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The bride’s mom wanted to be at the wedding. So this B.C. couple’s marrying at an Ontario care home

Sarah Joy Hopkin says her original plan was to get married next summer, but when the Vancouver resident heard her mother’s health was failing, moving the date up a year and having the event at a Waterloo, Ont., long-term care home was a no-brainer.

“There is really nothing more that I wanted, other than … to have my mom present,” Hopkin, who’s getting married today, said this week while standing at her mother’s bedside.

After a couple of recent health scares left her mother bedridden, Hopkin decided to bring the wedding to Waterloo’s Parkwood Seniors Community, also known as Parkwood Mennonite Home, where Judi Hopkin could receive the support she needed to attend the ceremony and spend invaluable time with her daughter.

People look at table with wedding photos, wedding dresses are hanging beside or above table on display
People who live and work at Parkwood Mennonite Home are celebrating the wedding by sharing their own wedding memories and, in some cases, their dresses. (Cameron Mahler/CBC)

Judi was put in palliative care and given a number of months to live, but her spirits in the days before the wedding were high.

“I thought, ‘Oh, please just get me to the wedding. Get me to the wedding,'” she said.

Judi has spent the last three years at Parkwood Seniors Community in a form of isolation rivalling that of one for COVID-19 . Her condition has made mobility nearly impossible.

“I really only know this room,” she said, adding that the wedding has “opened up the whole of Parkwood to me in many ways.”

Wedding is talk of LTC home

Originally, her daughter requested a small, immediate family-only ceremony in Judy’s room for her marriage to Chris Jimmo.

When she spoke with Parkwood’s executive director, Christine Normandeau, she thought she’d be met with hesitation, especially so soon after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. But Normandeau thought they could do more. 

“I just thought it was wonderful,” Normandeau said

Now, what was a private family event has turned into “the talk of the town,” Sarah Joy Hopkin said.

The ceremony was not only approved, but has been moved into the facility’s Fellowship Hall, the largest room in the home.

Portrait of woman
Christine Normandeau, executive director of Parkwood Mennonite Home, says staff were thrilled with the idea of helping the couple plan their wedding at the long-term care facility. (Cameron Mahler/CBC)

Parkwood is also providing flowers, piano tuning, additional cleaning, access to audio-visual equipment and use of the kitchen, the bride-to-be said. It’s expected there will be 70 guests at the event.

“We never imagined that this would be possible. The staff at Parkwood has gone above ‘above and beyond’ to make this day a joyful celebration of love and community.”

Judi’s personal support worker, Jaime Kissack, will also be there for the big day.

“I think this is really exciting,” Kissack said, saying it’s been such a positive event to focus on after the pandemic. “From the beginning, Judi and I really clicked. I mean, she’s a pretty lovable person,” she said.

“She feels really comfortable with me and I’ll make sure she’s comfortable. Whatever she needs, I’m there.”

Other residents have become involved in the preparations, too. In advance of Saturday’s ceremony, a table of wedding photos from the mid-20th century were displayed alongside wedding dresses, kept in pristine condition all these years.

Normandeau touted the importance of the display and how it’s provided “meaningful opportunities for people to reflect and reminisce.”

“This wedding has allowed so many people to come together over something that is really a meaningful ceremony of life, one that everyone can support.” 

From bumpy start to ‘I do’

Hopkin met Jimmo right before B.C.’s COVID-19 lockdown began. The couple matched with one another on not one, but two separate online dating sites.

“It was definite we had to go out,” Jimmo said.

For their first date, Jimmo brought Hopkin, who at the time was a non-drinking vegetarian, to Vancouver’s Shameful Tiki room, a cocktail bar specializing in meat dishes. Jimmo, who works in visual effects for TV, said that during the date, he learned Hopkin didn’t even own a TV.

“I was like, well, maybe I’ll get a second date, but probably not,” he said. “Three strikes, done.”

Hopkin’s first impression was Jimmo’s attention to detail.

Wedding photos, a white pillow and a veil on display on a table
Sarah Joy Hopkin says this weekend’s wedding has become ‘the talk of the town’ at the home. (Cameron Mahler/CBC)

“He had the Hawaiian shirt that kind of matched the decor of the tiki room. And the tiki room is a very difficult restaurant to get into. They don’t take reservations,” she said. “I was impressed by the effort that he had gone to.”

Jimmo then admitted he had spent half an hour in the pouring rain, just to make sure they got in.

They dated casually for the next three months “and then ended up just coincidentally moving in. He moved in with me right at the onset of COVID,” Hopkin said.

“It just kind of went from there.”

Walking down the aisle to Elvis tune

A bigger wedding for Hopkin means more friends and family can join them for the big day.

Close friends are taking care of the music and cupcakes while her uncle will officiate. Hopkin’s sister is the maid of honour and the bridesmaids are her nieces, aged 11 and 13.

“It’s similar to kind of this extension of community. It’s really been a community,” Hopkin said.

Portrait of woman with oxygen tubes to nose (nasal cannula)
Judi Hopkin has been in virtual isolation at Parkwood Mennonite Home after some recent health issues left her bedridden. She says she’s thrilled her daughter is having her wedding at the long-term care home and she’s able to spend this special time with her. (Cameron Mahler/CBC)

She will walk down the aisle to 70 voices singing Elvis’s Can’t Help Falling In Love.

“I told my mom that, and that was one of the songs that was really special for her and my dad. So kind of full circle.”

Judi said that to be able to attend the wedding, “to me, that’s just so powerful.”

She said everyone at Parkwood has taken the extra step and she’s touched by the efforts.

“From the top all the way to the caregivers and the chaplain — just everyone has been just so awesome at helping to make sure that I can do what I can to be part of this,” Judi said. “It’s really meaningful.”

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