Wedding days: October 13, 2012 and October 27, 2012
His story: Jahantab Sidiqui, 26, grew up in Pakistan and moved to Howard County when he was 14. He is the owner of J.S. Strategies — which is currently managing the campaign for Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger — and lives in Baltimore. His father, Dr. Akhtar Sidiqui is a retired general practitioner and senior vice president at SSSI Corporation. His mother, Parveen Nayab, is a manager at Bank of America.
Her story: LaRee McCuan, 29, grew up in Howard County. She is director of education and outreach at Junior Achievement of Central Maryland and lives in Baltimore. Her father, Patrick McCuan, is president of McCuan Development Group. Her mother, Jill McCuan, is a retired banker.
Their story: They met through a mutual friend about three and a half years ago in D.C. and became Facebook friends.
"Two years ago, I was working in Baltimore city for a few months," Jahantab says. "I knew she lived there. So, I asked her out."
"He invited me to a women-for-Barbara Mikulski event," LaRee says. "At the time I was in my second year of graduate school at University of Maryland School of Social Work. I couldn't attend because I had class...But I met him afterward at Mother's Federal Hill [Grille]. It was a Wednesday night and we wound up talking there until about 1 in the morning. The following night he asked me to dinner."
However, the two were on slightly different wavelengths. He was thinking these were dates. She was thinking it was more just getting together.
"She didn't think it was a date, so she paid for dinner because I paid for food the night before," Jahantab says. Then, the light bulb went on for LaRee.
"About three hours into our dinner — after I paid the bill — we were just sitting there talking. And I realized I actually liked him," she says.
The two began casually dating. After spending election night at various political events and victory parties at the American Visionary Art Museum and Little Havana, the deal was sealed. They officially became boyfriend-girlfriend.
The proposal, October 30, 2011: Jahantab had never carved a pumpkin, so he dreamed up a pumpkin carving competition.
"It had snowed the night before," says LaRee. "But, Jahantab still insisted on going pumpkin picking at Larriland Farm. We knew we were going out to some friends' house to watch the Ravens game [that night] and celebrate my dad's birthday. So, Jahantab said we were going to do a pumpkin carving competition with the daughters of these family friends, [Wayne and Melissa Newsome]. Jahantab was on a team with the 13-year-old, Alayna, and I was on a team with the 5-year-old, Lyndsey. We watched the Ravens-Steelers game and we won. So, we were happy. At this point, it was dark. But, we split off into our teams outside for this pumpkin carving competition. He went around the corner and I'm on the other side of the garage."
"I didn't want LaRee to see what I was carving," Jahantab says. "But, Alayna knew and was all excited. She had to use hers and my iPhone to shine [enough] light, so I could see what I was doing. I had never carved a pumpkin before this day. I screwed up at one point, and she suggested I use duct tape [to fix it], but I was able to work around it."
LaRee finished her pumpkin first, and was told by Jahantab she couldn't see his until it was finished. So, she went inside to wait.
When both pumpkins were done, it was time for "judging" by family and friends, who were in on the plot, as well.
So, when LaRee walked into the garage, they hung back to give the couple time alone. Meanwhile, Jahantab had deposited his pumpkin in the garage, and hidden around the corner.
"I went out and got behind the garage and down on one knee, because I knew she'd come screaming out of the garage," he says.
"I walked outside and the first thing I saw were the pumpkin guts for his pumpkin, and I yelled out, 'Jahantab, why didn't you clean up your pumpkin guts?'" she recounts.
"I had to come out of hiding and tell her I would clean them up later," he says. "And she's saying, 'This is my friends' house. You'd better clean up those pumpkin guts.' That threw me off the plan a bit. So, I said, 'Why don't you go ahead? I've got to take care of something.' She was a little bit confused."
"So, I walked into the garage, and he had carved 'Marry me?' into the pumpkin," she says. "And then, I screamed. Of course. Then I walked back outside the garage and I saw him behind the garage down on one knee, holding the engagement ring. Of course I said yes. A few moments later, our friends and family came outside and there were lots of hugs and excitement."
The ring: "I went to Smyth [Jewelers] in Ellicott City," he says. "We designed the ring for her. I wanted it to be sparkly all over and shine all the time."
"It has a one carat center stone that's a square princess [cut] flanked by a round diamond on either side, with three small round diamonds in the band on either side. It's beautiful. And he handpicked each stone," she says.
Two weddings: "We wanted to make sure we celebrated both of our families and our cultures and traditions," says Jahantab. "We both have large families. We wanted to make sure we represented the way we were both raised and the way we would live our lives after we were married."
A good friend of LaRee's, graphic designer Shana Shrader, designed the invitations for both weddings.
The first wedding: Some 150 guests will attend the Pakistani wedding—- called a Shaadi — at Argyle Country Club in Silver Spring.
