Jenn Nucum and Tiffany Trinidad first met at the age of 18, during their undergrad for Media Studies at the University of Guelph-Humber in Etobicoke, a district west of downtown Toronto, Canada. Jenn specialized in Journalism; Tiff specialized in Photography/Image Arts. During their first year, they ended up in many classes together and started befriending mutual classmates within the program. They ran into each other quite frequently, though they were never formally introduced to each other.
“I remember when she walked in [to class] one day,” Jenn recalls, about Tiff. “She was late and frantically scanning the room, looking for a seat. I can’t quite remember the details of where exactly she ended up sitting, but I do remember averting my gaze every time we made eye contact. If you ask, she’ll probably tell you I gave her unfriendly looks and kept avoiding her (which I did, but only because I was afraid that if I stared at her long enough, I would blush uncontrollably). This was my first encounter with Tiffany Trinidad.”
A few months passed until Jenn was finally teased and pressured into sending Tiff a friend request on Facebook. Of course, there were several Facebook comments, MSN Messenger chats and emoticons (it was 2009!) that followed, leading up to their first date that March—and the rest was history. After university, they moved in together and created a place they now call home after six years.
Jenn popped the question the day she picked up the ring because she couldn’t trust herself with hiding it. “The way she asked me was true to us,” Tiff adds. “There was no audience of family and friends. There was nothing written in the sky or on a teleprompter. It was just us.”
They decided to hold their nuptials in Toronto—they both wanted it to be in Toronto because “it’s home,” and they wanted to honour its history and character through the architecture. After several visits, from an airplane hangar to an old church, to an Art Deco-inspired restaurant, Jenn and Tiff settled with 2nd Floor Events, an event space inside a heritage building on King Street West.
Planning the Wedding
For the most part, Tiff had the vision for the overall aesthetics, flowers, videography and photography. They agreed on the colours and theme together, while Jenn was in charge of the logistics for food and music.
“There was a lot of planning that went into the wedding and we tried to put a lot of ourselves into it,” Tiff says. “We wanted to make sure we were being true to ourselves and we also wanted to make sure our guests had fun.”
The two planned everything down to the day-of activities for guests, which included a quiz and colouring pages of strong and notable Filipinas (Apo Whand-od, Manila Luzon, HanHan, Catriona Gray and Lea Salonga), created by their good friend, Maira Canales.
They wanted to be as non-conventional as possible because it was important to the couple that all 104 guests (and vendors/other participants) felt included and not out of place. “There was no wedding party, we weren’t ‘given away,’ we didn’t do a first dance, and—despite having religious families—we had a secular ceremony,” Jenn adds, with an LGBTQ2+ friendly officiant, who was also a person of colour.
“Aesthetics were important, so we had a venue that didn’t need too much décor,” Tiff says. “We tried to compliment the industrial look of the venue’s exposed brick and hardwood floors with flowers that had a muted colour palette. The flowers were in copper compotes and the arch was also copper with some flowers/greenery.”
"I don't think the idea of wearing a white dress and veil was something that appealed to either of us."
“I don’t actually remember how we decided on wearing Filipiniana-inspired clothes, but it just seemed to fit,” Tiff says. “We wanted to acknowledge our culture, but at the same time, acknowledge our diasporic experiences. Full traditional Filipiniana wouldn’t have made sense for us, so we went with VINTA’s Filipiniana with a modern twist.”
Tiff knew about VINTA because she took part in Clutch (Volume 7), a program for Filipina youth run by Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts & Culture, of which VINTA Gallery founder Caroline Mangosing was the co-founder and Executive Director at the time.
“We both wanted to honour our Philippine heritage, and decided that one of the most respectful ways to do that was through clothing handmade by Filipinx folks, in the Philippines, with local materials,” Jenn says. “We wanted to be one with the fabric of our culture. Even if everything else about our wedding was not done in the ‘traditional’ Philippine way, we wanted to make sure that we acknowledged and incorporated who we were, and that it resonated with our family members.”
“It made us happy that our uncles, aunts, and other relatives wore their beautiful barongs and ternos in celebration with us. Personally, it also made me happy that our friends from many different backgrounds appreciated the flare of our attire and were interested to learn more about what we wore. To bring that sort of awareness of Philippine culture through our VINTA clothing was really one of my most special highlights of our wedding. The bonus was that Ilona Fiddy collaborated on the embroidery design (coincidentally, she was my tattoo artist and I had just got tattooed by her a few months before we actively started working with Caroline),” Jenn adds.
