Show your Appreciation

Wedding gifts for the bridal party

The bridal party is usually made up of your best friends, or perhaps your brothers, sisters and cousins. Whoever they are, they are the people who have been there for you through good and bad times, and they should continue to be there for you in your married life. You want to show your appreciation for the role they are playing on your big day.


Choose gifts that show your appreciation

When choosing wedding gifts for bridesmaids and groomsmen, it is important to choose gifts that show your appreciation for them. You want to be sure that you can provide them with gifts that are not only fitting for the occasion, but are also useful and something they will always cherish. This is not the time to buy something cheap, but at the same time there is no need to spend lots of money. Here are a few quick tips for finding great gifts for your bridal party without spending more than your wedding budget has available.


Wedding theme and level of formality

Choose gifts that fit with the theme of the wedding while expressing the joys of the wedding celebration. For example, flip-flops and other beach attire for a beach-themed wedding or pretty jewellery for a princess- and prince themed wedding are both great ideas. Also, think about the overall formality of the day and try to fit that in as well. For a casual beach wedding, flip-flops are great gifts, but for a formal evening wedding, cufflinks and bracelets are a better option.


Reflect yourself in the gift

Incorporate something about you and your relationship into the gifts that you are giving. Are you both into going “green” and being environmentally friendly? Then put your gifts into reusable shopping bags or have certificates to “green” stores inside of them. Are you musicians? If so, include something in your gift that reminds them of this.

Not all bridal gifts have to be the same. Golf tee gift sets can be a great gift for someone who likes to golf. By first thinking about the two of you as a couple and then relating to the person who is getting the gift, you should be able to come up with some unique and interesting gift ideas for the people on your list. You have probably known these people for a very long time, and therefore you can incorporate something about your own relationship with them into the gifts that you are giving them.


Personalized gifts

Next, you should think about personalizing your gift. This demonstrates to the recipient that he or she really does mean a lot to you. There are many places where personalization can be done easily and quickly. Engraving on metal, for example, is relatively inexpensive and can typically be done when you purchase the item.


What does your gift say?

Your bridal party gifts are going to say many things: about the theme and formality of your wedding; about you and your spouse to be; about the relationship that you have with the person who is receiving the gift; and about showing the recipients that they really do mean a lot to you. Giving the right bridal party gifts can enhance your wedding and make both of you very happy. And, looking for just the right gift can be a fun process because there are many great options available. With a little creativity, you can discover those perfect gifts for your bridal party.



By Lisa Parker

Planning your Wedding Day

Survival checklist

Hotel and destination travelling tips

As you are planning your wedding day, an item often overlooked is the time allocated for travelling to and from the wedding destination. When planning travel time, add an additional 50 per cent to your schedule. If you invited many friends and relatives from out of state, ask local hotels for a group discount. A group discount will save you considerable time and money. If everyone stays at one location, transportation problems will be minimized.

Renting a bus can sidestep an enormous amount of potential issues that always seem to arise when transporting people. A bus can pick up guests from the hotel, transport everyone to the wedding and even afterwards to the reception. This prevents guests from getting lost, misunderstanding directions, having car trouble and so on. With a bus, all of the designated drivers can finally enjoy a drink at the reception!

Contingency travel plans

Include a contingency plan. If you decide to rent transportation, book with a reputable company, which will usually provide backup transportation in the case of an emergency. Ask friends or neighbours to provide backup transportation. If someone is late or sick, that backup transportation will come in very handy. If you’re driving to the wedding and your car breaks down, you will have a backup to rely on.


Wedding venue preparation

Every detail counts, including the wedding venue. For starters, using nametags will help everyone involved. Writing down the person’s name and function will not only help your guests, but wedding staff as well. If you’re going to drive off in a convertible, check that the roof functions correctly. In the event of a rainstorm, the last thing you need is to be soaked in water. Equip the wedding ushers with umbrellas. As you leave the ceremony, you’ll have some protection from the elements.


