Smoke & Mirrors
Written by Qaanitah Hunter and edited by Benazir Cassim
Wedding planning means very different things to different people, and it all depends on your bank balance. The last time around, wedding planning meant tying blue plastic ribbons on packets of homemade sweets to give out as favours.
When you have many issues — but money is not one of them — you can get custom-made perspex boxes engraved with your name and filled with imported gourmet chocolates as wedding favours.
It’s a whole new world!
Between Ayesha, her mother, my mother and Ma, a wedding is planned in just over a week.
My brief is simple: I need to get as much content from it as possible. I still have a blog and social media to sustain, and nothing gets people talking as much as a wedding.
I couldn’t care less about the details. What I care about is not having a potty-training two-and-a-half-year-old pee on me at night. The feeling of warm liquid creeping down my leg in the middle of the night has traumatised me!
Hana has a new thing where she won’t sleep without me in her bed. No matter how much we have tried, she refuses to sleep alone.
If I leave and Adil replaces me, she cries nonstop. We had our first easy night when I caved and slept in her room and in her bed.
Then, when we took Hana to the pediatrician, she recommended we start potty training. Never in a million years did I think I would be so happy that a child peed in a toilet and not on the couch. With a toddler in the house, my dreams of a crisp white couch vanish into thin air.
I am happy to do everything for Hana but I refuse to clean up after Hana makes a mistake. That’s Adil’s job. We have a good system figured out, though, with much better communication.
The best decision I could have made is outsourcing the planning of the wedding to Adil’s sister and mother, with help from my mother.
We have a lot to figure out. Do we go on a honeymoon? Do we get Hana used to staying with Ayesha and Ma? Is my mother moving in with us?
Then we have to figure out how to move all my things to Adil’s house and get everything packed and unpacked. Setting up my work space in our third bedroom upstairs is also a mission.
My only contribution to the wedding was sorting out my wedding dress which was sponsored by a company that I worked with before that specialises in ready-to-wear gowns.
At first I couldn’t make up my mind but as I put on my wedding dress this morning, it feels right. I wanted something understated and simple. Overdone gowns can go wrong and if you can’t afford Elie Saab, sit down!
I can’t believe I am getting married. Again.
In a few hours Adil and I will be married Islamically and host a lunch reception for 400 people.
It baffles me that they even know 400 people! Of the list of people, 20 people are my friends and family. Twenty people are random people my mother knows, like the friends she has made in the complex and a few bloggers. The other 360 people are Adil’s friends and family! In one week they were able to find that many people to attend a wedding on December 29th!
But that’s not my business. It is my job to just show up.
It feels weird to relinquish so much control when I had such a distinct idea of what I wanted my wedding to look like. But at this stage, it doesn’t even matter whether there’s embossed name cards at every table or not.
Molly is doing my wedding makeup, and I couldn’t think of a better person. Maariah Means didn’t only take me out of the handbag department at Icon but made her a celebrity makeup artist of sorts. We reminisce about the many times we almost got fired at Icon for doing photoshoots in the fitting rooms instead of serving customers. Once she had to lie to the bosses that I was sick when I popped out for one of the first brand events I was invited to.
Molly does classical makeup with soft pink lips and rosy cheeks. I am down for Instagram baddie makeup of too much contour and heavy lashes, but not on my wedding day.
I want to look back at my pictures and it must be timeless and beautiful. Meghan Markle on her wedding day is my new style inspiration. I am over the Priyanka Chopra-Jonas vibe. ,
And it worked out well when I found out that LaShanta had a ready-to-wear dress that was so similar to the one the Duchess wore on her wedding day, although with shorter sleeves. I preferred the gown more fitted so they altered it to fit my waist in two days.
At first, Ayesha and my mum convinced me to do an elaborate headpiece to juxtapose the simple dress but I was really inspired by the elegance of having very natural makeup and a simple bun. Diamond studs borrowed from Adil’s mother with a matching diamond bracelet finishes the outfit.
“You look heavenly,” Molly says to me as she zips up the dress.
This is it.
“I can’t believe it’s actually happening,” I say to Molly and she laughs, but she doesn’t know how many nightmares I’ve had about the wedding being called off at the eleventh hour. My fears and insecurities have been in overdrive. I feel calmer today though. You would think that I’d be nervous on my wedding day, but I have overthought everything so much that I have now reached my zen space.
I am so zen I don’t even want to see the venue beforehand. Adil managed to get Hana to sleep last night without me and booked a hotel room for me and my mum, which is where I’m getting ready now.
Molly and Firdaus are helping me get done while my mother rushed to the venue for final checks.
“Are you not scared that you haven’t seen the venue beforehand?” Molly asks me as she applies perfume to my dress.
“No, I am relaxed. I feel like I am going to someone else’s wedding,” I say and they both start laughing.
“Umar says Adil is not half as relaxed as you. The man is freaking out,” Firdaus says, and I believe her.
The last I spoke to him last night he was stressed about leaving Hana with Ayesha for two nights, even though it was his idea that we go away for two nights. I said it’s not necessary but he was either feeling guilty that I am not getting a honeymoon, or he really wants alone time with me.
We’ve been de facto housemates for the last three weeks, he has seen me with unbrushed hair and teeth and I have seen him with hardened drool on the side of his cheek; surely it can only get better?
I chose not to be present at the mosque for the Islamic nuptials because I needed the time to take good portraits before Adil joins us for couple photos before the reception. We decided to use the hotel lobby for the wedding photoshoot and to avoid the cliché garden shots at all costs.
I pose for a few shots and Dylan the photographer shows me what he has taken so far.
