One Saturday night many years ago, childhood educator Matthew Lawrence had a choice: He could either spend the night home alone and angry that his plans were canceled at the last minute, or he could make an effort to turn it around and try something different, which in his case meant going on OkCupid. “I remember being so opposed to online dating and wanting the sort of serendipitous fairytale story behind meeting my future husband,” he explains. But the risk paid off and that night he met up with Lance Westendarp, a naturopathic physician, acupuncturist, and Chinese herbalist, who would eventually become his lifelong partner. “He told me he had called a friend of his before we went out and told her to send out a search party if he didn’t contact her later that night,” Lance says with a laugh. “Luckily no kidnapping occurred!”
For their four year anniversary together, the couple headed to Vancouver for a vacation and decided to visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. They were walking their dog, Chad, and touring the tree tops when Lance suddenly stopped and noticed a piece of trash tied to their dog’s collar. “When I looked, there was a bag attached to his collar. Pretending to be puzzled, Lance opened the bag which had a small box with a ring in it. He then popped the question,” Matthew recalls. “Taken by surprise, the only thing I said was ‘thank you’ and offered my hand. Lance then reminded me that I hadn’t answered him yet. I said ‘yes’ and here we are!”
Initially, the two wanted to tie the knot in a big barn in Texas, where Lance’s family is from. But after looking at venues, nothing quite did the trick for them. One day during Thanksgiving, the couple remembered a family trip they took to San Miguel de Allende. “We all had such an amazing time on that trip,” he says. “We all looked at each other knowingly and later that day I got the name of our wedding planner, Guadalupe Alvarez of Penzi Weddings, from a friend. The rest is history.”
When thinking about what to wear for their big day, the couple originally wanted to opt out of the traditional tuxedo. But once they chose their location, they decided to go with something more elegant for their formal wedding in a rustic Mexican hacienda. While they both ultimately went with Hugo Boss tuxedos, they chose different colors—Lance wore black, Matthew was in blue. “We knew that when we’d wear them again at some future black tie event, we didn’t want to be matching,” Lance adds.
On April 7th, Matthew and Lance and their loved ones gathered for a traditional Jewish ceremony at an outdoor patio overlooking San Miguel de Allende. They started off with a Ketubah signing with only their immediate families, and later began their ceremony with the song “Here Comes the Sun” played by two guitarists. When it was time for Matthew and Lance to walk down the aisle, they played “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper. “Matthew cried coming down the aisle—I’ll never forget his pouty face as he attempted to cover it with a handkerchief,” Lance says. “I think the most touching moment was when the rabbi draped the traditional prayer shawl around Matthew and my shoulders as he performed the final blessing. The shawl belonged to my grandfather, and has been passed down through the family from marriage to marriage.”
Then came the reception, which had multiple parts, starting with a Mexican parade, known as a “callejoneada,” where the wedding couple and their entire group of guests walks down the streets with a Mariachi band, tequila shots, and two giant paper mâché puppets. Once they all made their way back to the hacienda, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres were waiting for friends and family.
When it was time for dinner, the wedding party was led back to the patio, where the ceremony was originally held, and which was now entirely lit up with candles and Mexican stars hanging from the ceiling. “There were audible gasps as people walked into the reception area,” Lance says. The seated dinner course included Mexican staples like chicken with brown mole and red snapper in a seafood saffron sauce.
After toasts delivered by the couple’s moms (the dads had their moment during the rehearsal dinner), it was time for dancing. The couple chose “Heavenly Day” by Patti Griffin for their first dance as husbands, and later guests were treated to a salsa band and tunes by a DJ who played for the rest of the night. After several hours of spinning and jumping, everyone was served chilaquiles and cake, to make sure they were able to continue partying. But even as the reception came to a close, the night was far from over. Lance, Matthew, and a large number of friends headed back to their rented hacienda and continued to dance there up until the early hours of the morning. Quite the fiesta!