Real Weddings: Ryan and Jeannie

Inside an al fresco micro wedding at the Rose of Sharon

Jeannie Cho, a finance executive at 1Password, and Ryan De Guzman, a project manager at Sun Life, got engaged in April. When Jeannie’s grandmother’s health suddenly took a turn for the worse, they decided to host a small ceremony outside of her nursing home with a few of their closest friends and family. Here’s how it all came together.

Jeannie: I’m from Toronto. When I was in elementary school, my family moved to Atlanta, and I lived there for five years. I moved back after high school to attend U of T.

Ryan: I was born and raised in Scarborough, and I met Jeannie online in September 2017. She worked her Southern charm on me.

Jeannie: I only lived in Atlanta for five years but somehow I get a Southern accent when I’m excited. Ryan was the first person that I met through Tinder, but I was busy with work and our schedules weren’t matching up. I was on the verge of cancelling.

Ryan: We finally met up at Prohibition at Yonge and Eglinton in October 2017. Jeannie was coming directly from a work thing.

Jeannie: I was kind of dressed up, but wearing nice jeans, and he showed up in sweats. We ended up talking from 7 p.m. until one in the morning. My guilty pleasure is buying appliances that look nice but are actually pretty useless. The next morning, Ryan sent me a photo of his avocado toast, but low-key put his $235 cream-coloured SMEG toaster in the background. We had the same silly priorities in life, which made me think, He might be the one.

Ryan: We talked for a while, and it was so easy to get along with her. I was going on a ton of dates at the time, and they always stressed me out, but with Jeannie it was effortless. Plus, she was close to her family, and so am I. That was huge. After two and half years of dating, I had a big plan to propose to Jeannie during a trip to New York in April at an attraction called the Edge Walk at Hudson Yards—it’s an observation deck over 1,100 feet above street level. We also had tickets to see Hamilton on Broadway, and I made reservations for all the best restaurants including Carbone, Eleven Madison Park, Sadelle’s and Peter Luger.

Jeannie: We love to eat together. We’re such foodies.

Ryan: But of course, Covid happened, and all those plans fell through. It felt like the ring was burning a hole in my pocket, and I didn’t want to keep hiding it. I decided to still propose on her birthday, April 17. I ordered her favourite dish, cacio e pepe from Buca in Yorkville, and I arranged for her friends to keep delivering gifts throughout the day.

Jeannie: It was the best day ever. So many flowers, cakes, and my favourite, shawarma.

Ryan: After dinner, I told her there was one last surprise. I said I was getting something from the garage, but the ring was in my pocket. So I turned around and went down on one knee.

Jeannie: I thought I was getting a car. This was way better. Then, right after we got engaged, my 96-year-old grandmother had a downturn in her health. She lives in a Korean nursing home, the Rose of Sharon, near Bathurst and St. Clair, and my siblings and I are her primary caregivers. Before Covid, every Sunday was Grandma Day. We’d all visit her and spend time outside or take her to her favourite restaurants. These past few months, we only saw her a few times through the window. In April she had what appeared to be a mini stroke and was completely out of it. We wanted to take her to the ER, but the doctor advised against it because of Covid. Luckily, she recovered 48 hours later. It was scary and reminded me that life is fleeting. I wanted my grandmother to be at my wedding, and we didn’t want to plan things for next year since things may still be up in the air then. So we thought, Why don’t we just do it now?

Ryan: We have a lot of friends and family rearranging their weddings, so we didn’t want to take that chance.

Jeannie: My brother’s wedding got pushed to May 2021. My sister had a micro wedding planned in August. We didn’t want to put everything on hold. We started planning in the first week of June. Within 48 hours, everything was ready to go and booked for July 11. My parents still live in Atlanta, so I called them before confirming to make sure they wouldn’t be too sad to miss the event. They decided to Zoom in. And my grandmother’s home was happy to have us organize it there.

