It was a picture of serenity, one that won the hearts of millions of Pakistan. A 38-year-old single mother looking stunning in a light outfit walked down the aisle, shedding tears of joy as she married the love of her life, Salim Karim. For the past three days, Mahira Khan’s wedding was all anyone could talk about, and one many women are expressing joy about. One user shared a picture of Mahira as a bride, alongside veteran celebrity couple Manzar Sehbai and Samina Ahmed (who both married at a later age) with the caption “Love and life are worth trying for”, which pretty much sums up why we are feeling so emotionally attached to the event. Not because it’s a celebrity who got married, but because she chose to marry on her own terms, and kept advocating throughout her career that families can be complex and unique.

Mahira Khan married during the beginning of her career, to Ali Askari, whom she called her “childhood sweetheart” in some interviews. This decision, she revealed during a session at Faiz International Festival, was something other people urged her not to follow, because it might harm her career.

“You’re just 21 years old!’ Mahira recalled Ghazanfar Ali telling her, when she was working as a VJ.

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“Career, career, career, it didn’t make sense to me. I just wanted to get married,” said Mahira. She spoke about how she objected to the concept that a film heroine is not allowed to get married or have a baby, and has to, in a way, remain “an untouched girl” to the public, while the same isn’t expected from the man.

The couple got divorced in 2015, but Mahira maintained that it was not out of enmity, as the two continued to remain close friends even to this day. She maintains a cordial relationship with him to this day

“I think that Azlan’s father and their family and my family, we are on the same page, when it comes to Azlan,” the actress told Fuchsia in 2021. “I’m very close to them, even now, as I have grown up in their house. It takes work, it takes swallowing your pride at times, and it takes trying to understand the other person. And for your child’s sake, you do it. If you’re lucky that people from both sides are good and looking at the child’s well-being and true happiness, then you forget the bitterness.”

She also revealed recently to Frieha Altaf that their relationship wasn’t abusive, and the two continued to remain good friends to this day, while ensuring that Azlan remained their top-most priority.

Such words coming from a woman hold a lot of weight as she is currently one of Pakistan’s top-paid actresses, and also one who comes from a country where divorce is treated like a plague. A 2021 report said atleast 19,875 households in Pakistan were headed by single mothers, but the majority of our pop culture loathes divorcees and does it openly. Only this year, two of the most critically acclaimed dramas consisted of women forcefully married to a man their family chose.

Mahira’s marriage is a lighthouse moment, proving that families can comprises of two parents and a child, but can also include a step-parent, or even just a single mother. Her wedding wasn’t typical, a powerful reminder that you can settle when you want and choose how to celebrate your wedding. One picture that made the most rounds on social media and earned a lot of praise was when the actress walked down the aisle with her son.

Many users highlighted the beauty of this picture, an actress being given away by the son she raised on her own as a single mother, to the man she married for love. There’s nothing more beautiful than this moment, no matter how many celebrity weddings we watch in the future, watching Mahira gracefully embrace her ‘imperfect’ family, while encouraging other Pakistani women to do so, is the catharsis we all needed.