Markham Convention Centre
Markham Convention Centre is one of Toronto’s most luxurious yet affordable banquet halls and reception venues. It provides a perfect setting to host weddings. The breathtaking wedding and party hall decorations are their trademarks. Whenever I photograph a wedding there, it looks completely different. In this case, it was completely decked out for a Southasian Wedding. The setup included a colourful draped stage for the wedding couple, candelabra centrepieces, and a beautiful multi-layered cake to match. The golden french stairwell is a fantastic backdrop for indoor portraits. We did originally plan to do the couple’s portraits outside. However, with the rain, everything was moved indoors.
Southasian weddings are colorful celebrations full of rich traditions. While most Indian-Canadians couples have Hindu roots, Islam is also a common religion. The nikkah ceremony is the heart of an Indian-Muslim wedding. This particular couple had their nikkah ceremony at Scarborough Convention Centre followed by a grand reception.
The Nikah ceremony has three important steps. Before the groom can even see his bride he must present a mehr, or symbolic gift. For modern couples, this would be an engagement ring. However, this couple was a bit more traditional. The groom and the bride’s father had come to an agreement of the mehr. They negotiate a dollar amount until both sides agree. This is often the longest part of the nikkah. During this process, the bride waited in a separate room and didn’t get to witness the negotiations.
Next comes the religious marriage contract. If the bride accepts the marriage, the couple says qubool hai three times each when asked by the Imam (officiant). The couple then agrees to the terms of the contract and signs it during their ceremony as their guests look on. Arsi Mushaf is the first time the couple looks at each other as husband and wife. As structured as the rest of the ceremony is, this moment is amazing. First looks are pretty emotional at the beginning of a wedding ceremony. They’re even more so after the ceremony is over. Cause now when you look at him, it’s not “this is the man I’m going to marry.” It’s “this is my husband.”
Following the Nikkah, the bride changed into her wedding dress while everyone else prepared the stage for their aghd, or Muslim ceremony. Just as in western weddings, in this portion, the bride and groom situated themselves in front of their guests. In front of them is the sofreyé aghd, a table containing several highly symbolic items. Then, the bride walks into the ceremony wearing a veil. She follows someone burning a special incense to ward off the evil eye. Once she has a seat, she lifts her veil, and the groom’s first image of her is in the mirror before him. The bride and groom sit beneath a canopy held up by the bride’s bridal party. This canopy signifies the bride and groom combined under the same umbrella or roof.
The officiant reads a verse from the Quran, and says a few things about marriage. At this point in the ceremony, the officiant asks for the consent of the bride and groom. The groom consents firsts immediately saying ‘balé’, or yes. However, when he asks the bride, her goal is to make the guests, and especially the groom, a bit nervous by making them wait for an answer. So when she finally does say ‘balé’, the guests go into an uproar of excitement. Finally, the groom was free to kiss his new bride. The rest of the evening was filled with dancing and family photos.