Fetch the photographer! Pooches are family too.

By Genevieve Pelletier
Photos: Jonathan Kuhn Photography

Let’s face it; your dog is your “child”. The many photos you have posted on social media prove it. You may try to hide your over-the-top love for your pup, but you secretly think your fur-baby is the smartest, best looking and most incredible thing to have ever lived. The dog could be crossed eyed, missing half its fur and be constantly running into walls for no reason, and we still think they are “Best in Show”. We all do it, and with the exception of the costume you made them wear at Halloween, it’s ok. This love for our dogs has found growth in the trend of incorporating our “children” into our engagement sessions.

We are lucky enough to live in a city that is very pet friendly. Ottawa is filled with parks, shops and cafés that are welcoming with open paws. So if you are looking for a place where the entire family can partake, consider the five following options. They are pet friendly, easy to get to, and would all make incredible engagement photos.

1. Wag – A Posh Shop for Spoiled Pets
1071 Bank Street Ottawa

If you are a dog owner, and have never visited this pet store, then your pooch is not nearly spoiled enough. It was Ottawa’s first pet friendly shop and cafe when it opened in 2006. Wag has a large variety of pet accessories and foods. It is half pet store, half café and all fantastic. The cafe section has a fun seating area where you and your two legged partner can have a coffee and a treat. While the four legged member of your family can sit under your table and have a specially designed snack just for them. This is a really cute picture opportunity. Imagine pictures filled with laughing, sneaking the puppy treats under the table and just relaxing. Engagement photos should be a representation of who you really are as a couple. Formal photos are nice, but probably do not show who you are day to day. If you are a couple who brings your dog everywhere, then show it. Your pictures in this cafe will demonstrate your family. The furrier members and all.

2. Major’s Hill Park
Mackenzie Ave – Ottawa Byward Market

Right in the heart of the city you will find Major’s Hill Park in the Byward Market. A common place for festivals and events to be held. While dogs are not allowed within those events, they are allowed during non festival days. The park is a great place to bring your dog and get some pictures of playing fetch, running around and most importantly having fun. A great idea here is to also bring a friend who can entertain your dog when they are not in the shots. The park has many beautiful views that can be used as a back drop for incredible photos. With someone along, who can watch the dog, you can get romantic pictures of just you and your partner enjoying a beautiful day as well. Then bring in the puppy and get some playful shots too. It’s the best of both worlds.

3. Chapters Book Store
47 Rideau Street Ottawa

You might be surprised to learn this mega book store is pet friendly. In fact they encourage customers to bring their dogs. This might sound like an odd place for engagement photos, but for book lovers it would be perfect. Hide off in a corner, and take some cozy pictures reading your favourite book. You could even stage some funny photos like a reading dog obedience manual while your dog looks the other way. Not the average photo, but you are not the average family.

4. The Rideau Canal and the Locks
90 Wellington Street Ottawa

Have you lived in Ottawa all your life and want to show some landmarks of the city you love? Head down to the Rideau Canal with a picnic, and capture some beautiful photos. The amount of pictures here are endless. You could stand on the bridges over the locks while your photographer shoots from the next bridge over. You could pose with the city of Gatineau and the beautiful Canadian Museum of History behind you. You could even walk down and sit by the river. The amount of incredible photos here are limitless.

5. Your home

People tend to forget that the best place to capture you and your family might be in your family home. Photos of the pooch curled up between you would demonstrate the love between your family. You and your partner jumping on the bed would be a playful photo, while your pup looks on disapprovingly. Anything you love to do, you can do it. With the added bonus that you and your dog would be more relaxed in a known environment.

Wherever you chose, make sure it demonstrates who you are as a couple, and as a family. That is the goal after all, to capture your love for each other in your photos.

7 Bridal Shower Games That Everyone Will Enjoy

by Lise Rina

Bridal shower games are something that you need if you are planning a bridal shower. In this article you are given seven of the top games used at bridal showers. They will really make your party a great success!

Having a bridal shower for someone is great fun and requires a lot of planning. During the bridal shower you will also have to think about the bridal shower games that you want to play. People really look forward to these, so you have to make them as enjoyable as possible. There are tons you can choose from, but here are the top 7 to start you off.

