“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” – Mignon McLaughlin
I fall in love with my husband more and more each day. We make the perfect team and I knew early into our relationship that he was “the one” for me. Our wedding had some interesting events, but it truly was the best day ever. I wish I could go back and re-live it all the time and just be as present as possible in every moment. Below is our wedding story along with some tips that might be helpful wif you’re planning your big day!
We had about 230 guests and chose an outdoor wedding venue for our ceremony and reception, so we needed the weather gods to be on our side! Luckily, they were. No rain, but it was CRAZY hot for September. (P.S. If your wedding is going to be outdoors and it is calling for rain that day… plant a root vegetable upside down on the morning of your wedding day. It’s an old wives’ tale, but we did this for my friend’s wedding which was 98% chance of rain… and it didn’t rain for her ceremony! So… you know.. it was obviously the upside down carrot.)
BIGGEST TIP: Hire your own coordinator for the day…
Of course, a lot goes into planning a wedding and when both the bride and groom have pretty big families, even more stress is involved. If we could have budgeted for it, I would have hired a wedding planner from the beginning to alleviate some of that stress and make the planning a bit more enjoyable rather than overwhelming. As much as you want to please everyone else, it’s your wedding and once it is said and done, you are the one that is going to remember it forever… nobody else. So, do it the way you want and the way you dreamt of, as much as you can. One of the best things we did was hire a coordinator for the day. Mallory, from Lasting Events, was a true life saver throughout the entire day. There were many things I relied on Mallory for on my wedding day and one moment in particular comes to mind… I talk about this a bit more below but moments into our cocktail hour, a guest accidentally spilled red wine on my wedding dress. My heart DROPPED. Literally every bride’s worst nightmare coming true IRL. I looked up and in sheer panic, I called, “MALLORYYYYYY!” and she came to my rescue, grabbed my hand, and escorted the crying bride through the guests and into the bridal suite to try and get rid of the stain as fast as possible. Myyyyy hero 🙂
When it was time to find our officiant we were recommended Cathy Davis & Company. When going through the list of officants on her team, we both got an immediate “good vibe” feeling when we came to Paul’s profile. Paul ended up being more than a perfect fit for us, and had us laughing and smiling from moment one. So happy he was available on our wedding day to… make that day legit!
TIP: Choose your vendors wisely. Read all the reviews…
The venue was Chateau des Charmes in Niagara, ON. To avoid travel fees, we used a lot of Niagara based vendors, but also mixed in a few Toronto vendors. We loved every single one of our vendors (including Chateau des Charmes!), except for one, Vintage Hotels. If you are planning a wedding with Vintage Hotels, I would strongly recommend considering some other options.
We heard good things about Queens Landing, one of the Vintage Hotels, and selected them as our caterer. The caterer is one of the most expensive decisions when planning a wedding, and for the size of guest count we had, we ended up spending a lot with them. Along with the booking you and your guests get a room block for the eve of your wedding. We were so excited to stay there!
Unfortunately, as soon as we signed the agreement, everything that was contractually agreed to, wasn’t followed through. For example, the very first thing was booking the rooms. They told us to go ahead and tell our guests to start booking. Great! So, we did! I then started getting call after call from our guests saying they couldn’t book. They were told there wasn’t a room block for our wedding and, in fact, Queens Landing had “never heard” of this wedding before. I finally got a hold of someone at Vintage Hotels and they told me that Queens Landing was actually sold out the night of our wedding and couldn’t even accommodate us! The bride & groom! With a binding contract! So, they moved us over to their sister hotel, Pillar & Post, with very few rooms available, so we then could only invite a handful of guests to stay at the same hotel. Everyone else had to book their own accommodations elsewhere. Not a great start to the vendor experience, but mistakes happen… The sad part is that this patterned continued and continued with very little acknowledgment or apology by anyone from the company.
Next up was the tasting. We were so excited! We brought our parents and drove from Toronto to Niagara. We confirmed ahead of time that the tasting was for us + our parents, but when we arrived there was a table set for two and they argued with us and said, “the kitchen is only prepared for 2 people”. I had to pull up emails to prove the confirmation of us adding our parents and by then they were mad at us, I guess (?), and served us in a terrible and unfriendly manner. It was disappointing because most of us had to take a day off work to drive down and were just looking forward to enjoying the tasting… but, it was kind of ruined by the service.
After this, we were told the payment installments would be charged spaced out over several months from when we signed to our wedding day – almost a full year. Since this was the most expensive item on our wedding budget, having it all spaced out throughout the year was imperative. Somehow, their team did not put through the payments on those terms and ended up charging us the full amount, days before our wedding. You definitely want more stress leading up to your wedding, so that was totally perfect for us. We love the stress! Lots of health benefits.