Rowdy family and playful children

There is always that drunken family member or friend at the wedding — hilarious perhaps but not if it’s your wedding. You want to enjoy your precious wedding day, so the last thing you need is some overly boisterous, loud, obnoxious person ruining everything. It’s not worth taking a chance, so planning ahead will probably save your sanity on your wedding day. Ask a friend or relative to observe your guest, so you can put an end to any problem before it spirals out of control. As a secondary precaution, ask the bar staff to water down your guest’s drinks. Your designated friend or relative should also act as a bouncer if the situation worsens. Escort the guest outside or somewhere private so they’re able to sober up and return to the reception. Children can be troublesome at times, but that’s to be expected with such a long day. There should be a separate section and menu for children. Children then can eat comfortably and relax with the other children. Hiring a magician will work miracles! You can also try a daycare service to watch the kids. The key thing to remember is to plan ahead and have all sorts of activities to keep the children occupied. Divorced parents are a touchy subject. Before the wedding, sit down with them (probably separately) and remind them to behave themselves on your wedding day. When planning seating and table arrangements, keep divorced parents and anyone else who might clash together far away from one another. This is also a perfect situation to recruit another relative or friend to act as a referee of sorts.

Emergency bride survival kit

You may not need to arm yourself to the teeth as Jennifer Lopez did in the movie The Wedding Planner, but don’t underestimate the importance of preparing for your emergency bride survival kit: a lifesaver, makeup artist, tailor and more is designed to get you through your wedding day in the event of those minor mishaps that seem to happen at the worst times.


Pack all these items and anything else you can think of in a big duffel bag:

• Hair: hairspray, combs, brushes, hairpins;

• Makeup: clear nail polish, liquid concealer, lipstick, foundation, rouge;

• Shoes and Clothing: dancing shoes, extra panty hose, underwear, socks; and

• Hygiene: band aids, toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, breath mints.


Here are two examples of situations that occur often, but fortunately your survival kit can provide you with some help:


• Sudden Stains — To get rid of a stain, blot it dry with a napkin and be sure not to rub as rubbing embeds the stain even more. Another emergency fix is to delve into your wedding survival kit and reach for the white chalk. Once the stain is dry, white chalk can be gently applied to conceal the stain.


• A Surprise Blemish — In the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Toula Portokalos’ bridesmaids covered up her blemish with skill on her wedding day. Although the film didn’t divulge the actual makeup techniques, here are some tips on what you can do. Don’t squeeze the spot and avoid using foundation, which can easily cause your skin to have a caked look. A cleaner (and more natural) alternative to foundation is liquid concealer. This will allow you to smooth over that annoying blemish without causing your skin to look caked. Once the concealer has set, touch up with some loose powder.

Green and Glam Costa Rica is Pura Vida

Pura vida” is a popular greeting among Costa Rican residents. It means “full of life” or “life is good” — and perfectly captures the essence of this colourful country. Teeming with orchids, tropical rainforests and wildlife, Costa Rica treasures its reputation as the world’s greenest country. Almost 30 per cent of this country, including much of the coastline, is protected. This commitment to everything green makes it a popular choice for couples who want to support the planet while they celebrate. But going green doesn’t mean roughing it. Although best-known as an eco-destination, Costa Rica is fast becoming a celebrity magnet thanks to an ever-expanding roster of upscale resort hideaways for A-listers and their entourages. Supermodel Gisele Bundchen led the trend with her purchase of a multimillion-dollar beachfront property on Nicoya Peninsula, and other celebs soon followed. Many are drawn to Costa Rica for special occasions such as weddings, honeymoons and vow renewals. Others, such as Steven Tyler, who headed here after the 10th season of American Idol, simply love the country’s seclusion. For a growing number of couples, the magical combination of stunning beauty and privacy makes Costa Rica their choice for a destination wedding that’s in harmony with nature.


