Real Weddings: Inside a vibrant four-day cross-cultural celebration

Real Weddings: Hira and Daniel

Inside a vibrant four-day cross-cultural celebration

By Andrea Yu| Photography by Nihal Motha
| July 4, 2023

Hira and Daniel grew up in the same neighbourhood in north Brampton. They started dating in high school after they bonded in the music room. Eleven years later, in the summer of 2022, the couple were married in a four-day cross-cultural celebration featuring a performance by their former music teacher. Here’s how their vibrant multi-day wedding came together. 

Hira: I noticed Daniel in 2004, when I was in Grade 4. I had a little crush on him but was too shy to do anything about it.

Daniel: I was really into music in high school; I played the guitar and took vocal classes. When I was in Grade 12 and Hira was in Grade 11, I noticed she was spending more time in the music room.

Hira: The music room was its own little community. People from different grades would hang out there in their free time. Whenever I saw Daniel perform, I’d think, He’s so cool

Daniel: I tried to find more reasons to spend time with Hira. I asked her to help me practice a monologue from Hamlet that I had to present in my English class. We spent a couple of days rehearsing together.

Hira: I did the same thing. I’d ask for Daniel’s help learning a song on the guitar. After a couple of weeks, Daniel and I were hanging out during lunch when some of his friends came over and teasingly said, “You guys look cute together. I bet you’d make a good couple.” That’s when Daniel took his chance to ask me out. 

Daniel: We had our first kiss a few days after that. We were helping out in our music teacher’s office, and I just went for it.

Hira: The early years of our relationship were tough. My parents are very protective and didn’t approve of me dating, so we kept it a secret from them. 

Daniel: After high school, I went to York University to study music. Hira was still in her last year of high school. I arranged my schedule so I’d have most of my classes in the morning, and then I’d make a mad dash for the bus that passed by her school. If I was lucky, we’d get to spend a couple of minutes together before her lunch break was over.

Hira: Other people might have been annoyed that they couldn’t meet my parents or that we had so many restrictions. But that didn’t matter to Daniel. He still chose to be with me. Once I graduated, I went to York too, to study environmental science, and we got to see each other more often. 

Daniel: In high school, I never had any interest in finding a girlfriend. I just wanted to be a rockstar, join Bon Jovi and live on a bus. But once Hira came into my life, I thought, This feels really good. Spending time with her made me happy, and I started thinking that’s what I wanted to be doing with my life. 

Hira: Daniel and I are always laughing and smiling when we’re together. My jaw and cheeks often hurt from smiling so much. It was very easy to be with him.

Daniel: After five years of dating, Hira and I knew we were serious about each other. We were both still living with our parents in Brampton, but we wanted to eventually get married. 

Hira: If my parents didn’t approve of our relationship, it wouldn’t be good for either of us. So, one day in December 2016, I sat down with my parents and told them I’d been seeing Daniel for a while. I had to admit that I broke their rules and was dating someone behind their backs. But I said, “I want to marry this guy one day, with your blessing, and I’d really like you to meet him.” I think I caught my dad in a good mood because he said, “Okay, let’s meet him.” Daniel came over the next day.

Daniel: Hira and her brother were really nervous, but I thought the meeting went fine. Hira’s dad asked a lot of questions about my career, my family and my upbringing. 

Hira: I wanted my parents to like Daniel and to see what I see in him. When it went well, I was so relieved. After that, we were able to visit each other more and involve our families in our relationship, which was important to us.

Daniel: My parents knew about Hira from the beginning, but they wanted to respect her parents’ wishes and not meet her until her parents knew about us. 

Hira: I met Daniel’s parents shortly after. I learned how to greet them in Vietnamese.

Real Weddings: Inside a vibrant four-day cross-cultural celebration

Daniel: My parents loved how courteous Hira was. We continued our relationship as we started our careers: I worked as a teacher at a private school before pivoting to become an educational consultant for ed-tech companies. Hira completed another degree in geographic information systems and started working as a support specialist for a data marketing company. 

