University is often a place where people go to find themselves. But Paul Zaremba, 27, and Lauren O’Rourke, 26, not only found their life paths at school, they also found each other.

In 2006, both were studying at the University of British Columbia. While Lauren was pursuing creative writing, Paul was “majoring in football” (according to Lauren, at least). Though the arts and athletics wouldn’t ordinarily overlap, Lauren and Paul’s paths somehow kept crossing. Before long, acquaintance turned into attraction and Paul asked Lauren out on a first date, a casual affair at Nick’s Spaghetti House, a lively Italian eatery on Vancouver’s Commercial Drive. By then, an ease and playfulness already existed between the fellow students, and Paul knew he wanted to continue their relationship.

“We would have debates about every subject under the sun,” laughs Lauren.

“Well, I wouldn’t say debates,” teases Paul, “it was more like she was ranting about something and I had to listen to it!”

Flash forward to the summer of 2011. Lauren had just finished teachers’ college, while Paul — who had graduated with a commerce degree — was running several Tim Hortons locations in North Vancouver, along with his two brothers. To celebrate their accomplishments, the couple set out on a six-week European vacation. Unbeknownst to Lauren, a marriage proposal was also part of the itinerary. Paul explains, “I had planned to propose on the trip but wasn’t sure when it would happen.” As it turned out, he didn’t have to wait long.

First stop: Kilkenny Castle, Ireland. The date was July 9, and after wandering through the historic town and castle grounds, Paul and Lauren returned to their room, just in time for sunset. With a view of the golden-lit castle from their window, Paul knew it was the moment he’d been waiting for. On the pretense of taking Lauren’s photo, he did so, then handed her the camera to look at the result. In the meantime, he quietly pulled out the engagement ring. “When I looked back up, he was down on one knee!” exclaims Lauren.

In the glow of their new engagement, the lovebirds toured the South of France, Paris and London. But once sightseeing was over, the future bride wasted no time in starting the wedding planning. “I was buying up all the wedding magazines at the airport,” she remembers. Once back on Canadian soil, she enlisted Vancouver’s Filosophi Events to help her get organized.

The couple quickly agreed on an intimate spring wedding, celebrating with only family and close friends. For both Lauren and Paul, the most important part of their wedding was to commemorate the occasion with those they loved. As for décor, they settled on a classic romantic feel, a “vintage elegance meets Midsummer Night’s Dream,” in Lauren’s words. They found their old-world ambience at Hycroft, a beautifully restored Edwardian-era mansion in Vancouver’s Shaughnessy area. With Hycroft secured for both their ceremony and reception, Paul and Lauren turned their attention to other details. Together, they combed antique shops along Vancouver’s Main Street for items to style into table centrepieces. Old leather-bound books, pink and gold teacups, and used vinyl records were just a few treasures they unearthed. Lauren also worked with florist Sacha Thompson from Vancouver’s Flowerbox to incorporate roses and peonies into her vintage tablescapes.

As for her dress, Lauren knew she wanted the timelessness of lace, and after contemplating two dresses at Vancouver’s Bisou Bridal, Paul helped make the final choice — an ivory Alvina Valenta lace trumpet gown.

On April 28, 2012, the wedding day finally arrived. Lauren and her bridesmaids prepared at the couple’s apartment, while Paul and his groomsmen treated themselves to hot shaves at The Barber Shop downtown. The shaves were a tradition Paul carried on from his father who had indulged in a barbershop visit on the morning of his own wedding. The entire bridal party then met up at VanDusen Botanical Garden where photographer Leslie Biggar of Sakura Photography captured them by the dramatic Elizabethan hedge maze and amongst the blossoming magnolia trees. After photographs, the couple and their six attendants hopped aboard their private red trolley car to the ceremony.

The outdoor ceremony on Hycroft’s covered terrace was rife with personal meaning. Instead of flowers, Lauren carried a bouquet she had made herself using brooches from her late mother and close friends, in homage to the most significant women in her life. As well, a rose was placed on the empty chair beside Lauren’s father, to honour her mother. Cousins from both sides gave readings, and friend Mark Laird — who coaches the Vancouver Trojans football team with Paul — officiated the couple’s traditional vows.

Cocktail hour followed. The couple’s 50 guests mingled as musicians from local band SideOne played in the background. Photographs of Paul and Lauren, as well as their parents’ wedding photos, sat on tables for guests to reminisce over and enjoy.

As the newlyweds entered Hycroft’s ballroom hand in hand, the reception kicked off with cheering and applause. At dinner, guests chatted, laughed and feasted on delicacies from various food stations, with everyone agreeing that the Ukrainian station with perogies and kielbasa sausage was the best — it was hearty food just like Paul’s grandmother used to make.

While the meal was thoroughly enjoyed by all, it was the reception’s family moments that remain most precious to Paul and Lauren. Paul’s father, a no-nonsense professional football coach, surprised many with a heartfelt, emotional speech. “He cried most of the time,” Paul recalls.

“It was very beautiful,” adds Lauren, “we were deeply honoured.”

Not to be outdone, Paul’s 92-year-old grandfather spontaneously invited everyone on the dance floor to form a dancing circle around the couple. Yelling, “Tighter, tighter!” he led guests in an undulating orbit of love, encircling the newlyweds in a Ukrainian tradition of joyous revelry.

Guests spilled out into the night air after the reception, waving sparklers in an exuberant send-off, as Paul and Lauren drove off into their new life together, hearts full with love for each other, and for all the cherished family and friends who had made their day so meaningful.

Venue — Ceremony & Reception Hycroft | Photographer Sakura Photography | Videographer Vidyn Media | Wedding Planner Filosophi Events | Bride's Dress Alvina Valenta, from Bisou Bridal | Bridesmaid Dresses Monique Luhuillier, from Nordstrom | Groom's & Groomsmen Attire Calvin Klein, from The Tux Store | Hair & Makeup Emily Cheng | Bride's Shoes Valentino, from Holt Renfrew | Flowers The Flower Box | Catering Peake of Catering | Cake Anna Elizabeth Cakes | Wedding Rings Birks | Disc Jockey Absolute Entertainment | Live Music SideOne | Transportation Vancouver Trolley Company & Time Limo