When Harneet Sidhu met Sim Brar online in May 2019, they say "they felt as if they'd known each other their whole lives."
It came as no surprise when Sim, a software engineer, proposed to his Harneet, a school teacher, just seven months later. He enlisted the help of Harneet's sister when it came time to pop the question, creating a handmade scrapbook that would house the ring. "Already excited about the idea of a scrapbook, I opened it up, and on the very first page was written 'Our Wedding Day,' with the engagement ring resting on the page. It was thoughtful, sweet, and the best way I could have imagined," exclaims Harneet.
With a ring on her finger, the bride knew exactly where she wanted to say "I do" to Sim: her parent's backyard in Vancouver, British Columbia. "It had been a dream of mine to have a boho-style summer wedding in my parents’ backyard," she admits, adding, "I loved the idea of being able to watch my husband-to-be arrive at the house and walk down the aisle. It was also a comforting thought that I could be married in my family home, where I have so many cherished memories."
Another wedding dream? Tie the knot under a floral-adorned pergola, which her father ultimately built for the big day. The entire planning process became a family affair, too, with aunts and uncles designing favors, gardening in the backyard, planning seating arrangements and more. Harneet says, "My family came together to help plan our intimate, outdoor ceremony. All my aunts and uncles were on board with the plan, and were in the backyard almost every day ideating or creating things for the wedding day."
And while the bride and groom had to scale back their initial vision (they had to follow the safety precautions of COVID-19), they can't describe their July 4, 2020 nuptials as anything but "blissful."
When Harneet first tried on her seafoam green lehenga she couldn't stop twirling around in the garment—a clear sign to both her mother, grandmother and her that it was the one! "It made me feel like a princess and I didn’t want to take it off," she admits. The bride paired the elaborate pastel and floral-patterned gown with a pink chunni (veil).
No traditional Indian bridal look is complete without Mehndi, which Henna artist Jasmine Brar expertly painted on Harneet's hands ahead of the wedding. The personalized design highlighted the couple's passions, with a camera depicting the bride's love of photography and a light sabre honoring Sim's love of Star Wars.
Since the couple wasn't able to host their bridesmaids and groomsmen in-person (they kept the ceremony family-only because of COVID-19), they asked their immediate families to dress in coordinating colors instead. Harneet's family arrived in soft blue while Sim's side donned soft pink, uncoincidentally complementing the décor for the day.
As guests entered the property, they were gifted a very fitting 2020 wedding favor: hand sanitizer! Harneet and Sim tackled the keepsakes as one of many DIY projects for the big day, personalizing each bottle with their initials, H & S.
Since guests are traditionally seated cross-legged on the ground at Sikh weddings, Harneet's father created custom seating platforms for the ceremony. The low-rise benches were decorated with velvet pillows and scattered among rose and pampas grass arrangements to encourage social distancing.
The bride's father also designed and built the couple's wedding altar, wooden pergola accented by natural florals and delicate draping. "It was my dream to be married under the wood pergola made by my dad," Harneet says. "My dad was my biggest supporter."
While the couple followed plenty of Sikh wedding traditions, Harneet did break one rule when she processed solo down the aisle. She explains, "I felt empowered walking down the aisle on my own after my parents and siblings walked down."
The ceremony began with the couple's officiant reciting the four traditional Sikh wedding vows from the Holy Scripture. "We both wanted our ceremony to be about our commitment to each other, and we focused on that while we listened to our vows being recited."
Then, the bride and groom made their way around the pergola, circling the Scripture as the same four vows were spoken again, although this time the words were sung.
Once the four vows were recited, the couple was officially married. While seated underneath the wooden pergola, the newlyweds also exchange wedding bands.
"During our wedding ceremony, we could hear birds chirping and the sun was peeking through the clouds," recalls the bride. "It was so peaceful! We still talk about how blissful the ceremony was for us."
Focus on the experience of your wedding ceremony, because that’s what you’ll remember most about your wedding day.
In the lieu of a classic reception (this was a COVID wedding, after all!), the newlyweds opted for an epic send-off instead. They borrowed her brother's vintage car, which had been decorated with "Just Married" garb, and drove off toward the mountains. Harneet remembers, "Our sendoff was so special to us! We had our family and friends light sparklers, wave glow sticks, and cheer as we drove off in my brother’s 1965 Impala SS. The best part was my younger ‘single’ cousin catching the bouquet."
While the easiest wedding planning decision was choosing to tie the knot in Harneet's backyard, the hardest was undoubtedly deciding who would ultimately land an invitation to the nuptials. "We ultimately decided that we would have our closest family attend the ceremony, while all other friends and family watched via live stream," proclaims the bride. But don't worry, they plan on celebrating with the rest of their loved ones post-pandemic.
Another aspect they put on hold? Their romantic Italian honeymoon. Rather, the newlyweds drove off to explore Vancouver Island for a few days instead. "Focus on the experience of your wedding ceremony," she encourages couples, "because that’s what you’ll remember most about your wedding day."