Real Weddings: Hamza and Bailey

Inside an intimate ceremony at the Fairmont Royal York

Hamza Khan, a professor and public speaker, and Bailey Parnell, the founder and CEO of SkillsCamp Soft Skills Training, met in 2012 and worked together in Ryerson’s student affairs department. They got engaged in December of 2019 and were married two years later at the Fairmont Royal York. Here’s how it all came together.

Hamza: Bailey and I really clicked while working for Ryerson. We’d work our day jobs and in the evenings, we’d collaborate on entrepreneurial ventures. We spent so much time together that it got to a point where I’d miss her when she wasn’t around.

Bailey: I definitely thought he was cute when I first met him. But I don’t know if we’d be together if we hadn’t met through work. We’re both career-driven people. We had to collaborate at work, and that’s what helped us get closer in our relationship.We’d go out to grab a bite at restaurants, or travel together.

Hamza: At first, we were pretty clueless about our feelings. Our friends and family would hint and ask us about each other before we realized there was something between us. I felt like I was the last person to show up to my own party.

Bailey: He was my friend and partner in everything, and we made each other happy. In December of 2016, Hamza had decided to leave his role at Ryerson and start a marketing agency. We were at the Distillery District Christmas market together and bumped into one of our colleagues. It was a little strange—almost like two worlds were colliding—and that’s what made us realize that there was something more between us.

Hamza: We gradually fell in love without realizing it. We were always so in sync, and by the time I decided to propose in 2019, I had no doubt in mind that we were right for one another.

Bailey: I never dreamt about marriage growing up. There’s a lot of divorce in my family, and I never saw the point in getting married. But I wanted to commit to Hamza and, over the years, I learned to see the beauty of that commitment.

Hamza: When I was planning out the proposal in December of 2019, I told Bailey that I was invited to speak at a two-day conference in Banff and invited her to come along. We were staying at the Fairmont Banff Springs, and I had hired a photographer to meet us in front of Lake Louise when we arrived, under the guise of taking headshots for the conference’s marketing materials. Then he asked Bailey to jump in for a few shots.

Bailey: This all felt pretty normal for us, so I didn’t clue in. The photographer told me to look toward the mountain behind us, which was a little confusing for a professional shoot, but I did. Then, he asked me to turn around. It all happened so fast. Hamza was down on one knee with a ring in his hand.

Hamza: I asked, “Have you made plans for the rest of your life?” That’s a lyric from one of our favourite songs, “The Rest of Our Life” by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. Bailey was in so much shock that she couldn’t speak, but I was knee-deep in freezing snow and insisted on an answer so I could stand up.

Bailey: It was all so beautiful. I couldn’t believe it. I said yes, of course. For the next few days, it felt like we were in a perfect little snow globe. I couldn’t get over the fact that there wasn’t a conference.

Hamza: We celebrated our engagement with our friends and family at the end of February.

Bailey: It was everyone’s last party before the pandemic took over.

Hamza: We’d booked our wedding at the Fairmont Royal York for December of 2020, and we were so looking forward to hosting a big ol’ fusion wedding with our big families. We booked the ballroom, sent out invitations—and then the first lockdown happened. Like everyone else, we thought we could flatten the curve in three weeks, but that quickly became three months. By the summer, we’d postponed our wedding indefinitely.

Bailey: The hardest part was that my mom was battling two types of cancer at the time. When it came time to postpone the wedding, we had a heavy conversation about the chances that she wouldn’t make it to the wedding when it finally happened. She said, “Don’t worry about me, honey. I just want to see you in your dress. That’s all I want.” I had designed the dress at Anomalie. It was extra-special to me because it was a fusion dress—it had Western colouring, but the beading and lace were desi-inspired, since Hamza’s family is from India. It was subtle but symbolic. I was holding on to the dress as a surprise for as long as possible, but one evening in February of 2021, I just felt in my bones that it was time to show my mother the dress. She was a little out of it because of her condition, but she loved it. Two days later, she passed away.

