A Couple's Modern Knanaya Wedding With Heartfelt Customs in Dallas, Texas
Benita Peters and Terry Philip’s love story began at church, where Benita found him “really cute,” even with his trademark smirk. That smirk made Benita suspect he thought he was “better than everyone” when, unbeknownst to her, it was a clever disguise to hide his braces. Despite her overprotective brothers, Benita and Terry’s friendship grew, though she tried to avoid them. “I made a business decision and awkwardly stuck my hand out instead to avoid him,” she reveals. As the years passed, Terry became best friends with Benita’s brothers, their bond strengthening through church events and shared hangouts.
Then, on a fateful day, Terry started talking and smiling nonstop with Benita. At that moment, both realized their connection was more profound than friendship. “God truly knew what he was doing and what ‘our’ perfect timing would be,” Benita explains. “Benson (Benita’s brother) and I had a few drinks, and he ended up telling me that I’m one of the few guys that he would be okay dating Benita,” Terry acknowledges. He took a leap of faith and asked her out: the rest, as they say, is history.
Once the pair became engaged, they jumped into wedding planning with a strong foundation in their faith. As members of the Knanaya Indian Christian religion, Benita and Terry had a plethora of traditions and customs to infuse into their big day. But first, the decor. “Initially, I just wanted an elegant wedding theme filled with mostly white and crystal decor,” tells the bride. “Ultimately, I opted for white and pastel pink colors to give the room a little bit more color!”
Due to the nature and extravagance of an Indian wedding (which typically involves multiple outfit changes), the fashion choices were particularly difficult. Of her first gown, Benita reveals, “I tried almost every style and the dress I chose ended up being the last one I ever tried on! After the first day of searching, I figured out that I wanted a more fitted mermaid dress with lace and an open back.” The bride’s second outfit, her manthrakodi—“manthra” meaning “blessed” and “kodi” meaning new clothes—was a richly embroidered set in bold red-and-gold hues. “My last outfit was a bridal lehenga: a hand-embroidered, ankle-length skirt with a coordinating crop top,” she shares. “I wore this during the bridal party dance to have a less-restrictive outfit so I could move more freely.”
A sunny spring day gave way to the couple’s main event. Fresh flowers lined the aisleway leading up to the refined altar arrangements. Benita, hands and arms adorned in beautiful red mehendi, walked the aisle toward her beloved. Terry, sporting a classic look with a deep blue suit with a galactic print on the inner lining, met his bride at the front of the church. Benita’s chosen manthrakodi—or the wedding saree—played a special role during the ceremony. Benita explains, “It reflects the promise of the groom to honor, protect, and provide for his new bride for the rest of their lives.” Terry presented it to Benita, symbolizing his unwavering commitment to be her partner in all aspects of life. Terry then tied a thali around his new wife’s neck. “The thali symbolizes the relationship of husband to wife, as a reflection of Christ’s love for His bride and the Church.”
After the church ceremony, the newlyweds and their guests partook in a gleeful custom. “The nada villi is a cheer given to the bride & groom while going home from the church after the marriage,” Benita illustrates, capturing the joyful spirit that enveloped their journey into married life. Attendees excitedly adjourned to the reception space to get the party started.
The reception space was a vision brought to life, guided by Benita’s preferences and creative ideas. “I always liked the wall candle look, so I knew I wanted to incorporate that on both sides,” she expresses. Understanding her love for beauty and elegance, she insisted on having a floral backdrop as the centerpiece. Collaborating closely with the decorator, they carefully selected additional elements to unify the design. The bride defines, “For the rest of the decor, we added other elements to bring everything together, such as crystal vases, candles, clear and gold chiavari chairs, etc.”
During the reception, a Welcoming Blessing took place, where Terry’s mother, accompanied by lighted candles, blessed them by making the sign of the cross on their foreheads. This solemn and heartfelt gesture invoked divine blessings, guiding their path as they embarked on their married life together. Finally, the mothers of the bride and groom presented them with sweet milk, a symbol of blessing and a wish for a sweet and harmonious marriage. Each cultural and religious element beautifully intertwined throughout their wedding, capturing the essence of Benita and Terry’s love and their deep-rooted faith.
As an extra touch, the couple decided to incorporate their wedding hashtag in a delicious way. “Our hashtag was #BenandTerry, so it was only fitting to have Ben and Jerry’s cater their ice cream at our wedding!” Benita says joyfully. It turned out to be a crowd favorite. Regarding entertainment, they aimed to create an atmosphere that would ignite the dance floor. “We wanted to have a DJ that would have a club vibe,” tells the bride. They incorporated various elements, including smoke guns, LED screens displaying their pictures, sparklers, glow-in-the-dark light sticks and fun glasses. The couple even seized the opportunity to join in the fun. “We even got to get up on stage and use the smoke gun to spray at the guests on the dance floor,” Benita reminisces, fondly recalling the energetic and memorable moments they shared.