Oftentimes, planners pull from their own experiences to help guide their clients on what is to come. Sometimes these experiences are from previous weddings they’ve planned, and sometimes these are from their LIVED experiences - as brides!
That includes me!
My wedding, which was over 9 years ago, was actually planned about 2 years prior to that because I was broke as hell, and I wanted to make sure that I had saved enough money to be able to properly invest in what my husband and I wanted. I had planned enough weddings by then to know at least one thing: Weddings were (are) expensive, and 99.9% of the time, whatever number you had in your head about what it “should” cost ends up being far more. So my strategy was to make sure everyone (me, my then-fiance, and family that wanted to contribute) had that time to prepare financially.
But beyond that, it was the most fun and (simultaneously) stressful time of my life!
Let me preface this by also saying that I did not want an ordinary wedding and I definitely wanted to get out of Toronto. I had very high expectations of the overall experience for my guests - from the food to the activities, to the vibe - which is also a philosophy that I integrated into my business for years. I spent countless hours thinking about how guests and my bridal party were going to enjoy the wedding, in its entirety.
So this is what Mike and I came up with.
The Location: Whistler, British Columbia
We wanted a wedding setting that was going to speak for itself, with minimal focus on decor and floral and more focus on the enormity and vastness of nature. We chose Whistler based on our visit to BC for the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 and felt it was the perfect cross between a destination wedding and still feeling like we were home. To think that some of our guests also had never visited this part of Canada before was a travesty that we wanted to correct!
The Guest Count: 50, inclusive of the bridal party, ourselves, and vendors. We received guests from Shanghai, Taiwan, all over the States, and of course, Toronto.
The Ceremony: The original plan was to have our ceremony at the top of Whistler Mountain. But after seeing the $3000 price tag for the gondola alone, we started to look elsewhere. We then found the gorgeous grounds of the Nicklaus North Golf Club with the green backing onto a private lake and a view of the mountains and were sold.
On the day of the wedding, it rained, which I wasn’t bothered by as they had a backup-covered outdoor space that still allowed a view of the mountains. I will never be able to pay for those moments having my family and friends there with those views again.
The ceremony was a super important part for me, as I really wanted to shift the usual focus from the flowers and the cake to the vows itself. I told Mike that I was determined to look back on our wedding and remember the ceremony most of all. So we hired Michele Davidson, a celebrant who focused on writing an incredibly personal ceremony based on knowing parts of us over 6 months through private individual interviews and interviews together as a couple. What resulted was this amazingly intimate written homage to everyone present to witness our marriage -- and let me tell you, there was not one dry eye in the house!
We walked down the aisle to a guitar and violin duo playing selections that we personally selected. “Edelweiss” was chosen for my mother, bridesmaids, groomsmen and ring bearer, as my salute to the movie that my family has watched every Christmas since I was five years old (and also, in its lyrics, it is also paying tribute to its home country, which I feel was very appropriate to where our wedding was held). Then I walked down to Beethoven’s Sonata Number 8 (the 2nd movement specifically, chosen by Mike). And finally, the register signing was Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “All I Ask of You” from The Phantom of the Opera, which is Mike’s favourite Broadway musical.
I was intentional about every aspect of this part of the wedding and on purpose.
The Reception: I was pretty set on having a unique reception and didn’t want your typical restaurant or banquet hall vibe - which ruled out having Table Thirteen (the Nicklaus North Golf Club restaurant) as an option - although, in hindsight, it may have lent to the intimacy of the event. Instead, we chose the Four Seasons Resort Whistler and their outdoor cabana in their gardens as the reception location. I also needed the food and hospitality to be second to none, as both my husband and I are incredibly huge foodies.
