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

By on Jan. 16th 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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