Rock star beach resorts

The beautiful crystal waters and sandy shores of Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast have welcomed many VIPs. Singer-songwriter Pink and motocross racer Carey Hart chose to hold their beachside wedding at the Four Seasons Papagayo near Guanacaste. This five-star hotel spans two beaches and its private villas, with sweeping ocean views, are perfect for A-listers who travel with an entourage of nannies, stylists, assistants and private security staff. The villas are also tops among couples planning large or multi-generational weddings. Large as it is, the Four Seasons also offers discrete privacy for those avoiding paparazzi, such as pop star Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz (lead singer of Fall Out Boy). Couples looking for red-carpet privacy will appreciate the breezy Canopy Plunge Pool Suite, a secluded unit perched on stilts, overlooking the bay.

Photo Abouve: The Four Seasons Papagayo is a celebrity favourite
Photo Credit: Four Season resorts


Award-winning Canadian songsters Chantal Kreviazuk and Raine Maida (lead vocalist for Our Lady Peace) renewed their wedding vows on the beach at the RIU Guanacaste Hotel and Resort. The RIU offers four wedding package options, including the Free Package (minimum of five rooms booked and three nights stay), where couples pay only the minister and documentation fees. When it comes to creating together-time wedding memories, do as the celebs do and book a zipline adventure at the nearby Witch’s Rock Canopy Tour, where 24 launching platforms, three suspension bridges and three climbing trees offer thrilling views.


Hollywood hideaways

Even celebrities need to get away from the spotlight and reconnect with nature. Is there anything more primordial than a bubbling volcano? The Springs Resort and Spa was chosen as the setting of a Season 15 episode of ABC’s reality TV show The Bachelor — with good reason. This five-star boutique hotel, near La Fortuna, offers a romantic backdrop of hot mineral springs, cascading waterfalls and freeform pools overlooking Arenas Volcano. On clear nights you can even watch red lava spill from the volcano’s cone. The Springs Resort can host weddings of up to 150 people and offers elopement and destination wedding packages. Book the Honeymoon Vista Room and you’ll enjoy a hot mineral spring experience in the privacy of your own lushly landscaped garden terrace.


High in the hills above the capital city of San Jose lies Finca Rosa Blanca, a luxurious plantation inn that is said to have wowed celebrity guests Charlize Theron and Kevin Bacon. The country’s first certified sustainable hotel, it holds five-leaf status, the highest accreditation granted by the Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) Commission. Hold your wedding ceremony under a giant ficus tree surrounded by spectacular cloud forest and hike to nearby Poás Volcano for a memorable photo-op.


Gaia Resort and Reserve, an adults-only treetop retreat near Manuel Antonio National Park, is a favourite among the NYC Broadway theatre and fashion crowd. Set within its own rainforest reserve and a member of the prestigious Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection, its green commitment is demonstrated by solar energy, recycling and water conservation practices. The Terra Spa at Gaia offers a full menu of relaxing pre-wedding services.

If a secluded bungalow with plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities appeals to your sense of adventure, then Lapa Rios Ecolodge and Wildlife Reserve is for you. Set on 400 hectares (988 acres) of protected rainforest in the pristine Osa Peninsula, this wilderness retreat is a model of environmental and social sustainability, holding five-leaf certification. Its celebrity guest list includes heads of state and others who want to escape the spotlight. Couples can enjoy a secluded dinner by a waterfall accompanied by a live soundtrack of red-eyed frogs, howler monkeys and scarlet macaws. Or you can plant a tree in the lodge’s private rainforest reserve and leave a lasting memorial to your unforgettable wedding. Whether it’s zipping through the rainforest canopy or walking hand in hand on a secluded beach, Costa Rica offers a nature-inspired setting for your wedding or honeymoon. Pura vida!


