Real Weddings: Jessica and Aleksandra

After an almost decade-long romance and Covid delays, the Rodrigues’s finally celebrated their wedding this summer

Although their first date was a logistical flop, Jessica, director of marketing and communications at the Hazelton Hotel, and Aleksandra, a family lawyer, knew they’d stumbled onto a special relationship. Last July, after an almost decade-long romance, the Rodrigues’s celebrated their 150-guest wedding at the Aga Khan Museum with plenty of music and gourmet food. Here’s how it all came together.

Jessica: We met almost 10 years ago, through friends, in London, UK, while I was working there.

Aleksandra: Jess worked as the head of PR for South Place Hotel there, and I worked for a health club. She came in one day for a meeting looking for wellness partners that could offer additional services, like pool or spa access, to their guests. And I was working that day. That’s how we met. We started chatting and Jess told me that she hoped to see me again and would love to take me out to get to know me better. She asked for my phone number, and at first, we just kept talking over text.

Jessica: We talked very casually for a while. And eventually, I just straight up asked her out on a date. Our first date was great but also really bad logistically. I had just accepted a new job offer at that point and had a week off between jobs. And Aleksandra was travelling to Poland at the time. So we were trying to find a day that we could both meet, and it happened to be a Tuesday at 3 o’clock. It was July, so I though, It’s summer—it’ll be sunny, and suggested we meet at the Boundary rooftop bar.

Aleksandra: I asked her if I should book a reservation, and she told me she was on it. She insisted, “No, I got this.”

Jessica: I don’t remember that. But I do remember thinking, It’s not going to be busy. It’s a Tuesday at 3 o’clock! But, when I showed up, she was just standing in front of the hotel. I said, “Yeah, go up.” And she responded, “The entire hotel is closed for a private party…” I felt terrible because I was the one who suggested it and hadn’t booked anything. Aleksandra looked amazing and was very sweet, but I was internally panicking. I was like, “Don’t worry—we’ll go somewhere else. There are tons of places.” But I was hung up on the idea of us having the date outside because it was a beautiful sunny London day, and we ended up at the worst bar.

Aleksandra: It was basically a bench on the sidewalk.

Jessica: We walked along the Shoreditch high street searching for a restaurant, lounge or bar with an outdoor patio. The bar we found was a three-minute walk from the rooftop I had suggested, and it was the first place I saw with a little seating area out front. Not wanting to prolong the search, I suggested we have a drink there. There was not a single other patron in the bar, which does not make for an ideal date atmosphere. The bartender was not particularly welcoming, and the outdoor seating area was directly on the street, adjacent to a busy bus stop. We took our drinks and sat on the bench. It was anticlimactic after I had envisioned this romantic rooftop scenario. Regardless, our conversation was great, and there was a lot of chemistry between us.

Aleksandra: Objectively not the best date, but also the best first date ever. We then moved in together after three to four months of dating. Jess had a roommate, but her flat had two floors, and she and her roommate each had their own room and washroom. It was wonderful living together. Jess met my family quite early as well. They live in Poland, and we visited them a few times a year. They loved her, especially my nieces. In total, we were together in England for two years.

Jessica: I was born and raised in Toronto. And in 2015 I was liaising with the Drake Hotel Properties, who were looking for a new PR person. Aleks had recently graduated with her bachelor’s and was wondering what her next steps were going to be. And I’m very close with my family, who live in Toronto. It felt like a good time to move to Toronto, so we did. After receiving her permanent residency two years later, Aleks decided to write her LSATS and apply to schools. She eventually decided on attending the University of Ottawa because she wanted to study criminal law at the time. We talked about it and the sacrifice of not being together for a little while made sense for her career growth. We knew our relationship was strong enough to withstand any distance. We visited each other at least once a month, and we talked and texted daily. So we always felt close, even when she lived in another city for eight months. We anticipated it being three years! But, overall, I’m fairly traditional, and I knew that we both wanted marriage and a family someday. I wanted to spend my life with her. With Aleks away, I had a lot of time to finally plan a proposal, and I decided to meet with a jeweller to create the perfect ring.

Aleksandra: She tried really hard to keep it a secret, but her excited family wasn’t so good at that. A family member asked me, “Why is Jess going to the jewellery guy?” And I said, “I don’t know.”

Jessica: I decided that, when she came back for the holidays during her first year of law school, I was going to tell her, “I haven’t seen you in a few weeks—let’s do a staycation.” I was working as the director of communications and marketing for the McEwan Group, so I was familiar with the stunning Hazelton Hotel. With the help of the incredible team, I booked a suite and made sure the manager on duty had the ring before check-in. Aleks and I went up to the room, the phone rang just as I had planned, and they said, “We’d love to bring up some amenities.” They brought up the cart with champagne and flowers, and there’s a cloche over the ring, and I’m waiting, panicked. We went over and she was looking at all the items and then lifted the cloche and put it right back on with no reaction.

