Indian and Korean Traditions Came Together at This Micro-Wedding in Palm Beach

The night that Sue Jin Lee, the director of partnerships and audience development at Women’s

The night that Sue Jin Lee, the director of partnerships and audience development at Women’s Wear Daily, and Amit Seth met in New York’s Meatpacking District was filled with many mixed drinks and almost ended with a missed connection. “When I first saw Sue Jin I was taken aback,” Amit, an executive director at J.P. Morgan, admits. “She is so beautiful but also quite erratic and very loud. First, she turned me down for a drink, then she dragged me out of the bar only to tell me she was late for a date.”

“It was [actually] Amit’s friend who had approached me first,” Sue Jin remembers. “He asked to buy me and my college roommate a drink. We politely declined. Then, Amit came up to me trying to stir up conversation. At first, I wasn’t interested. He seemed overzealous and very extroverted. I declined any offer for a drink or small talk. But after several attempts and cocktails later, we began to converse, and although he did not seem like my type, I thought he was very handsome. I [eventually] dragged him to Soho House across the street. When we got to the bar there, he tried to learn more about me. I told him I tended to gravitate toward more introverted people and those that are very grounded. As I told him the qualities I admire in others, he realized he checked all the boxes. [And then,] just as we started really getting to know each other, I remembered I had another date I had already committed to just one hour later.”

Before parting ways, Sue Jin saved her number in Amit’s phone as “Suejin-you-have-a-big-ego”—and that’s how it’s still saved to this day. “I was a few drinks in, and her first impression of me may not have been ideal,” Amit reveals. “But I left determined to see her again.”

Within a matter of weeks, he knew she was, in fact, the one. So much so that he saved the program from the first ballet they attended together. Two-and-a-half years later, they were on a balcony at the Mezzatorre Hotel in Ischia, Italy, when Amit took out the program from that ballet and tried to propose to Sue Jin. “She was so hungry that she walked out off of the balcony to grab lunch—I wasn’t even able to get to the proposal in,” Amit remembers. 

“I was starving and tired [from traveling],” Sue Jin recalls. “And, all of the sudden, Amit took out a ballet program from one of our first dates—Romeo and Juliet at Lincoln Center. I was so puzzled as to why he had brought it and why he was taking it out of his bag. Growing more impatient and ‘hangry,’ I didn’t even give him a chance to propose to me. He had to yell out that he was asking for my hand in marriage, and I suddenly burst into tears and nearly blacked out with joy.”

Flash forward to life back in the U.S., where Sue Jin and Amit had relocated to Florida after the pandemic began in March of 2020. After spending a few months in quarantine, Sue Jin realized she wanted to have their wedding in Palm Beach. Initially they set the date for December 12, 2020 and planned a small ceremony for just the two of them and their parents. “I work for a fashion publication, so even if it was going to be a very intimate ceremony of six or a wedding of 300, there was never a doubt that the location and fashion choices were the most important aspects of the planning process to me,” Sue Jin says. “During quarantine, my days included a daily run in the morning and walks in the evening—and I fell in love with the island’s Lake Trail and the jaw-droppingly beautiful gardens and fountains. When I stepped onto the gardens of the Norton Museum of Art, I knew this was it. The NMA has gorgeous modern art and architecture, but also a tropical sculpture garden that gives the venue such a sense of place and lushness. So we were set—or so we thought.”

As the wedding date drew closer, the couple started to worry that their wedding day would forever feel incomplete without their siblings and extended families present. “Amit’s siblings and family members all work in hospitals, so we decided to postpone and give ourselves a few months to see if the situation would get better,” Sue Jin says. “After hoping for the best, things actually improved! It’s amazing how in three short months so much can change.”

In that time, the majority of their guests were able to get vaccinated, and a new date of March 20, 2021 was set. The Norton Museum of Art was still the place, and all 21 Lees and Seths were able to get together for the first time since COVID-19 began. 

Even prior to the pandemic, the bride knew she didn’t want a traditional wedding. “I’m somewhat of an anti-conformist,” she admits. Planning was not something she looked forward to.  “The only part I was really excited about was researching the different dresses I could wear from the three different cultures—Korean, Indian, and American—and the creative direction,” she says. Sue Jin left the rest to Annie Lee of Plannie and Daughter of Design. “I was elated when I found out Annie was Korean too,” Sue Jin says. “She helped me modernize all the Korean and Indian traditions. I always knew I wanted to hire a planner, but I definitely didn’t need a full-service wedding planner for our XL-sized elopement. I was lucky to find Plannie, which has a network of local event planners that I could work with on an hourly basis. I matched with Daughter of Design based on their aesthetic, and Plannie gave me the flexibility to ask for help on the things I needed—like the dress, help with creative direction, design, vendor relations, logistics, and timelines—but not the other tasks I did on my own like hire the musical duo from the local restaurant I adore and the make-up artist a friend connected me to.” 

As for her fashion lineup, Sue Jin meticulously selected looks that represented her past, present, and future. “We kicked off the weekend by hosting everyone at our sangeet, which is one of the pre-wedding events that occur in Punjabi culture,” the bride explains. “I loved this evening because we were very acutely aware of the two families blending together. Both sides were so proud to represent their cultures.”