1. Bridal Makeover: In this game you can dress up the bride in all kinds of bridal gear. This might occur randomly throughout the evening. Perhaps there is a word she is not allowed to say, and if she does another item is added. To make this fun, don’t tell her what the word is. People will really get a kick out of trying to make her say it. You can also use this as a forfeit for the guessing the gifts game below. Along with the fake tiara, massive ring, bridal sash, and satin gloves, you can also get people to do her hair and makeup!

2. Questions and Answers about the Groom: Here you will put the bride on the spot as she has to answer questions about the groom. She can get rewarded with a gift for correct answers and penalized with make-up and more clothes if she is wrong. You can also use shots of liquor as a penalty. Just be careful with this one! The questions can be strange and fun, but some serious ones too if you want.

3. Naughty Pass the Parcel: This game can be played by everyone at the bridal shower. You will get items that are naughty in nature. It could be anything from wedding night fluffy handcuffs, to penis shaped pasta! Anything goes here so make it fun. Each layer will have a naughty gift that the guests get to keep as their bridal shower party favors.

4. Guess the Gifts: As the evening goes on, the gifts that guests have brought will be opened. But to make things more fun, the bride must first guess who the gifts are from. If you want to make this work you have to tell people in the invitations not to add a name tag or card to the present. You could also do it so that she has to guess what the gift is, or both. The penalties can be adding another item of makeover clothing or makeup.

5. Pole Dancing Lessons: This is huge fun for everyone and you can have perfect photo opportunities with this game. You can hire a pole dancing instructor for a few short lessons and some special ones for the bride to do on her own.

6. Blindfolded Bride-to-Be: For another fun game you can play a different version of pin the tail on the donkey. You will blindfold the bride to be and have her attach a ring to a picture of the groom. You could make the picture anything. It might be to pin lips to the groom, to get the bride into the church, and whatever you think will be appropriate for the bride.

7. Karaoke: Another game you can play which everyone will enjoy is karaoke. This is for right near the end of the nightFree Web Content, when everyone just wants to have fun and party.








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Planning Your Motorcycle Themed Wedding

Motorcyclists are a unique breed. The feel of the ride runs in the veins. Even special occasions take on the flavor of the open road. For a biker bride and groom, it makes sense to have the happiest day also be a bike-centered day. All of the traditions of a wedding still apply, but they need to pay homage to a motorcyclist’s legacy. From the announcements to the ride, a motorcycle-themed wedding can be classy, beautiful, and spectacular, if done right.

Invitations With Wheels

This is where the wedding begins. You need to let everyone know that you are getting married, where to be, and how to rsvp. This is also when they get the first glimpse of the wedding theme. Etsy is a great place to find unique wedding invitations that honor the motorcycle theme in an elegant way. For less than $100, you can get 100 handmade invitations with a brief saying about love on the open road. They include the embossed silhouette of a Harley-Davidson.

Wearing White With Boots

Bikers are not known for being traditional, but if you are actually planning a wedding then there is an assumption that you want some trappings of custom. The groom may be wearing a sleeveless vest and jeans but when the bride walks (or rides) down the aisle then everyone knows that a wedding dream is coming true. There are some important practical decisions that need to be made when choosing the gown. If you are planning to ride away on a motorcycle then a 10-foot train is only going to work if you can remove it before you ride off into wedded bliss. For those who can rock it, white leather is different but still appropriate for the nuptials. According to some fashionistas, leather with wedding apparel is trendy.

The Theme Veil

If you really want to push the motorcycle theme then a stylized helmet headdress with a veil attached can be fun. Of course, having a huge helmet covering the brides face loses a lot of the innocent and beautiful symbolism of a veil. Instead, look at skull and half helmets since they tend to be smaller and sit higher on the head. A hot glue gun and a little Martha Steward flair can turn it into a stylist thematic veil.

Location, Location, Location

You can have a wedding and reception almost anywhere but the location does serve as the final piece for a theme wedding. The Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee offers wedding reception packages, and is able to accommodate up to 450 guests inside and up to 15,000 guests outside. Even if you cannot find a venue like this, you can use helmets as centerpieces and a collection of your friend’s cycles to give the wedding the motorcycle ambience that you are striving. The wedding is your day so feel free to be as traditional or as untraditional as your spirit requires.

Wedding Etiquette

By Elizabeth Doherty Thomas

Wedding etiquette is a moving target these days, if it exists at all. Ask any wedding vendor and they’ll nod in agreement. Wedding invitation companies have seen it all and if you ask for their honest opinions, hopefully they can teach you some tricks. And we have a great article on wedding thank you note ideas.

Today is an anything goes culture out there and this is in part why we believe weddings have become so stressful and in some cases pretty toxic for family and new marriages. Wedding coordinators play a delicate balance between letting their clients have their way and trying to gently push back, hoping that the spirit of etiquette comes through the wedding: hospitality and putting everyone at ease because they know what to expect and they know their role.

I have read two books, by two highly regarded “wedding etiquette experts.” The information provided by each wedding expert often contradicts itself between experts. One small example…did you know the grooms family is supposed to pay for the flowers? At least according to one top wedding etiquette expert. Some etiquette experts still hold that the time of day should dictate the level of formality and other wedding etiquette experts say that is not true. It can make your head spin!

The problems with wedding etiquette today?

  • “My day, my way” is the overriding theme of weddings today and that will always contradict the more egalitarian notion of etiquette, which is about social grace, respecting others and being as full of hospitality as you can. Everyone knows what to expect in the land of “pure wedding etiquette”, but todays bridal culture is ALL ABOUT YOU, irregardless of family, of friendships, of anything but what you want.
  • Nobody really knows about the proper etiquette today. We know how expensive weddings are. We know how draining weddings can be and how many choices there are. So when we run into problems with our family or friends we immediately run to wedding etiquette books to “solve” our problems. This rarely works because…
  • Etiquette frankly doesn’t do much good if nobody else knows that is what you’re trying to do by subtly including only the names of the people on the wedding invitation, thereby “excluding childrens names” is an unspoken way of saying “don’t bring your kids!” Nor does it help if a parent is “old school” and believes they are the host and hostess of the big day even if they aren’t paying. Excluding them from the wedding invitation can make them feel really embarassed or upset because their view of the world is set in a different time and place. They may feel horrifed that their friends will think they have lost control of their adult child who doesn’t know proper etiquette!
  • Wedding etiquette grew out of the mass production of what was once high end weddings for high society. Weddings started out for lower income people as the two sets of parents, in the living room of the bride. That’s it! Honeymoons used to be the time when the couple went around to visit all the relatives and introduce each other to the extended family. High society knew how to do a wedding with unspoken rules that you were raised knowing. As weddings became bigger in the middle and lower income levels, you had a whole generation of people who had no idea what was socially proper. (Did you know, true wedding etiquette says guests are supposed to write a formal letter stating whether they are able to come or not? RSVP cards, to some etiquette matrons, are an atrocious sign of the times.)

So there you have some reasons why relying on wedding etiquette may not help, and may actually cause more harm than good. Who do you invite to the first dance? What the etiquette says doesn’t really help in today’s complex families, as I write about in the First Dance in Todays Complex Families. 

Because we believe parents play a very important role in your life and your new marriage, we have put together Principles for Parents to help couples and parents navigate the complexity of todays bride and groom, their older ages, their independence (financially and physically) from their parents. Our principles are designed to help:

  • how to clarify wedding plans and decisions between parent/child
  • reduce wedding planning conflict
  • prevent wedding planning conflict
  • avoid “assumptions” that cause problems down the road

For more on avoiding unknown traps, and to engage in deeper dialouge as a couple, check out our book, Take Back Your Wedding, available on Amazon or instant e-book download. The rest of our website is also filled with great advice. We also have a lot of options in our marriage preparation section to get the ball rolling.

Elizabeth Doherty Thomas, is a co-founder of The First Dance, along with Marriage and Family therapist father Bill Doherty.

5 Unique Wedding Locations in Canada

Are you one of the one in three Canadian brides considering a honeymoon that involves adventure travel? Adventure type honeymoons have increased to 40 percent since 2012, according to Weddingbells. Fortunately, brides-to-be don’t have to wait until after the wedding to have an adventure. Choosing a unique wedding location is a great way to add a twist to tradition. If getting married on a farm, at a winery, by a lodge, in a castle or even at a schoolhouse makes your heart pitter-patter, consider becoming a Mrs. at one of the many out-of-the-box wedding venues in Canada.

