Inside Prasanthi Purusothaman and James Di Michiel's multicultural Sydney wedding
â€œI couldnâ€™t help but feel there was a connectionâ€”but [I] didnâ€™t want to lean into the fairy-tale idea of â€˜fateâ€™. It was evident that we were completely...
- Rajiv - CEO & Founder
- Mar 31, 2022
“I couldn’t help but feel there was a connection—but [I] didn’t want to lean into the fairy-tale idea of ‘fate’. It was evident that we were completely infatuated with each other,” says Dr. Prasanthi Purusothaman of her first meeting with her husband, Dr. James Di Michiel. The meeting occurred when both were working at a Sydney hospital, with Di Michiel striding over to Purusothaman to introduce himself, and afterwards, the two seemingly couldn't stop bumping into each other. The couple then continued to speak on the phone everyday when Purusothaman went on a girls' trip to Europe—confirming the adage that distance makes the heart grow fonder—and the two took their first trip together to the Cook Islands shortly after Purusothaman returned. “It was the perfect start to a relationship," she says, "Relaxing together through unprecedented tropical rain, riding bicycles through humid sleepy island roads and drinking lots of fruity cocktails. And well, the rest is history as they say!”
The couple now co-own skincare and wellness line L'Orient—one developed with people of colour in mind—with Purusothaman being a general practitioner and cosmetic physician, and Di Michiel a respiratory and sleep physician. The two decided to make things official in 2020, before the start of the pandemic, when the couple took a trip to a cosy farm stay in Australia's Capertee Valley—a picturesque location and the world's second-largest canyon—with their beloved chocolate labrador, Benji. “Early that morning we went for a walk," begins Purusothaman, narrating the story of the proposal, “It’s my favourite time of the day, where the sun is rising and throwing beautiful shades of pink and purple through the sky, the air was still and we were surrounded by Australian scenery and the cacophony of Australian native birds and cicadas. A mob of kangaroos hopped by quite close to us, I couldn’t believe it. Amidst all of this I didn’t notice james repeatedly trying to get down on one knee, as I kept turning around going ‘wow look at this!’ and taking photos. Eventually I did, and saw james on one knee struggling to manage our Benji with one hand who was trying to chase after the kangaroos, and holding a box with a beautiful ring in the other. I of course said yes and we celebrated together on the verandah of our farm stay with some champagne and cheese.”
Working through the pandemic as doctors was a harrowing experience, and Purusothaman was relieved to be able to throw herself wholeheartedly into wedding planning as a welcome distraction. She is quick to point to her wedding planner, Brittany, as being the reason the process was more fun than it was stressful: “It was pretty seamless to be honest, I couldn’t fault the process, and Brit felt more like a friend—we were always on the same page, she had the same aesthetic vision as myself, is extremely stylish, so personable, and she was great at pulling it all together, half of it being her first multicultural wedding too." Purusothaman, once hesitant about the idea of hiring a wedding planner, now sees them as the key to planning an organised and stress-free wedding.
When it comes to stressful situations, orchestrating a wedding during a pandemic was no easy feat for a couple who are both health professionals, and Purusothaman confesses that while they would have loved nothing more than to celebrate with a large gathering of family and friends, their medical backgrounds made for gave them a sobering perspective on the limitations of the time. “We valued each other and our health first and foremost,” says Purusothaman, “Seemingly worrying about whether or not a wedding would go ahead was trivial comparatively. As such, we were never sad about the prospect of a postponement which ended up happening and just embraced the extra breathing space again. Our September wedding moved to December, and I firmly believe everything happens for a reason, so I wouldn't change a thing.” While the couple had initially planned on the Hunter Valley as a location, changing plans and adapting to the situation at hand saw their wedding take place in Sydney.
The couple straddle many cultures between them, with Purusothaman being of South Asian, Singaporean and Malaysian heritage, and Di Michiel being Asutralian-born with English and Italian roots. The Indian wedding was held at Mahratta, the School of Philosophy—an institution closely linked with the primary school Purusothaman attended growing up. The venue boasts impressive gardens that sprawl across the property and surround the Art Deco style building, which contains a marble staircase in the entryway—perfect for the bride looking to make an impactful entrance. But when it came to decor, the bride was particular about wanting to stay away from the over-the-top aesthetics typical of South Asian weddings, and looked to heritage properties in India such as Taj's Udaipur property the Lake Palace, Jaipur's Bar Palladio, and images of British colonial buildings as inspiration. “My brief was for unique florals like pitcher plants, orchids, and featuring some of my late grandparents' favourite fruits like papaya and persimmon,” says Purusothaman, “My families are from Singapore and Malaysia, and so exotic fruit like rambutan, dragonfruit, always reminds me of tropical home.”
As if working around a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic weren't enough, the bride's initial idea for an outdoor long lunch to follow the wedding ceremony was threatened when unprecedented weather conditions—with a high chance of thunderstorms—threatened to ruin everything. “It didn’t rain in the end through some miracle of the universe,” says Purusothaman, “The sun shone through unapologetically and blazingly hot, and so I was so thankful for the shade! Long snaking tables with hues of pink, purple, burn orange, terracotta contrasted against the deep greens of the gardens & white of the sailcloth looked really striking. We had these really phenomenal bespoke menus and place cards designed in tandem by the talented Sharanya of Ineffable Lettering. It was an eclectic art deco colonial vibe, all hand drawn hand painted calligraphy and brought character to the table settings.” The couple decided on a non-traditional mandap, set up under a tent that the bride says brings to mind the tents used by Maharajas of yore, and paired with delicately scalloped umbrellas.
