Love always finds a way, and Lizzy and Gagan—who met during a chance encounter while across the world from home—are living proof. The two met in Kigali, Rwanda, in September 2018. “I was traveling for work attending a conference in Kigali; Gagan was on a sabbatical and Kigali was his home base to explore East Africa,” Lizzy says. “While there, he befriended the artists who own Inema Arts Center. They host a weekly happy hour on Thursday nights in their backyard. We met there, and ended up hitting it off!” That night, she invited Gagan to join a safari she was planning, and the next morning they left for Akagera National Park. “Since meeting in Kigali, we have visited 15 countries together,” Lizzy says. “Traveling is really important to us, [so] we felt it was important to have an international destination wedding.”
Especially for far-flung weddings, “the hardest part is always the guest list—in particular, figuring out how to encourage our guests to take the leap and book flights to an international destination at the end of the pandemic,” Lizzy says. “There were visas, Covid tests, and an absolutely nightmarish flying season where almost 20% of our guests had a canceled flight or lost luggage. The logistics weren’t fun, but [our planners] Laurel & Rose had our back throughout the process, and having an international wedding was so important to us.”
The destination they decided on: Portugal. “We truly hand-picked our favorite people from all over the world to descend on Lisbon for three full days,” Lizzy says. “One key component of our vision was the luxury of time. Weddings often feel rushed and busy with lots of events and activities back to back to back. Instead, we tried to space things out and added 30 minutes or an hour to almost every event so that people could feel like they were able to relax and really be present.” Granted, this took some finagling. “We asked Laurel & Rose to negotiate with the venues and vendors to add time to events,” Lizzy shares. “More time led to a feeling of leisure, and we think that resonates a lot with our style.”
The weekend’s multiple events included an Indian ceremony on July 1 and an American ceremony and reception on July 2. Read on to see the stunning photos from both, as planned by Laurel & Rose and photographed by Ashley Sawtelle.
“We wanted to honor the destination, since we have such a strong affinity for Europe and Portugal,” the bride says. “We lived in Europe the year before we got engaged and so we tried our best through the wedding to have late nights, long luxurious meals, and a sense of adventure and discovery at every venue. We tried to let our venues, the local fare, and the European vibe permeate the wedding and its festivities.”
The unique color palette included shades of “burnished lilac, muted clay, mauve, marigold, citron green, artichoke, jade, and Aegean blue,” Lizzy describes. “We wanted to stay true to Portugal by incorporating the blue-and-white patterned tiles throughout the design, as well as a subtle motif of peacocks.”
In terms of timing, the couple even extended their rehearsal dinner. “The first day was a classic long European rehearsal lunch at a winery with a view of Sintra and the Atlantic Ocean,” Lizzy says. “Then at night, we hosted welcome drinks for everyone at a fun rooftop bar overlooking the city of Lisbon.”
Day two was the Indian wedding to honor Gagan’s culture. The groom’s mother made a special trip to India the prior winter to design and gather all the Indian wedding attire for the couple, bridesmaids, and groomsmen. “I wore a ruby red lehenga with a gold dupatta, the shawl that wraps around you,” Lizzy says. “We designed everything; the color, pattern, and detailed embroidery that was hand-stitched in India. I feel so lucky I got to wear this.” Gagan’s mother also hand-selected the jewelry, gifting Lizzy with pieces the bride hopes to eventually pass down to her own children.
“The day was boisterous and vibrant. We decked out an old distillery in the center of Lisbon. Guests rode Tuk Tuks and arrived at a colorful venue with rusted old cars, beautiful high ceilings and delicious Indian food,” the bride says.
Gagan wore an intricately embroidered navy blue sherwani. “My mother found a turban tier that could tie my turban in a special Marwari style,” he says. “We are from the Marwar region in Rajasthan, India, and she really wanted my turban to honor that tradition.”
The wedding party was bedecked in teal and gold. “The colors really stood out on our Indian wedding day,” Lizzy says.
Despite tradition, the couple still made things their own. “For the Indian wedding day, we only selected certain events that we wanted—basically, the fun parts: the dancing and the food!” Lizzy says. “There is so much pressure in Indian culture to add events and ceremonies. We tried our best to resist that while still honoring our heritage throughout the wedding.” One tradition that they kept was the pheras, Gagan explains. “This tradition involves tying the bride and groom together with a marriage dupatta and walking around a fire seven times while they share the seven vows or pheras,” he says.
The final day was the American wedding, a romantic affair at Casa Dos Penedos, a pink castle in the hills of Sintra. Lizzy went classic in a timeless silk Mikado Carolina Herrera gown with a statement train from the designer’s spring 2020 collection. (She admits that she overstepped: “I went the first time—when I found the dress I ended up getting—with my mother-in-law and close friend, but told myself I should keep looking before making a decision.” She took several trips, visited seven or eight stores, and let timing get down to the wire—then ultimately went back for a dress from that very first appointment.)
“Our ceremony space was very untraditional, with an aisle that snaked around existing grass mounds that were filled with blooms as if there were meadows spontaneously popping up throughout the garden space,” Lizzy describes. “The aisle led to a large arch adorned with lush greenery, purples, and pops of marigolds to incorporate Gagan’s Indian heritage, and patterned vases to add that Portuguese charm.”
“We put a great deal of intent and time into writing our vows,” the bride shares. “We took this as an opportunity to share our commitment to each other in front of our community of friends and family.” The emotion was palpable. Lizzy carried her late stepfather’s handkerchief with her for the ceremony, and “Gagan even borrowed the handkerchief in front of our guests, many of whom were tearing up as well,” she says.
The garden was the best area of the venue; we wanted our guests to enjoy this space the longest.
Their 90 guests then made their way into a lower secret garden for a two-and-a-half-hour cocktail reception, a highlight of the day. “The garden was the best area of the venue,” Lizzy says. “It was down the hill right next to the big pink castle, and there were beautiful trees and a small water area that really captured the magic of Sintra. We wanted our guests to enjoy this space the longest.” A dozen food stations fueled them with charcuterie and cheeses, fresh ice cream made before their eyes and served on hand-rolled cones, a full raw bar, a gyro station, local specialty ham hand-carved on-site, and more.
For the reception, the décor shifted from bright to moody, with saturated plum, mauve, and deep blue tones and brass accents. “Our florist sourced fun peacock and bird taper candle holders to sprinkle in throughout the design that were a real conversation starter,” Lizzy says. “Place settings had a lilac napkin and a blue tile salad or dinner plate to give a nod to the tiles throughout Portugal.”
There were speeches from close family, but the formality ended there. “The rest of the night was without tradition: No cake cutting, no tossing of the bouquet, no first dance,” Lizzy says. “This meant that after the cocktail hour, the guests (and the bride and groom!) were free to just enjoy ourselves and party.”
The rest of the night was without tradition.
“Dinner was served at 10 p.m. in typical European fashion. Guests walked up the hill and arrived at a gorgeously decorated indoor-outdoor garden,” Lizzy says. “Instead of a true seated dinner, everyone was just hanging out, drinking, and being merry.”
There was no official signature drink, but “the espresso martini quickly became the unofficial cocktail of the wedding, with everyone wanting a pick-me-up while partying for three days straight,” Lizzy says with a laugh. Guests danced until 3:30—when the venue kicked them out—then boarded buses back to Lisbon. “Once we returned to Lisbon a small crew came out even later to dance and roam the streets of Lisbon until sunrise,” Lizzy recalls. “It was a European night to remember.”