Customize your day to reflect your style and budget
By Iris Winston
Big or small? Rural or urban? Major hotel, intimate restaurant, country club or country barn? Indoor or outdoor?
These are just a few of the decisions the bride and groom must make as they consider where their wedding reception will be.
First, they must settle on the city, town, village or even country. Then there’s the time of year; and budgets that range from $500 to $50,000.
If the couple is young and the bride is still living with her family, the location of the ceremony and reception will probably be in the bride’s hometown. But if the couple met and are working in the groom’s hometown; if they are living together and far from their families; if it is the second time around for either or both, or they have a yen for a ceremony on a beach in Florida or Mexico; wedding plans can become very complex.
Many young women who have lived in the National Capital Region for most of their lives have already decided where they want their dream wedding to be, says the Fairmont Château Laurier’s director of catering, Kathryn Davis.
“The whole wedding process is very exciting,” she says. “People start looking around at different locations, but we find a lot of brides already know they want to have their wedding here (at the Château Laurier), because they have dreamed about it since they were little girls.”
Booking requests come in as much as two years ahead of the wedding date,” says Kathryn. “Sometimes even before the couple is engaged. We can confirm a booking up to a year in advance.”
As soon as place, date and time are set, the bride, often with her parents and the groom, meets with the hotel’s wedding manager to settle the details.
“Many groups come in with a complete list of questions, but for those that don’t, we guide them in what to look for,” says Kathryn. “We have a very dedicated and knowledgeable staff to take all the stress out of the planning. Initially, it’s about the big picture: the date, the room, the number of guests, whether it is to be a host or cash bar, a wedding package or à la carte, whether there are any ethnic concerns or requests and whether the wedding ceremony is to be here or elsewhere. Minute details such as dietary restrictions are dealt with later.”
The pattern is similar at the Lord Elgin Hotel. “Once the couple has selected their venue, it’s a long process,” says the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, Ann Meekler. “We set up a time to meet with the couple and spend two or three hours talking about their dreams for their special day.”
As well as discussing menu options and such items as whether or not a dance floor is required, “they are trying to establish what the hotel does versus what they need to look after,” she points out.
For example, some couples are happy with the tablecloths and other room decor provided by the hotel, while others prefer to “deal with their own linen, decor and floral centerpieces. It’s a very customized day.”
Weddings at Tudor Hall are also customized affairs, points out event planner and decorator Emilie Lanteigne, who chose to have her own wedding there in 2017.
“Tudor Hall is a family business and everyone who comes here is treated as though they are part of the family,” she says. “We connect with individuals on a different level. Every wedding at Tudor Hall is like our wedding.”
For those looking to combine elegance with a country setting, Stone-fields Estate in Beckwith, west of Ottawa, has so much to offer, says co-owner and chief events officer Stephanie Brown-Malefant.
“Stonefields is a unique venue where decadent cuisine meets high-end hospitality,” she says. “It’s not only about the elegant wedding packages but also about the whole experience. We offer a very personalized approach to each wedding and both my husband and I, as owners, are involved with each event. We are continually making additions to our offerings and investing in our venue to elevate the experience for our couples and their guests.”
As well as having three choices of outdoor locations and a new indoor ceremony house, wedding parties can now choose to stay at Stonefields overnight to give themselves more time to enjoy “acres and acres of space” before, during and after the event.
“We are very proud of all that we have to offer at Stonefields and honoured when couples choose Stonefields for their big day,” says Stephanie. “One of our biggest claims to fame is our culinary team. Every year, I think that the chef cannot set the bar any higher, but he does. The food is absolutely to die for.”
A popular rural location that offers an economical approach is The Synergy Ark in the Gatineau Hills, a facility that features 164 acres and six miles of trails.
“We provide a 2,000-square foot space, the tables and chairs and the bride and groom do the rest,” says venue owner and licensed wedding officiant, Mike Caldwell, pointing out that the aim is to live up to the company slogan of “your wedding, your way.”
He explains that the couple arranges with a catering company to dress the tables and bring in the meal as there is no kitchen on site. “But we’ve also had barbecues or pot lucks; whatever the couple wants. They can also get a day license (if they are serving alcohol) and we don’t charge corkage fees.”
“We also have a good sound system and lots of space, if there is to be dancing, and we rent the facility for the whole weekend,” says Mike, noting that the average cost for a weekend is $2,200. “The idea is to make it possible for the bride and groom to have a really nice upscale wedding without paying the formal prices.”
Couples thinking of an even more intimate ceremony, may choose a venue such as The Schoolhouse in Munster Hamlet. A functioning one-room school until 1967, the renovated building is now a centre for indoor and outdoor boutique-sized weddings and receptions.
“We can offer the ceremony only in the schoolhouse or in the garden,” says owner and wedding officiant Barbara Peters, noting that the day is all about choice. Some wedding ceremonies take place in the United Church opposite. The party then holds a cocktail reception in the schoolhouse. “Other couples choose to have the ceremony here and go somewhere else for dinner. Still others prefer to stay here for everything. We have complete wedding packages that include the officiant, the coordinator, the wedding cake, bridal bouquets and the food. We look after everything.”
The aim is to make sure that the wedding day is just right for the couple in question.
QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN SELECTING A VENUE
- How far ahead does the booking need to be made and what is the procedure?
- What is the cost of the banquet space?
- When do the date and number of guests have to be confirmed?
- Are any extra plates prepared?
- What does the price include?
- Do you have wedding packages and what do they include?
- Do you offer the bride and groom a tasting menu and is it complimentary or is there a charge?
- Is overnight accommodation provided for the honeymoon couple? (Assuming the selected venue is a hotel).
- May we bring wine to the reception? If so, is there a corkage fee?
- May we bring our wedding cake? If so, is there a cake-cutting fee?
- When is the room made available for decorating?
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