Public wedding ceremony a first for The Forks
AWINNIPEG couple with prominent parents tied the knot Saturday in the first public wedding ceremony at The Forks. Tessa Blaikie and Hanwakan Whitecloud got married in front of family, friends and strangers seeking refuge from the rain at the Scotiabank Stage.
They wanted to get married at an open, public venue, and Whitecloud wanted it to be near a skateboard park because he and a lot of his friends are skaters.
The two were engaged after three months of dating and married after nine months together.
Both Blaikie and Whitecloud have parents who are public figures in the community.
Bill Blaikie, Tessa’s father, was the NDP MP for Elmwood-Transcona from 1979 to 2008 and an MLA for the provincial NDP from 2009 to 2011.
Wendy Whitecloud, Hanwakan’s mother, is a Dakota elder and a law professor at the University of Manitoba.
The parents co- officiated the ceremony, which was sheltered under the canopy from the on-again, off-again rainfall.
Blaikie has been a United Church minister since 1978, but said marrying one of his three daughters was a career first.
“It’s always an honour to be asked, but it’s always particularly so when you’re doing it for family,” he said.
Hanwakan Whitecloud said he met his future wife while on a break from a work conference in November.
His friend, Wab Kinew, had started a partnership between the University of Winnipeg, where he works, and Cape Breton University, where Whitecloud works, to start a national mentorship program for indigenous high school students.
During a break in the conference action, Kinew went to a speaking engagement, and Whitecloud asked to tag along.
He wound up sitting beside Blaikie, who later asked him out over Instagram.
“She sent me a direct message... and it said, ‘I find you very attractive, but I don’t know how to ask somebody out over Instagram,’ ” Whitecloud remembered. “And I said, ‘That works!’ ” Whitecloud planned to propose in February while acting as an MC at a snowboarding competition in The Pas. But it got so cold he could barely get the words out, he said.
A few weeks later, a better moment to pop the question arose.
Blaikie helped Whitecloud grade hundreds of university-application forms for work, and the selfless act cemented what he already knew — she was the one.
“After we were finished, we were sitting in the kitchen and I said, ‘So you know, do you really want me to get down on one knee?’ ” Whitecloud said.
“She asked me, ‘Is this hypothetical?’ And I said, ‘Well yeah, that was. But this isn’t,’ ” he said before taking a knee.
The couple’s wedding ceremony adopted traditions from Blaikie’s upbringing in the United Church and Whitecloud’s Dakota heritage.
Whitecloud’s mother presented the couple with a white and green-patterened star quilt, an item traditionally bestowed upon Dakota people celebrating major accomplishments, she said.
The wedding party also included the couple’s other parents — Blaikie’s mom acted as her maid of honour and Whitecloud’s father was his best man.
Tessa Blaikie and Hanwakan Whitecloud wrap themselves in a traditional Dakota blanket during their wedding ceremony Saturday.