Real Weddings: Inside a lush and ethereal ceremony at a west-end loft

Andrew Ngomba, a data analyst, matched with Natalina Strano, an associate investment advisor, on Bumble in 2017. They got engaged three years later, in October of 2020, and envisioned eloping to Italy. But as Covid dragged on, they settled on a micro-wedding in Toronto instead. Here’s how their intimate ceremony, held last fall, came together.

Natalina: I’m a huge soccer fan, so the fact that Andrew had photos of himself on the field on his Bumble profile piqued my interest. He was super handsome too, which didn’t hurt. I sent him a message about soccer and our conversation continued from there. We met at a pub at Yonge and Eglinton, near my apartment. When I saw Andrew sitting there, I got really nervous. I thought, This guy’s really cute.

Andrew: Natalina was gorgeous. I could tell that she was nervous at first because she was playing with the buttons on her shirt, but we had a great first date. The conversation was so easy, and I felt so comfortable with her.

Natalina: We didn’t have any awkward silences. Family is important to both of us, and we talked a lot about our loved ones and where we grew up. I was raised in the west end.

Andrew: I was born in Montreal but grew up in Virginia. I moved to Toronto for work in 2005, but my family is spread out all around the world, mainly in Virginia, England and Cameroon.

Nat’s a foodie so when we started dating we’d meet up once or twice a week for dinner. By early 2018, I knew Natalina was the one for me but we took it slow. The following winter, we moved into a one-bedroom at Yonge and Eglinton.

Natalina: We started seriously talking about marriage during the summer of 2019. I showed Andrew two pictures of engagement rings that I liked and I let him take it from there.

Andrew: In February of 2020, I ordered an oval diamond with a bezel setting on a gold band. Then Covid hit and the jeweller shut down for a few months. The ring couldn’t be ready until the fall, which was serendipitously near Natalina’s birthday. I wanted to do something simple and intimate. Nat had been at work all day, so I ordered dinner from Playa Cabana. I also got her a sweater and face masks from her favourite clothing store, so she wouldn’t expect any surprises. After dinner, I presented her with the gifts, then said “Oh, I forgot your birthday card” and handed it to her.

Natalina: We don’t usually give each other cards, so I knew something was up. I opened the card and it was signed “Love, your fiancé Andrew.” He went down on one knee with the ring. I started crying—I don’t remember what he said, or if I even responded. I was stunned, but really happy.

Andrew: We wanted to elope to Italy, since it was one of the first trips we took together.

Natalina: As the pandemic raged on, we realized we couldn’t really elope. A big wedding was out of the question, too. By the summer of 2021, we decided to start planning a small wedding for October. At the time, you were only allowed to host 10 people indoors. I had seen the photo studio Preto Loft on Instagram, and I loved the industrial look. I had a vision of bringing in a lot of pink and blush flowers.

Andrew: On the day of, we arrived at the venue and got ready in separate rooms. My family was unable to fly in for the wedding, so Natalina’s family were our guests.

Natalina: We were nine in total, including myself and Andrew. I wore an A-line dress by Alena Leena with a bustier bodice and floral lace and beading. I also got custom off-the-shoulder sleeves to match the dress.

Andrew: Since my family couldn’t be at the wedding, we wanted to include them in some way. We asked my mom to select the bible readings for the ceremony. Once the ceremony began, I thought to myself, It’s finally here. I’m so relieved, I’m so happy. Nat’s parents walked her down the aisle and she looked incredible in her dress.

Natalina: We were both smiling from ear to ear the whole time. After the ceremony, Andrew and I had a private toast, then took some photos around the loft and outdoors.

Andrew: We performed a West African tradition, called libation, outside. I brought a bottle of champagne, and we took a quiet moment to pour out a drink for our ancestors, especially our grandparents.

Natalina: After the photos, we sat down to a meal of beef short rib with roasted corn mash and a lime and cherry cheesecake. It felt like a normal Sunday dinner with my family. In between courses, I surprised Andrew with a video his family had prepared.

Andrew: My relatives had sent congratulatory messages and I was happy to see everyone. I was touched to hear from so many of my loved ones on our wedding day.

Natalina: After dinner, my mom read a poem about love and family. Then Andrew and I had our first dance to Lauryn Hill’s rendition of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.” Following dinner, we went home and ate mini wedding cakes from Steph and Flour, which we had given to my family as guest favours. That night, I felt very happy and grateful to be married to my best friend. We’re still planning our honeymoon. We haven’t nailed down where we want to go yet, but hopefully we’ll be able to jet off this summer.

Andrew: Being Nat’s husband makes me feel at peace. Living in this world is stressful and I couldn’t have picked a better person to come home to.

Cheat Sheet

Date: October 1, 2021
Venue: Preto Loft
Planner: Rainbow Chan Weddings
Florals: Lisa Lazzer
Officiant: Leonard Nolasco
Photography: The Eastcore
Dessert: Mini cakes by Steph and Flour
Hair and makeup: Rachel Renna
Bride’s outfit: Alena Leena, Christian Louboutin
Groom’s outfit: Coppley, from Pace Men’s Collection, Loding
Catering: Food Dudes

Here are some more photos from the day:

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