Natalie & Tim's green-filled access-a-wedding

January 16 |  
Photos by: Jamieson Dean
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Photos by Jamieson Dean

The Offbeat Bride: Natalie, PhD Student

Her offbeat partner: Tim, Research Assistant

Date and location of wedding: Evergreen Brickworks, BMO Atrium, Toronto, Ontario, Canada — October 19, 2013

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: My absolute favorite highlights of our wedding can be summed up in a few "D" words: dog, dress, decor, and disability. Our dog, Rush, is a trained service dog who helps my husband with a variety of day-to-day tasks. He came down the aisle with us and delivered the rings perfectly on cue, as if it was just a normal day of work. This of course was met with a 100 peoples' collective awwws. Rush also toured the room with us and enjoyed many pats throughout the night. A true champion.

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I made my dress from a pattern and a few bolts of fabric. I worked so hard on it and was so frustrated so many times that I wanted to give up. In the end, I am so happy for every minute of time I spent working away on this thing. It was well worth it.

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We really didn't want to spend a lot of time or energy on the decor, and seeing as we were in a funky concrete space, we didn't think much was needed. After seeing our engagement photos, I had the idea of blowing up a few of them and putting them around the room as our decor. We then came up with the idea of including photos of our parents and grandparents on their wedding days. We hung about 12 huge photos all depicting scenes of love around the room, and that was pretty much it for decor. It transformed the space into something ours while at the same time giving a simple art gallery visual. This whole idea cost us under $300.

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Finally, our focus on disability was a highlight for me. You can't hide the fact that my husband spends most of his waking hours in his giant electric wheelchair (he has cerebral palsy), so we didn't hide it — we celebrated it. We matched the wheelchair to our wedding colors, we took an accessible bus to the wedding, our food was finger food (which is easier for Tim to eat), and our cake was cake pops (also easier for Tim). We drank wine out of straws, and we even included Sign Language Interpreters in our ceremony. We celebrated disability and difference in all its forms.

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Tell us about the ceremony:
We had the ceremony dual-officiated by a legal officiant, and our dear friend who introduced us. The real officiant provided the legal bits, and our friend provided the humor. We really wanted the ceremony to be entertaining and funny, rather than too sentimental (which isn't really us). The ceremony was framed through the story of how we met and how we came to fall in love.

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Our vows to each other were personal and meaningful (and for me, entirely made up on the spot!). We had my best friend and Tim's cousin, a couple who we introduced, read an excerpt from the children's book Rosie and Michael. Tim's father read the poem "How Falling in Love is like Owning a Dog," which was particularly meaningful given that our dog Rush was up there with us during the reading.

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Finally, the most meaningful reading came from my brother providing a perfect delivery of a children's story that Tim wrote for me on our first Christmas together called "A Night in Protective Wheelchair Padding." I have been told that the ceremony was about 20 minutes long, but it felt about two minutes in length. It was entirely a blur!

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Our biggest challenge:
When we began to plan the wedding, we were new graduates, each with a master's degree and figuring that jobs were close on the horizon. Two years later, neither of us were in any meaningful employment and money was, and still is, extremely tight. The hardest part of the wedding was keeping costs under control, as well as dealing with the guilt of spending money on a party when we were trying to figure out how to pay rent. While I'm not sure we really overcame this challenge, we dealt with it as best as we could. We had to accept that money was going to be spent and tried to comfort ourselves with thoughts of the wedding presents recouping some of the costs.

Another challenge came in the form of school. The wedding was planned and deposits were made before I made the decision to go back to school and start my PhD, which I started two months before the wedding. I had convinced myself that the first two months of school would not be that hard, and man was I wrong. I felt guilty for ignoring the wedding and if I spent any time on the wedding, I felt guilty for ignoring school. I overcame this by delegating, delegating, delegating. I realized that I would never have time to finish things on my own, so I enlisted the help of all my nearest and dearest.

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My favorite moment:
During his speech, my father mentioned that there was someone I had known my whole life who I had neglected to invite to the wedding. As soon as he said that I knew he meant my teddy bear and I immediately burst into tears. My bear still sleeps with me every night and it is the first inanimate object that I would grab in any evacuation situation. My father had conspired with my husband to grab the bear that morning, and out he was pulled from a bag during the speech. I was happier to see that bear then I ever though I could have been, and made sure to pose for many pictures with him.

