It wasn’t how either of them had visualised their wedding day, but when life gives you a pandemic, you work with innovative plans for your big day – even if the bride and groom are in different countries.
Refusing to let a lockdown dampen their spirits, Erum Panju, a local special needs teacher, recently exchanged vows in an online wedding ceremony with Shabbir Gulamali, located in Milton Keyes, north-west of London.
Around 500 friends and family from all over the world witnessed the unique wedding officiated by a priest in the UK.
Erum’s mum and dad Insha and Junny converted their beautiful backyard into a spectacular event space and had around 80 guests at their Redoubt Rd home.
There was an air of anticipation as guests were ushered into the living area with a tripod camera focused on the bride, her parents and younger brother Ali.
A television screen (remotely operated from UK) live-streamed the marriage ceremony worldwide.
Setting a cheerful note for the online wedding was a speech relayed from the UK by sister-in-law Tasneem, coupled with hilarious video clips from friends of the groom. A sacred prayer and talk by a priest/sheikh on the essence of marriage followed.
From bursts of laughter as the groom whisked out a cut-out of his new bride, saying “wish you were here but this will have to do for the moment” to heart-stopping moments as the internet started buffering – the online wedding was certainly a memorable one!
Funnily enough, just before the bride was to say `I do’, the internet connection slowed down a wee bit. Luckily, techies on the scene quickly resolved the problem as the couple exchanged wedding vows.
Erum, who travelled to the UK in 2019 and met Shabbir, a financial analyst, whilst she was on her OE, says they had exciting plans to tie the knot in New Zealand.
“The idea was to have people from the UK travel to New Zealand for a grand wedding,” says the young bride.
She returned to New Zealand in September 2020 knowing that her future husband and in-laws would follow months later for the wedding.
Then the UK went into complete lockdown in an attempt to contain the virus.
“Both of us had decided from the start that we would go with the flow and not let anxiety come in the way of our marriage plans,” says Erum, who will be returning to the UK by the time this article goes to print.
A celebration of love in the uncertain times of Coronavirus – and a new Covid variant – was a huge challenge but the couple was certain they didn’t want to postpone their wedding.
Another priority was having their parents and siblings around for the special day.
“The only way out was an online wedding,” says the new bride, who was keen to have her loved ones share her wedding day.
“One of Shabbir’s cousins got married on zoom which got us thinking about it as a potential possibility. The only difference was the bride and groom were together.”
Talking from UK, Shabbir says the marriage ceremony was a bitter-sweet moment for him.
“On the one hand it was lovely to have a religious marriage ceremony and on the other, my new wife was on the other side of the world. It probably was the first virtual wedding where the bride and groom aren’t even in the same continent,” he says.
And while the couple will soon have a civil union ceremony in UK, their virtual wedding filled with love and gratitude is a story they will enjoy sharing with their grandchildren someday.