Inside a thrice-rescheduled Pakistani-Canadian ceremony at a Mississauga mosque

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Asim Ansari, a Canadian physician based in Detroit, and Sidra Khan, a product manager at FedEx, met on a dating app in 2017. They were set to be married in September 2020, but had to reschedule their wedding three times due to multiple lockdowns. Finally, they were able to tie the knot at the Sayeda Khadija Centre mosque in January. Here’s how it happened.

Sidra: Asim made the first move on Tinder. I was wearing a Blue Jays hat in my picture, and he made a not-so-original reference to it. He said, “Are you open to catching my pitch?”

Asim: I know nothing about baseball, but I am a big fan of cricket. We started chatting, and I realized that we had similar outlooks on life. Our senses of humour match—she makes corny jokes, and I get her puns. I was a psychiatry intern in Detroit at the time, so we decided to go on a date while I was visiting my family in Toronto. We went for a walk at Creditview Park in Brampton and hit it off instantly.

Sidra: About a year later, I told Asim I was serious about our relationship, and that we had to get our parents involved and make it official. As Pakistanis, family is important to us. We are both close to our families and love including them in all of our happiness.

Asim: Our families met in February 2019. It was a very traditional meeting, and everyone was super-formal. Her father and I talked about my life plans and career.

Asim: We planned on getting married in September 2020 at ISNA Canada, but then Covid hit. I was still in Detroit, and I anticipated the gravity of a pandemic before it landed, so I warned my family and friends to stay cautious.

Sidra: Soon, our wedding plans went out the window. Still, we kept telling ourselves that 2020 would be our year. I’d wanted a large, extravagant ceremony, but that was becoming increasingly unrealistic. Asim was more interested in an intimate wedding with our closest friends and family.

Asim: Spending a lot of money on a wedding never sat well with me. By summer, the situation was still serious in the GTA, so we booked the Peace Mosque in Niagara for November with about 40 guests.

Sidra: I’d expected to be married by the fall, so when September came around, I got super anxious. Shortly before our November ceremony, Niagara went into the red zone, and we had to cancel. We rescheduled the wedding again for mid-January because Asim was in the States, and he would need time to quarantine.

Asim: I was in Canada for 14 days when Doug Ford announced that Ontario would enter another provincewide lockdown—two days before our new wedding date. Our parents still wanted to host a larger wedding. They were like, “Let’s wait till the summer because vaccines are coming out and hopefully things should be better by then.” But I knew we wouldn’t be out of the woods with the pandemic any time soon. So we pulled the wedding forward to my first day out of quarantine, which was the day before the lockdown began. Our families called as many mosques as they could to ask around for openings.

Sidra: We ended up at Sayeda Khadija Centre mosque in Mississauga. Call it a happy coincidence, but the mosque’s interiors were Moroccan-inspired, and I’ve always wanted a Moroccan-themed wedding. We set up a Zoom call and told our family and friends that we had rescheduled our wedding for the third time. We also called all our vendors, including my makeup artist and photographer, and asked if they were available for the new date. They were all super-supportive and agreed. I didn’t sleep the night before the wedding, though. The anxiety engulfed me.

Asim: The wedding involved a nikah, which is the marriage ceremony, and a rukhsati, a sendoff where the bride officially says goodbye to her family and leaves with the groom. At the mosque we were joined by our parents and brothers, who served as witnesses, as well as the officiant and the photographer. Because of restrictions, our sisters sat in the car and watched our wedding on Zoom from the parking lot.

Sidra: Weddings in our families have an average of 300 to 600 people, and we had less than 10—truly one of a kind. We set up three cameras in the venue, so even though it was a small wedding, we were still connected. At the end, everything was so worth it.

Asim: Approximately 120 people joined our wedding virtually. We had people from Pakistan, Dubai, America, the U.K. and Austria. A close friend in the ICU in Mississauga with a non-Covid-related illness also attended our wedding virtually, which made me very happy. Everyone was so dressed up.

Sidra: Even though it wasn’t the wedding we originally envisioned, I couldn’t have been happier.

Asim: This process reaffirmed what we already knew about each other: Sidra is the one who panics and I’m the one who maintains calm in the relationship. However, there were times when I would panic and she would calm me down. It also taught us that we could always count on our families to help out when situations turned upside-down.

Sidra: We still have to do a walima, which means “feast” in Arabic. It’s a reception dinner organized by the groom’s family, where the two families come together to celebrate our union. We’re waiting for the right time to do it—perhaps on our first anniversary.

Asim: Since we missed out on a big wedding, my parents want to host a grand event with everyone in the same room whenever it’s possible. One day, I was joking around with my parents and suggested getting it over with and sending out dinners to the guests via Uber Eats. They weren’t amused.

Cheat Sheet:

Bride Dress: Liberty Market, Lahore
Groom Dress: Bonanza Market
Makeup artist: Areeba Khan
Venue: Sayeda Khadija Centre Masjid
Photographer: Ali at Pixo Images
Cake: Frosting by Feroze
Florals: Florals by Bushra

Here are a few more photos from the week: