Real Weddings: Andrew and Steven

Inside a stylish, understated Chinatown ceremony

Steven Cvitko, a senior policy adviser with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and Andrew Kalinchuk, the managing editor of the New York Times Wirecutter, met on a dating app in 2009. After two years together, they moved across the country from Edmonton, where they were then living, to Toronto for a fresh start. In 2019, they proposed to each other on a trip to Mexico City. Steven and Andrew wanted to honour Toronto and the life they built together, so they decided to get hitched at Hotel Ocho, in Chinatown. Here’s how it all came together.

Steven: We met in 2009, when we were 19, on the dating app Plenty of Fish. I was only on the app because one of my friends was having a hard time dating, so I offered to join her. It’s hard to believe now, but it used to be weird to be on a dating app. 

Andrew: Steven loves to make a big deal about how I asked him out and he didn’t have to make the first move. I was living in Red Deer, where I had moved as a teenager, and Steven was in his hometown of Edmonton, so it was a long-distance start. I forced him to talk on the phone before I drove all the way up there, which I agreed to do as long as he planned the date. We ended up talking for hours. 

Steven: Because Andrew had to drive up for our first date, there was a bit of pressure for it to go well. What was I going to do if it was a total bust? Send him back on the highway? 

Andrew: The way Steven tells this story, it’s always me needing to impress him. Not much has changed since then.  

Steven: I bought some ice cream bars and planned for us to have a little picnic at the Legislative Assembly grounds. I thought it was a romantic idea, considering it was a beautiful afternoon in June.    

Andrew: He was working at Gravitypope with his closest friends, and he made sure they were waiting outside the store when I picked him up. 

Steven: I had to make sure they approved! 

Andrew: We held hands in the car, and I had to keep letting go so I could shift gears in my Volkswagen. “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia was playing on the radio. 

Steven: It became our unofficial song, and it’s my go-to at karaoke. It might sound like a weird choice, given the nature of the song, but I can’t fight the fates on that one. 

Andrew: The real kicker is that we’d both agreed I should pack a bag, just in case I had to spend the night. 

Steven: I made him a fried egg sandwich in the morning. 

Andrew: The sandwich won me over. I learned later that it was the only thing he knew how to cook. 

Steven: Andrew checked both of my boxes as a 19-year-old: he had a car and a nice butt. 

Andrew: I liked Steven’s dimple—yes, he only has one—and his piercings: septum, nose and multiple ear piercings.

Steven: I was surprised to meet someone so genuinely kind and unafraid to be himself. There was no cynicism or pretention with Andrew. He was and is a total pleasure to be around. I felt comfortable right away. 

Andrew: At first I was a little intimidated. Steven has always been really cool, smart and fashionable. He’s also incredibly generous, loyal and insightful. That’s what made me fall in love with him so quickly. 

Andrew: I moved to Edmonton shortly after we met to study computer science at the University of Alberta. I lived with a roommate in a two-bedroom apartment, and almost immediately, Steven was spending four to five nights there. 

Steven: I was still living with my parents, so we hung out there a lot. I’m sure Andrew’s roommate hated us. 

Andrew: I struggled with computer science and started writing for tech blogs in my spare time. It turned into a bit of an obsession, and after a year, I decided to leeave my program and pursue journalism full-time. 

Steven: At the same time, I was wrapping up my undergraduate degree and wanted a fresh start in a new city.  

Andrew: Steven pitched me on Toronto—he’d been there a few times and was ready to relocate. As you do in your early 20s, I agreed to move across the country to a city I’d never been to. What cinched it was when I was accepted into Toronto Metropolitan University’s journalism program. 

Steven: We moved to Toronto in August of 2011, and we were all-in from that point on. We had nothing—no savings, no real possessions—so we combined bank accounts and rented a run-down apartment in Little Italy. We paid rent in cash that we stuffed under our landlord’s door. After about a year, we’d had enough of the cockroaches and moths eating our clothes, so we moved to the Queen and Ossington area.

I always wanted to get married, and I knew early on that Andrew was the one for me. He’d never been big on the idea because weddings can be a money pit, but I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to party with all my friends and family! By the time we’d been together for more than 10 years, I was tired of waiting.

Andrew: We aren’t very romantic, so the idea of getting down on one knee and professing our love for each other was not appealing. But we still wanted to make a moment out of the “engagement,” so we started throwing around ideas. 

Steven: The plan that ended up sticking was a trip to Mexico City with our friend Alex. Andrew and I planned to “propose” at a fancy dinner there with some nice wine. 

