Emily Adams Bode Aujla and Aaron Aujla had been together for close to a decade when he finally proposed on the eve of her 30th birthday in the summer of 2019. “We spent our twenties together, figuring out what the rest of our lives would be,” he recalls. “We have spent a lot of time working through life’s ups and downs, and we had always found each other in these moments of like, what are we doing? In my head, I always knew I wanted to propose to Emily in our twenties. It just happened to be like, the last hour of her twenties,” the interior and furniture designer who co-founded Green River Project adds, laughing. It was also the night before she flew to Paris to stage her Spring 2020 collection. He had invited her to the rooftop of her recently-vacated Chinatown apartment, which, in typical New York real estate-fashion, had resulted in at least some tears (“It was the big pain point of the move like, well, okay, I’m gonna move into this apartment. Sure, it’s bigger, and you’re gonna do the interior, great. But I’m losing this roof deck I’ve always loved.” Aaron recalls Emily thinking.) “I thought we were doing a toast because it was my birthday,” Emily adds.
Like many engaged couples, their first order of business was to secure a location, but unlike most, they were searching for a house… of their own. “We knew that we wanted to own a house together, that we could get married in our yard,” Emily explains. “It was very important to Aaron and to myself to begin our life together in our new home, and on our property, creating traditions and memories that would forever live in this space and forever be a part of our family’s history.” After a two year search, they finally found what they were looking for in April of last year, “basically where New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut all meet.” Theirs was a long engagement simply because they were waiting to close in on the house. They set a date in September, a mere five months after getting the keys to their place—only a crazy proposition if one isn’t versed in the timely, controlled chaos that is staging a fashion presentation at least two times a year.
The couple approached their nuptials with that same energy. Aaron set about getting the house ready: building tables, laying 400 feet of driveway, and tending to the plant life. They did not hire a wedding planner, but instead enlisted the team at Bode. “It needed to be almost seen as an extension of our life and our work,” Aaron explains. “We knew we wanted it to have a personal touch. Like, do we want to work with a florist? No, we can just get the marigolds from where we got them for our last photo shoot. We knew that Eric Wrenn, who did our brand identity, was going to do the invites.”
It will not come as a surprise that Emily and her team at Bode made not only the various outfits worn by the couple throughout the weekend, but bridesmaid dresses (made from piano shawls), tuxes for the groomsmen and other family members, as well as head scarves (for the Sikh prayers throughout the weekend) and the lobster bibs embroidered with each guest’s name, which also served as a seat finder for the wedding dinner. The wedding soon became not only the inspiration for her upcoming Pre-Fall collection, but also the setting for the lookbook shoot. While Emily was getting her hair and makeup done, she was also approving everyone’s looks for the images. “So throughout the day they’d come up and be like, ‘am I good?’” She laughs, “And then I’d be like, ‘yeah!’ and I’d finish styling them, and they’d run back downstairs and get their picture taken.”
Other items were brought in by Aaron’s family in India, like the specific metal trays used in one of the traditional ceremonies. “They are gorgeous, there’s a spot for your spoon, a spot for your Aloo Gobi and your dahl, and the khatta goes in each compartment so that they don’t mix. It was really important that we got the real thing,” Aaron explains. “We now have 500 aluminum plates in our basement,” they laugh.
The traditional week-long Punjabi wedding ceremonies instead took place on the day before the wedding. It began with a morning prayer, where a Sikh priest blessed their home, the fact that Emily and Aaron found each other, and their future. Aaron wore white pajamas embellished with ric rac and embroidery, and a pink turban that used to belong to his grandfather. “I had different turbans that [belonged to different] family members,” Aaron recalls. Emily, meanwhile, wore a matching dress and a chunari, or head covering, that used to belong to Aaron’s grandmother. After that it was the bridal party mehndi, where bridesmaids and other family members got their hands and feet decorated with henna, then a Milni ceremony where family members from each side were introduced to each other. For that ceremony, Aaron wore a saffron suit completely covered in micro glass beads that is now part of Bode’s collection. Afterwards, they moved to the front lawn for the Haldi ceremony, where the family applies a saffron paste to the couple’s hands and feet as a form of blessing.
“At this point guests came for dinner, and there’s this really fun thing where Emily and I are sitting on this hut that Ben (Bloomstein, his Green River Project co-founder) and I made out of mahogany and dried coconuts, and guests come and we welcome them as a family unit, and then they take a dollar bill and wave it around your head and then drop it in your lap as a gesture of congratulations and good luck,” Aaron explains. After that, it was dinner and traditional Indian dancing known as Jaggo.
On Saturday, the traditional Western ceremony took place. Emily made her own dress, with a drop waist, tulle skirt, and detachable train. “I always knew the kind of dress that I wanted to make, something that was really classic and not from a specific time,” she says. Emily’s Uncle Franck married the couple in an afternoon ceremony, while Emily’s college friend Joe Beers played Elvis covers. Afterwards, she changed into a vintage Paco Rabanne dress that she had found when she was in high school and had been saving. During the cocktail reception, their friend Marc Armitano Domingo played the Lyre and Aaron changed into a white seersucker dinner jacket. Then, right before dinner, Aaron, his brother, and his cousin cut off the beards that they had grown for just this occasion.
He explains, “I’m from British Columbia, where there’s a huge population of Punjabis and Indians that immigrated around independence, around 1948, and often what would happen is they would come to Canada and assimilate, and get rid of their beards and their turbans. But what would happen is there would be this wedding photograph that would be sent back to India, to their families. So growing up, going to weddings, there would be a cousin who would grow his beard for a few weeks or a month before the wedding, as a way of preserving the traditions that were so important to your family back home. I started growing the beard when we closed on the house.”
The reception was hosted by their good friend Jeremy O. Harris and included a toast by Emily’s dad, with bottles of Dom Perignon from the year that the two had first met. Dinner turned into dancing, and the next day they had a Southern brunch, where everyone sat on the lawn on quilts. “I think the wedding for us… of course it’s a party, but it’s so much more, it truly was celebrating the beginning of our life together,” Emily reflects. “And all of these objects that we made for our wedding, and pieces we made for our wedding, are now in our home and inform the way we live.”