Sue Jin wanted to wear a traditional Indian lehenga for the Sangeet, and her in-laws had her look custom made for her during their last trip to Northern India. “It is one of my most prized possessions,” she says. “The detailing on the dress is impeccable and one-of-a-kind.” Typically, both Indian and Korean brides traditionally wear the color red. Ever the rebel, Sue Jin decided to go against tradition and opted for a sky blue lehenga. “We felt like the opening night of our wedding weekend was like the opening ceremony for the Olympics, family members proudly wearing their national clothing,” Sue Jin says. “It was a sea of beautiful hanboks and lehengas.”

The next day Sue Jin wore a traditional Korean hanbok. “The hanbok dates back to thousands of years ago and is made of a lightweight material with bright colors, simple lines, and no pockets,” the bride explains. “I fell in love with a pastel-color hanbok with six layers. I wore a binyeo, which is a traditional hair accessory, a pearled jokduri, a type of Korean hat worn by brides, and a hwarot, the long cloth over my hands. A hwarot is from the Joseon dynasty and was worn only by royal women for special ceremonies.”

Amit also wore a traditional hanbok in pastel blue and navy to complement Sue Jin’s light colors. “This was Amit’s favorite out of all three outfits from the weekend because there was more room to eat!” Sue Jin jokes. “Despite the many layers, the hanboks were surprisingly very cool and comfortable to wear.”  

A dress that represented the present proved the most elusive. “I definitely did not want a traditional bridal dress or a dress that I’d seen on many other brides,” Sue Jin says. “My everyday look is at times eccentric and dramatic, like my personality, and I wanted my dress to represent that. I also was looking for something that felt appropriate for our micro-wedding, yet was also special.”

The bride ultimately went to Chernaya Bridal House in Miami with her wedding planner. Together they created the custom dress of her dreams.  Annie [of Daughter of Design] and Renato Armijo—the owners of Chernaya—reimagined a simpler silhouette with custom ruffles and a 10-foot-long, fashion-forward detachable train cut on a bias. “I loved the drama of it all,” Sue Jin says. “The look gave me the flexibility to have that bridal presence when I wanted but also not look overdressed at other times.”

Because the dress was so ornate, Sue Jin made sure her accessories and bouquet were simple. Her friend Andrew Shang, a former WWD market editor, sourced earrings from Hirotaka. She finished off the look with white Jimmy Choo mules with a beaded Mary Jane strap.

Because of COVID, the couple wanted to keep as much as they could “in the family,” right down to their officiant. Sue Jin’s sister-in-law, Rashmi Seth, conducted the service. “She has been such a pivotal part of our relationship, and I can’t imagine anyone else officiating our matrimony,” Sue Jin says. “Because it was a small wedding, we were able to be fully present and share with our loved ones the story of how we met and exchange our vows and words of appreciation and commitment out loud. I don’t think we’d have done that had it been a normal-size wedding.”  

In keeping with Hindu traditions, Amit tied a mangalsutra on Sue Jin right after the couple exchanged their rings. “This is the Hindu version of exchanging the rings,” Sue Jin explains. “The word mangal means auspicious, and sutra means thread together. Mangalsutra means ‘an auspicious thread uniting the souls.’ The groom ties the auspicious thread around the bride’s neck, so that their married life is as auspicious as the thread. It is thought that it will protect the couple. My mangalsutra consisted of a string of black beads with diamonds in the middle. It was made in India and handed down to me from Amit’s mother. I will treasure it always.”

Following the ceremony, the group had light bites and cocktails done by Constellation Catering before sitting down for dinner outdoors. Even though three-quarters of the couple’s guests had been vaccinated and others had active antibodies, there were custom-printed masks and hand sanitizer at the ready, while a certified COVID-19 Compliance Officer monitored staff and guests’ safety. 

On the tables, vases with lips and faces, Nordic flower vessels, and Michael Aram–sculpted calla lilies served as decor—all pieces that felt like they belonged alongside the art on display throughout the gardens. “I think our loud logo embossed on the white menu corner probably sums up the entire vibe of the reception, which was a wildness in white,” Sue Jin says. “And because we only had three tables to decorate and didn’t need 20 of everything, we were able to find unique pieces that, as a bonus, we got to keep after the wedding.”

Following toasts, Annie came up with a deconstructed and modern version of the pyebaek, a traditional Korean wedding ceremony symbolizing the entrance of the bride into her husband’s household. “Typically, the groom’s parents sit at an elaborate spread of food and decor while they throw dates and chestnuts for the couple to catch in the hanbok’s hwarot,’” Sue Jin explains. “The number of dates and chestnuts the couple catches in a cloth represents the number of children they will have. Instead, Amit and I stood by the end of the table, holding my multipurpose detachable train, while my dad and Amit’s father dumped all the dates and chestnuts as a joke. Everyone roared with laughter. The traditional pyebaek is pretty solemn and serious, but that’s just not either of us or our families. We played ‘Gangnam Style’ in the background, and all four parents cheered with Korean rice wine. It was the perfect segue from dinner into dancing and partying!”