Bride of the Day: Brittany

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Galia Lahav’s bride of the day is Brittany Mac Kinnon, an admirable bride whom tells such a astonishing story about her wedding experience. A family who almost lost it all due to a massive forest fire which took place in Fort McMurrary, just prior to the wedding. Their story enhances courage, determination, love, strength, and so much more. While having their hopes high and positivity towards their upcoming ceremony, and while dealing with such a gruesome fire, such dignity to Brittany and her family for being the strong minded people they are. Brittany and her family have convinced us that nothing can come in between love. Congratulations to the newly weds!

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Like most I’ve been dreaming of my wedding since I was a little girl. Once my now husband, Darcy and I started dating I knew he would be the one to make this dream a reality. We we’re engaged the evening of June 29th, 2015 in our home, in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Fort McMurray is located in Northern Alberta, Canada and is in the middle of the Athabasca Oil Sands, and surrounded by boreal forest. The closest major city would be Edmonton, which is about a 5 hour drive south, followed by Calgary which is about an 8 hour drive. Darcy and I both grew up in two small towns on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, about 45 minutes apart. We knew each other throughout high school and occasionally attended the same functions throughout university but we were going to school in separate provinces. Like most from the east cost of Canada, after graduation, we both headed west. The economic situation on the east is pretty grim, especially for new grads so I headed to Calgary, and Darcy ended up in Fort McMurray in search of the opportunity in the Oil & Gas industry.

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Five years ago this December, we ended up sitting beside each other on a flight home for Christmas holidays. Darcy who was flying from Fort McMurray, had a layover in Calgary, and then I was on his flight the rest of the way to Halifax. We were in touch over the holidays, ended up making plans together for New Year’s Eve and the rest is history. We had a long distance relationship for about 9 months, with several visits and trips to meet half way and then I ended up getting a job in Fort McMurray and made the move North.

Within 24 hours of being engaged I had the venue for the ceremony and reception booked, and was in contact with several photographers. To me, the most important part of the wedding planning process would be to get my dream dress, but at that point I only knew what I didn’t want. At the top of my must have list for dress criteria, was an open back and some wow factor. I’ve looked through Pintrest and Instagram for inspiration, and found a few dresses that had pieces I liked, but nothing that had it all. Since there were no bridal stores in Fort McMurray I had planned to go shopping in Edmonton, with my mom and friend Katy. A week or so before our trip my Katy, sent me a photo she found on instagram. It was it, it was my dream dress! We found out that it was a Galia Lahav dress and I looked up where they were sold. Unfortunately the nearest place, was pretty far away, at White in Toronto. A trip to Toronto wasn’t in the wedding budget but I knew if I went shopping in Calgary or Edmonton nothing would compare to the dress we later found out was named “Suzanne” and it would still be in the back of my mind. If nothing in Calgary or Edmonton wowed me we’d likely still end up going to Toronto anyways. I decided we might as well go all in and booked flights to Toronto with my mom. My bridesmaid Emily who lives in Nova Scotia, met us there as well. Toronto had a lot more options than any of the cities in Alberta. We booked several appointments over the weekend we were there, saving White for last. Similarly to when I looked at dresses online, there were pieces we loved of each but nothing that we all could say Yes to. When we were in the cab to White I felt pretty defeated. Nothing had made me have that bridal moment I was expecting and I was getting worried. Even as we walked through White there was lots of beautiful dresses but nothing that caught my eye until the sales lady Tamera showed me what we came all that way to see, Suzanne. As soon as I tried it on, I knew it was the one. It had every element I wanted in a dress and it fit like a glove, which helped me envision wearing it on my wedding day even more. Normally, they would have had me come back another day for my measurements but we were flying out in the morning. Luckily Andrea, the owner, was able to come in and take my measurements later that afternoon. That evening my mom, Emily and I went out for dinner and drinks to celebrate saying “Yes to the dress”!

