A ‘Hippie Hindu’ Wedding for a Cosmic Match

On a Friday morning in October 2018, Angela Braren and Gauri Manglik were riding San Francisco’s Muni to work together when Ms. Braren said she was struck with an urgency to propose to Ms. Manglik — her girlfriend of over four years — on that very day.

Ms. Braren found herself writing out the proposal on her phone. She left work early that day and raced to a jewelry store blocks from their home that was 15 minutes from closing. She opened the door and said she told the stunned store owner: “‘I need an engagement ring for my girlfriend. Today.’”

It had been love at first sight for the couple, according to Ms. Braren. They met on April 5, 2014, at a queer party called “Ships in the Night” at the New Parish in Oakland. “Gauri had an on-the-spot interview by my BFF Tori,” Ms. Braren said, speaking of her best friend Victoria Kentner. “Tori fully approved. We have been together since that first night.”

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Ms. Braren, 38, is from Walnutport, Pa. She comes from a family of Christians (although Ms. Braren herself is not) and of carpenters, farmers and blue-collar workers.

Meanwhile, Ms. Manglik, 32, was born in Raipur, India, before moving in her early years to Palos Verdes, Calif., and then Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. She comes from (and still practices) the Hindu faith, and from a family of doctors, business people and politicians.

Despite their differing backgrounds, Ms. Manglik said, “Together, we make our own family.” (They now live together in Oakland’s Adams Point with their two calico cats, Bella and Possum.)

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Ms. Manglik added: “We are vegetarian, practice ahimsa (nonviolence), honor all life, human and nonhuman, and strive to make the world a better place through our careers.”

Ms. Manglik holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from New York University and is the chief executive of Instrumentl, a platform that helps nonprofits obtain grants, which she founded alongside Ms. Braren and a business partner.

Ms. Braren is also the head of new ventures at Perfect Day, a start-up based in Berkeley that makes dairy proteins like whey and casein without the cow. (“Good for cows and good for our planet,” said Ms. Braren, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic, an experimental college off the coast of Maine, and a master’s in visual and critical studies from California College of the Arts.)

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On the Friday evening in 2018 that Ms. Braren bought the ring, she waited for Ms. Manglik to get home, and suggested a romantic getaway to Vichy Springs Resort in Ukiah, Calif. They hit the road straight away. Ms. Braren had the ring in her pocket and said she was burning with the secret the two-and-a-half-hour drive.

“But I wanted it to be a proper proposal,” she said, so she waited until they arrived at the resort, and then asked Ms. Manglik to go for a walk. She proposed beneath the starry night sky.

In fact, Ms. Manglik actually had a surprise engagement trip to Topanga Canyon planned for just two weekends later. But Ms. Braren beat her to it.

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After a yearlong postponement because of the pandemic — their original wedding date was July 4, 2020 — the wedding weekend was rescheduled for July 2 to 5, 2021, at the Holly Farm, a queer-owned micro-resort in Carmel, Calif.

It was, according to Ms. Braren, “a blend of Gauri’s Hindu family and customs, my rural Pennsylvania family, and our Bay Area lifestyle.”

The couple told their 150 guests in advance that they would be thrilled if they opted to wear Indian attire throughout the weekend, which many of them did, the couple said. “Almost everyone who was Indian came in Indian clothes,” Ms. Manglik said, as did Ms. Braren’s mother and sister.

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On Friday night, the couple hosted a welcome dinner and “hangout.” The dress code for the evening was all things rainbow in honor of pride. They called it their “Rainbow Welcome Party.” “Guests wore rainbow and we dined on rainbow veggie tacos, Budweiser and mocktails,” Ms. Braren said.

Saturday began with the Haldi: “It’s an intimate, pre-wedding event where family and close friends rub turmeric paste on the couple and give their blessings. Turmeric is known as a purifier with antiseptic and beautifying properties,” Ms. Manglik said.

Following the Haldi was the Sangeet, a pre-wedding party with dancing, food and mehendi, the painting of intricate designs on the body using a henna paste. Ms. Manglik’s parents, sister, cousins and family friends all performed at the event. The Duniya Dance & Drum Company put on a live Bhangra performance and offered a dance workshop so that everyone could dance Bhangra to the Punjabi music that followed.

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The brides also did a dance to “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life.” “We spent over two months learning the dance from Emily Coles, a San Francisco-based dance instructor,” Ms. Braren said of the “Dirty Dancing”-inspired routine. “The lift was a little different. I caught Gauri in my arms and dipped her for a kiss.”

