Support Your Favorites in the First Ottawa Wedding Awards

By Rev. Alan Viau

The Ottawa Wedding Awards recognizes the leaders in the industry who have demonstrated the very best creativity, imagination, and service throughout the year. As voted upon by their peers and those whose lives they have touched, the winners in each category will be selected because they have taken their business to the highest level. With your vote, the companies that have established themselves as the best in the city will be determined.

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A notice came out recently that Brian Henry, President and Co-Owner of Quality Entertainment, was announcing a big event – one that has never happened in Ottawa. The Ottawa Wedding Awards were launched in collaboration with Ottawa Wedding Magazine and Ottawa Conference and Event Centre.

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Brian Henry

I asked Brian why he started the awards.

“It is an opportunity for couples to recognize those vendors that made their day special – a way of saying thank you. The best vendors make a big difference in people’s lives and we need to appreciate that as a community and an industry.”

In addition, Brian hopes to promote a forum for vendors to socialize and network so that as a collective we can improve the business we are in and generate ideas for the future. Brian is a tireless, positive influence on the Ottawa wedding scene. He never misses a social or business event.

About 100 vendors were nominated for the awards. Vendor voting started April 22 and ends May 13. So far there have been over 5,000 votes cast with many categories in tight contention. So now is your chance to make a difference by voting for those who made a difference in your wedding.  The system permits only one vote per IP address to minimize multiple duplicate entries.

The Ottawa Wedding Awards also announced its highest award,  Wedding of the Year, which will be judged by a panel of industry experts. Submissions will be accepted until May 9th at 12pm. Every individual submitting their wedding must be in attendance on the awards night. The winning wedding will be featured in Ottawa Wedding Magazine.

On May 28th, 2014 at the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre, all the winning vendors will be announced. As a supporter of this event, I will be there at the door greeting attendees. This is an exciting time for the Ottawa wedding scene, one that can plant seeds for a vibrant future.

Don’t Miss the Handmade Bride Indie Wedding Show April 19

By Rev. Alan Viau

“Things are gearing up for the most wonderful, exciting, alternative, super fabulous, handmaking, eco-friendly, queer loving, sing-songiest wedding show in town!” says Meaghan Brunetti, show organizer and owner of The Handmade Bride shop in Ottawa.

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Meaghan had a tough time planning her wedding as an alternative modern bride and saw a hole in the wedding industry in Ottawa. “I wanted to create a fun, relaxed environment where brides could come to shop for their wedding and where they could find high quality, handmade and gorgeous wedding stuff!” And so the shop and the show were born.

Meaghan has lined up 30 of the most unique and interesting indie wedding vendors in Ottawa for you to peruse on April 19th,  from 11am to 4pm at the Memorial Hall, 39 Dufferin Rd in New Edinburgh.

Here are three reasons to go to this show:

1) The Handmade Bride (across the street from the show) will be hosting a Maureen Patricia trunk show. (That means she will be bringing her whole collection to the shop as well as launching her new collection that day!)

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2) The first 50 couples through the door get an awesome swag bag FULL of goodies like locally made caramels, handmade soaps, a CD of first dance songs, artisan marshmallows and other cool stuff!

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3)A chance to enter to win a grand prize including a custom made infinity dress (so amazing for your rehearsal dinner and honeymoon!) from The Handmade Bride among other neat-o things.

The Handmade Bride Indie Wedding Show is a rare opportunity to purchase handmade items for your wedding, so come out and see what’s available.

 

Tanya and Andrew Marry at the NAC

By Rev. Alan Viau
Photos by Trending Media

Ottawa’s National Arts Centre is another gem location in which to get married. Tanya and Andrew held a wedding in the round during a blustery winter day. No matter the weather, it was a perfect day for them.

 

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Winterlude is Ottawa’s festival celebrating winter. There are many activities and things to do; skate on the Rideau Canal, eat a Beaver Tail, admire the ice sculptures. Certainly, one advantage for me was that I parked at the Ottawa Convention Centre and walked on the canal to the National Arts Centre for the wedding.  I thought it was pretty neat to do that.

But no matter, February 1st is winter and getting from the limo to the entrance was a challenge that just  can’t be accomplished gracefully. After all you must keep the wedding dress looking perfect!

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Le Salon is a perfect venue in which to perform a wedding in-the-round. I’ve officiated many weddings there in this format. In-the-round is a wonderful configuration because it brings everyone closer to you for a more intimate feeling.

