Real Weddings: Vinay and Shuhrat
Inside a quick multicultural ceremony at the Toronto Music Garden
Shuhrat Shabnam, an innovation consultant, and Vinay Kanthan, a performance analyst, planned to host a 400-guest wedding over two days at the Globe and Mail Centre and Liberty Grand. Instead, they got married on the waterfront in the midst of a pandemic with just 40 of their nearest and dearest. Here’s how it all came together.
Vinay: I’m originally from Saskatoon. About six years ago, I moved to Toronto following my undergrad at Western. That’s when we first met on Tinder.
Shuhrat: At the time, I was still in university at Waterloo.
Vinay: When she moved to Toronto for a co-op placement in May 2016, I asked her out on our first real date.
Shuhrat: He took me to see Zootopia at Yonge and Dundas, and we got milkshakes afterwards at Baskin-Robbins.
Vinay: I like Disney. I’ve never pretended to be anyone but myself.
Shuhrat: It was always easy between us. He was also honest with me from the get-go that he’s a complete goofball. I stayed in Toronto for eight months, which we mostly spent together. When I went back for my final semester at Waterloo, we stayed in touch the entire time. I would call him every weekend.
Vinay: It was easy being with her. It never felt like work. One of our first dates was supposed to be us watching movies and building a blanket fort together. We never got around to doing that, so whenever I’d ask about our weekend plans, she’d occasionally joke about making a blanket fort.
Shuhrat: That was part of his Tinder bio. It said something like, “I’m looking for someone to hunt for pirate treasure and build blanket forts with.”
Vinay: In May 2017, she moved to the city for good—just down the street from my apartment in the financial district—and we’ve been inseparable ever since. I decided to propose on her birthday in February 2019, and I wanted to finally build a fort for her. I laid down a path of flowers and candles in my condo leading up to this big mess of blankets, sheets and pillows that I propped up along the couch. My place was also filled with balloons and other decorations. As she walked in, I asked for the password and when she didn’t know it, I went inside the fort to grab the ring. I surprised her by turning around on one knee and asking her to marry me.
Shuhrat: I was floored. He’d kept me waiting for hours for this surprise birthday lunch, and by that point I was hangry, so I wasn’t expecting it at all. It was really sweet.
Vinay: Our wedding was initially going to be a large South Asian 400-person event over the first weekend of July, with two full days of celebrations. We decided to have a civil ceremony so the focus stayed on our love for each other and our commitment to our marriage. But of course, Covid threw all of our plans out the window.
Shuhrat: Our ceremony was going to be at the Globe and Mail Centre and our reception was going to be at the Liberty Grand. We cancelled in May, informing our guests through texts and phone calls, and our parents reached out to their guests. We’d been expecting around 100 international family and friends.
I was originally planning on wearing a maroon and gold traditional Bengali banarasi sari, with gold jewelry, red glass bangles, and gold kaleera; Vinay was going to wear a white sherwani with gold detailing. With all of the businesses being closed, our clothing was never made. But we didn’t want to wait to get married, so we started looking for alternative options. We finally got our marriage licence on June 18.
The first thing you see when you look out the window from Vinay’s condo is the Toronto Music Garden. One day, we looked out from our balcony and I thought, Oh, that tree is really pretty, let’s see if we can do it there.
Vinay: We also figured it would be the safest bet since it’s outdoors and a public park. We could safely maintain social distancing. Plus, it would be so easy to get to from our condo.
Shuhrat: We were planning to do a small ceremony on one of our original dates, July 5, with our officiant, Tade Credgeur, and our best friends as witnesses. Then, on June 12, the government announced that they were going to allow groups of up to 10 people. So we invited our parents and siblings to come downtown. And then, just five days before the wedding, the provincial government announced that you can have up to 50 people if it was outdoors and spaced out. We texted all of our friends to come down to the garden and our videographer, Cinéverse, set up a livestream for those who couldn’t attend. Some of our original vendors—including our planner and photographer—were still available and willing to make the trip, too.
On the morning of, I felt emotional—a mix of excitement and relief with a side of anxiety about how everything would come together. We were expecting a heat wave, so I was worried about the weather, and if passersby would not like a gathering in the park.
Vinay: I was mostly excited to be able to finally marry Shuhrat, but I was nervous because we were unsure if our plans would get cancelled again.
Shuhrat: Vinay and I got ready at the condo together. He got dressed in his room while I got my makeup done by a professional in the living room with my sisters. Our parents met us at the condo and we met the rest of our friends at the park. I teared up a little when we turned the corner and saw everyone there.
We wanted to keep the morning as simple and quick as possible, so Vinay and I walked into the park together to the tree, where we’d share our vows. There wasn’t any decor—our friends and family dressed up and Simmi, our wedding planner from Biji Planners, arranged for bouquets and boutonnieres.
Vinay: It worked out really well. There were around 40 guests. Everyone was either wearing their masks or keeping their distance in smaller bubbles.
Shuhrat: The weather was perfect—we exchanged personal vows, and our officiant handled the rest. She got the crowd pumped up by giving everyone a game plan beforehand and letting them know when they needed to cheer or clap. She was really great throughout the entire ceremony and made us giggle when we got emotional.
We wanted to bring our cultures into it, so I wore a sari that my parents gave me, which was meant to be worn on my first visit home with my husband. It happened to match Vinay’s blue suit and navy floral tie that were already in his closet. Vinay’s family is Sri Lankan and Indian, so they handed out a traditional Sri Lankan wedding cake to everyone after the ceremony. My parents are from Bangladesh and handed out boxes of my favourite Bengali sweets. After everything settled, our immediate families stayed for photos and we returned home for a meal with our parents.
It was so nice to see our friends and family come together. We couldn’t be happier. It all happened smoothly with 10 days of planning. We just went with the flow, and the day went about seamlessly with no real hiccups.
Vinay: We’re planning to do our reception next year at Liberty Grand. It will be nice to celebrate with everyone who couldn’t make it. Even though it will only be our one-year anniversary, we can do a small vow renewal.
Before we got married, I’d always joked that even if a pipe breaks and the venue floods on the day and we had to do it in a high school gym and serve McDonald’s, as long as you have some food and music, it’ll be fine. And then once Covid happened, we couldn’t even do that, and I realized getting married was all I needed.