My elder brother and I were born one year apart, an age difference that over the years has led him to become everything from enemy number one to my closest confidant. His wedding was something I had always imagined from a young age – as a sister, how could I not? I wanted to wake up and tease him first thing in the morning and laugh as he morphs into a blushing groom. There would be so much to do – accompanying my mother into the narrow alleys of Liberty Bazaar in Lahore, Pakistan as we rushed to complete the wedding shopping; sharing embarrassing childhood stories with my soon-to-be sister-in-law; staying up late into the night as we planned everything from the flowers to the food. I was sure that there was nothing that could stop me from enjoying all of this. But then, the global pandemic happened.

My brother married this summer to a woman he loves more than anything, and I got to see their preparations and nuptials all through a tiny screen. So why did I not get on the first plane back home? Traveling during a pandemic is not the easiest thing to do or even recommended during the height of the Covid, not to mention that I study in Hong Kong, the region with the longest quarantine in the world. So I stayed put as my family got to do everything I had pictured. It was hard to hold my tears back in my dorm room that seemed lonelier with every passing day. Despite the intense loneliness of being away from my family, I realized over time that it wasn’t all bad. I mean, I did get to enjoy some of the things that would never have happened if I had been there.

The first of these arrived in the form of a package I received a month before my brother’s wedding. My mother, who insisted that I should dress up even if I weren’t actually there, made sure that I felt included in every way possible. Draping the sari over my body, I could almost see the beaming smile my mother would have had if I had dressed up in my sari in front of her. I cried that day, but more out of gratefulness than anything. The package was followed by daily calls with everyone in my family as the wedding preparations started speeding up. In a way, their effort to make me feel included seemed to bridge the gap between us almost entirely. A million miles are nothing when it comes to family.

Then the day of the wedding came. My feelings were at odds with each other the entire day. On the one hand, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach because how could I possibly miss his marriage? But, on the other hand, I also felt great excitement. Finally, my brother was getting married, the same boy I complained about and fought with when he refused to do his summer holiday homework, the same boy who stole my doll when I was three years old.

I will never forget that day as a mix of emotions and laughter. Wouldn’t you be laughing if you were in every wedding photo on an iPad? At least the pandemic gave my brother some hilarious wedding photos and me a story to tell everyone. My younger brother and sister, bless their souls, spent most of the festivities carrying me around to meet different relatives. So despite being alone in a dorm room in Hong Kong dressed in a sari and slippers, I felt like I was in Pakistan with my family.

Weddings are about bringing people together, which is undoubtedly difficult to do when a highly contagious virus spreads to every corner of the globe. This experience, however, made me realize that nothing can take away from the magic and warmth of a wedding, not even a pandemic. But more than that, it also taught me that when you feel alone, your family will come through, much as mine did this summer. So, in a way, this article is my love letter to weddings and family.

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  • Saleha Noor

    Saleha is currently completing her undergraduate in Asian and International Studies from the City University of Hong Kong. As someone who is highly opinionated and believes that words can be extremely powerful she spends most of her time writing about everything from politics to fashion.