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A second moment that was incredibly meaningful came during the dancing part of the night. Our band was the amazing Dwayne Gretsky, a cover band here in Toronto which happens to be headed by Tim's brother. My father is a professional trumpet player, and the original sessional musician on the '80s song "Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone)" by Glass Tiger. We asked the band to learn this song for the wedding and got them to invite my father up on stage for their performance. It was such a perfect metaphor for bringing our two families together: my dad playing the trumpet while Tim's brother sang.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
The most important thing I learned was how many people we have in our inner circle who love us enough to participate and help us in our special day. Tim's cousin and my best friend (themselves a couple) helped each of us get ready for the day. My best friend also helped me to make my ribbon flower bouquet, and another good friend made my hairpiece. My brother, a graphic design and logo enthusiast, designed all of our invitations, graphics, and the website. My mother-in-law designed and created our apple/Christmas light centerpieces as well as other details.

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My mother helped me with countless tasks, including running errands, and was immense help on the creation of my dress. Our friend who introduced us acted as the unofficial officiant. Tim's brother provided the music with his band, and his other brother baked a cake and managed to find the best cake topper ever in existence (a Playmobile bride and groom in a wheelchair!). Our other dear friend made our card box, and my aunt, who I inherited all my crafty skills from, made me a perfectly coordinated jacket to keep me warm in the cold Canadian October. Having our family and friends contribute made all of those small details so much more meaningful.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. Your dress is gorgeous!! I'm so impressed you made it yourself! I love the green theme of your wedding too.

    21 agree
  2. I was thinking "hey, where did she get that gorgeous dress?" only to scroll down and see you made it yourself. Good lord, woman! It turned out great! I love the green lining on the inside. Just lovely. I adore that first photo of you both. I think it's going to become one of my favorites that I've seen on here.

    And those cake toppers! Adorable!

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    • Thanks so much. My blood sweat and tears went into that dress and I adore it still.

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    • Seconded! When I saw that shot with th dress flared out so we could see the green lining I actually shouted "OH MY GOD I LOVE THAT DRESS" across our living room and scared my fiance.
      Awesome, awesome job! You reminded me of a lily :)

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  3. LOVE LOVE LOVE!!

    I started tearing up when you said you read "How Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog." I've read it many times, but never felt like it really fit as a ceremony reading. But yours… SWOON!

    Also, those Lego cake toppers. Must. Own.

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  4. Holy awesomeness! 2 best wedding photos ever (1) you sitting on his lap. (2) your parents holding up your dress!

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    • It helps that we had the best photographer in the whole world.

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  5. I totally choked up at the teddy bear part. I get attached to inanimate things and I can completely relate.

    Also… that dress!!! Love!!!

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  6. The dress is AMAZING!!
    I totally teared up at the teddy bear part
    Beautiful wedding you guys… wow, just wow <3 I love the confidence and sensuality the bride exudes, her eyes pull me in… I'm so awe struck here

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    • Thanks so much, and ya, the teddy bear thing had most people at the wedding choking up. It was a win by my Dad for sure.

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      • I have the same childhood teddy bear and I'm still attached to mine, too! Great photo!

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  7. THIS. IS. AWESOME.

    I love everything about this wedding. So cool! Thanks so much for sharing :-)

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  8. I'm a Toronto Bride too! I absolutely love your wedding it looked amazing!

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  9. Your wedding looks so bright and vibrant – from the colors to everyone's smiling faces! Love all the accessibility details you guys were adamant about adding.

    Gotta say too that I checked out your wedding website and it's fabulous.

    Beautiful, you guys! :)

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    • Yes that's the pattern. Turned out great in the end, but there is a massive error in the pattern instructions which makes the dress unfinishable. I had to find alternatives with my seamstress aunt. Caused me to panic because i loved the pattern, in the end it worked out.

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      • Yipe! That sounds like extra stress you don't need, glad it worked out in the end. It looks fantastic and I think I may be inspired to give the pattern a try.

        The rest of the wedding also looks great by the way!

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  10. Nat and Tim,
    I can honestly say (as someone who was in attendance) that was one of the most fun and love filled ceremonies I have ever been to. Every small detail was perfect and so unique. Way to go!

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  11. I am a special education teacher. I work with students of all kinds of abilities and with all kinds of families. I saw this today and shared it with a parent of one of my students who has been reluctant to let her son be a "real teenager" and go to school dances. etc. You sharing this just freed her from so many doubts and fears about her son's future. Thank you.

