3 May 2019

Wedding Diaries - Wedding Day Details

I'm excited to be back for the second wedding post! Writing this is bringing so many special memories back to the surface! I'm reliving the entire day and bringing you along for the exclusive editor's cut! We'll be looking at the morning of preparations, the venue, the cocktail hour, the ceremony and the reception! There is so much ground to cover, so let's get started!


First things first, I'd be remiss not to mention the weather. I often talk about the weather and the impact it has on my clothing choices so, naturally, the weather of our big day was a huge factor in pretty much every aspect. January 19, 2019 was the day of the first big snow storm of the season. They had been forecasting it as far back as a couple weeks prior and it was going to be unique in the sense that not only would there be a lot of snow, but it was also going to be very cold. Great! I was trying not to think about it too much, because there was nothing I could do to change the forecast. It was going to be what it was going to be! On the morning of, the temperature was -20 degrees Celsius (before taking the windchill factor into account) and it was lightly snowing. So far so good! However, as the day progressed, so did the intensity of the snow fall, the wind and the cold. It was full-blown storming by the time we had the outdoor ceremony, but more on that later!

Yes, we realized this was a possibility all along. We were fully prepared for winter to show up on our winter-wedding day. But, boy did Mother Nature show up! To be honest though, it was so epic that I wouldn't have wanted it to be any other way. My family has a tradition of getting married in the winter, but this was a first outdoor one and I don't think anyone will forget it anytime soon!

While in Tweed, we stayed at the Black River Retreat. This place is a real gem and we are so pleased we found it a couple years ago. We had actually spent a weekend there for my husband's birthday in 2017, just a few weeks before he proposed! It's the quaintest, most rustic little haven nestled among the trees by the river. Trevor, the owner and operator, has done an amazing job with the place and keeps adding to it. His attention to detail is equal to none and he's the best host you could ever want! Did I mention he's also a chef and cooks up the most delicious meals? This little retreat is booked years in advance, so we jumped on it pretty much the minute we got engaged. I mean this space speaks to us and exactly encapsulated the theme and vibe we wanted for our wedding. This is where the bridal party and family got ready the morning of and it was very well received. My sister (the GOT fan) was in heaven and, when we told her there was a whiskey bar, she was ready to move in!

On the morning of the wedding day, we got up around 9 a.m. and had a calm and romantic breakfast for two. It was nice for the two of us to take our time and enjoy each other's company before the craziness took over. It set the tone for the day. My make-up artist showed up next, along with my sister and bridesmaid Julia. We set up hair and make-up stations in the vast dining room and got to work. My sister started on my hair while Julia was first for make-up. We rotated between the two and everything rolled smoothly. My sister is forever a source of entertainment and having her work side by side with one of her best friends made for the best ambiance ever! Trevor also set us up with a bridal playlist, so us girls were in our element. Having a laid-back, non-stressful prep session was the best. I can always count on my sister to put me at ease! 

While the girls were doing their thing, the boys starting trickling in and just hanging out really. They get ready in a flash, so they got to just catch-up and relax, whiskey in hand! The groom actually got a little hair touch-up. Perks of having your stylist on hand! My sister is the mastermind behind my husband's legendary beard. She's got many talents! She even styled my grand-mother's hair and the flower girls'. Not sure how she managed it all, but she was a super busy lady! When you want the best results, you hire the best!

I know I wrote a lengthy post about my bridal look here, but I didn't touch on my bridal party's outfits. The designer who made my coat also made bespoke bridesmaid dresses for my sister and Julia. I had picked a colour and they decided on their individual styles. We had a design meeting and fittings to make sure everything fitted perfectly. There is something to be said about a perfectly tailored garment. My girls looked like a million bucks! For the outdoor look, they wanted to wear capes. No objections here, I love a good cape! My sister borrowed mine and Julia loved the excuse to get one of her own ;) Granted the cold weather called for more than a cape, but smart layering did the trick! Actually, only one of them layered, the other froze in the name of fashion! 

My 3 year-old nephew was the ring bearer. He had the poshest little three-piece suit and my sister-in-law made him a matching purple tie. He also wore a miniature fur hat, just like the groom! I couldn't get over how dapper the little guy looked! His piercing blue eyes twinkled with excitement!

