After meeting in 2013 at a Halloween Party while attending the University of Miami’s medical school in Florida, Katya Papatla, who is Hindu, and Jared Tannenbaum, who is Jewish, began dating on and off.
Then, in 2016, the residency match process sent them to different cities (Katya went to Philadelphia; Jared, New York City). “Having our professional and personal lives determined by a computer algorithm was a bit terrifying, and it forced many people, including us, to take a look at what was important and if this was a relationship worth continuing after ‘The Match,’” says Papatla, who grew up in Milwaukee. “From 2016 to 2020, we were long-distance, spending most of our time apart, and only seeing each other one or two weekends a month, usually after a long, exhausting week at the hospital and having to run to take a late-night bus or train on a Friday after work. Despite these difficulties, we became closer during residency.”
Know an individual or group committed to bridging divides in our community? Nominate them for a Unity Award by Oct. 31.
It was on one of Papatla’s trips to New York that Tannenbaum popped the question. “I’m very close to my family and he understands that,” says Papatla. “He proposed on my brother’s birthday – he also lived in New York City – and my parents were there, too.”
Blending their cultural heritages was an important element of their wedding planning, and they enlisted the input of a Hindu priest and a Jewish rabbi. Their three-day Milwaukee wedding included a sangeet (musical celebration) at Villa Terrace, complete with three choreographed dances, one of which Papatla performed with her bridesmaids. A reception at Discovery World, featuring Indian food from a Chicago restaurant, culminated the festivities. At the ceremony, a mandap floral arrangement converted to a chuppah, a canopy under which couples say their vows at Jewish weddings, and, per Jewish tradition, they broke glass. Guests donned yarmulkes embroidered with the couple’s names. All of Papatla’s five outfits were flown in from India, as were Tannenbaum’s suits, except for a Bloomingdale’s tuxedo.
Impressions by Esther Fleming crafted orange marigold floral arrangements and Simma’s Bakery provided a colorful cake decorated with orange flowers made of frosting.
Working with vendors who understood fusion weddings was important. Photographer Heather Cook Elliott recognized certain moments as traditions – like the groom tying two traditional necklaces (mangalsutra) around the bride’s neck; or the signing of the ketubeh, a Jewish marriage contract – and captured them. The same goes for Sweet Pea Cinema videography. “I think everyone enjoyed being able to take part in a fusion wedding,” says Papatla.
Most Memorable Moment
Papatla’s jaw dropped when she entered each venue – “just seeing everything we had worked for over the last two years, especially since so many of our things were coming from India,” she says.
In the Hindu tradition, “you’re supposed to pour rice on each other’s heads [taking turns],” says Tannenbaum. “She ended up dumping the entire bowl of rice on my head at once.”
Most Romantic Moment
“It was a beautiful day – clear skies and a gorgeous sunset,” says Papatla, for photos taken by Lake Michigan.
Best Advice for Brides-to-Be
“Starting early is important because there’s so much to do,” says Papatla, “And asking for help when you need it, and also being able to say ‘No, I want to do these things myself.’ Some things are [more] personal.”
“The flowers were a definite splurge. Without the flowers the way they [were], it would have had a different vibe,” says Papatla.