Reviews & Research on in
Who does what, for how much, and why a bride would book them for their wedding...

{ Reality Wedding Story } A Lush Outdoor Oasis Wedding | Vanessa & Ryan


FinalTWR-VI-FW2012-RWS-VanessaRyan-2July 2nd :: Sun Lotus, Cowichan Valley, Duncan BC (

Photography by Ophelia Photography ( | Story by

Ryan and Vanessa were friends for five years before they realized there may be more to their friendship than meets the eye. They started dating and Ryan remembers knowing right away that they were meant to be together. That said, he admits, “Vanessa took a few years to convince!” Vanessa had struggled for most of her life with a fear of trusting and committing to someone in a relationship. Throughout a difficult time in her life, she turned to Christianity, discovering her relationship with God. After a year of not speaking to Ryan, Vanessa decided to invite him to a class on Christianity.

“Shortly after this I realized that my fears had vanished. and I had never felt so strongly that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with someone.

“Shortly after this I realized that my fears had vanished. and I had never felt so strongly that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with someone. Ryan has always been there for me and always so loyal and he gave me every reason to trust him. I love his heart. I love his incredible passion to help others and make a difference in the world. I truly felt that having Ryan back in my life was a gift from God and I have not had a single shred of doubt in our relationship since. I feel truly blessed to have found him.” And it’s Vanessa’s heart that Ryan fell in love with: “I love her kindness, compassionate nature, and her warmth.”

RyanFinalTWR-VI-FW2012-RWS-VanessaRyan-4 planned to propose to Vanessa while on a romantic getaway to the Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise in Alberta. On February 7th, 2010, while cross country skiing on the lake, they stopped to take a photograph. Ryan recalls, “After four or five different poses, I ran back to the tri-pod to press the ten second delay. As I pressed the shutter, I pulled the ring out of my pocket and Vanessa shouted “What pose this time?” I ran over to her, dropped to one knee and said “Will you marry me?” Vanessa said yes with a massive smile on her face and began to remove her mitten to slip on the ring, just as the camera snapped the shot. 

Since they both were lovers of the outdoors, they set their date for a summer wedding - July 2, 2011. “We wanted our wedding to represent who we are, our personal style, and what we are passionate about. We also wanted to share the west coast beauty and culture with all the family and friends that travelled from our hometown of Edmonton, Alberta. Our wedding was locally inspired and its Canadian flare suited it being on Canada Day weekend. We worked hard to include our favorite cuisine and Ryan’s favorite beers, adding a global twist”.

Who would have guessed that a ‘decision matrix method’ (in-depth version of a pros and cons list, used by engineers) that Ryan had learned in engineering school would be the deciding factor in choosing a wedding venue?! But that is exactly what happened after an extensive search of Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. The sure fit for Ryan and Vanessa’s wedding was at Sun Lotus located in the heart of the Cowichan Valley, Duncan, BC. Sun Lotus ( is run by volunteers from across the world that are taken in by the owners, Anita and Paul. Volunteers are given free room & board in exchange for work. 

The Sun Lotus Guest House is a peaceful oasis, surrounded by beautiful flower gardens, a pristine pond and lush forest; definitely an outdoor lover’s paradise. “It truly encompassed everything we had envisioned our wedding would be like, what we wanted most was to have our wedding in a beautiful and lush setting where we could have maximal flexibility to create our special day the way we wanted it.” And with so many out of town guests, this venue’s close proximity to nearby accommodations made it even more perfect. “We were able show many of our out of town guests the beauty of the West Coast and provide them with a little vacation while attending our wedding.”  Vanessa and Ryan created a wedding website (using that outlined their wedding details such as accommodations, activities and other travel information for guests. 

The couple found beautiful, handmade paper and twine invitations on an online store, Of the Earth ( The organic paper was imbedded with wildflower seeds so that each invitation could be planted in the ground to later yield pretty little wildflowers. “The invitations, and most of the stationary, were hand crafted by my amazing bridesmaids! My friend Christina even handmade little butterfly name tags to sit on the wine glasses of each of our guest’s spots!”

Ryan and Vanessa kept their décor theme natural and eco-friendly. “We were generally going for ‘earthy garden mixed with enchanted forest’.” They used natural elements from the forest such as moss, stones and some twigs to add to the centrepieces. “The table number holders were simply stumps of birch logs with a notch sawed into them… and the peacock feathers in the centrepieces had been shed from the Sun Lotus peacocks over the years! Anita, the owner of Sun Lotus, was kind enough to give us her collection!” The wedding colours were lavender (Vanessa’s favourite colour), dark purples and earth tones. 

The day before the wedding, Vanessa surprised her bridesmaids with a massage/facial, complete with wonderful, fresh little appetizers. “The bridal party stayed at Maple Grove Guesthouse ( and we had our pampering night at the house. It was wonderful! We all felt like princesses getting ready there the next morning.”  

FinalTWR-VI-FW2012-RWS-VanessaRyan-3Vanessa says Carly Flint Makeup Artistry ( was wonderful to work with and made her feel absolutely stunning. “I have already recommended her to many other brides I know!” Liz and Christopher from Lavish Salon ( completed the look by creating beautiful hairstyles. “We were so grateful that both vendors were able to drive all the way from Victoria to our little guesthouse for the wedding day!”