Hira: My cousin got married in the fall of 2021, and we helped out with wedding favours and decorating. It was Daniel’s first experience with an Indian-Pakistani wedding. At first, Daniel was hesitant about attending the wedding because a lot of my family didn’t know about him yet, or had only very recently found out about him. My aunt was very encouraging and insisted that Daniel attend, since everyone would meet soon enough.

Daniel: Our families finally met in July 2021. My parents found Hira’s father very charming and her mother warm. Our parents didn’t see our differences in race and culture as an issue. 

Hira: My parents could see Daniel came from a good family. Then, at my cousin’s wedding, my extended family had a chance to get to know him. They could see we made a great couple. After that, my parents gave us their blessing to get married. 

Daniel: As much fun as I had researching rings and guessing what Hira would like, I thought, This is a lot of money. So I asked her if she’d like to get involved. 

Hira: I was excited and open to doing it together. We went to an ethical jeweller called Attic Gold, near St. Lawrence Market, and we designed the rings and chose the stones. Mine is a rose-cut salt-and-pepper white diamond ring on a simple yellow-gold band. It’s dainty and minimalist. Daniel’s is a rectangular signet ring.

Hira: For the wedding rings, we decided on a square profile yellow-gold band with four tiny diamonds set in a compass arrangement for mine. Daniel’s is a larger cigar band with one diamond set in the middle, also in yellow gold. 

Daniel: We’d been together for 10 years and had already agreed that we wanted to get married, so proposing to Hira felt weird and insincere. So we decided we would be “engaged” from a Western perspective when we picked up our engagement rings in September 2021.

Hira: My parents threw a big engagement party for us in November at the Embassy Grand in Brampton. I had hoped for a small party with immediate family, but since I’m the oldest child, my parents wanted to throw a bigger celebration. It was a happy occasion. Everyone was so accepting of Daniel, and it felt like they were there to celebrate both of us. After that, we started planning our wedding. Pakistani-Indian weddings can be up to two weeks long, but we cut it down to four days.

Daniel: First, we had a civil court marriage at Brampton City Hall on June 30.

Hira: That day, my aunt hosted an 80-person dholki for me at a banquet hall in Mississauga. It’s for the women elders to give their blessings to the bride. It’s a more private, ladies-only event, and my aunts and cousins danced and sang for me. It was really nice.

The next day, July 1, was the mehndi, a party thrown by the bride’s side of the family. It’s a fun and colourful celebration with lots of music and dancing. We hosted 180 guests at the Embassy Grand in Brampton. I made a big Bollywood-style entrance—all of the women in my family did a procession to the song "Sajna, Say Yes to the Dress” by Badshah. I made signs for my relatives to hold up with a translation of the song lyrics so Daniel could follow along.

Real Weddings: Inside a vibrant four-day cross-cultural celebration

Daniel: The theme for our decor was silk florals. We had a moody, dark background, but the colours were lush, with deep greens and magentas.

Hira: Our shaadi—a wedding reception—followed on July 2, at the Versailles Convention Centre in Mississauga. We chose traditional colours for the decor: red, white and gold. It was sophisticated and classy, with about 300 guests.

Daniel: Music is still a big part of our lives. I work as a musician on the side, performing at weddings and corporate events. Our high school music teacher, Kiran Singh, is the reason we met, and he’s still a good friend. Kiran is an R&B vocalist and pianist, and he played throughout our shaadi, including our first dance, which was to “You and Me” by Lifehouse. That was really special for us.

Real Weddings: Inside a vibrant four-day cross-cultural celebration

Hira: Daniel and I also performed at each of our wedding events. At the mehndi, we sang “Better Together” by Jack Johnson; at the shaadi, we sang “I Choose You” by Sara Bareilles. 

Daniel: The next day was the valima, which is a reception that’s hosted by the groom’s side of the family. We started off with a traditional Vietnamese tea ceremony in a conservatory room at the Royal Ambassador Banquet Hall in Caledon. It was a way for my parents to welcome Hira into the family. 