Last of all was the wedding day itself. Our expectations for our wedding caterer were simply to adhere to allergies, the main courses chosen by our guests, and be fully staffed to stay on schedule. None of these were met, haha. Guests were served incorrect courses (scary because we had quite a few guests with serious allergies!), they were short staffed and made the entire evening 45mins behind schedule. We expressed our disappointment one on one, but never received an appropriate apology, until we made a public review. Even then, they sent us a 1-night accommodation voucher that could only be used Sunday to Thursday for their cheapest room. A.K.A. we would have to take a day off work to use it and it would cost us more in gas to get there than the voucher was worth. Pillar & Post was certainly beautiful, but Vintage Hotels/Queens Lansing overall was a terrible experience and caused a lot of additional stress and chaos throughout our entire wedding planning journey. Mistakes happen… all we really wanted was for them to acknowledge and take responsibility for their broken promises but their customer service was so poor which is disappointing in itself, but even more so when you are spending a decent amount for their service. We found out afterwards that Vintage Hotels is known for their poor customer service. Super unfortunate for all parties involved.
Long story short, if you are considering Vintage Hotels, I’d suggest looking at alternatives… you can’t re-live this day and it should be as perfect as possible for you. This is the one thing I would change if I could do it over again.
We LOVEDDDDDDD all of our other vendors. Here is a list of Toronto/Niagara based vendors we would highly recommend!
TIP: Be organized.
If you are in the event planning or PR industry, you feel me. There is something called a “run of show” which is basically a really detailed schedule of the entire day, encompassing everyone’s timelines and expectations, including bridal party, vendor arrivals/departures, venue set up, MC, DJ, song cues, mealtimes, etc. It’s time consuming to make but a real lifesaver on the day! I highly recommend doing this, even just for extra peace of mind. I also created a binder including all vendor contracts and agreements, seating chart, guest list with all of their allergy notes and main course selections, contact sheet with emails and phone numbers for all vendors and anyone that we might need to get a hold of, envelopes with the final installments for certain vendors that needed to be paid on the day, etc. Let me know if you are interested in learning more about what I had in here and how I organized this or the run of show – happy to share! It was such a relief to have everything written down and on hand during the day.
TIP: Do a ‘first look’ with your fiancé!
I got ready at Pillar & Post and my husband got ready at a nearby Airbnb. Initially I was hesitant to do a “first look”, because all I could think about is that the groom traditionally sees his bride for the first time as she is walking down the aisle. Now, looking back, I am so glad we did this. It saved us so much time from the bridal party having to stand around while we did our bride & groom pictures and allowed us to be present with our guests in between the ceremony and reception. It also makes this moment just between you and your fiancé, which is that much more special.
TIP: Jokes… Do ALL THE FIRST LOOKS!
I didn’t even really know this was a thing but since I had the best photographers evaaaa, they suggested I do a father-daughter first look and a bridal party first look. AND they turned out SO freakin’ cute. Do this. Do it! Do it even if you don’t want to because when you look at the pictures afterwards you will be so happy you did.
TIP: If tradition isn’t your thing… break it!
When it came time to select my bridal party, I felt so much pressure to keep it a small number. I wrote out a list of those I felt closest to and it was a ‘big’ list. 13! I couldn’t imagine walking down the aisle without every single one of those gals with me. So, I decided to not “match” the number of groomsmen, and not cut people just to make it a small bridal party because that was more the norm… I selected all 13 gals and had “bride peeps” instead of traditional bridesmaids. I tried to take a bit of the stress out of being a bridesmaid and asked them to find a dress within a champagne colour scheme, to accommodate everyone’s style, comfort, and budget. I suggested they sit with their significant others during the ceremony and just had my sister, the maid of honour, stand up with me. I tried to make it more as if they had the status of a bridesmaid but got to enjoy like a guest.
TIP: Add personal touches…
The weekend we chose for our wedding was actually the birthday weekend of a few of our guests. I wanted to show that we recognized and appreciated that they came out to celebrate us that weekend, instead of their own celebrations! I had cookies made by Bake Shoppe TO and placed them at their seats.
We also wanted to include a personalized take away for everyone, so we had their names laser cut, and used as their name cards.
Part of our ceremony was on grass. Having been a guest at a few outdoor weddings, sometimes for the gals it is annoying to wear heels on grass, as stilettos can poke right through! I made a little bowl of heel stoppers in various sizes for guests to grab before they headed to the ceremony.
