Shortly before his wedding ceremony began in Gyro Park Saturday afternoon, Nelson resident Ryan Evans turned to me with pink-rimmed eyes and remarked on how surreal everything seemed. White light shimmered through the trees.
“This is the park I played in as a kid,” he said, jerking his chin in the direction of the grassy, garden-lined slope we were standing on. “And today I’m going to marry the woman of my dreams here.”
He was talking about his beautifully bombastic, mermaid-like bride Kate Arnold, a woman he met on Red Sands Beach. We were a few hours’ into the days’ festivities, and as the photographer I’d been trailing Evans since his day began at the Hume Hotel.
We’d already taken nearly 700 photos, many of them at a home with a view of the Big Orange Bridge bisecting the ice-blue waters of Kootenay Lake. I’d been given a crash course in both families and the wedding parties, sharing multiple tearful moments over the course of the day, and now we were ready for the main event.
There were about forty people sprawled out in the grass, surrounded on all sides by towering trees, when local musicians Julie Johnson-Murray and Josh Murray (otherwise known as Onezie Parade) came strumming out of the woods. They were followed by a bridesmaids and groomsmen decked out with floral arrangements created by local florist Kyla Jakovickas of Bellaflora. It occurred to me then that I was experiencing my first Kootenay wedding.
Evans eventually appeared, escorted by his mother and grandmother, and then the crowd hushed as Kate (who had been hiding back in the Narnian foliage like a shy fairy) emerged with her parents on either arm. She was wearing a baby blue dress, bouquet clasped tight, and I could tell she was trying hard not to cry.
The host of the wedding was local burlesque performer Sherry Perry, who was an official Church of Love representative. Kate and Sherry met while performing at local venues such as Spiritbar and Bloom (I made a guest appearance as Cupid in one of their Valentine’s Day shows), and they’ve been close friends for years. She was beaming as Kate, who is known as Lola Lane in those circles, approached.
It wouldn’t occur to me until after Kate and Ryan had exchanged their self-written vows, kissed passionately before the applauding crowd, and then walked off hand in hand, but reflecting on the beautiful experience I shared with these two I couldn’t help but think about Ryan’s great great grand uncle John “Jake” Loewen.
A year earlier, on Remembrance Day, I’d run into Ryan and Kate at city hall. Ryan had mentioned, offhand, that he had a relative on the nearby cenotaph and I ended up interviewing him about Loewen, who was killed during a World War I offensive on Vimy Ridge in 1917. (That’s just shy of 100 years ago.)
“The significant thing about Vimy Ridge was that it was the Canadians who took it away from the Germans, but Uncle Jake wasn’t there to see the victory. As far as I know, he’s still over there,” Evans told me, at the time.
“If I was born in 1886 instead of 1986, and I was called up to serve, at some point there would’ve been a man behind me blowing a whistle and I would’ve had to go up and over. I think about that, especially this time of year, and I guess I’m grateful there’s nobody blowing a whistle behind me.”
When he died, Jake was 22-years-old—younger than Evans is now. But before he left for Europe, it’s totally conceivable that he hung out in Gyro Park, that he experienced the view from the lookout where I shot the wedding photos, and that he once stood where this pair were promising their lives to one another. And it’s nice to imagine him watching over the proceedings from some cushy afterlife from which he can see the results of his sacrifice.
It was early evening when I followed Kate and Ryan back into the woods post-ceremony, where they sat on a park bench looking out at Elephant Mountain and the sunset, a married couple for the first time. I hung back for a moment, to give them privacy, and before they headed out to meet their guests I got a shot of them cuddling love-dopey and overwhelmed.
The day continued from there, with singing, dancing and trumpet-playing (Kate sung a solo from The Little Mermaid) in Hart Hall on Carbonate Street. There were speeches, people were hyper-emotional, and eventually things got chaotic and loud. But when I think back on their day, it’s the quiet moments like the one post-ceremony that stand out. Proximity to that sort of happiness is overwhelming.
After everything was over, Evans took to Facebook.
“I have no words for the amount of love and gratitude I have for everyone who came out to celebrate my Lola Lane and I’s big day. Thank you, all of you, infinitely. You have amazed me so much.”