If you go

Costa Rica is a year-round destination, although the low season (mid-May to November) is known as the green season due to daily rainfall. Guanacaste is the driest province. Wedding Documentation Requirements: Allow a minimum of two months for completion of paperwork, which includes:

• an original birth certificate for both of you;

• a Single or Civil Status Certificate of both persons (statement in lieu of certificate of non-impediment to marriage abroad) authenticated by Foreign Affairs Canada; call 613 994-4000 or visit;

• if previously married, a certified copy of the divorce or death certificates;

• documents must be certified (before arrival) by the Consulate of Costa Rica, no more than six months prior to the ceremony; fees apply; and

• two witnesses (non-relatives preferred) with passports valid for at least six months or a Costa Rican identity card (if Costa Rica citizens). Documentation requirements are subject to change (visit



Four Seasons Resort Papagayo

Finca Rosa Blanca

Gaia Resort;

Lapa Rios

Riu Guanacaste Resort



Costa Rican Tourism Board



Several major airlines fly direct to Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose and to Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia. Due to road conditions, land transportation can be slow in Costa Rica, so consider Nature Air, a carbon-neutral airline, for in-country flights to resorts ( Another option is a private tourist shuttle, from hotel to hotel, offered by Interbus (


By Michele Peterson

Photos provided by: Four Seasons Resorts

The Wedding Meal

By Keeping in mind several important factors, you can be sure to have just what you want on your special day


First of all, you want to think about what kind of food you want at your wedding. The formality of the wedding should match the formality of the food served at the reception. Less formal weddings normally serve snack foods or simple hors d’oeuvres rather than large sit-down meals. Once you consider the formality of your wedding venue and service, you can match your caterer accordingly. For more formal occasions with a full meal during the reception, catering companies will provide wait staff to help guests throughout the course of the meal. For less formal affairs, meals are set up buffet style so guests can serve themselves, or there may be a table or two set up with small items that guests can choose from.

Costing it all out

You want everything to be perfect, but you have to consider the cost involved in having your wedding catered. This includes factoring in the costs of the meal, any wait staff members employed during that time and drinks. Some people choose to have guests pay for their own alcoholic beverages, and this is entirely acceptable. If you wish, you can opt for an open bar, which may leave you with a hefty tab at the end of the vent. Work with your caterer to discuss the pricing for your event.


The quality of the food

Another important factor to consider when choosing a caterer is the quality of the food that the company will serve. Shop around before you make a final decision. Ask friends and family about each company’s reputation to see if they are known for anything in particular and if they are reliable. Your wedding is an important event, and you want to be sure that your caterer will come through with high-quality products and service. When you meet with a potential company, ask questions to see if it offers the services you are looking for. The ideal caterer will work with

you to fit your budget while still maintaining a high level of quality. With these few tips in mind and by asking the right questions, you will be able to find just what you want in a catering company. In the end, your wedding reception will be a huge success.


Wedding Catering Qs

You want your wedding feast to be special, so it is important to take care when choosing your caterer. Here are some important questions to ask to ensure your wedding banquet is exactly what you want.


Menu choices and reception styles

• Do you want a traditional sit-down dinner, buffet or cocktail reception?

• What are your personal preferences, budget and choice of venue?



• What is your budget? It’s best not to presume that a buffet or cocktail reception is less expensive than a sit-down dinner. The cost will depend on the type of food served, not necessarily how it’s served.


Food preparation

• Does the caterer use fresh food and produce, or will some of the food be canned or frozen?

• Will all of the food be cooked in-house, or will some be purchased or pre-made from another source?


Number of guests

• Are quote prices based on a minimum number of wedding guests? There may be additional fees if the minimum number is not met.



• What is the ratio for servers to guests?

• How will the wait staff be dressed?


Ethnic food

• Is the caterer able to prepare dishes that aren’t on the catering menu? If you have a favourite “family” dish or ethnic food that is special to you and your family, many caterers will customize to suit the bride and groom’s wishes.


Food sampling

• Are you able to taste some of the caterer’s dishes?



• Ask the caterer what is normally done with the leftover food? Sometimes leftover meat and so on is used for a midnight snack during the dance. Some brides choose to have the food packaged up and brought home, but some caterers don’t allow this because they cannot guarantee that the food is going to be stored properly after the dinner.


Wedding cakes

• Can the caterer bake you a wedding cake?

• Will the caterer cut the cake for you?

• Is it included in the catering fee or is there an extra charge?



• Are the taxes included in the catering quote?


Tableware and linens

• Are table linens, dishes, glassware and napkins included in the price?

• Can you look at samples? If you don’t like the tableware or linens they offer, you may be able to rent what you need.


• What will the caterer offer in the way of decorations? If you are planning a buffet station, some caterers provide floral arrangements and other decorations. Discuss the colour theme so that all decorations and floral arrangements coordinate. Some caterers also provide decorations for the head and cake tables.



• Ask the caterer about displaying its catering licence.



• Do you need a special liquor permit?

• If you are supplying the alcohol, will you be charged a corkage fee?




Sweet Spot

New trends in cake design lets you personalize your wedding day dessert

Personal, elegant and in tune with the ambience of the special day. This is the current trend in wedding cakes, say wedding cake designers. “It’s definitely about personalization these days,” says Tracii Reardon, the Village Cake Lady of Oxford Mills. “More and more people are adding things in terms of decoration that have a little more meaning for them. Sometimes, it’s their pets. Sometimes, it’s a private joke, inside story or about family — something of special importance to them.”

Phillippa Baran of Arnprior agrees that personalizing the cakes she designs is particularly important to her clients. Some requests are quite simple, she says. For example, one bride asked for a black and white cake to match her wedding colours. “Sometimes, you go with the client’s colours or their flowers,” says Phillippa, a former student of Nicholas Lodge, the pastry chef who made Princess Diana’s wedding cake. “Sometimes, it’s the venue or the kind of people they are. I have been lucky enough to have a number of wonderful clients who have given me free rein to be creative.”


“Last summer, for instance, I was engaged to make a three-tiered wedding cake for a couple who were married at the family’s summer cottage. It had a pair of squirrels on top exchanging golden nuts instead of rings and was decorated with white (icing) branches and pine cones.” Another of her personalized designs celebrated the union of a Polish bride and Canadian groom with a red and white motif (the colours of the Polish and Canadian flags) and multi-coloured ribbons, reminiscent of Polish folk dancing, floating down the stacked tiers. Ribbons or flowers, particularly orchids, are very popular, agrees Sabine Herrmann, the wedding cake designer for Swiss Pastries.


“Customers often bring their own ribbons to go around the cake base.” In general, she says, the trend is for elegance and simplicity, with a preference for stacked cakes (tiers not separated by pillars). The uncomplicated look also leans that cake toppers, such as the traditional figures of bride and groom, are used less frequently. Monogrammed initials or flowers are often used instead. “When toppers are used, they are very personalized,” says Sabine, recalling a recent design for a couple of motorcyclists, who asked for motorcycles on their cake.


Flavour choices, as well as designs, also focus on individual preferences. Raspberry flavouring is very popular, says Sabine. “A vanilla sponge with raspberry butter cream and fresh fruit inside is a current favourite.”


Anything goes

“Anything goes with wedding cakes today,” says Tracii, noting that while white and ivory icing remain popular, bright colours are also in vogue. “Fruit cakes are very few and far between.” At some weddings, cupcakes or several single-layer cakes are used in place of even the least traditional form of wedding cake. Tracii adds that groom’s cakes, often sculpted to recall a sport and frequently made of chocolate inside, are popular in the southern U.S.


“That’s a trend that’s making its way to Canada big time.” In general, the trend is for gourmet flavours for wedding cakes, particularly coffee, chocolate, lemon, hazelnut and ginger — and it is not unusual for each layer to have a different flavour. Also added to the mix is the time of year, say designers, with heavier cakes for fall and winter weddings and more delicate styles in the spring and summer. The choice of type of wedding cake, like the style of wedding, is entirely personal.


