Emerald and Blue Fashion Wowed at This Wedding at Goodstone Inn in Middleburg, Virginia
Picture this: You walk into a raucous college dorm only to be greeted by a shirtless boy biking around the hallway. That was Nikita Chauhan’s (29, a structural and architectural engineer) first encounter with James Esser (29, a computer and software engineer). The interaction left her “very confused but also intrigued,” she says. “From then on, he was constantly a mystery to me.” It wasn’t until their third year of college that Nikita’s curiosity about James turned into something more—though they’d both had crushes on each other since that fateful biking encounter.
Nikita told James about an architectural history class she was taking that semester. “James was fascinated and signed up for the class on the spot. I think that eagerness and passion for the world definitely kick-started our relationship,” recalls Nikita. “The class was like a historical story time that got us excited about traveling the world, especially together. James continued to take the remaining history classes my major required, even though they had nothing to do with his degree, so he could spend time with me. They’ve always inspired our adventures.”
On one such adventure, to Seoul in 2018, James asked Nikita to marry him. When the travel-loving couple first set about wed- ding planning, they envisioned a destination wedding in Charleston, South Carolina. However, when COVID-19 caused them to postpone their wedding, they used the time to do some soul-searching to find the perfect venue. As the nation grappled with racial tension in 2020, Nikita and James “really took the time to think about what we learned from COVID as well as the Black Lives Matter movement and felt Charleston wasn’t aligned with our beliefs.” With family in Virginia and Philadelphia, the couple decided to marry at the Goodstone Inn in Middleburg, Virginia. “In hindsight, having the venue so close to home was perfect, be- cause now we can go to the bar for drinks, and we’ll always feel a special connection to the space,” says Nikita.
With that portion of planning secured, the couple then settled on a theme, which Nikita describes as a “secret-garden vibe” with butterflies and Indian patterns woven in.
“Our wedding was a fusion of my Indian culture and James’ American background,” says Nikita. “We held an Indian ceremony on Friday so our families could experience the traditions. We followed it with a Western wedding (with a non-denominational ceremony) the next day. As avid tea drinkers, we also incorporated a gung-fu tea ceremony into our Western ceremony for our unity ritual, because that felt true to us.”
Nikita shares that for James the highlight of planning the Indian ceremony was “getting to select a sword for his Indian outfit that now hangs on the wall at home.” To ensure that everyone understood what was taking place during the Friday ceremony, Nikita and James created informational program booklets that included a fun crossword puzzle and a letterpressed cover. While much of the ceremony was traditional, Nikita and James wore green, James’ favorite color, instead of the customary red.
And although it wasn’t initially planned, nontraditional outfit colors also made an appearance on Saturday. “James always told me he hoped I would wear a nontraditional, colorful wedding dress, but my response was always that my Indian outfit was green and my dream was for a white wedding dress.” As fate would have it, a blue wedding gown was the first option Nikita laid eyes on in the dress salon. “I had no intention of trying it on, as I’d always envisioned wearing white for my wedding. We tried on a number of dresses with no luck. My mother-in-law finally convinced me to try on the blue one. Of course, the second I put it on, we all fell in love. As an avid Disney fan, I felt just like Cinderella. My love of Disney grew from multiple family vacations and lasting friendships formed during a dream internship at Walt Disney Imagineering. I kept saying I wanted a dress that would make me feel like I was walking on water and never expected to find something so perfect, down to the color,” says Nikita. While the dress was perfect, keeping it a secret from James turned out to be a tall order. Given his love of green, James wanted to wear the color again on Saturday, but Nikita was determined to get him to don a blue suit, despite his rising suspicions. In the end, both outfits came together beautifully, and Nikita finished hers off with a veil handmade by her mother. “The veil holds so much meaning to me,” she says. “I also honored her by wearing one of her gold Indian necklaces, which she gifted me.”
Not only did Nikita look the part of Cinderella, but the couple also incorporated nods to Disney throughout the wedding. Notably, Nikita processed into the Western ceremony to the iconic fairy-tale track “So This Is Love,” by Ilene Woods and Mike Douglas. The flower girls followed suit with an instrumental tune from the 2002 film Lilo & Stitch. The Disney details extended beyond the ceremony and into the reception, thanks to the couple’s creative wedding favors. Nikita and James gifted loved ones “room scents inspired by Disney World, a place near and dear to my heart,” says Nikita. “I wanted to share a sensory memory that I have of Disney with our guests.”
While highlighting their separate interests was important to the couple, neither one wanted to overlook the other’s priorities. Nikita enjoys dancing, but James isn’t a fan, so they worked together to plan a reception that balanced both of their preferences. James spent the night passing around a box of cigars and chatting with guests. “It was heartwarming to glance over at him every so often and see him in a group gathered around a lit taper candle he used to light the cigars,” Nikita remembers. “I loved getting to see him and myself in our true form, happy together and for each other without necessarily being with each other every moment of the day (which sometimes feels like an expectation for couples on their wedding). But the happiest memories have room to grow when you’re true to yourself.”