"They have a Pakistani chef," says Jahantab. "It's amazing food. My dad has very close cousins who are coming in, like my aunts who helped raise me when I was growing up. They are flying in in early October and bringing LaRee's bridal gown — dark red with gold — that she and my sisters picked out, hand-stitched in Pakistan... I'll be wearing a traditional Pakistani groom's outfit called a sherwani. It's off-white with gold hues in it. It's made of raw silk and it has a red headdress. My outfit is a whole lot more simple than hers is."
The officiant is an Iman called a Nikkah. The ceremony takes about 10 minutes and the rest [of the evening] is festive.
"My sisters and my cousins are choreographing dances to Pakistani music. The menu will be a full Pakistani meal, buffet style with nine or 10 options," he says.
"His sisters [Maham, 16, Maheen, 18, and Mahnoor, 21] have been awesome when it comes to coordinating and taking me under their wing and explaining everything to me," she says.
Zarrin Syed, of A2Z Photography from Fairfax, Va., will be photographing the day's events.
The second wedding: Before the ceremony, the couple and their wedding party will go to Fort McHenry for the "first look" and wedding photos.
"Five years ago, I rescued a pug named Mikey," says LaRee. "Of course, I wanted to include him in the wedding party. But, Jahantab said no, he didn't want dog hair on his tux. But Mikey will come for the first look and pictures."
About 240 guests will attend the ceremony and reception at Tabrizi's in Federal Hill.
"We like it because it's a good cross between American and southeast Asian foods," Jahantab says. "So, we will have some Pakistani appetizers."
The ceremony will be officiated by Glenn Ludwig, interim senior pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Camp Hill, Pa., who baptized and confirmed LaRee when he was with First Lutheran Church in Howard County. The couple wrote their own vows.
"They'll be the same for both of us, but we wanted to personalize it a little bit," says Jahantab.
There will be three readings, including one from the Koran by one of Jahantab's sisters, while another of his sisters plays the trumpet during the prelude.
"My dad used to be a horn player years ago, so the two of them have had some deep discussions about this," he says.
Will his dad be playing, as well?
"No, he'll be busy cartwheeling down the aisle," says Jahantab, with a laugh.
LaRee's maid of honor, matron of honor and four bridesmaids — including Alayna Newsome — will all be wearing saris that are blue and gold. Lyndsey Newsome will be the flower girl.
"Jahantab and I picked out the fabric and they're being custom-made at Style by India in Catonsville," says LaRee.
LaRee is wearing an off-white satin and lace bridal gown by Sophia Tolli, from Amanda Richey Bridal & Beauty.
"I knew I wanted that designer. I loved everything that I saw, and I had tried on one dress of hers in another store... I was shopping Christmas weekend with 11 women family members who had traveled there, when I was trying on bridal gowns. And they transferred 25 designs from their store in Boston to their store in Parkville for me," she says.
She will carry a bouquet that is a mix of orchids and roses, in pink and blue and white. Her bridal party will carry hydrangea bouquets. All the flowers are being done by My Flower Box.
The six groomsmen will wear black tuxedos with vests and long ties to match the bridal party.
Jahantab will be wearing a Joseph Abboud tuxedo, purchased from King's Contrivance Formal Wear in Columbia. All will have orchid boutonnières.
The flower girl's basket and ring bearer's pillow will both be pumpkin-shaped.
After the ceremony, guests will enjoy the cocktail hour with both Pakistani and Maryland-themed appetizers.
"A close friend — Eyasu Moges — is designing three signature cocktails," says Jahantab. "One of them is going to be pumpkin-based. Another is going to be lemonade-based or flavored because our first dance is going to be Lemonade by Chris Rice. And the third drink will probably be mango-based because we both love mango. It will be non-alcoholic because my family doesn't drink and some of my friends don't drink."
The decor in the banquet room will be a mix of floral centerpieces and Southeast Asian-themed lanterns with the same colors as the bridesmaids' dresses.
Dinner will be steak and crab cake, in true Maryland style. And there will be two cakes from SugarBakers Cakes. One is the traditional wedding cake with white icing and trim, and a not-so-traditional cake topper. It'll be a custom-made version of the couple, each wearing the jersey of their favorite Baltimore Ravens' players.
"I like Torrey Smith because of his work against animal cruelty," she says.
"And I like Ray Lewis because he scares the other teams," he says.
The groom's cake will be shaped like the Testudo statue on the University of Maryland College Park campus, where Jahantab went to college.
Kelly Burns Photography is doing the wedding pictures and the videographer comes from Phyllis Marsh Productions. They will also have a day-of wedding coordinator, Mary Ellen Baker, who is married to Damon Foreman.
Both the rehearsal dinner and wedding after-party will be at Little Havana, where Jahantab first asked LaRee to be his girlfriend.
The honeymoon: "Because of the election the following week, we are going to wait a while," says LaRee.
"But, the honeymoon is in his hands, and I'm going to be surprised," she says.
"I'm good at surprises," Jahantab says.
"Yes, he is," she adds.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun