going to take the best of the three cultures," Patel said.

The Patels’ east-bench home brimmed with family Thursday, with hundreds flying in from around the U.S., Canada and India.

Women wore striking and elegant saris of every hue, beaded with glittering mirrors, embroidered or in brocade. Men donned impeccable tunics and sarongs, often with vibrant scarflike dhotis wrapped around their necks or shoulders. Children played everywhere.

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