Real Weddings: Shaelyn and Krunal
Inside a lavish week-long Hindu ceremony
Shaelyn Fitzpatrick, a 27-year-old registered nurse and health educator, met Krunal Kanani, a 28-year-old corporate development manager for a veterinary company, when he slid into the DMs of her travel Instagram in 2016. Several shared trips later, on a vacation to Cape Breton Island, Krunal proposed. The couple were wed over a week of multicultural celebrations this May. Here’s how it all came together.
Krunal: In the fall of 2016, I was scrolling through Instagram and Shaelyn’s travel account popped up on my feed. In addition to the images of her on vacations with her friends, there were photos of her taking solo trips. I’d always wanted to travel on my own, so I figured I’d reach out to learn from her experience. I thought she was really pretty too.
Shaelyn: At first, I thought Krunal was some random person messaging me from halfway across the world. I ignored it, but then felt a little guilty. I figured there was no harm in replying. We quickly realized that we actually lived just a few hours away from each other. I was studying nursing at Brock, and Krunal was at the University of Toronto studying commerce.
Krunal: I was living in Brampton with my parents at the time. Shaelyn and I ended up messaging back and forth for a couple of months, just talking about our different travel experiences. We realized that we had a lot of similar interests, especially hiking and outdoor activities. Over Christmas break, we both had some time off, so we made plans to meet up in the new year.
Shaelyn: I was with my parents in Hamilton, so we decided to go on a hike somewhere between where we were each staying. We chose Mount Nemo, near Milton. I wore a really light leather jacket—I was trying to impress him—but it was freezing out, so our hike ended up being pretty short. Then we got takeout from a Chinese restaurant nearby and ate it in my car.
Krunal: I’d recently read an article that had 40 questions to ask when you want to get to know someone, so Shae and I worked our way through some of those. We described our ideal days and picked one person we’d want to invite over for dinner.
Shaelyn: Some of the questions were quite personal, but both of us were very open with our answers. It kind of fast-tracked our connection.
Krunal: Shae and I kept in touch after that. I really liked that there were no games between us. It wasn’t like Who’s texting first or How long should I wait before I reply? That never even crossed my mind.
Shaelyn: Within a couple of weeks of dating, we decided to run off to Quebec together for reading week.
Krunal: We did a bunch of hikes and adventuring, and it was on that trip that we both realized this wasn’t just a friendship.
Shaelyn: We had kissed before, but that was when we decided to make our relationship official. After that, we did long-distance while we were finishing up university. We usually saw each other once every two weeks. We’d go on lots of hikes or go skating in the wintertime.
Krunal: After I graduated, in 2017, I got a job in downtown Toronto as an investment analyst and commuted there while living with my parents in Brampton. Sometimes, Shae would trek all the way from St. Catharines or Hamilton to make it downtown for 5:30 p.m., which is when I finished work, so we could have dinner together.
Shaelyn: I graduated in 2019 and got a job as a registered nurse at a hospital in Toronto. I moved into a rental home in North York, which closed the distance between us. Now that the commute was only 30 minutes, we saw each other a lot more. But then Covid hit, which was really rough. Krunal and I went almost two months without spending any time together. I was way too scared of making Krunal or his parents sick.
Krunal: After a while, I started driving to Shae’s house in North York to sit in the car while Shae stood outside the passenger seat window. We’d talk like that for 30 minutes. In between, we did a lot of FaceTimes and workouts together, which helped. Eventually, as the lockdowns lifted, Shae could take some days off, and we’d do short road trips together, like a canoe trip in Killarney and a road trip to Mont-Tremblant.
Shaelyn: The fact that we were able to get through the pandemic and find different ways to stay in touch definitely made our relationship stronger.
Krunal: Another big milestone for us was introducing Shae to my parents. I had met Shae’s parents very early on, but my parents are very traditional. I was worried about how they’d react to me dating someone outside our culture and religion. I’d slowly been telling my parents bits of information about Shae over the years. Meanwhile, I’d been sharing my culture and traditions with Shae. They were excited to meet one another, so in February of 2021, I arranged it. I tried to keep it as low-key as possible.
Shaelyn: By this point, I had switched to a public health job, so I was working from home. We decided that I’d go over to Krunal’s house and we could work from home together. His mom was home, but his dad was out working during the day. After he came home, Krunal’s mom cooked and we all had dinner together.
