Vancouver Wedding Story: A Surprise Ceremony in Stanley Park
A fake engagement party this past June gave guests a night to remember.
December 29, 2017
When Christina Disler, founder of Werklab, and Eric Ander, founder of Pacific NorthWest Lumber, decided to get married, they had already bought a house and done what Ander describes as, “the permanent type stuff”…but the idea of a wedding had long caused some hesitation from the couple.
“The big thing that was stopping me from proposing was all of the hoopla and pressures of planning a normal wedding,” says Ander. He was stressed by the idea of 18-months of planning and choosing things like floral arrangements. And Disler wanted to celebrate their union in a way that defied expectations. “All I wanted was that people weren’t walking into our experience being like, ‘This is a wedding. This is what I can expect.’”
So when Disler suggested the idea of eloping, Eric was “all over that,” he recalls. But the couple still wanted to be able to share their wedding with family and friends. “Then it kind of turned from eloping to a surprise wedding, which I was really on board for, because I thought that sounded really cool. I love to trick people.”
A surprise wedding allowed Disler and Ander to plan on their own terms without interference. “I didn’t do a bachelorette, I didn’t have bridesmaids, I didn’t have a bridal shower, I didn’t have expectations of others,” says Disler. “It was all about what mattered, which is Eric and my union and a true celebration.”
The only people who were in on the secret were Disler’s parents and sister, whom she wanted to make sure could fly in from Europe for the special day. Everyone else, including Ander’s dad (he was worried he’d spill the secret) were left in the dark. “If Eric and I were willing to elope with no one there, then all that matters is him and I,” says Disler. “And then everyone who joins is just like the icing on top of the cake.”
Disler got to work planning and enlisted Erin Bishop, owner of Filosophi Event Planning (and winner of a 2017 BC Professional Wedding Award—for this wedding, no less) to help sort out some of the details. The bride had a clear vision of what she wanted (nothing traditional like a wedding cake) and there were only three things that mattered to Ander: a White Spot food truck, a view of the ocean and a good band. But above all else, it was the element of surprise that the couple most cared about: “I wanted people to be completely shocked,” says Disler, “It was raw and authentic, and they were present and just so full of excitement.”
Read on to see how they pulled it all off.
On Thursday, June 22, 2017, (“Thursday nights are fun,” says Disler) the couple’s friends and family gathered at the Teahouse in Stanley Park for what an online Paperless Post invitation described as an engagement party. And since Ander and Disler got engaged only two-and-a-half months earlier, the “engagement party” e-invites were even more believable.
The couple spent a relaxing afternoon together, getting ready for the night ahead. Disler arrived wearing a white Halston Heritage jumpsuit so no one would suspect anything and they casually mingled with guests at a cocktail-style party with no assigned seating.
After an hour, Disler snuck inside to change into her Theia gown, while Ander gathered the guest for a toast—and to drop the big news: “I was just trying not to screw up and to convey the message clearly so people knew what was going on,” he says. The guests went crazy. “There were waves of eruption,” adds Disler.
A few minutes later, guests were gathered around an outdoor aisle with some strategically placed lounge furniture for immediate family and close friends to sit on. “It was so special,” she says.
Michele Davidson from Modern Celebrant officiated the ceremony in front of 180 guests as the couple exchanged vows, one of the most important parts of the day for Disler: “It was the only thing to me that was like a wedding,” she says. “They really honoured the love we have for each other.”
Adding to the magic was an ocean backdrop and a view of Bowen Island, where Ander grew up. “That was really cool to me,” says the groom.
While the couple snuck away after the ceremony for photos, food and drinks continued to be served from the Teahouse restaurant. They even convinced the owner, family friend Brent Davies, to let them have an outdoor bar with a special service for the bride’s favourite drink, Aperol Spritz. “If we run out of Aperol, it’s game over,” jokes Disler.
But the biggest crowd pleaser was the late-night snacks from a White Spot food truck, which Ander wasn’t certain was going to arrive. “I only had one job, and that was to coordinate the food truck,” recalls the groom. “I woke up the day of thinking I screwed up my one plan and that everyone was going to go hungry, but that wasn’t the case. It all came through.”
The team at Filosophi created a New York-inspired industrial/bohemian loft vibe by incorporating candles, plush seating and lots of greenery from Our Little Flower Company. Disler wanted a lush, romantic feel so she asked for greenery rather than traditional floral arrangments.
The bride and groom added personality throughout with decorations from Cahoots Creative Happenings, putting up signs with cheeky messages like, “Is it even a party without spirits?” and “For the narcissists we love” (the latter of which was placed outside the selfie station, of course).
Disler and Ander were determined not to hire a typical wedding band. “I’m so against wedding bands or event bands. They’re good, but they’re just like every other corporate party,” says Disler. Instead, they had a local indie-soul band play music: “The Boom Booms were so f**king awesome.”
Wedding Day Details:
Planning and Coordination: Erin Bishop, Filosophi Event Planning
Photography: Shari and Mike Photographers
Videography: Hello Tomorrow Films
Venue: The Teahouse in Stanley Park
Decor: Cahoots Creative Happenings
Bride’s Dress: Theia (purchased from Rituals of Love)
Bride’s Jumpsuit: Halston Heritage
Groom’s Suit: Custom by Andy Yuen
Hair and Makeup: Denise Elliot Beauty Co.
Invitations: Paperless Post
Flowers: Our Little Flower Company
Catering: The Teahouse in Stanley Park Restaurant and a White Spot food truck
Music: Jody Okabe (cocktail party and ceremony), The Boom Booms (reception)
Officiant: Michele Davidson, Modern Celebrant