Photography by Buffy Goodman
When Grace and Steve Poplawski first met in Grade 10 at St. Francis Xavier High School, there was a hint of fireworks between them – mostly in the form of hurled insults from across the room.
It seems that teenagers have funny ways of showing their affection because, 16 years later, there were literal fireworks at their wedding. But it took Steve two attempts at proposing to Grace before the spectacle could begin.
Steve had first planned to propose to Grace after a romantic hike in Banff National Park. The couple had been dating for eight years and Grace, suspecting a ring, made sure she dressed up, heels and all, for their amorous and chilly hike. Did I mention it was January?
“You can imagine how shocked I was when I found myself sitting at the bottom of our first hike and realized that Steve actually expected me to climb it in minus-15 degrees weather,” says Grace. Well, hike they did, until Grace’s high heels betrayed her. She fell on her wrist and they ended the adventure before she saw the rocks Steve had set out earlier spelling “Grace and Steve Forever,” visible only from the highest point of the hike.
While Steve wasn’t able to pop the question that first time, the second attempt was a success. Grace was headed to a gala and leaving their apartment to meet her friend outside, but when she stepped into the lobby, Steve’s best friend was there instead. He showed her to a limo, where she was driven to the top of Gallagher Hill while she was show a video on an iPod that Steve made about their relationship. Steve awaited her at the top of the hill, and she accepted his proposal.
On August 21, 2010, the couple exchanged their vows in a lake-themed wedding before 100 family members and friends. The ceremony took place about 90 minutes south of Edmonton in a small church in Bentley. Grace’s grandfather had been one of the founding parishioners.
The bride wore a romantic Pattis gown with delicate, pleated organza straps, a fitted lace bodice and textured, crushed-tulle train with tulle rosettes and lace. “I wanted a dress that would complement the cozy venue of a small country church,” she says.
Her grandmother, Grace Morrisroe, also the matron of honour, wore a custom-made turquoise dress by Edmonton designer Tammy Luu. In fact, the bride left the official wedding colour up to her grandmother. “I remember telling her that as long as she was willing to be my matron of honour, she could wear whatever colour and style of dress she wanted,” says Grace. “She chose turquoise, which was perfect for the lake theme.”
“I love all the time and effort Grace puts into nurturing her relationships with family, friends, and especially me,” says Steve. “Grace goes out of her way to make others feel special.”
Turquoise turned out to be the right colour for the wedding. The shade popped on the couple’s letter-pressed invitations, programs, place cards, menus and thank-you cards, all of which featured a watercolour picture that Grace had painted of her and Steve sitting on a dock at Sylvan Lake. And, not only did they decorate the reception with the watery hue – and give away custom bags of turquoise popcorn and bottles of the same coloured Jones Soda, relabelled “Poplawski Soda Pop” – the newlyweds used Grace’s turquoise 2002 Mazda Miata as their post-ceremony getaway car. They stayed true to their colours even during the photo shoot, when they stopped into an ice cream shop and opted for bubblegum flavour.
They hired local florist Nathan Graham of Graham and Lane Florists to design the bouquets and arrangements using a combination of simple white and ivory flowers – gardenias, hydrangeas, lilies, dendrobium orchids and roses. Adding white anthuriums (a waxy heart-shaped flower) to the reception table arrangements upped the ambience at the lake venue, which was Grace’s parents’ lakeside home, located about a 20-minute drive from the church.
As guests waited at the lakeshore reception with bubble blowers for the newlyweds to arrive by boat, they were treated to a signature wedding cocktail called the Sylvan Sunset (a thirst-quencher made with champagne, Aliz Red Passion and a raspberry garnish) while ’70s disco and surf rock played. Their entrance was followed by the usual mirth, a dinner by Sawmill Catering and cupcakes made by the newlyweds’ mothers.
And, that brings us back to the fireworks. Two of Grace’s three brothers, Steven and Anthony Reid, surprised guests with a 15-minute fireworks display, choreographed to music from Fantasia. Everyone wore 3-D glasses, but only Grace and Steve got first-class seating on a specially placed bench.
Afterwards, “the dance was such a success that my dad ordered an extra shuttle because guests didn’t want to leave,” says Grace.
“At the end of the night, I remember feeling that I didn’t want the evening to end,” says Steve.
But Grace’s favourite moment happened when Steve placed on her finger a 14-karat white-gold wedding band with 10 diamonds. It was her grandmother’s 60-year anniversary band, and a month before the wedding, she took if off and offered it to Grace.
“She told me that she hoped it would bring the 63 years of marital bliss that she had shared with my grandfather,” says Grace.
Looking back at their first year of marriage, Steve describes it as an adventure. They travelled to Africa for their honeymoon and lived in Calgary, Victoria and now California, where Steve is completing a fellowship at Stanford University in radiology and Grace, an adjunct assistant professor with the University of Alberta, does guest lecturing and presentations. The adventure will continue when they return to Alberta in June.
- Something You: How to personalize your wedding.