On the surface, the only thing unusual about this wedding was its location: a beach volleyball venue.
For those who knew what was about to happen however, it was anything but normal. Not only didShawn Lippert re-propose to his then-fiancee Colleen, he had a surprise wedding with 207 guests ready to go a short time later at On The Beach’s courtyard. How did he pull off such a feat though?
Over the course of the year, Shawn asked his future bride what seemed to be harmless questions about what she’d want at her dream wedding. Colleen was unknowingly planning it herself with the answers and after about a year everything was in place to deliver. Instead of eloping in Vegas in September and surprising people upon their return, it was Colleen who was surprised instead.
“She was shocked,” said wedding photographer, Dana Marchand about the proposal. “It was so amazing to see. She couldn’t believe what [Shawn] had planned and that she had no idea he was doing it. When the door came up and she saw all the people, she cried – it was so sweet. I don’t think she could have been any happier in that moment.”
Marchand, Shawn’s second cousin, heard about the wedding through her mom and approached the groom about taking photos. While not knowing him well, she previously worked for Shawn’s younger brother and wanted to be part of the unique experience – it was Marchand’s first official wedding shoot and her photos eventually graced The Toronto Star’s front page.
As everyone knows by now, the video went viral with Operation: Whitecake, a codename Shawn jokingly created for people involved with the plan. The site was used to host the video for guests and those out of town after the wedding. Soon enough however, the story was picked up by news outlets around the world. ABC World News, CNN, CBS’ Early Show, the Today Show and The Daily Mail featured the story prominently – some having in-studio interviews with the couple.
While many called Shawn Mr. Romantic however, an Operation: Whitecake co-conspirator admits it didn’t start that way. Aren’t those the things good fairy tales are made of though?
“Shawn really botched their original proposal,” said the videographer and video director, Gavin Michael Booth. “He wanted to start the rest of their lives off showing Colleen that he was better than that and loved her more than she might ever have imagined. I know the video clearly shows the love and carefree relationship they have but being there, seeing Shawn so excited to give this day to his bride to be – it was inspiring to say the least.”
Booth had known Shawn for six-years after approaching him to film an Ashes Of Soma video at the club he owned at the time. Ever since, the two have remained friends (even creating parodies and short films together) and Shawn approached Booth to be his videographer. Initially the director/producer was hesitant as he doesn’t do weddings and felt that “shooting wedding videos steals my soul a little bit each time.”
Still, once he heard the concept of the surprise wedding and all the work Shawn was putting into it, he couldn’t resist. Much like Marchand, the experience was too great to keep him away.
“I’m compelled to tell original stories with my camera and I knew this would be one of them,” said Booth. “Plus I think back to everything Shawn’s done to help me with my film career and promoting music video releases and it’s a friendship worth giving a lot back to.”
Since the day in question, Booth’s video has been viewed more than a million times online. While it’s impacted everyone who took part in the ceremony in different ways, no one anticipated just how big the story would become. Marchand in particular couldn’t believe her success.
“I was surprised,” she said about the exposure her photos received. “I thought that a secret wedding, one where there were no real expectations on the bride’s part as to how good I would do with her pictures, would be the best way for me to break into doing weddings. Little did I know, this is likely the MOST important wedding I’ll ever do!”
The day wasn’t without its challenges however. Booth needed two people filming the event to capture everything, as Colleen had several surprises awaiting her in the hour before the wedding. Booth’s music video producer Marie Jeannette followed Colleen for these while he followed Shawn, who announced his good news about the proposal to guests. Marchand’s challenges were a bit different though.
“It was very fast paced,” she said. “I didn’t really know any details of what we were going to do but Shawn had an itinerary for me so I knew what would happen. When [Colleen] pulled up, I had to be on the ball. I was initially really intimidated, not only because it was my first time ever shooting a wedding, but when I was introduced to [Booth,] I thought there was no way I could be as good as him. I was intimidated to have someone of his caliber shooting the same wedding.”
Once the day was over however, everyone involved was more than satisfied with the results. Booth and Marchand agree it’s easy to see the love Shawn and Colleen share with each other: A feeling that led to what Booth described as his favourite on-camera moment of the day.
“My favourite on-camera moment is when Colleen arrives at the alter, leans over to Shawn and whispers ‘You’re crazy!’ while her friends and family on either side are hooting and cheering,” he said. “I’ve NEVER seen that reaction to a bride coming down the aisle.”
Indeed, this wedding was anything but normal.