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    • Thank you so much for your comment. Tim and I work hard to promote positive ideas around disability, love, sex and dating. We even have our own charitable organization around the topic. So many people assume that having a disability means you are automatically relegated to a life without romantic love, but this is not the case at all. I'm even doing my PhD research on how disability can contribute positively in romantic relationships. I love that you showed this to a parent and it made them think a little differently.

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    • Your journal post was the catalyst to me remembering the book (something i read as I child, and that I still own a ratty copy of) and deciding that it was perfect for our ceremony. So thank you very much for sharing!

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  12. So jealous of your ability to make that gorgeous dress! Your venue is totally rad & it looks like it was a fun wedding.

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  13. It made me choke up. One of my uncles is a paraplegic and we were on vacation and he was bummed he couldn't dance with his daughter for the father daughter dance and ill never forget sitting there bawling when she sat in his lap and he used the hand not around her to wheel back and forth and dance with her in his arms. Cant even talk about it without crying. That is seriously one of the best wedding photos I have ever seen! Congrats

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    • Ha ha It took me 2 years to find shoes I liked. I started wanting simple flats that would be comfortable, but that dress ended up featuring my legs and feet so much, i knew I needed something spectacular to show off. I final found those shoes hanging from the ceiling in an offbeat type of shoe store. I'm not sure how I even walked in them, and will never wear them again (I also had a pair of white flats with a bight green sole that I changed into pretty quickly after the photos and ceremony).

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  14. This wedding looks absolutely to die for. I'm seriously sweating that dress. AND I need to know what nail polish the bride is wearing! It's gorgeous!

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    • Nail polish was a lime green shellac, I think it was Opi, but I'm not entirely sure as I was simply on a mission to find the perfect green. It was also my first ever professional manicure/pedicure, but probably also my last because I enjoy painting my nails.

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  15. I just had to say that we are bear twins (I have that same exact one) and mine looks just about as loved as yours does! Seeing him and hearing about him being included in your big day brought a tear to my eye. That is so cool! Your wedding looks beautiful, and I am super impressed with your dress! Congratulations!

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    • That's awesome. I haven't really met anyone who has the same bear, it wasn't a massively popular one I suppose, but I love mine very much. According to my dad's wedding speech, when I was a kid I used to obsessively twiddle his ears (my dad showed a picture of me doing that) and so now his ears are completely bald.

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    • Me too! Mine is named Stitch – possibly the name he was given by GUND and because of his hilarious eyebrows.

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      • Those eyebrows are incredible aren't they? A single piece of brown yarn stitched on either end. I'm actually amazed that both his eyebrows still exist, given the amount of "love" that my bear has experienced.

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        • At a "Bring your Teddy Bear to School" day in Grade 3, I came in from recess to discover that someone had snipped each of his eyebrows in half. It was rather traumatic. My mom offered to restring new eyebrows but I was worried about him undergoing "surgery" and to this day he has these fly away eyebrow strings on either side of his face. Nearly everyone who meets him for the first time is like "wtf is going on with that bear's eyebrows?!" and also, "why does your teddy bear even have eyebrows?"

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  16. This is a really lovely wedding, and the photos really reflect the love that Natalie and Tim have for each other. Such wonderful devotion is great to see. Natalie's dress was stunning, Tim looks very handsome and glowing (usually that expression might be reserved for a bride, but I think a guy can glow too on their wedding day). It looks like it was a well thought out ceremony! May you have many years of happiness and love together!

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  17. I LOVE the green (your nails!), but I really have to comment because my favorite childhood stuffed animal, who I slept with through college, is that exact bear, too! I see I am not the only one, too. How funny!

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    • I adore the fact that I have been able to connect with a group of adult people who adore the same bear that I do. What a unique and random connection to have with virtual strangers.

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  18. HOLY CRAP! I CANNOT STOP THE TEARS!!! You two are such a cute couple and I love every single detail in this wedding!!!

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  19. The photos on the wall are driving me happy crazy! I love the one behind the officiant in the photo when ya'll are exchanging rings…it looks like you jumped on your hubs and he caught you.

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    • Thanks so much for the comment. We are absolutely in love with that photo too (in fact, I love all the wedding photos, but I still don't think any one of them tops this engagement shot.) Our photographer even one an award for this photograph. You can see a better view of it on the first page of our wedding website http://www.accessawedding.com/

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      • Thanks for sharing your engagement photos. I still love the one where you've climbed up on his chair the best….and especially in the B&W format. It's so intimate and joy filled.

