Real Weddings: Inside a celebration with staggered backyard receptions

Real Weddings: Dolores and Steve

Inside an elevated boho ceremony in a Woodbridge backyard

As told to Karoun Chahinian| Photography by T.H. Jackson Huang/ Ikonica
| August 14, 2021

Dolores Fernandez, a naturopathic doctor, and Steve Ierullo, a digital art director, grew up in Woodbridge and have been together since September 2014. The couple were engaged in October 2019 in the Sahara desert and married this past June. Here’s how it all came together.

Dolores: Steve and I went to the same high school, but we are six years apart. I did know his brother, and it was strange that it took so long for our paths to cross. One day after his brother introduced us in 2014, Steve asked me for coffee. I thought maybe he was planning a surprise party for his brother; I didn’t think it was a romantic date, so that was a pleasant surprise.

Real Weddings: Inside a celebration with staggered backyard receptions

Steve: We went to Symposium in Woodbridge and had a great time. I had noticed her from the first day my brother introduced me to her. I knew she was pretty and had a good sense of humour, but always thought she was out of my league.

Dolores: He picked me up in this old van, and we still joke about how it was falling apart, but truthfully nothing really mattered that day because of how well it went. Our conversation flowed naturally.

Steve: After the date, I called my best friend and told him, “I want to marry this girl.”

Dolores: Then, we made plans to go out again a few days later. Our second date was a J. Cole concert.

Steve: It was incredible how we clicked instantly and how complementary our personalities are. Her strengths filled in my weaknesses. For example, Dolores is so put together and motivated, and it inspired me to get my own life together.

Dolores: I’m a pretty avid runner, and Steve and I run together very often. One of Steve’s first gifts to me was matching pairs of his-and-her Nike Frees. Now, we have over 10 pairs of matching sneakers. We’re opposites, but I think that balance is necessary. He’s a laid back, creative artist, while I need to be organized and have a plan for everything.

Steve: When it came to the proposal, Dolores’s mom was my partner in crime. She helped me design the ring and plan the whole event. I wanted to propose during an upcoming vacation to Madrid and Morocco, but Dolores had created a strict itinerary, and it was tough to sneak in a proposal without her knowing about it.

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Dolores: My family has a house in Madrid, and we were planning a trip in October 2019 with my parents. We decided to hit up Morocco on the same trip, since it’s only an hour away by plane, and we’ve always wanted to visit.

Steve: We have a really good relationship with Dolores’s parents and have travelled together before, so the trip was great. While in Morocco, Dolores had planned a camping trip in the Sahara desert, and we were riding through it on camels. I told our tour guide I wanted to propose with small electric candles inside our tent, and he suggested that I write out the words with those lights at the bottom of a sand dune so Dolores could read it from the top. I set everything up and decided to take her up there after dinner. It was pitch black, and Dolores didn’t want to hike up the dune—she was full and wanted to go to bed. It took some convincing, but she finally agreed. I was honestly a little terrified because it was hard to walk up the deep sand; I was worried about dropping the ring. As soon as she saw my message, I got down on my knee and said the words.

Dolores: It was a surreal moment. Everything felt like it was moving in slow motion. It was also great because Steve proposed at the beginning of our trip, and then we got to tour the rest of Morocco as an engaged couple. We went back to Spain after and celebrated with family. I couldn’t have asked for anything more special.

Steve: Dolores and I have Italian families, and Dolores’s brother was married in 2019. In Italian tradition, it’s polite to invite guests from your sibling’s wedding so our guest list scaled up to 300. We don’t enjoy being the centre of attention—but we caved in and decided to book a large banquet hall for May 2021, soon after the proposal. Then the pandemic hit and by May 2020, we decided to sell our booking rather than take the chance that we wouldn’t be allowed to gather in large groups.

Dolores: It was a blessing in disguise because we got to plan the smaller backyard wedding that we’d always wanted. My parents offered to host, and their neighbours were nice enough to open up their backyard as well, so we were able to comfortably fit 25 guests outside. We had picked a date in May, but we ended up pushing to mid-June, after the lockdown was lifted. I had ordered a very formal, flowy gown that I planned on completely altering in advance, but it ended up arriving too late and left me with no time to fix it. I really hated the dress; I tried it on and just cried. Thankfully, I have a friend who’s a seamstress, so I ordered a new, simpler dress and she offered to alter it and even made me a veil.