For the reception, Jenn changed into a VINTA bespoke barong in the reverse colours from the terno; it had a Nehru collar, coconut buttons, and a lavender bodice that allowed the beautiful hand-embroidered designs to shine in white. “The details on this piece made me feel like an Esquire model. I felt sharp, clean-cut, and wearing it made me want to do the ‘smoulder’ look. I intended on wearing two outfits because I wanted everyone to know—and see—that I can be femme and also be a gentleman. Many of my friends and family members have never really seen me in a dress, so it was satisfying to be able to shock them a little bit. Overall, wearing these two outfits made me feel empowered—not just as a Filipinx person, but also as a queer person.”
Tiff wore a custom barong dress, inspired by seeing HanHan, a rapper and strong Filipina woman she admired, wearing it during one of her performances. Working with VINTA, she customized the barong dress with a different collar, a different colour, among other details. She also asked for less traditional embroidery, opting for something more geometric to match her tattoo, which was inspired by Visayan tattoo motifs.
“It was empowering to wear something that involved so many strong Filipina women in the process of making it—from the initial design by Caroline and embroidery design by Ilona Fiddy, to the entire VINTA Gallery team in the Philippines that sewed, beaded, dyed and hand embroidered it,” Tiff adds.
The Big Day
"I was an emotional mess."
“My nerves were going wild before the ceremony, from all the excitement and just trying to keep everything together, internally. I couldn’t stop crying right from the ‘first look’ and all the way throughout the speeches,” Jenn recalls. “I felt the most emotional as Tiff recited her vows. I haven’t cried and laughed like that before. I looked like a mess up there, but she was nice enough to wipe my face when my makeup started to run.”
“A lot of the actual day was a bit of a blur,” Tiff adds. “It all seemed to go by so quickly. But there are some points that stand out. After months of preparation leading up to the day, and the hours of getting ready the morning of, I finally got to see Jenn in her dress—I think it was at this point we both realized it was actually happening.”
“Before the ceremony started, we were hiding in the bridal room for at least an hour while our friends and family arrived. When I finally walked down the aisle first, it was heartwarming to see them all in one room together, especially when some of them started tearing up,” Tiff says.
“There’s also a part of the ceremony where all of our friends and family affirm our marriage with a resounding, ‘We do.’ The impact of having over 100 of your family and friends affirming their support for you is powerful.”
The Couple’s Wish During Pride Month and for Queer Couples Everywhere
“I just long for the day when we don’t need to have a ‘Pride Month’ any more because being proud of who we are, however we identify and feel, should be celebrated and embraced every single day,” Jenn says. “No one should ever feel like they have to hide who they are or who they love, due to fear of persecution or humiliation—that’s not the way to live. I hope that our marriage can be a display and living proof that LGBTQ2+ people can be happy, they deserve happiness, that they are supported by a vibrant and loving community, and that queer relationships can be successful beyond whatever any religion teaches. We have always existed, and we’re not going anywhere. I'm looking forward to sometime in the near future, when my wife and I can travel to every corner of the world, be accepted, and feel validated.”
“Having June dedicated to Pride Month is relatively new,” Tiff says. “Until very recently, Pride happened over the course of just one week. I grew up outside of Toronto and in a community where being queer was ‘wrong.’ So going to the parade felt like the one outlet I had to express myself.
“Over the years, Pride has evolved, and what Pride is to me continues to change and evolve. Pride is supposed to be about inclusivity, but there are many groups that are still fighting for this, even in Canada. Every year, we as a community challenge ourselves to raise the level of discourse. And this is a good thing.
“There are so many places where being anywhere on the LGBT+ spectrum is not accepted. I grew up in Canada and I know that this is a privilege I have over many other people. Yes, on one hand, Pride Month to me is a celebration of what we’ve accomplished so far, but it is also a reminder that the work is not over, in Toronto, in Canada, and around the world.
“The obvious answer to the question of what I want for queer couples everywhere is that I hope for marriage equality and acceptance. I want them to know that they are seen, they are valid, and that they deserve to be loved.”
A Final Note
“I would just like to say thank you to VINTA for the opportunity to be part of a movement that brings awareness of Philippine culture to the masses, celebrated in different shapes and forms,” the couple adds. “Also, thank you to Ilona Fiddy for contributing her artistic talents, to our lovely photographers Mat Manser and Sara Tanner, our videographer John Butler for documenting everything and to everyone who made our wedding day possible.”
Learn more about VINTA Gallery Weddings here and start your journey.