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.

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!)

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!

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.

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!

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.

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.

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!


Troublesome Devices at Weddings

By Rev. Alan Viau

Weddings have sure changed in the 10 years that I’ve been officiating. Technology  has advanced, and it is usually welcomed, but there are also downsides to it.

Technology is an amazing phenomenon. With time, better products are available at lower prices. For example, I bought a 26 inch flat screen TV a few years ago for $270. For the same price, I can purchase a 39 inch TV today. As prices decrease, the technology becomes more accessible to more people. It can quickly become pervasive and abundant in our lives.

However, all technological advances are good things. In the 10 years of officiating, three devices have become not only pervasive but maybe even invasive.

GPS – Global Positioning Systems help you navigate roads. However, they are only as good as the mapping software you are using and the information you input. GPS’s are great in the city but can spell disaster when trying to find a location in the countryside. There have been many times when people got lost because they put absolute trust in their GPS. At a recent wedding, a groomsman, bridesmaid and flower girl were all in the same car and arrived 30 minutes late. Please give your guests a map or proper GPS locations with the invitation.

DSLR Cameras – Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras are everywhere now. Ten years ago, some guests had small CCD cameras. It was no big deal. Now they all have DSLR cameras and think they are professional photographers. They get in the way. I’ve even had to ask a guest to get out from in front of me so the bride could come up! I now routinely ask guests to stay in their seats so that the professional photographer can capture the great memories.

Smart Devices – I lump all sorts of connected devices here, including phones and tablets. A wedding is an experience not a social media event. You don’t need to be taking pictures, posting on Facebook or Tweeting about the wedding. In fact, brides and grooms are now asking me to direct the audience not to do those things. They want to be the first to Facebook or Tweet about their wedding. I never see some guests’ faces because they are hidden behind a tablet the whole time. And Dad – really. Be in the moment! Yes, I’ve witnessed Dads being immersed in recording the event as an observer instead of being a participant in their son or daughter’s marriage.

You may believe I am anti-technology. I am not – just against the abuse of it.

One very useful technological device is the mobile phone. It is great for directing those people who got lost with bad GPS directions, to find out where the bride is on route to the venue and for me to call if I get bogged down in traffic on the way to the location. But please – turn it OFF for the duration of the wedding ceremony. OK, well, maybe it’s four troublesome devices.

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.

Choosing a Private or Pubic Marriage Proposal.

It is engagement season and I am pleased to share this post by Hana Abaza, co-founder and CEO of Ottawa’s WeddingRepublic. This article was originally posted on the Huffington Post and has been modified for this publication. You can see the original article here.

When you fall in love you want to tell the world. And when you’re getting married you want to shout it out from the rooftops — literally. But does a public proposal guarantee a smooth trip to the altar? Consider this: while a public proposal is intended to impress, inspiring oohs and ahs from onlookers, does the pressure to just say yes outweigh any nagging doubts the bride (or groom) to be might have?
Since social and digital media have become more pervasive and more accessible for the average person, countless marriage proposals have gone viral. You no longer need to shout it from the rooftops — just share it on Facebook or Twitter. As if the pressure to propose isn’t enough, add to that the pressure to outdo the best proposal ever (according to the person who posted it on YouTube)…
… and a lot of weight is placed on four little words: “Will you marry me?” Even within the multi-billion dollar wedding industry, there is a growing niche dedicated to the proposal, and there are professionals who will hold your hand as you plan your big moment. Need a flash mob for your proposal? Yes, there are people that can do that for you too.
Public proposals aren’t new (remember the good old-fashioned Jumbotron marriage proposals on bended knee?) But sharing your proposal online for friends, family and the entire digital world to see makes it a public performance that might reach a larger-than-intended audience. Perhaps the performance, the excitement of “going viral” is part of the appeal? But it might not be as easy as it seems. If you go to the effort of hiring a flash mob, you’re not guaranteed a viral hit, because even that is becoming more commonplace. With every original marriage proposal idea that goes viral, there are a slew of copycats making it less interesting to the general public — sounds like marketing 101, right? Looks like the bar just got a little bit higher.
One proposal that helped nudge the bar up a couple of notches is New York Times reporter David Pogue‘s elaborate movie trailer proposal. After creating the trailer, Pogue rented a theatre, showing the proposal to friends and family. Meanwhile, a hidden camera captured his then-girlfriend’s reaction and the entire event was tweeted about the next day. The proposal was then followed up with a “How to Propose Like Pogue” Q&A on the New York Times website.
Who Are You Trying To Please?
While “how did he propose?” is one of the first questions you might hear, and every couple wants a good story to tell, overdoing the proposal to impress anyone other than your fiancée might backfire. It’s true that some women will undoubtedly be awed by a public proposal, some might simply be embarrassed feeling pressured to just say yes — regardless of their true feelings. Or worse, their first reaction might be to say no or simply walk away.
Make It Public Or Keep It Private?
Not many of us have the knowhow or cash to pull off a Pogue-like proposal, but I would argue that it’s not necessary. There are varying degrees of publicizing your proposal, but whatever you decide, do it for the right reasons. If a private proposal will make you and your future bride (or groom) more comfortable, then stay true to that whether it’s a romantic dinner or something a little more adventurous.
Not sure if a private proposal will strike the chord you want? Consider a semi-private proposal. It may be important to the love of your life to have close friends and family present — but leave the prying eyes of YouTube out of the loop.
And if you know she (or he) will absolutely love a big splashy public proposal with all the bells and whistles then do it — and go all out.
But one thing is certain, if you’re going to propose in public, you better be pretty sure she’s going to say yes.

