Get Creative With These Unique Wedding Gifts

unique wedding gifts feature

Get Creative With These Unique Wedding Gifts

When a friend or family member gets married, you want to give them a gift that is personal, thoughtful and useful. These days, a toaster oven or a set of “his and hers” towels just doesn’t cut it. One way to give a special gift is to fund an experience the couple can share together. This way, no matter what their interests are, you can find a unique and fun activity they will treasure.

unique wedding gifts

For the Adventurous Couple

If the bride and groom-to-be love the outdoors or trying something new, give them an adventurous or adrenaline-pumping activity to do. Skydiving, paddleboard lessons or a ski trip are perfect for that couple who is always looking for something different. In the spring, give them a kayak rental on the Ottawa River. For winter fun, give them some ice skates to take on the Rideau Canal, which freezes into the longest skate rink in the world, according to Lonely Planet.

For the Performing Arts Lovers

For couples who love the theater and stage performances, tickets to a show are always an appreciated gift. You can either give them a gift certificate to a local theater or get tickets to a specific show they’ve been dying to see. Depending on where they are honeymooning, you also can check out what shows are playing in their destination for a fun activity on their trip. For example, if they are taking a trip to New York City, a pair of tickets to one of the season’s popular Broadway shows such as “The Book of Mormon” or “Cabaret” is sure to put you at the top of the couple’s thank-you-note list.

For the Sports Fans

Any sports fan will appreciate tickets to see their favorite team play. Buy them premium tickets to Canadian Tire Centre so they can paint their faces red and black to cheer on the Ottawa Senators. Or, for football fans, purchase tickets to the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which is coming to Canada in June 2015. No matter what their favorite team or sport is, they are sure to appreciate some tickets from a fellow fan.

For the Foodies

For those who love food, nothing is better than a good meal or a unique gastronomic experience. Thankfully, there are food and drink festivals year-round all over Canada, so you can easily score a couple of passes to an event for your foodie friends. For example, every January, the Niagara Icewine Festival brings wine and food experts to the beautiful Niagara Falls to taste pairings and tour wine routes. In the spring, the Toronto Food and Drink Market brings together every aspect of the food world from food trucks to master chef classes. If your friends are vegetarian or vegan food lovers, the Ottawa Veg Fest in June showcases gourmet food, ethical clothing and cruelty-free cosmetics.

For the Lifelong Learners

For the couple who likes to learn new skills, a class or workshop is a great present. They can learn to make delicious delicacies with a gourmet cooking class at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa, which is the only “outpost” of the famous French cooking school in North America, according to The New York Times. Art classes can teach them to paint, blow glass or spin pottery. Or, you can give them a certificate to yoga or pilates classes so they can work on their fitness moves together.

The Next 5 Items on Your Wedding Planning Checklist

By Rev. Alan Viau

I recently wrote about the first 5 decisions for your wedding. Having decided on your theme, you can move down the list.  The first 5 decisions are crucial to get your wedding planning underway as they set everything in motion. These next 5 items are important because they start to implement your vision. They will incorporate elements of your theme for the day.

Musical Entertainment

Music is an integral part of the wedding day. Music is in your ceremony, played in the  background during the cocktails and dinner, and is the main attraction of the party. I deliberately used the word entertainment because of the importance of music because it is more than just a DJ, band or jazz trio.  Music is there to keep your guests in a celebratory mood.

I’ve experienced some pretty awful music entertainment incidents. There was a string duo where one member never showed up, the DJ who didn’t know that there was no power on-site into which to plug his equipment and then there was the band that was so loud that no one could hold a conversation.

My advice is to do your research and look at references. Often you are planning for a wedding 18-24 months in advance so seriously consider whether this vendor will still be around when the big day comes.

Wedding Attire

Now you can start looking for your dress! It is important that the wedding attire for the bride, bridesmaids, groom and groomsmen reflect your theme. Make sure that final fittings are close to your wedding date. You never know what your weight situation will be as a result of all this wedding planning. Stress can make your weight go up or down.

You want to look your best, so please choose a dress style that compliments your body shape. A strapless mermaid gown is not for everyone.


Flowers are romantic and add flair to any occasion. I love flowers. They can be chosen to fit any theme and any time of year. You can get inspiration for your wedding colors from seasonal flowers. If you choose seasonal flowers, you can be assured of both freshness and good pricing.

