How do you define love? This powerful emotion is somewhat like the complete trust you place in someone or the warmth and security you feel when you rest your head on a loved one’s chest. Vaibhav and Parag also felt the same trust, commitment, and contentment with each other and their love only grew stronger over the years.
Reminiscing about the proposal that led to the wedding, Vaibhav shares, “We were over four years into our relationship, and my parents and some extended family members were also aware of us. So the obvious next step was getting married. We bought engagement bands together, but he was waiting for me, and I was waiting for him, to propose. Things were finally settled when Parag’s best friends and I surprised him on his 40th birthday with a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. We had a great time celebrating his milestone birthday, but little did I know that he was planning his surprise proposal to me at sunrise on the next day. He said he wanted to begin his fourth decade on Earth with me as his life partner. So, as we all went to view a breathtaking sunrise on a hilltop in Santa Fe, he turned on Facebook LIVE and began to film his surprise proposal. Thousands of our friends, family, and strangers around the world watched this intimate moment in real time. We both exchanged engagement rings and committed to spend our lives together. When he was done proposing, and the cameras were off, I suggested that we start calling everyone to share the news, but Parag just nodded and said that we don’t need to do that because almost everyone we know and love just saw this happen. I love Parag for many, many reasons But his cleverness and efficient approach to this romantic moment is high on the list!”
The journey that led to the proposal was as romantic as the proposal itself. Vaibhav, a health research associate at the American Institutes for Research, was born in New Delhi and studied at Bangalore. He met Parag, a senior vice president at Mastercard, who was raised in Texas, US, in what they call a ‘Bollywood style setup.’
Vaibhav recalls, “Our first date took place in Washington in June 2012, and it was quite like a Bollywood movie! We talked for several hours, and as Parag offered to walk me home to my apartment, it started to rain. We quickly found shelter under a nearby building and started chatting about our love for Bollywood. We talked about our favorite movies and songs, and then I started to sing one of my favorite Mohammed Rafi songs, which he claims to have mesmerized him. So, our first date lasted almost six hours, and we still didn’t want to leave each other and go home. That was when we knew we were meant to be together.”
The wedding was a grand two-day affair. The first day witnessed a fun garba night where the couple’s family members dressed in vivid colors and gave impressively choreographed performances and danced the traditional garba-raas.
The wedding ceremony, however, included customs and rituals that were tweaked to match the distinctness of this unique Jain wedding. Vaibhav and Parag entered with their respective baraats and got their tilaks done simultaneously by their mothers. Rituals like ‘kanyadaan’ and pheras too were modified. While the former was called ‘var-daan’ which translates to ‘giving away of son’ and also means a boon or blessing. The ritual of ‘saubhagyavati bhava’ where married women give marital advice to the bride was changed to ‘chiranjeevi bhava’ with married gay and lesbian couples of the friends imparting tips on ensuring a happy marriage to the couple.
A fun-filled reception party followed the wedding, which was a grand musical affair. The guests saw the couple dance together and also with their respective mothers as a gesture of thanks and gratitude.
Talking about his most memorable moment from the wedding, Parag says, “As Vaibhav took the first phera for dharma, it dawned on him that God has finally given us what we always desired – a loving partner, a supportive family, and a community that will move day and night to stand by our side. Seeing the smiles and tears of joy in our parents’ eyes was another powerful moment for us because they have come such a long way since the time we told them that we were gay.”
Below is how Parag Mehta’s father Dr. Vijay A. Mehta raised an overwhelming toast to his son reminiscing how his son came out as gay in high school and his journey as a parent in accepting his son’s decision to marry Vaibhav.