Hira: We served tea to Daniel’s parents and the elders on his side of the family, and they gave us their blessings. Daniel and I wore traditional Vietnamese outfits to honour his family’s culture. 

Daniel: After the tea ceremony, I wanted the valima to be fun and entertaining, since it was our final event and a thank you to everyone for attending. So I decided to turn it into a concert. We set up a small stage, with a loveseat for Hira to sit on. I had a six-piece band: keys, drums, bass, and another guitarist and vocalist. We played three sets of about a dozen songs—mostly pop by artists like Dua Lipa and Ariana Grande. A lot of people asked me why I’d put in all of that work for my own wedding, but music has always been a big part of our relationship, so I wanted to do that for Hira. 

The theme was an awards ceremony, like the Grammys. We had a purple backdrop with deep blues, plus chandeliers on the stage. We hired a bubble tea company to cater a bubble tea bar, since we both love it.

Hira: I’ve always been Daniel’s number one fan. It was so nice to jam out and sing along with him. I also surprised him by ending the night with a song I performed for him: “My Dear” by Kina Grannis. By the end of the four days, I was exhausted but so happy. Throughout, I kept thinking, Is this really happening? It was a long time coming; there were moments when I thought our relationship wouldn’t work out because of my family. 

Daniel: We had put so much work into our relationship and we were really committed to each other, so it felt amazing to finally be married.

Hira: The morning after the valima, we went to Deerhurst Resort in Muskoka for a mini-moon. We took time to relax and indulge in being married. When we returned, I moved into Daniel’s parents’ house. We’re only seven minutes away from my parents, so we’re lucky that everyone is still close by.

Daniel: We’re saving up to move into our own place. We’re still considering our options, but we really like Milton because there’s a lot of greenery. 

Hira: Being married to Daniel feels peaceful, like this is how it’s supposed to be. We’ve been together for 12 years now, and it feels like we’ve always been married. 

Daniel: There wasn’t a huge lifestyle change or rocky transition period. I’m glad I have Hira—she’s bright and fun and bubbly, but also smart and thoughtful and deliberate—as my partner to continue building our life together.

Cheat Sheet

Photography: Nihal Motha for Marigold Moments Videography: Crystal Media Florals: Designed by TSG Decor: Bliss Beginnings Hira’s henna: Hennabymai (Maimuna Elias) Welcome paintings: Shawna Dwyer Welcome signs: Mrs P Creations

Mehndi Date: July 1, 2022 Location: Embassy Grand, Brampton Guest favours: Box of Traditions DJ: Eminence Entertainment Hira’s hair: Hair by Nini Hira’s makeup: Adorn by Irma Hira’s dress: Zara Shahjahan Hira’s jewellery: Á La Couture and Harmani by Raja Fabrics Daniel’s outfit: Faiza Saqlain Cocktail music: Becky Leigh

Shaadi Date: July 2, 2022 Location: Versailles Convention Centre, Mississauga DJ: Eminence Entertainment Hira’s hair and makeup: Adorn by Irma Hira’s dress: Sadaf Fawad Khan Hira’s jewellery: RJS & Company, Raina Jewellery Daniel’s outfit: Khaas Bridals by Myra Cocktail music: Julian Jannetta Cake: SK Confectionery

Valima Date: July 3, 2022 Location: Royal Ambassador, Caledon East Bubble tea station: I Heart Boba Cocktail music: Emma Cava (bar) and Heidi Savoie (patio) Guest favours: In Your Face Promotions (tambourines) and Ugly Dog Band Merchandise (guitar picks) Hira’s hair and makeup: Windy Chiu Hira’s dress: Purchased in Vietnam Daniel’s outfit: Design by Shawna Dwyer Cake: J’s Cake Atelier Reception band: Zachary Lewinson/Wanderer DJ: Michael Penkul

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