In my mind, the bridal bouquet is the finishing touch of the bride’s overall look. Roses seem to be standard for a bouquet. The downfall of roses is that they are bulky and heavy. Explore other options like feathers or dried flowers.


Getting to and from places on your wedding day is often considered late in the planning stages. There are a limited number of limo companies, they book up quickly and weddings are not their only business. It will be worth it to decide on this aspect early on so that you can reserve in time.


A “Save the Date” notification is appropriate early in the planning stages. People lead busy lives and an early notice is appreciated. Invitations can be crafted to reflect your theme as well. You will likely find that choosing and sending your invitations will start to make your wedding feel real.

Set the Stage for a Winter Wedding Wonderland

winter wedding feature

Nothing beats the enchantment of a winter wedding. Snow-covered streets, crisp winter air and a cozy ambience that’s both welcoming and romantic. But, the best part of choosing cold-weather nuptials? Enchanting photo ops, of course. While it may not seem the most ideal timing for outdoor photos, the unique elements of the season create stunning photographs summer brides can’t compete with. Read on for tips on making the most of a wintry photo session and a few hints for keeping your guests happy (and warm!).

Winter Weddingwinter wedding feature

Bring the Outside In

You wished and hoped for snowfall; instead, you’re left with freezing temps and bleak, nebulous clouds. Do not despair—a little pre-planning will help make these grey skies seem a little less gloomy. Prepare for a less-than-ideal outdoor setting by making the indoors as dreamy as the natural winterscape you imagined. Bring the outside in by incorporating crisp winter elements in your decor. Check out this Pinterest board for a myriad of beautiful ideas.

All Smiles: Don’t forgo outdoor pics altogether. Of course, forcing a smile while standing in below-zero temps is no easy feat. Keep your wedding party happy with coordinating mittens and scarves that also double as photo props.

Create a Backyard Wonderland

A backyard wedding creates a warm and intimate ambience that helps make a winter wedding feel more cozy than cool. Keep your close-knit friends and family from getting too close by renting several space heaters. Turn your space into a true wonderland by stringing lights and hanging glittery silver balls up. Because you’re opening your home to friends and family, make sure you add plenty of personal touches, like photos of your journey as a couple and pics of your pets throughout the reception area. They also make excellent conversations starters for guests.

All Smiles: If you have a pool in your backyard, you want to make sure you have the right accessories to use the pool as a backdrop by removing unsightly covers or debris. Make sure to add interest with pool and patio lighting and turn on the water features. Be sure to decorate in the pool as well. Floating candles create a charming mood.

Woodland Fairytale

A pine-covered backdrop is the optimum setting for a whimsical winter wedding. Make the scene even more serene with natural candlelight, soft floral accents and subtle details like lace-lined linens and pine cone centerpieces. Keep the theme going throughout with subtle woodland elements like a fern-filled wedding bouquet or use wood rounds for escort cards.

All Smiles: A woodland wedding is all about nature and the great outdoors. This means lots of time outdoors in chilly temps. Set up a special hot chocolate bar for your bridal party and guests to enjoy. A small tabletop fireplace also makes an excellent addition for staying warm without the smoky aftermath of a regular charcoal fire pit.

Two Valentine’s Day Weddings with Surprises

By Rev. Alan Viau

This year Valentine’s Day fell on a Saturday. This means that more people got married than usual on that day. I performed two Valentine’s Day weddings at opposite end of the city that held surprises.

Valentine is an obscure Christian martyr who died on February 14, 269 CE. Not much else is know about him. Unlike St. Francis of Assisi who is well known to be kind to animals, there is no mention Valentine being associated with love. Many of the current legends that characterize Saint Valentine were invented in the fourteenth century in England, notably by Geoffrey Chaucer and his circle, when the feast day of February 14 first became associated with romantic love.

Since then we have embraced this and celebrated February 14 as a day of romance and devotion. And as a result officiants, like myself, are kept busy. It was really surprising how both couples were similar. They were both marking second weddings; had their kids as witnesses, had someone in the audience whom I married, and were the same age is me.

