Guests who have attended a traditional Indian wedding know this: The groom customarily arrives on an elephant or a horse. At a recent Montage Deer Valley celebration, bride Neelam Chand watched from afar with delight as her groom Shibu Basuthakur made his entrance in a blue Mustang convertible. A drummer preceded him, surrounded by a group of family and friends dancing with joy on this happiest of days.
Shibu’s spin on the time-honored baraat—the groom’s procession as he comes to pick up his bride— was symbolic for the well-matched couple. “We’re traditional, but we like to add a twist that’s not by the book,” Neelam says. “And the venue put all those pieces together.” For them, Montage Deer Valley offered the rare opportunity to host the traditional wedding their parents expected at a luxurious resort uniquely set against a majestic alpine backdrop.
The pair, who live in Salt Lake City, went on their first date five years ago in Park City, about 30 miles away. Once engaged, their thoughts returned to that sentimental locale. One day, they found themselves back in the area and saw a Montage sign. “We went up and checked it out and it was everything we wanted in a venue and then some,” Neelam says.
Shibu remembers the adventure of finding the resort tucked into a secluded area. “It’s lodgey with a rustic vibe but it has [a] very upscale feel,” he explains. “It was like stepping into something otherworldly, almost like we weren’t in Utah anymore. It was the first place we saw that had that ‘wow factor’— and we went to at least 20 [wedding venues].” The look on his future wife’s face said it all. “We walked out to the main balcony and saw the view of the mountains and the canyon. I looked over at her and I could tell she was really excited and wanted to have our wedding there,” he recalls. “It was the first place we were both genuinely excited to bring our family and friends.”
In true Indian fashion, their wedding stretched out across three magical days woven with meaningful festivities, blessings and prayers, and the coming together of families and friends in a fairy tale destination that felt like their own private mountain retreat. With just over 100 guests, their festivities felt intimate and truly shared. The majority stayed at the Montage, taking advantage of the resort’s restaurants, Spa Montage, and exploring Park City’s Main Street between the scheduled events.
The first night was the mehndi night, which Neelam explains is somewhat equivalent to the rehearsal dinner in American culture. The couple welcomed all of their guests with music and dancing. The girls had their henna done before an evening of cocktails, Indian street food and back-to-back Bollywood performances. A dash of Moroccan flavor came from an array of vibrant hues and an abundance of pillows.
Shibu was taken by surprise when a handful of guests started dancing and Neelam jumped in to join them, a treat she had started planning months before as she had always wanted to be part of a flash mob dance. In line with their Bollywood theme, this lively pair also choreographed a theatrical Bollywood entrance and dance. “Shibu is not a dancer and yet he blew it out of the water,” Neelam says about one of her favorite moments. “Everyone was very entertained.”
The next morning brought all of their loved ones back together for the outdoor wedding. “With the barrat procession, there’s a lot of pageantry and build up,” Shibu says. “But the main attraction was when Neelam came out. Her cousin made a carriage called a doli that takes multiple people to carry it. You rarely see it nowadays; it’s a very old-school tradition. It was a very storybook entrance and something we had both been looking forward to for years.” Next was a classic Hindu wedding ceremony sprinkled with a few modern elements. A priest, who has known the couple for many years, performed the ceremony in traditional language and also translated it into English. The couple reserved a special seat front and center for Neelam’s late grandfather. (He was the one who asked to meet Shibu’s parents and “get the marriage going” after the couple’s first date.) “He just knew,” Neelam recalls. “He used to wear this pink turban so we set it there so he could watch the wedding. We essentially felt he was right there with us.”
A nontraditional pizza bar lunch followed the ceremony. Guests had the rest of the day through the next evening to enjoy the resort amenities, explore the area, and get reacquainted. Saturday held the evening reception, filled with toasts, speeches, several performances and dancing. Every aspect of Neelam and Shibu’s multiday affair turned the resort into an incredibly colorful and ornate experience for the couple and their guests. Stylish, refined and dramatic, the events were larger-than-life and their extraordinary photos reflect their radiant smiles. “Sarah [Aures, Montage social catering and private dining manager,] was so accommodating to our budget, our wants and our needs,” Neelam says. “When we sat down and talked about logistics and where we would like all the different events to happen over several days, she was so flexible with the space and everything else.”
The property also fulfilled Neelam’s notions of a perfect wedding. She grew up on Bollywood movies that romanticize the idea of love and marriage. “What I saw in the movies was exactly what I wanted,” she says. “Shibu doesn’t watch Bollywood movies, but he acts very much like the guys in them. He’s very romantic. My whole Bollywood dream wedding came to life that weekend. It took a special person to make it happen.”
By Lisa Marie Hart
Photos Kate Osborne Photography