The couple had three artists on-hand giving mehendi, bangles and bindis to guests. Ms. Manglik’s mother brought over a dozen Indian outfits for the occasion and lent them to attendees who did not have their own. “It was a big hit with our non-Indian guests,” Ms. Braren said.

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The Baraat and Milni were held the next day, on Sunday afternoon. The Baraat, a procession with dancing and music, is traditionally performed by the groom as he makes his way to the bride and her family. So, it was “a big deal to have a Baraat for Gauri,” Ms. Braren said.

Ms. Manglik entered on a bicycle rickshaw driven by her aunt. The Baraat concluded when Gauri and guests arrived at Ms. Braren’s family for the Milni. The families exchanged flower garlands, predominantly of marigolds per the tradition, signifying their mutual acceptance of the marriage and one another as family.

Finally, it was time for the wedding ceremony itself.

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Hindu wedding ceremonies traditionally last over an hour, are performed by a male priest and are conducted entirely or mostly in Sanskrit, the couple explained. But according to Ms. Manglik, theirs was “a hippie Hindu wedding ceremony or a fusion ceremony of our two cultures: Indian Hindu and Californian.” It was performed by Pundit Sushma Dwivedi of the Purple Pundit Project.

The couple read vows to one another.

“Gauri has spent a lifetime of discovering the universe inside of herself. She does this through meditation, spiritual discourses and books, and listening. She is a seeker. I’m very proud to have such an equanimous and kind partner,” Ms. Braren said.

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“Angela ‘sees’ people more than most,” Ms. Manglik said. “She sees the best in them, elevates them and expects the best. She somehow is not wrapped up in her own world. Instead she allows herself to be wrapped up in your world.”

They then took the seven steps while tied together with a scarf, walked around the havan (a small fire), exchanged rings and placed sindoor, red vermilion powder signifying they are now married women, on one another.

“We removed any wedding traditions that had misogynistic or patriarchal meanings. For example, no one was ‘given away,’” Ms. Braren said.

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All of the events over the weekend were outdoors and the couple put very specific pandemic guidelines in place — requesting that every eligible guest be fully vaccinated for Covid-19 before arrival and send proof of vaccination in advance of the weekend.

For guests who could not be fully vaccinated in time, the couple asked that they provide confirmation of a negative Covid-19 test result within 72 hours before the wedding weekend or receive rapid testing at the Holly Farm one to two hours before the Sangeet. In addition, unvaccinated guests were asked to wear masks at all functions and socially distance.

The wedding was followed by a cocktail hour, dinner and a reception. Two separate catering teams prepared a variety of Indian and Californian dishes throughout the weekend, all of which were vegetarian and eggless, keeping in line with Indian vegetarian standards.

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The dance floor at the reception was “opened” by Ms. Manglik’s cousin Shalini Goel Agarwal, who performed a classical Odissi dance, which was followed by Ms. Manglik and Ms. Braren’s first dance to the Bangles’ “Eternal Flame.”

A Monday morning brunch of plant-based breakfast burritos was served before guests headed home. There was also a birthday cake served for Ms. Braren’s and Ms. Manglik’s sisters, Jessica and Himani respectively.

“It was beyond belief. To see it all come together. To see all the love of all our friends and family in one place,” Ms. Manglik said.

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The following day, the couple traveled to Italy for their honeymoon.

Ms. Braren said she and Ms. Manglik “have been cosmically entangled for numerous lifetimes. We’re glad we found each other again in this life and we hope to stay entangled for millennia to come.”

On This Day

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When The official wedding ceremony took place on July 4, 2021, though the celebration lasted July 2 to 5.

Where Holly Farm, a queer-owned property in Carmel, Calif.

Not Going to Miss Their Shot At the Sangeet where Gauri’s parents, sister, cousins and family friends performed dances, they also put on a skit they had written based on Ms. Braren’s and Ms. Manglik’s lives and relationship. “They were so touching, and the skit, written in the style of ‘Hamilton,’ was hilarious,” Ms. Manglik said.

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Tying and Untying Knots During the Haldi, each bride’s mother tied a red thread bracelet to her respective daughter’s wrist, tightly knotting the string nine times. The brides were instructed to play a game on their wedding night to see who could untie one another’s knots the fastest. The exercise is designed as “a good excuse to flirt and get close as a married couple,” Ms. Manglik said.

Dressing the Part Last year, the couple traveled to India for 14 days with Ms. Manglik’s mother and more than eight family members to shop for Indian clothing. “We came home with dozens of outfits for not only us, but numerous wedding guests. We worked with some high-profile designers in India and traveled through multiple cities including Delhi and Gauri’s birthplace, Raipur,” Ms. Braren said.

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