Tamara & Craik’s Movember Wedding

Tamara and Craik are a fun filled couple. Their wedding ceremony and reception certainly reflected their sense of humor and their sense of community by giving to the Movember campaign.

Courtesy Mark Cooper

When I got to the chapel at Beantown Ranch, I was tickled to see that Tamara and Craik had followed through on one particular idea we had discussed. Some weddings can be very serious. This one I knew was going to be lots of fun.

Tamara was accompanied down the aisle with both her parents. When Craik went to thank her father, he handed him a sweet potato that had YAM written on it. The story is that some time ago there was quite an argument where her father insisted that a yam and a sweet potato were the same. Having been convinced otherwise, it was now a family joke. When he received the sweet potato – he howled with laughter. In our wedding prep meeting, we had discussed this particular joke and I was pleased that it had worked.

Father accepting the sweet potato marked YAM. Courtesy Mark Cooper

There were two humorous readings well delivered by a couple of friends. I proceeded to the Celtic hand-fasting where they read their own vows mixed with seriousness and humor.

Courtesy Mark Cooper

An additional ritual was the Chinese Completing-the-Circle ceremony. Here the couple drink from two glasses attached by a red chord. The legend is that at birth their souls are tied by an invisible red string that tightens and brings them together over time. In recognition of their individuality and sense of humor, her glass was filled with Beaujolais wine while his had Beau’s (a local brewery) beer.

Courtesy Mark Cooper

I declared them married, they kissed and left down the aisle for a carriage ride and their reception.

Courtesy Mark Cooper

At the reception guests were encouraged to sport mustaches for Movember.

As reported in the Ottawa Citizen:

The decor, place cards and cupcakes all reflected the theme. There are finger ’stache tattoos for the guests, the wedding party made their grand entrance with moustache sunglasses and a few guests, both male and female, sported fabulously faux-facial fur.

At the dinner, guests who wanted the bride and groom to kiss had two options: they could make a donation of $5 or more into the “Mo Money” bucket. Or they could donate to play “Pin the Mo on the Magnum” — a print of clean-shaven actor Tom Selleck, known for his role as the luxuriantly moustached private investigator Magnum P.I. in the 1980s TV series.

By the end of the evening, there was $100 in the bucket. Meanwhile, some guests had opted to give to the cause as a wedding gift. All told, the Marshall-Pyke team collected $2,000 for Movember.

There was lots of laughter and good feelings at the ceremony that continued into the reception. Congrats to Tamara and Craik on their fabulous wedding.

Bridal Budget Breakdown

Bride magazines often give breakdowns on spending for weddings. I plugged in the suggested percentages for what is considered an average wedding budget and asked three of Ottawa’s wedding planners to comment.

The example budget I chose is for an on-location wedding ceremony and reception. If the wedding ceremony is performed in a church then additional costs for renting the church, organist and any other charges need to be included. The same goes for a venue such as a city park where you may need to rent the location and chairs. It is sad to see in most breakdowns that the budget for the groom’s attire comes last. I think he deserves a little better than that – it is his day too.

Our Ottawa wedding planners all agreed that the breakdown was representative of what they saw brides spending. They all agreed on three trends.

1-      Brides want to create a memorable event, not only for themselves but for the guests as well. Cristie Vito says “The venue and the food are key to this. Most couples I have been working with want to stay away from a typical banquet hall feel and are willing to spend a bit more to have a unique setting such as a gallery or museum.”  Wendy Leung concurs. “I see more emphasis on a modern, unique venue space AND great food. It’s the wedding experience they want the guests to talk about.”

2-      The details can really make your event unique. Lynn Lee advocates that brides should “allocate a separate spending amount for décor and details since that is such a huge consideration for today’s bride.” Linens are growing as a part of the details. Brides should include “at least $500 for linens.”

3-      They are all observing a trend where less couples are getting married in a church. Cristie says they are opting to get married on-location so that their guests don’t have to travel between the church and reception venue. It also allows the couple to leisurely welcome their guests right after the wedding ceremony.

In addition there was some specific advice to brides offered by the wedding planners. Often the cost of the honeymoon is not included in the overall planning of the wedding and it should to give you a true picture of what you intend to spend.  Cristie advises that brides start planning early with a realistic budget. Wendy has observed that only when the couple actual begins planning do they realize how much of their dream wedding they can actual realize. By planning and budgeting, the couple can juggle their allocations. “If”, as Lynn says, “the bride as fallen in love with a particular gown, they may choose to allocate more to the one item and cut spending in other areas.”

