Kris à Genève

A Canadian living in Switzerland

Married!

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On July 3rd, 2010, Eileen and I were married in Duncan, Canada. We had set ourselves the challenging task of organising a wedding from our new home in Geneva, coupled with me studying full time (no time, no money). In the end, the day was all but perfect. We had the best weather day of that week, the locations were spectacular and there were only a few minor hiccups on the day.

We hired Orange Passion Photography (www.orangepassion.ca), a husband and wife team, for the wedding and asked my mom’s partner Stafford Reid to supplement their work with “man in the crowd” shots. The results were excellent and the bank of quality photos will help tell my story.

The photographers suggested Eileen and I meet before the ceremony, to see each other in our wedding duds for the first time and to exchange our vows without the pressure of an audience. We met at Penfold’s Farm, a B&B between the ceremony and reception sites, also where we would spend our wedding night.

We had our ceremony on the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve on Maple Bay Road. It was a perfect location, with views of Quamichan Lake (my family once lived in a house on the lake) and Mt. Prevost, the ubiquitous sight in the Cowichan Valley and where we used to do the “Prevost-athon” run from my middle school. With all of this as backdrop, we were married under the oldest oak tree in Canada (or is it BC?), which sits on the property – a fitting symbol for our wedding.

We asked our families to walk with us down to the big oak and as a special treat we had my talented niece Jade Vardy lead us down with her fiddle, playing a set of tunes she composed herself.

The next photos show a bit of what I was experiencing as we approached the ceremony site. It only occurred to me as we approached that this would be perhaps the only time in my life when the majority of my friends and family would be assembled especially for me. What an experience to see all of those faces smiling back at me as we walked up the aisle and stood at the “altar.”

The ceremony went by in a flash. There were a couple of missteps, but they were of the amusing variety. The commissioner had her words printed on several pieces of paper and at one point the printer had split Eileen’s first and last name. A wind slowed her turning the page, so we all waited to hear “Eileen Alejandra……… Palmer.” We had agreed with the commissioner ahead of time that we would recite our own vows from memory, but she started by reciting my vows for me to repeat, then realised her mistake and let me finish. Then Eileen, who had rattled off her vows to me when we were alone that morning, lost herself in her vows and asked the commissioner to prompt her.

The following photos show my brother Nik playing the fool – “oh, where are the rings?” – and then the reward after the formality.

What followed was simple: champagne, hugs and general merriment.

After making the rounds, Eileen and I escaped with my best man Nik and Eileen’s maid of honour Kim for wedding party photos. We had struggled to settle on a photo location that captured the many and not always complimentary elements that best described “us” (groaning as I write that). In the end we followed the photographers’ suggestion and went to the Butter Church along Tzouhalem Road. It was a fantastic choice, with the abandoned church providing contrast and engaging shadows. Here is a photo of Nik and me in front of Mt. Tzouhalem (we used to live just on the other side of it) and then Nik’s idea for a no-nonsense wedding party photo. I have inserted some photos of Eileen and I further down.

By this point I had already stood for 2.5 hours of photos, leaving aside the ceremony. But we steamed straight into another hour of family and friends photos. The results were excellent, but for brevity I have inserted only the big group photo of my family. Not everyone was able to make it, but it was still quite an army.

On to the reception! Preston and Cathy Davies, longtime friends of my Mom’s had generously offered their beautiful yard for our reception. Our dear friends Heidi and Shawn were our MCs. They had their routine worked out well in advance, including Shawn’s list of embarrassing “facts” that he would recite whenever there was a lull. We listened to a number of excellent speeches, but as the photo below shows, Nik’s story was the liveliest.

Prior to sitting down to dinner and speeches, I had stood and smiled for 3.5 hours of photos. I was dazed from the flashes and my face ached – I must not smile very much in my life. It took me an hour or so to recover, helped by all the loving words and warm laughter from the speech-makers and our guests. The following photo shows me content and happy, a fitting image of my wedding experience.

I enjoyed my wedding even more than I had expected. I think it was because, prior to the wedding, I experienced the anticipation by myself, with Eileen or with a smaller group of people, and always around a set of arrangements that only existed on paper before the day. When the moment arrived, it was enriched by the energy of so many friends and family as well as emotions I had not anticipated. Weddings may revolve around the bride, but I was a happy groom.

We asked my stepfather Chris, an award-winning dessert chef, to bake our wedding cake. I won the choosing and we had the first taste of a delicious carrot cake with sour cream icing.

I think our best decision in planning the wedding was to delegate information and decisions to family and friends for the wedding day, in particular to our MCs Heidi and Shawn. We strolled through our wedding day as guests of honour, with little thinking or doing. The best example was our first dance. We had given the schedule to Heidi and Shawn days before the wedding, but on the day we were suddenly cutting cake out of turn, wondering if we were going to scrap the first dance… But Heidi and Shawn had decided to move up the cake cutting and soon shooed us towards the dance floor.

Here are some photos of the reception away from the formalities. In particular I was struck by how many young children were at our wedding. I do not remember so many of them at other weddings and reunions I have attended. I suppose it is that time for my 30+ generation…

Magical. Perfect. Eileen and I could not have asked for a better wedding day. Perhaps it is not the steamy story that people expect from a wedding night, but in our honeymoon suite, the first thing we did was spend 1/2 hour removing the 61 pins from Eileen’s hair and then an hour or more remembering the many, many rich memories that had streamed past us over the course of the day.

The last set of photos is a bit self-indulgent: my favourite shots of Eileen and I.

Thanks for persevering!

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