Real Weddings: Shahnaz and Dev

Inside a lakefront ceremony at the Henley Room

Shahnaz Shariff and Dev Shah, both software developers, met at Queen’s in 2018. When they got engaged, they planned to host a grand 150-person celebration with family and guests flying in from abroad, but the pandemic quashed it all. So instead they had an intimate dockside ceremony with a handful of guests. Here’s how the event unfolded.

Dev: Shahnaz and I moved from India to Canada in September of 2017 to pursue master’s degrees in computer science at Queen’s. We met during our second semester and clicked instantly. Over the next few months, Shahnaz and I spent a lot of time together, poring over our textbooks while snacking on McDonald’s and Tim Hortons.

Shahnaz: When school ended, we went on our first proper date to a restaurant in Kingston, and we spent the whole night talking about our goals and lives.

Dev: Shahnaz had lost her father nine months before her big move to Canada. I was immediately struck by her strength. We share the same values and our families are incredibly important to us. In June of 2018, I moved to Toronto for a new job. We had to date long-distance for about a year, which wasn’t too bad. We would make sure to visit every other week. The next year, Shahnaz joined me in Toronto.

Shahnaz: Dev is Hindu, and I am Muslim. My family is pretty religious, so I was nervous to tell them that I was dating someone from a different religion. But I was anxious for nothing. When I told my mom about Dev, she was so ecstatic that she started crying. She met him and thought he was the perfect companion for my life. She could see how devoted he was.

Dev: Shahnaz’s mother was very kind to me. Just before the pandemic hit, we took a trip to India so our families could meet, and soon after we returned to Toronto, we started thinking about the wedding—even though I hadn’t proposed yet.

Shahnaz: In June of 2020, Dev and I took an impromptu trip to a cottage near Lavigne, four hours north of Toronto. The property was on a private island in Lake Nipissing, and I thought he was going to propose. But he threw me off the scent, saying, “Had I known the view was so amazing here, I would have brought the ring.” Later that day, he told me to dress up and meet him by the dock, and I knew it was going to happen. He had a sweet, sentimental speech about our entire relationship. When he popped the question, I said, “Yes. A million times yes!”

We planned to get married in May of 2021, and booked the Henley Room for about 150 guests. We presumed that by then the pandemic would be officially over and people would be able to fly into the country. Then, this past spring as things got worse in Canada and India, we thought, Should we wait another year?

Dev: Our parents in India said, “Get married on your scheduled date in May; don’t wait for us.” At the time, they were still waiting on their vaccine shots. They suggested we could throw a wedding party in India in December.

Shahnaz: We decided to follow their advice, but the thought of not having our parents on our special day was very disheartening. We were in denial for at least a month, and even delayed filing for our marriage licence. Then, when direct flights from India were banned, we knew for sure that they would not make it.

Prepping for the wedding was hectic. There were new rules every day, and our vendors had no clue what to expect. We had to do a lot of online shopping with curbside pickups. Dev and I developed a routine to shop for our items and clothing: we’d video-call stores, pick up clothes, try them out, exchange and repeat.

Dev: On our wedding day, we had eight guests—including a friend, my brother and sister-in-law, and five vendors—which was pretty far off from our original plan.

Shahnaz: I had zero family members by my side—my brother and friends who live in the United States couldn’t join either, due to border restrictions. Dev and I got ready and headed to the venue, where we had set up a livestream. It was 4 a.m. in India, but more than 100 people joined. We couldn’t have asked for more.

Dev: Our ceremony was an amazing celebration of our cultures on the dock. We had Hindu customs like the seven pheras, where the bride and groom walk around a sacred fire reciting their commitment to each other, and the mangala sutra, a necklace that the groom ties around the bride. Then, we repeated a few verses from the Quran and said “Qubool Hai,” which translates to “I do,” as per Islamic wedding customs. We even exchanged rings and vows, which are Canadian rituals.

Shahnaz: Though it lasted less than an hour, the ceremony incorporated everything we wanted. It couldn’t have gone any better. We had an Indian takeout dinner from Blair’s Catering and a small party afterward, with a virtual cake-cutting over Zoom. A few days later, we left for a mini-honeymoon at a beautiful cottage in Frankford, about two hours west of Toronto. After the wedding, we moved into a new place together by the Harbourfront Centre.

Dev: Now that we’re married, we feel at peace. The wedding delays and cancellations were heartbreaking, especially because we couldn’t be surrounded by our family. But we’re hoping to celebrate with a couple of events in December in India. We’ve already booked our flights.

Cheat Sheet

Venue: The Henley Room
Date: May 27, 2021
Bride’s outfit: Naz Fashion Bug
Groom’s outfit: Andaaz for Men
Makeup: Sahar Talat
Photographer: Garima Singh
Videographer: Mashal Khan
Florals: Anandas
Arch: Pristine Designs and Decor
Officiant: Tade Credgeur, The Marrying Lady

Here are some more photos from the day: