Farouk and Ranita had a traditional Indian Wedding with their ceremony and reception at the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts at Mount Royal University in Calgary. Farouk and Ranita are both very accomplished, high-achieving individuals. They are both committed to building communities and impacting the world. Farouk’s work with Farm Shop, a social enterprise assisting rural farmers in Kenya, is incredible and it takes them to Africa regularly. Ranita’s work with corporate, diplomatic, government, not-for-profit and community-based institutions has taken her all over the world as well. I admire both of them and all they have accomplished. It was a true pleasure to photograph their event.

This auspicious event was spread out over four days. The first day was the Mehndi ceremony, where Ranita had beautiful henna applied to her hands. The detail and intricate work that was done was stunning. Her hands looked like they were covered in art.

The second day was the Pithi ceremony. Pithi is a paste made out of chickpea flour, turmeric, rose water and other ingredients that is rubbed on the bride and groom’s face, hands, and legs to cleanse and purify them before the wedding ceremony. Traditionally, family members and friends have fun getting the bride and groom completely covered in the paste, and that certainly happened to Farouk! It was almost like he was being hazed. He was in good spirits and everyone had a good laugh.

The third night was a dinner and dance. There were amazing choreographed dances and it looked like Ranita and Farouk had a wonderful time. They looked so happy together and brought the house down when they danced for everyone.

The fourth day was the actual wedding ceremony and reception. That morning, I was with Ranita while Duane spent time with Farouk and the men. One of my favorite pictures is of Ranita looking right at the camera as she was getting ready. She had just received a blessing from her parents and they had exited the room, and she was quietly emotional. She didn’t hide from my lens when I came in and let me take a few portraits. The image strikes me as a very powerful, honest portrait.

Once Farouk and Ranita were both ready, we did portraits and a first look at the brand new building in downtown Calgary, Studio Bell. The building is home to the National Music Centre and was a truly spectacular backdrop for portraits. From there it was over to the ceremony where we did some portraits around the campus at Mount Royal University.

The ceremony was very interesting, filled with different traditions. There was one moment when both the bride and the groom have to step off a small platform and try to crush a small decorative box. Apparently, the first one to break it is said to have the upper hand in the marriage. When Farouk stepped down, instead of breaking, it went skittering right across the floor. Ranita immediately broke hers of course – I am sure it was rigged ahead of time. Anyway, on subsequent attempts to break the box, not only did he fail quite a few times, but he broke the heel off the shoe that he was wearing. Again, he was in good spirits and everyone was amused.

Over the course of this wonderful four-day celebration, I was continuously impressed by Farouk and Ranita’s sense of family and connection. It was a huge wedding ceremony: I would guess around 600 people, including the mayor of Calgary, but they were very classy. Even in such a large crowd, the couple created space to visit and interact with their guests in a very gracious way.

Ranita and Farouk, thank-you so much for allowing Duane and me to follow you around for the better part of four days. I have such respect for who you are as individuals and as a couple. I know you both will continue to make the world a better place.

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