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A Fabulous, Multicultural Same-Sex Micro-Wedding In Toronto

  |  By Alison McGill

Suneel Khanna and Carl Wolter were married at Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York Hotel on June 14th, 2020 in an incredibly intimate wedding (10 guests total) that was brimming with love, colour and luxury touches. "Our original wedding was supposed to happen at Toronto’s The Church of the Redeemer followed by a reception at The Chef’s House," Suneel shares. "We were expecting guests from New Delhi, India, Palm Springs, California—where Carl is from—Switzerland, and various locations across the U.S. and Canada. When COVID 19 happened, all these plans were erased."

On top of all of this, Suneel shares that with Toronto City Hall closed, the pair were initially unable to obtain a marriage license even for a scaled-back ceremony. The pair kept on with their pursuit of a license and the persistence paid off—Suneel obtained it on June 2nd, and it was provided on the condition only five people would be at the wedding: the grooms, the officiant, and two witnesses. Days before the wedding the City of Toronto expanded events attendance to 10, which meant Suneel’s parents were able to attend.

With marriage license in hand, the couple then had to figure out what their wedding would look like and where it could take place. Suneel’s sister suggested checking if the historic Fairmont Royal York hotel could offer a socially distanced wedding—they absolutely could and did! “The team at the Royal York was absolutely incredible,” Suneel says. “There were some question and challenges due to COVID about having my parents attend—they are both in their 80s and in a high-risk healthy category, so we were concerned about them being out and at the wedding. The events staff came up with a solution which allowed my parents to pull up at the main entrance and be escorted up to the ballroom for the wedding and then escort them back out to the car following the event."

Suneel and Carl have a history of gay and human rights activism. Suneel wrote a first-person essay for Maclean's the summer before same-sex marriage was legalized in the country and was a member of Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere (EGALE)—the group that led the charge for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada.  He shares that his mother had a difficult time accepting his sexuality 20 years ago. "For our wedding, she desperately wanted to attend and it was incredible to have both of my parents there for our day," he says. "They blessed us in traditional Indian fashion placing a tikka on our foreheads after the ceremony. Having them present was an absolute gift and I am so thankful for the Fairmont Royal York for helping to ensure they could attend."

One of the most incredible details of the day was Suneel and Carl’s wedding attire, which was custom tailored in India. There was a question of if the clothing would make it to Canada in time for the wedding which it did—for the most part. There were a few items like Carl’s bespoke shoes which did not make it in time, but Suneel says the team at Ethnic Collections made some incredible local additions to complete both of their looks.

At the ceremony they exchanged karas, a type of Sikh bracelet, instead of rings. “Although neither of us are Sikh, I grew up visiting Sikh temples with my father who believed in exposing me to as many religious traditions as possible. These pieces have a special symbolism.”

The wedding ceremony was held in the opulent ballroom of the Royal York (the space dates from 1929 and was recently restored). Suneel’s father sang a Hindu prayer during the service, which was another incredibly special moment of their day. Photographs followed, which were captured by award-winning photojournalist Peter Bregg (he worked as Maclean's chief photographer for 17 years and Suneel met him while working as a publicist for the publication). “I wanted news-event style wedding photos, not staged ones,” Suneel says. “Peter did get those and also convinced us to do some posed shots also—everything turned out amazing!”

After the ceremony, the photos and the small reception in their suite at the Royal York, Suneel says he and Carl cuddled up on the sofa with champagne in hand admiring the magnificent view of the CN Tower. “Two hearts were being projected onto the base of the tower and it was lit up in the flashing colours of the Pride flag," Suneel shares. “We thought for a minute that perhaps the hotel had arranged for this, but it was just a coincidence for Pride Month. We stared at it for hours and remembered and talked about the day, coming down off of the incredible high of our day.”

Photography by Peter Bregg.

Boutonnieres, corsages & small arrangements:
Quince Flowers
Cake: Cali’s Creations
Ceremony Flowers: Frank Rea, Forget Me Not Flowers
Groomswear: Ethnic Collections
Officiant: Christophe McGrath of All Seasons Weddings
Venue: Fairmont Royal York Hotel


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