Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sentimental setting for nuptials

Couple ties knot in landmark's shadow

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Sarah Taylor / Winnipeg Free Press

Gerald Lavergne and Shelley Carlson-Lavergne tied the knot Saturday at the Esplanade Riel Bridge. They are the first couple to wed there.

When planning their August wedding, Gerry Lavergne and Shelley Carlson wanted to go big or go home. In the end, they did both.

Saturday, after dating for exactly one year, the couple got married in grand fashion: on a sentimental dock with the Esplanade Riel bridge in the background of the neighbourhood they call home, St. Boniface.

They are the first couple to have their wedding reception at Chez Sophie, the restaurant atop the Esplanade Riel bridge, which was erected in 2003.

The reason behind the ceremony's location is one of many details in the Lavergne-Carlson story that sounds like something out of a Nicholas Sparks novel.

"My mom used to go to the same spot where we're getting married when she was going to school at the Collège St. Boniface. She would go there and have her supper. And I would always go there when I went running, way before I met Gerry," said Carlson. "I would stop there and I would kind of think about my future and do a little praying and meditating."

The dock below the bridge was also one of the first locations where Lavergne and Carlson went when they started dating. Though they knew each other for nine years before they started dating on Aug. 9, 2013, a fire pit in Lavergne's backyard was the spot of their actual first date.

Carlson was in the navy with Jasmine Zurbriggen, Lavergne's niece, who told her about an amazing uncle she had.

Seven years ago, when Carlson needed a place to stay, Zurbriggen said Lavergne had an open suite for rent in his home. So Carlson moved in. "He was actually my landlord before we got to know each other, and it just clicked," she said.

They lived in the same house for two years before they began dating. The fire pit in their shared backyard brought them together one night, and a smaller version of that pit decorated the top of their wedding cake Saturday.

"Six months to the day (on Feb. 9), in the middle of winter, I started a fire in the backyard in the snow," said Lavergne. He popped the question, flat-out surprising Carlson.

"I was thinking it was for our six-month anniversary -- I had no clue he was going to propose," Carlson said. Her answer was an immediate yes.

On Saturday, Lavergne and Carlson invited 120 of their closest friends and family to their wedding ceremony and reception.

Carlson's dad, Bruce, composed all of the music for the ceremony, while Carlson recorded a cover of an Alison Krauss song, When You Say Nothing At All, that was played for the couple's first dance.

"I recorded the song actually years ago before I met him and then I played it for him when I did meet him because it reminded me of him," said Carlson.

The proverbial cherry on top? Zurbriggen, who introduced the couple, performed the marriage ceremony, too.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 10, 2014 A4

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