For further information:

Phillippa Baran 613 623-6702

Tracii Reardon 613 258-0777

Sabine Hermann (via Connie) 613 749-2389

By Iris Winston

Wedding Traditions

The white wedding gown

The colour symbolizes purity and celebration.

The veil

Early veils were made of heavy cloth so that the bride could not be easily seen. The theory was that other suitors would not come to steal her away if they did not see how beautiful she was. Traditionally, the veil covers the bride’s face before the ceremony and is thrown back after the marriage vows.

Old, new, borrowed, blue

On their wedding day, brides, in a tradition that dates back to Victorian times, wear

Something old

Something new

Something borrowed

Something blue

The old and borrowed items look back to the past and honour the people who supplied them. The new item is intended to bring luck in the future. The blue piece symbolizes fidelity and modesty.

Showering with luck

Rice represents fertility and/or a full pantry. Tossing confetti or rose petals came to symbolize showering the bridal couple with good things through their lives together. Salt was often used to seal wedding contracts in ancient times. The bride and groom would each carry a container of salt and pour the contents into a larger receptacle to symbolize the intertwining of their lives.

Engagement rings

Engagement rings, worn after the dowry was paid, originally symbolized that the woman belonged to the groom. By the 16th century in France and other parts of Europe, engagement rings symbolized romance through the wearing of intertwined rings. (Gimmal rings — called joint rings in England — were two or three hoops that were intertwined when worn together.) During the engagement, the couple each wore one of the rings. At the wedding ceremony, the groom would place his ring on his bride’s finger. The two rings, now intertwined, were her wedding band.

Wedding rings

Wedding rings are the universal symbol of love that knows no end. They were traditionally placed on the third finger of the left hand because one vein in that finger is believed to run straight to the heart.

Protecting the bride and groom

The bridesmaids and groomsmen in wedding parties are intended to protect the bride and groom. They dress in a similar way to confuse any evil spirits once believed to be out to stop the bridal couple from marrying.

Crossing the threshold

Ancient Romans carried their brides over the threshold to stop those evil spirits from tripping her.


The honeymoon began when the bride and groom hid for 30 days after the wedding — one lunar month — drinking mead (made from honey) as they learned to know each other.

Garter/bouquet tossing

In medieval times, wedding guests would rush into the bridal chamber and steal the bride’s stockings. They would fling them at the groom. The first guest to hit the groom on the nose would be the next to marry. A slightly more civilized version of this custom is the bride tossing her bouquet over her shoulder towards a cluster of singles. The first person to catch it is, supposedly, the next to wed.

Bride’s tears

The bride who cries tears of happiness on her wedding day is said never to have reason to cry during her marriage. So she should carry a handkerchief, in case she is moved to tears. Also, at one time, many farmers said that the bride’s tears on her wedding day were lucky and would signify more rain for their crops.

Walking up the aisle

Traditionally, the bride’s father walks her up the aisle to meet the groom and best man and ‘gives her away’ to her husband to- be. In some countries (Poland, for example), the bride and the groom walk up the aisle together, preceded by their groomsmen and bridesmaids.

By Iris Winston

Inviting Manners

A Few Polite suggestions about Invitation Etiquette

Although they are not your first concern when planning a wedding, your invitations are the first thing your guests will see. Sometimes an invitation is your guest’s only indication of what to expect of your wedding. Today, it is appropriate to send wedding invitations that are strictly traditional or very modern and extremely ornate or clean and simple. The choice is yours; however, it is best to send an invitation that reflects the theme and style of your event.

Whether you choose to go all out and have custom invitations designed specifically for your special day or simply have your invitations custom printed, you will inevitably run into a few issues of propriety and logistics. The invitation may seem like one of the easiest parts of your wedding planning but all brides inevitably run into invitation problems. What follows are a few helpful tips and guidelines to help you avoid some invitation headaches.

