How one Toronto couple moved back from Australia to put together their own lovely lakeside wedding

Children’s mental health therapist Sarah Kane admits that when she began online dating in 2015, “I was trying to be open-minded and meet lots of different people.” So, when a message from Orrie Shannon, a software engineer, landed in her OkCupid inbox, she was up for anything.

He arrived at their first date, at Hemingway’s in Yorkville, slightly sweaty from a softball tournament, but Kane barely noticed. “I just remember thinking that he had such intense big eyes,” she says. Shannon thought she was “smart, charming, easy to talk to, funny, and cute.”

A few months into their courtship, Shannon planned a day date canoeing around the Toronto Islands (“It feels like you’re in the middle of Algonquin,” he says) and packed a picnic lunch. On the ride back, Kane says, “I thought to myself, ‘Oh, boy, I’m in trouble. I think I’m going to fall for this guy.’” Shortly after, they decided to be exclusive, and Shannon revealed he had deleted his dating app profile immediately after their first date. “As soon as I got home, I realized, ‘I don’t think I need this anymore,’” he says.

After just five months together, Kane floated the idea of relocating somewhere warmer, like, perhaps, Australia? “I was surprised by how on board he was,” she says. “I had this vague dream in my mind, but he was the one who made it happen.” The couple moved to Sydney in October 2017, spending much of their spare time exploring their new homeland. In 2019, on a road trip across Australia’s Great Ocean Road, Shannon insisted they stop for some wine on the beach at the Twelve Apostles, a tourist destination where limestone plinths jut out of the ocean. Kane was less than enthused, as it was a dreary cold day, but went along with the plan. Shannon asked a stranger to take a picture of the couple, then secretly whispered to shoot a video instead, as he got down on one knee to propose. “The guy was a pro,” Shannon says. “He was circling around us and zooming in.”

The couple hoped to wed in June 2020, but the pandemic had other plans. So, they instead packed up and moved to remote Cairns, Australia, a tropical paradise 2,500 kilometres north of Sydney. There they enjoyed what Kane calls a “surreal freedom,” as there were no COVID-19 cases and very few lockdown restrictions.

The following autumn, the couple arrived back in Toronto — with just three weeks to spare before a rescheduled September wedding. They stayed with Kane’s dad at her childhood home in the Beaches and spent every spare moment finalizing details. “We had no decor planned whatsoever,” Kane says, “because we didn’t want to invest a lot into a wedding we weren’t even sure was going to happen.”

Luckily, their families stepped up to support them. Shannon’s father built the arbor under which the couple said their vows, while his mom baked a carrot cake topped with wooden Kookaburras, a nod to the couple’s time in Australia. They purchased flowers at Loblaws. Kane’s aunt, a reverend, officiated, and Sarah’s 16-month-old nephew, Camden, whom she’d never met while living in Australia, served as the flower boy.

And decorations included childhood photos.

Kane opted to make her own dress; every time she worked on it in Australia, she would roll a clothing rack with a sheet pinned to it to hide her progress. “I’ve been sewing since I was 12. I’ve made cocktail dresses before and thought, ‘What’s a wedding dress if not that but a bit longer?’” she says. “I was really wrong.” She was still hemming the dress’s five layers up until the day before the wedding. “At one point I did buy a second-hand dress in a panic, but everything worked out.”

They got married at Sandy Lane Resort in the Algonquin Highlands, renting out cabins and inviting family and friends to join them for the weekend. The night before the wedding, they hosted a giant barbecue, where they caught up with everyone they hadn’t seen in two years. “I was a little hungover the next day,” Shannon admits.

Right after exchanging traditional vows, the bride and groom (who have changed their surnames to Kannon, an amalgamation of both last names), headed to a secluded spot and recited private ones to each other. After the ceremony, the groomsmen got together in a cabin and passed around a bottle of Scotch. Guests partied late into the evening, including a surprise dance by the couple’s moms, both of whom are named Janet. The next day, the remaining guests enjoyed a family-style dinner of leftovers, capping a three-day extravaganza. “The thought of eloping certainly crossed our minds,” Kane says. “But I’m really glad that we waited and did it at home with everyone.”

Sarah Kane and Orrie Shannon exchange vows under an arbor made by the groom's father.

The Details

Where they met OkCupid

Venue Sandy Lane Resort

Gown Handmade by bride

Catering This Little Piggy Went to Market and Foodies Anonymous

Flowers Loblaws

Photographer Mouna Tahar, Mémoires en Or Photography