When it came to the particulars of the ceremony, it was hugely important to Purusothaman that her husband-to-be be able to understand the rituals that were being performed, which is where Rami Sivan—a local priest from South Africa—came in: he performed the ceremony in impeccable Sanskrit, but also included English translations, making sure to stop and explain each step. “That just made the ceremony even more special,” says Purusothaman of finding a multilingual priest, “We were completely immersed in the profound and sacred meaning of the ceremony which was so poetic.” The ceremony was tailored to the couple's specification, as was the vegetarian long lunch that followed, along with a surprise performance by Bollywood dancers DA Choreography, Anjana Chandran Choreography, Himum Patel and Vijay Bhasin on the dhol. “They were so vivacious, bringing the energy and controlled chaos of Bollywood to the wedding to get people dancing to the thumping and feeling pure joy,” says Purusothaman.
The Indian ceremony was followed closely by a civil one, held two days later on the 3rd of December. The bride chose Pier One Sydney hotel to get ready in, feasting on views of Sydney Harbour and Opera House. “That morning,” says Purusothaman, “Jackson Roberts makeup and Natalie Anne hair performed their wizardry to deliver the most incredible modern bridal look. I enjoyed the morning relaxing with three of my best friends, Jess, Alisha and Chris. We drank Dom Perignon champagne for the first time for the occasion which was so kindly gifted by my friend Chris, sat in plush monogrammed hill house home bathrobes (I hate the clichéd silk ones you see everywhere!). I just remember being so happy and thankful for that moment.” Di Michiel and his groomsmen wore MJ Bale suits for the occasion. The civil ceremony was held in a beautiful house full of old-world charm, and a Hamptons-esque lawn and swimming pool, under a romantic entrance archway framed by wild greenery and white roses. “The brief was very much inspired by Slim Aarons, one of my absolute favourite photographers. I have many of his books and just could spend all day pouring over the evocative lifestyle imagery of those decades,” says the bride of the decor plan for the day. An all-female string quartet provided the music, and Purusothaman glided down the aisle to tune of Concerning Hobbits from Lord of the Rings—"Our absolute favourite movie to watch together; such a happy and meaningful melody," says the bride. The couple signed the registry with their respective mothers as witnesses, and that was the signal to kick of the party.
The after-ceremony celebrations were held by the property's pool, with botanical accents in the form of blue hydrangeas and buttery yellow lemons giving the decor a pop of colour. “The vibe was an outdoor family style Italian long lunch,” says Purusothaman of the day, “And we enjoyed a selection of entrées which included fresh oysters, caprese salad, arancini, octopus salad, prosciutto e melone, cacio e pepe from a big giant parmesan wheel—and my favourite—eggplant parmigiana. We had a selection of his and hers cocktails including negronis for James, salty margaritas and amaretto sours for me—all managed by the ever so helpful Henry Clive bar.” The bride, clearly a fan of a classic, old-world aesthetic, indulged in an elegant champagne tower. The celebrations were made special by heartfelt speeches from friends and family, including the bride's parents, best friends and the groom's father. “James delivered the most romantic speech where he called me up and said some really beautiful words to me in front of all our guests. it was so dreamy,” says Purusothaman. This was followed by a little something sweet: a two-tier retro mascarpone and vanilla cake from Le Souers Macaron (inspired by the Kennedy's wedding cake!) as well as a selection of cannolis and French beignets sourced from a stall that the couple would frequent at their hospital's market day. “Everyone danced and got silly to Malina Kelderman on the saxophone, DJ Niki De Saint and Kilagung on percussion,” concludes the bride.
When it comes to the attire, Purusothaman was no less particular than she was when it came to the decor, making every effort to pay homage to the traditions of her South Indian heritage. “A lot of the jewellery I wore was 'something borrowed' from my grandmother who is still alive,” says the bride of her wedding jewellery, “Gold heirloom pieces gifted to her from my late great grandfather, bangles from my late grandmother, and my grandmother's pathakam necklace that she and my mother wore on their wedding days. It was really special to keep them close on the days.” The bride also wore traditional temple jewellery from her days as a Bharatnatyam dancer, which she says perfectly complemented the “simple, soft sari” in colours of mustard with mambalam gold and green border in classic Mysore silk that she wore as her ‘koorai’ sari. “South Indian brides change during the ceremony into their koorai sari gifted by their husband,” explains Purusothaman of the tradition, “The first sari I wore was an old temple border silk sari that was my late grandmother’s. We got a blouse stitched in a retro style to compliment and it was an unusual metallic blend body with eggplant purple highlight.” The third look the bride sported as part of her Indian ceremony was a red lehenga from Kalki fashion, and was more in line with a modern bridal aesthetic. Each look was paired with Manolo Blahnik pumps and Le Labo Rose 31 as the scent du jour. “My makeup that day was by the beautiful Sanaz Fakhra and hair, jewellery setting & saree draping by a long term family friend and aunty Manohari Bala,” says the bride.
For the couple's civil ceremony, Purusothaman wore a dress by Inbal Dror and veil from Helen Rodrigues Bridal, bespoke baroque pearl earrings and Amina Muaddi shoes that she says, “Made [her] feel like cinderella.” Of the dress, the bride says she appreciated the deep halter neckline for its ability to be flirty and feminine, while also nodding to classic silhouettes. “My makeup was by Jackson Roberts and hair by Natalie Anne. My brows were threaded by Sangita from V Threading, lashes by Amy Jean Brows in Double Bay,” says the bride, adding that the scent she wore on the day was A La Rose from Maison Francis Kurkdjian, and that her bridesmaids wore dresses by Needle and Thread. The couple exchanged Cartier wedding rings. “The best part of both days was having our beautiful chocolate Labrador, Benji, be present,” says the bride.
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