Time is of the essence

It is important to send invitations to guests early enough that they may make arrangements for your wedding. It is best to send out-of-town guests that will have to make extensive travel and lodging plans a save-the-date card to give them extra time to make their arrangements. Guests should receive their invitations six to eight weeks before your wedding, which means that you should order them three to five months before your wedding. You will need the time for preparing, addressing and mailing the invitations. If you plan on using a calligrapher, ask in advance how much time they will require to address the invitations.

On being polite

Mature children living away from home should receive their own invitations, as should children over the age of 16 living with their parents. If your ceremony and reception are family events, you may list the names of children after their parents names or simply add “and family.” If you do not want children at your event, simply state that the event is an adult event or specify how many seats you have reserved for the adults who are attending. Guests who are not married should be given the option of bringing a guest. Simply add “and guest” after their name.


The invitation package you send your guests should include all information guests will need for the event. This is especially true for larger weddings. The invitation itself should announce who is hosting the wedding, the names of the bride and groom, the exact time, date and location of the ceremony and the reception, as well as including RSVP information. Map cards, menu cards, postage paid response cards, pew cards, and other inserts may be included as you wish.

Keep track of your guests

Many of your guests may have terrible handwriting or forget to include their name on the response card, so this can make keeping track of your RSVPs a nightmare. We recommend putting a small number on the back of the response card and keeping a list of all the numbers and their corresponding guests. This may seem like a hassle when preparing the invitations but it will be well worth it when sorting through guest responses. If any of your guests have not sent you their response a week after the date you requested it, it is very acceptable to call to confirm their attendance.

Don’t forget to…

Order extra invitations, envelopes, and inserts. We recommend about 15 to 30 extra — more if you are having a very large wedding. Ordering extra invitations after your original printing can be extremely costly and there will inevitably be mistakes made when addressing envelopes. Many calligraphers will require a specific amount of extras, so make sure and ask before you place your order. Wedding invitations, if done right, can be the stress-free part of your wedding planning experience. Enlist the help of a wedding planner, your mother, or members of your bridal party to help with the process. has many great custom wedding invitation designers and printers that can help make your invitations one-of-a-kind.


Thinking Outside the Banquet Hall

Some Alternative Reception Venues

You’ve looked at historic churches for the ceremony, then moved on to the daunting task of finding the right reception venue. Hotels and conference centres obviously have all the decoration, trim, servers and food prep ready for your approval. There are clearly advantages to going this route, including the fact that guests can easily retire to hotel rooms after an evening of indulgences. But what if your personality lends itself to a location less conventional? Something not so tried and true? Why not a wedding at a farm, museum, zoo or art gallery? These venues range from quirky fun to elegantly erudite. Here are seven regional options that will keep your guests talking long after you’re off on a honeymoon adventure.


Down on the farm

Stanley’s Olde Maple Lane Farm ( – Stanley’s Farm, 101 hectares (250 acres) of developed and undeveloped land, is more of a living history site than a working farm. The maple trees and tilled land surrounding a quarried field stone house (built in 1850) sit like a tribute to agriculture heritage that once covered most of the Ottawa region. Now an event facility minutes from downtown, the farm can host small to large weddings — 80 people comfortably in the Stone House Hall, 200 under a tent on the South Lawn or up to 400 at the Maples Reception facility. You and your groom can book the onsite caterer or bring your own. Plus, the rock gardens, pond and heritage buildings offer ideal photographic backdrops.


Saunders Farm ( – Even though there’s an edge of rustic to an agricultural setting, the 40.5-hectare (100-acre) Saunders Farm (in Munster west of Ottawa) sets up a surprisingly elegant white linen dinner in the log barn, which seats up to 80 people, or in the outdoor pavilion, which hosts about 200. Ceremonies can be held in the gardens, and in keeping with the rural theme, menu options range from oven-fried country chicken to herb-encrusted beef tenderloin. Off-site caterers, however, are welcome. There’s also built-in amusement. According to Kaitlin Grant, events manager, “Guests can wander our mazes, so long as it’s still light out. We also have beautiful green spaces for photographs and climbing structures for the kids.” There are no animals roaming around, however; for that you’ll have to head to the zoo.


