pre cele poseThe offbeat bride: Vania Sukola, social worker

My offbeat groom: Joel, PhD history candidate student

Location & date of wedding: July 20, 2006, Toronto Island Algonquin Island Association, Toronto, Ontario

What made our wedding offbeat: I didn't want to get married ever — while I am committed to my partner, I just didn't like the politics that went with being married, and especially cringe with traditional weddings where people just do things without knowing the historical context. So, when we decided to do something to honour our relationship, we decided to have a “celebration.” This word was what we used to describe our special day and we wanted to use it as a way to help people realize we were not going to have a “wedding.”

Our Only Real Cele PhotoI wore a blue vintage dress, didn't have bridesmaids, and we had a complete vegetarian meal. I also had close girlfriends and female family members each buy a single flower that they would give to Joel and I — this would make up my bouquet.


Also, we had everyone sit in a circle instead of in rows. As we did not get officially married at our celebration, we had a friend act as our “facilitator.” We said our own commitments, and wrote a community manifesto that our friends and family had to say to us.

Saying our Commitments Singing the Menno Hymn

For dinner, we sat in long tables, but instead of having table numbers (we originally wanted everyone to just sit where they wanted but that was vetoed by our parents), we picked 13 key role models and heroes in our lives to act as table markers. For instance, Mary Wollstonecraft who is named as the first feminist, is one of my heroes. So, if people wanted us to kiss, they had to ask a skill-testing question about the person whose table they were sitting at.


Another fun thing is, instead of a guest book, we bought canvas fabric and cut it into squares, so people could decorate a quilt square for me. I love making crafts and I thought this would be a great way to have our friends/family's words as a keepsake.

Trina Dancing

Finally, for the reception, we had my sister and close friends do a dance performance for us all. Dance is a big part of my life and I was really happy to incorporate this into the day. We even had them teach us salsa!

Our biggest challenge: Since we didn't want this to feel like a real wedding, we had challenges with other people understanding this — both from our caterer, to friends, and most of all family.

flower arrangement

For instance, I didn't want to go to a florist and order hundreds of dollars of flowers, but my mom couldn't wrap her head around it. She felt that I should have ordered the bouquets from a specialist. The day before my day, I went to a local flower market and spent $170 on flowers and did the arrangement myself. Her thing was that her friends and people in her life kept asking her what flowers I was using, what food I'd be having, what this, what that, etc. and since she didn't know the answers to this, she felt like I was not including her enough.

In the end, the 6 months prior to my day was strained with my mom, as we never really got to see eye to eye. I know I hurt her and I'm sorry for that, but she also clearly didn't understand what I wanted, and in part, who I am.

I kept saying that I wasn't focusing on all those things and I wanted to make it as casual as possible. She was helping me a lot, but I guess it wasn't how she pictured helping her daughter “get married” would be like. In the end, the six months prior to my day was strained with my mom, as we never really got to see eye to eye. I know I hurt her and I'm sorry for that, but she also clearly didn't understand what I wanted, and in part, who I am.

Now things are better, and we talked about it, but I think we both came out from that stronger … even though we don't really talk about my special day anymore.

to sunsetMy favorite moment: I loved watching our family and friends spend the day together. Our venue was a lovely and quaint hall that had the most beautiful lawn that looked at the city of Toronto. For most of the day, we were outside and people would gather together and talk to new friends. My parents met some of my close friends for the first time, and some of our friends have made new friends at this day. It was lovely to see them eat dessert, chat, and watch the sun set behind the CN tower.

Our Dessert Buffet

One other thing was the bonds I made with some community stores and merchants while preparing for the day. I am close to some store owners (for instance, someone who was helping me find the perfect blue dress became a good friend) and feel even closer to my city.

Our DanceMy offbeat advice: Make it your day — yes, that should go without saying but make it what you want it to be. Yes, family and friends' input is important, and they can provide a lot of support, but it really comes down to who you are. Weddings and other celebrations are the best way to tell everyone who you love who you really are. Start including them in the process months early, or at least before the day, so that no one can be truly surprised about what happens, and you can explain why you chose things. My mom loved my choice of wearing blue, but I told her about it a year before I bought the dress. She even helped me shop for it.

Also, some advice I got from a friend was decide what your priorities are — what you will not budge on (i.e. for me this was to be a completely vegetarian meal) and other things you can compromise on (.i.e table arrangements). That way, you are happy and don't add unnecessary stress to your special day.

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn:

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Comments on Vania & Joe’s crafty, vegan, island “commitment celebration”

  1. I loved your story & celebration. My love & I really loved your ideas & we think what made your story beautiful to us was that it was personal to you & that was obviously important to you both.

  2. Your veggie wedding and others' has really given me the courage to not give in to the carnivores! What to go!

  3. I experienced similar confusion and questions from my local friends and family about 6 years ago when my boyfriend (at the time) and I had a traditional handfasting (a pagan commitment ceremony). The specific purpose of a traditional handfasting is to allow a couple to “test” married life before making the step to have a life-long commitment. This included sharing a home and finances for 366 days. At the end of that time, we were to decide if we were going to get married, split, or take another year to try things out. Most of my friends and family didn’t understand this process, why we had to have a ceremony (complete with vows and jewelry exchange), or what it all meant. We did our best to explain everything, especially to our parents, but ultimately ended with just about as much confusion as we started with. Nonetheless, we were both glad that we did that, especially because it gave us the opportunity to see that we were not meant to get married.

    By contrast, my FH and I opted out of a traditional handfasting, but will be incorporating the handbinding into our wedding.

  4. You make me laugh because it would appear I have unwittingly copied your wedding! We are doing a quaker circle with no officiant, lawn games, kegs, flowers from produce junction the morning of, friends with geetars, e-invitations, no wedding party, flip flops. We too have had difficulty getting people to understand what we are doing. we are calling it a family “pre-union” oh and a wedding 🙂

  5. Great wedding. I am going to get married on that same venue, how many guests did you have and was it crowded?

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