When Kiran Lakhani and Aly Manji decided to get married, they wanted to make the occasion both a celebration and a gift for good. For their wedding, which will take place in December 2018, in lieu of traditional gifts, the couple has requested donations to the Aga Khan Foundation.
The happy couple also opted for a smaller affair over a big wedding, choosing to donate the difference of what they would’ve spent on a more extravagant event directly to AKF. Kiran and Aly shared their story with us—from their initial meeting to the proposal to their joint decision to use their special day for a cause.
Kiran: Aly is best friends with my cousin. I came from Pakistan for my undergraduate studies at the University of Texas at Arlington. My first day in America, I met Aly—it was Eid [al-Fitr] and we were celebrating. We were just friends for eight months.
Aly: Then, I finally got the courage to ask her on a date.
Kiran: Free food! [laughs] It was in Dallas. I was studying at UT-Arlington. We started dating. It will be six years in January.
Kiran: I didn’t want anything public, just something private. Now, I’m in San Antonio and he’s in Dallas. When he wasn’t able to visit for Valentine’s Day this year, he sent me a postcard with a poem that he wrote himself for me. He had never done anything like that before. So this was a big deal.
That was in February. In April, we planned a trip to Fredericksburg, a cute little town outside San Antonio. We arrive and there’s another postcard for me, that has the same pictures as the first one, and it had another verse of this poem he wrote. In this verse, he asked me to marry him.
I was reading it and screaming! I wasn’t expecting it. I turned around and he has a ring. And it was a good ring. But it was the little poem that did it.
The Wedding Gift
Aly: I’ve been a supporter of Aga Khan Foundation with its Central U.S. Volunteer Team for 10 years and vice chair for a number of years. Both Kiran and I come from Pakistan originally. We’ve both seen the work of AKF—for example, the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi, which provides excellent service to anyone who comes for treatment.
As volunteers, we share stories with prospective donors, but they don’t get to see the work like we have. Kiran and I both have seen the Aga Khan Foundation’s work and how it breaks the poverty cycle. Now it’s humbling to be on the other side of the table, so to speak, and help the team raise money for those great programs.
I was touched firsthand by being a beneficiary of the Aga Khan University Hospital in Pakistan. In my fundraising role here in the U.S., talking with corporations and people who might not know us, I use the example of the telecommunications enterprise, Roshan, in Afghanistan, started by the Aga Khan Development Network in 2003. I tell them how Roshan went into Afghanistan—and how in-depth the AKDN goes.
This is not just a telecommunications network. They brought inclusive banking services; they helped raise the country’s GDP and improve the infrastructure, which improved education and telemedicine—further spreading the benefits of healthcare. It’s this big, multifaceted approach that the Foundation takes that’s so rare and unique. That’s the story I always tell.
Kiran: The gift was his idea. The idea is that instead of a huge, four-day traditional wedding, we would do something a bit smaller and donate the difference. We still want to have a party, and we’re still doing a dance party, but we wanted to help people, too.
How It Works
Kiran: We’re sending out our ‘Save the Date’ card explaining what we’re doing. We’re not asking for wedding presents. But if you want to give something, we’re encouraging people to give to the Aga Khan Foundation.
We’re not trying to discourage other couples from doing a big traditional wedding. We just hope people will consider this as an option as well. You can still have a party, but you can also do something good—even if just a little bit. Hopefully this will help.
Watch for updates and donate to the celebration!