By Hunza Chaudhary
Friends and co-workers cheered as Christina Ivanova walked down the dimly-lit aisle, but she only had eyes for the man who was going to become her husband in a matter of minutes. After tearfully promising each other the world, the couple sealed their vows with a kiss.
Two weeks prior to the wedding, the couple had no idea they were going to be married so soon, but they won a chance to get a complete wedding package for $600, with all of the money paid eventually making its way to charity.
The event, Vendors for Vows, brought together numerous wedding-related businesses such as florists and bakers to donate their services to the six couples chosen. Couples, in turn, donated the $600 cost of the all-inclusive wedding ceremony to charitable groups identified by the vendor.
On Feb. 12, the Courtyard restaurant in the Byward Market partnered with All Seasons Weddings to dedicate six hours to host six different weddings. Each hour included a new couple celebrating one of the biggest milestones of their lives.
Ivanova and husband Seifallah Ayachi were the first to get married. They met four years ago at a bar in Montreal where she was visiting with her friends, and they’ve been together ever since.
Ivanova said that after being engaged for more than a year, they knew it was time to settle down.
“I saw an event on Facebook and I decided to apply. And it was very unexpected because it was the last spot left and they’d accepted my application two weeks before,” she said.
Although their families could not attend their special day, Ivanova said they have the full support of their loved ones.
“He is originally from Tunisia and he’s Muslim, and I am from Belarus and I’m Christian. Completely different backgrounds and religion,” she said. “It’s unconventional for our families; it’s a bit unusual for them, but they support us.”
The couple decided to finally tie the knot after Ayachi was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
“It just changed our life in a way that we understand we shouldn’t wait for something. We shouldn’t wait to have a family, or to have kids, because every moment is precious for us,” said Ivanova.
The wedding package included a bridal bouquet and boutonniere, a wedding cake, all bridal hair and make-up, music for the ceremony, a cocktail reception for up to 50 guests and a professional photoshoot, along with a discount on hotel rooms at the Lord Elgin Hotel.
Cynthia Verboven, senior event coordinator at the Courtyard, said the event snowballed very quickly.
“The response was mind-blowing,” she said. “The vendors were all donating their services, and then we set a date. I worked with our I.T. team, developed a webpage on our website and it mushroomed from there.”
Wedding officiant and event organizer Alan Viau said he had never officiated so many weddings in one place.
“There are days during the summer where I might do four weddings in a day and I’m travelling across Ottawa. But I’ve been doing this for over 14 years and I’ve done over 1,200 weddings. To do six in a day, all in a row, I don’t have to travel in between, that’s pretty cool, kind of a record for me,” he said.
The wedding extravaganza was organized as a pilot project by the wedding industry in Ottawa. Viau said he received an overwhelming response from the wedding industry entrepreneurs — so much so that a waitlist needed to be made.
All the money donated by the couples went to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and Families First Community Cancer Support.