Mala + Shane Part One: Mehendi Celebration, El Dorado Hills

(See Part 2: The Wedding here)

Some people in life you share the good times with. Some people you share the bad. Others you’re lucky enough to be there for both the sunshine and the rain, your relationship bonded by the shared laughter and strengthened by the shared tears. My friend, Mala, comfortably falls into the latter category. She is one of the most courageous, creative, passionate, and joyful people I know. We share our immigrant status, her from India and me from England, our artistic nature, and our love of travel. Our friendship spans fourteen years with babies born and marriages made and then failed. As she said herself while we were photographing her getting ready for this, the next, beautiful chapter of her life with her now-husband, Shane:  “you have been around for almost all the best moments in my life since I moved to the U.S.” It’s true and it’s humbling. This woman is my family.

Mala and Shane met online in the only way that two single parents really can these hectic days: swiping right. I knew it was serious when Mala disappeared from my social calendar and started popping up all over California with her daughter, Evani, Shane and his son, Aiden. The sparkle in her eyes when she talked about him told me everything I needed to know and so I wasn’t surprised when she returned from a Tahoe break, engaged. From the outside looking in, it looked like a whirlwind romance. But spend an hour or two with these guys and their kids, together, you realize one simple and very powerful fact: this isn’t just a coming together of two people that love one another, but the coming together of families. When people in love say they “found” one another, I think Mala and Shane’s new, blended family is exactly what they mean: together, they have been found. As I share their photos from their weekend, over and over again you’ll see that, yes, these are two people that love one another, but that this celebration is a family one, shared by both of their children.

The thriving Indian community Mala belongs to would never settle for a small wedding by the beach and so Mala and Shane planned a wedding weekend. A traditional Mehendi celebration on Friday night in El Dorado Hills and then a wedding weekend in Fort Bragg for a smaller group of friends and family.

If you’ve never been to an Indian party, you’ve never been to a party. They love to socialize and dance… and DANCE! Everyone can not only dance beautifully, it seems, but loves to perform on stage with abandon to happy, boppy, Bollywood tunes. Mala even got her non-Indian friends in on the act, choreographing a routine for some mutual friends who did an awesome job up on stage. Way to represent, girls.

Me, I hid behind my camera and tried to capture as much of all the joy and genuine love as I could, while also dancing and having a good time.

The evening began, uncharacteristically, with the bride-to-be, dressing her mother-in-law-to-be, Deb, in a Sari for the occasion. Their relationship is close and touching. Like I said… Mala found a family, not just a husband.

Mehendi Celebration, El Dorado Hills

Mehendi Celebration, El Dorado Hills

Mehendi Celebration, El Dorado Hills

Part Two in Fort Bragg is coming soon. Stay tuned…

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