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Tanya and Andrew selected a wedding  that underscored their religious beliefs. Like many who choose to have a wedding in a non-faith venue, there are still strong ties to the past. So I performed the candle-lighting ritual and a recital of the Lord’s Prayer for them.

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They certainly looked happy! Congratulations to you both. I left soon after the ceremony to head down to the Courtyard Restaurant for another wedding (next week’ story). But from what I can tell – it looks like they had an awesome party!

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I Want a Church Wedding Without the Religion

By Rev. Alan Viau

Do you want a church wedding but are not thrilled with the religious requirements that comes with it? Brides and grooms today can have a church located wedding without the religion. There are more options than you think.

For some couples, part of their dream wedding is to have a marriage ceremony performed in a church. It is considered traditional just like marriage is traditional. However, religious organizations can ask for all sorts of requirements from a bride and groom before agreeing to marrying them in their place of worship.

Some of the most common requirements are:

  • You belong to their membership and follow their religion
  • You both attend a premarital course
  • You need to pay for the church rental, their organist and custodial services
  • You can’t have pictures taken during the service
  • You need to use their standard wedding ceremony with little choice in personalizing it
  • You are faced with rules about using decorations

These can be show stoppers for couples. Luckily there are options available where you can have a church located wedding.

Rent a Church

There are some churches that let you rent their space to have a non-religious wedding. I have performed weddings at Southminister United Church for example. They let you rent out their venue and you provide the officiant, decorations, musicians and photographers. It is worth asking a church to see if they would allow to you book their space.

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All Seasons Weddings has a church in Kenmore

There are also former churches that are available. All Seasons Weddings has a beautifully restored former church available. St. Brigids in downtown Ottawa is a converted Catholic Church that is available as well.

Book a Venue with a Church

Some wedding venues have a church available where you can easily move from the ceremony to the reception. Beantown Ranch has a charming country chapel on their site. Once the ceremony is completed, it can be converted to a cocktail area.

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Chapel at Beantown Ranch

The Cumberland County Museum has an old country church as part of their exhibits. You can have your wedding there and easily move to a tented reception area on-site. At The Schoolhouse in Munster has access to a church across the street from its reception facilities.

With these possibilities, you can have your dream wedding at a church without all the requirements that come with a religious institution. It really is the best mix of traditional and modern weddings to be able to personalize your wedding including having your own church location.

Photos by Alan Viau

Religious Elements in Your Wedding Ceremony

By Rev. Alan Viau
Photos by: Andrew VanBeek

We all come from different places and backgrounds. I often get asked if religious elements can be added to a ceremony. My answer is … of course!

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It may be a difficult decision to have your wedding ceremony outside a church setting. There are various reasons for choosing a non-religious location for your vows. Perhaps your fiance is of a different cultural or religious background than you are. You may not feel comfortable with the doctrines of your birth religion but still feel the need for religious representation. Your church may have you facing a wall of requirements which you don’t feel comfortable with, or don’t ring true with you. Or maybe you are feeling pressure from your families for not holding your wedding in a church.

I talk to couples about this dilemma often, and try to arrive at a solution that makes them feel comfortable. Personally, I will accommodate any religious inclusion in wedding ceremonies I perform. I’ve performed weddings with B’hai, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Wiccan and Buddhist elements – because that’s where the couple’s spirituality is.

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Brides and grooms need to speak openly about spiritual beliefs to a potential officiant. They need to find out if the officiant is willing and able to add the desired religious elements to their ceremony. For example, Humanist officiants can only have secular references in the wedding ceremony. Other officiants may have a personal preference whether to include or exclude some religious traditions. This is perfectly allowable under the Ontario Human Rights Code under freedom of religion, so be open about your desires.

As I said earlier, I go with whatever the couple wants – because it is their wedding and their beliefs. Last weekend, I officiated two weddings where the couples wanted specific Christian references. In those cases, I usually find that a prayer and the inclusion of the Lord’s Prayer satisfies most needs. If they want more, then why not?

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I was particularly touched with Jennifer and Michael’s wedding at the Courtyard Restaurant. I was teamed up with photographer, Andrew Van Beek,  and pianist, Kimberley Dunn, both with whom I’ve worked many weddings. This was a bilingual wedding, and I switched from English to French in various sections. One reading was read directly from Jennifer’s birth Bible. Kimberley sang and played an inspiring Ave Maria between readings. The audience was invited to recite the Lord’s Prayer in the language of their choice.

