Bollywood Meets Burning Man in This Toronto Couple's Festival-Inspired Wedding
Romana Kassam and Nadir Ebrahim's ceremony featured a '90s dance party, ice cream trucks, chai and a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air singalong
Romana Kassam and Nadir Ebrahim, a Toronto-based couple who met in 2015 at another wedding, wanted to celebrate their union by drawing on their Indian culture and passion for the arts.
“After we got engaged, we checked out several Indian Banquet Halls in Toronto and considered going the more traditional route,” Kassam tells PEOPLE, explaining that after having a talk on her now-husband’s birthday, the pair decided they wanted to do things their own way and “create something truly unique and fun for everyone.”
After just months of planning, the art-loving couple dreamt up the ideal Bollywood and Burning Man-inspired celebration — the perfect event for the start-up founder and the budding singer-songwriter.
Kassam, 35, and Ebrahim, 33, kicked off their wedding weekend a day before the outdoor extravaganza with an intimate marriage ceremony at the Scarborough Ismaili Jamatkhana, something she says was “very important” to their families.
“We were doing something that had never been done before and we did not have a template and that can be challenging as well,” Kassam says of the festival-style event. “Ultimately our parents trusted us and our ability to execute on our vision, and based on their raving reviews, I think we nailed it!”
For the July 7 celebration, the pair invited 200 guests to their friend’s 40-acre Clarington lake house property for a one-of-a-kind wedding blow out.
Incorporating tradition into the nuptials, the couple held a special Sapatia ceremony — a traditional Ismaili ritual featuring two sets of clay plates containing symbolic items that have to be broken by the bride and groom — in front of their guests.
For the festive occasion, the pair wanted to be fun and “comfortable.”
“We wanted to be traditional but also honor our own unique styles at the same time,” she explains.
Kassam kept it cool in a matching top and shorts set by Toronto-based Indian designer Mani Jassal. She styled the look with an embellished sheer cape and an ornate headpiece she made herself. The groom also kept it casual, wearing jean shorts, a traditional Indian vest and gold sneakers, accessorizing his look with mirror sunglasses and a bold brim hat.
“Our fashion was the perfect balance between traditional Indian, Burning Man and athletic leisure,” Kassam says, noting that they asked guests to have fun with the attire. “We told our guests that the Bolly-Que is a cross between Burning Man, Ismaili Picnic and Bollywood and encouraged guests to get creative.”
Following the Sapatia, all 200 of the bride and groom’s guests were provided with noise-canceling headphones through which they listened to the couple’s love story while participating in group dances such as the Macarena and a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air singalong.
After some silent listening and dancing, the party moved into a large tented area, where guests lounged on Persian rugs and pillows and enjoyed chai, as they listened to family and friends, tell their own personal stories about the couple’s relationship — a more relaxed take on common wedding speeches.
Next came the food. The bride and groom treated their guests to a traditional Ismaili picnic, which featured an African-inspired Bolly-Que infused with Indian flavors and spices.
For dessert, the couple swapped the traditional wedding cake for ice cream. Pulling up on the green of the property, the ice cream trucks surprised guests during the buffet dinner.
The couple’s message of love was clear throughout the wedding, but Kassam points out one of the ways in which the theme was uniquely demonstrated at their special event.
“Our marquee letters read ‘Pyaar,’ which means love and comes from the Sanskrit word ‘priya,’ ” she explains.
And while most couples mark the first few moments as husband and wife with a dance, Kassam wanted to do something different yet just as romantic and memorable.
The bride, who had secretly been learning guitar before the wedding, surprised her groom with a special serenade.
Sitting next to her now-husband, Kassam performed Monica’s “Angel of Mine” — the 90’s ballad that the couple deemed their song. It became one of the bride’s favorite moments from the wedding.
“I loved being able to surprise Nadir by singing our song to him and playing the guitar,” she recalls. “I learned how to play guitar one month before the wedding.”
Another highlight for Kassam: “During the audio headset experience, where my mom was down on her knees belting Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ with all of my friends.”
She continued, “It was right then when I knew that this was about to be the most magical and inclusive experience for everyone!”
The couple wanted to make sure everyone, from their 6-year-old nephew to the family elders, had a good time — and Kassam knew it was a success after her 80-year-old grand aunt gave the celebration her seal of approval.
“My 80-year-old Grand Aunt said that in her 80 years … this was by far the greatest wedding event she had ever been to in her entire life,” Kassam says. “She said she never felt so free at any event before.”