“The simplicity of the gown is so perfectly juxtaposed against this ornate wallpaper,” he says as Molly fixes my hair. Fancy.
“Oh, Maariah. You are married, by the way,” Firdaus says, looking up from her phone.
The nikaah is done. Adil and I are married while I am posing for the perfect mirror shot.
There is no going back now. Well, technically, it would cost R1-million to go back.
When Adil arrives from the mosque and meets me in the hotel lobby, I am reduced to a puddle of tears. He hugs me and I hold tightly onto his shoulders.
He cries and I cry.
I think about how I did not have enough money for an Uber home on the night I met Adil for the first time. And the time I fell off the treadmill while laughing at him for almost falling off. I remember how he prayed from the Quraan at Zayn’s funeral.
I remember the first time he said he loved me, how he casually put our engagement ring on my finger with no fanfare, and how he affectionately flicks my ears whenever I pass him.
Then I remember the night he told me about Hana, and the fights since then, and the nights we wanted to pull our hair out because she just wouldn’t sleep.
All my fears and hopes descend on me equally in this embrace.
“I love you,” he whispers in my ear as his family stare at us. If only they knew the half of it!
“Mar, all my hard work is ruined,” Molly jokes as I wipe my tears away.
I greet Adil’s mother, who is wearing a dress that looks like she was dipped in Swarovski crystals, and his dad who wipes a tear away too. My mother and my aunty are sobbing at this point. Ma is sitting on a chair, tears streaming down her cheeks.
The hotel staff look at us baffled. “Hayibo! They are crying like it’s a funeral,” one of them says in Zulu and those of us who understand start laughing between the tears.
Soon, our family goes to the venue and only Molly stays to fix up my make up while Adil changes from his kurta to a suit.
“See this naughty one,” Adil comes to show me a video of Hana while Molly adds more powder to my face. Hana went earlier with Ayesha and Percy to the venue and was stealing all the sweets from the entrance table.
When Molly is done, she leaves and Adil and I leave for our wedding reception.
Any apprehension I had that I may hate the decor disappears the moment I walk in. It is like my Pinterest vision board has been brought to life in ways I could never imagine! It is the perfect mix of romantic elegance with a modern touch.
The spectacular attention to detail is the best surprise. There’s a seating chart of my dreams printed on a mirror and a photo booth that is a floral dream. Thank God it’s not tacky!
Whoever did the flowers managed to get the perfect combinations of hues of blush pink with white roses! I love it. Every plate even has a customised napkin with our wedding emblem printed on it.
I have no idea how Ayesha and her mum pulled this in such a short time. Every moment is Insta-worthy!
This is my dream come true. Right? Right.
But... Why am I not feeling it? I sit on the stage in front of so many people I don’t know and I am not bursting out of happiness. I smile for hundreds of photographs but I find myself involuntarily clenching my jaw in vexation.
This is a perfect wedding. It really is. There is nothing I would change. But I don’t have butterflies fluttering in my stomach. If anything, I feel sick.
The sight of Adil’s mother grates me. She clearly wanted to outshine me with all that sparkle and train. Who wears a tiara to their son’s wedding?!
I smile at Adil’s father but I can’t help but despise him for Adil’s dysfunction.
I look at my mother and I am angry at her for not teaching me how to have a sense of self-worth.
I see a family member of Zayn’s and I want to pull her badly-dyed hair out of her head for being part of a family that made me feel guilty for existing.
I see tables and tables of politicians who I have only ever seen on TV and I want to puke. How can Adil’s family use a wedding to maintain corrupt relationships? These men probably don’t even know my name but this is about the big housing project. The fact that Simmi is using my wedding to schmooze with politicians is getting on my last nerve.
Every time I turn to the table of blogger ‘friends’ I invited, I grit my teeth. They know nothing about me but they are posting pictures of Adil and I as ‘couple goals’. Bunch of superficial asses!
Be happy, Maariah. This is the best day of your life.
Breathe girl, breathe.
Why did I think that once this wedding happens everything is going to be okay?
This is all I ever wanted. But I didn’t want to feel like this. Scared. Anxious. Angry at myself, and all these other people.
It’s a perfect day. I am happy. I have to be happy! This costs so much! I have to be happy.
“Are you okay?” Adil smiles at me, and I nod.
I am certain this is what a panic attack feels like but I cannot crack in front of 400 wedding guests, most of whom I have never met before in my life.
“I need to go to the bathroom,” I say to Adil who signals Firdaus to help me down the stage.
Everyone is watching me as I try to keep my composure. I don’t need to use the toilet. I just need a minute away from all the eyes.
I stand in the toilet for five minutes just trying to catch my breath. “Are you okay?” Firdaus asks when she hears my heavy breathing.
I am okay. I wanted this. I love Adil. Yes, life is not going to be perfect but whose life is perfect anyway?
Firdaus doesn’t say anything to me as we leave the bathroom and we take a detour to the furthest table, where Ayesha seated Hana with Percy and the other invited staff.
“Come with Mari,” I extend my hand to Hana and she leaps into my arms. I can see Adil’s mother trying to suppress a meltdown at the corner of my eye as I carry Hana with me to the stage.
Having Hana sit with a table of domestic workers avoided embarrassing questions for Adil’s family. Now she is sitting on my lap with the whole room watching — with obvious questions.
I am tired of pretences. I am tired of acting. I am tired of not being my authentic self.
“Are you okay?” Adil asks me unsure of why I brought Hana to sit with us.
“No. We start therapy next week,” I smile for the cameras.
This is fiction
No, really. It is fiction. All characters are made up.