In all the sparkle and vibrant colors of one pre-wedding party in Victoria, British Columbia, the brightest attraction was a giant, smiling orca whale who burst through the door carrying a decorated stick with bells jingling.
FIN the Vancouver Canucks mascot dropped in on a Jago, a celebration during the week of Punjabi weddings, and for the shocked groom, Pav Aujla, the gift from his sister Ravnit was a surprise he never saw coming.
Ravnit had racked her brain to come up with the perfect wedding gift for her big brother, and given that they come from a family of huge Canucks fans, FIN was the perfect fit. Their parents moved from India to British Columbia in the 1980s and they've been rooting for the team ever since.
"My dad, my mom, I think they were just as excited as my brother was," she said. "As long as I can remember, we've been die hard Canucks fans. It's not optional. It's just, we're Canucks fans and that's the way it is."
Ravnit called the team in February not knowing if FIN even did appearances, but she said the team was very accomodating through the planning process. The most painful part of it was trying to keep a lid on her arrangement.
"No one in my family knew FIN was going to be there," Ravnit said. "We planned this months and months in advance. It was so hard to keep it a secret."
The task was especially difficult because Pav and his now wife, Sonam, had incorporated the Canucks into their week-long wedding celebration. The couple had already taken photos in matching Pavel Bure jerseys.
During the Maiyaan party, the day before the Jago, Ravnit had a rangoli floor decoration with the Canucks stick in rink logo. Sonam got a flying skate Canucks logo during her Mehndi party, where brides get elaborate designs (though not typically sports logos) applied on their hands and feet.
For the Jago, tradition calls for women in the groom's family to enter the party with decorated clay pots on their heads, and for the groom to enter holding a decorated stick with bells. But Ravnit changed the plan and instead had FIN entering the party holding the stick while Pav waited on the dancefloor. She'd also had the DJ remix the traditional Jago song to include the Canucks in-arena player introduction call as FIN made his grand arrival.
"My sister asked me to turn and face away from the entrance and to only turn around when the music started," Pav said. "So I face the other way and hear the Canucks intro thinking this is cool and then I turn around and see FIN walking in leading the Jago. My thought was, 'Holy crap is that FIN? That can't be the real FIN.'"
FIN partied for about an hour and got pictures with all of the excited family members in attendance.
"Everybody loved him," Ravnit said. "He was great. He wanted to be picked up on everyone's shoulders. He was taking pictures with everyone. My grandmother doesn't speak any English and she loved him."
The agony of keeping FIN's appearance a secret for so long, though, was totally worth it for Ravnit because of the payoff of giving her brother a gift he'll never forget.
"(Pav) was just so excited and dancing with him," Ravnit said. "He came up to me and he didn't really have anything to say except giving me a hug and saying, 'That is so sick.'"
Photos provided by Amrit Photography