Caelyn Bender & Evan Knuff
Caelyn and Evan’s families had been friends for years, but the couple officially met at Spring Bay Camp on Manitoulin Island the summer of 2018. On August 13, 2019, Evan took Caelyn on their first date on Manitoulin Island, dancing under the stars, to the song ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’ by Van Morrison. They ended up choosing this as their official ‘first dance’ song.
Caelyn and Evan dated for a year amidst COVID-19, the ups and downs of a pandemic, whilst also studying in University.
Evan proposed on Manitoulin Island after a weekend of more dancing, and dates at their favourite restaurant, on August 13, 2020. The couple was married in the same place they met, began dating and became engaged, on August 21, 2021.
Here is how Caelyn describes the big day.
Did you originally have other plans for your wedding day? We originally planned a much larger wedding with at least 120 guests. However, due to COVID we had to change our plans many, many times. Eventually, August came and we had to make a final decision due to time commitments to our vendors. COVID restrictions forced us to reluctantly reduce our guest list to 70 people. A week or so later, the restrictions opened up but we could not increase our guest list because we had already confirmed for 70 people with our wedding suppliers. Regardless of COVID and the guest list shuffle, we had a wonderful wedding and would not change a thing.
How did you feel about the changes you had to make? It was very frustrating for us and for our guests to have frequent and sometimes confusing changes to our plans. Most of our guests were travelling to our venue because it was a ‘location wedding’ and it was difficult for them to finalize their travel plans. The most exasperating part was the opening of the COVID restrictions shortly after we had made the final decision to cut down our guest list. However, we did not allow any of the ups and downs to affect our wedding day. We focused on the occasion and lived in the glorious moment!
What was your favourite part of the day? The highlight for me was the dinner and the toasts. Evan and I had a sweethearts table (a table reserved only for the bride and groom) and we had the rest of our wedding party at their own table. This allowed us to have a romantic and intimate dinner during our wedding. It was magical.
The toasts had us laughing, crying, and clapping. Every speech was priceless. We felt so loved by our family and friends.
Did anything go wrong? A couple weeks before the wedding, all of our groomsmen bailed on us. One of them had a family matter that caused him to drop out. With the other two, the ever-changing COVID limits on numbers had forced us to advise them that they could not bring their plus ones with them to the wedding. Roughly 15 days before the wedding, they informed us that they would not be participating if they could not bring their girlfriends. After the initial shock, we decided to have our brothers as groomsmen and Evan’s father as best man. They were honoured to be asked and we cherish the memories we made with our families. When we experienced how meaningful it was to have them as part of our wedding party, we realized that we should have asked our brothers and Evan’s dad to be part of it from the very beginning. It was the best decision we made.
Favourite wedding detail? One of my most favourite wedding details were the tulips we had in our decor, and my bouquet. Tulips have a very symbolic meaning for me. They represent peace and prosperity, the perfect flower for a wedding. It is nearly impossible to get tulips in late August, but our wonderful florist made it happen. She found the most realistic looking fake tulips. I could not believe it when she said that they were fake. The flowers even feel real! In the long run, I am so happy that we had fake tulips as I get to look at my bouquet and reminisce every day!
What will guests remember most? I think that our guests will remember our bonfire the most! We gave S’mores kits as wedding favours and each guest was able to sit around the campfire and make them as a late night snack. It was so fun! The fire pit was right next to the roped off dance area and people danced when they wanted to, sat to make S’mores, talked, relaxed, and generally just had a nice time. We changed into matching sweat suits and continued to spend meaningful and memorable time with our families.
What advice can you give to couples who are planning an outdoor wedding? Do something non-traditional! For us it was a bonfire. We know that each of our guests loved the fire and will continue to remember our wedding as the one where we all sat around a campfire and spent intimate time together. I think it is the untraditional elements of a wedding that made it stand out in memories.
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Number of guests: 70
Ceremony/reception venue: Spring Bay Camp, Spring Bay, Manitoulin Island, Ont.
Wedding dress designer: Christine Carlson
Suit designer: Joseph Abboud
Photographer: Elysha Russell
Décor: The Bride
Flowers: One Eighty Floral by Ashley Speck
Cake: Matthew Weber Cakes
Rentals: Wayne Trudeau Party Rentals, Manitoulin