It was a magical moment. Bermuda-born Erika Jacqueline Thompson, who grew up in Southampton, was home for two weeks from a job in Lucerne, Switzerland. One evening, her best friend insisted that they take a walk on the beach at the Fairmont Southampton. They soon saw that there was a wedding taking place on the sands and that the groomsmen were all in Bermuda shorts. When they had passed it, Erika saw, at the end of the beach, the silhouette of a man by himself in Bermuda shorts.
Oh, we should go back, she said to her friend. He must be one of the groomsmen from the wedding and we shouldnt be interfering in it. But her friend insisted that they go on. As they drew closer, Erika saw that the man also wore a bow tie. At the same time, her friend, Sumner, had suddenly disappeared As soon as I saw the bow tie I knew it was Hannes, Erika says of the Swiss beau whod stayed behind in Lucerne while she made her two-week visit back to Bermuda.
I was so excited I didnt know what to do, she remembers. It was so wonderful, I thought, that he had come all the way from Switzerland to surprise me. But it was a lot more than that, it turned out. Erika, he said, Im not wearing Bermuda shorts and a bow tie and standing on a beach in Bermuda for no reason. Then he got down on one knee and proposed. It was a particularly wonderful proposal, Erika says, because of the significance of the bow tie. Her father, who had died just two and a half years earlier, had always worn bow ties on Fridays, and Hannes knew it.
Of course, Erika accepted Hannes, and it wasnt long before they were back where they lived and worked in Switzerland, busily planning their wedding, which was to take place on Oct. 4, 2014. They didnt discuss whether it should be in Switzerland or Bermuda for long. Since Hannes is Swiss, she says, she expected to be spending the rest of her life in Switzerland. That being the case, she wanted her Swiss friends and family-to-be to see what her Bermuda home was like. I wanted them to see what I come from, she says, and one of the great things about the Swiss is that most of them love to travel.
When we finally had the wedding, we invited 85 people and 35 came either from Switzerland or Canada or the United States. Canada plays a role in their story because Hanness father lives in Toronto; Erikas mother comes from Nova Scotia and Erika and Hannes met when they were both students at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto. He was studying graphic design and she, advertising. We both had transferred to the school in our second college year and we had to take a horrible class for transfer students, she says. One day before class, she was having lunch and Hannes asked if he could sit at her table. We have a class together, you know, he said. A friendship blossomed and soon they were dating. But just then, the timing wasnt right, Erika says.
They finished school and went separate ways she back to Bermuda and he back to Switzerland. They lost touch with each other. Then 10 years later they reconnected through Facebook. They began e-mailing and Skyping, and in 2012, Hannes decided to take a weeks vacation in Bermuda. After that visit, they knew they didnt want to lose track of each other again, and, for the next year, they would take turns crossing the Atlantic every three months so that they could be together. It was clear pretty soon that a long-distance relationship wasnt suitable and that one of us was going to have to move, Erika says. It was decided that Erika would make the move.
She got a job in Lucerne. It has now been more than three years since she made the move to Hannes’s native country. Today they live in Herrliberg, on Lake Zurich, about 15 minutes from the city center. Erika is now working, not in advertising, but as a graphic designer at an international language company in Zurich. Hannes is the creative director and a partner in a design agency there. But before that move and those jobs came to pass, there was, of course, their Bermuda wedding.
The day of the ceremony was met with glorious sunshine. The venue was the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Unfinished Church in St. Georges, where construction began in 1874. To this day, the church remains in its partially done state, with bushes and vines growing between the foundation stones and open to the sky. Erikas mother had always hoped she would have a church wedding, but she had longed for an outdoor wedding. The Unfinished Church fulfilled both their desires. Its always been one of my absolute favorite spots in Bermuda, Erika says. Its so rustic and unique.
We felt very special being married there. And we chose the perfect weekend for an outdoor wedding! On their wedding day, Erika and Hannes arrived at the cathedral in separate taxis with ribbons on the front of each. Erikas dress, of figure-hugging stretch crepe with geometric lace patterns in front and back, had origami-style pleating on the back and a sweeping fish-tail skirt. It had been fashioned in London by designer Roland Mouret. To help her select her wedding dress, both her mother and her identical twin sister, Nina both of whom live in Pagethad flown to London from Bermuda. Roland Mourets boutique was the first one we went to, Erika says. I tried the dress on. I knew that nothing else would compare, and we canceled all the other appointments.
