When Jeneah and Shaundra asked me to be their Kelowna wedding photographer, COVID has us thinking it was going to be just them and their five daughters at Knox Mountain–a favourite location for the family. Considering how busy the household is with five girls, I encouraged them to get a wedding planner. They hired the amazing Michelle Goodwin, and even though the wedding was in her capable hands, there was still a ton to think about because… FIVE GIRLS! A PANDEMIC! But I’ll let Jeneah and Shaundra take it from here…
Planning a wedding during a pandemic came with so many extra stresses! We got engaged in December and decided we were getting married in the spring or summer of 2021 no matter what. We had known for a while that we were each other’s “person” and didn’t want to wait any longer to make it official. After exchanging engagement rings, the first people we told were our five daughters (aged 9-17), who we asked to be our bridesmaids. Their reaction was so fun; they were all so happy and excited. They literally couldn’t stop vibrating as they peppered us with questions about what they’d wear, what their duties were, and everything else…including if they could throw us a stagette with strippers….the answer was a hard “NO!!”
When we told my sister, who lives in Toronto, that we were planning a spring wedding, she said “Oh! This spring?? Oh wow!” We knew that it would be a long shot for her and a lot of our other family to feel safe travelling to Kelowna so we set a date for the end of the summer in hopes that the public health situation would be significantly improved by then.
We shopped for our dresses together. Dress shopping is something that one of us enjoys more than the other, but … we happened to get a last-minute appointment at Ashbury Bridal Couture (@ashburybridal), and Shiloh stunned us by bringing out perfect dresses for each of us on her first try.
One of Jeneah’s biggest stresses was finding a photographer that would feel comfortable and not be awkward shooting a same sex wedding. We didn’t want someone who would put us into hetero-normative poses or make things feel weird. She combed through dozens of photographers’ portfolios until she came across Bobbi Barbarich’s (@barbarichphoto). Her images immediately captured our attention with their emotion, humour, and beauty. When we had a virtual meeting with her and asked her how she felt about a same sex wedding she said “First of all, I’m so sad that you even had to ask that. Second, hell yes!”
As our wedding date neared, the pandemic improved dramatically, and our hopes lifted. Family members made travel plans. We were so excited! Then the forest fires began. We were told by the city that we couldn’t have our ceremony in Knox Mountain Park because of the extreme fire hazard. Our amazing wedding planners, Michelle Goodwin and Melissa Lafferty (@michellegoodwinweddings), were so calm and reassuring throughout the entire process of pivoting our ceremony location to our own backyard. We seriously would have been a mess without them!
A couple of weeks before the wedding we were feeling relatively ok about having our ceremony in our yard and then the pandemic took a turn for the worse. Michelle and Melissa again took everything in stride and worked with the fantastic Melissa Dinwoodie at Rustic Reel (@rusticreel) to create the perfect plan for our reception that would work with all the new health orders.
As our house filled with family, we got more and more excited (and nervous). There were some very important people missing because a lot of family lives in the US and they hadn’t been able to make travelling across the border work. But we had all five of our kids, both of our sisters, both of our moms, Jeneah’s dad, and so many other wonderful loved ones around us and we were really in disbelief that it was all happening!
The morning of the wedding our house became an impromptu beauty parlour. Tamara from Blue Dahlia set up her hair station in the dining room and Rieko from Kelsey Brynn Artistry (@kelseybrynnartistry) set up her makeup chair in the living room. It was so perfect having everything done in our house because all seven of us could rotate through the stations without having to run around town to make it all happen. Our wonderful sisters, parents, aunties, and cousins buzzed around the house making food while we got beautified.
As our ceremony guests arrived, we hid ourselves in the basement with our beautiful bridesmaids until it was time to reveal ourselves. The kids played an intense game of pool while we did final hair and makeup touch-ups and organized our beautiful bouquets from Funky Petals (@funkypetalskelowna).
Remarkably, the smoke had cleared from the air on our wedding day. We had a few sprinkles of rain come down during the ceremony led by Bonny Thorne (@harvestingwhatmatters), but our guests all said that by some strange weather fluke they could see rain falling on the street and our neighbours houses but our yard was staying dry and even had a few sunbeams shining down on us. So many people told us that it was a truly magical scene as we made our vows to each other and exchanged rings.
We were happy that we were able to go with our Kelowna wedding photographer, Bobbi Barbarich, to one of our favourite lookout spots on Knox Mountain Park to do some photos!
Our reception at Rustic Reel was absolutely perfect! The food was beyond incredible and there was so much of it! People are still raving about the short ribs! Huge kudos to Chef Jeff for a delicious menu. The roasted vegetables, the salads, the potatoes, it was all so good! The mismatched dishware suited our style perfectly and looked fantastic with the rustic wooden tables. Their in-house baker, Liam did a wonderful job creating our cake and decorating it with more blooms from Funky Petals. We were so happy that it worked out for us to be outside on the front patio of the tap house. We can’t say enough about what a pleasure it was to work with Melissa and all the RR staff. They were all so welcoming and accommodating and made sure that everything was completely perfect for us!
We had our first dance to Taylor Swift’s “Lover” which Jeneah’s awesome cousin, Ben, edited a bit for us. We did our first family dance with our kids to Abba’s “Dancing Queen” because the movie Mama Mia is a big hit in our house. We thought it would be too long and were planning to break partway through the song to pull other family members up to dance but we ended up having so much fun dancing together as a family of seven that we stayed on the dance floor together for pretty much the rest of the night.
Our day was truly beautiful and beyond anything we had hoped for, thanks to all our amazing vendors and our wonderful family and friends who surrounded us with love and support.