“Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” That old cliché turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Krista Varsakis. That’s because the Vancouver-born brunette met her future groom while serving as a bridesmaid at a friend’s 2003 wedding in New Zealand. “He was one of the groomsmen,” she says of her new husband, Edward Steel, a bespectacled Brit whom she wed this past spring.

And as romantic as the scenario may sound, Krista admits that it wasn’t quite love at first sight. “My initial feelings for him weren’t of fire and passion,” she shares, “but we spent a lot of time together over those two weeks before the wedding, and he seemed like a very gentle, thoughtful person that I thought would make a good partner.” Luckily for her, the feeling was mutual. Edd, a London-born software developer, recalls: “She just seemed very happy, very friendly, very kind — just a 100 per cent positive kind of person that you don’t see too often.” After they wrapped up their respective duties at the mutual pal’s nuptials, the two bid a fond farewell as they prepared to jet back to their respective homes on opposite sides of the globe, she in Canada, he in England. Following a four-year courtship, much of it conducted long distance, Krista pulled up stakes in Toronto, where she was attending university, to relocate to Edd’s London home.

There, the couple, who have since settled in Vancouver, lived together contentedly for four years, with neither feeling any particular urge to wed. “I wasn’t really the type to ever think about getting married,” says Krista. “I was committed to him, I wasn’t looking for anyone else, I was happy in the relationship, but I never really saw the point in getting married.”

That all changed when the two were blindsided by devastating news: Edd’s mother had been diagnosed with Stage 4 leukemia. “I know it’s cliché,” Krista explains, “but it sort of catalyzed something within me. It made me realize that life is short.”

So, seizing the day, Edd proposed on a Sunshine Coast beach at sunset, with a Tiffany diamond solitaire. But instead of heralding the happy news from the rooftops, the two chose to keep their engagement a secret.

“We did it all on the sly,” Krista explains, “because we didn’t think it’d be sensitive to be planning a celebration at a time when Edd’s mother was about to undergo a stem-cell transplant.”

When the surgery turned out to be a success, the couple got down to work. They hired a wedding planner, booked their venues and set a date for April Fool’s Day 2012. There was no hidden significance in this date, the couple says, other than that it fell over the Easter long weekend, which would give their out-of-town guests extra time to explore Vancouver. Plus, Krista jokes: “Neither of us are superstitious people, and we trusted our friends and family not to play any practical jokes on us on our wedding day!”

With those key details ticked off, Krista began her quest for a dress. Unlike many brides-to-be, she knew she wouldn’t find her dream dress in any bridal shop. “I’m a curvy girl, so I knew that off-the-rack gowns weren’t going to suit me.” Instead, inspiration came from one of the couple’s favourite TV shows, Mad Men — especially in the full-figured form of character Joan Harris. The timeless, figure-flattering styles of the ’60s-set show led Krista to opt for a custom-made Audrey Hepburn-esque knee-length gown. The eco-conscious Krista, who works as a sustainability project officer, chose vintage fabrics for her dress, which she accented with a pillbox hat, lace gloves and bright-blue pumps.

The bride proved a perfect match to her sharply dressed groom, who wore a tuxedo with a gingham waistcoat and checked bow tie. “I wanted to pay homage to the classic-ness of the ’60s,” says Krista, “so I wouldn’t one day cringe with embarrassment and shove the photos in a drawer.” This ode to a lost era was evoked through other old-time touches, too. On the wedding day, the bridal party was transported via trolley car from the Museum of Vancouver, site of the wedding ceremony, to Vancouver Urban Winery, for the reception. And at the Railtown winery — a magical space where fairy lights twinkled overhead and wine casks served as podiums — tables were decorated with stacks of vintage books, index-card placeholders and even packets of candy cigarettes. Plus, in lieu of a guest book, guests were asked to sign library cards. The sweetest touch of all, though, was when the newlyweds danced to Doris Day’s “People Will Say We’re in Love.”

Despite all this attention to the tiniest of details, the big day didn’t go off quite as seamlessly as planned. Moments before she was set to walk down the aisle, Krista accidentally burst a seam on her dress. Rather than succumb to sheer panic, she simply “threw on a little empire-waist jacket that covered it all up.” While dress disasters rank among every bride’s worst nightmares, Krista puts it into perspective by noting, “It was just one small negative among a lot of big positives.” One of those positives occurred when the couple had a random wedding-day encounter in Gastown with CBC Television host George Stroumboulopoulos, who, when asked to share relationship advice with the newlyweds, commented wryly that he was no expert in marital matters. He did, however, offer the couple his heartiest well wishes, especially when he learned that the bride was a fellow Greek.

But for bride and groom alike, the most memorable moment of the day came when they exchanged vows. “It was very meaningful to affirm our vows before our friends and family,” Edd says. “It was a standout moment that brought what we were doing into focus.”

Although Krista, like many modern-minded people, once dismissed the institution of marriage as “just a piece of paper,” she was surprised to discover that the time-honoured tradition turned out to have more meaning for her than she had anticipated.

“I can’t really explain it, but it did change things somehow,” she reflects. “Even though we’ve been together for eight years, we’re a bit more affectionate with each other now, and I feel more of a connection with him, surprisingly.”

Venue — Ceremony Museum of Vancouver | Venue — Reception Vancouver Urban Winery | Photographer Jenn Best Photography | Wedding Planner Elements Modern Weddings | Bride's Dress Pure Magnolia | Bride's Headpiece Bespoke by Agnes Hart | Bridesmaid Dresses Alfred Sung, from Frocks Modern Bridesmaids | Groom's Attire Kenneth Cole, from Tip Top Tailor; custom waistcoat from Modernize Tailors | Groomsmen Attire Kenneth Cole, from Tip Top Tailor | Hair & Makeup East Vanity Parlour | Bride's Shoes L.K. Bennett | Groom's Shoes Allen Edmonds, from Ingledew's | Flowers Olla Urban Flower Project | Catering Savoury Chef Foods | Cake Cakes by Meg | Disc Jockey DJ Leanne, Girl on Wax Events | Officiant Michele Davidson