Valentine's Day Wedding 1

My first wedding for Rachelle and Marc was to be celebrated in their home on the east side of Ottawa. It was a horrid snow storm and I drove the highway counting no less than six accidents. I arrived on-time to a household of anticipation. Only a handful of immediate family was present to witness the event. The surprise was to come later that afternoon. They invited about 60 friends over for a cocktail event. Rachelle and Marc would announce to their guests that they were married!

Valentine's Day Weddings 2

After a bit of lunch I was on to Carla and Rene’s wedding in the southwest of Ottawa. Now a bit of a backstory here… Carla and Rene were already legally married. Carla had been in a serious car accident and to be sure they were wed. No one knew – not even their kids. A secret surprise if you will.

 Valentine's Day Weddings 3

Carla and Dad


Carla surprised Rene by hiring musicians to bagpipe him into the ceremony space. He was truly thrilled.

Valentine's Day Weddings 4

Despite being an enactment of a wedding, it turned out to be a renewal of vows – as Rene and Carla teared up at their vows. A surprise to them.

Valentine’s Day certainly had its surprises – all good ones and ones that many people will remember. A day full of love.

What Brides are Thinking Walking Down the Aisle

By Molly Hanzidiakou

After months of preparation, the moment is here and,  lined up with her wedding party, the bride is flooded with emotions as she approaches her groom.  Have you ever wondered what brides are thinking as they are about to walk the aisle into their future?

Here are some quotes from women, some who took their walk down the aisle a few years ago, to tell us what thoughts were going through their minds.

bridal thoughts

“Don’t cry. Keep eye contact with Matt, my husband!”

“I know this sounds vain but I think every bride thinks, “Is everything perfect?”  I double checked my train, hair and flowers right before.” –April, 2010

“I thought to myself, “It wasn’t a big deal and my Dad looked so handsome.”  I was fine lining up.  I put my arm with my Dad’s, turned the corner and lost my breath because I saw all the people.  It hit me then what was about to happen.  My dad said, “Breath. It’s just another day.”  I was fine after that”. –Jo-Ann, 2003

“I felt a lot of different emotions.  It was a very overwhelming moment.  I was thinking how everyone would be looking at me and I hoped I looked good.  I was also thinking how the burn on the side of my head hurt where the hair dresser burnt me with the curling iron”. –Laurel, 1998

“My whole life I was a very anxious child.  I missed my First Communion because I got sick to my stomach.  When my dad’s company had Christmas parties, I could never go because I always got sick.  I’d have lost my mind if my kids were like that.  So when I was planning the wedding, I was worried I’d be terribly nervous.  However, when the day arrived I was as calm as could be.  I guess I was so sure of who I had chosen to spend the rest of my life with, I had no qualms.  I was just at peace and very happy to walk down the aisle on my Dad’s arm and join Mike to begin our life together”. –Catherine, 1987

“Oh my gosh I’m late!  I was all worried with being 15 minutes late.  And my father-in-law to be was not impressed”. –Stacey, 1992

“This is the next chapter in my life.  Scary, but exciting” –Mary, 1977

“I got married at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club.  The Hunt Club has this long staircase that my Dad and I had to walk down as part of our aisle.  My biggest fear was falling down the stairs, so I held onto my Dad and the stair rail for dear life.  I don’t think I thought of much else until I got to the last step. I was so relieved.  The rest was easy!” –Jennifer, 2012.

Vegan Wedding Desserts

If you are vegan or have vegan guests at your DIY wedding, these vegan desserts will wow your taste buds and are beautiful enough to serve at your wedding or engagement party.

Recipes and Images Courtesy of Raw Mountain Kitchen

Raw Blueberry Cheesecake with Hazelnut Crust

Raw Blueberry Cheezecake

As many of you know, I am a slight blueberry fanatic. No, it’s not because my favourite colour is blue (which is a major plus though by the way) and it’s not because you can find these blue delights easily in the wild (for a daily hiker/runner this is huge). My love for this one particular berry is quite simple and dates back to a few years ago, when my crazy food craze began..

Blueberry Cheezecake

For awhile I spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out why I had substantial dry skin and blemishes on my face. In addition to this, my skin was rough and seemed to lack moisture, regardless of the endless amounts of creams and lotions. Then, when I cut out all chemically-induced hair, body, and face products I thought the issue would be fixed. Nope! It’s never that easy! This actually made things oddly worse for a time, as I was now facing the original questionable problem along with adjustment to new lifestyle changes.

Blueberry Cheezecake

It was summertime at this time, so I indulged in endless berries as I always do. This particular year I had stashed up on the wild goodness and froze it to keep it lasting through the winter. Every day I packed in 1 cup of blueberries along with other mixed berries (raspberries, strawberries, goji berries, boysenberries, tart cherries, basically whatever I could get ahold of). It took about 3 months but I solved my skin problem without realizing it at first! When things cleared up and my skin felt more hydrated, then I started using coconut oil on my body post-shower. WOW! This was the beginning of my berry obsession. Which I’m sure you’ve noticed, as I like to throw berries in and on top of everything. Also, the beginning of my coconut obsession, equally as wild and exciting (errr at least exciting to me that is).

Blueberry Cheezecake

I know we all have these particular foods or in a broader sense, things in our lives that we love and obsess over (in a healthy way of course). Some of you share this with me all the time, in the comments section here or on Instagram. I always find it fascinating to know others feel the same way, making me feel as though I’m part of a higher world flying on the dosage of coconut and berries. However, what really interests me right now, is learning about what you’re into that is completely different then this love I’ve cultivated. Please do share it with me, so I can try it out and perhaps share it with the rest of the world!

Raw Blueberry Cheesecake with Hazelnut Crust Recipe

Makes enough for: 8 – 10 servings

Time to prepare: 20 minutes

Time before you can enjoy: A few hours of freezing



3/4 c Hzelnuts

3/4 c Dates, soaked for 10 minutes

2 tbsp Maple Syrup (not raw) or Coconut Nectar (raw)


1 c Cashews, soaked for 10 minutes

1/2 c Macadamia Nuts, soaked for 10 minutes

1/3 c Coconut Oil, melted

1/3 c Coconut Milk

1/2 c Maple Syrup (not raw) or Coconut Nectar (raw)

1/4 c Blueberries

1 tbsp Beauty Berries Power Blend (optional)

1 Lemon or Lime, squeezed


1. In food processor, mix crust until chunky and sticky.

2. Line a small pan with plastic wrap. Press down crust firmly into pan. Freeze for 10 minutes.

3. Blend filling in high-speed food processor until thick and creamy.

4. Pour filling on top of crust and place pan back in freezer.

5. Wait until frozen or firm after 1 – 3 hours. Remove pan from freezer.

6. Run knife under hot water then carefully slice cheesecake. Top with dark chocolate enjoy!


Berry Explosion Cheezecakes with Pecan Crust

Berry Cheezecake

Round 2 of my Cheesecake Series! These bites are creamy and packed with a berry punch. This morning I managed another day of HIIT training and nearly drank 3 litres of water during the 50 minute workout. I packed these cheesecakes with a scoop of plant-based protein but if you prefer just to have your cake simple and creamier I would suggest without!

Berry Cheezecake


Berry Cheezecake


I love eating these mildly frozen. Pop them in the freezer for 20 minutes and the cheesecake texture melts as you eat it.

Berry Cheezecake


Berry Explosion Cheezecakes:

Makes enough for: 8 – 10 servings

Time to prepare: 20 minutes



3/4 c Pecans

3/4 c Dates, soaked for 10 minutes

2 tbsp Maple Syrup (not raw) or Coconut Nectar (raw)


1 1/2 c Cashews, soaked for 10 minutes

1/3 c Coconut Oil, melted

1/3 c Coconut Milk

1/2 c Maple Syrup (not raw) or Coconut Nectar (raw)

4 tbsp Beauty Berries Power Blend

1 Lemon or Lime, squeezed


1. In food processor, mix crust until chunky and sticky.

2. Line a small pan with plastic wrap. Press down crust firmly into pan. Freeze for 10 minutes.

3. Blend filling except for berry blend in high-speed food processor until thick and creamy.

4. Pour half of filling on top of crust and place pan back in freezer.

5. Wait until frozen or firm after 1 – 2 hours.

6. Mix in Berry Blend to remaining cheesecake mix. Repeat step #4 & #5 to add in another layer.

7. Freeze for 1 hour. Remove pan from freezer.

8. Run knife under hot water then carefully slice cheesecake. Top with dark chocolate enjoy!

Choosing the Right Wedding Dress to Flatter Your Figure

Choosing the Right Wedding Dress to Flatter Your Figure

Courtesy of I Just Said Yes the right wedding dress to suit you best takes time and a lot of patience.  As we all have different body types, when shopping for our regular every day wardrobe we look for clothing that best compliments our figure.  This rule should also apply when purchasing your wedding dress.

