Engaged: Jahantab Sidiqui and LaRee McCuan

There will be two weddings, two weeks apart, as this couple wants to share both families' traditions and cultures.

August 29, 2012|By Sloane Brown, Special to The Baltimore Sun

Wedding days: October 13, 2012 and October 27, 2012

His story: Jahantab Sidiqui, 26, grew up in Pakistan and moved to Howard County when he was 14. He is the owner of J.S. Strategies — which is currently managing the campaign for Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger — and lives in Baltimore. His father, Dr. Akhtar Sidiqui is a retired general practitioner and senior vice president at SSSI Corporation. His mother, Parveen Nayab, is a manager at Bank of America.

Her story: LaRee McCuan, 29, grew up in Howard County. She is director of education and outreach at Junior Achievement of Central Maryland and lives in Baltimore. Her father, Patrick McCuan, is president of McCuan Development Group. Her mother, Jill McCuan, is a retired banker.

Their story: They met through a mutual friend about three and a half years ago in D.C. and became Facebook friends.

"Two years ago, I was working in Baltimore city for a few months," Jahantab says. "I knew she lived there. So, I asked her out."

"He invited me to a women-for-Barbara Mikulski event," LaRee says. "At the time I was in my second year of graduate school at University of Maryland School of Social Work. I couldn't attend because I had class...But I met him afterward at Mother's Federal Hill [Grille]. It was a Wednesday night and we wound up talking there until about 1 in the morning. The following night he asked me to dinner."

However, the two were on slightly different wavelengths. He was thinking these were dates. She was thinking it was more just getting together.

"She didn't think it was a date, so she paid for dinner because I paid for food the night before," Jahantab says. Then, the light bulb went on for LaRee.

"About three hours into our dinner — after I paid the bill — we were just sitting there talking. And I realized I actually liked him," she says.

The two began casually dating. After spending election night at various political events and victory parties at the American Visionary Art Museum and Little Havana, the deal was sealed. They officially became boyfriend-girlfriend.

The proposal, October 30, 2011: Jahantab had never carved a pumpkin, so he dreamed up a pumpkin carving competition.

"It had snowed the night before," says LaRee. "But, Jahantab still insisted on going pumpkin picking at Larriland Farm. We knew we were going out to some friends' house to watch the Ravens game [that night] and celebrate my dad's birthday. So, Jahantab said we were going to do a pumpkin carving competition with the daughters of these family friends, [Wayne and Melissa Newsome]. Jahantab was on a team with the 13-year-old, Alayna, and I was on a team with the 5-year-old, Lyndsey. We watched the Ravens-Steelers game and we won. So, we were happy. At this point, it was dark. But, we split off into our teams outside for this pumpkin carving competition. He went around the corner and I'm on the other side of the garage."

"I didn't want LaRee to see what I was carving," Jahantab says. "But, Alayna knew and was all excited. She had to use hers and my iPhone to shine [enough] light, so I could see what I was doing. I had never carved a pumpkin before this day. I screwed up at one point, and she suggested I use duct tape [to fix it], but I was able to work around it."

LaRee finished her pumpkin first, and was told by Jahantab she couldn't see his until it was finished. So, she went inside to wait.

When both pumpkins were done, it was time for "judging" by family and friends, who were in on the plot, as well.

So, when LaRee walked into the garage, they hung back to give the couple time alone. Meanwhile, Jahantab had deposited his pumpkin in the garage, and hidden around the corner.

"I went out and got behind the garage and down on one knee, because I knew she'd come screaming out of the garage," he says.

"I walked outside and the first thing I saw were the pumpkin guts for his pumpkin, and I yelled out, 'Jahantab, why didn't you clean up your pumpkin guts?'" she recounts.

"I had to come out of hiding and tell her I would clean them up later," he says. "And she's saying, 'This is my friends' house. You'd better clean up those pumpkin guts.' That threw me off the plan a bit. So, I said, 'Why don't you go ahead? I've got to take care of something.' She was a little bit confused."

"So, I walked into the garage, and he had carved 'Marry me?' into the pumpkin," she says. "And then, I screamed. Of course. Then I walked back outside the garage and I saw him behind the garage down on one knee, holding the engagement ring. Of course I said yes. A few moments later, our friends and family came outside and there were lots of hugs and excitement."

The ring: "I went to Smyth [Jewelers] in Ellicott City," he says. "We designed the ring for her. I wanted it to be sparkly all over and shine all the time."

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