Museum milieu

Museum of Civilization ( – Across the river in western Québec, the Museum of Civilization has several rooms available for big celebrations for 100 to 600 people, though The Grand Hall is the most majestic and appealing. Available for both ceremonies and receptions (only after museum hours), the Grand Hall is flanked by six First Nations replica homes on one side and a wall of windows that provide a view of the property’s gardens in the foreground and the Canadian Parliament Buildings in the distance. You have to use the in-house caterer, Compass Catering Services, but the indoor photography fee is only $25 (outdoor is free), so the bridal party can set up shots in the Canada Hall, beside film set-like replicas of 19th-century trade stores, cathedrals and wilderness lodges. For the price of regular museum admission, guests can tour the facility, including special exhibitions and the Children’s Museum.


Canadian Museum of Nature ( – In the middle of what is essentially a downtown urban residential neighbourhood is a gothic castle built in 1910 that now sports a shiny, modern, five-floor glass-front tower in the front called the ‘lantern.’ The Canadian Museum of Nature’s East Wing Foyer can be rented for 65 people, banquet style. Other rooms can accommodate up to 200 people for a sit-down dinner. This is one of the country’s oldest national museums with a combination of modern exhibits and traditional stuffed animals behind glass. All this, including access to the dino walk, is available to guests for a fee. According to Natalie Boulet, events manager, clients can select from a list of five caterers, including the museum’s own Gourmet Cuisine.


Art experience

The National Gallery of Canada ( – Recovering from the romantic Caravaggio exhibition featuring 60 works imported from Europe, the National Gallery of Canada is still resonating with baroque opulence. The Great Hall, according to the gallery, is “dramatic by day and stunning by night.” With a view of the Parliament Buildings, Ottawa River and Gatineau, there’s no need for additional decor. This hall seats up to 450 people banquet style. Laurie Shannon, senior special events officer, says that The Great Hall and the Beaux-Arts rooms are the most popular for weddings. For smaller receptions complete with ceremony, the Water Court Foyer hosts 150 to 180 people. It’s beside the cherry tree-lined Sunken Gardens — perfect for outdoor vow exchanges. There’s a list of caterers to select, but only one has a liquor licence for this facility. According to Laurie, private guided tours of the exhibitions can also be arranged during your event.


Out of Town

The Toronto Zoo ( – Love animals, particularly lions, tigers and giraffes? If a daytime wedding is in your plans (maybe with a lot of kids), the outdoor African Picnic Pavilion can be booked for 50 or 60 people, and golf cart transportation from the gate to the site is available for the wedding party and elderly guests. For evening weddings, the indoor atrium, which can host 20 to 120 people, is a little more traditional, but add any of the available animal encounters (trainers with live zoo residents) to your entertainment and/or charter the Zoomobile for a non-stop tour of the zoo, and you’re back in the realm of unconventional.


The Granby Zoo ( – If Toronto is a little too far from home, the Granby Zoo in the Eastern Townships of Québec is the closest option for zoo-setting vows. The Havre du Nouveu Monde facility is a big white, airline hangar-like room that accommodates up to 400 people, if you have that many. But a more interesting option is The Savannah Lodge in the centre of the African section, where giraffes and elephants roam within view during dinner. The zoo’s design balances both the educational mandate of the institution, housing the animals in as natural enclosures as possible, with the entertainment demands of people looking to actually see the animals. Plus there’s a midway and a nine-hectare (12-acre) water park, so guests can make a weekend of it.

Article By Sherri Telenko

Photos provided by Museum of Civilization & National Gallery