Real Weddings: Inside a glam ceremony under the ROM’s massive dinosaur

Real Weddings: Inside a glam ceremony under the ROM’s massive dinosaur

Ashley Wedlock and Chris Manning met as high schoolers in Mississauga. They kept in touch casually through mutual friends and, in true millennial fashion, reconnected via Instagram a few years ago. Wedlock noticed Manning was liking all her photos, so they started messaging and discovered they both lived in Dufferin Grove and worked blocks away from each other downtown; she was in real estate, and he was a commercial banker. After dating for almost a year, they got engaged last April, while hiking Machu Picchu in Peru. “I hadn’t showered in four days. But luckily I had a manicure,” says Wedlock.

She had always wanted a fall wedding, so they immediately starting calling all the major downtown Toronto venues to see if any of them still had availability. To their surprise, the ROM had one date open, October 15. They hired wedding planner Helen Pispidikis, who had worked with the ROM before, to help with the time crunch and the venue’s many rules. (For instance: guests must bring in absolutely everything down to the knives and forks, every candle must be surrounded by a hurricane holder to prevent any rogue flames and all flora and fauna must be quarantined in a florist’s cooler for 24 hours.)

When couples get married at the ROM, the ceremony is typically held in the rotunda. But Wedlock and Manning thought it would be even more awesome to get hitched under the massive dinosaur skeleton in the main reception area. The ROM was hesitant, as they’d never allowed that before. But Wedlock was determined, the ROM agreed, and the museum ended up lugging away every welcome desk and ticket counter so that their 150 guests could sit comfortably in front of the dino. In the end, the extra hassle was worth it, especially since they were able to illuminate the skeleton in a soft amber hue.

Cheat sheet

Date: October 15, 2016
Photography: Mango Studios
Bride’s Dress: Badgley Mischka
Flowers: Creations by Gitta
Groom’s Attire: Garrison Bespoke
Hair and Makeup: Radford
Venue: The Royal Ontario Museum
Caterer: Daniel et Daniel
Music: String Quartet: Wellington Music; Band: Sole Power
Invitations: Minted
Planner: Helen Pispidikis, Weddings by Design
Favours: Popcorn in bags made by Wedlock Paper Company
Guests: 150

The couple stayed at the Park Hyatt in Yorkville, along with the groom’s family, who live out west in BC. (Two nights before the wedding, they hosted a big dinner at the Good Son on Queen West for out-of-towners.) They got ready in separate rooms with their bridal parties:


Wedlock’s bouquet was accented by two meaningful broaches: a pearl-accented piece that her father gave to her mother when they were young (seen below), and another in the shape of a “W” that her grandfather gave her mother:


Before the ceremony, the pair took photos on the Hyatt’s rooftop. “It was really important to us to have the city incorporated into our photos,” says Wedlock:


Then, they sauntered over to the ROM with their bridal parties, waving at passersby:


It was a stroke of luck that Wedlock’s Badgley Mischka dress arrived in time; Kleinfeld originally wasn’t sure they’d have it ready. Luckily, one of the label’s designers happened to be in the shop when Wedlock was trying it on, and she called New York and promised they’d get it done. They even ended up customizing a few more details, like adding the massive bow at the back. A Kleinfeld manager had to personally deliver the just-finished dress to Wedlock’s hotel room the day before the wedding:


The ceremony was set up underneath the 110-foot-long futalognkosaurus, a long-necked sauropod that’s so gigantic that it doesn’t fit in the museum’s regular dinosaur exhibit. Wedlock walked down the aisle to the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses,” played by a string quartet:


Live music was crucial for the couple. The string quartet played modern tunes throughout the ceremony and the cocktail reception. For the rest of the party, a bigger band played rock-and-roll classics. Wedlock and Manning’s first dance was to Van Morrison, and Wedlock and her father danced to “Sweet Child of Mine”:


During the short ceremony, one of their close friends read an appropriate poem about dinosaur love, and then guests retired to the Samuel Hall Currelly Gallery for dinner:


One thing the couple loved about the ROM was the built-in drama and elaborate setting. Aside from bushels of white flowers, they barely had to add any decor. “It’s almost overwhelming when you walk in—you don’t know where to look,” says Wedlock:


The party was black-tie, and each black napkin was folded into a bow tie:


Wedlock and Manning really wanted to sit with their families during dinner—but that’s a 30-person group, and it was a logistical nightmare for their planner. She ended up seating them at a massive harvest table in the centre of the room. Wedlock and Manning both sat next to their mothers:


One of Wedlock’s friends is a wine connoisseur who sourced an Italian wine through a private importer. They stuck with the Italian theme for dinner, which was catered by Daniel et Daniel:


They incorporated their dinosaur logo wherever possible—and even referenced the giant fossil in their hashtag:


Guests walked away with truffle popcorn, packaged in striped bags made by Wedlock’s father’s paper company:


The couple paid extra to keep the venue until 2 a.m. for late-night dancing. “There was no way my wedding was ending at 1 a.m.,” says Wedlock. When they were finally kicked out, Wedlock’s brother and sister-in-law went to McDonald’s and ordered 50 burgers and fries and 100 McNuggets to take back to the after-party at the hotel. On the dance floor, partiers snacked on cupcakes adorned with more black bow ties: