Our latest edition of our Jab We Met series looks at Love in the Time of Corona. We talk to Nida Sohail Chaudhary and her husband Bahawal Sher Sipra who chose a pared-down Nikkah so that they could be together after the CoronaVirus pandemic hit.
Nida: I had it all planned out. I knew exactly what kind of man I wanted to marry and I knew exactly how I wanted my wedding to be. I had planned where I wanted my nikkah and who the photographer would be long before I met the man I would marry. But Allah is the best of planners.
Bahawal and I got married last week on April 9th. There were 20 people at our wedding, all immediate family. My cousin read our Nikkah and my sister applied my mendhi (henna). Nothing about this wedding was as I had planned but it was sublime – intimate, beautiful and overflowing with love.
Bahawal and I met on the 24th of December 2019, for five minutes at a friend’s gig. Our first ‘date’ was at Amavi and he turned up with a huge bunch of lillies, because he knew from a mutual friend that I love lilies. I found it equally sweet and presumptuous.
Bahawal: When we met properly for the first time, I made it a point to explain that I wasn’t looking to get married just yet. On her part, she had a long list of how her husband should be – I didn’t tick many of the boxes. When I dropped her home for the first time, and she was sitting in the car next to me, something just felt right and I knew this is how I wanted it to be – the two of us together forever. “Let’s get married,” I said
Nida: I thought he was joking and then I thought he was crazy but, as cliched as it sounds, it did feel right somehow. It took him a while to persuade me to say yes though. The moment I really knew that he was the one was when he accompanied me to an event where I was chaperoning teenage students. I was irritated, hungry and antsy and he just took it in his stride. I can be a touch OCD and neurotic at times and he was completely unphased by it. There is nothing like finding someone who accepts you for who you are.
We didn’t want a very long engagement and spring break was coming up when I would have time off work. We decided on the 9th of April for our Nikkah, followed by a sumptuous reception on the 12th. I had always wanted to get married at the Wazir Khan mosque – I would see it on weekend tours and Bahawal had loved all the little details I had planned. We managed to book the mosque and Natasha Zubair, who I had chosen years ago, agreed to photograph our wedding. We booked the caterers, ordered the flowers and the cake and everything was going well.
Then the CoronaVirus pandemic struck. As the number of cases increased in Pakistan, and the words social distancing entered our vocabulary, our wedding suddenly looked unlikely. We cancelled our big fat Pakistani reception – holding such a big gathering was not only illegal, it was also irresponsible during a pandemic. We hoped that we would still be able to have our Nikkah but family and friends began to advise against it.
Bahawal: People started to say that this was a sign that we were going too fast, that the Universe was giving us a message that we should delay. Our families suggested we wait until the crisis was over so we could have a proper wedding.
Nida: One by one, all our plans unravelled as the lockdown came in. The mosque called and cancelled, the photographer withdrew and the florists said they wouldn’t be able to fulfil their contract. The caterers found an alternative florist but within days both the caterer and the new florist also cancelled. As things seemed to fall apart, I came to realize what truly mattered. It wasn’t the venue or the clothes or make up or the theme. The only thing that seemed to matter was that we stick to this seemingly arbitrary date. With every passing (and extremely trying day) in the lead up to our Nikkah, I truly appreciated what it meant when Harry Burns said to Sally Albright:
“… when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
Bahawal: When we managed to convince our parents to go ahead with a much simpler Nikkah, everyone rallied round. With the situation as it was we limited the guest list to immediate family only – about 20 people altogether. And even though it was a very small wedding, everyone pitched in to make it festive and memorable.
Nida: It truly ended up being an old-school family affair. Our wedding was at my home. My cousin read our Nikkah, my sister did my henna and I did my own makeup.
My khala was going to do the photography, something that did give me anxiety, but at the last minute my sister found a lovely photographer, Aiza Naeem, who confirmed she could do the photos.
Luckily the designers we had ordered our outfits with managed to deliver on time. My outfit was by Nuzhat Bukhari and I chose pink with a green dupatta because pink is my favourite colour and green is Bahawal’s favourite. His outfit was from Fibonacci and complimented mine. Fizza Utba of The Cake Valley did a fantastic cake and she even managed to make it gluten-free despite the lockdown
We even managed to have flowers – courtesy a friend of our Mali (gardener). I had always wanted a wall of flowers between us and my mum and sister managed to make that happen.
The stage flowers weren’t exactly the colours I wanted as the Mali’s friend decided to wing it and add pops of colour here and there but even friends who had huge weddings at farmhouses have had things not go exactly as planned. What mattered was that it was beautiful and done with lots of love.
Every single person who was at the event was someone who was very close to us and who mattered deeply to us. There were no random acquaintances wondering when it would end and when the food would be served. We were surrounded in an atmosphere of love, everyone was in the moment and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
We set up a Zoom link for family and friends who couldn’t be there and we were touched by the sheer number of people who logged in – and not just logged in but stayed online for 2 or 3 hours to share our special day.
We hadn’t seen each other for 2 and a half weeks before the wedding due to the lockdown. I live in Phase 6 and Bahawal lives near Ghari Shahu so it was impossible to meet due to the lockdown. This was the longest time we had been apart since our first date and it made us even more sure that we really did not want to be apart during the crisis.
Bahawal: We’re now waiting for our home to be ready to move into. Our furniture was ready and some of the renovation remains to be done. In the meantime we are staying at Nida’s home as it’s closer to our place. When she wouldn’t say yes to marrying me, saying that she wasn’t ready to leave her home and family I told her “just marry me, I’ll come stay at yours.” Funnily enough that’s what ended up happening!
Both: We know that this was the right decision. In fact a small wedding is easier and more enjoyable. Being together matters more than a fancy wedding, what truly matters is who you’re with. In these uncertain times it’s important to focus on the good, to concentrate on the things that matter. You can have a wedding without randoms or drama – and afterwards even the pandemic won’t seem quite as overwhelming because you can face it together.