Maharanis! Aleeza & Shane's love story is now live in today's Platinum Guide Blog. You will love it!
How did you meet your Groom and when did you know he was "the one"?
Shane and I were both very reluctant to meet each other! I had just moved to Philadelphia to start my MBA at Wharton and he was incredibly busy as a third-year dental student at Temple University. An aunty, however, had other plans for us. While Shane and I hadn’t met before, this aunty knew both of our parents and shared with them that we should meet given that we both would be in the same city. Our parents were quite persuasive as you can imagine - they kept telling us, “what’s the harm? Worst case scenario, you have a new friend!” While there was plenty of eye rolling and resistance (Shane and I both felt we didn’t need any help from our parents in the dating department), we both acquiesced and met up for dinner. Although we both enjoyed getting to know each other, our student lives took over and we lost touch for a couple of months. At the beginning of the new year, I had this feeling that I needed to get to know him better - I felt it in my bones - we needed to meet again. Of course, as we started to reconnect, Covid hit, but it’s also how I knew Shane was the “one.”
At the beginning of March, before we truly knew what Covid was and what our world would look like during a pandemic, I had returned from a trip with classmates in Europe and fell ill. Despite Shane and I still getting to know each other, he showed up to my door with a care package of soup, granola bars, and gatorade. His dental school had just announced that it was indefinitely shutting down and I was unsure whether Wharton classes would continue for the semester. Shane told me, “I had to see you before I left for Chicago.” In that moment, when I felt my worst, I was struck by how genuine he was - with a simple gesture, you showed me exactly who you were. Just by seeing you, even for five minutes, I felt infinitely better. Maybe it was that glint in your eye or your mischievous smile, but in that moment, I knew it would be impossible to live without you.
Shane moved back to Chicago and I moved back home to Baltimore when both of our schools shut down. The rest of our relationship was virtual - we would FaceTime and Zoom for hours - sometimes 9 hours at a time. We truly got to know each other without any distractions. You know how people say, “When you know, you know?” I always thought that was a myth, but now that I’ve lived it, I know it’s the greatest blessing in the world.
Share the scoop on your Proposal Story!
The proposal was a complete surprise! Shane told me that we had to go to Chicago for his friend’s birthday - I didn’t suspect much because his group of friends is really close, and I felt that it wasn’t the craziest thing in the world that everyone was gathering together to meet in the same city. On our way to the airport, I noticed that Shane was unusually quiet - he said that he had a stomach ache. I didn’t suspect anything. When we arrived at his home, we were greeted by his maternal grandparents (who flew in from Connecticut) and his uncle, aunt, and cousin who drove in from Michigan - along with his immediate family of course. Again, I should’ve noticed that his mom’s side of the family were all in town in the middle of a pandemic! I just thought “Hm they’re all so close, they’re probably just visiting!” At one point after dinner, his grandmother even told me, “I’m looking forward to meeting your parents,” and I thought she just misspoke, meaning meeting them at some point in the future.
The next morning, I got ready for the birthday and helped myself to some breakfast. This time, I noticed that Shane’s dad was nervous - he kept offering my snacks, tea, and at one point - even a block of cheese. While I was waiting for Shane to get ready, I looked down at my nails and noticed that they weren’t painted - I decided to paint them. This is when Shane’s dad got really nervous - I had no idea at the time, but this is when he thought that I had figured out the whole plan for the proposal. Shane then came down looking incredibly dapper - we then proceeded to leave for Chicago.
As we got closer to the city, Shane told me that we needed to pick up his friend before the brunch. When we got to his friend’s place, he said his friend wasn’t ready yet, so suggested that we walk around the park, close to the Lake Michigan waterfront. As we started walking, Shane was texting the whole time! I started to get annoyed - it was a little chilly, I had to use the bathroom, and Shane wasn’t even talking to me. Again, little did I know that Shane was coordinating with his friend to take pictures of us for the big moment. We reach the water’s edge, and Shane starts pointing out random things to me - there’s a boat, some buildings, a couple of ducks...all the while, Shane’s positioning me to take pics. Then, all of a sudden, he ripped off his face mask and exclaimed, “We’re not here for Nik’s birthday! We’re here because I want to be in my favorite place in the whole world with my favorite person in the whole world.” Then he went into the proposal - I completely blacked out - I have no idea what he said. All I remember is holding his hands and waiting for him to finish talking so I could say yes!
The surprise proposal was just the beginning - Shane had scheduled a full day of surprises! We then went to his uncle’s condo where his siblings and his friends were waiting for us. After we greeted our friends, Shane surprised me with my sister and her fiance who flew in from Boston! While I was so excited to see my sister, I was a little disappointed that my parents weren’t in town too. After exploring the rooftop and taking pictures, Shane told me I had to go get ready for the next surprise. Shane had scheduled a hair appointment for me (it was his mom’s idea!). I asked him why - he said I needed to wait to see.
After getting my hair blown out, we went back to his parent’s place where all of his family and close family friends were waiting for us. He had planned a surprise engagement party for us! As soon as I walked through the doors - I saw my parents! They had been keeping the proposal a secret from me for months - they were in town all along - we all started to tear up. We had a blast for the rest of the night, dancing the night away and enjoying the time with our friends and family. I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect proposal - it was so thoughtful, involving our friends and family, and somehow, was kept a surprise!
Tell us how you went about planning your wedding, and your overall experience with the Venues, Hair & Makeup, Outfits, Decor Theme, and all of the other important details.
We got engaged in April 2021 and we decided that we wanted to get married before the end of the year because we were both finishing up school and needed a weekend that could work for our families - my sister is getting married in June 2022, so we had to be cognizant of visa constraints and travel for our family living abroad. I had gone to Mayakoba with Shane’s family in January and we had fallen in love with the area - it’s romantic and the perfect balance between the jungle and beach. We just felt that it would be a complete escape for our family friends. I had always wanted to do a destination wedding, but we wanted it to be easy for our friends (i.e. direct flights, less than three hours of travel), and affordable for varying budgets. The Fairmont Mayakoba was our dream venue - with both hotel rooms and suites, the hotel could accommodate a wedding of our size (over 400 people) while providing different options for our guests. We also wanted different locations for all three of our events and the Fairmont had extensive experience doing events at their pool area, the beach, and the Isla Lawn. The Fairmont was everything we had dreamed of and more - when we came for our venue visit, they pulled out all the stops - we had the most beautiful food tasting and Patty, the wedding coordinator, made us feel like we were part of the Fairmont family. Anything we asked for, they said they could do! I’m forever grateful to Patty and the entire Fairmont staff for their hard work and amazing attitudes before, during, and after the wedding. Shout out to Rodrigo who took care of all of us during the wedding!
After reserving the venue, I discovered both our wedding planner and DJ on instagram. I wanted a local planner who really understood Mexican culture and was familiar with vendors in Mayakoba. We went with Canteiro Weddings, founded by Gabi Lavor. In addition to wedding planning, her company also does decor, florals, and rentals - with such a large, destination wedding, it was important to us to work with someone who we could trust and could negotiate on our behalf. Gabi’s designs are fresh, modern, and playful - her creativity and eye for beauty in combination with the rest of her team (Ilse and Fabi), made for the perfect match. She understood our vision immediately - we wanted our Meet & Greet to be a fiesta, our Mehndi to be a massive beach party, the vow ceremony to be romantic and peaceful, and the Reception to feel like a magical, secret garden with tropical flair. From lighting, florals, fireworks, TWO horses, lounge areas, and the dance floors - Canteiro Weddings knocked it out of the park!
In addition to the planning and decor, our next priority was the DJ. We knew that 70% of a great wedding is the music, especially given that our families love to dance. After conducting due diligence, we were lucky enough to have Special Occasions provide us with an emcee, DJ, and a dhol player. Ajay, the founder of Special Occasions, flew out from California specifically for our wedding and it wouldn’t have been the same without him - our guests couldn’t stop raving about him. He managed to get everyone on the dance floor while making sure that we stuck to our tight schedule. We decided to have an emcee in addition to a DJ because of the large group of people and the logistics around our multiple events, which I highly recommend (instead of having a random cousin emcee!). If there’s a couple of words of advice that I could give to any future brides: do not skimp on music and Ajay is the best!
How did you select your bridal lengha or wedding dress? Did you have a favorite color in mind?