Krunal: My parents loved Shae’s personality and how independent she was. She was put together, and she demonstrated that she understood and accepted our religion.
Shaelyn: I was willing to take part in different Hindu traditions and rituals and was respectful of them. Traditionally, when you first meet elders, you bow down and touch their feet. A simple action like that demonstrated to them that I was accepting of their culture.
Krunal: Seeing my parents be so welcoming of Shae made me excited to take the next step in our relationship. I had always been head over heels for her. I really enjoyed spending time with her and wanted to keep doing that for the rest of my life.
Shaelyn: Krunal has so many amazing qualities. He always made me believe in myself. The fact that he’s such a religious and devoted person really inspires me.
Krunal: So we started shopping for an engagement ring together. I knew she wanted a simple solitaire—a single oval diamond on a yellow-gold band.
Shaelyn: Then, in August of 2021, Krunal and I bought a house in Brampton.
Krunal: Before we got the keys, we went on a road trip out east. I think Shaelyn had a hunch that I would be proposing, but I was waiting for the right moment. One day, in Cape Breton, we went on a hike to Blueberry Mountain. It was gorgeous, and when we got to the summit, there was no one else around. I knew that was my chance. So I set up my phone by a rock while Shae was admiring the views, then got down on one knee and said, “Shae, let’s do this.”
Shaelyn: We’d been talking about it for a while, but it was still an amazing moment. He couldn’t have picked a better time. I always wanted the proposal to be more private. When we got back to Toronto, I moved into our new house in Brampton. Krunal would move in with me after we got married.
Krunal: A month after that, in November 2021, we did a traditional Hindu engagement ceremony at my temple in Etobicoke. It’s basically a mini wedding. Then the wedding planning started. My parents guided us through what would happen in the Hindu ceremonies, which included five events over the span of a week.
Shaelyn: There is so much to an Indian wedding. It was all new to me. I was pretty open to following the traditions, but I put in a few requests. I wanted to have private vows with Krunal at some point, I wanted our reception to be more Western and I didn’t want to have two separate wedding ceremonies. I wanted to have our Hindu wedding ceremony and Western reception on the same day.
Krunal: In January of 2022, Shaelyn, my parents, my brother and I went on a two-week trip to India to shop for everything we needed for the wedding. That included all the outfits and jewellery, except for Shae’s reception dress.
Shaelyn: Krunal bought six outfits in India, and I bought five. My favourite one was my wedding ceremony outfit, which is called a lengha. It was actually the first one I tried on. It’s a dark maroon, and it has so much detail to it, like little embroidered trees and leaves. It’s a short-sleeved crop top with a big skirt. It weighed 30 pounds because of all the detailed embroidery. We FaceTimed my mom, even though it was 3 a.m. in Ontario, so we could show it to her. She loved it too.
Krunal: Traditionally, the bride finds her outfits first and the groom gets things that complement her. So I ended up with a sherwani, a long top with pants underneath, in a cream colour with little specks of maroon throughout, plus a maroon shawl, called a dupatta, and a maroon hat called a pãgh. I also got a tuxedo in India. One of my favourite suits is navy blue, so I knew I wanted my tuxedo to be navy blue too.
Shaelyn: Since my mom couldn’t come to India with us, I knew I wanted her there when I bought my reception dress back home. We went shopping in Hamilton, and again, the first dress I tried on was the one. It had spaghetti straps and a lacy, embellished top with a deep cut down the front. It wasn’t too extravagant, which is what I wanted. I already had five other outfits I’d be wearing that week.
Krunal: The events started a week before our wedding day. First was the vana rasam. Our officiant went to Shae’s parents’ house in Hamilton and had them fill out a traditional wedding invitation for my parents, then they all travelled together to my parents’ house and Shae’s parents handed them the invitation. Then we all ate some food and hung out.
Shaelyn: The next event was the mehndi and sangeet, which took place on the Thursday before our wedding at Krunal’s parents’ house. It’s when the bride and other female guests get henna done. I got designs all up my arms and a bit on my feet. Our guests also had some food and did a traditional dance called garba.
Krunal: Friday was the puja, which starts with a traditional prayer in the morning. Following that is the pithi ceremony, where guests rub a yellow turmeric paste on the bride and groom. That also happened at my parents’ house. Some days, during our wedding week, we had a hundred or two hundred people at the house. We set up a tent in the backyard to host everyone.