My two nieces (2 and 3 years old) were the flower girls. My sister-in-low found the cutest long-sleeved lace dresses on Etsy at a very good price point. They had that vintage look to them and I loved and they mimicked elements of my own dress. We added purple sashes in the same fabric as the bridesmaid dresses to tie everything in. The pièces de résistance were the darling little grey capes my mom made them. They were embroidered and adorned with little pompoms. She even made them matching headbands! I mean, they looked so stinking cute! I had sent my mom a fabric sample of my coat so that she could find a matching fleece for the capes. Her talents still amaze me because I never would have found better capes in stores. They just don't make them the way my mom does! We even had the girls carry mini lanterns down the aisle to match my big one. I absolutely love how they were basically mini versions of me. The eldest of the two came up to me that evening and showed me her "pretty princess dress". My heart just melted!

Speaking of flower girls, I had asked my grand-mother to be my main flower girl. She's such a special person and a big part of my life that I wanted to give her a special role on my big day. Unfortunately, because of the craziness of the storm, she didn't actually walk down the aisle. Technicality! In my eyes, she was my head flower girl and I know her heart was in it.

I wanted my grandma to be there when we were getting ready, because she was part of the bridal party after all. My dad and brother were troopers and picked her up at the hotel the morning of. Big shout out to my aunt and uncle who drove her to my wedding. Not sure what I'd do without my big family! By the time she arrived to the BRR, my husband and I had done our first look and it was time to distribute a few gifts. I'll never forget her reaction when she first saw me all dolled up! It was the most precious! That picture of my mom, husband and grandma's reactions to seeing me is one of my favourites of the day! They're all just beaming! I'm so happy my grandma got to share in the behind the scenes of the day. I wanted to include her and she relished every moment.

I gifted her a blank photo album with the promise of sending her wedding photos to fill it up. She doesn't have a smart phone, computer or the Internet, so she'll get the old-school, organic souvenirs. I didn't want her to feel left out of all the digital photo sharing, so I'm going out of my way to make sure she doesn't miss a thing!

For my parents, I had gotten handkerchiefs embroidered with a sweet message for each. My mom's had a few Carmen Campagne lyrics. She was my favourite childhood signer and my mom spent many car rides listening to her music with me. She recognized the lyrics right away and got all teary-eyed. As for my dad, I wrote him a heartfelt message. They were both very touched and I was happy to have sneaked in a special moment with my parents.

Next up were my bridesmaids! Seeing as I had no flowers, neither would they. I figured giving them one of my all-time favourite accessory would be both fashionable and practical. I got them each a metallic clutch. That way, they would have something to hold on to and to keep their essentials close. I'm sure they'll find other occasions to use them!


Following the gift-giving, we did a quick family and bridal party photo shoot at the retreat, while we still had daylight and the weather was bearable. Once done, they all left and we had a quiet dinner before heading to the venue. Trevor made us little scrumptious bites that were easy and quick to eat. I'm so happy we took the time to have a proper meal before the wedding itself! I had such butterflies after that point that I didn't eat a single thing the entire night! So unlike me. I'm very food-centric. 


The selection of our venue is what kick-started our wedding vision. We had started looking at the usual surrounding venues that had that rustic, natural vibe and nothing really spoke to us. Everything was too inside-the-box for our tastes. We didn't want to be locked down by a venue and the pre-approved format and vendors. I know the package option works for some, but it was not going to work for us. That's when my husband suggested that the Potter Settlement Winery in Tweed would be the ideal location. He was right! This was the place for us. We had randomly discovered it back in August 2016 (a couple weeks post-fire) and totally fell in love with the place. We struck up a friendship with the owner, Sandor, and had been visiting regularly from that point on. We drove up one day and asked Sandor in person if he'd be open to hosting our wedding. He hesitated for a split second (because the cellar building wasn't complete and he had never hosted such an event before) but he agreed and the rest is history!


So the inside walls were not completely finished. Who cares? That was a minor detail to us. The place has this rustic charm and we've made so many memories there that we weren't going to not have our wedding there because of a cosmetic detail. We were able to look past that. Besides, the walls of the building would have no impact whatsoever on how much people enjoy themselves. I would pick a venue that has character over a basic ballroom any day! We also chose to support small, local businesses in the selection of our vendors and the care and service received was bar none.