It really comes down to wanting to treat their guests to an amazing and memorable wedding experience that reflects the couple. Today’s bride and groom are seeking unique ways to achieve that within their budget.


The New 4 C’s in Choosing an Engagement Diamond Ring

You are deciding on an engagement diamond ring for your love. Men, it is more important to look beyond the traditional technical 4 C‘s and choose with your heart.

A quick look in Google trends confirms what every jeweler knows. The time from beginning of November through end of December is the most popular for engagements. Diamonds persist as the all time favorite for engagement rings.

I was surprised to discover that about 50% of buyers are men who surprise their chosen mate with a ring. We seem to cling to the romantic notion of proposing in grand style by presenting the love of your life with a timeless symbol. In its presentation, we hope that she will say “Yes!” … and like the ring.

Men have a daunting task in learning what’s important in choosing a diamond engagement ring. With a problem to solve we approach it with our technical mastery. We start looking at the traditional 4C’s of diamonds that everyone quotes; Clarity, Color, Cut and Carat.

It can be confusing to try and weigh these factors. I turned to Pierre Soucy, gemologist, from Bijouterie Robert Richer in Montreal for advice on what’s important in choosing a diamond engagement ring that goes beyond the 4 C’s.

Pierre says that people still favor the round brilliant cut diamond in a one carat size. There is a trend towards  fancy cuts like princess and cushion cuts, and increasingly colored diamonds such as blues, champagnes, yellows.

However, Pierre stresses that there there are four other C’s that you can consider in making your choice. They may be more important than the traditional technical 4 C’s.

Cash. There is a lot of hype about how much you should spend on an engagement ring. It is all marketing to make you spend as much as you can. Pierre’s advice is to buy what you can afford as long as you love the ring. You can always upgrade at a later date. Pierre urges that “there is no shame in having a smaller stone, it should be all about finding balance.”

Conflict. There are many misconceptions about conflict diamonds known as ‘blood’ diamonds. Since early 2000’s, all diamond exporting countries, including Canada, signed on to the Kimberley Agreement which aims to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the market. Despite not being perfect, most diamonds are not from conflict regions. Diamonds from Australia, Russia, and many African countries are compliant with world standards, and ethically clean. Your jeweler should know where the diamonds originated.

Canada. Canadian diamonds are among the best quality in the world. Canada, as a new player in the world diamond supply chain, established the strictest environmental and work regulations in regards to diamond mining and trading. Canadian diamonds are traceable to the individual stone which insures its origin.

Charm. Buying a diamond ring is something that comes from the heart. Pierre says you need to ask yourself the question, “Am I comfortable living with this diamond moving forward in my life?” The primary pleasure of looking at a diamond ring is the feel good emotions … an expression everlasting love and unity. It is about finding a stone and ring that suits your sense of style and makes your heart flutter. Being charmed by a ring is perhaps the most important quality because it demonstrates the feelings you have for your love.

In shopping for your diamond engagement ring, put aside the technical aspects of the stone and search for the pleasure that is derived from it. The traditional 4 C’s is a a grading system developed as a trade language that would be common within the industry.  The new 4 C’s focus on personal values and what it means for your life.


Canadian War Museum a Wonderous Wedding Venue

When considering wedding venues in Ottawa, the Canadian War Museum is not a location that immediate pops into your mind. It should be. It is a dramatic location for a wedding ceremony and reception.

We are blessed in Ottawa with many National Museums that open their doors to weddings. My experience in every one has been superb. The location and staff are professional. They make your day happen.

With pretty well all of them, you can only have access to the space after closing. So it means that typically a wedding ceremony occurs at about 5:30 pm followed by a cocktail hour and full dinner reception. In terms of photography, brides and grooms usually will have an afternoon shoot with a private reveal and then a short shoot following the ceremony.

This was my first wedding ceremony at the Canadian War Museum. When I met the couple, I recommended that they get the lighting package at the museum because it tends to be a bit dim. Lighting in addition to Shannon Kennedy’s (Kennedy Events) decor made the bunker looking location into a dramatic stage.

One little aspect that I really liked is that they floor slopes up where we held the ceremony. So it is a ‘raked stage’ concept.

The bride was a bit nervous before the ceremony. As she was walking up the aisle, the groom started to sniff. When she arrived they were already both shedding tears of joy. I started the ceremony by handing out tissue! There was a beautiful handfasting where I tied two different cloths together to symbolize their joining (see photo above on table).

After the ceremony, there was a cocktail time right beside the stage and dinner was served in a room that overlooks the Ottawa River. Capacity for a seated dinner is about 120 people.

The Canadian War Museum host significantly less weddings that its counterpart the Canadian Museum of Civilization (soon to be Canadian Museum of History). It offers an equally stunning and dramatic location for your wedding and is probably easier to book. I’d certainly like to do more weddings there!