Cambium Farms

For country girls at heart, Cambium Farms located in Caledon, Ontario is a dream come true. This wedding location has an unsurpassed charm that is perfect for country chic weddings. The venue is located on 50 acres of farm in the Caledon hills and has existed since the early 1800s. You can get ready to wed in the main floor of the traditional farmhouse, get hitched in the beautifully manicured gardens, host cocktail hour in The Carriage House and celebrate the night in The Barn. Additionally, the breathtaking scenery creates endless photo opportunities for happy couples and their guests.

Casablanca Winery Inn

This sophisticated wedding venue in Grimsby, Ontario boasts 78 guests rooms and suites, as well as specially designed rooms for engagement parties, bridal showers, rehearsal dinners, wedding ceremonies, dinner receptions, cocktail receptions and farewell brunches. The ceremony and reception rooms are designed to take you back to a time when luxury prevailed. Get married in the Reflections Chapel, a large ceremony room with stained glass windows and a traditional altar or host your wedding in the Vintages Private Dining Room, a small reception room with a double sided fireplace. You can also choose to dine in the clouds in the Panorama Restaurant and Wine Bar, which overlooks Lake Ontario.

West Coast Wilderness Lodge

Couples that fancy getting married amidst nature will find the West Coast Wilderness Lodge in British Columbia an ideal wedding location. The wilderness setting and grand views add adventure to your special day. Additionally, after the wedding is over you can choose to spend your honeymoon on the same site and take advantage of the Explorer’s Package, which includes a kayaking tour, romantic dinners and a boat cruise. And if you have a Canadian boating license you can rent boating equipment and spend a day on the lake with your sweetheart.

At the Schoolhouse

We’re willing to bet you’ve never considered getting wed at a schoolhouse. The Schoolhouse, located in Ottawa, Ontario, has three wedding ceremony locations. Of course, there’s the one-room schoolhouse with its chic elegance, as well as the majestic century old church and the lush gardens in the courtyard. This venue is best for outdoor weddings with up to 70 guests and for the eclectic couple that isn’t afraid to stray from the traditional.

Château Frontenac

Have a true fairytale wedding at Château Frontenac in Quebec, Canada’s oldest city. There are 36,000 square feet of event space that is surrounded by views of the mountains, Lake Louise and Victoria Glacier. If you want a medium-sized gathering and a forest theme wedding, the Alpine Room with its surrounding Rocky Mountain peaks is fit for any princess. For spring and summer outdoor weddings, the Victoria Terrace offers a stunning view to you and your guests. In addition, this exhilarating wedding location has different summer and winter activities for adventurous couples, including skating, horse-drawn sleigh rides, hiking and canoeing.

Craft your own beer

Fun loving DIYers who pride themselves on homemade quality and craftsmanship are extending this philosophy to a new outlet, namely ‘home brewing’. Best of all, this philosophy is also impressing their friends.

Pride in the ability to create their own signature craft beer combined with easy-to-use at-home beer kits plus the soaring popularity of craft beer, is propelling many Canadians to create their own signature brews.

“Today there are a variety of beer making kits available that reduce the guess work and time requirements for making beer from scratch,” says Gavin Hawthorne of Brewer’s Best Canada, a leading name in this field.  “Our company offers a true, craft beer making experience. The kit comes complete with instructions plus all of the ingredients you need to make a great tasting beer such as India Pale Ale or Gluten Free Ale.”

Hawthorne says home brewing is easy but people should follow the instructions carefully. He points out the biggest mistake people make when brewing is not properly cleaning and sanitizing the equipment, bottles, and utensils before use. “You wouldn’t bake a cake with dirty dishes, and the same goes for making beer.”

More information on home brewing is available at www.brewersbestcanada.ca.

Home Beer Brewing Tips

• When using a beer kit, keep these helpful tips from Brewer’s Best handy:

• To keep your brew on track, create a written brewing schedule and carefully record the time of each step.

• Follow instructions provided and remember to keep your working area and equipment sanitized.

• Hops, a key ingredient in beer, can be poisonous for dogs. Keep the ingredients and mixture away from your canine friend.

• Once bottled, store your beer in a dark, warm, temperature-stable area for two weeks to allow for proper carbonation.