When it comes time for dancing, sometimes those heels are begging to be taken off! We had a basket of different sized flip flops near the dance floor for guests to kick off their heels… Because: Ouch.
TIP: Include those that are looking down and dancing above…
You never really know how fortunate you are to have someone until they aren’t there anymore. I think on your wedding day this becomes even more real. It’s an important day for you and you want everyone you love there to support and celebrate with you. Unfortunately, a few family members close to us passed away before our wedding day. I included a table to recognize those that were there in spirit.
In addition to this, my sister made me the most beautiful maid of honour gift. Luckily, she gave it to me the night before my wedding, because I cried for quite a bit when she handed it to me. It was a ribbon to go around my bouquet, so I could have both of my grandmas and my godmother, walking down the aisle with me. She sewed my grandma’s necklace, my other grandma’s wedding band, and my godmother’s ring, onto the ribbon. It was the most perfect thing I could have ever dreamt of.
TIP: Get crafty wherever you can…
Fortunately, my fiancé (now husband) is very handy. He actually built our head table and our backdrop! One of my favourite songs is ‘ you are the best thing’ by Ray LaMontange. So, we had this laser cut and pasted onto our backdrop.
One of my best friends is into graphic design, so I leaned on her to design our menus, table numbers, and seating chart. I just printed off, cut them to size and put them into place.
Since a lot of our bridal party were staying in different places, I wanted to make sure they all still felt included and special. Coming from a PR background, I know how special a room drop can feel! So, I went to everyone’s hotel or Airbnb the night before they checked in and dropped off little “next morning kits” that I made for the bridal party. It included things like Advil, lip balm, mouthwash, hair ties, band aids, etc.
TIP: Don’t serve coloured beverages during cocktail hour…
I learned this the hard way and my heart is still a little broken over it. I chose our venue because of the grounds and where we would host cocktail hour. To me, it was magical and all I could think of was a movie-like wedding during cocktail hour, with all guests mingling outside with great music and a beautiful scenery. I had selected every song that played during that hour and we had our receiving line structured at the end of our ceremony so it would give us a chance to enjoy cocktail hour with our guests afterwards. This was also timed for the sunset, where we would mingle with our guests and then take a few sunset pictures as bride and groom and sneak in family pictures before the reception began.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to do any of those things and I was in the bridal suite for our cocktail hour. A few moments into our receiving line a guest had accidentally spilled red wine on my dress. For the bride, you dream of your wedding and most of all, your wedding dress! I knew I wanted this exact dress for years. I ordered it, got it tailored to fit me perfectly and comfortably, and couldn’t wait to spend the day and evening in it. It’s crazy when you think about it, you spend so much time selecting the perfect dress and you only get to wear it for a few hours your entire life!
After I noticed the spill, my heart dropped. I remember even saying to my fiancé that morning, “please don’t have red wine at dinner tonight so we avoid any stains on my dress!” And then, Bam. Didn’t even make it to dinner, lol. My coordinator and mom (and one of my photographers, Kelly) held my hands as the tears strolled down and took me right into the bridal suite.
They did an incredible job at trying to get the stain out. We used soda, we used white wine, we used all the things. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a change of clothes! I was just all nakey and crying waiting for the stain to be out, knowing that I was missing the exact moment I crafted the entire day to be around. I know the spill was totally innocent… things happen… I just wish I had a pair of jeans and shirt I could have thrown on so I could have gone back to the cocktail hour while my dress was being worked on. If everything had to happen the way it did, I just wish I threw a change of clothes in my bag! OR told the bar to only serve white wine while the receiving line is still in progress. <- PRO TIP right there.
TIP: Think of unique pictures you might want to capture on the day.
I saved a few photos that I saw on Instagram that I thought were pretty cute. I shared these with my photographers in hopes we could capture something similar on the day or evening of our wedding. They remembered every idea that I wanted to try, and made each vision come true. Here are a few of these special moments…
BIGGEST TIP #2: Just enjoy.
Things are going to go wrong, but you just have to roll with it. If I can have red wine spilled on my wedding dress and still look back on it as a magical day… I think that says a lot. You don’t get the day back so just be present and enjoy every minute. Take mental pictures of the entire day, because it is truly the best. You are marrying your best friend and have found your person. That is something that is rare and should be celebrated. Enjoy. Be happy. Be thankful. Be thankful for everyone that came to support and celebrate you. Be thankful that you found your person. That’s all that really matters and that is what the day is all about… not what colour linen should have been on the table, or what type of flowers were used, or if someone was served chicken instead of salmon.
Also… be comfy! I wore flats my entire wedding day and it was the best decision ever.
photography cred: julian & kelly moniz