The couple doing a Bollywood dance at their reception

Real Weddings: Jessny and Syam

Inside a candlelit Hindu celebration

Jessny Maureaye, a 36-year-old registered dietitian, met Syam Patel, a 43-year-old software engineer, in 2010 through family friends. For years, their timing was off—until 2019, when their long-term friendship evolved into a romantic relationship. In 2022, Syam popped the question in Toronto’s Distillery District, and in the summer of 2023, the couple wed in the same temple where they had first laid eyes on each other. Here’s how their celebration came together.

Jessny and Syam standing outside in their red wedding attire

Syam: In 2010, I moved to Toronto from my hometown in West Virginia. I was looking for a job while staying with my brother in Cabbagetown. That’s when I was introduced to Jessny.

Related: Inside a three-part wedding ceremony in Nigeria, Brampton and Mexico

Jessny: I had just graduated university. I knew Syam’s brother through a mutual friend. We went to the same local temple, where I had been introduced to other members of Syam’s family when they visited Toronto. We’d all become quite close, but no one had ever mentioned Syam since he didn’t yet live in town. It was a surprise when he showed up at the temple one day.

Syam: When my family introduced me to Jessny, she was instantly friendly and welcoming. She was easy to talk to and took an interest in my life, which felt nice. I also remember noticing how pretty she was.

The bride twirling in her red wedding dress

Jessny: At that time, I wasn’t considering him romantically. But I thought he had an amazing smile. I could feel that he was a genuinely good man.

Syam: We quickly became close friends.

Jessny: A couple of years later, he told my older sister that he was crushing on me. They were friends, though, so she didn’t tell me that at the time. By the time she let it slip, a year later, Syam had started dating someone. I realized that I liked him too, but there was nothing I could do—he was in a serious relationship.

Syam: We remained in contact as friends even though we were dating other people. Then we were both single in 2014, but I was moving to New York for a job.

The groom in his wedding attire, standing outside the ROM

Jessny: We really had terrible timing. I would be starting a new relationship, and a week later, Syam would coincidentally reach out, or vice versa. But, in 2019, I was visiting Syam’s family in West Virginia, and serendipitously, Syam was in town too. This time, we were both single.

Syam: I was excited to see Jessny. There’d always been an ease between us. It was nice to be in a place where we could explore our relationship. By then, I had moved to Philadelphia for work, so I asked Jessny if she’d come visit me there.

Jessny: I flew to Philadelphia a few weeks later. I was curious about what might happen.

Syam: For our first date, we went to an art museum and then to my house. We were slowly starting to get closer. When I’m nervous, I can’t stop talking. I wanted it to be just right!

The couple standing with one another outside the ROM

Jessny: Eventually he made his move. It was magical—like, Finally, we’re getting this right. We became official as a couple a few months after that trip.

Syam: We were dating long-distance, so we’d plan trips to places that were halfway between Toronto and Philadelphia, like Ithaca, New York.

Related: Inside a ’70s-themed wedding celebration captured on film

Jessny: We’d go to restaurants and talk for hours. We’re big foodies.

Syam: We took some bigger trips too, like to Hawaii and Mexico. Jessny was adamant about living in Canada, so we decided I would come back permanently and work remotely. In 2022, I moved back to Toronto, into Jessny’s condo.

The couple in their black and white wedding attire, standing outside

Jessny: We started having conversations about getting engaged and decided we were ready to take that step together.

Syam: We love going to the Distillery District. So one Friday night late in the year, I planned a date night for us there.

Jessny: He told me beforehand to get dressed up. I never dress up or go out on Friday nights, so I had an idea of what was coming. He was also wearing a suit, which tipped me off.

Syam: I had planned to put a lock on the love sign, but apparently it gets taken down for the holiday season. As a Plan B, I took her to the classic big red heart sculpture. I pulled the lock out of my pocket first, as a symbol of commitment.

The couple dancing outside the ROM

Jessny: I was so confused by the lock. I was really hoping he had a ring in there too.

Syam: It was a bit of a fake-out. Then I got on one knee and asked her to marry me. She said yes. I had already gone ring shopping and run the options by Jessny’s sister. From the moment we got engaged, I felt like we had an even stronger connection.

Jessny: I felt a little stressed because I knew we had a wedding to plan. To get organized, I booked pretty much everything before the year was over.

Syam: I gave a bit of input here and there, but Jessny really planned it all.

The couple standing with each other on their wedding day

Jessny: We wanted our celebration to be super intimate and non-traditional—kind of a stress-free party. Ascott Parc in Vaughan has a beautiful outdoor space with tents and lights, so we booked it for the reception as soon as we could.

Syam: We are both vegetarians, and Ascott Parc has a huge vegetarian catering menu, so that was a big win. We planned out buffet-style appetizers followed by a sit-down dinner of Indian cuisine. Later in the night, there would be a pizza-making station. The ceremony would be at the Hare Krishna Temple, which is where we met.

