This Couple Went for "the Big Feels, Not the Frills" at Their Organic Backyard Wedding in Ontario
Tristan Knowlton, a designer, first met Andrew Semeniuk, a sales manager, in September of 2014 on the sales floor of Roots Canada, where she worked as a visual merchandising intern and he picked up shifts as a student. The bride immediately felt pulled towards his warm energy. "I loved merchandising in his department because he was just so nice to be around," she says. "Do you know those kinds of people? They are the kind of souls where you want to be in their presence because the world feels like a better place when you are." The months passed by and, though they were moved to different store locations, the pair continued to bump into each other at company events and store visits. One night, Andrew asked Tristan out for ice cream. "Our first date was May 26, so summer 2015 was filled with fun outdoor dates, like patio dinners and exploring the Toronto Islands," the bride recalls. "At the end of the summer, he came up north to meet my family and the rest is history."
The couple got engaged in October 2019 while out on a hike with their two best friends at the Old Baldy lookout point. Tristan just thought it was a regular Saturday morning and didn't think anything of Andrew bringing along his drone to capture the day; everyone eventually started "getting a touch skittish" due to the wind and the drone couldn't be used, so Andrew had to pivot to pop the question. "He started pointing at random areas far in the distance," she explains. "Before I realized what was happening, he was on one knee telling me how much he loved me."
Andrew and Tristan initially imagined getting married in front of 150 guests at the bride's childhood home in Durham, Ontario, Canada (it's now a wedding venue: The Treehouse and Cabin Wedding Venue) with glamping tents, a dance floor under the stars, plenty of music, and late-night food trucks. While the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their guest list, the soon-to-be newlyweds were able to go ahead with a smaller event at the same venue, with just 20 of their closest loved ones. While it was still an emotional time—scrapping their original vision wasn't easy—the couple approached their new reality. When they exchanged vows on July 17, 2020, they threw "out all the things that we are 'supposed' to do at weddings and reimagined it to fit us just right," the bride shares. "We wanted it to feel intimate, fun, celebratory, and truly full of joy. We tried to focus on our special love and the reasons why we were getting married: not for the frills, but for the big feels."
Tristan's parents were married at their home, at the top of the steps that now leads to a pool. She and Andrew recreated this on their big day. "The really cool part is the pool is surrounded by an old barn foundation which really adds to the intimacy and history of the setting," Tristan says. "My parents have the most beautiful love and incredible love story. I wanted to be a part of that history and start on the same path as them."
Since the duo had downsized, Tristan decided to rethink the décor, too; she planned their intimate nuptials around a neutral color palette filled with champagne, pale pink, tan, white, and sandy hues.
"I kept saying to myself that I didn't want anything too fussy, but something that I felt really beautiful in and could go frolicking through a field while wearing," the bride says. Her tulle Beccar Couture wedding dress, complete with floral appliqués, fit the bill. "When I put the gown on, it just felt so playful and right. When I took the tulle skirt off, it looked quite pink. It felt unique to not have a fully white dress."
Tristan's bridesmaids joined her in the venue's treehouse for snacks and Champagne as they stepped into their white linen and silk dresses.
Dressed to Impress
Andrew wore a three-piece sand-colored custom linen suit with a striped tie and watch Tristan gifted him a few years prior. "We wanted him to look sharp and complement the color palette," the bride shares. "Fun fact: He ordered his suit before all of the pandemic changes, so he will forever have the wrong date embroidered inside."
Love for a Lifetime
The bride shared a first look with her father before walking down the aisle. "My dad and I are really close. He has terminal cancer and there have been many moments when I wasn't sure that he was going to be present on my wedding day," she says. "Earlier in the year, he was undergoing chemotherapy treatment and really struggling with his health, but that didn't stop him from being one of our biggest supporters to get us to our day."
Her father worked around the clock in the weeks leading up the event to help his daughter get everything squared away on the property. For their special moment before the ceremony, the photographers, also filled with emotion, told him to face away from Tristan, and that she would tap his shoulder from behind. "By the time I got him, I was a complete crying puddle and just needed to hug him," she recalls. "We both just stood there hugging and sobbing while 'Obvious' by CHPTRS played in the background. He turned around and told me that he had been waiting his whole life for this day and he was so so grateful that he could be here."
