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Tarik grew up in Bustleton, but for several years, the family nurse-practitioner lived in Washington and worked for the district's Department of Disability Services.

In 2012, Tarik began volunteering with Project Affinity, providing meals to people who are homeless or otherwise in need. Tarik became, and remains, a Project Affinity board member. On a March Sunday in 2013, he and Project Affinity were working at the N Street Village women's shelter.

Fatima still lived in her hometown: Saginaw, Mich. She had finished her bachelor's in political science and Spanish and was working part time and researching grad schools, but found time for her first trip to D.C. for a mini-reunion with her two best friends from college, Ubah and Ifrah.

Google told Fatima that her brother's friend's nonprofit was serving the residents of a women's shelter just a 20-minute walk away, so she and Ifrah decided to help.

Tarik was intrigued the moment he spotted Fatima, now 23, but proceeded carefully. "I wanted to talk to her, but I also didn't want to be that guy trying to pick up ladies at a homeless shelter."

Fatima was assigned to carry food into the kitchen. "Let me help you so you know where you are going," Tarik offered. They talked as they made the meal.

"She seemed very genuine, very honest, very grounded and down to earth," Tarik said.

"I liked how confident he was," Fatima said of Tarik, who is now 36. "He knew what he wanted, and that was refreshing."

What he wanted was her phone number. "I didn't think anything was going to happen - I lived in Michigan." But she gave it to him.

Their first date was feeding people on the street with the Salvation Army. They spent part of every day she was in D.C. together, volunteering, going out to dinner, or seeing the sights.

By the end of the week, Fatima knew "he was the sweetest guy I had ever met."

She returned home, but they talked daily, and tried to see each other once a month.

On a trip to Michigan in July 2014, he met her parents, Mirza and Rana, and asked Mirza's blessing to ask Fatima to marry. "I just have one request: Make her happy," Mirza said.

Tarik moved back to Philly in August 2014 to accept a job working with adults and children with developmental disabilities at Melmark in Berwyn.

How does forever sound?

That September, Fatima brought her parents here to meet Tarik's parents, Patricia and Zia, and so she could check out La Salle, where she is now earning a master's degree in early childhood and special education.

The families shared meals and conversation. But Saturday, Tarik and Fatima explored Philadelphia alone, starting with the Italian Market. Their stops seemed random, but Tarik was actually leading them to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Unfortunately for Tarik, some seemingly drunken fraternity brothers had the same idea. They walked around back to the gazebo.

"I still haven't given you your gift," he said. She tore open the paper to reveal a jewelry box.

"It's really pretty!" she said.

"Open it," he suggested. Inside was an engagement ring.

Fatima was some sort of stunned. "It was a feeling I had never had before," she said.

Tarik knelt on the ground, took the ring from the box, and placed it on her hand. "Will you marry me?" he asked.

She returned to Saginaw an engaged woman, and began La Salle classes online.

It was so them

Their wedding was rooted in Islamic and Pakistani tradition, reflecting their Muslim faith and Pakistani heritage. But there were other influences, too. Tarik's mother has a mix of European ancestries and was raised Catholic. He grew up celebrating both Muslim and Christian holidays, and both he and Fatima believe what is most important is the instruction of all faiths that human beings love one another. They wanted everyone to feel comfortable.

The night before the wedding, a mehndi, sometimes called a henna party, was held. But this one was largely a meet-and-greet celebration for the two families and sets of friends. Following tradition, guests gave the couple blessings and a few dollars. The couple donated the money to Enabling Minds, the nonprofit Tarik helped start to help Haitian children with developmental disabilities go to school for the first time.

Both the ceremony and the reception for 330 guests were held at the Horizons Conference Center in Saginaw. Fatima wore a modern version of the traditional Pakistani shalwar kameez and a matching red veil. Tarik wore a Vera Wang tux. Bride and groom were escorted down the aisle by both of their parents.

Fatima's brothers all had roles, from reciting from the Koran to serving as emcee to giving speeches. Speeches were also given by the friends Fatima was visiting when the couple met.

There was lots of dancing. "Pakistani club music is the best club music!" said Tarik, who first experienced it at his wedding.


Fatima never saw a groom give a wedding speech until hers did. He thanked their families and friends for guidance and love. He asked for prayers in all faiths for the poor everywhere, and for peace and freedom around the world. He admired Fatima's kindness, intelligence, love and beauty.

"It was so heartfelt. I was sitting there shaking," she said. "It was unexpected, very memorable and sweet."

The couple decided not to spend the money on a limo, but they wanted to observe the Pakistani tradition where guests wave the couple off. So Tarik's best friend and best man, Troy, chauffeured them past their guests to Fatima's car at the edge of the parking lot.

"It felt like old times being with Troy - we spent so much time together, even as kids. I hadn't pictured him driving me and my new wife. It meant so much, and I didn't know why," Tarik said. Later, he realized it was the symbolic coming together of two parts of his life, and the support of Troy - who is like his brother - as he and Fatima began their marriage.

When they got to Fatima's car, Tarik called his parents, who met them for one last goodbye. "It meant so much to see them again, to hug my mom and dad."

Discretionary spending

A bargain: One of Fatima's brother's friends works at the H Hotel, and the couple were surprised at check-in with the friends-and-family rate.

The splurge: The bride had two dresses. The first, ordered in Pakistan, was expensive, but didn't look good. She planned to wear it anyway. Her mother wouldn't hear of it. The right dress was designed by a friend of Rana's.

The homecoming

The couple's honeymoon was moving Fatima and her possessions to their new home in Bryn Mawr. They took the scenic route, and wove in two nights in Toronto and two in Niagara Falls.


Officiant: Imam Robert Shaheed, from the Islamic Center of Saginaw, Mich.

Venue: Horizons Conference Center, Saginaw.

Catering: Indo-Pak Catering, Madison Heights, Mich.

Photography: Adam & Emily Photographers, Bay City, Mich.

Videography: Sky Entertainment, Canton, Mich.

Dress: Uzma Collection, Troy, Mich.

Flower: Horizons Center.

Planner: Kiron Choudhri, Horizons Center.


To see Fatima and Tarik's wedding video, go to philly.com/weddingsEndText

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