A bit about our That Bride Mashal Mush? Well, a proposal on top of The Peak, wedding festivities spanning across Hong Kong and Pakistan, a Star Ferry reception, not to mention a focus on sustainability when it came to outfits!
Believe it or not, a daughter paying for her own wedding would be culturally frowned upon by South Asian parents and circles. But our That Bride, Mashal Mush pushed boundaries to do just that alongside her husband, Zain. And that’s not the only bold move she made — she also had plenty of tricks up her sleeves when it came to cutting down the budget (how not to have a Big Fat Desi Wedding?) including repurposing older ethnic wear for her wedding festivities and designing her own invitation cards on Canva. Ahead, we talk to Mashal about realistic expectations for proposals and weddings, planning festivities across multiple cities amidst a pandemic, how to ace being your own wedding planner and more. Read on and take notes from #MaZa!
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Every bride has a proposal story. What’s yours?
I’ve always wanted to watch the first sunrise of the new year. In 2020, everything was shut so we had a pretty relaxing New Year’s Eve — when Zain told me we were going to hike up to The Peak (we actually cabbed it up!) to watch the sunrise the next morning, I knew what was coming. I thought, “This is it!”
We got there and it was freezing. I was in my pajamas but I didn’t care how I looked. If anything, I just wanted to be comfortable (and go back to sleep!). Of course, I had pictured how I wanted my proposal to be but at the same time, I loved how real the actual proposal was and that it reflected our relationship — natural and just us being ourselves.
Read More: Where To Propose In Hong Kong
Tell us about the ring.
We both had an idea about the type of ring we wanted. I definitely wanted something I could actually wear. And my husband kept asking for details, from clarity to colour and whatnot. To be honest, I was clueless about the technical bits!
Before Zain purchased the ring, he sent me a photo of the stone to confirm. I also sent it to my mom to check with her. Size is the most important part of getting a ring — prior to buying the ring, my husband brought home an entire ring measurement guide and we made every decision together. It was nice because I knew what to expect!
Read More: Where To Buy An Engagement Ring In Hong Kong
What did you do for your hen party?
My maid of honour organised my bridal shower and bachelorette party, and I told her to do it all in one day so it’d be less of a hassle. It was a spa-themed pajama party at a hotel room. I made the dress code sexy lingerie and some of my friends actually put in the effort!
It was very comfortable and cosy: we talked, chilled and played games before heading out to dinner at aqua (I’m all about the views and rooftops!). My dress for the party was rented from Pret-a-Dress and it was a secret that I revealed to my friends (I loved their reactions!).
It’s so rare to have all my closest friends in one room, at the same time. Just the fact that they could all be there for me was the best part.
Tell us about the dress. How many did you try on?
There were multiple dresses but I didn’t really need to try on that many! The first event was my Nikkah (the Islamic marriage ceremony) and the dress I wore was designed and stitched by my mom. It was simple and white and just beautiful. I re-wore the dress at another event in Pakistan.
For the civil registration in Hong Kong, I went to a bridal dress boutique (DBR Weddings) and tried on three dresses. I went with my first option and rented it.
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You’re big on sustainable fashion, how did you incorporate this into your wedding outfits?
For my qawwali night (a live performance of Sufi devotional music) in Karachi, I wore my mom’s 25th anniversary dress. It was a maroon and gold lehenga and I remember seeing her in that dress — I was a kid at that time.
When we were in Pakistan, we were skimming through old pieces and my mom was talking about giving this lehenga away. I seized the opportunity — I remade the top and re-wore it!
There’s no harm in repeating. You can also always style it in different ways. You don’t need to feed into the fast fashion cycle of over-consumption.
And then of course, I rented outfits for my engagement party, bachelorette and civil wedding. And for any in-between events, I sometimes borrowed dresses from my sister. The fact that my wedding festivities happened in two different cities definitely helped — different people but the same outfits!
Many people believe in buying a brand new dress for their wedding. What are your thoughts on this? How can we encourage people to shift from this mindset?
That definitely needs to change, it’s not a healthy mindset to have. You need to ask yourself, “Am I going to wear this again?” If the answer is no, you shouldn’t be buying it. There are other ways to do it, be it borrowing, renting or repurposing.
For me, it’s even more special wearing something pre-loved or passed down because there’s a story behind that outfit. And for South Asian weddings, the dresses are extremely heavy with a lot of intricate work — you’re definitely not wearing your bridal dress again! You save money and effort by renting or repurposing.
