Everyone has that one special birthday gift – the gift that was truly memorable, the gift that will never be forgotten. For Anita Butani, that gift is her husband. Anita and Jonathan Dsouza met at her 26th birthday party.
My cousin and I decided to throw this massive joint birthday party inviting everyone we knew”, Anita recalls. On the guest list was Angie, who had studied abroad with a very good friend of Anita’s. Angie had just moved to New York to start her residency; as it turns out, Jon was a fellow resident.
Jon had just come off a 12-hour shift and he came to Angie’s on-campus apartment, settled on the couch, and announced that he wasn’t leaving,” Anita says. “Angie, this tiny 100-pound girl, says, ‘No, were going to the party,’ and she dragged him out the door.”
Anita noticed him from across the room that night at the party, but the two didn’t interact until a brief conversation at a subsequent party the next night. Facebook messaging between Anita and Jon followed, leading to Anita joining Jon the following weekend at a friend’s birthday get-together. “He and I sat down at the party and literally proceeded to talk for the next four hours,” Anita says. “The rest is history.”
Over the course of the next seven years, Anita’s east coast Indian-American culture and Jon’s Midwestern roots melded beautifully, and their families grew quite fond of one another. Marriage was on Jon’s mind when Anita’s sister got married in December 2011 – a “quintessential Washington, D.C. Indian wedding with 500 guests and great speeches, dances, food, and vibes,” Anita recalls. Three months after the impressive celebration, Jon proposed.
With Anita’s sister’s wedding fresh in their minds, the couple decided they didn’t want to attempt to replicate such a memorable day, so they opted for a destination wedding. Anita’s sister had honeymooned on Grand Cayman, and the photos left an impression on Anita and Jon. “These pictures were spectacular,” Anita says. “Perfect blue ocean, white sand”. I’m in cold D.C. saying, “I just want to go there.”
With Jon’s blessing, Anita, her mother, and her sister took over the task of wedding planning. Grand Cayman covered all the bases for their destination wedding – exotic and different, yet a short flight from Washington, D.C.; beautiful weather; and the hotel capacity to hold all of the couple’s guests.
Next on the list was selecting a wedding planner that could accommodate the events typically associated with an Indian wedding. That job went to Mary Ann Mehigan of Celebrations Ltd.
“She knows everything about the island and is such a warm person,” Anita says. “I felt like she was really organized and on top of things, and she got what I had in mind for the wedding.”
Anita took two pre-wedding trips to the island to ensure that all the important pieces of the puzzle were put together. She sought out a variety of venues for the various wedding week events, the perfect hotel to encourage mingling among the guests, and a chef who could turn out Indian food that would impress. The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa covered all of the bases, with plenty of space for the guests to spend time with one another, and a South Indian chef “who makes extraordinary Indian food,” Anita says.
Finally, with all the hard work behind her, it was time for the fun to begin. The festivities kicked off on Thursday, with a poolside cocktail party at the Westin, where multicolored paper lanterns set the mood and calypso drummer and a fire dancer provided entertainment.
The following morning, a South Indian brunch was served in a nod to Jon’s family as Anita’s hands and feet were decorated with henna. That night, the guests gathered at Tiki Beach for a white party, where Jon and his mother both sang songs that brought the crowd to tears, and DJ Ravi kept the guests moving late into the night. A bonfire added to the atmosphere as guests enjoyed s’mores, bananas flambé. And fun favors like glow stick aviator glasses.
The day of the wedding, March 16, 2013, dawned bright and beautiful. A mandap – a traditional Indian four-post decorated structure where the ceremony was to take place – was constructed on the Westin lawn with white cloth, glittering beads, and a chandelier hanging in the middle.
Shortly before sunset, Anita and Jon gathered to take photos in the warm late afternoon light with Rebecca Davidson of Picture This Studios. And then, it was time to say “I do.” One year to the day after Jon proposed, the couple were wed under the mandap. A priest who’d conducted many ceremonies in Anita’s family married the couple, while his wife, a religious scholar, translated the ceremony and explained the meaning behind the rituals.
“That was really nice for the folks in the audience who were less familiar with a Hindu wedding ceremony,” says Anita. The reception followed, where guests danced among the cherry blossoms – a nod to the timing of Jon’s March 16,2012 proposal, when the cherry blossoms in D.C. were in full bloom. Anita credits the large team of Cayman businesses that helped make her wedding to Jon an unforgettable event.
“Rebecca is the best photographer on Grand Cayman,” Anita gushes. “She really understands how to take beautiful pictures. Mary Ann and JoAnn Brown of Celebrations Ltd. Were absolutely professionals, able to handle anything that came their way. They totally blew all my expectations out of the water. I can’t say enough good things about DJ Ravi; he really makes an event. We still have guests raving to us about the Sangeet on Tiki Beach. And the Westin was just the perfect place to have a destination wedding.”
More than anything, it’s the welcoming nature of Caymanians that has stayed with Anita in the years since her wedding. “Grand Cayman is a really special island,” she says. “The people are so warm; they just go out of their way to make your experience totally unforgettable and unique.”
“Grand Cayman is a really special island,” she says. “The people are so warm; they just go out of their way to make your experience totally unforgettable and unique.”
Rum Point Club
HAIR & MAKEUP
Jimmie DeLoach of DeLoach Enterprises
Elina Zavala of Parfrait
Red Sail Sports
Daria Keenan of Picture This Studios