Jessny: One day on my lunch break from work, I popped into a local store and found both my outfits. For the ceremony, I bought a red-and-gold embroidered lehenga, and then, for the reception, I found a silver-and-blue lehenga. Both outfits were beautiful and fit me like a glove. They were also on sale, so I bought them on the spot.

A close up of the bride's first wedding look

Syam: It took me a little bit longer to find my outfits. We shopped around at different stores and ended up in Little India, where I found a ceremony suit that fit me really well. It was a white outfit with a turban, necklace and shawl. Jessny told me I looked like a prince, which I thought was pretty good feedback. We found my reception look, a plum-coloured suit, at Harry Rosen.

Jessny: For decor, I covered our tent with lots of candles, fairy lights and eucalyptus plants. We needed about 100 candles for the centrepieces, which I sourced from Facebook Marketplace, Value Villages and other thrift shops.

Syam: The morning of the wedding, Jessny was in Mississauga to get her makeup and hair done. In our culture, no one is allowed to see the bride until the start of the ceremony.

The bride with her sister behind her, holding a veil

Jessny: Jewellery is a big part of our wedding traditions: I wore matching bangles, an antique gold necklace, jhumka earrings, tikka on my forehead, Kundan bracelets, a nose ring and ankle bells. I also had my hands and feet decorated in mehndi. Once I was ready, I arrived at the temple in a limo with tinted windows. I got a sneak peek of Syam and his entourage taking photos.

Syam: Then I walked into the temple to start the ceremony. I had to wait for Jessny to arrive, which actually took a long time.

The groom walking into the temple

Jessny: Funny story, but no one told me it was time to go in. I was waiting and ready in the basement of the temple, just taking selfies. Then all of a sudden the photographer realized I’d been forgotten and rushed me upstairs.

Syam: I knew she was going to show up, so I wasn’t nervous about that. But I was relieved when she joined me because then we could share the spotlight.

Jessny: I came upstairs and walked around the temple. My sister was holding a cloth around me to shield me from everyone. In Hindu tradition, there’s a fun game where the priest gives flowers to the couple to throw at each other once the cloth separating us is dropped. At this point, the cloth is still between us, so Syam was the only one who hadn’t yet seen me. The priest says a prayer, and then whoever throws the flower first has the upper hand in the marriage. My sister dropped the cloth and I threw my flower like a dart. It hit Syam before his flower even left his hand.

The groom watching the bride approach him during the wedding

Syam: It wasn’t fair! This was the first time I got to see her, so I was busy taking her in.

Jessny: From there we exchanged rings and said our vows, followed by a few more traditional ceremonies. To signify us joining our lives together, my sister tied a garland around our palms. I made explanation cards for our guests so that they could understand what all the traditions meant. We wanted everyone to feel included.

Syam: At the end of the wedding, there was the saptapadi, a traditional fire ceremony where we recited vows. Jessny and I took seven steps together and recited a vow for each step. At the final step, everyone gathered around us.

The bride and groom holding a small flame

Jessny: That was the most emotional part for me—having all our loved ones come forward and celebrate with us was overwhelming but very special. From there, we went to take photos at U of T and the Royal Ontario Museum. Syam surprised me with a hotel room where I could get my hair redone before the reception. I changed into my blue outfit with a matching necklace, earring and bangles.

Syam: Then we arrived at Ascott Parc for the reception, where our guests were already mingling.

Jessny: We had lots of entertainment. Some of our family members did dances for us, and our loved ones gave speeches. I have a dance background, so I choreographed a hip-hop and Bollywood mash-up dance to surprise everyone with.

Jessyn and Syam dancing at their wedding reception

Syam: We had so much food. Every hour there was more coming out. We opted to have a dry wedding, so we also had a mocktail hour with fun non-alcoholic drinks.

Jessny: We had different stations, like a photo booth, set up to help people interact. It was all a blur, but it was an amazing party.

Syam: We spent the next couple of days recuperating and then flew off to the Greek islands for our two-week honeymoon.

Jessyn and Syam standing together in front of stone pillars

Jessny: We’re looking forward to doing all the things married couples do, like hosting barbecues together. Syam grounds me. I’m always on the go, and he’s so relaxed and supportive. Plus, he makes me laugh.

Syam: Jessny is so dedicated and passionate, it’s infectious. I love that she laughs at my jokes.

Jessny: We also bought a house just before the wedding. We’ve been enjoying settling into our new life together.

The couple walking through rings of flowers


Date: August 26, 2023
Ceremony venue: Hare Krishna Temple
Reception venue: Ascott Parc
Photography: Mango Studios
Officiant: Anand Prabhu
Catering: Punjabi by Nature and Gujarati Foods
Cake: Shastyna Coderre, the Plump Strawberry
Empire Entertainment
Bride’s hair: Sonia Singh
Bride’s makeup: Prerna and Co.
Bride’s dresses: Frontier Heritage
Groom’s wedding suit: Nucreation Fashions
Groom’s reception suit: Harry Rosen
Engagement ring: Fair Trade Jewellery Co.
Wedding bands: Rads Jewellery Yorkville