During the couple's first look, they had a whole field of wildflowers to themselves. "Time stood still and it was just the two of us out there," says Tristan, noting that they took this time to read personal vows. "Andrew went first, and at the end of his vows he pulled out a note from his pocket, and in it was a printed photo of his phone," the bride explains. "He made a note on his phone, a week after our first date, that said 'I'm gonna marry this girl.' He had printed and placed it in an envelope that read 'Open this on the happiest day of your life.' He carried the note with him for years in his backpack. He opened the envelope in the field."
Wildflowers accented the ceremony staircase, keeping with the natural, organic feel of the landscape.
Right By Her Side
"I have two dads, so they both walked me down the aisle," says Tristan of the emotional moment.
Sealed with a Kiss
Before sharing their first kiss as husband and wife, the couple read meaningful passages about giving and receiving their wedding rings (which was their favorite part of the ceremony): "I give you this ring, that you may wear it, as a symbol of the vows we have made this day. I pledge you my love and respect, my laughter and my tears. With all that I am, I honor you."
Since the pandemic gathering guidelines shifted slightly as their wedding day approached, they were able to invite 20 of their closest loved ones. "Our vendors were just the best when it came to the planning process," the bride says. "I called them pretty much every day leading up to the day as my guest list trickled a little higher. They were so supportive and excited for us and did everything they could to help bring it to life quickly."
Moment to Remember
One lighthearted and unexpected moment happened right after the ceremony. "We were all hugging, my siblings were crying, and then we heard a big splash," Tristan says. "Our sweet friend had accidentally stepped back and had fallen in the pool: Heels, dress, and head all went under and all, it was truly the funniest. She was such a good sport about it." After their friend's husband (the groom's best man) nearly jumped in out of shock when it happened, everyone simply got her out of the pool, gave her a hug, and set her up with the perfect alternative outfit to change into for the reception.
"Andrew and I slipped away for a quiet moment together," the bride shares of their post-ceremony time together. "There is a really sweet picture that photographers captured from afar that really captured the essence. It felt surreal and when we greeted our guests after, it was just the greatest."
Tristan's father's vision drove the reception's design; they strung DIY basket-covered lights over the table.
Each centerpiece was filled with fresh and dried calendula, scabiosa, ranunculus, lisianthus, and sage.
All About the Accents
Votive candles, glassware, linen napkins, and a vellum menu topped the elongated, family-style station. "We put everyone's wedding favor at their seat—a little string-wrapped bundle of palo santo," the bride adds.
"I would tell someone who is hemming and hawing over the small wedding to go for the small wedding. What you might lose in guest energy you make up for in intimacy and less nerves," Andrew shares.
"Everyone seemed to laugh louder, cry harder, and just be so, so present. It was a feeling in the air that I can't put into words," Tristan adds. "Our speeches were just beyond what I could have ever imagined: Everyone really put their heart out there in the most beautiful and vulnerable kind of way. We were howling, laughing, reminiscing—feeling all the feels."
The couple's three-tiered naked wedding cake had buttercream and hazelnut flavors and florals to match their big-day color palette.
A Sweet Tune
Before their wedding, Tristan and Andrew mulled over what they would want to say during their own speeches to their guests and grew teary eyed with gratitude; in that moment, they took a break and brainstormed first dance songs. "We just loved that when 'Whatever It Is' by Zac Brown Band came on, it felt so lighthearted, sincere, and real to us," the bride says. "Fast forward two nights, our guests made a semi-circle around us and waved sparklers in the night air as we danced. It was perfect. Now every time the song comes on, our hearts just fill up with the sweetness of that memory in our bedroom two nights before with those big tears."
Photography, Alyssa Wodabek
Venue, The Treehouse and Cabin Wedding Venue
Wedding Planning and Design, Tristan Knowlton
Videography, Wild and Free Films
Flowers, Hunt and Gather Floral
Save-the-Dates, Paperless Post
Officiant, Lynda Legg
Bride's Gown, Beccar
Cocktail Hour Dress, Park and Fifth
Jewelry, Mejuri, Bluboho
Shoes, Hudson Bay
Hair and Makeup, Bespoke Beauty By Amybeth
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Arizia and Park and Fifth
Ceremony and Reception Music, Patrick Voisin
Catering, Peasemarsh Farm Catering
Cake, European Patisserie
Rentals, Royal Rentals
Favors, Palo Santo