Inspired by stories the groom heard from his friends in the wedding industry, 6 months of planning was finally in place to surprise his bride with an intimate wedding in the backyard of their friend’s home. Details, that spanned international waters, came together for an epic night under the stars.
We were both using international online dating sites. Andrew only had his profile up for a couple days and found forty-two unread emails. One of them was a long message from Yuliia that included many details about our potential meeting. One detail was having a first kiss with a spaghetti noodle, like in the Disney movie. Andrew was very intrigued, and when he went to respond, found that the trial account on the site did not allow reply emails, and the site was going to cost him hundreds of dollars to communicate. So, he got crafty, and searched her info on Ukrainian social media, and found her! He responded to the email, talking about the spaghetti noodle. Yuliia’s profile was apparently being used by nefarious dating site operators who were sending emails in her name. She had NO IDEA what this strange foreigner was talking about, and in fact had forgotten the profile existed. Yuliia did not speak English, and all communications were done using, (not very accurate), online translators. After several hours of back and forth messages, we both figured out what had happened, but it was too late. There was an instant spark between the two of us. Andrew was on an airplane less than a month later, and not a day has gone by that they have not talked to each other.
On Andrew’s first visit to Ukraine, he was already convinced that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Yuliia. He first went to Elina, Yuliia’s teenage daughter to ask her if she was ok with the idea. She was more than OK. She and Andrew had very quickly become close, and the idea of moving to the United States sounded amazing. On Andrew’s last night in Ukraine, right before bed, Andrew got the ring out, and approached both Yuliia and Elina in the kitchen of our hotel and got on one knee, and told Yuliia that he did not want to go through this world without the two of them. Andrew produced a ring he had brought with him from the US. Yuliia did NOT expect this, but was very excited and enthusiastically shouted YES!
How did the idea of a surprise wedding come about?
Our wonderful wedding planner, Chelsea Moring of Illumination Events, and our amazing caterers, Lauren and Dale Goodrich from Goodrich Gourmet in Richmond, are both friends of ours, and at a game night, Chelsea and Lauren were talking about a similar idea. Andrew knew on that day that this was what we were going to do. It took about six months before we finally set a date.
What did the bride think was happening leading up to the surprise event? Did she ever catch on that her friends were up to something?
We told Yuliia that there was a big charity event, and that there would be photographers and celebrities there, and that the photos might end up getting published. Yuliia was becoming more and more suspicious of all the strange “outings” and the talk that stopped when she entered the room. At one point, she tried to google the event, but came up with nothing. Trying to coordinate hair, nails, makeup, dress fittings, etc for her AND four children was almost too much for Andrew. There was a very complicated wedding plan, a very complicated cover story, and the two had to match perfectly at specific times.
How was the bride convinced to buy a dress?
Our family and friends somehow convinced Yuliia that it was appropriate to wear a floor length, white wedding dress to a charity ball.
Rushnyk – A Ukrainian tradition
The traditional Rushnyk holds many meanings and represents several blessings for a Ukranian family. It represents purity, or the preservation of it as one passes through a boundary, which is why it was used in rites of passage or in weddings to separate the wearer from impurity. It also expressed a desire for protection from the elements, from sickness, and from barrenness. The couple may stand on the cloth during the church service, or have their hands tied together. The Rushnyk was also part of the bride’s dowry, to symbolize her wealth and talent. It is a ritual cloth embroidered with symbols and cryptograms of the ancient world. This particular one was given to Yuliia by her friends at her “girls party,” before leaving Ukraine.
The look on her face when Yuliia realized that her family and friends had gone through so much effort to make a perfect wedding for her.
What were you most fearful about regarding your wedding day?
I knew Chelsea and Lauren had the wedding day completely under control. I was only worried that Yuliia would figure it out. I was prepared to just lay out that we were planning something big, and she needed to act surprised.
She did not figure it out until we arrived, and she saw that we were actually at her wedding.
Yuliia’s friends and family in Ukraine made a wonderful congratulations video. I will never forget seeing her face while watching that video. a close second would be the plethora of flower arrangements. We went over the top, and it was amazing.
Overall it was amazing. Andrew’s biggest surprise is that we somehow pulled it off!
Photography | Awesomesauce Photography
Venue | Private Residence
Caterer and Dessert | Goodrich Gourmet
Bridal Hair and Makeup | Jouer Lash & Brow Bar
Family Hair and Makeup | Lou Stevens Glam Squad
Groom’s Attire | Men’s Warehouse
Bridesmaid Dress | Lex’s of Carytown
Event Planner | Illumination Events Studio
Videographer | This is Double Take
Florist | Cultivate Event Co
Ceremony Music | Ninja Strings
Rentals | Rent E- Quip
Officiant | Donnie Newton
Awesomesauce Photography offers colorful, fun, and emotional storytelling wedding photography at an affordable price. Based in Richmond, VA available for travel worldwide.