It’s likely that any couple’s wedding day will be the most stressful, micromanaged, overwhelming and memorable day of their marriage.
But most couples don’t have to deal with two ceremonies, two religions, three wardrobe changes, three caterers and almost 2,000 guests.
That was the case for Megan Sinnen and Gurpal “Gary” Dhaliwal, who were married on July 6, 2013. Sinnen was raised Catholic at Our Lady of the Lakes Parish, Random Lake, and Gary grew up in an interfaith family.
His father, Darshan Dhaliwal, is Sikh, and his mother Debra is Catholic.
When Megan, a nurse, and Gary, who is employed by his father at Bulk Petroleum, became engaged in 2012, they knew right away that they wanted their wedding to reflect both the faith traditions that were so important to their respective families.
“Both of us are very family oriented, and wanted to respect our own and each other’s faith and cultural traditions,” said Megan. “We knew when we got engaged that we would have both Catholic and Sikh ceremonies. We were both raised by parents who are very dedicated to their faiths and traditions, and we felt we needed to include all aspects of our religious upbringing.”
The result was an epic celebration that began with a 3:30 p.m. Catholic ceremony at St. Joseph Parish, Grafton, and ended with a Sikh marriage ceremony at the Dhaliwal home in Mequon. The couple wanted to ensure both of their families felt included in the day, and so equal attention was paid to both ceremonies.
For the church liturgy, Megan wore a white silk and lace wedding gown. For the Sikh ceremony, she wore a bright magenta lehenga, the traditional dress of the Punjab region of India, where Gary’s father was born.
The couple say the dual ceremonies were “definitely” meaningful to both of their families.
“We think it was a learning experience not only for us but our families as well, who may not have been familiar with the traditions of a Sikh or Catholic wedding,” said Megan. “It was wonderful and meant so much to us and our families to see the number of family and friends who are not Sikh at the Sikh ceremony, and those who are not Catholic at the Catholic ceremony. We felt so much love and support.”
The couple prepared for their Catholic wedding ceremony as any other couple in the Archdiocese ofMilwaukee would, by participating in the required Engaged Enrichment retreat.
“That really helped us discuss certain aspects of marriage that we hadn’t talked about, even long after the retreat,” said Gary. “We also met with a married couple from St. Joseph Parish, who helped us prepare for the reality of married life after the big day.”
Interfaith religious celebrations are nothing new to the Dhaliwal family. Gary grew up attending St. James Parish (now Lumen Christi Parish) in Mequon as well as the Sikh Temple in Brookfield.
“He was baptized, received his first Communion and reconciliation and was confirmed in the Catholic Church – all while wearing a turban out of respect for his dad’s religion,” said Megan. “In their home, they celebrate both Christian holidays and Sikh holidays.”
Gary’s sister, Tina, was also married in dual religious celebrations in August of 2012, though she and husband Josh Pallesen had separate Catholic and Sikh ceremonies and receptions, held a week apart.
Megan, who grew up in Random Lake, attended school at Our Lady of the Lakes Parish. Her parents, Bob and Mary Sinnen, moved to Grafton when she was in high school, and Megan attended Dominican High School. She asked her childhood priest, Fr. Richard Cerpich, to officiate the wedding.
“I knew the Sinnens when they were growing up, when I was pastor in Random Lake from 1992 to 2005,” he said.
As a senior priest, Fr. Cerpich said he has witnessed countless marriage celebrations – but he said that Gary’s and Megan’s was something altogether different.
“That religious connection, and the blending of the Sikh ceremony – that was a first-time for me,” he said.
“Going to the reception was really tremendous, between the food and all the different guests. It was a wonderful experience.”
Wedding guest Amber Pipkorn, a friend of Megan’s, echoed Fr. Cerpich’s sentiments.
“It was definitely an epic event,” she said. “I attended both ceremonies, which called for costume changes. I got to wear a sari and my husband got to wear a turban. The Sikh ceremony was amazing and beautiful – I never thought I’d get to experience anything like that before. The Catholic ceremony was a very traditional wedding, but it was super cool to see the traditional Sikh dresses in the pews. And there was a live Indian band at the reception, and some of the guys gave us dance lessons.”
The Ozaukee Press reported the Dhaliwals sent about 2,500 wedding invitations and were unable to get a final head count, leaving them scrambling to prepare for any eventuality. They engaged the services of two professional caterers, one serving traditional American food including a mashed potato bar, stuffed chicken and short ribs, and an Indian caterer who served a buffet of 30 appetizer options and 30 dinner options, as well as dessert.
A friend of the family also brought three 50-lb goats and 120 whole chickens to serve on a rotisserie.
“The American caterer ran out of food and packed up and left within an hour and a half,” said Megan. “The rotisserie goats and chickens were all eaten.”