With its famed customer service and world-renowned chefs, the Four Seasons did not disappoint in either of those areas. Our guests, on the night of the wedding, enjoyed wild mushroom ravioli, a choice between roasted bison with crushed yams and potatoes and vegetables, or roasted monkfish with mushroom risotto, an endive and arugula salad with BC apples, candied pecans and blue cheese, and for dessert, maple flan with poached pears (because ya girl loves her flan!). Oh, and by the way, we never chose between main courses. We just asked for both. 😉
The food and beverage manager also surprised us the day of the wedding by upgrading our standard suite to the luxurious 1-bedroom apartment - which she didn’t tell us until we were in the elevator going up to the suite between the ceremony and reception! I will never forget their kindness and will always recommend staying at the Four Seasons ANYWHERE.
The Dress: I opted for a simple dress because I tend to err on the simple side for my attire in general. Everything I tried on was too beaded, too fancy, too heavy, not flattering or was not available in my size. I am VERY glad that these days there are more plus-sized options for bridal fashion because in 2010 when I was finding my dress, there was not.
The designer? David’s Bridal, purchased off the rack in Buffalo for $350 and driven across the border after a lunch date with friends at the Olive Garden (who weren’t even part of my bridal party). Sometimes, simplicity and a low price tag don’t necessarily have to be bad, as long as it fits your style. Also - no alterations except adding a belt!
The Colours: Okay, so this was PRE-Pinterest if you could believe it! But once again, I was not a fan of the standard, traditional wedding colours. I wanted something bold and rich. So we chose all jewel tones - emerald, eggplant purple and champagne. These showed up in our invitations, neckties (for the boys), my shoes and sash, the flowers, even a little bit in my makeup. As a planner, I wanted fluidity and the feeling of our guests coming to a well-thought-out, immersive event experience.
The Decor: When we searched for the appropriate floral and decor vendor, I was adamant about finding someone that I could trust. And although this is likely an unpopular opinion, I really wanted to let my floral designer just run with what I had in mind and put together what she thought would be pretty, in my colour scheme. The centrepieces would be low dishes of floating candles and single large blooms surrounded by candlelight, and the bridesmaid's bouquets would be “some kind of purple” (my very limited directions). The only part I was dead set on was the cluster of eggplant purple calla lilies that I had to have as my bouquet. My only regret is not figuring out how to preserve those gorgeous callas!
The result was stunning (in my opinion!), so here's a fun tip: Once you vibe with your vendors, trust them that they would “get” your vision and bring it to life.
The Ride: My husband really only had one request throughout the planning, and that was that he wanted to drive a Mustang up the Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver. To our surprise, Hertz (yes, the standard car rental company) had a luxury Mustang available for rent during our wedding week. We tried to save some money by renting a compact for the days leading up to the wedding and then just switching to the Mustang, but they upgraded us to the Mustang for the whole rental period as a congratulations. And guys, it was white. It was absolutely one of our biggest surprises (second to the Four Seasons suite) that was gifted to us.
I will spare you even more details as I feel like this can go on for several more pages. However, I (along with all my married wedding planner colleagues) can safely tell you that planning your wedding is VERY MUCH a different experience, and almost everything is at a heightened level just because of all the potential “what ifs” that you know may or may not happen on the wedding day. We are graced (and burdened with) an excessive amount of knowledge that can actually contribute more to the stress! Take it from my husband, who ended up confiscating my phone mere days before our wedding. ;)
So not only is my advice to, of course, enjoy every moment, but also to not put as much pressure on yourself to be or do something that you may not want to do just because society (or in my case, previous weddings I’ve planned for others) has told you that that is the “right” way to do anything.
And also - hire a coordinator. I did, and it is true what they say. Good coordinators are godsends, and I was truly able to enjoy my day in its entirety because of her.
Wedding Planner: Marcie Gaukrodger of Bliss Events
Wedding Florals: Incognito Decor
Wedding Photographer: Jenny Photography
Videography: Artists Touch Productions
Hair and Makeup: Emily Cheng Makeup
Bridesmaids Dresses: Coralie Beatrix
Groom and Groomsmen Suits: Moores
P.S. We went back 5 years later and did a little shoot which is featured here!
(Photo courtesy of Leah Kathryn Photography)