Denea and Ryan
September 28, 2017, Blodel Conservatory and The Acorn, Vancouver
Photographed by Lindsay Elliott

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Number of guests 50

Budget $10,000

Describe your wedding in a few words. 

Low-key, nature-filled surprise wedding!

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Walk us through the big day.

Ryan got ready at his brother's house in Richmond and then waited outside the Bloedel Conservatory for Denea to arrive. We took first look photos outside the Bloedel Conservatory and then a few more in Queen Elizabeth Park, then made our way inside for the ceremony. We didn't pre-determine a spot inside the conservatory, instead we walked with our family and stopped at a spot we liked, in front of a couple of parrots and beautiful lush greenery.

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The birds were very polite wedding guests until the moment we were pronounced husband and wife, and then a pair of birds swooped down right over us. It was quite possibly the most magical thing that has ever occurred on the planet.

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After our post-ceremony tropical photo shoot and some time spent with the birds, we made our way to The Acorn for the reception, our favourite restaurant in Vancouver. Denea's BFF was wrangling guests and making sure everyone had a drink and an appetizer when we were running late.

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When we finally arrived, our friends (who had mostly had caught on they were at a wedding by this point) surprised us by welcoming us through a hand tunnel (is that what those are called??). As we got to the end, we spilled the (mostly already spilled) beans that we'd just gotten married and surprise, you're at a wedding!

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The dinner was family-style, all of our favourite dishes arriving at tables throughout the night for our friends and family to share. After a few drinks and many excited hugs and tears, we sat down for dinner. Not only is the food the best in Vancouver, but the restaurant is so intimate and filled with greenery. Our very good friend Katie Fritz (Serpent Botanical) is an incredible florist and has a very unique style, we trusted her wholeheartedly with our table arrangements and one incredible statement piece—you saw it right as you arrived and was absolutely stunning. After some planned and impromptu speeches, there was dessert and more drinks.

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What inspired the look and feel of the wedding?

Nature!

What was your favourite moment of the day?

That it was a surprise! We had our ceremony with only our immediate family, while our friends and other loved ones had some fun drinks awaiting what they thought was an engagement party. Some caught on, but everyone at least acted surprised. We had originally wanted to elope and not have a big huge wedding with lots of expectation and outside pressure, but couldn't shake the idea of not having certain people there to celebrate with us. In the end, a surprise wedding was the best of both and we loved it.

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What was most important to you during the planning?

Family. Drinks. Exotic birds.

What did you splurge on? 

Drinks! Open bar = happy guests. We wanted everyone to have a great time and THEY SURE DID.

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What did you save on?

Our ceremony venue. We wanted a quick, intimate, but beautiful ceremony so we could get to the fun stuff (kissing and drinks with friends).

What was the biggest challenge?

Making contingency plans for weather! We wanted to get married in September and outside, but Vancouver has very unpredictable weather so Denea caved and we went with a venue that felt outdoorsy. In the end, we got lucky and had great weather, so we got to have photos indoors and out.

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Any last wise words?

Make someone else in charge of bringing your marriage license (and all the important things, really) because you're getting married and you have other things to worry about (and then your soon-to-be brother in law won't have to break into your apartment before the ceremony starts to get it).

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Key vendors

Makeup, The Artistry Collective. Florals, Serpent Botanical. Ceremony venue, Bloedel Conservatory. Reception venue, The Acorn. Dress, Ted Baker. Suit, Harry Rosen (custom). Photographer, Lindsay Elliott.