On July 8, 2017, Barb Pekrul found herself in Thailand doing something she didn’t think she’d ever do.
It was sweltering hot, as it tends to be in Phuket that time of year (about 32 degrees Celsius), but the sun was shining, and the setting, serene. There were beautiful, white flowers everywhere – dangling from the surrounding palm trees, spilling out of various displays, and laying a path to a gazebo decorated as though it was plucked from a fairy-tale. It seemed surreal, but it did in fact happen: Barb witnessed her son get married.
It was only a year prior that Casey announced to the family that he’d be marrying Heidi, his girlfriend of two years. By this point, the relationship seemed serious enough that marriage wasn’t out of the question, but even still, the news came as quite the surprise to his mom and dad.
“He totally floored us because we didn’t think our son was ever going to get married,” Barb laughs. It’s not that he’s not a catch, she explains, but Casey’s career as a pilot had the Burlington native living internationally most of his adult life, and his mother knew that it would take a pretty special (particularly, independent) partner to accept that unique lifestyle.
From their first meeting while Barb and her husband were visiting Hong Kong not long after the pair started dating, it was clear that Heidi was up for the challenge.
“We were playing games,” Barb says, reflecting on the evening they first met their future daughter-in-law. “Our whole family is very competitive. We hate losing, any of us, so a lot of times we end up fighting over these games. Right away, one of the first things Heidi said to Casey was, ‘I’m going to kick your [butt].’ And we thought, ‘OK, we like you. You’re going to fit right in with us.’”
Heidi and Casey originally tied the knot in May with a traditional tea ceremony in Hong Kong with about 70 guests, most of whom were Heidi’s family, though Barb, her husband and daughter were also in attendance. A second ceremony in Phuket was meant to be a celebration with friends of the couple.
“When you live that far away, his friends are his family,” Barb says of the guest list.
Heidi wasn’t familiar with what a western wedding entailed before embarking on the endeavour, but evidently, figured it out pretty quickly. With a budget of US $52,000, she hired an outside company to bring her vision to life.
Barb, a travel advisor at Aldershot Travel in Burlington, joined her son and the bride-to-be in Phuket last October to scope out a few options she had determined based on her own research and experience. Their location, Mövenpick Resort & Spa on Karon Beach, which was a last-minute addition to the list of possibilities, was ideally located steps away from local restaurants and activity, which aligned with what Casey and Heidi wanted for their guests – to enjoy an elegant property and to easily experience Thailand.
The five bridesmaids wore soft pink dresses and the groomsmen, tuxes (save for one, a female childhood friend of Casey’s, who wore a long black frock), and Heidi stunned in a beautiful white gown – one of three that she donned throughout the day.
After a brief exchange of “I do’s,” guests moved on to a cocktail reception by the pool before being escorted into a ballroom, which – much like the garden – was spilling-over with flowers and elegant decorations, right down to the last detail. Guests enjoyed a family-style dinner of traditional Thai cuisine before the party continued into the evening and onto the dance floor.
“It was phenomenal,” Barb recalls. “I knew it was going to be gorgeous but I did not know it was going to be that beautiful.”
“You know what the kicker is?” she continues. “My son wanted to elope. He does not like to be at the centre of attention. But I think once he got into the planning, he was running with it; he went from not wanting anything to this elaborate ceremony. And it was just unbelievable.”
So how does it feel to see the son you thought might never settle down finally tie the knot?
“I feel so proud,” Barb says, “and so relieved that he found someone.”