A whimsical forest wedding

Last fall Olympic freeskier Ashleigh McIvor woke up from a vivid dream about her Aunt Shirley who had recently passed away.

In it, her aunt looked healthy and happy while she read a book in the sunshine. When Ashleigh told her boyfriend, Vancouver Whitecaps’ soccer team captain Jay DeMerit about it, she had no idea that he had Shirley’s engagement ring and was preparing to pop the question later that day.

“Jay had known he’d have the weekend off for Thanksgiving and had mentioned wanting to go to hike up to a waterfall (near Pemberton),” Ashleigh recalls. “I had been inviting all of our friends, as we do, with no clue he had big plans. Eventually he said, ‘Why don’t we just go on this hike just the two of us?’ I didn’t think anything of it.”

When the pair reached the top of the waterfall, Ashleigh still had no idea, though she remembers experiencing overwhelming feelings for her then-boyfriend. “When Jay finally looked up at me and went to open his quivering lips to say something, I knew,” she says. “I knew he was about to make me the happiest person on this beautiful planet.”

Jay had secretly asked Ashleigh’s mom and sister for the ring so he could propose with it, but had plans to design a ring with his new fiancé later on. “After the proposal, we began to design our own engagement ring with our friends at Rare Investment, a local diamond wholesaler that specializes in natural fancy coloured diamonds,” Ashleigh says.

She had designed a ring with the company to auction off for charity after the Olympics and knew they did great work. Choosing a blue-green diamond, the couple decided to incorporate some of the elements from Ashleigh’s Olympic gold medal into the design, along with orcas, which they both love, and wolves, which mate for life. “My rings have those designs in yellow gold inlayed in white gold on the inside of my bands so that only I know it’s there and Jay’s ring has subtle components of them on the outside,” she says.

“We didn’t want to over-decorate because the natural beauty of the location was so breathtaking in itself.”

That do-it-yourself ethic was the unofficial theme of their wedding. After choosing a secluded spot in the woods just outside of Whistler, they treated their preparations as a giant art project. The pair hung mirrors in vintage frames on trees in the area, gathered antique furniture to create an ethereal living room setting and even set up a chandelier to hang over them at their ceremony.

The result was whimsical. “We didn’t want to over-decorate because the natural beauty of the location was so breathtaking in itself,” Ashleigh says. “The mirrors were a great little touch for pulling it all together by framing certain details to help our guests just focus on the natural beauty. Everybody wore glamourous wedding attire and we had elegant furniture and classy décor, much like you’d find in the Hotel Vancouver, but in the middle of the forest.”

Afterwards, the 300 guests moved up to Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley where they enjoyed dinner. Then around 50 more guests joined them before they trekked back into the woods for the party. “One of the reasons for picking that location for both the ceremony and the party was the dramatic backdrop of moss-covered rocks piled below an overhanging rock face,” Ashleigh says. “This was the backdrop for our vows and later doubled as the natural atrium that the DJ booth backed on to.”

The guests used wedding favours that included flashlights with Jay and Ashleigh emblazoned on the side to light the way. They also received sightseeing or bike park passes along with rings to make their own wine glass charms using beads that were placed on each table.

While it was a difficult choice between a mountain-top celebration or a forest wedding, Ashleigh says in the end, they made the right decision. “I grew up in Whistler and although most people know me for my accomplishments on the mountain, my favourite place to be is in the woods, typically on my bike, but more frequently on foot now that I’ve met Jay and he’s not allowed to do things as dangerous as mountain biking,” she says. “We really wanted to showcase this beautiful province and help guests recognize what it is about this area and the lifestyle that Jay and I have fallen so in love with.”

– By Alyssa Noel