The first time Arif Zaidi called Ummul Nusairee, she thought he was a telemarketer. Wondering what he was trying to sell her, her tone was so annoyed and uninterested that Arif worried he’d already done something wrong. But by the time Ummul’s aunt explained she had given Arif her number, hoping to set them up, the two had already begun texting daily, Skyping, having three-hour phone calls, and planning a trip to San Francisco to meet in person.
Mere months later, Ummul and Arif were engaged, and it was Ummul’s father who took over the wedding planning process, jokingly being referred to as “dadzilla.” With Ummul never being the one to dream about her wedding, it was easy to pass the reigns to her parents and allow them to plan a grand five-day affair for their eldest child.
“I REMEMBER LOOKING AT HER AND IT WAS LIKE TIME STOOD STILL” ARIF ZAIDI
Two nights stood out from those five days of celebrations – the nikkah and the reception. A nikkah is the traditional Indian ceremony, which took place in the bride’s home. The ceremony evoked a feeling of comfort, yet the space was completely transformed by the elaborate décor and staging.
Wanting the nikkah to be light, bright and airy, the bride wore a pale pink Pakistani outfit stitched with delicate silver threadwork, along with beads that reflected the light as she moved. Tying in with her ensemble, the stage was designed with a pink and silver backdrop that cascaded from the ceiling. There, Arif joined Ummul for the Indian tradition of being covered by a sheer cloth with a mirror between them, so they could peer up into each other’s reflection.
“I remember looking at her and it was like time stood still,” describes the groom. “I thought ‘This is the woman I am married to.’ All the anxiety of the event and the stress leading up to the moment was gone.”
For the bride, her favorite moment was sneaking away with her husband for a quick photoshoot. It was freezing cold outside, but she was too relieved by the peace and quiet to feel it. “That was the best,” she says, “because it was quiet and we were alone.”
At the couple’s wedding reception, both wore traditional Indian clothing – Arif in a golden sherwani with a red turban, and Ummul in a stunning red dress designed by Sabyasachi. The beautiful wedding décor was made even better by personal touches, including a tear-jerking speech from Ummul’s younger sister, and Batman and Jane Austen cake toppers to reveal the bride and groom’s personal taste. At the end of the evening, Arif lifted Ummul into his arms and ran out of the wedding hall as her siblings and cousins ran after them, cheering.
Location: Hyatt Regency Baltimore Inner Harbor, Baltimore, MD; Planner: MFT Events, Highland, MD
Floral and Event Designer: Amer Design Studio, Hanover Park, IL; Wedding Dresses: Alia K Designer Studio and Sabyasachi; Groom’s Attire: Custom Made; Hair: Bindiya Hair Salon, Parsippany, NJ; Makeup: Audrey Bethards, Hair and Makeup, Inc., Washington, D.C.; Photography: Akbar Sayed Photography