Our venue needed a bit of work to transform it for the reception so we ended up renting furniture. We needed a stage, a dance floor, cocktail tables, a bar and a few other bits and bobs. We went with Encore Tents and they were awesome! The selection of stuff they have to rent is astounding and their customer service is excellent, from the office to the deliveries. I would definitely use them again if I have a big event to plan in the area because they were extremely reliable. We also used a bit of the tables and chairs already at the winery as well. As for the decorations, your truly took on the monumental task herself! I made as many decorations as I could physically handle and they transformed the space beautifully. I had a lot of helping hands at the winery to set everything up. The superstar though was Erin! She works at the winery and agreed to be our day-of coordinator and let me tell you, she was on the ball! I can't begin to explain just how grateful I am to her for everything she did. I don't even think I know of every problem she solved. She worked tirelessly in the background and made our day go as smoothly as possible. And let me tell you that was no small feat, what with the storm and everything. Between Sandor and Erin, I'd say they are ready and capable of branching out into the wedding business.


Being outside-of-the box thinkers, we reorganized the typical wedding format to suit our needs. We opted for an evening, outdoor ceremony in the dead of winter. It was as crazy and romantic as it sounds! First off, the venue doesn't have a ton of parking, nor does the little town have a big enough hotel for all of our guests, so we had them stay in a Belleville, about 30 minutes away. We had organized a coach bus to shuttle our guests to and from the wedding. This was a plus for so many reasons! It was easier for our guests, they all got there on time and it was safer from a weather and drinking point of view. We made sure our guests were well taken care of. The evening started with the cocktail hour the moment our guests got off the bus. This was hosted by the groom while I was hiding upstairs. I still wanted to have the big reveal when walking down the aisle and I also wanted my husband to have his moment. I find the groom is often overlooked at weddings and wanted my man to be the center of attention and have his moment to shine.


Although we opted to not have a sit-down dinner and speeches (not our cup of tea), we wanted our guests to eat well. We are big foodies and the food was very important to us. We found Greg from Sans-Souci in Belleville and it was a match made in culinary heaven. We wanted the food to match the theme of the wedding and described what we were looking for to Greg. He came up with a customized menu for us that was perfect in every way! We wanted hearty, comfort food that had French Canadian flavours and incorporated des produits du terroir. We had pea soup shooters, mini tourtières, sucre à la crème, venison petits-fours, smoked trout tar-tar, warm apple crisp, spiced carrot cupcakes, water buffalo mozzarella, bacon-wrapped moose meatballs, vanilla-beet salad on bannock bread, poached pear and brie wrapped in Montreal smoked meat, pumpkin mousse tarts, mini sliders with caramelized onions, croque-monsieurs and then some! Hats off to the chef as well because he had all of this food rolling out in a building that had no kitchen. His mobile kitchen/truck outside even needed a boost at some point because of the cold. (One of the situations Erin took care of!) We got rave reviews about the food and no one left hungry, that's for sure! If my dad (the farmer) left satiated, then we did it right!


After the cocktail hour, our guests were invited to get a warm beverage and head outside for the ceremony. My mom even made baileys for the coffee! We had a couple fire pits going to keep people warm as well as a couple harvest benches with fur throws set up in front of an evergreen-branch altar and lighted scroll arbour. It was dark, in the middle of the snowstorm and in the heart of the vineyard. The setting was so intimate, we felt alone in the world.

Once everybody was outside, I came down and sneaked out the back of the building with my nieces and nephew where our miniature pony ride awaited! Full disclosure, this was plan B. We had a full-on horse and carriage booked and the carriage was going to be decorated in burlap and lighting with attendants in top hats and tail coats. Unfortunately, they cancelled because of the impending storm the day before the wedding! I mean, we don't blame them for cancelling. That storm was no joke! When we got to the winery to start getting the place ready, we informed Sandor and Erin about the cancellation and they told us about one of the neighbours with miniature ponies who's always offering to do rides. They hoped in their truck and went to meet the guy to see if he could save the day. He was in and over the moon to do it! The ponies were the most precious little things ever! The poor little guys could hardly see where they were going (and we were only going around the building), so between the light from my lantern and Erin's guidance, we made it to the altar! See, flowers would have been useless at this point! I admit it was a little on the cutesy side, but I wouldn't change it one bit. Things don't always go according to plan, but everything happens for a reason. As far as plan Bs go, I think this was a pretty great one.
The bridal party procession had already happened and everyone was waiting for me to arrive. Once out of the carriage, the littles did their thing and walked up the aisle. I think they then seeked shelter from the storm indoors, but they were little troopers! My dad then walked me down the aisle. It was short and sweet because we had to get this show on the road. It was freezing! My older brother officiated the ceremony. It was nondenominational and my husband and I had written it ourselves. It was light-hearted and very much represented us as a couple. My poor brother had to almost shout to be heard over the storm because the microphone was not cutting it. He was brilliant! 

