A military wedding is a dramatic, formal affair, enhanced by longstanding traditions. The wedding of Commodore Mark Watson and Dr. Lisa Chillingworth on June 27, 2015 incorporated many eye- catching rituals. While the day exceeded expectations, the bridal couple faced a little unwelcome drama along the way.
The plan was for the ceremony to take place in Currie Hall at the Royal Military College (RMC) in Kingston.
“We had chosen the location because we really wanted to show off the beauty of the RMC, which was Mark’s alma mater,” says Lisa.
But less than three weeks before the wedding, they discovered that because the building was undergoing renovations, it was surrounded by scaffolding, and would definitely not look its best.
“Nobody had thought to tell us about the construction,” says Lisa. “Then, at the last minute, a young clerk mentioned that, although everything was fine inside, the outside didn’t look good. Mark asked for photos, and as soon as we saw them, we knew we needed to move the ceremony.
“That was pretty tricky, given all the logistics and planning and the directions to the guests — all from out of town,” adds Lisa, who is the managing director of a national company specializing in project management.
Nevertheless, mission change was accomplished in a few days. With the help of the wedding officiant, the Chaplain General of the Canadian Armed Forces, Brigadier General the Venerable John Fletcher, the bride and groom arranged for the wedding ceremony to take place at St. George’s Cathedral in Kingston, an Anglican church that had a long association with the RMC.
“Amazingly, this beautiful church was available on the day,” says Lisa, pointing out that the new venue was “a pretty spectacular plan B.”
All seemed to be on track until the bride and groom found out that Fort Frontenac, the venue they had selected for their rehearsal dinner and reception, was also listed for construction and unsightly scaffolding. “At this point, we had less than two weeks to go,” says Lisa.
Once more, serendipity came into play. Despite the short notice, an alternate venue was available on the night before the wedding and the pre-wedding event was relocated to the Vimy Officers’ Mess at the Canadian Forces Base.
Wedding salutes military traditions
On the day itself, there was little evidence of the dramatic lead-up to the wedding. Christened the “Royal Canadian Military Wedding” by their friends, the ceremony proceeded smoothly.
Lisa, in a custom white and gold gown by David McCaffrey (fortunately acquired just before his company was forced to close), was walked down the aisle on the arms of her two sons, Gabriel and Alexander Sanchez, who then became groomsmen for Mark, along with his friend, Ottawa police officer, Peter Jeon. Mark’s son, Connor, was the best man, while his daughter, Keira, was one of Lisa’s four bridesmaids, along with her niece, Alana Chillingworth, and two friends, Samantha Kaine Gruen and Marie Baynton, who was the maid of honour.
As Lisa stood by her groom’s side, Mark reached for her hand and asked, “Would you care to join me for the rest of your life?”
“That was a very special moment for me,” says Lisa.
There were many other spectacular moments on the day. As the newly married couple walked out of the church and through the arch of swords, in accordance with military tradition, bells rung and bagpipes played.
“We included the tradition in which the swords are lowered and we were not allowed to pass until I had kissed the bride,” says Mark, who wore dress uniform for the occasion. “We included military traditions and naval themes as much as possible. There were all sorts of military aspects throughout. We were married by the Chaplain General. We had the arch party. The cake had my rank emblazoned on it and we cut it with a sword. We also had a naval toast and were all piped in to the head table by one of my friends.”
As a special surprise for Lisa, Mark, now Director General for the Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services, but once a bagpiper and drum major in military bands, also commissioned a pipe tune — the romantic LAC Waltz — in her name.
Mark had also demonstrated his flair for a dramatic demonstration of his love when he proposed. At that point, the couple was on a yacht in the Galapagos Islands.
“On the last day, I woke Lisa early and asked her to come up on deck to get a picture of the sunrise,” he says.
“That was at 6:30 a.m. before I had had my coffee,” laughs Lisa. “But I did notice that he was dressed up.”
She complied with his request and after he had taken a photo or two, Mark dropped to one knee, produced the ring — a solitaire surrounded by 132 diamonds — and proposed. When the two went in for breakfast, they were greeted with congratulations and champagne toasts — as previously arranged by Mark.
He also organized one more surprise for his bride immediately after their honeymoon in St. Lucia – a visit to Paris, “to celebrate their union in the most romantic city in the world.” W
Date: June 27, 2015
Ceremony: St. George’s Cathedral, Kingston
Reception: Royal Military College of Canada, Kingston
Transportation: Kingston Trolley and McCoy Limousine
Florist: Pam’s Flowers
Photography: Gerry McGrath Photography
Cake: Dolci Fiori
Dress: McCaffrey Haute Couture
Catering: RMC Senior Officers’ Mess
Music: The Limestone Trio, Ambush, Ryan Lewis
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Get the Look
Swooning over Lisa and Mark’s wedding style? We’ve featured five of this couple’s wedding “wows” just for you. These newlyweds chose several custom elements to make their day extra special. Read on to find out how you too can make your wedding day truly one-of-a-kind.
Israeli bridal couture was the inspiration behind Lisa’s stunning wedding gown. The custom- made McCaffrey Haute Couture charmeuse silk dress featured Parisian gold lace to match the groom’s rank adorning his mess dress. The simple silhouette of the gown was heightened with sheer sides and two front slits — allowing movement when the bride took to the floor to perform a Brazilian tango with her groom. For your own custom design, check out Janine Adamyk Bridal Couture at janineadamyk.com.
Every girl remembers the moment they first lay their eyes on a sparkling bauble – perhaps even more memorable than the actual words of the proposal. When this groom met with jewellery designer, Bellecour, in Montreal, he had one important request: a “five table ring.” Wanting everyone to know the love of his life was taken, Mark chose a sparkler that “other men could see from at least five tables away.” To achieve this, Bellecour designed a stunning solitaire setting surrounded by more than 100 small diamonds. For a ring as unique as you, look no further than Ottawa’s Howard Fine Jewellers and Custom Designers. Visit howard.ca.
Centre of attention
The couple chose a colour combo of gold and white for their special day. Kingston’s Q Design transformed the Senior Officers’ Mess into a luxurious venue using crisp white linens and rich gold accents. Each table was anchored with floral arrangements atop tall glass centrepieces. Created by Kingston-based Pam’s Flowers, the inside of the vase was left empty, “permitting both viewing and conversation between guests across the table.” Check out Trillium Floral Designs at trilliumfloral.ca for your local wedding floral needs.
The cake was a nod to the groom’s navy background. The three-tiered delicacy created by Italian cake shop, Dolci Fiori, (Sweet Flowers) featured a naval-themed exterior and bore the groom’s rank. The interior featured delectable white and chocolate layers and oh-so-yummy raspberry and buttercream ganache. To cut the cake? A sword of course! This beauty received the full traditional military treatment. To satisfy your sweet tooth, visit Kate Green Cakes at kategreencakes.com.
Read all about it
Lisa and Mark wanted to make sure their guests were kept in the loop throughout the wedding day. The couple, with the help of their children, prepared each program by hand. “Preparation of the programs was a fun family affair – and an economical alternative.” The task consisted
of printing, arranging, folding, assembling, and tying in the wedding hues with a gold ribbon accent. For all things wedding stationery, check out the PaperStudio at paperstudio.ca.
Compiled by Lindsay Ruck.