_58A9310Written by Laura Bell. Photography by Becky Spencer.

Proof that chance encounters can lead to the most beautiful love stories, Bella Patel and Kevin Richards met at a neighbourhood restaurant on a casual Friday night in Toronto in May 2014. Bella says she was intrigued by his smile, and he says he was captivated by her beauty. The conversation was so natural they found themselves closing the place down that night. By the end of the summer they were inseparable.

Born in Edmonton, Alberta, to Indian parents, Bella grew up and was working in Toronto and Kevin, a Bermudian, was also working in the city when the two began dating. Just over a year later, after getting the stamp of approval from Bella’s parents, friends and her dog Cruiser, Kevin proposed.

“The proposal was sweet and full of surprises,” said Bella. “Kevin proposed on June 30, 2015. It was a regular Wednesday afternoon and Kevin had picked me up from work. He told me he wanted to go for an afternoon stroll by the lake so we made our way out of the city. Unbeknownst to me, Kevin was taking me to Humber Bay Shores. We followed a scenic trail to a butterfly habitat, where Kevin stopped off the trail and led me to a lookout point on the rocks. I climbed up a rock to get a better view of the city in the distance and spotted a swan in the water. When I turned around to show Kevin, he was on one knee with ring in hand. He asked if I would marry him, and I happily said yes. Kevin quickly ushered me back to the car and the surprises continued: He pulled out a dozen roses from the trunk and I noticed he had packed a few suitcases, too. He had planned a couple of nights at a romantic cabin in Muskoka and took care of every detail… a dog sitter for Cruiser, dinner, horseback riding and even a surprise engagement party at my friend’s condo when we returned from our getaway. Everyone was in on the surprise and knew what Kevin was planning!”

“I knew that Bella was very special early on in our relationship,” said Kevin. “I had finally met someone who possessed beauty, brains and a great sense of humour and who challenged me mentally.”

The engagement ring was a two-carat solitaire diamond set in a six-pronged, knife-edge thin white gold band that the groom designed himself along with a custom jeweller in Toronto. “I had never mentioned what type of ring I wanted, but he seemed to know exactly my simple and elegant style,” said Bella.

The couple decided that saying “I do” once wasn’t going to be enough so they planned two weddings in honour of their diverse cultures—an intimate Christian wedding on December 23, 2015, and a Hindu wedding held on May 22, 2016. The Christian wedding consisted of a small ceremony held at Christ Church in Warwick with 25 close family and friends in attendance. “It was a sunny day, and it was Kevin’s birthday!” said Bella. “My mother and my maid of honour (my sister) arrived in the old-fashioned car and we had my father walk me down the aisle to a live string quartet.”

At their second celebration, the wedding ceremony was held in the Hindu tradition and included two days of events before the actual wedding. A welcome party was held under the full moon and included Indian party songs, Bollywood dancers and of course, beautiful henna tattoos for the bride and family members. Naturally, the couple also included the groom’s Bermudian heritage throughout the celebrations in a perfect fusion of the two diverse cultures.

“We invited an amazing Hindu priest, Pandit Sharma, from Canada, and of course, all of the traditional Indian jewelry and outfits,” said Bella of the wedding ceremony. “We found it important, however, to incorporate Kevin’s Bermudian heritage in many ways, including the groom’s procession which was led by a Bermuda Gombey troupe; the cuisine, which was a fusion of Indian and Bermudian fare; and the rehearsal dinner entertainment of steel pan drums. The reception featured a local violinist, and family friend, Chris Darrell, who was accompanied by the Indian tabla drums and performed a beautifully arranged Indian song for the bride’s family. They were so touched by the gesture.”

The couple chose the wedding lawn at Coral Beach Club for their ceremony that was attended by 140 friends and family members. Special details included programme fans that described the meaning of the Hindu ceremony, bridesmaids throwing rose petals on the couple as they circled the sacred fire seven times, the exchange of garlands as well as wedding rings, and the couple feeding each other Indian sweets to symbolise the sharing of their first meal as a married couple.

Bella wore a traditional lengha choli that was custom made in India in a deep pink silk fabric that tied in with her décor of deep fuchsia, ivory and gold. “I felt like it tied in the vibrant Indian colours, with a touch of elegance and class with the gold and white,” said Bella. As for the flowers: “I chose a mixture of roses, lilies and greenery because I really wanted the pinks, magentas and whites to stand out,” she continued. “I especially love lilies. They are so beautiful and fragrant and they are the first flower that Kevin ever bought me when we were first dating. I really envisioned the flowers being arranged in gold urns surrounded by votive candles and [florist] Suzan Sickling made it happen.”

Light rain threatened to dampen the day, so the couple, along with their wedding planner, Jane West, decided to move the reception originally planned for the Longtail Terrace indoors into the Coral Beach Club’s dining room. The cocktail hour featured live music by a Latin jazz quartet and the couple cleverly included a Polaroid guest book.

“It was fun watching everyone write their messages and take photos of each other,” said the couple. “The messages and photos will last a lifetime and we can always look at it to remember how much fun we had.”

DJ Rusty G managed the music during the reception and the couple had their first dance to Sade’s “By Your Side.” As guests departed at the end of the evening, they left with mints infused with real green tea and Bombay chai flavours in custom-made labels designed by the bride that said “Mint to Be.” The couple has planned a honeymoon in Bali for the end of the year.

Reflecting on the day, the couple lamented the rain but reveled in the joy of an otherwise perfect celebration of their diverse heritage. “It was a genuinely fun and unique wedding weekend, with the coming together of two cultures and two really great families from all over the world on one little island.”

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