Your Honeymoon Budget

Courtesy of I Just Said Yes

Just as the wedding and reception budgets are made you also need to have a budget set aside for your honeymoon. Are you looking for a short weekend getaway, a tropical island, a drive along the California coast or a site seeing tour in Europe?

Depending on how much money you have to spend, there are so many deals and packages available. You must set time aside to research the Internet and see what flight and hotel packages are offered. I know first hand that there are many ways to save on travel. Many times, it is best to book the flight and hotel separately. Call the hotel directly because they may be offering a in-house promotion that the 1-800 center may not be aware of. Always ask if there are any specials or upgrades for “honeymooners”.

If you are booking a honeymoon that is not all inclusive then budget how much money you may spend on accommodations, meals, car rental, tours, gratuities and tax. If you find a hotel with a small kitchenette that will certainly reduce your meal expenses. If you are doing an all-inclusive trip you will not require a lot of cash leaving your pocket since all your food and beverage is included at the resort.

Sign up for a honeymoon registry where your guests can actually contribute to your trip. You will be surprised how quickly this will add up and just maybe you won’t have to pay anything in the end!

Just as the wedding and reception budgets are made you also need to have a budget set aside for your honeymoon.  Are you looking for a short weekend getaway, a tropical island, a drive along the California coast or a site seeing tour in Europe.

Depending on how much money you have to spend, there are so many deals and packages available.  You must set time aside to research the Internet and see what flight and hotel packages are offered.   I know first hand that there are many ways to save on travel.  Many times, it is best to book the flight and hotel separately.    Call the hotel directly because they may be offering a in-house promotion that the 1-800 center may not be aware of.  Always ask if there are any specials or upgrades for “honeymooners”.

If you are booking a honeymoon that is not all inclusive then budget how much money you may spend on accommodations, meals, car rental, tours, gratuities and tax.  If you find a hotel with a small kitchenette that will certainly reduce your meal expenses.  If you are doing an all-inclusive trip you will not require a lot of cash leaving your pocket since all your food and beverage is included at the resort.

Sign up for a honeymoon registry where your guests can actually contribute to your trip.  You will be surprised how quickly this will add up and just maybe you won’t have to pay anything in the end!

Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best: How to Make a Wedding Day Kit

When it comes to the big day, being prepared for anything is crucial. Get ready by gathering an emergency stash of essentials to prepare for any situation that arises.

Time to Primp

As you gather with the girls to get ready that morning, you’re likely to be on a tight schedule. Everyone needs time to get their hair, makeup and nails just right. There isn’t much time to deal with a wardrobe malfunction or any other crisis, so arrive prepared with a bag of reinforcements like a sewing kit, scissors, hem tape and some anti-static spray. Pack a few extra earring backs and a pair of tweezers to quickly solve any jewelry issues. Have a travel-sized nail kit on hand as well as a nail file and your polish color for a quick touch up. Stash an extra pair of contacts in your bag just in case they rip, get lost or are dropped in the rush to get ready. You can even try FreshLook color contacts from Vision Direct to enhance your natural eye color and give you that extra sparkle.

Also make sure to have plenty of snacks and water on hand to keep everyone nourished and hydrated for this marathon of a day. Opt for things like bananas and granola bars instead of anything messy that could stain your dress.

Get Ready for Your Close-Up

The ceremony went off without a hitch, but now it’s time for photos. Whether the photographer is shooting the wedding party at a single location or at a few choice spots around town, the clock is ticking. Fill a small clear makeup pouch with everything you may need to make sure your hair and makeup look flawless in the photos. Wedding experts at Style Me Pretty recommend packing hairspray, bobby pins, oil-blotting papers, face powder, a hair brush, a lint roller, lip color, eye drops and a small mirror.

To make sure you look your best, perfect your pose before the big day. Take a few dozen selfies in the mirror to find your best angle. Peruse red carpet photos to see the stars’ signature stances to get ideas for the most flattering pose for your body type.

Finally, the Party!

Plenty of emergencies can still arise at the reception, especially if you have a penchant for red wine and aren’t the most graceful dancer. Pack a stain remover pen like Tide To Go to handle any spills. Have a pair of comfy, yet elegant flats to change into so you can dance the night away without torturing your feet. Bring some super glue and adhesive bandages. You never know when a bridesmaid could break her high heel or get a blister from those new stilettos.

