Wedding the stuff dreams are made of
It would be an understatement to say Varun Panjwani and Michelle Buxani enjoyed a fairy tale wedding. The former childhood friends held three days of celebrations to mark their March 9 wedding at the Sheraton Hua Hin Resort and Spa in Thailand.
The couple, both 25, celebrated their marriage with more than 600 friends and relatives, who flew in from all over the world for their big day.
The celebrations began with a welcome party on the theme of a flower festival, with the bride and groom arriving seated in a giant lotus atop a carnival float. At the dinner, guests were entertained by fire jugglers and burlesque dancers.
This was followed the next day by a poolside party, with the couple arriving in a chariot, escorted by actors playing gladiators and Greek goddesses. Mock Roman gladiator fights were staged to the amusement of guests.
During the traditional wedding- eve sangeet, the couple were elevated on a platform to appear on the balcony of a castle. Guests were then treated to a performance by Bollywood sensation Sukhbir Singh.
For the wedding ceremony, they arrived by helicopter at the nearby Banyan Golf Club.
Varun, who came to Hong Kong at age five, and Michelle, who was born here, practically grew up together, as their parents have known each other for years. 'I always knew Michelle would become my daughter-in-law,' said mother of the groom Veena Panjwani.
The love birds started to become more than just pals when Michelle moved back to Hong Kong in 2009 after finishing her university studies in London. Their first date was on February 14, 2010, which, apart from being Valentine's Day is also Michelle's birthday. Varun picked her up after work and whisked her away by helicopter to Macau for dinner at the Michelin-starred Aurora restaurant. Conversation flowed easily.
'We both knew then that our first date was the start of so much more,' Varun said.
The adventurous couple went on more dates in the following months, but opted for adrenaline-rushing experiences rather than sedate dinners. Highlights included bungee jumping in Macau, cruising on a yacht, a drive in a classic 1969 Jaguar sports car and a surprise skiing trip to South Korea.
'We actually have never done the typical Hong Kong dinner-and-movie date,' Michelle said.
'We make sure every date is a memorable experience,' Varun added. 'The reason why all our dates were memorable was because, on those special occasions, instead of showering each other with gifts, we went out on adventures.'
In June last year, Varun took Michelle to Amber in the Landmark Mandarin Oriental for a romantic candlelit dinner. The restaurant created a wine-pairing menu especially for the two vegetarians. When Michelle excused herself to visit the washroom before dessert was served, Varun executed his proposal plans. When she returned, Michelle found a cake in the shape of a ring box waiting for her.
Taking a closer look, Michelle saw the diamond ring on the cake. That's when Varun got down on one knee and asked Michelle to marry him.
'I said yes instantly,' Michelle said. 'Varun is good looking and everything, but for me to marry someone I need more than that. Varun has a kind heart. We are similar but we are also very different, not in a deal-breaking way but in a way that we can learn something from each other.'
Varun said he was charmed by Michelle's beauty and sense of humour from their first date.
For the wedding ceremony, Michelle wore an ethnic outfit designed and custom made by Indian couturier Ashima-Leena, while Varun wore a classic Tom Ford tuxedo.
They honeymooned in Turkey.