Aleksandra: The ring box looked like a box of chocolates, so I just assumed it was chocolate.

Jessica: I grabbed the box and opened it again. She was shocked. I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me. We popped champagne and called our families to share the news with them. We had a beautiful dinner that night and brunch the next day. My family joined us for brunch, and it was really special.

Aleksandra: When we got engaged, I was in Toronto for only five days before heading back to Ottawa. When the pandemic hit and universities closed, I moved back home. We had already started the wedding planning and originally intended to get married in the summer of 2021.

Jessica: We got a wedding planner. But, in March, we were like, “Is this gonna happen?” No one knew what was going on, what Covid was. We were wiping down our groceries and freaking out. And then we had to make a judgment call at the beginning of 2021. We had already bought our dresses, we had our venue, we had booked the caterer. But we had to postpone it.

Aleksandra: Especially because we were going to have a lot of people coming from Europe—our friends from London and my family from Poland.

Jessica: But we had the big-ticket items early enough, and we ensured that we got the new date early enough as well. We were pretty fortunate to be able to resume the momentum when it was safe.

Aleksandra: Jess is Italian, so they were literally planning a wedding for 300 people. And, if you asked me, I wanted to have maybe 50 people. So it was really hard to cut the guest list down to the final 150, which we understood to be safer during Covid and to better fit the venue space. It took a lot of time.

Jessica: In terms of the aesthetics of our wedding, it was everything we wanted. Our palette was gold, blush and white. The actual ceremony was in front of the Ismaili Centre, and then the cocktail reception happened on the Diwan terrace. The tent, which was directly in front of the museum, is where the entire reception took place. Under the tent, we had all the tables and a massive fully stocked bar at the foot of the dance floor. While guests could leave the tent area to sit at the lounge on the patio, explore the grounds or snap a pic at the MirMir photo booth, all of the dancing, dinner, bar and passed apps were happening under the tented roof. The space was beautifully decorated, and we wanted to ensure the dance floor was always busy and our guests felt an electric energy—we wanted a party. Everything was centered around the dance floor and the bar, which are the most important pieces.

Aleksandra: We danced 99 per cent of the time. My biggest regret is missing out on all the late-night food because I was dancing nonstop.

Jessica: I gave the DJ like 160 songs; I made an Excel spreadsheet. It was mostly disco and icons like Chaka Khan, ’90s house, and some pop like Blackbox, Charli XCX and Dua Lipa. It was good. I was very serious about the food and the music. I’m biased, but I think McEwan is one of the best caterers in the city. I worked with them for a long time; I know the team, and they were really lovely. We had Wagyu dumplings, lobster spoons, scallop spoons, vegan cold rolls, mini lamb chops for my dad, who insisted on that. We had crispy rice with ahi tuna and a risotto station with fresh summer truffle grated on top. And then, for the meal, we had seasonal tomatoes with burrata, a choice of beef tenderloin or cod, and butternut squash ravioli. We got one of each. And then, for the dessert, we alternated. So, depending on where you sat, it was either a panna cotta or a flourless chocolate torte. Don’t get me started on the late-night menu!

Aleksandra: Honestly, a month later, people were still messaging me about how good the food was.

Jessica: The speeches were incredible and moving but kept short. We really thought about the guest experience. The ceremony was 15 minutes, and we were on time. We didn’t make anybody wait. We did our own vows, our officiant was a lovely man who just spoke about love, what it means, and really connected with us. When we went back to the tent, we immediately hit the dance floor and did our first dance right away—it was to Luther Vandross’s “Never Too Much.”

Aleksandra: The night was beautiful. Just seeing everyone in one room, especially after Covid, was wonderful. It had been so long.

Jessica: We love wearing our rings, and I love saying “wife.” While our relationship has not changed very much since the wedding, I just love being married to Aleks. She’d finished school in June and wrote the bar exam just before we got married. She then began a new job just days after our wedding! So we have yet to take a honeymoon. We are currently planning on going to Bora Bora when Aleks completes her contract, in June of next year. We’re debating between staying at the Four Seasons or the St. Regis—specifically in an overwater bungalow. The St. Regis team is extremely sweet and accommodating, so we shall see.

Cheat Sheet

Date: July 23, 2022
Venue: Aga Khan Museum
Catering: McEwan Catering
Photography: Tara McMullen
Planner: Judy Stein Consulting
Officiant: Chris McGrath
Hair: Enrico Beauty Salon
Makeup: HB Face
Jessica’s wedding dress: White Toronto (designer: Reem Acra)
Aleksandra’s wedding dress: Powder Toronto (designer: Pronovias Atelier)