Having grown up in the US with roots in Pakistan and India, I took a hybrid approach to my outfit selection. For the Meet & Greet, I was inspired by Mexican culture and decided to wear a floor-length black gown with colorful, floral embroidery, paired with an Indian jewelry set. For the Mehndi, we really leaned into our desi culture - we wanted to remind people of how beautiful our culture is. Given that we were going for a more traditional feel on the beach, I went with a colorful and geometric-inspired lehenga by Sabyasachi. I was drawn to the traditional silhouette but more modern design and colors. For the reception, while I wanted to wear a South Asian outfit, I was looking for something with Western-style embroidery and a non-traditional color. I fell in love with Manish Malhotra’s Kashmiri collection - with delicate, white embroidery and pastel colors, his outfit was exactly what I was looking for. Lastly, I changed into another dress halfway through the reception - for this dress, I wanted to look glamorous, but still be able to dance. I found a beautiful, embroidered gold dress by Jovani, which was a fun contrast to my earlier reception outfit. All of my jewelry was from a close family friend and renowned international designer, Reveti Jewelers.
What did your guests particularly love about your Wedding?
Shane and I aren’t the most typical couple and our main goal was to make sure our guests had the best weekend of their lives - we wanted everyone to have fun! From the welcome bags (full of candy, Mexican snacks, and other goodies), to our churro cart on the beach, we wanted to create a lot of “moments” for guests to enjoy. Shane and I were truly raised by our villages in Chicago and Baltimore - many of our parents’ friends are like family to us and we wanted them to feel included in all of our events. We are so grateful that they came all the way to Mexico to celebrate with us and it was important to make sure they felt welcomed. Our guests also commented that it felt like Shane and I were already one family - our parents, siblings, and extended family got along so well. In fact, our families had co-planned the entire wedding for months - and people could feel that we were ONE family, which I’m so grateful for. There wasn’t a bride’s side or a groom’s side (except for the dance battle at the mehndi!) - we wanted it to feel like we were all in it together.
One of the ways we did this was by having a vow ceremony - Muslim weddings never have a vow ceremony but we wanted to do things our own way. Shane and I exchanged vows to publicly share our commitment to each other but to also have our guests learn more about our love story. We also asked dear family members to speak and share advice as we embarked on our new chapter as a married couple. For our friends, they got to know our families better and for our families, they were included in our wedding in a novel way.
Was there a really special moment in your wedding that constantly replays in your mind?
It’s hard to choose one moment, but there’s one spontaneous thing we did that I will cherish forever. While we were lucky with the weather for most of our events, we experienced torrential downpour at the end of our Meet & Greet event, which we hosted outside at the infinity pool. Frankly, the timing was perfect - just as the event was ending, it started to pour. Our guests started to race for cover under the poolside restaurant. Shane, some friends, and I decided to stay outside in the rain - we just burst out laughing and started to dance. Joe, one of Shane’s family friends, had a brilliant idea - he suggested that we all jump in the pool. Without a second thought, in all of our formal clothes, we stood at the end of the pool and got ready to jump. Our dry guests, at the restaurant, saw what was happening and started to count us down - we all jumped in! Before we knew it, we had 50 other people in the pool with us. Shane even managed to convince our dads to jump in too!
I love the moment because it’s 100% something that Shane and I would do - and it was even better than our friends and family were there with us. It was also a reminder that even with something as “serious” as a wedding, the best moments are the spontaneous ones where you just let your hair down and live in the moment.
Anything else you want to tell us? We'd love to hear all about your other details! (jewelry, mehndi, venue, cake, bouquets, etc.)
I would like to thank my mom and Reem aunty (Shane’s mom) for planning the wedding. They put in months of work to make sure everything was perfect - none of this would’ve been possible without them. They’re the best mothers and have spent more hours on Zoom doing wedding planning than I would ever have had the patience for! I also want to thank our siblings for all of their support during the wedding - Shamil, Samah, Amna, and Will - you are the MVPs and unsung heroes! Thank you to my dad and Sohail uncle (Shane’s dad) for their humor and unique ideas throughout the planning process (and of course their endless love and support). And lastly, thank you to all of our friends and guests who showed up ready to have a GREAT time and made our wedding so special.