There are many different body shapes such as straight, pear, hourglass, and triangle to name a few.  First, you need to find out which body type you have.   If you happen to be a pear shape with a wide hip area then an A line wedding dress would suit you best as it will flow away from the hip and midsection.  A peplum style wedding dress would also camouflage your hips and butt.  If you are small from the waist up then showcase that area by wearing a v-neck, halter or strapless gown and show off your slender upper body.

If you have a straight body type where the waist and hips are very close in similar size, wearing a straight dress is okay but you want it to be fitted so it does not just hang straight down on you.  Try a sash or belt to give a little contour between your waist and hips.

The best thing is to try a few different variations and see which one best compliments your figure, style and personality.  I have never seen a bride in all my years and said “boy she does not look good in that dress” So, when you look at yourself in the mirror you will immediately know which dress is for you.  Every bride is beautiful.

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The First 5 Decisions for Your Wedding

By Rev. Alan Viau

As soon as you are engaged, your mind swirls with all kinds of ideas and dreams for your big day. So many things to do and make decisions about. What are the first 5 decisions that you need to make for your day to be a success?

 wedding decisions 1
Amy and Andrew married on the Rideau Canal for Valentine’s Day

When weddings bells are heard, a bride immediately starts thinking about her wedding dress. However, there are more pressing and time sensitive issues. These top 5 decisions must be made early so that you can have a successful and less stressful wedding day.

Ceremony and Reception Venues:

Once you have figured out the size of your wedding (See last week’s post), then you must find a venue that is available on your date. If you are hoping for a Saturday wedding, you may find that you need to book a venue up to 18-24 months in advance. Many couples decide on a venue that can accommodate both their wedding ceremony and reception.

Wedding Planner:

In theatre, there are two important roles in realizing a production; the artistic director and stage manager. The artistic director has the overall vision of the production while the stage manager ensures that the vision is executed. You are the artistic director. It is very difficult to enjoy your event when you are also the stage manager. I highly recommend someone take on this role. It can be a friend (not in the wedding party) or a professional wedding planner. At the very least, have someone oversee the event the day of.

Officiant/ Celebrant:

Similar to the venues, officiants are booking 18-24 months in advance. For example, I have weddings scheduled to September 2016. Keep in mind that the most popular time for the wedding ceremony is Saturday at 4pm. An earlier or later start time may get you an officiant of your choice if you are less than 12 months away.


When you are having an on-location wedding – whether at your home or a rented venue – you will need to make a decision on your caterer. Caterers are another vendor who book up early.

Photographer/ Videographer:

These folks may be spending the majority of the day with you. They will only be taking one wedding per day. Luckily, their work can be evaluated on their website. Once you’ve identified the style of photography you want, then a meeting with them is needed so you can determine if you are comfortable with their personality.

These five decisions must be made early in your wedding planning agenda. Keep in mind that the most popular months for getting married in Ottawa are July, August and September. Vendors book up early for those prime months.

Outdoor Wedding Tips You Need to Consider

Outdoor Wedding Tips You Need to Consider
Courtesy of I Just Said Yes

elegance 300x225 Outdoor Wedding Tips You Need to ConsiderOutdoor wedding receptions are becoming increasingly popular whether it may be in a private backyard, winery, local park, historic museum, beach or country club. The most important thing you must consider and be prepared for is inclement weather and having a backup plan in place. Never trust mother nature as she can surprise us at anytime.

An outdoor wedding can be beautiful and absolutely breathtaking depending on the venue you select. One thing couples don’t realize is sometimes the fees of an outdoor wedding can cost you more than doing it indoors. When you choose an indoor facility, most of the time, the tables, chairs, dishes, cutlery and glasses are all included. Some venues even provide the napkins and tablecloths too. If you are just booking the space of an outdoor location you may need to look at rental of dishes, cutlery, glassware,tables, chairs, linens, tent and dance floor. You may be surprised how fast these costs add up.

