Jonathan and Kayla met in high school in 2007and remained good friends throughout the years. It wasn’t until 2012 when they were celebrating Jonathan’s birthday over dinner for two that they recognized there was more than friendship happening between them. “That night our relationship started to shift from being good friends to realizing there might be something more,” Kayla shares. “When we told our families, many of them asked if we had been dating all this time!”
The pair were engaged in 2018 while visiting Rwanda, where Jonathan is from. Many of his family and friends live there, so it was a trip filled with wonderful meetings and catch-ups for the couple. He proposed to Kayla on the trip while on safari, popping the question when they hopped out for a photo op with passing zebras and giraffes. “No one was aware of what was about to happen except for Jonathan’s sister and his best friend,” Kayla says. “Jonathan told his friends to take a video of him and me with the giraffes and he pretended like they were just taking another picture and before I realized it, Jonathan was down on one knee.”
As their party would be a truly global celebration with 180 guests flying in from around the world, the Alberta-based couple decided to have a destination wedding in Canada, heading further west to British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley region and the Three Sisters Winery for their wedding location. They describe their vineyard wedding style as multicultural and luxurious trimmed with white, gold and greenery. “We chose the colours because they went beautifully with the winery. We also love the simple, glamorous style. We blended both our cultures into one beautiful experience for our guests. The whole atmosphere and ambience of the party was one to remember. Our caterer really connected with the guests and the views were stunning.” Kayla says people remarked that the vistas were reminiscent of Rwanda.
As a nod to Jonathan’s roots, the couple worked closely with a Rwandan designer to customize their wedding outfits. “We worked separately with the designer on this project, so it was a wonderful surprise when we saw each other,” Kayla shares. “We also had surprise cultural dancers as part of our day who helped us make a unique entrance into the ceremony and made it an especially touching moment of our celebration.”
For the reception, there were more surprise dance moments. Kayla and her bridesmaids learned a simple Rwandan dance and surprised Jonathan and his family with it. The groom and his squad also performed a traditional cultural dance. This party was overflowing with love, emotion and incredible tradition that perfectly brought to life the vision they had for their dream day.
Kayla Stephenson & Jonathan Gasirabo, June 15, 2019, Penticton, British Columbia.
Photography courtesy of Janice Saxon.