by Amit Roy
Destination weddings are all the rage among Indians but instead of going to an exotic location overseas, Susmita Das and Arun Wadhwa have discovered the perfect venue barely an hour’s train journey from London – Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire.
The mansion was built in the neo-renaissance style of a French château between 1874 and 1889 for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839–1898) as a weekend residence for grand entertaining.
But those who remember the 2001 Bollywood film, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, will recognise Waddesdon Manor as the palatial Raichand home where Rahul (played by Shah Rukh Khan) famously arrives by helicopter (pictured below).
Susmita, 26, and Arun, 28, who are both doctors training to be GPs, will have their Hindu wedding at Waddesdon Manor on August 12.
As far as destination weddings are concerned, steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal set the gold standard by picking the Palace of Versailles and the Jardin de Tuileries in Paris when his daughter Vanisha got married in 2004.
For Gopi Hinduja’s son, Sanjay, the palaces in Udaipur in Rajasthan were used in 2015. Others have gone to Dubai, Barcelona or holiday resorts in Thailand.
It was Arun’s sister, Ambika, who spotted the potential of a beautiful venue so close to home. She was “very, very clever”, acknowledges Arun. “I watched the movie many, many years ago,” recalls Arun, but at the time he was only 12.
“Just last year when my sister was rewatching it, she suddenly thought: ‘Oh, that’s a nice place! Where is that?’ She googled it, looked it up and found it and organised us to go and see it,” continues Arun, who is currently based in Sutton, Surrey.
Susmita, who is from Redbridge in east London, takes up the story: “On our first visit to Waddesdon Manor we fell in love with it – both our families did.” Arun enthuses: “We fell in love with it completely.”
Susmita picks up: “And now we are getting married there!” She goes on: “We are actually using the whole space by having our Hindu wedding at Waddesdon Manor next to the Aviary, moving onto the parterre for canapés and then later having the reception (for 500) at the back of the manor that evening.”
Arun, who is Punjabi, was born and brought up in Britain. “My dad was born in Dehradun and he came here in 1984 when he was 27, and my mum came from Agra but she came when she was only six years old.”
Susmita and her sister were also born and brought up in Britain but their parents are Hindu Bengalis who emigrated from Bangladesh.
Waddesdon Manor is thrilled it is becoming a favourite with Indians. In 2013, the grounds of the manor were the setting for Trisha Patel’s wedding to Simon Byrne, with many relatives from both sides.
“Because I am Irish, many guests were travelling from Dublin, so proximity to the airport was also important,” explains Simon. “We found Waddesdon by searching the internet. We thought the venue was very picturesque and decided to visit in person.”
Waddesdon Manor, used recently to exhibit rare French calendars, has had a colourful history. Ferdinand de Rothschild wanted a house in the style of the great Renaissance châteaux of the Loire Valley. He chose as his architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, who was already experienced in working in this style, having overseen the restoration of many châteaux in that region, in particular that of the Château de Mouchy.
The last member of the Rothschild family to own Waddesdon was James de Rothschild (1878–1957). He bequeathed the house and its contents to the National Trust. It is now managed by the Rothschild Foundation chaired by Jacob Rothschild, 4th Baron Rothschild.
Several well-known films have been shot at Waddesdon Manor, including The Queen (2006). It has also been used in many television series. The house most recently stood in for the exterior of the fictional Haxby Park in the second series of Downton Abbey (2011). Exteriors also feature in the 2016 TV series, The Crown.
Meanwhile, Waddesdon has proudly put out an announcement on its website: “We are delighted to announce that our next Waddesdon Manor wedding will be the marriage of Susmita Das and Arun Wadhwa, held on Saturday 12 August.”