Virtual vows: Edmonton couple livestreams wedding during COVID-19

Virtual vows: Edmonton couple livestreams wedding during COVID-19

Megha Sharma and Gaurav Sapra planned to wed in New Delhi — a 5-day celebration of their love with hundreds of family and friends.  Then COVID-19 hit. The Edmonton couple had to cancel reservations for a grand banquet hall and accommodations,

as well as airline tickets for Sharma's family.

But within days, they revamped their plans to create something new — an online traditional Hindu wedding that followed public health measures. 

On April 17, nearly 500 guests tuned in via Zoom from India, Nigeria, Dubai, Australia, the U.S. and Canada. Dressed in suits and saris, they danced and feasted for hours.

"They were hooting for us when we were exchanging the garlands and doing the rituals and they were clapping and singing and dancing, playing music and teasing us," said Sharma, laughing as she recalled the festivities.

"We really felt that they were together with us in the room. It was so amazing." From their new home in southwest Edmonton, still decorated with colourful banners, the beaming couple shared their story on Wednesday by video call with CBC News. 

They recalled the heartache after the pandemic wiped out months of wedding plans. 

Friends had organized music and dancing to welcome the couple at the New Delhi airport; there was shopping to be done and bachelor and bachelorette parties to attend; Sharma would meet Sapra's parents for the first time.

They held out hope until the last minute before cancelling their month-long trip to India.

"We were all crying," Sharma said. "Our hopes were shattered, completely shattered."

The families decided to go ahead with a brief legal wedding ceremony on April 14. But they soon realized COVID-19 didn't mean they had to give up their dream of a traditional ceremony on April 17.

They would do it online instead. Within three days, they found a local priest ready to perform a ceremony mindful of public health orders.

They tracked down garlands, turmeric and as many other ceremonial items as they could find. Traditional Hindu rituals were performed in unique ways.

Rather than having a professional henna tattoo artist paint Sharma's hands and feet at a party during the Mehendi ceremony, intricate designs were applied by her sister at home. Swati Sharma also took on the role of photographer, chef and determined wedding planner.

"During this pandemic if you want to conduct something as big as a marriage, it is possible, if you are taking all of your social distancing precautions," Swati said. "There is nothing that you cannot do."

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