What really touched me was when Jennifer asked me to sign her birth Bible on this special occasion. I tell folks that after 10 years and almost 1000 weddings, I still come across things that are new and hit me in the heart, as this one did. “Best Wishes on Your New Journey and Adventures In Married Life”… Amen

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Birth Bible on the Signing Table. Photo by Alan Viau

Cruise Ship Weddings are Catching On

By Rev. Alan Viau

An at sea wedding is a very romantic notion. Many cruise companies recognize that these special events need special attention. Cruise companies are offering and upgrading their wedding packages to offer brides and grooms fabulous options for celebrating weddings aboard and at ports of call.

Thousands of couples flock to cruise lines to be married aboard ship every year. For example, Carnival Cruises performs over 2600 weddings each year. Most of the large cruise companies offer wedding cruises including Princess Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, and Celebrity Cruises. There is intense competition among the different cruise lines to  attract brides and grooms to have their nuptials aboard.

When it comes to the actual wedding ceremony, you can’t legally get married at sea. In international waters there is no legal jurisdiction, so there is no mechanism to recognize a wedding performed aboard ship. There is one exception where the Bahamas recognize legal weddings performed aboard ships which are flagged in their country. Therefore, Royal Caribbean International can have legal weddings at sea performed by the Captain.

Other cruise lines perform the actual wedding ceremony within the territorial waters of a country. They offer ceremonies performed both aboard ship on embarkation day or beachside in tropical ports of call. Ceremonies are performed by a the Captain or a wedding officiant (non-denominational official/minister or notary public). Many ships have dedicated wedding chapels.

The cost of a marriage license varies depending on where you are planning on performing the ceremony and you will need to look into the various legal requirements of the location where you are getting married before finalizing your plans. The fees and paperwork submission timelines vary, so be sure to do your homework well in advance of your wedding date.

You can bring your own officiant as well – I’m waiting for that to happen!

Wedding packages vary widely from cruise line to cruise line and wedding package pricing corresponds with the services you are purchasing. A basic 8 person package can be around US$1300 and a full blown experience can be up to US$5000. Most cruise lines seem to offer a good selection around the US$2000 mark.

Make sure you get exactly what you want by carefully considering all the details of each package. Some packages include the services of a personal wedding planner to assist the couple on their special day, as well as priority check-in and boarding for all wedding guests, plus other perks.

Couples can have shipboard celebrations which include a diverse array of lavishly presented culinary options and upgraded beverage service, along with multi-tiered wedding cake choices like chocolate ganache, coconut cream, and red velvet, all baked on board. Enhanced amenities such as a decorated wedding aisle and other traditional touches, along with upgraded champagne flutes and other keepsake items, can be included.

When I am looking outside at the snow storm and -20 C., a wedding aboard ship is really appealing.

All Photos Courtesy of Carnival Cruises.

A Free eBook for Your Dream Wedding Ceremony

By Rev. Alan Viau

See how you can get a Free eBook on planning your dream wedding ceremony. As part of marking 1o years of celebrating love in the capital, I am offering a giveaway of 10 of my eBooks, “From the Heart, Wedding Ceremonies that Work!”

I starting writing my blog for on-location wedding ceremonies in January 2010, six years after starting hitching up couples. A little while ago, I released a book and eBook that compiled all my advice on planning a successful on-location indoor or outdoor wedding ceremony.

Wedding at Restaurant 18

You’ll get lots of tips and advice in my eBook. But essentially, it comes down to three main things.

Have a Dream and Plan the Dream.

It used to be that you needed to conform to your religious institution’s demands for your wedding. When I was married 33 years ago, Sweetheart and I only had the choice of a few Bible readings.

Now you can have your dream wedding ceremony. It takes planning and careful execution. This eBook gives you tips on things you never thought of.

Plan It Together

Often I’ve heard the groom say, “Whatever she wants…” The most successful weddings have been those where both the bride and groom are intimately involved. It is a team effort to have the wedding of your dreams. You balance each other and stand together in the face of family pressures.

This is YOUR wedding. Focus on your love for each other and how this wedding is an expression of your relationship – from your heart.

Stick to the Script

Your wedding ceremony will be the most stressful part of your day. This is because you probably haven’t planned a wedding ceremony before. It is all new to you. In contrast, you have had parties previously and a receptions is just an elaborate one.

This may be your first wedding and you need to give it your best. Once you’ve agreed to a plan, stick to it. Don’t second guess yourself the day of. I had a groom, Mark, who offered up his right hand for the ring instead of his left – as a joke. It back fired. The bride was so flustered that she called him Mike instead. Stick to the plan and all will go well.

