Just in time for the week leading up until Valentine’s
Day, Shanika and her husband are sharing their love
story. It began while they were interns at a Cleveland
They were ‘study buddies’ and took many different late
night ‘breaks’ from the challenge of learning their
physiology, molecular biology and medical training.
They had ‘all nighters’ and clinicals to struggle
through, depending on each other, learning how to work
together as a ‘team.’
Shanika had come from Sri Lanka, while Anthony had
come from the Philippines. His background, parentage
consisted of Filipino-Chinese. Once they shared their
private conversations for a few years of being close
friends, they knew their commonality in the Roman
Catholic church and beliefs. They also knew both their
families held education and traditions as important
They had good friends that also shared these close
values and philosophies. When they would gather to
celebrate good grades or a successful step in their
futures, they always produced a meal that combined
their different cultures. It sounded like a feast
When Anthony asked Shanika to marry, he had already
met her father and mother. He had travelled with her
to her ‘homeland’ and made the decision on their next
trip there to ask her father for her hand in marriage.
What a lovely tradition and this is sometimes the case
in American weddings, a focus in romantic comedies, too.
They had started to, unconsciously, show preferences
for some of their favorite foods from each of their
The couple had also begun to have premarital counseling
with their priest, who would guide them in expressing
their feelings more easily and helping to choose what
were going to be priorities in their home life and
future family. Both Shanika and Anthony agree that
they hope someday to have children.
Melding the two cultures and the varied customs,
meant so much to this couple!
When Shanika’s father ‘gave his blessing,’ they were
much relieved to be over that hurdle!
When their two best friends and marital role models
accepted the role of being their ‘sponsors,’ they were
relieved and thrilled!
International weddings are even more important to have
understanding of each other’s familial and cultural
Whenever they attended a wedding together in the past
two years, they came home and started to make lists
of what they had taken part in, as guests. They would
discuss and agree which parts of the ceremony and
reception they enjoyed and meant more to them, too.
Both Shanika and Anthony are very considerate and
almost self-effacing people. If you ever met them,
you would not necessarily guess they were both
They were told, in their premarital counseling, that
part of searching their backgrounds would help them
discover what would become part of their own personal
While some of us may want as a future bride to have:
“Something new, something old, something borrowed,
One important part of the bride’s wardrobe was her
wedding dress reflected her mother’s own choice of a
white sari. This is traditional of Sri Lankan heritage.
Anthony felt an American tuxedo, like the many movie
stars and actors wear, was his desire for ‘appropriate
attire.’ He chose a black tuxedo, a white vest and tie.
They made compromises on the menu but Anthony wanted
to ensure that his family would be pleased, thus the
appetizers included ’empanadas’ served at the reception.
Their eyes and souls were filled with a lovely vision,
while attending an Eastern wedding. They both knew one
element of the ceremony would ‘have to be part of their
When they saw the centuries old tradition of something
called, “Cord and Veil Ceremony.” There was excitement
when this caught them, helping the planning to all fall
into place, after that serendipitous attendance of a
close friend’s wedding.
To explain this, while the couple hold hands and are
on their knees in front of the Priest or Father who
is leading the marriage ceremony, the sponsors place
a long, sheer, intricately designed rectangular veil
across the shoulders of both the bride and groom.
This custom is to represent or symbolize, “Purity.”
Then, once the pronouncement of their vows and the
priest has nearly completed the service, they have
a cord, it can be white silk, that is placed over
their heads, this connects them and it signifies
their “New Bond.”
Having gone through the many steps to reach this
special moment, the beauty in the presentation of
this couple was captured on film. Their silhouettes
of their backs on their knees, with the veil across
both their shoulders and the cord loosely laid
around both their necks shows a different kind of
wedding photograph. I could say it compared to
ones where the couple are on their knees up at
the altar, being blessed by their minister or
I studied their photograph, their faces looking at
each other, adoringly, and I believe this marriage
I know their families, coworkers, patients and their
two sponsors will hold them in their prayers.
I think all the ‘work’ it took to get the complete
ceremony, with their giving and taking, their choosing
special parts, and debating which parts to include and
dismiss became a great beginning to how to overcome any
future challenges. They have created the foundation of
a lifelong partnership and their bond of marriage seems
When the couple entered the reception, they were treated
to Sri Lankan dancers. They were also led into a pathway
to their table, where there were little tea candles.
These candles, flickering and shining, led their way to
the special places they were to sit for the reception
I imagine this, more than have seen it. I have only
seen the one photograph, taken by a friend of the
It is that of the traditional cord and veil positions
of Shanika and Anthony, heads turned towards each other,
their shoulders together, their hearts intertwined in
It could almost bring tears to my eyes, as if they
had been my own children.
Wouldn’t this make a great fairy tale ending?