CityNews reporter and her groom take centre stage in dual culture nuptials
Control issues are an ongoing topic in this marriage! Saphia Khambalia and her groom Ivan “bug each other about who gets to work around the coolest control room”. The control rooms that feature prominently in each of these newlyweds’ careers are very impressive contenders. CityNews fans recognize Saphia as the charismatic reporter they see on the news who is equally at home interviewing leading lights including President Bill Clinton and Aretha Franklin or youngsters walking down the street, shedding light on what’s happening in our world. Keeping Ontarians out of the dark is also the business of Ivan, her groom, one of the folks who manages and navigates Ontario’s power grid, including keeping the lights on for us all.
“WATCHING SAPHIA WALK UP THE AISLE...SHE LOOKED SO AMAZING, SO PERFECT. AND THE PARTY!”
SUPERMARKET & WEDDING AISLES Saphia and Ivan met in the produce aisle of a grocery store. We’ve all seen a chick flick scene showing the electric spark when two strangers, reaching for the same melon, ignite the passion of love. For Saphia and Ivan it was a little different. Ivan worked in the produce section of the same store where new cashier Saphia registered a huge first impression. Years of friendship — Saphia describes Ivan as “her ‘rock’ the whole way along” — led to serious dating and from supermarket aisles to wedding aisles! The duo took fun wedding photos in the fated produce aisles. Saphia muses that in the future when there are kids in the picture, they may take their first portraits there. Cool...!
A SNAP PROPOSAL It was a picture-perfect day at Bronte Provincial Park one fall day, all the brilliant Ontario fall colours at their best, when Saphia and Ivan went on a nature hike. Ivan put his Olympus SLR on a log, set it on automatic timer, approached Saphia and dropped to one knee, proposing just as the shutter went off. The pixie-dust moment when she said “yes” was captured forever. Perfect timing, Ivan!
TWO HERITAGES Saphia’s Indian/East African background and Ivan’s Croatian culture were both honoured in two separate, and very different, wedding ceremonies, a few weeks apart. The Indian wedding, comprising many age-old symbolic ceremonies, took place first. Saphia hadn’t grown up knowing much about Indian cultural traditions, so this was a fascinating experience for her as well as Ivan. One element involved Saphia’s mother holding a glass of sweet milk for the bride and groom to drink, symbolizing the way that in the way milk fortifies bones, the ceremony fortifies relationships. Later, Saphia and an uncle had to grab as many gold coins as they each could from a special pillow in one try. These were given to charity, representing the hope that in their married life, Ivan and Saphia would always have riches enough to share with others. For the traditional Muslim Nikaah ceremony, Saphia had henna designs on her hands and feet that included Ivan’s name. According to lore, the deeper the colour and the longer it lasts, the stronger is the love of the groom for his bride. The incorporation of the groom’s name harks back to the days when discovering where it was located in the intricate designs was an icebreaker for bridal couples whose marriage was arranged.
GOWNS GALORE & MORE For the Indian ceremony, Saphia wore her grandmother’s exquisite saree from her wedding 52 years prior. An ornate sherwani made Ivan look every inch an Indian prince. Saphia didn’t want to take off the gown she wore for the Croatian ceremony. “When else am I ever going to be able to wear a dress like that, wisps of flowing chiffon and a two-metre long train?” But she did take it off when she changed into her sleek and chic reception gown. She removed the belted train skirt after midnight, transforming it into a cocktail-length dress for “real dancing”.
We laughed when “taking our pictures in the middle of the grocery store. All the staff we used to work with came to watch, clapping and then presenting us with a cake”. We all cried when “Ivan talked about his parents. A true immigrant story — leaving a war-torn land and coming to Canada for a better future — working two to three jobs at a time to give their kids a better life.”
Saphia’s fondest memory: “Dancing with my husband during the reception. We only had eyes for each other. We danced all night... salsa, traditional Croatian folk dances, fast songs, everything.” Ivan’s fondest memory: “Watching Saphia walk up the aisle...she looked so amazing, so perfect. And the party!”
What Saphia loves about Ivan: “He is my rock. He is honest, trustworthy, understanding and an old-school gentleman. His support is unfaltering and he makes me laugh. I feel so lucky to have him as my life partner!”
What Ivan loves about Saphia: “Saphia is a firecracker. She’s brought tons of emotion and love to an traditional Balkan household. We love, we laugh and we live life to the fullest because of her.”
Saphia’s advice to brides: “Enjoy the process. Remember it’s all about showcasing the love the two of you have together. Have fun, because if you two have fun, everyone else will too!”
Ivan’s advice for grooms: “If you don’t always agree on certain things — no worries. We found the compromises ended up being way better in the end because they reflected both of our tastes.”
The best piece of marriage advice they have is their personal relationship philosophy. “Don’t sweat the small stuff. And put each other first. We live in a me-me-me kind of world, so in our marriage it’s very important that we think about ourselves as a team. We’re working toward the same goals, the same end product. We’re here to help each other along the way. And we want to make it the most fun ride possible for each other while we’re at it!”
