When her mother, Linda, was diagnosed with terminal cancer two and a half years ago, Shannon Taylor-Alce and partner Clayton Taylor decided to get married as quickly as possible so her mom could attend.
Then the pandemic hit, and the Sooke couple’s wedding was put on hold because of her mother’s immunocompromised status. It was eventually rescheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 20, a small civil ceremony that would be followed by a larger gathering in the summer, when they had saved some money for it.
Then, another challenge. A week before the wedding, the 37-year-old learned that her father, Bob, also has terminal cancer, so there could be no more delays if both her parents were going to attend.
Since the couple’s budget was limited, photographer friend Becca Carroll offered them free use of an outdoor wedding venue called Cedar Haven in East Sooke.
As the wedding approached, Taylor-Alce had told some of her colleagues at Crystal View Elementary School, where she is an inclusion-support teacher who works with students with special needs, about her fast-moving plans. At that point, she didn’t even have a dress for the big event.
In short order, a party was organized in the school library at lunch where a kindergarten class presented her with flowers that were given one at a time by each student. The whole school also made her a book of wedding advice.
She also ended up having three different women offer to lend her a wedding dress, including one woman from the school and two she works with giving fitness classes at Spinco.
“They stayed after class to help me try them on and choose the perfect one,” said Taylor-Alce, adding virtually everything she wore at the wedding was given to her by someone else. “I actually didn’t wear anything of my own on the day.”
The dried-flower bouquet she carried was made for no charge by Platinum Floral Designs, and she got “a deep discount” for her makeup and hair from Alexandra Forman Artistry.
On Tuesday, the day of the wedding, however, they woke up to snow — a lot of it. The total snowfall measured at Victoria International Airport that day was 29.3 centimetres, an all-time record for the date.
There was no indoor option at the site, so a wedding in nature was what it was going to be. With so many people snowed in, they were worried no one would be able to make it.
Everyone rallied to make it happen, however.
Taylor-Alce recalls that makeup artist Alexandra Forman called and told her she was coming in to work “even if she had to walk there.”
While picking up her parents in Langford near Costco, Taylor-Alce got stuck on their hill. “About 12 neighbours dug us out,” she said.
Power went out at the photographer’s house, “so I had to get changed in the dark,” Taylor-Alce said with a laugh.
Her husband-to-be got there early to clear some of the snow from the area, which is in a beautiful, treed setting, she said.
Both sets of parents, sisters of both the bride and groom, and Taylor-Alce’s two best friends made up the wedding party at the civil ceremony. After braving “horrible roads” to get there, commissionaire Brenda Davis slipped and fell as she was approaching the venue but persevered, Taylor-Alce said.
Carroll took pictures for Rivkah Photography of the snow-filled nuptials.
Now, Taylor-Alce is splitting her time between her home and that of her parents so she can care for them. She said she cherishes the memories of all the help she received to make her wedding a reality.
“Somehow, despite all the challenges, we had the most beautiful wedding,” she said. ”I want the people who helped me to be recognized for how amazing and selfless they are.”