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After we returned home I impatiently waited for my dress to come in. About three months later I received a call from Andrea from White saying that my dress arrived at their store in Toronto and she would be shipping it to Fort McMurray. The day it arrived, I couldn’t wait for my mom to come over to help me get into it, I had to try it on instantly. It was a hundred times better than the sample I tried on at White, I was amazed. The color was so much brighter, the tulle was even more extravagant and so was the sparkle in the details. I was in love! This was just the beginning of the adventures of Suzanne. Over the six months leading up to the wedding my dress got to see its fair share of adventure. The first adventure (I didn’t mention in my previous email) was a trip to Calgary for alterations. There isn’t really a known seamstress that I would trust with my dress in Fort McMurray, and Andrea from White recommended a lady in Calgary, whom she was confident could handle working with a Galia gown so my dress and I were off to the airport to fly to Calgary. Since the dress fit so perfectly I didn’t need much alteration, I was getting it hemmed a bit in the front, adding a bustle, and to keep some of my family happy, I was adding two small pieces of lace detail overlay to the back to bring it up an inch higher so it wasn’t “too low” haha. The problem here was, that the flight to Fort McMurray to Calgary is only small planes and the overhead compartments are quite small. The flight attendant ensured me they would take care of me and my dress but they did want to try to put it in the overhead if possible. They thought it might fit, but as I sit back and watched I took this picture (attached). I apologize because seeing them try to shove this dress into the compartment probably makes you cringe.

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Thankfully, it wasn’t a full flight so “Suzanne” had a whole row to herself.

As if the months leading up to the wedding weren’t hectic enough, we also delft with a major wild fire that raged through our city. The Fort McMurray Wildfire, named “The Beast” by emergency workers and media forced approximately 90,000 people out of their homes for an entire month. When our community was first evacuated on May 3rd we merely thought it was a safety precaution and would only be gone a night or two. Darcy and I packed a few things, including the wedding essentials. No matter what happened with the fire that was raging we knew no natural disaster could stop us from getting married. The town was sheer chaos. Fort McMurray is a very northern community and there is only two ways in and out, one road going north and one road going south. North of town there is mostly Oil & Gas Sites and camps for the workers and a very small communities and if you were to drive south, you would have to drive about 5 hours to the first city, Edmonton. Throughout the evacuation there were many sleepless nights and we sat around hotel rooms watching the news for updates. After several days of the fire still burning out of control, we knew we would be out of our homes for quite some time, and at that point we were unsure we would even have a home to go back to. By May 18, the fire had grown to 423,000 hectares (1,050,000 acres) and expanded into Saskatchewan. When you ran into people you knew from Fort McMurray on the streets of Calgary or Edmonton, the common greeting of, “Hi, how are you?” was replaced with, “Is your house still standing”, but for me the first thing everyone asked was, “Where is your dress?”. I was happily able to answer the question every time by saying it is safe and sound in Calgary.
There were some brides that were not so lucky and were unable to get home to get anything, and later received confirmation that their homes were destroyed. Out of a tragedy there are always heartwarming stories. There was one on Facebook where a girl who was getting married in May had her dress taken by the fire. With the generosity of strangers she was able to get a new dress and still have her wedding. It wasn’t until June 3rd, a full month after we left, were we able to return to our home. 2400 homes and businesses were lost, including my parents’ home. We are forever grateful that our home escaped with only minor smoke damage. Our story could have been a lot worse and we are very thankful for everything we have. Our hearts go out to people who lost everything. We are also so thankful for the brave men and women who fought this wildfire because if it were not from them, we wouldn’t have a city to come back to.

The weeks before the wedding my Suzanne had its last leg of her adventure, one more flight to Nova Scotia for the big day. On August 6th, 2016 I got to marry the love of my life. We had the best day being surrounded by family and friends. Although my dress, being so large, made it a little difficult to get around that day, I wouldn’t have changed a single thing! We had a beautiful ceremony at a local church, and then we were able to go to Cabot Links as well as the local beach boardwalk for photos. Our dinner and reception was at Island Sunset Resort and we were able to take the scenic route along the rugged coast line to the venue, stopping for a few pictures along the way.