“We had a wonderful group for our wedding party. The Maid of Honour was Lisa Kuly. Lisa has been my best friend since grade one and we have always been a great support for each other over the years. All my bridesmaids were wonderful and were SO helpful days before the wedding. I was even blessed with Christina and Beata coming from Edmonton nearly two weeks beforehand to help with tons of favor and decor prep!” The bridesmaids were Christina Lambert, Beata Tymoszejko, Nicky Lother and Ryan’s sister, Deana Craig.

Ryan’s Best man was Steven Sych, who flew in from Montréal. Ryan says, “Steven and I have been friends since birth... Well, actually, we were just born on the same day in the same city, Edmonton, Sept 18th 1985. We met and became friends in the 8th grade, but it wasn’t until university that we became great friends through many after school debates, yoga sessions, wall climbing, and ps3 parties!” The Groomsmen were Jarret Tomlinson, Neil Crowell, Roger Chan and Vanessa’s Brother Ryan Knebel. “The groomsmen looked awesome in suspenders!” laughs Ryan.  

The wedding day was sunny and warm. Everything was beautiful. In the late afternoon, surrounded by their family and friends, they exchanged their vows before God under a wedding arch Ryan built from wood he found in the forest and nailed together on their condo balcony in Vancouver!

Vanessa ordered Monarch butterflies, along with some other beautiful butterflies that her Mom had bred specifically for the wedding, and released them after the ceremony. The name ‘Vanessa’ means butterfly and she has always loved butterflies, so it was both beautiful and symbolic.

After a long search, Ryan and Vanessa came across a blog post by Ophelia Photography ( of a wedding shot at Sun Lotus. “The pictures we’re incredible to say the least. We decided to give her a call and after our chat I realized we had a really cool, down to earth photographer that would produce quality pictures! Lisa was amazing to work with; she went the extra mile to produce unique photos that captured our day beautifully. She was actually stung by a stinging nettle attempting to get a shot for us. Though in pain, she managed to finish shooting the entire day without a complaint!”

FinalTWR-VI-FW2012-RWS-VanessaRyan-6Staying at the same location allowed the couple more time for photos. Guests had fun with various activities such as badminton, canoeing, river tubing or walks through the wilderness before the reception.

Bouquets were made by Leaf and Petal (  Vanessa can’t thank her Mom enough for insisting they have a wedding cake (by Thrify Foods: “The cake was three tiers... It was delicious. Each tier was a different flavor: dark chocolate raspberry, coconut crème brulee, and dark chocolate mocha.” 

The menu was important to both Ryan and Vanessa. “We wanted lots of variety and to choose our own dishes, but we also wanted quality food. Our caterer, Parker Productions ( was willing to offer us the flexibility we wanted. Anita helped with some of the planning and appetizer prep.” They offered a mix of global favorites including sushi, Greek salad, vegetarian quinoa cannelloni, Thai yellow curry, maple glazed Coho salmon, Chinese BBQ, free range chicken and chili lime prawns! “To this day people are still taking about how good the food was.”

The couple had a fantastic bar set-up, constructed from large cedar trees. They served selections of wine from across BC, including  local wine from Averill Creek Winery ( which was ten minutes from the venue. The beer list was from across the Canada and across the globe. “We also had a “tea buffet” and offered about 15 different delicious loose leaf teas with a variety of interesting sweeteners, such as flavored honey, and rose and lavender cane sugar.”

Ryan and Vanessa were blessed to have many musically talented friends and family. Their musicians included a wedding band (Ryan’s cousins: Andrew, Jordan and Justine), Turntable DJ (Vanessa’s friends: Matt and PJ), other singers during the ceremony (Roxy and Seana), Serenation song (Vanessa’s Uncle Tom), plus a harpist and cellist for the ceremony music ( that they hired. 

To thank guests for coming, Vanessa and Ryan splurged on mini gift baskets as favours for each in attendance. They contained goodies from local artisans and shops. 

Bridesmaids, groomsmen, family and friends were an incredible help with wedding set-up and tear down. Without their help the wedding wouldn’t have come together as FinalTWR-VI-FW2012-RWS-VanessaRyan-advice5wonderfully as it did! Ryan and Vanessa were also so grateful for their parents, Valerie & John Knebel and Linda & David Galloway. “Without their support our wedding would have never been possible!”

Vanessa and Ryan loved their wedding day and the special memories that were made with family and friends.  “The day was filled with lots of laughs!  We thought it was especially funny when the peacocks squawked just as Ryan and I kissed after the ceremony. Everything worked out really great for our wedding day. It was sunny and warm, and everything looked beautiful! The venue helped make our day magical! I always thought my dream wedding would be on my own property and everything about the setting would represent who Ryan and I are as people. Sun Lotus was the closest reality to that and we see ourselves owning our own beautiful piece of land one day too. We loved that Anita and Paul cared about the environment, were non-consumeristic, and had a great sense of style. We had so much fun on our wedding day we have decided to have a ten year anniversary celebration on our own piece of land (which we hope to acquire by then). We look forward to many years of strengthening our love and growing together!”

The Wedding Ring VANCOUVER ISLAND is sponsored by