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Family Matters: An Intimate Wedding

Family Matters: An Intimate Wedding

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University is often a place where people go to find themselves. But Paul Zaremba, 27, and Lauren O'Rourke, 26, not only found themselves, they 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 don't often overlap, Luaren and Paul's paths somehow kept crossing. Before long, acquiantance turned into attraction and Paul asked Lauren out on a first date, a casual meeting at Nick's Spaghetti House. By then, an ease and playfulness already existed between the co-eds, 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 her teaching degree, while Paul—who had graduated with a commerce degree—was running several North Vancouver Tim Horton's locations 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 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 historical 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 the window, Paul knew it was the right moment. On the pretense of taking Lauren's picture, he did so, then handed her the camera to look at the result. As she did, 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 her wedding planning. "I was buying up all the wedding magazines at the airport," she remembers. Once back on Canadian soil, she enlisted the help of Vancouver wedding planners, Filosophi Events to help her get organized.

Lauren and Paul quickly agreed on an intimate spring wedding, celebrating with only family and close friends. For them, the most important part of their wedding was to commemorate the occasion with those they loved.

As for decor, they chose a classic romantic feel, a "vintage elegance meets Midsummer Night's Dream", in Lauren's words. They found old-world ambience at Hycroft, a beautifully-restored Edwardian-era mansion in Vancouver's tony Shaughnessy area.

With Hycroft secured for both the wedding and reception, Paul and Lauren turned their attention to the 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 of 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.

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 barber shop visit on the morning of his own wedding. The entire bridal party 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 reception 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 Lair—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 SideOne band 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. Everyone agreed that the Ukrainian station with perogies and kielbasa sausage was the best—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 geusts 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. Paul and Lauren drove off into their new life together, hearts full of love for each other, and for all the cherished family and friends who had made their day so meaningful.

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