Andrew: Steven made us a reservation at Rosetta, which was absolutely stunning and delicious. We clinked our glasses and said something nice about each other, and we were engaged. 

Steven: Alex was waiting around the corner at Loup Bar with a bottle of champagne, because she always knows how to mark a moment. 

Andrew: Before we decided to get married, I made one request: I didn’t want to have a long engagement. I thought it was obnoxious to be engaged for years and years before tying the knot. 

Steven: Of course, that’s exactly what happened. The pandemic hit a week after we sent out invitations for our September 5, 2020 wedding at Hotel Ocho, in Chinatown, so what was supposed to be a relatively short engagement turned into a three-year nightmare. We called ourselves “eternal fiancés.”

Andrew: Our wedding date changed three times. We had a ton of money tied up in deposits, and we weren’t even sure that it was going to happen. By the third new date—July 2, 2022—we were ready to pull the plug and move on. 

Steven: We also saw our friends’ wedding plans crumble and watched people around us lose loved ones. We weren’t sure if the most important people in our lives would be there for our wedding. It was a dark period. 

Andrew: Once the world started opening up again and it felt possible to have the wedding we wanted, it was hard to drum up the excitement around planning. I don’t think it really hit either of us until a week or two before the wedding, but the wait was totally worth it.

Steven: Our vendors were so supportive, and we got to know them throughout the process. It felt like we were all working toward this day as a team.

Andrew: We really wanted Chinatown to feature in our photos, so Frances Beatty, our photographer, took us around the neighbourhood. She’s so talented that she made a parking garage look chic as hell.  

Steven: We didn’t have a typical wedding day with first looks or wedding parties. We spent the entire day together, which made it feel really special and intimate.   

Andrew: A couple of friends came to our apartment in the morning to help us transport a bunch of beautiful wine that one of our best friends, Julie-Ann McNeilly, a professional wine consultant, had chosen and procured for us.

Steven: We’d booked a suite at our venue, where we would be getting ready together and staying overnight.

Andrew: I wear nasal strips at night, and of course, I ripped one off too quickly in the morning and had a big red mark on my nose. That was my focus the morning of—asking everyone, “How bad is it?”

Steven: I was emotional, but I was keeping it together—I’m very good at convincing myself that I’m chill even though I’m not at all. My delusion didn’t last long after we arrived at the venue around 11 a.m.

Andrew: Our friends, Chad and Erik, had arrived earlier that morning and were setting up our decor. We’d left the design up to Chad because he’s a fashion, still-life and interiors stylist, and all we’d come up with was “Maybe some candles?”

Steven: When I saw the decor, I burst into tears. It was powerful to see everything coming together and to have someone we love bring the space alive so beautifully. Chad has such a unique perspective, and it comes across in his designs. He sourced a bunch of vases and candle holders in various shapes and sizes that he and Erik had spray-painted purple. They were placed artfully throughout the venue—understated and elegant—and the final result felt like being embraced by our friend. It was so personal and magical. 

Andrew: Our day-of coordinator, Genevieve Taylor, arrived in the early afternoon, and then it was time to let the professionals take over. We ordered a couple of whiskeys at the bar and let the moment sink in. 

Steven: Then we went up to our suite and started getting ready. We’d spent months working with Sydney’s on our suits, and they were impeccably tailored.

Andrew: We wanted to showcase our individual styles and designed our suits accordingly. Mine was a beautiful purple Italian linen and wool. Steven wore an off-white double-breasted jacket with mushroom-coloured pants that had a hint of purple. It was paired with a fantastic hat that everyone at the wedding ended up wearing at some point.

Steven: Before the ceremony, we wanted a moment alone with our parents, so we went up to the second-floor loft to share a bottle of champagne. They’d been waiting for this day for years, so they deserved a moment to celebrate too. Our guests started arriving and took flutes of champagne as they found their seats.

Andrew: When it was time to walk down the aisle and our wedding song (“You’re the One That I Want” by Lo-Fang—a slow, sultry version of the Grease hit) started playing, we both started crying.

Steven: Given that much of the ceremony was about the life and home we had built in Toronto, our officiant, Molly Johnson, started the ceremony with a land acknowledgement. We wanted to recognize the responsibility that we carry as treaty people and occupiers of this land, to share the abundance of this place and to stand in solidarity with Indigenous sovereignty. 

Andrew: Molly was referred to me by a work acquaintance. Somehow, after only meeting us twice, she delivered an incredibly moving, personalized and hilarious ceremony. She blew us away, and we sobbed the entire time. Everyone was laughing, crying and screaming; it was absolute chaos in the most joyous, beautiful way.  

