Real Weddings: Inside Rina Hiranand & Aaron Davis's Chiang Mai Celebration
Rina and Aaron met at her best friend’s 30 birthday. She of course was dressed in a dinosaur costume (ahem), and he was instantly smitten. Since then, their romance has come a long way.
From a unique proposal in Japan set to the movie Casablanca, to their stunning wedding festivities in Hong Kong and Thailand, the couple's wedding celebrations were full of personal touches, love, light and laughter.
And if there’s one thing you need to know about the bride, it’s that family means everything to her. Rina made sure to honour her loved ones throughout the festivities – from leaning on her mother, PR maven Shirley Hiranand of Bonvivant and Bellavita and aunt Reyna Harilela for emotional support while planning her big day, to having her cousin Hersha Harilela Chellaram officiate the wedding, and most importantly having her sisters Rajé and Riva give heartfelt toasts at the welcome dinner and her brother Roni Hiranand acting as the Master of Ceremonies – the events truly were a family affair.
Our families are a huge influence in our lives, with many of them spread across the world: it was important that we could give everyone the best possible experience while keeping our own sense of style and occasion.
The Ceremony In Hong Kong
Ahead of the couple’s stunning celebration in Thailand, Rina and Aaron chose to tie the knot officially right here in Hong Kong last November.
The Indian-themed civil ceremony was followed by a family lunch at the Peninsula Hotel, with a night-time celebration at the Harilela House in Kowloon Tong completing the festivities.
In keeping with the Indian-theme to celebrate Rina’s cultural heritage, the couple both chose to don traditional Indian outfits designed by Manzar Couture. To top off the occasion, Rina’s aunts Kamilla and Laila Harilela not only organised a blessing, but went above and beyond to decorate the Harilela House with candles and beautiful garlands of marigolds.
The theme was further enhanced with Henna, Indian music and dancing for a truly festive vibe.
The Chiang Mai Celebrations
The couple always knew they wanted a destination wedding, but the challenge lay in finding the perfect location for their big day. After looking at venues across Thailand, they went with their gut and chose to host the festivities in Chiang Mai.
We wanted to have a destination wedding because we wanted to be able to step out of our hectic Hong Kong lives and be truly present with each other and our guests.
To kick off the Chiang May celebrations, the couple welcomed their guests with an Indian-themed celebration at X2 Riverside Resort.
Echoing the Hong Kong ceremony, the welcome dinner was festive and fun. The couple even gifted the bridal party traditional Indian outfits, with many of the guests also choosing to dress in the theme. The bride wore a pearl-studded lengha by Anushree Reddy and the groom wore a sherwani by Sabyasachi.
Set on a gorgeous location overlooking the river, the night was capped off with fire dancers, a modern French-Thai menu and a set of ‘Conversation Cards’ to help connect their broad and eclectic group of family and friends from all around the world ahead of the big day.
When it came to the Chiang Mai celebration, Rina explains that "there was really no other hotel for us other than the Four Seasons.”
“We needed a venue that had capacity for our party but was also versatile, and that showed our guests why we chose Chiang Mai in the first place. The Four Seasons had all of that in spades. Not only is it stunning, with a view over the mountains, it has been impeccably maintained and the hospitality team are the best at what they do. The property is centred around rice fields and pond with a pool overlooking it all, so brought Chiang Mai’s natural surroundings to life.”
With multiple venues inside the hotel itself, the couple was able to transition from one event to another all in one space.
Welcoming guests with young coconuts at the Ratree Bar, the ceremony was then held by the Lower Pool – complete with a flower-filled stage built over the pool, with a view across the rice paddies and the sunset.
“After the ceremony, we had our cocktail hour back at the Ratree Bar so the guests could watch the sunset” says Rina. After enjoying a bespoke cocktail by The Four Seasons’ award-winning mixologists – aptly named The Gin Joint as a nod to the movie Casablanca which the couple got engaged to – the wedding party moved onto the Lawn for a dinner reception under the stars, followed by an after-party at Rachawadee Residence for dancing until the late hours.
Having worked in advertising, design was really important to the bride. She worked with Nikki Palomaria, a talented Hong Kong-based designer, to make all of her design dreams come true: from a full invitation suite to custom door hangers for their guests.
For the groom, having the right music was critical for ambience. He enlisted a close friend of the couple, international jazz singer Deborah Davis, who flew down to serenade guests throughout the dinner.
Sticking true to their Thai location, Rina and Aaron chose to keep things local when it came to the décor and food for the Chiang Mai celebration.
For the decor and flowers, Rina notes “for the wedding itself, we worked with our amazing designer Neennara Thavarojana from The Wedding Bliss and Chiang Mai-based Tanat Florist to design a look and feel that worked within the spectacular outdoor setting but was also modern and distinctive".
We decided to go for a floral design that was free-form and organic, almost as if it was embedded in the setting itself, with a chic and modern colour scheme inspired by autumn tones but lightened with soft blush, peach and yellows. Nara and Tanat used calla lilies, roses, anthuriums and orchids in the arrangements.
When it came to the wedding dinner, the couple explains that they “decided to go forego the traditional banquet and go for what we love: Thai food!"
"Chef Ann is a Chiang Mai native and created a Thai family-style sharing menu for us which was elevated and full of flavour – it impressed our Thai guests just as much as our overseas guests.”
The menu included favourites including deep-fried whole ruby fish as well as Chef Ann’s green curry which added fresh young ginger. Foregoing a traditional cake, Rina and Aaron opted for mango sticky rice – a decision they assure us they were very happy with!
For the Thai ceremony, Rina walked down the aisle in an off-the-shoulder grown by Toni Maticevski; from The LOFT Bridal. Knowing she wanted something structural and unique, but timeless, she turned to LOFT Bridal owner Jackie Au to help her find the perfect dress.
The elegant, floor-sweeping dress was only further complimented by the bridesmaids soft grey Monique Lhuillier gowns.
Not to be outdone by his gorgeous bride, the groom looked dapper in a classic tuxedo by Tom Ford.
The Favourite Moment
From teary-eyed speeches and a first dance to Sunday Kind of Love by Etta James, there were plenty of memorable moments for the couple to choose from, but it was the stunning sunset ceremony that stands out in their memories.
"The ceremony was easily one of our favourite aspects of the day," Rina and Aaron explain. "The setting came completely to life at sunset: hundreds of dragonflies descended on the rice fields and danced in the air around us while we were saying our vows, making it feel otherworldly."
We were told dragonflies are good luck, so we took it as a fantastic omen for the start of our marriage.
As for a top tip for brides and grooms to be, aside from agreeing on your values and priorities as a couple, Rina encourage couples to take some time for themselves to truly enjoy the big day, saying "You can’t control everything, and you’ll want to be present for every moment. Plan in blocks of time during the wedding where you can step aside as a couple and soak it all in. "