Depending on the time of month you select and the average temperature, do you need heaters or cooling fans. What about the preparation of your food? Is there kitchen facilities and what type of special permits, electrical, refrigeration or water access is required to handle food? Can you bring alcohol on the grounds and what type of license is required for this. What about ice and how to keep it frozen? Don’t forget about bathrooms and their locations. Is there enough space for your guests to park their cars? What do you do for lights late in the evening when it gets dark? Is their enough power source for your band or disc jockey. All of these questions are very good points you must think about before deciding to book an outdoor wedding. Ensure you look into all permits and noise restrictions as well. The last thing you want is someone to call in a complaint on the day of your wedding!

Insects can also play a huge part in any outdoor event so you need to consider citronella candles or bug zappers. When there is food or sugar around, ants, bees and fly’s will be heading that way. If you are offering a buffet then do your best to keep covers of all food trays when possible. What if it’s a windy day? Make sure your linens are properly secured in place and your centerpieces are not light weight. If you decided to purchase candles will they stay lit? Maybe you should consider the battery lit candle which would be perfect. Should you expect it to be a very hot and humid day ensure plenty of bottled water and refreshing drinks are on hand for the guests and keep a bottle of suntan lotion available to anyone who may need it.

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Trash the Dress

By Molly Hanzidiakou
photos by Sara Jane Kiley-McDonald

Trash the Dress

Over the course of a wedding day, a bride and groom are surrounded by celebrating friends and family.  With only a handful of brief moments to themselves, couples can share an intimate moment during the wedding photo session. These moments are often seen in the photos that will be shared and looked at again for many years to come. Something new is happening.  Something a little more creative and, one might even say, dirty. Alongside wedding day photos, more and more brides are joining in on a new trend: having a separate day, after the wedding, for a Trash the Dress photo session.

There are no rules when taking Trash the Dress photos, other than to be safe.  Some brides purchase a second, cheaper dress for the shoot that allows for a new look, while others use their original dress. Whether in paint, mud or water, there are no guidelines for a Trash the Dress shoot.  Sara Jane Kiley-McDonald is a local Ottawa photographer who is on board with taking these relaxed, easy-going shoots.  “These sessions are a fun way to get as creative as possible and really showcase our artistic side,” she says, “The possibilities are endless and it gives us a chance to really go outside of the box with our art and at the same time create some amazing memories with our clients.”

With ideas from the newlyweds and ideas of her own, Kiley-McDonald and her husband David have worked with many couples to create intimate, fun Trash the Dress sessions. One of her favourite sessions involved following a couple to Jamaica where they hired a driver to transport them to different locations.  One location was an old broken-down church in the middle of a field completely overgrown by vegetation.  “We were overtaken by fire ants during this section of the shoot.  The things we will do for an amazing photo!” The final destination was a gorgeous cliff overlooking the ocean where the couple dunked themselves into the water falls and later went into the sea.  “We used underwater cameras for some of the shots and it was one of the most amazing experiences as a professional photographer that my husband and I have ever had,” says Kiley-McDonald.

Kiley-McDonald strategically plans out Trash the Dress shoots to best show off the dress. “I always have the sessions go in a specific order.  Clean, dry land shots first, then we move to photos on the ground which involve sand and sitting and then gradually work our way into water.  Once you get to the water part you are pretty much done after that. It’s the most exciting part too so we are basically saving the best for last with these sessions,” she adds.

With all the fun of these sessions there has to be caution as well, especially when water is involved.  You always have to be very careful when doing the sessions especially in the ocean or near fast moving water.  A wet dress can increase in weight by two times or more and in August 2012 a woman tragically drowned in Quebec during a Trash the Dress session. Make sure your photographer, like Sara Jane Kiley-McDonald, knows exactly what she’s doing, and bring along a friend or two to help in case of an accident.

Trash the Dress pictures allow for something totally out of the box for many brides.  Trash the Dress is not only about the outcome of the pictures, but the experience of having them taken.  A Trash the Dress photo shoot is a fun way for a couple to show off their wild side, and have beautiful and surprising photos to look back on.