The wedding of Australian cricketer Usman Khawaja and his partner Rachel McLellan was “an unbelievable day and we had an amazing time,” the Test batsman tells WHO.
The couple, who met three years ago, married on the Sunshine Coast on April 6.
“Getting married was less scary than playing for Australia, but more emotional,” says the Pakistani-born 31-year-old. “With cricket, you kind of get into the zone and the adrenaline kicks in. This was different. I was a little bit watery-eyed.”
It has been an emotional journey for them both.
Rachel, who was raised a Catholic, converted to Islam before the wedding for her devoutly Muslim partner, who immigrated with his family to NSW at age 5.
The couple met through mutual friends and got engaged during a 2016 New York holiday, with the Big Bash star proposing in Central Park.
“There was never any pressure to convert, although we talked about it fairly early on in our relationship,” Rachel, 22, tells WHO.
For her Brisbane-based parents, Michelle and John, her conversion was never an issue.
“My family has been really supportive—my mum even fasted with me for Ramadan last year—but a few people were shocked,” says Rachel, who works in marketing.
“I like to think I’ve educated some of them and broken down a few myths.”
United in their faith, the couple’s rain-sprinkled wedding was celebrated by Usman’s spiritual mentor, Imam Uzair Akbar, at Maleny Manor in the mountainous Sunshine Coast hinterland.
Rachel opted not to wear a hijab but chose a modest long-sleeved, high-necked tulle and lace “princess” dress custom-made by Melbourne couturier Jason Grech, who also designed her gown for last year’s Allan Border Medal presentation.
Arriving early for the 3 PM ceremony with four bridesmaids, including her sister Christy McLellan and former Miss World Australia Erin Holland, she decided to “make Uzzy sweat a little” and delay her walk down the aisle with father John.
The 90 guests—including cricketers Matt Renshaw, Ryan Harris and Erin Holland’s partner, Ben Cutting, who doubled as a groomsman—applauded wildly after the couple exchanged vows and swapped wedding bands.
It was a turbulent lead-up to his wedding in Queensland on April 6. As a member of the Australian Test team on its recent tour of South Africa, the talented batsman had been unwittingly in the heart of the firestorm that was the ball-tampering scandal, which saw three of his teammates—captain Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft—kicked off the team on March 28.
Less than 36 hours after returning to Australia, Usman, who is Australia’s first Muslim Test cricketer, was exchanging vows with Rachel.
The newlyweds are now set to enjoy a week-long honeymoon in the Maldives.
“We’ll be busy doing nothing,” predicts Rachel. “The international cricket season is so long, it’s not often we get the chance just to enjoy chilling out together.”
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All wedding photos by Calli B Photography.