We had my dad do a reading from Cyrano de Bergerac right before he said "you may kiss the bride". It was perfect! I'm not sure how many fathers actually get to say that bit. Then, after our first kiss, my husband handed my dad an envelop with a message he was to read out loud. We had another surprise in store for everyone, but that'll be for another post! ;)

I'd like to point out how amazing our photographer was. She braved the worst weather she's ever worked in to capture our special day. Her equipment had to thaw for at least 20 minutes every time she came in from outside. That definitely proved challenging. She was all smiles all day and helped keep things moving. Christine, you are a brave soul! Thanks for agreeing to tag along on this mad adventure! It was a real feat and we couldn't have pulled it off without you!


After the "I dos", we all rushed back indoors get the party started (and warm up!) While waiting for everyone to hang up their coats, and waiting to perform our first dance, the emotion that had been building up all day manifested itself into tears. They were definitely happy tears! I think I breathed a sigh of relief that the biggest pieces of the day had gone smoothly and that now I'd get to unwind a bit. My sister was by my side being super supportive and drying my tears. Those are the moments I cherish having a sister. No one knows you quite like a sister does. Thanks MJ!

Once I dried my tears and put on my dancing shoes, it was show time! My husband and I took ballroom dancing lessons a couple months before the wedding and prepared a first dance. We decided to go the classic route and perform a waltz to C'est toi que ça me prend, an original song from our band, Hey, Wow. It was romantic, graceful and I was in my element! I've never felt more like a Disney princess than I did in that moment. Dancing with my husband was like a dream come true and there wasn't a dry eye in the place!

After our final dip, it was time for everyone to join in and dance the night away! We had picked our band specifically because they are a Franco-Ontarian band. The lead plays the accordion and their sound is a mix of folklore, rock, funk and disco! My husband has known Jean-Marc for a long time and when we approached him about playing at our wedding, it was a done deal. Hey, Wow put on the best show and had everybody up and moving on the dance floor. It was a party like non other and some even compared it to a good ol' French Canadian New Year's Eve bash! On a swigné la bacaisse dans l'fond de la boîte à bois!  

After a fun dancing set, we took a moment to have a father-daughter dance. My dad's a great dancer and I've always looked forward to sharing a dance with him at my wedding (what little girl doesn't?) We danced to Piano Man and it was so beautiful. It's not the song we had planned to dance to, but when the time came, I just asked the band to play us a waltz and they couldn't have picked a better song. I've always loved this song and it's such a crowd pleaser. Everybody was swaying and signing along! The best part was my little niece twirling alongside us on the dance floor, just living her best life! Halfway through the song, my husband went and asked my mom do dance. He's been part of our family for years now, but its moments like these that make it so evident. I love that my family loves him as much as I do and that they have embraced him with open arms from day one.

We partied till the stroke of midnight, à la Cinderella, when the bus came to usher the last of our guests back to the hotel. It was a bit touch and go because of the storm, but we made sure they all made it safely before continuing the fantasy in dreamland. I like that we had a set end-time, it meant everybody left on a high! I've also been told that the party continued on the bus and even at the hotel!

We had a small, intimate wedding surrounded by only our nearest and dearest. It might have been a cold and stormy day, but, in spite of the cold, the ambiance in the room was heart-warming! As my dad so eloquently put it: love conquers all and you've weathered many storms. 

I want to take the time to thank each and every one of our guests and vendors for braving the elements to make our special day a dream come true! None of this would have happened without your dedication and determination. We beat all the odds and pulled it off! It's still surreal to me that we got married outside, in the middle of a snow storm! It was nothing short of epic!

I hope you've enjoyed this recap and that it might come in handy for any future planners! However, I do have one more surprise up my sleeve... This was not the last of my wedding posts. I have one more coming out and you won't want to miss it!

Photos by Christine Reid Photography. Used with permission. 

Bed and breakfast: Black River Retreat
Hair stylist: Marie-Josée Lebel
Make-up artist: Kassandra Pereira
Band: Hey, Wow
Furniture rental: Encore Tents

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