A Penguin-Filled Wedding at VanDusen Garden

With incredible DIY details, bright florals and surprise outfit changes, Samantha and Kyle’s summer wedding had it all (and penguins)

 Jelger & Tanja Wedding Photographers
 VanDusen Botanical Garden
Cristie Rosling, from Umbrella Events
Bride's Dress—ceremony:
Venus Bridal, with Pronovias veil, from Agape Bridal
Bride's Dress—reception/first look:
Tadashi Shoji, with Debra Moreland veil, from BHLDN
Bridesmaid Dresses:
Jenny Yoo, from BHLDN
Linen Sashes:
Custom-made by Jesse at Beaux Ties
Groom's Outfit:
Blair Shapera
Groomsmen Outfits:
Linen Bow Ties:
Custom-made by Jesse at Beaux Ties
Hair & Makeup:
Mink Makeup & Hair
Katherine, at The Flower Factory
Truffles Fine Foods
The Cake and the Giraffe
Engagement Ring:
Brian Gavin
Weddings Bands:
E-Weddings Bands
Bride's Uncle
V & G Music
First Class DJ
A&B Partytime Rentals
Live Painting:
Louise Nicholson Fine Art
Johnny Pops
Choreographed First Dance:
Delphine Leroux, from First Dance Vancouver
Penguin Cake Toppers:
Photo booth:

Samantha and Kyle had a vision for their summer wedding at VanDusen Botanical Garden: “an awesome party with friends and family, with an outdoor ceremony and a light and bright reception full of florals,” they tell Real Weddings. “And as many penguins as we could classily fit in.”

The details, whether penguin or other, made for a unique wedding that shows how far a little creativity can go. Sam learned to garden with her parents and grandmother, a hobby that she later shared with Kyle. After years gardening together, Kyle proposed to Sam while they were out bird watching and feeding ducks.

So the gardens at VanDusen were a natural choice for their wedding venue, with the ceremony by Heron Lake for the wildlife, and the reception inside, full of bright light and florals. In a strike of serendipity, VanDusen had just two dates left in May and June. As it turned out, June 25th was the same date as Sam’s grandparents wedding. Since they passed away, it was a special way to include them in the wedding; Sam also carried their photograph on her bouquet, along with her grandmother’s rings.

When they first were engaged, Sam and Kyle admit they were a little daunted by the planning process. Sam was in the final stages of her PhD (she defended just two months before the wedding), so it was a hectic time. They asked Cristie from Umbrella Events to help them plan and coordinate the wedding. “She helped us to implement our vision and kept us on task even as we had the craziest year leading up to the wedding,” they say.

Cristie made sure the couple could showcase their personalities. They had their first look by the water at Olympic Village, where they often go for walks. Kyle loves board and video games, so they chose an array of games for guests to play before the reception. They also played video game music at the ceremony and reception. Their ceremony band, Violin and Guitar, even learned the theme song from Monkey Island to play as Sam and Kyle walked down the aisle following the ceremony.

Sam wanted to both have a first look (to ease nerves) and to surprise Kyle when she walked down the aisle. To accomplish it, she wore her reception dress—a Tadashi Shoji lace gown with the Paris veil by Debra Moreland from BHLDN—for the first look. She then changed into her ceremony gown—a strapless Venus Bridal gown paired with an incredible Pronovias veil from Agape Bridal—to walk down the aisle. “Our photographers were fantastic in accommodating my change,” says Sam.

Sam and Kyle counted on help from friends and family to pull together all of the DIY details. Kyle’s parents and sister brewed and bottled the wine; one of Sam’s bridesmaids and her boyfriend found and prepared the branches for the floral chandeliers, with the groomsmen finishing them just before Kyle’s bachelor party; Sam’s mother is an artist and she painted the illustrations for their stationery, signage, drink and popsicle tickets, seating chart and table runners. “Her custom paintings really brought our vision together,” say Kyle and Sam. “And her hard work on the custom table runners made our décor absolutely perfect. She worked for over six months on the 20 custom table runners, each with 3-4 large bright, beautiful, detailed flowers.”

On the day of the wedding, Sam’s uncle married the couple, making the ceremony that much more special. To memorialize the day, they hired Jelger & Tanja Wedding Photographers, who captured every candid moment. Guests added their notes and drawings to a scrapbook complete with stickers and cutouts.

And now… the penguins. Sam and Kyle both love penguins, so they wanted to include them in as many ways as possible. They ordered a custom penguin cake topper from RedLightStudio on Etsy (Sam added a veil to surprise Kyle); they also had penguin ring boxes, cufflinks and signs. Instead of table numbers, Sam’s mother painted the penguin table cards. Sam then edited the images to incorporate them into the invitations, wine labels, place cards and drink and popsicle tickets.

In the months leading up to the wedding, Sam and Kyle took dance lessons for their first dance. Choreographer Delphine Leroux, from First Dance Vancouver, was patient with them as they laughed their way through the lessons. In the end, the dance turned out as planned, though there were still plenty of laughs to be had throughout the day.


Advice from Sam and Kyle

Our biggest piece of advice (apart from hiring a wedding planner!) is to incorporate something that you love to do together—like dance lessons, DIY décor, website development, brewing wine or woodworking—into the planning process. It will give you a bit of a break while you continue to be productive.