One hundred and fifty guests collectively gasped in the middle of Megan Kamil and Sanjeev Ramakumar’s October wedding ceremony on the lawn of Burlingame’s Kohl Mansion. Just as the officiant, Kamil’s brother Jeremy, was speaking with pride about his new brother-in-law, a strong gust of wind leveled the four-post wooden gazebo erected for the big day.
The gasps quickly turned to laughter, as all three jumped out of harm’s way, and Jeremy assured the crowd, “That’s actually good luck!”
The phrase accurately sums up Kamil and Ramakumar’s entire three-year relationship. The couple, from San Jose, became experts at turning imperfect situations into a perfect love story.
The story began in 2009, when Kamil, now 30, and Ramakumar, now 37, met for coffee on what both assumed would be just another Match.com date. Ramakumar estimated he’d been on about 20 dates with women he’d met through various dating sites. Kamil said her number was closer to 50. Kamil said it was her roommate who first spotted Ramakumar’s profile online and urged her to contact him, and it had taken them a month to coordinate their schedules for a date.
On the appointed Sunday morning, Kamil’s alarm didn’t go off. She awoke late, threw on some clothes and ran out the door, barely arriving in time to meet Ramakumar. They spent only an hour together, but Ramakumar said he remembers walking her back to her car and “feeling like this could be the one.”
“I’m going to get in a lot of trouble,” he thought.
The trouble stemmed from the fact that he was from India, and she was American. His parents, who still live in Bangalore, expected him to have a traditional arranged marriage – or, at worst – marry someone within the same Indian caste. For the first year and a half of dating Kamil, he avoided telling his parents she was white.
They sought advice from friends – an Indian couple who came from different parts of India and married against their parents’ wishes. This couple’s parents had been so upset that they didn’t talk to their children for two years, until there were grandchildren in the picture.
Still, Kamil’s family met and loved Ramakumar, so the couple decided to take their chances with his family and arranged a time to video chat over Skype.
According to Ramakumar, his mom’s reaction to Kamil was “not good.”
“She freaked out initially,” he said. “I have an older brother in India, and he’s unmarried, so my mom saw me as her lone hope” for a traditional, arranged marriage.
But Kamil and Ramakumar stood their ground. They persuaded his mom to continue having Skype sessions, which Kamil recalls as “mostly surface level with a lot of cultural gaps.”
In 2011, however, an unexpected ally stepped in to advocate for the couple – Ramakumar’s grandmother in India.
“My mom’s mom convinced her that it was OK,” Ramakumar said. “I was very surprised that she did. She told my mom, ‘If he’s happy, don’t stand in his way.’ ”
From that point on, Ramakumar remembers, his mom “pulled a complete 180. ‘You have to get engaged,’ she would say. She started telling me that every day.”
Ramakumar’s grandmother passed away a few months later, but he said he will always be grateful to her.
With his family’s blessing, Ramakumar decided to propose in November 2011, but as Kamil put it, “he’s notoriously bad at planning anything.”
He asked Kamil to make dinner reservations in San Francisco, which she said was a “dead giveaway” that he was about to propose. She did, but even with the reservations, they ended up waiting 45 minutes for a table. By 9 p.m., they abandoned the restaurant and headed for another, where they faced another 45-minute wait.
“I was super grumpy,” Kamil said. “It was 10:45 p.m., and I had no energy left to say yes enthusiastically.”
“It wasn’t going well,” Ramakumar recalled. “The universe was giving me every sign, so I didn’t do it that night.”
When he got home, Ramakumar called his best friend for advice, saying, “I need some help here.” At his friend’s suggestion, he took Kamil to the Ritz-Carlton on the beach in Half Moon Bay the next day. They had dinner and sat outside by the fire pits at sunset until Ramakumar led Kamil away from the other diners.
“I wanted things to go well after the night before was a disaster,” Ramakumar said. “I was doing everything in my power to make sure I didn’t mess it up. I told her I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, and when I started talking, it just flowed. I didn’t have to think about it.”
This time, Kamil was very surprised. “He had this amazing, beautiful speech prepared,” she said.
Planning a wedding that would blend both families and cultures was the couple’s next challenge, and, in the end, they opted for two separate weddings – a traditional three-day ceremony in India, and an American wedding in the Bay Area.
Wedding planner Joyce Scardina Becker and her team from Events of Distinction helped plan the ceremony and reception at Kohl Mansion and integrated figs into several wedding elements. Partly because the couple’s favorite restaurant is the Girl and the Fig in Sonoma, but also because Kamil and Ramakumar have become so adept at making their relationship and cultural differences work.
As their wedding invitations said, “They have FIGured it out.”