Bring eye makeup remover and some cotton rounds to touch up your eye makeup in case the toasts get you all teary. Include some toiletries like floss, a toothbrush, toothpaste, tampons, an over-the-counter pain reliever and deodorant in your reception tote as well. Freshen up after dinner and avoid that embarrassing moment of chatting away with parsley in your teeth. And, have some double-sided fashion tape on hand to keep your dress perfectly in place while you dance the night away.

After 25 Years, Sylvain and Marion Get Married

People thought, “It took you long enough!” After being together for 25 years, with their grown kids present, Sylvain and Marion finally got married.

Many of us have nagged Sylvain and Marion. Why after all this time were they not married? Surely after 25 years you knew they were the one?

Their story goes like this. They got engaged and hosted a huge engagement party. However, Marion’s mother didn’t quite believe that their relationship would last. So she declined to show up at the party. Marion and Sylvain figured that they’d had a big celebration and that it was enough for them. No need to do the next step and get married.

Fast forward 25 years and they have a beautiful home, two jobs, and two great teenage kids. They are starting to plan for their retirement. It was during this examination of their future that they finally decided that it was time for them to tie-the-knot.

They asked me to perform their ceremony on a cruise boat on the Ottawa River on July 1, Canada Day.

Marion and Sylvain made their entrance by being the last ones to board the boat.


The 160 guests were anxious to get things underway.


We were cruising on the Ottawa River and I got the ceremony going.


They included a handfasting with the saying of their vows.


And then the grand finale … the kiss… just as beautiful and full of love as 25 years ago.


Dinner service followed the conclusion of the ceremony. Later Marion and Sylvain had their first dance as a married couple.


The party continued until we saw the Canada Day fireworks off Parliament Hill. What a treat to see them from the water.


Now that’s a way to have a wedding… 25 years in waiting… and many more happy days ahead.

Note to Brides and Grooms: Don’t Forget to Buy Each Other a Present

Note to Brides and Grooms: Don't Forget to Buy Each Other a Present(NewsUSA) – If you’re reading this story, you’re probably one of the approximately  825,000 couples who’ve just gotten engaged and are now planning your wedding. So here’s perhaps the single most important reminder — and grooms do seem to need more reminding than brides — anyone will offer: Tradition holds that you both exchange
wedding presents.

(Yes, grooms, even though you just bought her an engagement

But what to get?

“Gifts should come from the heart,” says WeddingChannel.com.

Well, yeah. But that still leaves a lot of room for error. So here’s some tips to keep in mind whether you two opt for some type of jewelry — the traditional and most popular choice — or something else.

* Practicality can wait. Etiquette dictates that gifts be exchanged at one of three times: the night before the wedding, the morning of the ceremony, or right before you leave on your honeymoon. So you could see where this has the potential for becoming a bigger disaster than Chernobyl if the groom’s idea of “practical” is, say, a toaster.

* Being uniquely personal is appreciated. One of the best examples we’ve heard of is a guy who had a photographer secretly capture the moment he proposed in New York’s Central Park, and then presented the results to his bride on the day of their wedding.

“So cute!” read a typical blog post.

The downside, of course, is that pulling it off requires imagination and — in this instance — a lot of advance planning.

* Jewelry can be “traditional” without being boring. Case in point: the very hot Argyle diamonds trend (www.diamondswithastory.com), which fulfills the quest of even the most eco-minded couples for diamond fashion jewelry since the stones are produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way from the Argyle mine in Australia. And the diamonds, themselves, come in gorgeous neutral shades like champagne, cognac, silver and gray.

“If your bride likes something different from what all her friends have,” says jewelry and
style expert Michael O’Connor, “then the Argyle diamond bracelets, necklaces and earrings are perfect and available at many retailers across the country — I’ve even spotted women at gyms wearing the diamond pendants. And the cufflinks for men are truly elegant.”

Perhaps because prices start at as little as a few hundred dollars for some pieces, O’Connor calls them “the ideal gateway gift.” Meaning, you can use other occasions — think birthdays and anniversaries — to add to your collection through the years.

Yes, brides and grooms, you’ll soon have to start planning your next milestone together.