A Beautiful Backyard Wedding in Ontario
Stephanie and Matthew
In the fall of 2006, Matthew left his home country of England to attend Arizona State University on a tennis scholarship. But after two years, the team was cut due to lack of funding, and Matthew starting visiting other schools with the intent of transferring. The final stop of his recruitment tour was UCLA, where he met Stephanie at the local campus hang out. "We joke about this, but I think Matthew decided to come to UCLA because of me—even if he didn't know it!" says Stephanie, who also attended the university on a tennis scholarship. The pair were best friends for two years before starting a relationship.
Four years later, Matthew, who now works in sales at a Canadian retail company, planned a proposal at Stephanie's parents' beach house in Santa Barbara, California. He popped the question to Stephanie, who works as a manager for a luxury shoe brand, in the backyard. "When I walked out, there were at least 200 little tea light candles that my dad and Matthew had individually lit, and flower petals leading up the steps, with the ocean in the background and the sun setting," she says. Matthew got down on one knee and asked Stephanie to spend the rest of their lives together, while a hired photographer captured the unforgettable moment.
After a 26-month engagement, Stephanie and Matthew tied the knot at her parents' newly-renovated house in Oakville, Ontario. The bride and groom actually moved to the Canadian city one month before the ceremony, which was held on August 20, 2016. About 150 guests traveled from England, the United States, and the east coast of Canada to attend the nuptials, which were filled with neutral colors, tennis-themed accents, and lots of love.
"There are so many little things that made the day the best of our lives," says Stephanie. "But when we look back, we remember the feeling we had. All of the people we love in one place, celebrating our love with a huge party!"
Papergrafix designed the couple's stationery suite. Stephanie and Matthew wanted playful save-the-dates, so they created a logo with Canadian maple leaves and a Union Jack to symbolize their two worlds coming together. To achieve a more formal invitation (shown here), they chose elegant paper with a gray marbled background.
Stephanie's parents' home in Oakville, Ontario, (about 20 miles outside of Toronto) made for a picturesque setting. The couple opted to wed in the backyard. "I remember the first time we saw it before they bought it, I joked with my mom that I had to get married there," says Stephanie. "It's on the water and literally the most beautiful spot in the entire world."
On the big day, Matthew donned a black tuxedo from Isaia, an Eton shirt, and Ferragamo shoes. Stephanie wore an Angelo Lambrou wedding dress and veil, which she paired with her mother's diamond necklace and Jimmy Choo flats—although she changed into a pair of Stuart Weitzman heels later in the evening.
Stephanie began her wedding dress search with a clear image in mind. "Ever since I saw Kate Middleton in her Alexander McQueen wedding dress, I knew what I wanted mine to look like!" she says. After coming up short at multiple dress shops, the bride-to-be visited Angelo Lambrou's boutique in New York City, and she immediately fell in love with his classic, effortless designs. She recruited Lambrou to create a custom dress with a crystal-adorned lace top and a silk organza bottom, which had the ability to be pinned up into a high-low dress later in the night. "I wish I could wear that dress every day! Not only was it stunning, but it was the most comfortable dress that allowed me to dance the night away," says Stephanie.
Stephanie considers her engagement ring a family heirloom. "My parents could not afford a proper engagement ring when they got married, so about 10 years ago, my father bought my mom's dream ring from Tiffany & Co.," she says. "I had always had my eye on it, so when it came time for Matthew to propose, my mother offered it to him." Matthew had the ring engraved and reset before the big day. The bride's wedding band is also a family heirloom: It was created from a tennis bracelet from Stephanie's mom.
Sweet Woodruff Floral & Event Studio created the bride's bouquet. One of Stephanie's maids of honor, Lindsay, made bouquet charms to honor the bride's grandparents who passed away. She also wrapped a bracelet from Matthew's late grandmother around the bouquet.
Stephanie had nine bridesmaids from early childhood and college. "None of them were blood relatives but I still consider them my family!" she says. They stunned in Jenny Yoo dresses in a shade of gray that matched the color of her parent's house. The two maids of honor wore the gown without straps and added belts from a bridal salon in Toronto called White.
Matthew's eight groomsmen, who called themselves the "Elite 8," included his brother, his childhood friend from England, and friends from college. "Looking back on the Elite 8, it's great to know that at each place I lived throughout my life, I have made some special friendships," he says. The men rented black tuxedos from Moores Clothing.
The Ceremony Site
Stephanie and Matthew tied the knot on top of her parent's pool overlooking Lake Ontario. They placed hardwood over the top of the water—"not the easiest thing in the world!" says the bride. Guests held parasols to shield themselves from the 90-degree heat. The couple now visits Stephanie's parent's house regularly, which allows them to constantly relive their wedding day. "There is nothing better than being able to stand on the very area that we were married and reminisce," says Stephanie.
Of the décor, Lisa Vorce of Lisa Vorce Co. notes that the inspiration came from the happy couple's own home and the natural aesthetic they gravitate towards.
During the processional, string quartet Wellington Music played "Everything I Do" by Bryan Adams. Stephanie's father walked her down the aisle to "All of Me" by John Legend. "I'd say as an only child, having my father walk me down the aisle with Matthew waiting for me was the most memorable moment of my life," she says. And Matthew agrees, noting, "Seeing her walking down the aisle with her father, and looking across all of our family and friends, is a moment I will never forget."
The 3:30 p.m. ceremony was officiated by Gordie Ernst, who was formerly Stephanie's tennis coach and the couple's boss at Georgetown University, where Stephanie attended graduate school. "He completely changed both of our lives and gave us our first big break. We owe him a lot and he did the best job ever with our ceremony," she says. Gordie wrote much of the family-oriented ceremony himself. Stephanie and Matthew decided to stick to a script when reciting vows to make the ceremony short and sweet. Afterward, they recessed up the aisle to "Wonderwall" by Oasis. They intentionally chose to play music from British, American, and Canadian artists to highlight their backgrounds.
The couple also opted to pay tribute to these countries in the cocktail hour that followed, thanks to Eatertainment Events & Catering. They served a variety of canapés that were representative of each country, including beer-battered halibut, bangers and mash, mini gourmet hot dogs, ahi tuna poke tacos, stone crab beignets, and Alberta beef sliders. A raw bar paid homage to Stephanie's parents' East Coast roots. The specialty cocktail was a Pimm's Wimbledon made with lemon soda, fresh mint, strawberries, and sliced apple.
Find Your Seat
Escort cards, with the same marbleized pattern as the invites, were calligraphed with each guest's names and table assignments.
The tented reception was held in Stephanie's parent's backyard. Neutral tones like silver and gray took center stage, but the couple threw in black chairs and lighting fixtures as a dramatic statement. Floral accents in shades of white and green, compiled by Sweet Woodruff, tied everything together. "Our wedding felt clean, airy, and beautiful, but also dramatic all in the right places," says the bride.
The Table Names
Stephanie and Matthew named each table after locations that made an impact on their lives, including UCLA, Georgetown, Santa Barbara, Toronto, Arizona State University, and London.
The Place Settings
The menu was designed around Stephanie and Matthew's request for dishes grounded in simple ingredients and delicious flavors. The three-course meal featured sea-salt sprinkled whole burrata; a warm portobello and ricotta purse with porcini cream; and a choice of pepper-seared beef tenderloin, maple miso black cod with carrot coulis, or quinoa corn dumplings.
The menu itself was placed atop the napkin and silver-rimmed plate, with small blooms and greenery adding an organic element to the place settings.
Ties to Tennis
Since tennis brought Stephanie and Matthew together, they wanted to showcase the sport in their wedding. They purchased vintage tennis racquets online and attached a note to each, which said, "When you see a kiss, raise this!"
Bobbette & Belle baked the intricately-designed vanilla sponge cake with jam and buttercream filling—"which happens to be my absolute favorite," says Matthew. The confection sat atop a table the couple have in their home.
After indulging in the sweet treat, the newlyweds danced to "The Best Is Yet to Come" by Frank Sinatra.
As a nod to the couple's love of tennis, the cake was adorned with a with a tennis racquet cake topper. "That was something we had to do! We have it saved to this day," says Stephanie.
The Getaway Car
Guests enjoyed a British-themed after-party following the reception. As the night drew to a close around 1 A.M., the couple rode away in a Rolls Royce from A Roll's Choice. "Stephanie and I both like our cars, so the drive home had to be special," says Matthew. "There was no better way to finish a British-themed after-party than to be driven home in a classic 1949 Rolls Royce. It was the perfect way to cap the best day of our lives."
They drove off into the start of their happily ever after—taking a honeymoon a few months later to Australia, and then rounding out their first year of wedded bliss by gathering about 85 guests back together for a one-year anniversary party.
Photography, When He Found Her
Event production and design, Lisa Vorce Co.
Event planning, catering, rentals, lighting, audio and visual, valet, décor: Eatertainment Events & Catering
Flowers, Sweet Woodruff Floral & Event Studio
Cake, Bobbette & Belle
Rentals, La Tavola (linen)
Bride's gown and weil, Angelo Lambrou
Bride's Shoes, Jimmy Choo
Hair and makeup, Covet CO (Corrie Elle)
Bridesmaids' dresses, Jenny Yoo
Groom's suit, Isaia
Menswear, Moores Clothing
Bridal Stylist, Maradee Wahl
Vendor travel and accommodations, Life:Styled Group