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.

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.

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.

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.
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.
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!

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.

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?

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

I am looking forward to what 2014 will bring.

Lisa and Colin: Up, Up and Away

By Rev. Alan Viau
Photography: Studio Art Maria

For anyone in the audience Lisa and Colin’s wedding seemed like a pretty standard affair. Except for the ending.

I tell my wedding couples that a wedding ceremony needs to be one that is easily recognized as such by your guests. A ceremony needs to feel like it reaches into the traditions of our past. Yet, I also encourage them to personalize it so that it suits their personalities and life-style.

So it was with Lisa and Colin. Their ceremony started like many others with Colin and I waiting for Lisa to start her way down the aisle.

She came down looking radiant with Dad and Mom. And the service was underway.

They exchanged personal vows with each other.

And of course the kiss!

However, at this point, rather than end the ceremony, I invited everyone outdoors.

At this point, Lisa and Colin took their vows and placed them in an envelope. In a message in the bottle theme, they attached the envelope to helium filled balloons. They released their love, sharing it with the world.

A neat idea to gift your love to the universe.

Ottawa Restaurants are Specialized Wedding Venues

Restaurants can provide both wedding ceremony and reception services. Some handle large crowds while others specialize in more intimate gatherings. Looking back, this is a sample of some of them where I’ve performed ceremonies.

Wedding at Restaurant 18. Courtesy Blair Gable
Wedding ceremonies and receptions can be hosted in a restaurant. You have the advantage of a one location wedding with a special menu and wine list. You can choose a restaurant for its existing ambiance and decor.You must of course negotiate with the restaurant to see if they are willing to have a ceremony performed on-site.
There are two considerations. The first is the number of people involved. If you are close to the restaurant’s capacity, then you are probably looking at booking the whole restaurant. You will need to have them flip from a ceremony configuration to a sit down dinner setting. For smaller weddings, you may be able to get away with a special room reserved for your event.
The second issue is what type of event they can cater. You need to see if they allow a DJ, public address system, or a dance floor if that is what you are wanting. A smaller wedding which is a ceremony plus dinner or cocktail event can easily be integrated in most establishments.
In alphabetical order, here are some restaurants where I’ve performed ceremonies that have followed with a reception.
Beckta – Well know for its excellent food and wine. It has a private room located on the second floor of the 1920’s Victorian home that can hold about 20 people.
Courtyard– Courtyard Restaurant is a unique, historic venue. Hold your ceremony and reception in one place and offer your guests dining experience with a staff that orchestrates all the behind the scenes details. A popular spot, I’ve performed ceremonies there ranging in size from 12 to 120 people.

Ceremony Decor at the Courtyard Restaurant
Keg Manor – Maplelawn is an historic house and former estate where the Keg Manor is housed. The house was built between 1831 an 1834 as the centre of a farming estate by the Thomson family. Weddings I’ve performed there are the ceremony plus dinner type ( less than 50 people) in this majestic manor. It also has a beautiful garden where outdoor wedding ceremonies are held.
Lagos – For a more modern setting, Lagos Bar & Grill overlooking Dow’s Lake is a great choice. The Vista Room can hold over 220 people for a cocktail style reception and 140 for a seated dinner. The main restaurant is available for groups of 25 or more and can hold over 300 people for a seated dinner. I once delayed a wedding start because we watched the flotilla of hot air balloons drift by the large windows during the Hot Air Balloon Festivalin September.

Wedding at Lagos. Courtesy
Restaurant 18 – A great place for superb food and specialty drinks. Staff are accommodating to your needs. I’ve conducted weddings with 120 people in attendance.
Side Door Restaurant- It has a wonderful space for a ceremony. It can host 90 for a sit down dinner or 120 as a cocktail reception. A more contemporary feel to it.
Signatures – Located in the historic Munross mansion, just steps from the Rideau River, Le Cordon BleuBistro @ Signatures offers French Provincial appointed banquet rooms, winding staircases and crystal chandeliers. I’ve performed ceremonies in what used to be the mansion’s chapel.

Wedding at Signatures

Viki and Matt’s 12/12/12 Wedding

Viki and Matt were married on 12/12/12 outdoors in her mum’s backyard just after sunset.
Viki’s parents hosted the couple’s wedding in their backyard in Stittsville on the west side of Ottawa. They decorated the space with two columns of light and had a spot light ready so we could all see. LED lanterns lit the path from the back door to the ceremony space.
The weather cooperated. The previous day the temperature was in the -10 C range. But today it was hovering around freezing – just enough to remind you that it is December in Ottawa. There was a light snow and ice covering on the ground to complete the winter decor.
About two dozen guests were in attendance for the wedding. Everyone was dressed in fine clothes for the event.
We signed the marriage license and register indoors before the ceremony. The guys and gals signed in separate rooms so they didn’t have to see each other. This way I didn’t need to worry about having wet paperwork from the light snow falling. It also saved us time from being in the cold outdoors to long.
Viki was accompanied by her father where he presented her to Matt. In a simple ceremony, they exchanged vows and rings.
And we had the grand finale of the kiss.
A group picture was taken where upon everyone proceeded indoors for the reception. Congrats Viki and Matt on your 12/12/12 wedding.