In addition to her sister, who was her maid of honor, Erika had six bridesmaids, all Bermuda friends. Collectively, Ive known them more than 100 years, she says. One, I met on the first day of school when we were five. Hannes had a long-time school friend as his best man, and three groomsmenhis cousin, his business partner and his best friend from Toronto. The bride carried a bouquet of English roses, scented stock, ranunculus and delicate astilbe. To add a local feel, some cedar and frangipani were included. Rosemary and sage added a beautiful fragrance to the bouquet. I wanted my bouquet to look as if its flowers had just been picked from the garden, says Erika. Sally at Flowers by GiMi in Hamilton did an amazing job of accomplishing this. Erikas maid of honor had a similar, smaller bouquet while each of her bridesmaids carried a single King Protea with a collar of herbs. The groomsmen had Bermuda cedar boutonnieres.
The newly married couple left the cathedral in a beautiful horse-drawn carriage, a gift from Erikas aunt Debbie Dunham. It was a truly special gift because being in it marked the first time we had been together alone as husband and wife, and I also loved honoring this Bermuda horse and carriage wedding tradition, says Erika. Hannes thought the ride was absolutely incredible. Who could ever imagine a Swiss man in Bermuda shorts in a horse-drawn carriage? We took a little ride past the old golf course in St. Georges and along the water and ended up at the abandoned t-dock where some of our wedding portraits were taken. The reception was held at the Coral Beach Club in Paget, on the Longtail Terrace. Because we had so many guests from overseas, we really focused on having a location that truly highlighted Bermuda, says Erika.
My uncle from Canada exclaimed, Can you believe it, Im dancing on a cliff, overlooking nothing but the ocean! Everyone was blown away by the location. The reception tables had arrangements that included clusters of cedar and frangipani, succulents, English roses, local flowers and greenery scented with rosemary and other herbs in varied containers. There were clear glass votive candles in the arrangements that flooded the tables with candlelight. Sally from Gini draped ribbons across the tables in a criss-cross pattern. Place cards were luggage tags that Erika and Hannes had designed. On the back of each card was their logo and the words, Some roads are not meant to be traveled alone. Attached to each tag was an envelope made of vintage maps. Inside the envelope was a card. On one side of it was a hand-written note personally thanking each guest for attending; on the other side, a note saying that a donation to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society had been made in the guests honor.
For those who had come from overseas, we created custom welcome bags with our logo and Lost and Loving It written on them, says Erika. We filled the bags with Dark and Stormy ingredients. Thats the famous Bermuda cocktail made of Bermuda black rum and ginger beer. Then we included lots of material about Bermuda. We also designed our own map of Bermudas hidden gems like Art Mels fish sandwich that you can get in either St. Georges or Hamilton and Pearl in Hamilton, the place with the best sushi. We also used white lace bunting, as well as bunting made from vintage maps in our decorations, Erika continues.
A big feature of our wedding was a Bermudian birdcage replica, like the one that is on Front Street in Hamilton, which my mother arranged for us. We turned this into our photo booth, and people had so much fun. A Swiss touch was added to each table with an authentic Swiss cowbell. A tag was attached to each that said, please ring for the speeches. It also invited the guests to take the bells home with them as souvenirs. Speeches are a big part of Swiss weddings, so we wanted to make sure that any guest who wished to say something felt free to do so, Erika says. My sister even wrote an amazing custom rap as her speech. Working Title provided the music for our reception. Hannes had heard them at my cousins wedding the year before.
They were incredible at getting the party started and we ended the night jumping and waving to some awesome soca. The couple chose a land and sea menu for their guests, with the land symbolizing Switzerland; the sea, Bermuda. They selected October as their wedding month because it is Bermudas lobster season and Hannes wanted to be sure all the Swiss guests had a chance to sample it. Altogether, the menu was sumptuous. Traditional his and hers gold and silver Bermudian wedding cakes were the main dessert, with the bridegrooms cake a black forest gateau with gold leaf and a cedar spring on the frosting; the brides was a strawberry-vanilla mousse cake with silver leaf on the icing. There was also a dessert buffet.
The wedding couple stayed at the Fairmont Southampton, as did many of the wedding guests. According to the bride, all particularly enjoyed the beach and the pool, and the ferry that runs to the Hamilton Princess. In the days after the wedding, at the brides suggestion, several guests rented mopeds to tour the island and went swimming at Horseshoe Bay and Church Bay and several of the South Shore beaches. Other guests rented a catamaran and some of the men went sailing with Erikas cousin who took them to Mangrove Bay to see old shipwrecks where you can feed the fish. Will there be return trips to Bermuda for Hannes Gabriel Sigrist and his wife, Erika Jacqueline Thompson? Of course, Erika says. Well be back in October for our very first anniversary and we plan to make annual trips after that, she says.
CEREMONY – UNESCO World Heritage Site
RECEPTION – Coral Beach Club
PHOTOGRAPHY – Alex Masters
FLOWERS – Flowers by GiMi