We decided to wait to rebook the wedding until the restrictions became clearer and the grief became a little easier to bear. Once May rolled around, we decide to host a scaled-down event with our immediate families and plan a bigger reception for the next year.

Hamza: We had already done a lot of the groundwork. We just had to reduce the scope. I had my suit custom designed through Md Bespoke in Yorkville and worked with my stylist, Leah Morgan, to pick out the right fabrics, colours and style. Once we had the date set, we were pretty comfortable planning the wedding.

Bailey: We’re big into user experience, including our own, so we approached it from that perspective. For example, I knew my personal pain points and annoyances, like getting hungry throughout the day, and so I made sure to add snack breaks to our plan. Our wedding planner, Riccha Arora, did a great job of handling the rest of the details for the day. She worked with Blush and Bloom to create elegant floral arrangements for the aisle, which she then repurposed for our small reception as centrepieces. For name tags and party favours, we arranged for each guest to receive an ornament with their name on it, since it was around Christmas. On the day of, the lead-up to the ceremony went on without a hitch. I even had time to squeeze in an afternoon nap.

Hamza: My day was also pretty relaxing. Bailey spent the night at the hotel with her sister, so was weird to wake up without her by my side. I eased into my morning with a few video games. I started getting dressed just before noon and blasted some Kanye West and Drake to hype myself up. We live a short walk from the venue, but I knew I wanted to ride in style on my wedding day. I hired an Uber Black, so I felt pretty suave during the three-minute drive. I carried that flow with me for the rest of the day. When I saw Bailey in her dress, I was in awe. She looked so commanding and radiant—almost ethereal.

Bailey: The ceremony was also beautiful. We had an imam from the Noor Muslim Cultural Centre officiate an interfaith ceremony. He had blended aspects of the Bible and the Quran, which was really nice.

Hamza: He also included poetry, along with his own stories and wisdom. My favourite moment was a quote he shared by Louis de Bernières. He read, “Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away.” There was an audible gasp from the crowd. It was so deeply understood and appreciated. I had a couple of friends priming me for a very chaotic day, but I had the total opposite experience. I was grounded and calm. I remember everything so vividly.

Bailey: After the ceremony, our families gathered to take photos in a reception area, where we also had cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Then we sat down for dinner at Reign, the Fairmont restaurant, which was so delicious. We had seasonal chowder, salad, steak and the best wine. The whole day was a breeze. I thought about my mom throughout the day, which kept me surprisingly calm. I felt so present, and we were all just having fun. I later realized it would have been my mom’s job to keep calm if she was there with us in person. She was definitely with us in spirit. We honoured her throughout the day. I had framed an illustrated portrait representing the two of us. We also put together a shrine for her filled with memories, and my sister got me a few small photo charms to add to my bouquet. Our imam also did a beautiful job of incorporating her memory in his speech.

Hamza: The day after the wedding, we took everyone to the JW Marriott Muskoka and treated them to a couple of nights there. We wanted to keep the celebrations going.

Bailey: My sister’s boyfriend wanted to propose, so we schemed with him to plan a Muskoka proposal. She said yes. It was so exciting to help orchestrate that.

Hamza: We’re looking forward to the end of 2022 when we can have our big Indian fusion reception. We’re going all out. We’ll probably invite the imam back and honour our first anniversary by re-affirming our vows.

Bailey: I scaled down my hair, makeup and dress down for this ceremony, so I’m definitely going to add some more flair for the reception. We’re also going to do the traditional stuff we didn’t get to this year, like the first dance and my dad walking me down the aisle. In the meantime, we wanted to start our marriage off on a meaningful note. We recently created a bursary for equity-deserving students at Ryerson in my mother’s honour. We plan to continue this social justice work in the future and for forever.

Cheat Sheet

Date: 10 December 2021
Planner: Richha Arora, Arora Events
Photography: Abhav Sidhu
Bride’s gown: Anomalie
Groom’s attire: MD Bespoke, Leah Morgan
Flowers: Blush and Bloom
Hair and make-up: Jen Evoy
Venue: Fairmont Royal York
Catering: Reign
Guests: 25

Here’s some more photos from the day