What’s the biggest challenge in planning a wedding with multiple festivities across different cities?
My entire family is in Pakistan and Zain’s family is spread across Hong Kong and America. I actually had my entire wedding in Pakistan myself — I didn’t have my husband there! He couldn’t fly there due to COVID-19 and he had just switched to a new job.
A lot of my family members kept asking where the groom and his family were, and my cousins would joke that my husband wasn’t real! This was bit challenging but it was still intimate and we enjoyed all of the events. My family was so supportive and understanding throughout all the planning. Plus, more of my cousins and extended family members could attend the festivities in Karachi as Hong Kong was faced with a lot of travel restrictions.
Another huge challenge for me was facing the different work ethics across Hong Kong and Pakistan. As for Hong Kong, everything was organised and done ahead of time. This wasn’t the case in Pakistan (mostly due to cultural differences), everyone has their own pace (generally pretty slow!). For one of my events, the set-up wasn’t done until the very last minute! I just didn’t know enough about the wedding industry in Pakistan but it was a huge learning curve for me.
Let’s talk about budget, South Asian weddings are known for their unrestrained lavishness. Was this the route you went for? What aspects of a wedding do you think couples can save on?
Although we had over 10 events, it was not a typical, lavish South Asian wedding. My husband and I funded this entire wedding ourselves. If you’re planning on financing your own wedding, do let your parents know ahead — don’t catch them off-guard. South Asian parents often spend their lives saving for their daughter’s big wedding.
It has always been a goal of mine to pay for my own wedding despite the norm where parents often handle the expenses.
Since I was the one creating the spreadsheets (I love my spreadsheets – remember to stay organised!), I was more aware of where the money was going and what was worth spending on. Plus, my sister is a henna artist and my mom is a make-up artist so I definitely saved heaps from that alone (make-up is a huge cost!). Other tips I have include:
- Rent artificial florals rather than fresh — they are less expensive and less wasteful.
- Instead of going for extravagant physical invitation cards that are still very common in Pakistan, I went for digital ones and whipped them up myself on Canva!
- Rent or borrow clothes whenever possible especially if you don’t plan on wearing the outfit again.
- Save costs on not having a destination wedding (and avoid the carbon footprint of flying guests in from all over) but this is more of a personal preference.
- Support local suppliers for catering, you’ll find lesser-known gems that are also less pricey. You don’t always need to go with the big names.
- Contact your photographer friends! Help them build their portfolio and save compared to higher end wedding photographers.
Planning your own wedding is not impossible, go for it but be aware of your spendings and prepare for changes in your budget.
Read More: 10 Ways To Save On Your Big Day
You sure know how to throw a party! Your reception in Hong Kong was on a boat! Was there a reason behind this choice, which other wedding venues did you consider?
We hadn’t considered any other venues for the reception. The Star Ferry was my husband’s idea — we both love this iconic symbol of Hong Kong (plus, it has low emissions!). Why not do something different? We like thinking outside of the box and trying something new.
The ferry was only docked at the pier for 15 minutes and so my wedding decoration team had such a small window to set everything up but they did an amazing job!
The Star Ferry was the best way to conclude our wedding festivities. It was quite a relaxing event after all the hectic planning. We hosted the event late afternoon so we could catch the sunset – we never tire of watching the sun go down on Victoria Harbour. It was just magical!
Read More: Alternative Wedding Venues In Hong Kong
Any more tips and tricks for brides-to-be?
- Relax, loosen up your nerves and enjoy every moment because it’ll reflect on your wedding photos! This time is never going to come back again.
- If you ever need help, don’t be afraid to ask! It can get very stressful planning an entire wedding by yourself.
Proposal photographer: Chandni Chotrani
Nikkah venue: The Upper House/ Nikkah MUA: Rimi/ Nikkah photographer: Matt Leung
Qawali dress: Pre-loved/ Qawali hair + MUA: Salma’s Club by Salma & Sara (Mashal’s mom and sister)/ Qawali henna: Sara’s Henna (Mashal’s sister)/ Qawali photographer: Fatima Tariq
Civil dress: Rented from DBR Weddings/ Civil hair + MUA: Salma’s Club by Salma & Sara/ Civil photographer: Matt Leung
Reception decor: hereforyouevents/ Reception hair + MUA: Salma’s Club by Salma & Sara/ Reception photographer: Matt Leung
All images courtesy of Mashal Mush.