CROATIAN CELEBRATIONS This was what they call their “big bash”. The Croatian wedding included pre-church celebrations at Ivan’s parents’ house with Croatian music and customs, such as boutonnières containing rosemary for good luck, while the bride and her friends were pampered at a salon, enjoying mimosas. The stunning Art Gallery of Hamilton was the reception venue that began with a champagne hour in the gardens. Dessert after the elegant dinner was decadent, a trio of petite Madagascar vanilla crème brûlée, chocolate mousse pâté and fresh berry compote. Guests penned best wishes into a children’s book that Saphia and Ivan plan to read to wee ones when they have children someday. A basket of pink and grey flip flops invited girls to kick off their heels and dance the night away. Ivan added his creative touch to a custom-designed photo booth that resembled a movie-première wall. Saphia tossed what looked like a traditional bridal bouquet, but in reality comprised twenty-four individual flowers, each with fun messages attached, so that every girl caught a bloom. In honour of Saphia’s maternal grandparents, who couldn’t attend the reception because of their diseases, Ivan and his bride made donations on their guests’ behalf to Parkinson Society and Alzheimer Society.
HEARTFELT MOMENTS When her grandparents were able to attend both of Saphia’s wedding ceremonies to Ivan, these were especially-treasured experiences. Still deeply in love after more than fifty years together, her beloved namina and bapa are forced to live apart by the dictates of two debilitating diseases, her grandfather’s Parkinson’s disease and her grandmother’s Alzheimer’s disease. It’s important for family and friends to continue to involve and engage loved ones with health issues by including them in these joyous events. Perhaps they cannot attend all the wedding celebrations, but may be able to attend a part. Maybe attendance is no longer possible, but you could include them in a brief wedding photo session. Or take some reception treats, some wedding photos and videos and share memories of these important life occasions. Saphia & Ivan are inspired by the older duo’s deep and abiding love through good and challenging times, including fleeing politically-unstable Uganda in the 1970s. They honoured them in the Indian wedding ceremony by a traditional placing of a shawl around her grandfather as a symbol of respect. Saphia wore the beautifully elegant white saree with lavish silver embroidery that her grandmother wore 53 years ago on her wedding day. Through involvement with Alzheimer Society of Ontario and officially lending her voice and story to Parkinson Society Central & North Ontario as spokesperson, Saphia’s goal is to raise visibility and offer encouragement to everyone these diseases touch. Saphia asks people to help break down stigmas by “fighting back. Try to keep doing things by changing the way you do them. Continue living life to the utmost that you can”. Loved ones can help build up new walls of defence so that diseases like these cannot burglarize every element of lives. Saphia’s grandparents adapt with grace and dignity to ever-changing circumstances, providing inspiration to others. Her namina and bapa choose not to “sit it out” but to participate... an inspiring example of the strength of love.
HONEYMOON & TRAVEL Winding down after all the wedding planning was a delight on the laid-back Adriatic Coast of Croatia. The couple rented a car and drove up the beautiful, winding coastline, staying in little villas by the ocean. They later met ten aunts and uncles and 28 first cousins in Ivan’s family. For a pair who have camped out on the Serengeti, white water rafted on the mighty Nile, cliff-jumped in Mexico, danced during carnival in Rio and hiked through majestic Brazilian rainforests, a shared love of travel is bound to lead to new adventures.
Working Out IF YOU’VE EVER WATCHED SAPHIA KHAMBALIA on CityNews you know she’s the real deal. Caring, charismatic, passionate, thorough and down-to-earth. Here’s the scoop on the girl with the big smile and an even bigger heart, from Wedding Essentials chatting with the girl behind the TV screen.
HAIRBRUSH MICROPHONE “As a little girl, I put on shows, using a hairbrush for a microphone. For me reporting isn’t a job, isn’t a career — it’s a passion. I feel so privileged to be trusted enough to tell peoples’ stories in such an intimate way. When I wake up I never know what I will be doing, where I will be going, who I am going to meet that day.”
THE ROAD TO THE BIG SMOKE When she volunteered in high school for the local paper and cable station, working behind the scenes, Saphia found “an incredible world opened up for me... I knew that this was it! And the great thing is, I still have that feeling”. Her journey has taken her on a circle tour, from a summer job at CityNews to reporting in Sudbury, shooting an independent film in East Africa, CBC videographer work in Windsor and, in 2010 helping host CBC coverage of the FIFA World Cup. She returned to City as a reporter for City and CityNews Channel.
HANDLING THE HIGHS AND LOWS Saphia’s view of handling her job is illuminating. “It’s heart-wrenching to be covering a murder, a horrific car accident, a fire or a bomb scare. But I never want to lose getting emotionally connected or become desensitized.” The ups are soul-soaring. Holding a newly-born baby whose mom just gave birth by the side of Highway 407. Looking into the eyes of someone just after being given a second chance at life by a Good Samaritan. From a distance of a few feet from a taut cable separating triumph from tragedy, watching Nik Wallenda walk across Niagara Falls into history.
COPING SKILLS Saphia and Ivan have developed strategies to maintain their close relationship, given their high pressure careers. Saphia says they are “each other’s place separate from all going on in the world”. Being on constantly changing schedules, face time is a very precious commodity that Ivan describes as “our time to put each other, and our relationship, first”.
PHOTOS: Clint Russell | Renaissance Studios Photography INDIAN WEDDING PHOTOS: Luca Salvatore Photography