Steven: After the ceremony, Frances took us outside to collect ourselves and take some newly married photos. When we returned, our guests were gathered on the second-floor loft. We hadn’t planned to have an “introduction” as a married couple, but we were swept up in all the wedding vibes, and our coordinator, Genevieve, and MC, Erik, decided we needed to have one. Our DJs played our second-choice wedding song, “I Couldn’t Wait” by Kacy Hill, as we made our debut. I’m so glad we did it, because it turned out to be one of our favorite moments of the day. 

Andrew: Instead of a seated dinner, we had passed canapés and charcuterie spreads for our guests to graze on. We wanted to keep the energy up throughout the night to guarantee a wild party after the speeches wrapped up. Our guests loved having the freedom to grab a drink at the bar or a snack any time. Of course, we sobbed through all of the speeches, including our own. It’s such a singular experience to be in a room full of people you love, listening to other people you love talk about how much they love you.

Steven: The party was a bit of a blur. The wine was flowing and many cocktails were consumed. I abandoned my hat and watched it get passed around the room by guests and staff. It ended up going home with one of the DJs.

Andrew: We danced until 2 a.m. Steven and I performed a spontaneous, drunken lip-sync to “The Power of Love” by Céline Dion, complete with an interpretive dance. 

Steven: Afterward, we and a handful of beloved stragglers walked down the street to Rol San for dim sum. We’d talked about ending the night there ever since we booked our venue. I’m pretty sure everyone ruined their outfits with spilled chili oil and soy sauce, but we didn’t hear any complaints. 

We’d seen at the last few weddings we attended that the DJs can make or break the event. Our DJs, Rick and Lexx from Spectrum Agency, were fantastic. We had a good idea of what we wanted for the cocktail hour—a curated selection of songs by Brandi Carlile, Frank Ocean, Muna, Neko Case and Yola that would feel contemporary and queer. Andrew and I were at a loss for the party music, but Rick and Lexx had just wrapped up the Pride circuit in June, so they knew exactly what they were doing and had the dance floor packed all night long. 

Steven: Our barber-turned-friend, Evan, gave us the idea for our honeymoon. He said, “It’s the perfect excuse to go to Lake Como, in Italy.” Once we looked at photos, it was the only place we wanted to go. We booked a few days in Milan at Aethos and a week in the Lake Como area, primarily at Hotel Filario, in Lezzeno, and Hotel Belvedere, in Bellagio.  

Andrew: Our travel situation on the way there was a nightmare—multiple flights were rescheduled, our bags were missing for days and we lost a full day in Italy. We hadn’t packed anything useful in our carry-on luggage, so we arrived in Milan with absolutely nothing. We spent the first day of our honeymoon trying to find clothes, deodorant and underwear. 

Steven: Our troubles eventually ended, and the honeymoon turned around. Lake Como was absolutely beautiful. Lezzeno was the highlight. We sat on the beach every day with pizza and an Aperol spritz always within reach. 

Andrew: We bought a townhome right before we left for our honeymoon, which I would not recommend, timing-wise. But we’d been saving up for the down payment for years, so it felt like a huge accomplishment and gave us something extra to celebrate in Italy. 

Steven: We crammed a lot into 2022. But we were anxious to make some headway in our life plans after two years spent in lockdown. Long-term, we plan to adopt a child, so it was important that we have more space to grow our family. 

Andrew: We’ve been together for more than 13 years, and throughout that time we’ve grown and changed in so many ways. But our wedding was such a profound experience that it brought us closer—if that was even possible. 

Steven: It’s so rare that we take the time to celebrate with all of our friends and loved ones, and it’s an incredible experience. Getting to feel such an outpouring of love and see everyone we adore together in one room—especially after a pandemic—changed us for the better.

Cheat Sheet

Date: July 2, 2022
Venue: Hotel Ocho
Catering: Hotel Ocho, Bloomer’s Donuts for dessert
Photography: Frances Beatty
Day-of coordinator: Genevieve Taylor
Officiant: Molly Johnson
Grooms’ suits: Custom from Sydney’s
DJ: Lexx and Rick from Spectrum Agency
Decor: Chad Burton, fashion, still-life and interiors stylist
Florals: Paraluman Florals for the mothers’ bouquets, grooms’ and dads’ boutonnieres, and the central floral arrangement
Hair: Evan Cicciarella from Garrison’s Barbershop
Rings: Steven’s is a family heirloom; Andrew’s is a vintage black diamond ring with a matching custom band from Anice Jewelry