Classic, elegant, and super cool (their reception was at the Royal Ontario Museum! Pictures in the dinosaur exhibit!), Marika and Graeme’s day was a full-throated celebration of the couple. Graeme has wholeheartedly embraced Marika’s Ukrainian culture, and thus it played an important role in their day. Their ceremony was held at her Ukrainian Catholic church in Etobicoke, during which they were tied by the hands and walked around the church together as an equal couple (how beautiful is that?!). Then, during their reception, there was a great Ukrainian band, a veil dance symbolizing Marika’s entrance into married life, and a group toast with a cheer and a vodka shot.
Marika’s journey to find the right dress was not unlike her proposal story—it was something of an adventure with a wonderful ending! She met our Astrid & Mercedes Harmony gown (with our amazing flagship store manager Vanessa’s help) in her inbox.
Get the scoop on her scavenger hunt proposal, how she found the right dress, and more from Marika, who danced with Graeme to “Rest of Our Life” by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill:
How did you guys meet?
“Graeme and I met at Carleton University in Ottawa, where we both attended undergrad. We met through mutual friends and attending similar social events like Frosh week volunteering, community events and as fraternity and sorority members. Our friendship became something more when I fished for an invite to his winter formal, and the rest is history.”
How did you know Graeme was “the one”?
“We’ll be celebrating our 10th anniversary together this January, so it feels like we’ve always known. We did two bouts of long-distance (one year from Toronto to Ottawa, and later, four from Toronto to New York). I think that first stint really solidified that we didn’t want to know what life was like without the other person by our side experiencing it and that if we did venture, it would be together as a pair for life.”
How did your sweetie propose?
“Graeme is a man of gestures, both big and small. While I would’ve said yes a thousand times over to a simple proposal, I had a feeling he would pull out all the stops—and he did. Graeme set up a scavenger hunt through our favourite Toronto spots; restaurants, concert venues, and parks we’d come to love as a couple throughout our long relationship. At the end of the scavenger hunt, he was waiting on a rocky outcropping on Lake Ontario with a view of the city behind him. And to top it all off, he had a video crew following both of us around, so we have a special memory that we can look back on whenever we want to remember that special day. It was perfect.”
How did you choose your gown?
“Lea-Ann Belter was the second boutique I visited in my quest to find my dream dress. I had an idea of what I wanted but enjoyed the whole shopping experience so much that I was trying on anything and everything I laid eyes on. I was struck by LAB’s simple, understated elegance, and absolutely charmed by Vanessa. She made the appointment so fun and became instrumental in a ploy to ask my bridesmaids to stand with me on my second visit back. Throughout the few months of searching, I had found one gown at another boutique that I loved but was struggling with because I so badly wanted to work with Vanessa. I sent her a picture and asked if we could make something work with another gown I loved at LAB. She came back with Harmony, which hadn’t yet launched in the boutique—she had helped the perfect dress find me; it was my ideal mix of elegant, playful, modern and me. I was sold just seeing it in my inbox. Vanessa went to great effort to help me incorporate using my mother’s veil for a portion of the night and sewing in a keepsake dedicated to my late grandmother, making it extra special. It honestly wasn’t what I expected to pick, which made it all the more amazing every time I got to try it on after saying yes.”
Tell us about your day!
“Graeme and I tied the knot on October 19, 2019, at my Ukrainian Catholic Church in Etobicoke. Graeme has really adopted my Ukrainian culture, so we wanted a traditional ceremony to fulfill not just our wishes, but to give our guests the experience of something very unique and special. Many elements are different in a Ukranian ceremony—we are crowned with fresh greenery, tied by the hands and walk around the church together as an equal couple. We loved every moment.
The reception was at the Royal Ontario Museum, with cocktails under the dinosaur. Graeme was the genius behind this venue choice, having crushed on it years before he proposed as “the coolest place we could get married.” He was right. With the incomparable expertise of Melissa Samborski of One Fine Day Events, our classic, understated elegance theme of golds, blacks, and dark greens brought a certain warmth to a sunny, crisp fall day. We chose a sweetheart table to have quiet, shared moments together, hired an amazing Ukrainian band to kick off the party, and participated in several Ukrainian traditions including a solo-filled circular dance, a veil dance symbolizing my entrance into married life, and a group toast with a cheer and a vodka shot. Our guests are still telling us what an amazing experience was to be exposed to such a beautiful culture, and we couldn’t have imagined a better time dancing the night away with our nearest and dearest.”
One detail you couldn’t live without?
“Good food. We consider ourselves foodies…and by that, I mean we really like to eat. It was a non-starter that the meal be spectacular for both us and our guests. L’Eat Catering ensured that it was!”
Describe your wedding day in 5 words or fewer:
“Emotional, unique, stress-free, elegant and SO MUCH FUN!”
What was the funniest moment of your day?
“Our priest has been a part of our family since the day I was born—he literally baptized me—so he jokes around with me quite a bit. It was sobering to see him so serious during our wedding rehearsal and ceremony, which, of course, the occasion called for. But in the middle of our second reading, moments after saying, “Let us be attentive,” he pulled out his cell phone and said, “Smile! This is for Facebook!” and snapped a photo of us. We were stunned into laughter, and so was the congregation. And yes, it went straight on the church’s public Facebook page.”
What was your something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue?
“Old: my maternal grandmother’s diamond bracelet
New: my dress
Borrowed: my paternal grandmother’s earrings, lent to me by my cousin who wore them at her wedding
Blue: a custom-made tartan from the Douglas clan, the Scottish side of my ancestry.”
Three words that best describe Graeme:
“Thoughtful, ambitious, supportive (and I have to tack on a bonus for handsome!)”
Where did you go on your honeymoon?
“South Africa. We visited Johannesburg, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe/Zambia, Cape Town, the Winelands and did a safari on a private game reserve near Kruger Park. It was the trip of a lifetime.”
Any advice for future brides/grooms?
“It’s true what they say: don’t sweat the small things, because no one notices them anyway. The day can go by fast, but you can definitely soak it all in by taking moments for just the two of you. Sometimes your family knows best, and other times they don’t—it’s a compromise but it’s also your special day. Remember that it’s a big party, so have fun! It will absolutely be the best day of your life because you are marrying the person you love most in front of the people who love you the most.”
Marika + Graeme’s Royal Ontario Museum Wedding Vendors
wedding dress: Astrid & Mercedes Harmony via the flagship Toronto bridal boutique | photographer: Maple Tree Films | planner: Events by One Fine Day | venue: Royal Ontario Museum | groom’s tux: Garrison Bespoke | bridesmaid dresses: White Toronto | food: L-eat Catering | cake: Bobbette and Belle | florals: Pink Twig | signage: Jacquie Stone Designs | makeup: Fancy Face Inc. | hair: Prema Garraway | invitations: Ptashka / Paper Ideas | band: Zirka