Here’s how you get the eBook.

Send me a message briefly describing your dream wedding. The 10 best entries by February 14, 2014 will receive my eBook. I’ll post the stories for all to share as inspirations.

Wishing you all the best and many blessings.

Wedding at Restaurant 18

10 years of celebrating love in the Capital

By Rev. Alan Viau

This year marks 10 years of performing wedding ceremonies in our nation’s capital region. It has been a journey towards 1000 weddings and I’ve witnessed couples express their deepest love, highest hopes and searches for happiness. It has also been an adventure where every wedding was special and different. I’ve had to be nimble and quick sometimes and ad lib through unforeseen events.

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Pink Floyd’s song Time quips, “And then one day you find ten years have got behind you”. It certainly feels that way – ten years of performing weddings has whizzed by. Unlike the song, I have enjoyed the journey; a journey that will bring me through 1000 weddings this year. In this post, I thought I’d share answers to some of the most common questions couples ask me.

How did you get into officiating weddings?

It started as a paid acting gig. I was doing a lot of stage theatre and someone mentioned that wedding officiating is good weekend work. When you think about it, weddings are a bit of a show. There is a script, stage, costumes, props, lighting, and sound – all elements of a stage production. So every wedding I do takes into consideration all of the production elements. But then I fell in love with doing weddings. Weddings are a positive affirmation of love, life, and community…and, wow, I contribute to that.

Can you tell if the couple will make it?

I never judge. Life will write the couple’s history. Challenges to a marriage will come – there is no doubt about that. It is up to them whether they can ride out the storms. When challenges occur, the couple must ask themselves if love still exists between them. If not, then they may decide to go their own ways. I am grateful that today, people can make these decisions, permitting them to find love again.

What is the weirdest wedding you’ve performed?

All weddings are special and unique. Each depends on the couple and their ideas and circumstances. I am there to help translate their dream into reality. One of my favorite quotes from Robert Fulghum is “We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.”

You must have some good stories?

Yes lots of stories – most of which I describe in my blog. I figured out that performing weddings was going to be an interesting ride. I had a wedding on the shores of Big Rideau Lake in my first year. The bride and her party were to arrive at the dock by house boat. The groom and I and 80 guests could see the house boat in the middle of the lake… drifting away because the engine died. They managed to wave down a passing outboard boat and convinced the owner to ferry them to shore. Imagine a small boat filled with bride and bridesmaids standing in gowns arriving at the dock. Someone threw me the rope to moor them. I realized then that performing weddings was going to be an adventure.

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My Favorite Wedding Venues for 2013

By Rev. Alan Viau

Another busy wedding season has come and gone. I visited many wedding venues in the Ottawa area and here are my three favorites for the year.

I classify wedding venues into three categories; rustic/natural, modern/urban chic and romantic. You can see more on this in my FREE downloadable eBookLove in the Capital. 

Rustic/Natural – Le Belvedere near Maniwaki is stunning. The wedding ceremonies are performed on the edge of a cliff overlooking a valley. It is inspiring. The building is ‘green’ and the service impeccable.

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Modern/ Urban Chic – Art Is In Bakery was perhaps the most unique venue for a wedding for me this year. I was privileged to be the first to perform a ceremony there. Awesome food and service make for a memorable event. See Renee and Michael’s wedding.

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Romantic – Gezellig Dining proved to be an intimate venue. It has an upper floor for the ceremony and dancing later. The main floor makes it easy to see and chat with all your guests. And of course the food is excellent. See Amanda and Ali’s wedding.

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Ceremony Decor. Photo by Alan Viau

My Favorite Wedding Dresses of 2013

By Rev. Alan Viau

As with many other people, the end of the year is a time of reflection on what was 2013. There were four wedding dresses worn by brides for whom I performed weddings that stood out in my mind. Each was a superb choice for the woman who wore them.

Disney Princess: Her dream was to be a Disney Princess. Stunning as she walked down the aisle, it even took my breath away. Yes, she married Prince Charming.

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Naturally Her : The dress fit her unique personality – a yoga teacher who loves nature – flowers all around.

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Perfect Fit: A dress that fit her perfectly and extremely romantic. Her groom was in joyful tears seeing her walk down the aisle in this McCaffrey Haute Couture dress.

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Just Her: It can be a daunting challenge to find a wedding dress for your second marriage. This bride was gorgeous in her choice of gown. Elegant and beautiful.

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I am looking forward to what 2014 will bring.