Bride-to-be Sarika Gupta tried to hold still as she talked. She sat on a wraparound couch downstairs in her parents' O'Fallon home while she, her sisters and cousins had traditional henna designs painted.
It was two days before her wedding to Jalpan Ringwala.
"I am joining a new family. I have to be decorated," said Sarika, in Indian dress, loose pants (salwar) and top (kameez). "I will have my feet up to my midcalf painted, also higher up on my arm to mid-elbow."
"It's marriage symbol, too," said Aunt Shelly Mittal, applying a lemon-sugar mix to bring out the red henna and keep the design from shaking off. "It's supposed to bring good luck."
The groom will have the bride's name hidden in his design, explained Alka Aggarwal, Sarika's older sister. "She'll have his name hidden in hers. Whoever finds the name first wins the game. The groom will have a smaller design."
Henna artists Suman Chandel and Kiron Kaur, of St. Louis, worked quickly, squeezing a pointed tube.
"You keep on learning every time you do it," said Suman, who has been a henna artist 28 years. "We used to do it with a toothpick."
Meet the bride
Her family: Parents Salil and Vandana Gupta, two sisters, Alka Aggarwal, of Swansea, Nipun Gupta, of Springfield, and a brother, Sorabh Gupta, of O'Fallon
About the bride: Sarika, a 2005 graduate of O'Fallon Township High School, is working on her Ph.D. in public policy at Harvard University in Boston.
About the groom: Jalpan Ringwala, 25, is starting his final year of med school at St. Louis University. "Since I am going to be in Boston four or five years, we are hoping he can match in the Boston area (for his residency)," she said.
Where their families are from: The Guptas hail from Delhi, India. Naimesh and Mala Ringwala are from Ahmedabad.
How did you meet? "We both went to the same college -- SLU -- for our undergraduate degree," said Sarika. "He was born in India and grew up in Oshkosh, Wisconsin."
What she likes about him: "He's incredibly caring, very honest and down to earth. We were both interested in finding someone of the same cultural and religious background."
Something they have in common: They are both vegetarians.
How long have you been planning the wedding? "About a year."
How did he propose? "I was working in India for a period of time. I came home for the Christmas holiday. He coordinated with family and friends. He's usually in St. Louis (for school). He told me he was already in Wisconsin. I came home, thinking he wasn't going to be here. My family said they were going to a (cousin's) voice recital at the school auditorium. We hurried to our seats."
They had a raffle surprise at the beginning and Sarika went up to get her prize. As she did, a slide show started with photos of her and Jalpan. "When we became best friends in college. Once it ended, the lights came on and he proposed." And she looked out on the audience filled with friends and family. It's on our wedding website."
"We pulled it off," said older sister Alka.
Wedding plans: "We wanted to have it in the St. Louis area. We looked at a lot of hotels in St. Louis. When we found out about the new hotel in O'Fallon, we were excited we could have a hometown wedding with Indian traditions."
Where did you get your beautiful clothes?
"We did a big family trip to India. For our different events, we need four or five outfits. We went to two different cities. It was crazy. We had three weeks. We shopped from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. They were kicking us out at the end when they were closing."
How many days of wedding events? "We started (with prayers) on Tuesday night." Thursday evening, 40 members of groom Jalpan's family, came from Oshkosh for dinner. Friday night was a big dance music night at the Hilton. Saturday was the wedding day. The ceremony and lunch in O'Fallon was followed by a reception at the Millennium in downtown St. Louis. Sunday, they traveled to her new husband's home in Oshkosh for more prayers and celebrating.
What was a challenge? "Coordinating everything. You are planning three or four big events with 300-plus people. Everything has to be Indian. The flowers, the D.J., the cakes. You have to find someone who can do Indian makeup, decorations, food."
What was the most fun? "We do a lot of dances. Working on dances. It's kind of a stress reliever when you can do it together."
Where is your honeymoon? "We are going to the Dominican Republic for six days."
What will you wear for the wedding? "It's like a blouse and a skirt draped with this kind of (sash) with gems and stones. Mine is gold and red and green. Tradtional colors. Most Indian brides wear red."
Music? "Most of these songs come from Indian movies, We watch them all the time. Before we could understand them, we were watching them. At our reception, we will play 85 percent Indian movie music. That's what we like to dance to. There will be bery few from American pop culture."
Best advice: "Everyone keeps telling me to enjoy my wedding day. Don't get caught up in details. We have done all the planning. Let it unfold the way it is going to unfold."
What do you like to do when you're not planning a wedding? "We like traveling, going to restaurants and going to movies."