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Love Always: An Elegant Wedding at Hycroft

Love Always: An Elegant Wedding at Hycroft

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For Michelle Theam and Winston Ying, studying really does pay off.

It was 2005 and the two were medical students at the University of Calgary. Thrown together as two members of a five-person study group, they became fast friends. "We always got along really well and liked the same things," explains Winston. But love wasn't in the cards quite yet. Romance entered the picture a year later, a natural turn of events for the pair who had spent countless hours studying, walking their dogs, laughing and enjoying good food together.

Of course, working hard also meant playing hard. Over the next few years, Michelle and Winston indulged in their shared love of travel with trips to South East Asia and Hawaii during school breaks. After they graduated in 2008, Michelle was accepted into a residency program in Calgary, while Winston moved to Edmonton for his. For the next year-and-a-half, the two became well-acquainted with the 300-kilometre stretch of road between them.

Winston knew in 2008 that he wanted to propose, but it took him a year to find the right ring and perfect time. On November 27, 2009, the couple set up their first Christmas tree together at their Edmonton home, draping the last of the twinkle lights in place. Then a nervous Winston got down on one knee, proposed... and placed the ring on the wrong hand. They laugh at the memory. "I whispered, 'it's the left hand,'" say Michelle. "It was very sweet, very nice, low-key."

Vancouver has always been a favourite haunt so it was an easy choice for a destination wedding locale. The couple envisioned a modern, yet vintage-style garden party that was casual but also had a feeling of old-world formality. Vancouver's Hycroft fit the bill, its stately charm and wide veranda would work perfectly for their long table reception of 90 guests. They opted for family-style food service, a communal set up in which heaping platters and bowls of food are placed on the table for guests to pass along. "The goal of the wedding was for our friends and family to come together and enjoy a good meal with us," explains Michelle.

With the help of Jordan Maxey of Fairy Godmother Weddings, Winston and Michelle found planning a destination wedding quite easy. "People have asked us if it was stressful planning in Vancouver from Edmonton," says Michelle, "but we found that planning from afar and then going to visit meant we just had to make decisions then and there and couldn't linger over them."

September 10, 2010 arrived. The bride and her entourage prepared for the wedding at a private home, a vacation rental found on www.suiteliving.ca. The groom and his groomsmen prepared at the Sheraton in downtown Vancouver. That morning, a delivery of a dozen roses arrived at the house, a surprise wedding day gift from groom to bride. "It was so sweet. That really started the day for me," Michelle reminisces.

At Hycroft, Winston and Michelle first served tea to their elders in a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. Then it was time for the garden service. The weather was overcast as a Musical Occasions string quartet serenaded the bridesmaids along. Then, gloriously, the sun came out just as Michelle walked down the aisle. The ceremony was appropriately solemn, that is, until officiant Brent Sheppard noticed Winston sweating profusely after the vows. Reaching out to wipe the groom's forehead with a tissue, he commented, "Winston, you can relax now!" The couple laugh as they recall the moment.

The kiss that sealed the couple as husband wife marked another comic moment. As they leaned in, they realized Winston hadn't lifted Michelle's veil. "We had a good laugh over that," says Michelle. "It's very much a Winston-and-I move, very dorky!"

Friends and family milled about in the garden during cocktail hour, nibbling canapes and sharing congratulatory hugs and well-wishes with the couple. At the reception, everyone sat at one long table laid with cornflower blue linen and set with vintage-style silver vases of pink, coral and cream florals. Platters of lobster mac'n'cheese, bocconcini-crusted wild salmon and rosamary-and-garlic-rubbed lamb were shared; guests ate heartily, talked, and laughed. As the sun set, Michelle remembers looking out at everyone. "Despite it being a chilly late summer evening, I felt so warm and loved. It was surreal, and a feeling I will never forget."

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