When my father passed away, I never thought I’d get married

The way I got married was in no way I had ever imagined. And more importantly, I never really imagined it anyway, but knew that I did not want to hinge everything I did on traditions and expectations.  Furthermore, the thought of wedding planning seemed like way too much of a chore.

However, what I could never have imagined was getting married in the midst of losing my father. 

So, let me back up just a bit here.

When my father was sick, we were still hopeful and not seeing death right in front of us. He wanted to make sure that we could throw one major reception event from our family about 6 months after the nikkah. I told him it unnecessarily expensive and it may just be better to have the nikkah as planned in the US and then have one reception in Australia, where my husband was from. It could be more like a destination wedding for our guests.

He thought I was crazy and was not having it. I was his only daughter and he wanted to make sure he threw a great party.

So I reluctantly began the wedding planning process.

I looked at venues in town, and each time just felt flustered at first. Until I saw a great one, and after much back and forth with my mom who kept telling me that I needed to stop worrying, I settled on one and was about to put down the deposit.

Until my dad was gone, just a few weeks before the date of the nikkah.

My in-laws had already booked their tickets to come to the US during a very high season.

It was my dad’s dying wish to see me getting married, and he fell short of it by just a few weeks. I did not know how I felt about it at first but then realized that fulfilling his wishes, especially in a situation where I was able to, mattered to me. What that translated to, strangely, was being a bride in grief. My dad’s death still did not hit me completely, even a few weeks after when all of the preparations for the nikkah were happening.

I could not seem overly happy, but I wanted to do my best because I was marrying someone I chose and loved deeply. My dad liked him and met him just months before he passed away. The whole situation was in some ways too easy.

The nikkah happened, and because of the situation, everyone around me took over. My cousin did my makeup and henna and a friend’s reference for hair. My mom’s close friend gave me a facial at home and made sure I relaxed. Her friends and relatives handled the decorations and planning. Surprisingly, I had no complaints (and maybe little energy to complain).

Despite this image thrown in media of the bride’s heavy (and perhaps sole) involvement, my only input was on colors and food.

Just weeks before I had already worked with the family to manage a funeral in my house and the catering and events around it (yes, that is the strange thing about funerals).  You bet that I did not want to do anything after that exhaustion, and in the end, it turned out perfectly fine. What I realized was that the people who loved me made sure it all worked out.

After the nikkah was over, my father-in-law told us that no reception was necessary from our end. We would just do a bigger reception in Australia, and my husband and in-laws would take care of it all. Any of our guests could fly over (I am still impressed that 20 of mine did fly all the way from the US). All I had to do was choose a dress, a hair stylist, and any other details that had to do with me looking like a bride.

It was that simple, and for some reason really weird. I realized how much I internalized the idea of “the bride who does everything”, while the groom has to do very little except “show up and look good”.  All of that was turned on its head during my nikkah in the US and again during my wedding reception in Australia. My husband decided not to hire a planner and actually did most of the planning himself and enlisted help where possible. And he was not really “groomzilla” about it either (though seeing his stress levels, I wish he took more help).

He mostly asked what was most important to me and then coupled it with what mattered to him.

Together we decided to keep some “traditional” elements of a Desi Muslim wedding, while completely forgoing the rest. Here is what we decided:

  • No stages where we would be a showpiece that everyone takes photos with (gasp). We wanted to walk around and dance at our own wedding.
  • No more than 150 people, under any circumstances.
  • I did want bridesmaids and I wanted them to have on adorable saris
  • We choose a venue with real natural beauty nearby (Sydney Harbor was pretty great!)

The speeches, the night, and everything else ended up just being beautiful when my husband handled it.  I would even venture to say he handled it better than I ever could have.

Not to mention, having to do nothing but get ready with my bridesmaids and my mother felt much deserved after months of trying to not feel guilty about being an excited bride after losing my father.

By Saba Danawala

Writing yogi and traveler immersed in all issues public health and social justice. Transplanted to Pakistan by way of DC, New Delhi, and Texas. Seasoned in the game of questioning systematic gender and social norms. Pragmatically idealizes a world populated with more self-aware and empathetic human beings.