Because we couldn’t get any engagement pictures taken, our photographer, Sandra Lee, convinced us to take some fun photos before the ceremony. We stopped by the Ice Cream Junction for some photos and I ordered a blue Superhero ice cream. That turned out to be a mistake, which I realized when we took a selfie after and my tongue was blue. But that whole morning was so go-go-go that I didn’t get a chance to reflect and be introspective. I did rewrite my vows on the car ride to the venue. They didn’t feel right, so I redid them.

Ryan: The home said they didn’t want a big group of 50 people congregating in front of the building, so we had closer to 20 guests—half of the crowd was across the street watching from afar. We also streamed the ceremony over Zoom for our family in the United States, Japan and across Canada who couldn’t make it.

Jeannie: The great thing about micro-weddings is that they are stress-free. We probably only spent around $6,000 on our rings, flowers, and everything else—and $300 of that total was for others to drop off and set up our decor because we didn’t want to worry about anything on the day.

We ordered a lot of flowers and balloons, and we had a copper arch decorated with light pink roses and leaves. I also created a backdrop to block out the busy street in the background (we basically got married in front of my car), but it was too windy to hang up. One of our guests brought a sheer white curtain, which worked perfectly.

I ended up wearing a $50 dress I had gotten from Oak and Fort and paired it with a flower crown, because I figured I wouldn’t be able to wear one at a regular wedding and wanted to go for a boho style. Ryan started looking for his outfit the day before our wedding day.

Ryan: But I ended up wearing a suit I already owned.

Jeannie: Our siblings, cousins and Ryan’s parents were there that day, plus two flower girls—our nieces. They walked in white summer dresses while blowing bubbles, which kept distracting them. My grandmother was sitting inside the building facing a big window.

Ryan: Jeannie’s grandmother was happy to see us, but she definitely didn’t like the attention. When we were taking pictures, she kept looking away or shooing us away.

Jeannie: But she was happy because she got to wear a traditional Korean dress. We couldn’t get one custom-made because of the timing—it would have taken around six weeks to get it from Korea—so we got one off the shelf and mixed and matched the colours so it was still on theme. It was hard, because we couldn’t really talk to her, just look at her through the window. But it was still nice to see her there with us.

Ryan: I walked down the aisle with our dog, who wore a custom bow tie, and then Jeannie’s brother walked her down the aisle. I was a little nervous throughout the day because there were so many things up in the air. I had forgotten my phone, the weather was unpredictable. But everything worked out and it couldn’t have gone better.

Jeannie: The ceremony was lovely. I don’t love the limelight. The thing that always terrified me about weddings was walking down the aisle and having everyone stare at me while wearing uncomfortable shoes. I enjoyed how casual and intimate the whole ceremony was. The whole day went so smoothly.

It was supposed to thunderstorm all day, but the timing worked out. It was raining while we took photos in a studio, but sunny the second we left. Then, once we finished our ceremony and everything was packed up, the rain started up again. It was as if it was waiting for us.

After the ceremony, we got together at Ryan’s parents’ house with my siblings and his immediate family. They surprised us with a reception. They decorated the whole space with balloons, backdrops and ordered food like mac and cheese, ribs, mashed potatoes, fried chicken. My cousin baked us a wedding cake. The top tier was Earl Grey and the bottom was elderflower and lemon. It’s like the one that Meghan Markle had, which was cool.

Ryan: We’d love to have a party at some point with all of our friends and family, but it’s not worth planning anything now in case we’d have to reschedule. Once everything clears up and everyone’s able to get together, absolutely.

Jeannie: We love to travel and definitely need to go somewhere for our honeymoon. If the U.S. border opens up, we should just go to Vegas or something and live in the land of excess. I’m just dying to do something crazy.

Cheat Sheet

Date: July 11
Venue: Rose of Sharon Korean Long-Term Care
Photographer: Sandra Lee Photography
Cake: Sweets by Dre Bakery
Hair and makeup: Beyond the Brush
Flowers: DeLight Floral
Bride’s outfit: Oak and Fort
Groom’s outfit: Empire Customs
Guests: 20

Here are some more photos from the day: