Inside a gothic ceremony at a pumpkin farm

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Setenio Borges, a regional trainer at Browns Shoes, and Alex Illest, a Canadian correspondent for the Equality and Human Rights Council of Scotland, met online in 2019. They were engaged on a trip to Quebec City six months later—just two days before the first Covid-19 lockdown—and tied the knot in an intimate all-black, ’til death–themed celebration in early October.

Alex: I had noticed Setenio at clubs in the city and we have some mutual acquaintances. In 2019, he caught my eye on a dating app for scruffy men and I couldn’t help but reach out.

Setenio: I knew of Alex through social media and I’d seen him on MTV Canada’s 1 Girl 5 Gays. We instantly connected and talked for a couple weeks before meeting in person. We both wanted to get to know each other first.

Alex: We talked about our goals, our values and what we saw for ourselves in the future. Setenio seemed to have a really good set of core values, beliefs, an amazing work ethic and a love for his family that I could really relate to.

Setenio: I usually have a guard up with people, but with Alex I got this sense that he came from good people and was an interesting character. I wanted to know more about him. We may look alternative, but deep down we share traditional beliefs—we believe in marriage and want to start a family of our own one day. We decided to meet in person for the first time at a mutual friend’s 30th birthday party. It was an instant mesh. When we arrived people were enamoured by our energy, and by that point we knew we had something special. We said our first I love yous to each other that night and became inseparable.

Alex: I scolded our mutual friends for not introducing us years ago.

I usually have a guard up with people, but with Alex I got this sense that he came from good people

Setenio: We planned a trip to Japan in February, where we were both had thought to propose, but concern about Covid-19 was growing so we cancelled the trip. We decided to go somewhere more local, and settled on Hôtel de Glace in Quebec City in early March. One night while carving ice sculptures, I made a skull for Alex and put a ring in its mouth. I told him to look inside, and went down on one knee. There were power outages all evening because of intense weather but the moment after I asked him to marry me and we kissed, the lights turned on. It was a surreal experience. Two days later the world started to lock down and we rushed back to Ontario.

Alex: We had our hearts set on 10/10/2020 as our wedding date; there’s just something so romantic and unique about the numerology. We didn’t fully comprehend the magnitude of the pandemic when we got engaged, so we started brainstorming ideas for a masquerade-themed wedding ball with 200 guests. Eventually, we realized it wasn’t going to happen, and decided to postpone all plans. We spent the early months of quarantine moving into our home in Hamilton and strengthening our bond. By the end of the summer, we decided to move forward with a smaller celebration. We thought, if we love each other, why wait? Let’s seize the day. Since our original idea was a masquerade ball, we thought we’d reinterpret it for the pandemic and do a masked theme as a nod to the times.

We decided to embrace these dark times had black leather plague doctor masks handmade for the wedding party

Setenio: Back in August, Covid-19 restrictions were loosening up, and a distanced wedding seemed safe and possible. We decided on an outdoor wedding at the Glen Drummond Farm in Dundas. We wanted to invite everyone we know and love but couldn’t, and the numbers kept dwindling further when restrictions tightened as we got closer to the date. It was stressful to plan. There were times we thought we’d have to cancel last minute. In the end, we had 34 people at the outdoor ceremony and only close family and our wedding party at the small reception at a nearby restaurant to accommodate restrictions.

Alex: Having our immediate family and best friends there was the most important thing to us. We had a very clear vision for the ceremony: we got everyone to wear black and got leather plague doctor masks handmade for ourselves and our wedding party. The day of the wedding was a beautiful and crisp October day, with the fall colours at their peak. We were a bit nervous because the weather called for a thunderstorm a half-hour before our ceremony.

Setenio: Alex commissioned a makeup artist for his wedding party to get ready at our house and I went with my sisters to get our makeup done at a beauty salon. We both put on our tuxedos, and got to the farm at noon, where we hung out drinking mimosas with our family and wedding party. When our guests arrived—all fully masked, of course—they were shuttled to the ceremony location on a big tractor. It was a bit chaotic, but really fun. We gave all our guests black organza bags with vials of hand sanitizer designed to look like potion bottles and personalized black cloth face masks that had our initials and wedding date embossed onto them.

Alex: Setenio wore angel wings on his tuxedo jacket and my “something blue” was a sapphire angel brooch that I wore on my vest to honour our niece Lennox who passed away in 2019. The ceremony was beautiful and elegant. As my mom walked me down the aisle I was fixated on Setenio’s beautiful face. When we got to the end of the aisle, I hugged her and my dad and started crying. I was so overcome with emotion and slightly concerned my makeup was going to be ruined—thankfully I had a great makeup artist. We were worried about the rain, but the grey skies actually played in to our theme. It looked like a post-apocalyptic wedding. The rain didn’t start until we were wrapping up our photo shoot after the ceremony. We got a bit wet and my hair was totally ruined but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

Setenio: We hosted an intimate reception dinner for our immediate family and wedding party at the Aberdeen Tavern, a bank-turned-restaurant in Hamilton.

Alex: We had rented the private dining space upstairs. Once there, no one could leave their tables without wearing a mask and dancing wasn’t permitted.

Setenio: Even though the restrictions affected the day, we both felt an amazing glow come over us because it was so intimate, and we were able to genuinely engage with all of our guests. If there were 200 people at the wedding, we would have been way more frazzled. I knew I had found my husband and my partner for life. The world could have ended the next day and I would have been happy.

Cheat Sheet:

Date: October 10, 2020
Photographer: Honey and Lux
Hair and Makeup: Alex: Sabrina Illest and Missy Costa, Blade to Brows; Setenio: Hair by Milene, Angel Beauty Bar
Venue: Glen Drummond Farm, The Aberdeen Tavern
Wedding Cake: Jessalina Trevors
Florals: Shēdo Concepts
Guests: 32