Umar and I met in Chicago in December 2019, and it was quite literally love at first sight. Our relationship blossomed from our first date. Unfortunately, COVID-19 swept the world shortly after, and our relationship was forced to become long distance as he lived in Grand Rapids and I lived in Nashville. Long distance has many challenges, especially when a relationship is just beginning, but we didn’t let the challenges stop us. We nurtured our relationship with phone calls and FaceTime dates that lasted hours for hours on end. We sent snail mail and little gifts for months to cheer each other up. We made the best of our situation and fell in love with each other in the midst of the pandemic.

In July 2021, Umar surprised me at my parents’ house in Nashville. I was absolutely floored as I didn’t expect him to be there, and I was so happy! After the surprise wore off, he suggested we go out to brunch. Instead, he drove us to Percy Warner Park in Nashville and parked near a gazebo. When I stepped out of the car, I was floored all over again. The gazebo was decorated with beautiful summer flowers and balloons. There was a gorgeous picnic table set up in the middle – set with elegant candles, flower petals, and an array of fine cheeses, meat, and jams. It was quite literally my dream proposal, with the most intimate of details. I turned and saw Umar down on one knee, holding the most beautiful ring I had ever seen in my life. He expressed his love and before he could finish his question, I had already said “yes, yes, yes!”. Afterwards, we sat down, ate, and reveled in the fact that we would be husband and wife. It was truly one of the best days of my life. The distance was worth the wait.

Our wedding weekend was held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville.

We kicked off our wedding event with our mehndi night. We incorporated a Pakistani art style, fondly known as “Truck Art” to influence all aspects of the event, from our outfits to the dance floor. Our family and friends performed traditional choreographed dances, and I even surprised Umar with a traditional dance of my own! The remainder of the night was spent dancing and eating late night bites until the wee hours of the night. The next morning was our nikkah. Our nikkah was an intimate event, with only close family and friends. I walked down the aisle with my father, to the song that Umar and I first said “I love you” to. We exchanged our vows through prayer, and celebrated the start of our new life. But the fun wasn’t over yet! In the evening, we celebrated with one final event: the wedding reception. Paying homage to my Tennessee roots, we had our first dance to “Yours” by Russell Dickerson, a country song. We spent the evening listening to our friends’ and family’s speeches, indulging in a myriad of Pakistani and American dishes, and reveling in our new marriage. Just like the previous night, we danced the night away with our favorite people. Once the night was over, we did our rukhsati and waved goodbye to our family and friends as we made our exit. Everything we dealt with, every missed moment due to distance, every single moment of our relationship was more than worth it.

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