When we first saw the picture of this bride appear on Instagram, we thought it was a shot out of an editorial spread for Elle or Vogue India. To say we were pleasantly surprised when we found out she was a Canadian Bride and that the picture was from her wedding is an understatement. We knew immediately we had to repost her picture and as we went to save it, we noticed their wedding hashtag (#SharmWedsJen2017) and clicked on that. This opened up pandoras box! As more and more pictures started to emerge from their weddings, the thing that stood out was the style and elegance of this couple. And of course, knowing EM Photography captured both of their weddings, we knew some amazing shots were in production. What started off as a quest to find pictures for our Instagram turned into us getting to know a genuine couple from Ontario, Canada – and what we also get to share with you today!
Who is Jen, aside from the girl we see on Instagram? Tell us a bit about you and your fiance. Help our readers get to know who you guys are!
I am a native Sri-Lankan Tamilian, living in Canada from the age of two – coincidentally, the same as my husband, Sharmilan (Sharm). We both grew up geographically quite close to one another (him in Etobicoke, and me in North York – Ontario). We’re both huge foodies, world-travelers, gym-rats, animal & baby lovers, and super goal-driven in all aspects of life.
How did you and your husband meet? Where are you both from?
Surprisingly, we both met on LinkedIn! I came across Sharm’s profile through a mutual connection and thought he was cute, and he thought I was too. We virtually stalked each other and I had no clue he would receive daily notification of this (since I was new to LinkedIn and all… embarrassing!). I added him, he messaged me, and then we slowly went from LinkedIn to Whatsapp – Whatsapp to meeting face to face – and then after seven months of friendship – we made it official and began dating! We spent six months enjoying the dating life until I was offered a job opportunity in Calgary. Sharm encouraged me to take the job, and from there began the three crazy years of long distance dating that most couples dread. We were committed to making it work in any/every way we could. I made trips back to Toronto over the holidays to see Sharm and he worked towards and landed a project in Calgary for a few months to be with me. We coordinated our vacations in order to explore many parts of the globe together. In a little over four years, we have travelled together to Thailand, England, France, Spain, Portugal, Alberta, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Chicago – and have made some incredible memories along the way. In July 2015, I made the happy move back to Toronto.
Tell us a little bit about your engagement last year, and where it took place.
We got engaged in August of 2015 in Toronto. Our goal was to spend enough time, 1.5 yrs to be exact, to plan our wedding events. Sharm asked my family for my hand in marriage when I was out of town on a trip, and soon-after popped the question. Sharm took me to the sushi restaurant we first met in-person for dinner, and we were seated at the exact same booth from that first meet. He later drove me down to Park Lawn by the water
with a late night view of the Toronto skyline, shared thoughtful words, got down on one knee, and then popped the question! I said YES (of course)! After enjoying a bottle of champagne, which Sharm had ready for me, and after sharing the excitement with loved ones, we celebrated with a few close friends at the Distillery District. Our engagement shoot was done in Paris, France in the summer of 2016 during a mini-Euro trip we did.
How long did it take you to plan your wedding events and plan your outfits? Where were your outfits purchased?
It took us literally 1.5 yrs to get everything done the way we wanted. With Sharm being brought up Hindu, and myself being brought up Catholic, we knew there would be more work involved as we had three events to plan:
1) Hindu Ceremony
2) Catholic Ceremony
We were planning and perfecting right up until the last day. A bulk of the important items (venue, photographer, and videographer) were confirmed within the first six months, and the rest we tackled in monthly intervals. I had a clear vision of what I wanted to achieve for my looks (two for the Hindu ceremony and one for the Catholic ceremony / reception). It was quite effortless to plan, and surprisingly effortless to find as well. I purchased my manavarai saree from Maya’s Boutique, koorai saree from Aarathie’s Super Centre, and had my bridal gown made by the talented Mani K Jassal (absolutely LOVE HER!).
Your reception outfit was designed by Mani K Jassal. Tell us what made you decide to work with her? What is the process of getting a custom made design? How was your experience working with Mani?
I knew off the bat I wanted to give my business to local vendors in any way possible. As such, I began looking for bridal designers from Toronto. I researched and contacted lots of them, but when I went to one of Mani’s open-houses, I just loved her overall style and the various textures of fabrics used in her designs. I also respect the fact that she is a young designer creating a name for herself without conforming to the norms of Indian bridal wear – she is a force to be reckoned with! I took my sketches and vision to her and she really helped me understand what would work best for me. I loved the whole process of coming up with an idea, collaborating with a talented designer, deciding on the materials, and letting the designer create some serious MAGIC. I decided to splurge on my dress (Mani K Jassal), and my shoes (Louboutins), and it was planned and totally worth it! P.S. Mani has named my wedding dress the ‘Jennifer Dress’… *gasps*! I am so incredibly honored!
Walk us through the day of your wedding. What was the most memorable moment? What was one of the most stressful parts of the planning portion? Is there something you would have done differently looking back?
We started off the festivities with our Hindu ceremony in the evening on a Friday, the Catholic ceremony on the afternoon the next day, and immediately followed by our reception. Sharm says his most memorable moment(s) were seeing me in both of my sarees, and my bridal gown for the first time. The most memorable moment for me was when Sharm happily kept talking to me on the manavarai without a care in the world of who was watching, even though we were getting scolded by family members to keep quiet. We decided not to hire a wedding coordinator/planner, therefore, that left the planning and execution to us which got stressful at times, but was actually more fun than anything to be honest. With Sharm and I occupying full-time jobs, the weekends were eaten up by planning for our wedding events. Looking back, we can’t think of anything we would have done differently. Anything that didn’t go as planned was so microscopic in nature that they aren’t even worth dwelling on.
We noticed your (hindu) bridal look had a modern, editorial elegance to it. (We are still drooling over your look!) Your hair was unconventional in that you chose not to wear any of the traditional jasmine flowers or flower garlands. How did the elders in the family(s) react to this? Do you foresee this becoming a trend with future brides?
From what I remember, everyone loved the look, including the elders. I can only remember one person mentioning something about me not wearing jasmine, but it wasn’t in a negative way, it was more as a “this is new, and different”. I remember hearing many people say “your look is so unique, so different, so YOU” and I loved that. I love that I was able to bring my personal spin to my bridal looks. I have never really been much of a jasmine wearer, so my goal was to NOT compromise my style on one of the most important days of my life, but to embrace it including the simplicity I like when it comes to my hair. I definitely see the no-flower route being a trend for some, but not for all. I really think it comes down to personal preference and the look a bride is going for.
Tell us about how you chose your accessories and where you got them from. What is one accessory for you that was a must when with your sarees?
I chose my base accessories (sets) from KJ Designer Wedding (for my manavarai saree), and Maya’s Boutique and Aarathie Super Centre (for my koorai saree). But, I definitely like to add my own spin to almost everything, so I borrowd my mom’s jewelry pliers and
went to work customizing parts of my set by adding/removing pieces until I was happy with the final products. The one accessory that I really wanted to build my looks around were the statement tikkas I chose (also known as nethi pattam).
Did you pick out your bridesmaid outfits or did you give them a colour scheme and leave it up to them? What about hair? Makeup? Were you specific about the details?
I picked out my bridesmaids outfits (at RSM) – I absolutely loved the blush/cream colour.
All of their blouses were made by my mother – she did an amazing job as per usual. I even ironed and pleated their sarees before the wedding with the help of my maid of honor. I was very specific about the look and wanted elegance/cohesion across the board. I picked up their jhumkas, bangles, and bindis as well. I went a step further and asked my mom to make saree belts for them which proved to be genius on the consistency front. For their Catholic wedding dresses, I chose black to stay true to a classic black-tie formal dress code, and simply left it up to them to buy their dresses as
long as they were all the same material (chiffon). For their MUAH, I wanted cohesion for my five already-gorgeous ladies, so I had the MUAH artist go with one specific look for them per event.
What details did you spend the most time on for your wedding and why? What is something that took precedence over another? Were there difference in opinions over this?
We spent the most time on décor for the Hindu ceremony as the venue needed a bit of transforming. We spent the most time on venue, food, and entertainment details (music) for the reception as we felt these items would be most memorable and would make the biggest impact. We were on the same page regarding all of these items, so it was fairly easy to plan these together. Food definitely was something that was important to us (for the reception in particular), so we took our time and worked with our main venue contact and the chef in charge to come up with something amazing (we are still getting compliments on the menu by our guests).
How did you split up tasks amongst you and your fiance? Did he take care of the DJ, while you took care of decor etc?
We created a detailed ‘to do’ list, prioritized each item, and tackled some together while assigning other items to only one person (those smaller in scale). All major items were managed together because we both wanted to provide input.
How did you designate tasks to your friends and family? Was it difficult to trust that your close ones would get things done exactly how you wanted? Who was your go to person that you knew could fix anything and hearing their voice over the phone just made it all better?
We only delegated tasks to family/friends closer to the wedding date(s) when we felt we had too much on our plate. We would ask them to get the ball rolling on a task, but we would then pick up close to the end to ensure we had control over the final product. The times our friends/family could not deliver, we re-delegated or just put in some extra time and completed those items ourselves. They needed to get done! Surprisingly, we both did not have a person who we felt couldn’t fix anything. Creating our detailed ‘to do’ list with a strict timeline kept us on track and enabled us to really focus and just get it all done.
Couples don’t always agree on wedding details. Would you be able to tell us one disagreement you and your husband faced, and how you overcame it.
We had a disagreement on the need to have a DJ for the Hindu ceremony. I felt it was important while my husband did not. What I did on my end was gather thoughts/opinions from married couples who we both personally know. I also provided a couple of back-up options such as having a family member plug in a mix at the wedding. At the end, we were both aligned and agreed on a DJ for the Hindu ceremony, and I am so happy we did. She was amazing – and I am sure our guests loved hearing beautiful lovely tunes throughout the night just as much as we did.
Walk us through your steps of choosing your MUA. What made you decide to go with who you did? Have you worked with her prior to your wedding? Did you have a separate hire for your hair or saree draping?
This was a time-intensive process to say the least, particularly because some of the rates I received from certain MUA artists were just unreasonable in my opinion – and I definitely did NOT want to feel I was being ripped off (especially when weddings are already so expensive). At the time, my cousin was about to get married and mentioned she had her trial done by Jen Evoy Makeup Studio, and so I decided to do a bit of research on them. One thing I noticed across the board regarding Jen’s team was consistency. I loved her work, and when I received her rates, I felt they were incredibly reasonable. It was a no-brainer to book her because talent is talent. I was not closed off to the idea that I needed to book someone who is a pro at Tamil bridal hair and makeup. I didn’t work with Jen Evoy or her team prior to my wedding, but I gathered inspiration pictures and explained it to Jen (for my makeup) and her team member, also named Jen, (for my hair) the day of my Hindu ceremony. I used them for my event the next day as well. My mom is a seamstress so she made my saree blouses, and we both ironed, pleated, and prepped my sarees together. The day of my Hindu wedding, my mom and I draped my sarees on me. It was sweet, sentimental, and will be etched in my memory and heart forever.
What was the most challenging part about planning your weddings? Were your parents involved? How much say did they have in the planning?
The most challenging part was ensuring to stick to our guns on how we wanted our wedding events to be (guest head count, décor details, etc.).
What was the most fun detail of your wedding to plan?
The sit-down menu for the reception was super fun to plan! We are foodies, thus, decided to get creative with our menu ensuring it was an Indian/Western fusion. We gathered lots of pictures, researched different dishes and flavors, and sat down with the chef in charge of our reception to land on something really wonderful. The food was delicious and full of memorable flavors.
Tell us about your inspirations for your wedding, whether it was decor, your makeup, or even the food served.
Inspiration for me and Sharm regarding décor for our Hindu ceremony involved light and airy hues (gold/cream/white) with pops of red for vibrancy as per our culture. I stayed true to myself when choosing my outfits. I went with neutrals, but royal/regal/elegant jewellery that stood out to really make a statement. The theme for our reception was elegant black-tire formal, and so we stuck with light and airy hues (gold/cream/white) but added subtle hints of pale grey. Our reception menu was a combination of Western/Indian flavors which catered to our diverse guest list – and it was seated/plated to create an intimate setting. We definitely had a modern and editorial style to our wedding based on the wonderful feedback we have been getting from friends, family, and total strangers!
Do you notice a current trend within the Tamil community in terms of bridal sarees and bridal wear in general? What would you describe it as right now?
I noticed brides began going with simple sarees the last couple of years (less embroidery, Zari work, etc.) which I think is neat. I chose my sarees to have gold work just because I love sarees with gold work. I also notice that brides are beginning to go with really dark colours for their koorai saree, or even bright blue/green hues (which was considered a ‘no-no’ a few years back). I think it’s great that brides are sticking to their guns and doing what makes them happy and feel comfortable – as long as they can work it out with their parents/loved ones, and are not offending the Hindu religion and our Tamil culture. I really do not think there is one particular trend within the Tamil community right now in terms of bridal sarees. I think some brides have their own taste and go with what they want while others like to follow what we see most often. Either way, it’s pretty awesome to see various saree colours and styles, a variety of makeup and hair selections, etc. It’s also pretty cool to see different trends come back in, for example, banarasi-style bridal sarees. I think it would be amazing to see a vintage saree worn as a manavarai saree (something handed down from previous generations maybe).
If you could have had a destination wedding – where would it be, and why?
This one is so hard for us to answer because we both love to travel, but since we don’t want to leave you hanging – I would choose Italy, while Sharm would choose Jamaica. I would choose Italy because I love pasta and wine, and there are beautiful historic places/backdrops for wedding ceremonies/receptions. Jamaica for Sharm because of the beautiful weather, warm/friendly people, delicious food, and a wide range of resort options.
If you could recommend three items for a bride to have in her little clutch (or near the manavarai), what would they be?
I did not have a clutch anywhere in proximity to me (my lipstick was long-lasting, my pottu remained on my forehead, and my saree stayed in placed), but if I did, I would recommend to keep the following:
- Versatile shade of lipstick
- Extra pottu in case your current one falls off
- Safety pins to help with any saree issues that arise
Do you think flying to India to pick wedding items is worth the travel, time and money, or are you finding that local retailers are carrying great wedding selections for a reasonable price?
I think it depends on the couple, their financial situation, and their luck in finding what they need locally. I was very particular on what I wanted, so if I did not find it locally, I probably would have found someone locally who could help me go the custom-design route for my sarees. There were a few stores willing to work with their contacts in India to design what I was looking for. Luckily, I found everything I wanted with a bit of time and shopping. I also found everything at amazing and hard-to-beat prices (you would not believe it). I saved lots of money and found a few things during sales.
What is one piece of advice you think all future brides should take note of?
I know everyone says this, but really and truly do step back during the big day(s), and just breathe. Take it all in. It will fly by faster than you know it, so the last thing you want to do is stress and allow something so trivial to strip you of the happiness and memories you deserve to experience at such a special time in your life. Be happy, smile, laugh, dance, EAT ALL THE FOOD, and make sure to show your sweetheart how much you love him/her!
CATHOLIC WEDDING/RECEPTION HIGHLIGHTS
EM Photography: http://www.photoem.net/
Karl Monje: https://vimeo.com/bykarlmonje
Maya’s Boutique: https://www.mayasonline.com/
KJ Designer Wedding Warehouse: http://www.kjdesignerwedding.com/
RSM Silks: http://rsmsilks.com/
Aarathie Super Centre: http://www.arathie.com/
Kala Kendar: https://www.facebook.com/Kala-Kendar-Sarees-Fabrics-143449519087160/
Jasmine Flowers: http://jasmineflower.ca/
Fancy Florists: http://www.fancyflorist.ca/
Ruben’s Wedding Florist: https://www.instagram.com/rubensweddingservice/
DJ Kow: https://www.instagram.com/dj.kow/
Jen Evoy Makeup Studio: http://www.jenevoymakeupstudio.com/
Sringeri Vidya Bharati Foundation (Canada): http://www.svbfcanada.com/
St. Ann Parish: https://www.stanntoronto.com/
Carisma Florists: http://www.carismaflorists.com/
Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex: http://www.libertygrand.com/
RLE Entertainment (DJ Twizta): http://www.rleonline.com/OffSlice/
Varatha’s Silk: https://www.facebook.com/varathas/
Tie • The • Thali would like to thank Jennifer & Sharmilan for taking us through their wedding day and for providing helpful advice for future couples planning their wedding. We would also like to wish them a happy married life!
We would like to thank EM Photography for providing stunning images to accompany the feature. Keep up the amazing work!