Steve: On the day of the wedding, I got ready with my groomsmen at my parents’ house. That morning was fun, but it didn’t really click that it was my wedding day until we were all together at the church, Saint Clare of Assisi in Woodbridge.

Dolores: My bridesmaids and I got ready at my parents’ house; we started doing our make up at 5.30 a.m. It was such a blast; we were all energized with coffee and I was thankfully never nervous, just excited.

Steve: I wore a custom suit that I got tailored at Per Lui, and I added 10 photos of Dolores and I in black and white on the inner lining. It was really special.

Dolores: It really was so unique, such a nice touch. The ceremony at the church was really lovely. We were also in luck because we initially could only invite 10 people to the ceremony, but then a week before the wedding, the province opened up, and we sent out a mass email to our friends and family to join us for the service. We ended up with 150 people at the ceremony.

We split the reception into two parts, to keep our numbers small: 25 in the afternoon and 25 in the evening. I had worked with a wedding planner to set up a large tent in case it rained and had a lot of drapery and greenery and flowers everywhere, very boho chic. We also opted for wooden tables and chairs for an organic feel as well as green-suede couches. My bridesmaids were wearing deep-olive satin dresses, so they matched the natural palette. I wanted it to feel special and elevated—no fold up chairs in sight. After the ceremony, Steve’s parents joined us at my parent’s place for lunch, and then we left to take photos at the Aga Khan Museum. We also got a pair of matching Dior running shoes, which we changed into halfway through the day. Then, we went back to our place for dinner with my family.

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Steve: It was great to celebrate with both our families, and our backyard setup was incredible—it was unrecognizable. Everyone walked in expecting to see the regular backyard, and they were completely taken aback. One of our guests made a TikTok showing off our setup, and it got more than 130,000 views. My brother was my best man and shared a nice toast, and Dolores’s sister was her maid of honour and did the same. It was also a relief to deliver our speeches to a smaller crowd rather than the original 300-person guest list.

Dolores: For our menu, Steve and I are both really into clean eating, so we catered the event with gluten-free meals and pressed juices. Our wedding cake, from Truffle, was also gluten-free. It was so good.

Real Weddings: Inside a celebration with staggered backyard receptions
Real Weddings: Inside a celebration with staggered backyard receptions

Steve: To balance out all the healthy grub, we had McDonald’s delivered at 2 a.m. The whole day was beautiful, it really felt like magic. So many people tell you to take in every moment, and we tried our best to do that.

Dolores: It was a long, fun night celebrating us and our marriage. Whether it happened in front of 300 people or 20, we’re just so excited to be married.

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Cheat Sheet

Venue: Saint Clare of Assisi Church Wedding Planner: Megan Wappel Flowers: Life in Flowers Photography: T.H. Jackson Huang, Ikonica Wedding Photography Video: TVE Productions Catering: Giro D’Italia Cake: Truffle Toronto Makeup: Only Glam by Joseph Hair: Shannon Petroloto Guests: 50

Here are a few more photos from the day:
Real Weddings: Inside a celebration with staggered backyard receptions

Real Weddings: Inside a celebration with staggered backyard receptions

Real Weddings: Inside a celebration with staggered backyard receptions

Real Weddings: Inside a celebration with staggered backyard receptions

Real Weddings: Inside a celebration with staggered backyard receptions

Real Weddings: Inside a celebration with staggered backyard receptions
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Real Weddings: Inside a celebration with staggered backyard receptions

Real Weddings: Inside a celebration with staggered backyard receptions

Real Weddings: Inside a celebration with staggered backyard receptions

Real Weddings: Inside a celebration with staggered backyard receptions
Real Weddings: Inside a celebration with staggered backyard receptions

Real Weddings: Inside a celebration with staggered backyard receptions

Real Weddings: Inside a celebration with staggered backyard receptions

Real Weddings: Inside a celebration with staggered backyard receptions

Real Weddings: Inside a celebration with staggered backyard receptions

Real Weddings: Inside a celebration with staggered backyard receptions

Real Weddings: Inside a celebration with staggered backyard receptions
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