        I can tell ya'll are pretty funny. The photo of your hubs rolling by the scooters and motor cycles made the Weird Al Yakovic song "White and Nerdy" pop into my head…and then i chuckled. I also gave a little chuckle for the "no standing by permit" photo. And of course, "Once you go wheelchair…" solidified my impression of ya'll.

        Many blessing for a happy marriage.

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        • I made that "once you go wheelchair" button for Tim when we first started dating!

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          • Ha! You might want to copyright or trademark the image and sell those bad boys on buttons, t-shirts, and bumper stickers. I think just about every guy in a wheelchair would get a kick out of receiving one from his lady-love. I had to go back and take a second peek and was even more impressed the second go around because the girly stick figure has a lady lump and a skirt.

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  20. This is just wonderful – such joy in all the pics! That shade of green is perfect and your dress is to die for! That pic of you sitting in your hubby's lap is my fave. And of course, the bear and the dog … tear-inducing. Congratulations!

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  21. You are such a cute couple and your photos are amazing. I love the one where you're feeding each other cake pops! It looks like a really fun and intimate wedding which is exactly what I'm hoping for for mine.

    And oh my god that dress. I can't believe you made it yourself! The green is stunning!

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    • Thanks. Fun and humorous were our goals and I think we achieved them.

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  22. A-Freakin-Mazing!!! Congrats to you both. It looked like a wonderful day. LOVE the cake topper and the colour scheme. XXX

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    • Thanks so much. The color scheme was a major anchor for this wedding, although it was a pain in the ass to track down things in that perfect green color. Because of my desire to match everything, I also made all the ties and sashes that the wedding party is wearing, out of the same fabric that I used to line my dress. This green has become quite a trademark in our lives now, people see objects in that green color and buy them for us, just because it's "our" green.

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  23. Your wedding just brought tears to my eyes. It was so beautiful and simple. I love how you incorporated all those elements and they were so seamless. <3

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  24. The entire wedding party's attire is to die for; ESPECIALLY that wedding dress! I WANT ONE! I'm obsessed with that shade of green (my living room, and a million other things, are that color). I also love the groom's chair, & I love the bride's shoes, and I ADORE that picture of her on his lap with her leg kicked out. You guys couldn't possibly be any cuter of a couple!

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  25. You two look so adorable and happy together!! I love how you really incorporated yourselves into your wedding, most people just have a by the book one. Yours is so personal and heartfelt.

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  26. Thanks you for sharing your really great wedding ! You too are perfect together !

    I love that you sewed your stunning dress ! Did it take long to be done ?
    Seeing your wedding dress encourage me in my decison to sew mine !

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    • The actual dress took me about 2 weeks, BUT (and this is a pretty big but), I spent a year working towards its creation. I sewed 2 practice dresses before the final one, and this doesn't count the hours I spent searching for the perfect fabric and notions, plus, I will admit that i gave it to a professional tailor to do some shaping and install the bustle, just so that it looked fantastic. It took a while, but I would still recommend the process to anyone (if you have the skills to do it). It was so meaningful to me in the end, to walk around all day in my creation. I felt like a princess who had sewn her dress from drapes. If you have the power/time, make your own dress. You will not regret it (Although i should say that you will hate it while you do it, but you won't regret it in the end).

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  27. Your wedding looks amazing!

    Your dress is absolutely gorgeous and I love the colour scheme. I also love how absolutely happy you both look!

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  28. How sweet. I absolutely love the bride's dress. That was a perfect green for her. Also, the cake toppers were pretty cool too!

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  29. This made me cry. I'm disabled and my partner and I recently announced our engagement. I wasn't born disabled but instead was injured by child abuse; as I grew older and my body less resilient, the injury eventually led to my chronic pain disability. It's been such a rough haul, and I have so much grief over all I lost. When I think about our wedding, I am sad to think of all the things we won't be able to do because of my disability: high heels, a heavy dress, a corset, dancing, a long ceremony, a long reception, a honeymoon… Sometimes I worry that my fiancé is sacrificing too much by being with me. The images of your wedding just hit me right in the gut.

    I'd love to know more about and/or participate in your PhD project too. I think you get my email with this comment. If not, you can find me on facebook or google+: Charlotte Issyvoo.

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  30. Your wedding is so inspiring for my wedding, (my partner is a high level quadriplegic). Thank you so much for the wonderful and heartwarming ideas. I love your going down the isle idea! I've been stressing over this part as I don't want him to run over my train so trying to find trainless dresses. I wanted to cry seeing your happiness and inclusiveness and realizing this is possible! Big hugs to you both!

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