Vancouver Wedding Story: A Backyard Dinner and Dance Party

Fun and casual were the words we were thinking about.”

August 21, 2018

By Dominika Lirette / Photo: Brett Burns

When grooms Michael Harris and Kenny Park decided to get married in Michael’s parents’ backyard, they didn’t expect it to be so much work. “A Backyard wedding sounds casual, right?” asks Harris, a Vancouver-based writer whose book, The End of Absence, won the Governor-General’s Literary Award for nonfiction. “But, when we got into it, we realized it would have been a lot easier to just rent a hall.” The challenge was making the backyard space work for a ceremony, as well as a dining area plus bar, and accommodate a dance floor – but they did it. “At the end of the day we were pretty happy that it was there,” says Harris.

“I just wanted it to be a big party,” adds Park, a storyboard artist and illustrator. For him, bringing in a dance floor was especially important. “Knowing my friends and family, we all love dancing and we love music, so I knew it was going to be a big part of what would make the night special,” says Park. And in the end, it was a hit – even for Harris who doesn’t enjoy dancing as much. “Michael ended up being so taken by the moment, he was on the dance floor and having a great time.”

To bring their backyard vision to life, the couple enlisted the help of planner Christina Sobrepena for day-of coordination, who Harris says saved the day more than once: “We would have had a woefully under-stocked bar without her.” They also hired servers to pour drinks from a self-made bar, and serve dinner from a Tacofino food truck, as well as hired DJ Diz to spin beats all night long. “We both said after the fact, we were deeply surprised at how much fun it was,” says Harris.

Having a good time was key for both Harris and Park, who capped their guest list at 130. “It was important to us to throw the party, because we wanted to give something to our friends and family,” says Harris. “It was important for us too, because we grew up in a world where [gay marriage] wasn’t legal. There was something a bit special for us, being able to stand in front of all of the people we love.”

Read on to learn more about Michael and Kenny’s wedding day (spoiler alert: their wedding rings appeared in a RING OF FIRE).

Both grooms wore suits from J. Crew (Harris left, Park right).
In lieu of a ring bearer, Park’s dad made the wedding rings appear with fire.

Ring of fire: Before everyone gathered for the ceremony, Park’s dad (an amateur magician) presented the rings by performing a magic trick. “He insisted on it,” says Park. “It was really impressive, because before that, I had only seen my dad do really awful magic tricks.” Wearing a flame retardant glove, Park’s dad made the rings appear in a ball of fire.

Both of the grooms’ rings were made from gold donated by their mothers from their personal jewellery collections. “We wanted to have something that felt a bit more sentimental, or connected to our past,” says Harris. The grooms had the gold melted and turned into rings by a goldsmith at Forge and Form on Granville Island.

“Kenny was totally relaxed. I had a spike of anxiety as the ceremony was beginning. The moment the vows were finished, I just felt high from that point onward,” says Harris.
Park invited a close group of 20 friends from his Brunch Club.

Memorable gifts: After the ceremony, Harris and Park took 10 minutes in a bedroom upstairs to recharge. Harris’ brothers surprised them by putting an apple photo book in the bedroom that had photos of both of the grooms growing up, complete with a made-up narrative of how they were destined to be since they were kids.

The next day, Park’s group of friends, known as the Brunch Club, presented the couple with their own photo book – a photo series of 20 self-made portraits of the couple, complete with ‘pretentious’ French names (as every serious artist does). “They were hilarious, they were so funny and super creative,” says Park. One portrait was made out of coffee grounds, while another was cross-stitched.

Both grooms love Tacofino – and it was economical. “We didn’t want to blow our budget on fancy caterers,” says Harris.
“It was sort of like a croquet game meets backyard party,” says Harris when describing the aesthetic.

Favourite moments: For Harris, the speeches stood out the most: “Listening to some of our best friends have a chance to speak from the heart in a way that we don’t often make space for that.”

Meanwhile, Park loved the dance floor. “The dance floor was really, really fun,” he say.  All of the kids were grooving within minutes, whipping out moves like the worm and showing off their mad flossing skills. 

The couple’s first dance was to the 1962 song “Happy Days Are Here Again.”

Most Surprising: How fun it was! “After months and months of planning, it actually was a good time – not just this stress case on the day of,” says Harris.

Wedding Day Details:

Guests: 130
Budget: $25,000
Planner: Christina Sobrepena
Photographer: Brett Burns
Venue: Backyard at Michael’s parents’ house
Decor: By the grooms
Grooms’ suits: J. Crew
Table Flowers: Purchased at United Floral and arranged by the grooms in mason jars
Boutineers: Balconi Floral Design Studio
Catering: Dinner by Tacofino; appetizers and desserts by friends and family
Cake: The Uncommon Cake
Music: Tony Do (DJ Diz)
Officiant: Paula Cline
Tents: Apex
Servers/Bartenders: Bartendo
Rings: Forge & Form (made from gold donated by both mothers)

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