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Inside Maryke Ballard and Parag Goswami’s Rajasthani Wedding

Photography: Catherine Deslauriers


Romance in Rajasthan

Inside Maryke Ballard and Parag Goswami’s Indian Wedding

Toronto-born Maryke Ballard has Dutch roots, so when she decided to pursue a Master's of International Development, she chose the University of Amsterdam. It was 2012, and she quickly fell in with a group of students from around the world. One of them was Parag Goswami. “He stood out right away as a thoughtful, kind person,” explains Maryke, who recalls one evening when the group went out. “A man was struggling — either with a substance or a mental health issue — and while everyone walked by him, pretending not to notice, Parag went over to help.”

Parag, who had grown up in Jaipur, was immediately drawn to Maryke. “She was captivating," he recalls. "Maryke's effortless storytelling  held the attention of our entire group, because  she had a unique knack for connecting with everyone in our diverse social circle.” However, it wasn’t until after graduation that their friendship deepened. “Parag went back to India, and I returned to Toronto”, explains Maryke, who works with her family’s investment firm (they own a stake in Toronto’s Spirit of York Distillery and The Grange, a winery in Prince Edward County). Parag had started a business in India that required regular travel to the U.S., so Maryke went to visit and when he returned to India, she went there too. “I was spending a lot of time with this guy,” she recalls. “I was a little clueless about the reasons why, but Parag was biding his time - he was very patient!” 

Parag, who had known for some time that Maryke was for him, had applied for a Government of Canada startup visa dedicated to fintech start-ups. When it was approved, he moved to Toronto in 2017 to launch, a real estate investment and analytics platform. “When he arrived, it finally became clear,” says Maryke. “This man set up a whole company in Canada and moved across the world for me. This was big. This was it.” 

In March 2022, the couple were on a family trip to Mexico to celebrate the 60th birthday of Maryke’s godfather’s wife. They stayed at Cuixmala, a 30,000-acre nature reserve that was once the private retreat of Sir James Goldsmith. Now a luxury eco-resort, it features a jungle, savannahs and lagoons where zebras, antelope and other wildlife roam free. One evening, the group planned a horseback ride through the Savannah. “Parag had never ridden a horse before, and yet he was riding with just one hand,” recalls Maryke. “I knew how adept he was at sports, and I was so impressed, that I kept egging him on to go faster,” she says. “What I didn’t realize was that the reason he was riding one-handed was because he had a ring in his pocket and was using the other hand to protect it." As everyone joked about the one-handed cowboy, Parag was focused on ensuring the ring didn’t pop out of his pocket. Finally, the ride ended on the beach, where the sun was setting. Exhausted, but with the ring still in hand, Parag proposed. 

The couple wasted no time and began planning their wedding. “I had never dreamed of a white wedding,” says Maryke, “so when Parag suggested we marry in his hometown, I immediately said yes.” They flew to Jaipur and found their venue, a hilltop fortress that once housed royalty and guarded the kingdom of Jaipur, now the luxury hotel Alila Fort Bishangarh.

Maryke was advised by her future sister-in-law that in addition to her wedding dress, she would need another five outfits for the other ceremonies that make up a traditional Indian wedding. A reading by a family pundit determined what date the couple would marry. This Mahurat — the date that would bring good fortune — was a Monday in November, just six months away. Not having wanted a traditionally North American summer wedding, Maryke embraced the date and toured the Jaipur markets to find her six wedding outfits. “In India,” explains Parag, “more is more. There is no such thing as a small Indian wedding.” 

Last November, over 65 family and friends of Maryke’s travelled to Jaipur to join 200 of Parag’s family and friends for the wedding. Because so many guests wanted to experience once-in-a-lifetime tours of tea plantations, yoga retreats or the Taj Mahal while they were there, they didn’t want the pressure of finding wedding outfits while in India, as most friends wanted to respect Parag’s family and wear traditional attire. As a result, most purchased their outfits in Toronto. “I spent a lot of time with friends and family at Chandan;” explains Maryke, “so much that my mother ended up being featured on the CBC series Bollywed, which was being filmed at the store at the same time. 

The Indian celebrations began with a welcome drinks party at Bar Palladio in Jaipur, an India-meets-Italy-meets-Dutch venue. The next morning, the group was taken to the Alila Fort Bishangarh.  After being welcomed with chai tea and a traditional maala (flower necklace), the first of five celebrations took place on the fort’s rooftop. Traditionally female-only, the couple opened up their mehendi to everyone. To resemble a street fair, guests — who were encouraged to wear green — were treated to henna, fortune tellers, block printing, coconut cocktails and traditional street food cooked in sand under a fire in clay pots. The event turned into a dance party, and the celebrations were officially underway.

That evening, they celebrated the sangeet — where the couple exchanged rings — which is the most festive of all the wedding celebrations, when one wears their most vibrant and glamorous outfits. The evening included performances by guests, including poems, songs and dances. Given that her father had passed away, Maryke’s godfather took on father-of-the-bride duties and gave a toast to the bride.

The next morning, the haldi took place, a traditional pre-wedding cleansing ceremony, where the couple applied turmeric on each other’s faces, hands and feet. The all-yellow event was filled with flowers, so many that Maryke threw a couple of them at Parag; hilarity ensued with a mini flower fight. The rest of the day was enjoyed by the pool and with British high tea (a colonial carry-over that guests enjoyed each day.) Then, the formal wedding took place. Instead of a traditional red wedding dress, Maryke chose a gold-threaded pink outfit for the lehenga. [A gift from her mother-in-law, the dress, as she describes it, was “a piece of art,” with real gold threads, that weighed a LOT.]   The Barat, a traditional parade where the groom and his family make their way to the event, began. Parag led the procession, riding an elephant and flanked by white horses. With the men in Parag’s family wearing orange wedding Rajasthani turbans and those from Maryke’s side wearing pink ones, the ceremonial welcome was to place tilak (a red paste) on each other’s foreheads. Under a canopy of flowers, the couple performed a garland exchange, followed by fireworks, champagne, wedding cake and a reception featuring a traditional Indian buffet.

The final event – which took place at the exact time and place determined by the family pundit – was under a candlelit tree that served as a canopy. The fireside ceremony included the presentation of a mangalsutra (necklace) to Maryke, symbolizing that she was now officially married. Prayers in Sanskrit and Hindi dominated this quiet, spiritual ceremony that served as a foil to the more lively evening before. However, it didn’t stop the group from celebrating afterwards until the early hours of the morning.

To unwind after the intensity of the celebrations, the couple returned to Jaipur and checked into the Rambagh Palace, the former residence of the king of Jaipur. After spending a few days unwinding and visiting with Parag’s family, the newlyweds began their honeymoon with a glamping safari in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan followed by a trip to the Maldives.

Back in Toronto, Maryke and Parag enjoy spending time entertaining family and friends with some of their favourite gifts, including a rich, multi-coloured selection of dinnerware by Ginori 1735. “My favourite wedding gifts remind me of India,” says Maryke. “I love colour and pattern, and anything that reminds me of our magical celebration.”

Maryke + Parag's favourite gifts 

Poseidon Tumbler

Oriente Italiano Dinnerware

Herb Napkin Rings

Match Coin Tray