I really don’t even know where to start.
My last 2 weeks in Lahore have been life changing. It’s like I decided to take all the contents of my life, shake them up and then spill them across the floor so that every piece is visible but in complete disarray.
Whose idea was it anyway, to get married right before leaving Lahore? Oh right, mine. And I will gladly take credit; it was a great one!
I’m in Canada now and stretching my memory back to what feels like the beginning of a 4 week long roller coaster. It started when a colleague/friend walked into my classroom with the proclamation of “If you and Neil want to get married before leaving Pakistan, I became an ordained minister online this weekend!”. I suppose the seed of an idea was planted then, though it lay dormant for a time. About a week later, laying under the strong hands of a masseuse, a ‘what if’ slowly formed…what if Neil and I did get married before we left Pakistan? What if our dear ordained minister friend could perform the ceremony? What if we could do it at Andaaz, our favourite outdoor restaurant in the skies of Lahore’s old city? The puzzle pieces began to fit, the seed began to sprout as I propositioned Neil with a; “Do you want to get married next weekend at Andaaz?”. The response? “Sure, let’s do it.” And so…with the support of our far-away-families we, rather quickly, started down the path of matrimony.
Very little about the week that progressed or the wedding that followed can be considered traditional. We scooped up elements of pagan ritual, Western weddings, Pakistani pre-wedding partying and our own relationship/preferences to design something that didn’t resemble most weddings but was quite perfect for us.
It started with a mehndi and a bachelor party. The mehndi, I do believe, was more planning work and preparation time than our entire wedding! And for that I owe some girlfriends Danielle, Kim and Naseem a heartfelt thank you. In Pakistan, getting married is a 4 or 5 event process with the Mehndi being the closest approximation to a Western bachelorette party…though I think the parallels stop at it being gender segregated. Traditionally, the bride-to-be dresses in bright oranges/yellows/greens and is ushered in under a bell strewn dupatta (scarf). There she is decorated with henna on her hands and feet and fed sweets, a ritual to promote luck and longevity in married life. Mine resembled this…I was dressed in orange and ushered in under a dupatta (though being the tallest of my girlfriends, my passage was somewhat stooped), along a candle lit path and to the furious beats of hired drumming men. Inside, a mix of Pakistani and Western woman danced in a circle to drums and then to popular bollywood songs. There was henna painting, which left the most absurd and obnoxious orange patterns on my skin for weeks, and then there was, in good Lahori fashion, a feast of potluck foods. After, and 1 bottle of tequila for the Male contingent later, we joined with Neil’s bachelor party and journeyed to the International club to dance in bare feet and with wild elation. I was gifted a dangling waist belt of bells which rang with every hip movement and sang with every jump. With my bare feet and bells I was in dancing heaven.
The next night we were married. But…because no wedding is complete without at least 1 moment of panic and everything had gone far too smoothly for a lets-get-married-in-1-week plan, the universe decided to throw in a challenge.
My dress didn’t fit.
And not in a ‘slightly too small’ or ‘slightly too big’ way but in a, ‘I can’t get it on my body’ kinda way. And because I had last minute alterations, and because in Pakistan there are no trial rooms at the tailors, and because it was 45 degrees and I didn’t want to sweat through my dress before necessary and because I hadn’t asked the tailor to change the size, I didn’t try to put it on until just before we were leaving. Wedding worst nightmare? Nah. But I did run out of the bedroom with my arms awkwardly angled over my head, sweating and swearing and with only one shoulder through. With much grunting and the muscle work of Neil and Danielle they eventually managed to man handle me into the dress. There remained the problem of breathing but they fixed that by slicing the lining open under my armpits. At some point, our photographer Vasiq ventured a surprised sounding “Why did you not try your dress on before?” to which, I could only respond with pure misdirected bridzilla anger “Shut the hell up Vasiq!” (sorry Vasiq…!)
We were late to our own wedding, not that it mattered. Since our first meeting 3 years previous, the magic of Andaaz had carried us into the old city often to feast on buttery dhal and caramelized paneer with a birds eye view of the old city and the Badshahi mosque. We kept the ceremony simple, lined a corner of the rooftop restaurant with tea light candles and had our dear Lahori friends and families surround us in a semi-circle. Ric took the ceremony that Neil and I worded together and put put his own spin on it; simultaneously making us laugh and tear. We stood inside a circle of pink Himalayan salt that marked the protective space we were creating for the two of us, and we were (minister friend included) bare foot (a theme for the weekend, yes?)
This describes the setting for the magic-making but it doesn’t describe the actual magic and though I fear my words will fall short, I’ll try.
During the ceremony, I remember exactly what it felt like to press the soles of my feet into the bricked floor; solidly rooted and able to draw up every particle and piece of energy from the world we stood above. They (the feet that is…) vibrated with the hum of the city and the song and sounds of the universe and brought that vibration very deeply into my being. It was a moment of love saying, and though I meant every word I said, I somehow also knew that language wasn’t enough. The way Neil looked at me and the way I let him in, was a life changing moment. It was complete connectedness and complete openness and it was love and fear, heart and vulnerability all in one singular explosive package.
All this from a girl with long standing questions and qualms on matrimony?
I still have those, the questions and qualms that is, but I respect and understand how powerful speaking your heart in a ceremony is. Whether or not it’s legally recognized as a marriage isn’t so important (to me at least), but taking the time to verbalize your intentions and your vows to your partner within a loving and supportive environment…well…I can see why it’s a human tradition that’s stood the test of time.
For lack of any better words, read the rest of the story in the pictures.
We got married exactly a week before leaving Lahore for good. And let me tell you, we said our goodbyes high on love and support from our community there! The beautiful thing about any place is always the people (and the food says Neil!) and in Lahore I found this especially true; the outpouring of love from colleagues, friends, co-workers, students, and parents was simply amazing.
And so we take Lahore in our hearts and fondest memories as we move forward.
To Canada, and Paraguay (and matrimony!) we go.