Shaelyn: On our wedding day, Saturday, we had close to 500 people at the Hindu ceremony at Krunal’s temple and then 250 guests at our reception, which was at a banquet hall in Etobicoke. I had to get up at 2 a.m. to get my hair and makeup done. It was a super early start, but it’s because I was so insistent on having the ceremony and reception all on the same day. Both of our parents were married on the 27th, mine in June and Krunal’s in February, so it was a special date for us.
Krunal: Everything needs to happen within an auspicious time based on the Hindu calendar, so that means there are certain time frames when the ceremony has to take place. On our wedding day, that time was before noon. Hence the early morning.
Shaelyn: Typically, the Hindu ceremony starts with a baraat, which is a procession for just the groom. I really wanted to be a part of the baraat, though, because I thought it looked like so much fun. I would’ve been sad to miss it. Thankfully, everyone was okay with that. After the big procession, with us and all of our guests, our parents welcomed one another and we all entered the temple for the ceremony, which took about 90 minutes.
Krunal: There are almost a dozen steps that make up the central wedding ceremony. Shae’s parents started at the mandap, which is like the altar, and when I arrived they welcomed me. Then Shae arrived, and they held up a little curtain to separate us from each other. Everyone sang some hymns before they removed the curtain, to symbolize the first time we see each other. After that, Shae’s parents gave me her hand, and we made our vows together. The last step is the circle of fire, where we recited vows around a sacred fire. Then we became married. After that, we had a kanku pagla at my parents’ place, which is when the bride first enters the groom’s family home.
Shaelyn: My parents were overwhelmed at times by all of the traditions, but they were happy for the two of us and were willing to go along with it all. After the kanku pagla, we all got changed for the reception. I had my hair and makeup redone and changed into my reception dress.
Krunal: After we got ready, Shae and I met for a first look at the conservation area behind my parents’ house. This is where we did our private vows to each other, which was a really important and special moment for us.
Shaelyn: Our reception was more Western. We did a traditional cocktail hour with hors d’œuvres for our guests. Krunal and I didn’t have a bridal party or groomsmen, so our parents did entrances and then it was just us.
Krunal: There was a cake-cutting, our first dance and then some speeches. One highlight was doing a choreographed dance with our friends, which is common in a modern Indian wedding. We did two Indian songs with Bollywood-style dance moves, then we did two songs in English.
Shaelyn: I’m a big country fan, and I’ve always had this vision of our friends and family line-dancing, so the last dance was to “Footloose.” After that, we opened up the dance floor.
Krunal: The dancing was a great way to let loose and enjoy ourselves. By 12:30 a.m., I went up to Shaelyn and asked if I could tell the DJ to cut it off at the next song. We were both so exhausted. Most of our guests had been up with us since the early morning.
Shaelyn: I was tired too, but still on a high. Everything we’d spent such a long time planning had happened so smoothly. I was in disbelief. After the DJ stopped, Krunal and I headed to the Radisson Blu for a night.
Krunal: We spent the next day at Elmwood Spa, which was very much needed. Then we went straight to our Brampton house and I officially moved in. It felt pretty surreal to go from our wedding to moving in with Shae. I’d been waiting for that moment for so long. I don’t think it hit me right away. It all took a couple of weeks to sink in.
Shaelyn: It’s been amazing living with Krunal. It’s so nice knowing that you get to come home to your best friend every day.
Krunal: We haven’t gone on our honeymoon yet, but we’ve booked it for May 2024. We’ll be going to Norway. It’s basically going to be a big road trip with lots of hikes and camping.
Shaelyn: I’m excited for our next steps together as husband and wife. And especially for all the travels and new adventures to come.
Date: May 20 to 27, 2023
Hindu ceremony venues: Groom’s home, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
Reception venue: Woodbine Banquet Hall
Photography: Ever After Photographers
Videography: QT Films
Florals: B-H Flower Wholesale
Floral garlands: Aishwarriam
Decorations: Akshar Mandap, Diamond Decor
Catering: BAPS Shayona
Bride’s hair and makeup: Ambreen Kaur
Bride’s henna artist: Parita Patel
Bride’s dress: Purchased in Gujarat, India
Bride’s reception dress: Best for Bride
Groom’s outfits: Purchased in Gujarat, India
DJ: Empire Entertainment
Car: Allure Limo