Crossing Cultures

By Catherine Rolwes
In Feature, Style

Originating from different states and different religions, a couple finds common ground through love.

 

The Bride: Yasmin Bhombal, 30, Architect
The Groom: David Shields, 30, Graduate Student in Physical Therapy

Their Story
Yasmin Bhombal and David Shields lived in different cities multiple states away from each other—Yasmin residing in Philadelphia and David in Atlanta. In December 2008, however, Yasmin traveled to Atlanta for her best friend’s engagement dinner. It just so happened that she was seated at the same table as David, the best friend of the groom-to-be. Yasmin initially caught David’s eye with her backwards-writing skills, but the more they talked, the more they hit it off. After Yasmin headed back home and David stayed in Atlanta, the two started talking on the phone every day, and their long-distance relationship formed quickly—without them ever living in the same city. When Yasmin visited Atlanta in June 2011, David met her at the airport, then led her to where he had red roses and a guitar waiting. His brother was there to capture it all on camera. David sat her down, picked up the guitar and serenaded her with “Grow Old With You” from “The Wedding Singer”—right in the middle of the airport. He had learned to play the guitar specifically for the proposal, personalized the verses and ended the song with the question, “Will you marry me?” After Yasmin said “yes,” the surprises weren’t over. Instead of a quiet dinner with David’s family the next day, as she expected, a party of more than 30 people was waiting to celebrate the engagement—including her whole family from St. Louis and many out-of-town friends.

Going on Faith
Yasmin and David did not shy away from discussing their different faiths early in their relationship. Although David grew up Catholic, he chose to convert to Yasmin’s native faith, Islam, before they were engaged. When planning the wedding, they both wanted to make sure David’s family was comfortable while sharing in the Pakistani culture. So, David wore a suit to the reception, traditions like flowergirls were included, and there were western-style food options served. Instead of having the ceremony in a garden as Yasmin originally intended, they decided to hold it at the Daar-ul-Islam mosque in West County— partially because no one in David’s family had ever stepped inside a mosque before.

A Mehndi Affair
The first celebration of the marriage was the mehndi held at the Ballwin Golf Club the night before the ceremony. Purely a cultural affair, the party was full of color, festivities, music and dancing. After their families blessed the couple, the boys left to enjoy some bowling while the ladies stayed back and danced the night away. The sisters of the bride and groom performed dances, and a henna artist painted everyone’s hands and feet with beautiful designs for the ceremony in the morning.

We Are One
The nikkah ceremony itself was short and sweet. David and Yasmin signed a contract, exchanged rings and shared an impromptu hug (in lieu of the western “kiss the bride” tradition). After the ceremony, David’s mother placed garlands around Yasmin’s neck and her father placed garlands around David’s, symbolizing the unity the two families now share.

Karachi Bride
All of the traditional outfits worn throughout the two-day wedding celebration were purchased in Karachi, Pakistan by Yasmin’s parents. They even picked up some shalwar kameez, traditional South Asian attire, for David’s family to wear. Yasmin spent hours on video chat with a designer in Karachi describing her dream outfits for the special affair. For the mehndi, she wore a colorful yellow shalwar kameez; at the nikkah, she looked like a western bride in a white dress trimmed in gold; then she felt like a traditional Pakistani bride in red at the reception.

Customary Mischief
In keeping with the popular Pakistani custom of stealing the groom’s shoes and demanding cash to get them back, David’s shoes went missing while he was praying maghrib, one of the five daily prayers in Islam. With family members including several lawyers, the bartering began with a barrage of legal terms for negotiation— with neither side willing to give in without a fight. The playful arguing came to a head when David’s sister, Rose, a professional dancer, stood on her boyfriend’s shoulders and held the cash out for anyone who could reach. Everyone was surprised when Yasmin’s 6’2″ friend, Laura, jumped up and snatched the cash right out of Rose’s hand.

 

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Crossing Cultures

 

Photo credit: Beautiful Mess photography

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