Love Looks Like This: We Got Married at the U.S.-Canada Border During the Pandemic

"We knew we didn’t want to wait until things were normal."

Farah and Malcolm love looks like this

Art by Tiana Crispino; Courtesy of Felipe Callado Photography

Brides is committed to guiding ALL couples through not only their wedding planning journey but through relationship milestones and ups and downs. Every love story is beautiful, has its own distinct history, and its own trials—there's no relationship that looks the same. To celebrate that uniqueness, we're asking couples to open up about their love story, for our latest column, "Love Looks Like This." Below, Farah Ali tells her story.

Malcolm and I had been friends for a few years before we started dating. We were both interested in being more than friends for a while, but neither of us wanted to jeopardize anything. Then, there was this serendipitous moment when Malcolm confessed to a friend visiting from Vancouver that he was interested in being more than friends. Within hours, I messaged him and asked what was for dinner that night. So, Malcolm invited me out. That’s where it started in Malcolm’s mind as being more than friends. 

Our first official date came later. We actually can’t agree on what our first date was because we were friends for so long. Honestly, I don’t even know if even our friends knew what the first date was because we waited a couple of weeks to say anything just to see how things went.

Both of our families are from South Asia, but we are from different cultures and different religions. My parents are from Pakistan and Malcolm’s are from India. In some ways, we related a lot because we could speak the same language with our parents. But on the other hand, our cultures are so different sometimes. Ultimately, Malcolm and I share a lot of the same values. We’re both foodies and adventurous. We’ve been swimming with manta rays together in Hawaii. We’ve zip-lined in Costa Rica. I took Malcolm to his first video game conference because we both play video games. 

We try to make the most of everything, but Covid was probably the largest challenge that we faced together. After it started, we began looking for a house. For a while, we couldn’t go to any open houses, and Malcolm knew that it was important to be engaged to have a more tangible commitment before we moved in together. With Covid, it wasn’t looking like it was going to line up. What I didn’t know was that after we found a house, Malcolm was in the background planning to propose to me on the day of closing on our home. 

On closing day, Malcolm ended up proposing on the doorstep of our new home. He had asked my parents for their permission while we were in escrow. Throughout that period of time, they kept asking me, "When is your closing day?" Our engagement and closing day was in September, 2020. 

In terms of planning our wedding, we knew we didn’t want to wait until things were normal. We knew we needed a way to get married that was safe, that we could do even with the border being closed. Malcolm did some research and saw that Canadians and Americans had been reuniting at the border. We started pulling up Google Maps to see where there were open fields. There is a road called the Double Ditch Road—our original plan was to get married on the side of this road and have my parents see it from the US side, and have Malcolm’s parents see it from the Canadian side. 

Despite the fact that this meant we would be getting married in a ditch, it made us both really energized because we could have our parents there with us. Fortunately, it got better. We reached out to Peace Arch Historical Park, where we would eventually get married. 

border

Photo by Felipe Callado Photography

[The park] spans the border in Washington and British Columbia. They were closed during much of Covid and not giving visas, but we reached out anyway. Our wedding planner was working with the park ranger and preparing for them to eventually accept permits again. It was so much better than a ditch in the road and it would mean we would not only have our parents there along the border line, but with us. 

The first time we went to scope out the park for a potential wedding, it was the first time Malcolm got to see his mother in over a year. We needed two permits, and each one would change how we could plan things. The big one was how many people we could invite. The park ranger, Ranger Rick, said something really stuck with me. He said, "So, you’re getting married. That’s great. Let me tell you a few things about this park—you’re going to get married in this park. And, you’re going to have your family around you. Just remember that this is not a Hilton, and this will not be a Hilton wedding."

What he was trying to say is that we didn’t have the amenities that a hotel would. You had to be very careful about which side of the border everything came from and it was so much harder to bring things in. We had no idea how many people could join—whether it could just be us and an officiant, or include a guest list of 12 or 25. We were prepared for any of these situations. These were just some of the challenges of our Covid-border ceremony. 

ceremony

Photo by Felipe Callado Photography

We had my family friend, who was like a second dad to me growing up, officiate our wedding. A lot of our family pitched in to make it happen. We had to do the setup ourselves. In my culture, weddings are normally a week or a month long. And, we wanted to bring elements from both of our cultures to the day. The day before our wedding, we were able to do some of the cultural elements we didn’t want to miss, like planting a tree, getting henna done, and some blessings before the day. 

We got approval and permitted three weeks before our wedding to have 25 people. Then two weeks before, we found out that we could have up to 50 people including vendors, which allowed us to invite some friends, too. Everything had to be redone. In the end, it was really beautiful. 

The wedding theme we were going for was whimsical. I’m really into Disney [so] we put carriages on the table. Malcolm is a math guy, so we wanted to incorporate mathematical themes. We managed to pull in some math and science in the cake and arbor shapes. Our planner Paruul Maheshwary and I handmade a lot of the decorations. We rented chairs from the park and did a sort of South-Asian and Western take on high tea. We showed that through the food. For example, we had Western dessert and Indian chai. 

couple in gazebo

Photo by Felipe Callado Photography

We had so many special moments and we were so grateful to have friends and family [there]. There was this one moment where we had time to ourselves and danced in the gazebo together [for] a makeshift first dance. We didn’t have any plans for this. Our photographer put on some music and asked us to dance in the gazebo. It was one of the most memorable moments of our wedding.

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