Wedded: Salmah Rizvi and Imran Akram
This Baltimore couple celebrated a traditional Pakistani wedding with an American "visionary" twist.
Rizvi-Akram wedding (1314 Studio, Baltimore Sun / September 28, 2012)
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Wedding day: Sept. 29, 2012
The bride: Salmah Y. Rizvi, 26, grew up in Laurel. She works for the Department of Defense. Her father, Anwar H. Rizvi, is a plant pathologist for the United States Department of Agriculture. Her mother, Shamoon H. Rizvi, is a dialysis nurse at Bon Secours Hospital in Baltimore.
The groom: Imran M. Akram, 29, grew up in New York before moving to Baltimore. He is a chemical engineer for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. His mother, Zahida Rashid, is a special-education teacher in New York.
Their story: Salmah and Imran met through a mutual friend while Salmah was a sophomore at the Johns Hopkins University. She was organizing an event to raise money for a shelter for children forced to serve in Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army through a nonprofit, Vision Exchange, when her friend introduced her to Imran, who had just graduated from Hopkins.
About four years later, Salmah and Imran started dating after she hosted a friend's birthday party at his apartment in Washington.
"Our paths had crossed a couple of times, and as I got to know her, I knew this was the girl I wanted to marry," says Imran.
The proposal: Earlier this year, Imran proposed to Salmah after an elaborate scavenger hunt through all of her favorite sports in Baltimore. The couple walked from Harbor East to Federal Hill, stopping at city landmarks along the way.
The first stop was the jellyfish exhibit at the National Aquarium. Atop the jellyfish tank was a love letter awaiting Salmah and a gift card to McDonald's, one of her favorite fast-food places. After the aquarium, the couple went to the Fudgery in the Inner Harbor, where an employee was waiting with another love letter for Salmah — this one containing a gift card to Panera Bread.
The couple continued their walk to Federal Hill, where there was another love letter (with a Starbucks gift card) for Salmah on top of a cannon. They said a traditional Islamic prayer ("dua-e-kumail") and took the water taxi back to Harbor East for dinner at Charleston. When the couple returned to Imran's apartment in Harbor East, he showed her several Wii characters, or Miis, on his console and lined them up to spell "Will Yu Mary Mii?"
The ring: Imran presented Salmah with a round diamond solitaire white gold engagement ring from the diamond district in New York City.
The nikah ceremony: On Friday, Sept. 28, the bride's family hosted a traditional Islam nikah ceremony at their home in Bowie. The ceremony includes the signing of a contract between the bride and groom.
"The reason we had it on Friday is because we wanted something more sacred for our families," explains Salmah. "It was really nice, and at that time, we said our vows and a few people said prayers. It was very powerful."
About 100 people attended the ceremony, during which Salmah wore a two-piece red sharara, or a traditional Pakistani bridal ensemble.
"It was embellished with gold handiwork and stones and diamonds on the neckline with accents of green," she says. Meanwhile, Imran wore a white shalwar kameez, which is traditional Islamic wedding attire for men.
The mehndi ceremony: Immediately following the nikah ceremony on Friday evening, the couple hosted a mehndi, or henna, ceremony for their guests at a nearby Knights of Columbus hall. During the ceremony, the bride is adorned with henna tattoos on her hands and feet.
It was a very bright party with a lot of colors," Salmah says. "The bride's friends perform dances and we got to hang out, so that was the most fun part. We spent the whole night signing and dancing."
For the mehndi ceremony, both Salmah and Imran wore a purple and gold shalwar kameez. The bride also wore jewelry made from purple carnations and yellow mums by her mother-in-law.
The wedding: More than 400 people attended the wedding ceremony and reception at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore on Saturday, Sept. 29.
"The American Visionary Art Museum was something very different," says Imran. "Our families are used to hotel ballrooms and reception halls, but the AVAM gave us multiple areas to use, and we liked the idea of our guests moving around the museum. And it was right by the Harbor and Federal Hill, so it all came together."
The bride wore a handmade white Anarkali-style dress with pearls and crystals, and the groom wore a black overcoat on top of his shalwar kameez for a tuxedo effect.
"On the scale, the whole dress was about 40 pounds," says Salmah. "Pure white is exotic for my culture, and guests were expecting me to wear red for the ceremony. So I wore white, which is an American color, and the style was Pakistani to blend the cultures."
The cake: It was a six-tier cake from Patisserie Poupon in Baltimore. The flavors included hazelnut chocolate crunch cake and fresh strawberry cheesecake, says Salmah.
"The groom's cake was red velvet and Mario-themed because we love to play Mario Brothers together," she says.
The music: The couple had a steel drum band play while appetizers were served and a DJ for the rest of the night. One of Salmah's friends from the United Kingdom sang "At Last" by Etta James for the couple's first dance.
Personal touch: Inspired by a vacation to Melbourne, Australia, where they saw penguins, Salmah and Imran had a bride penguin and groom penguin etched on stemless wine glasses, along with their wedding date, as favors for their guests. The glasses were filled with candy pouches made by the bride's mother-in-law.
The rukhsati: At the end of the reception, the couple participated in the rukhsati, or "sending off," which is a traditional part of Pakistani weddings.
"I walked under the Quran, held by my dad and brother. Back in the day, it was a huge deal because it was the last time the bride's family would see their daughter," says Salmah. "We left on a boat in the harbor that had 'Just Married' on it."
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