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July 23, 2014

An Open Letter to Wedding Venues re: Vendor Meals….

Filed under: Bridal Blog — WeddingGirl @ 10:13 am

{ Dear Wedding Venues …. }

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One hundred and thirty seven weddings.

I’ve planned and coordinated 137 weddings.

For a little, self-employed, accidental planner….. that’s a lot of weddings.

This also means that I’ve eaten a lot of wedding meals.

Some have been good, some have been pretty bad.

And then… there’s the Vendor Meal.

There are few things more offensive to me than venues that even allow for these things to exist, let alone Venue Coordinators who beam with pride when they offer their couples a discounted “Vendor Meal” to feed those people behind the scenes who are working non-stop, all day, to make sure the entire production goes off without a hitch.

You, Venue Coordinators (and wedding venues alike) should be ashamed of yourselves.

And this is why.

 

———-

Dear Wedding Venues….

Please take a moment, and consider this….

We’re all on the same team.

Guess what? Your Bride and Groom aren’t your repeat clients.

We are.

Keep in mind that photographers, DJ’s, planners, coordinators – we’re all a part of your industry.

We know the same people and we work for (and with) the same clients.

We’re all on the same team.

As a Wedding Day Coordinator, I have asked (at every single one of my 137 weddings) that our vendors are given a plate of hors d’oeuvres during the cocktail hour.

And it’s not for them to sit and indulge while ignoring their responsibilities – ask any wedding photographer and they’ll tell you that every mini quiche or chicken skewer they’ve hurriedly devoured has been while swooping past the vendor table en route to another end of the venue to keep snapping away.

Just know that that mini quiche or chicken skewer is usually the first bit of sustenance they’ve consumed since the bagel and coffee they scarfed down en route to the Bride’s house eight hours earlier.

Then there’s the call to dinner, guests are seated, introductions begin.

At this point, the DJ has likely been on site since his setup time about four hours earlier.

The photographers have been shooting all day.

Planners and coordinators have been planning and coordinating since the crack of dawn.

The two or three bites of cocktail hour hors d’oeuvres we manage to consume while busily preparing for the reception will ensure that we’re able to move harder and faster to get all of our team’s ducks in a row so as to pull off a flawless production for our couple.

Dinner is served.

…… and while wedding guests are delighting in arugulas with figs and goat’s cheese, vendors are getting their fill on (if they’re lucky) baby greens with some julienned carrots and gelatinous dressing.

Wedding guests eat hearty tenderloin, grilled sea bass, or chicken supreme…. while vendors…. we get pasta.

If we’re really lucky, it’s good pasta.

It’s usually not.

It’s usually bland, overcooked, and comes in a shockingly small portion.

Soooo…. this is how multi-million dollar venues save on food costs?

You actually mean to tell me that not charging couples your outrageously inflated alcohol costs for their vendor count isn’t enough to offset giving vendors a real meal?

You shouldn’t be charging them full price for us at all! We’re your family!

I tell my couples – “Vendors don’t get charged alcohol”…. and they’re usually super grateful because it’s a detail most wouldn’t have thought of on their own….

but for a venue to take it one step further and offer “Vendor Meals” – shitty, underwhelming, borderline offensive versions of the food their kitchen is boasting to everyone else in the building, is utterly confusing to me.

Look.

We all know the margins on food and alcohol.

We all understand that profits need to be maintained.

We all get that tenderloin is pricier than penne.

…. but to not feed your vendors? like, the ones that’ll be coming back and working alongside of you time and time again? really?!

It’s not about us needing to eat the tenderloin. If I’m being perfectly honest, when I want a really great meal I have two-dozen options to visit that will feed me well at a point in time when I’m allowed to drink wine with my dinner. But to not eat the same as everyone else on a day when we’re all working toward the same common goal? (and repeats of this common goal many times over in the foreseeable future)

I would love for someone to give me a reason for this.

And don’t blame a budget-conscious couple…. because the onus should be on you, not them. They’re busy living happily ever after…. while we’re the ones left having to ask, with humility, for a bread basket and ice water.

Three times.

So… Venues… what gives??

…. and if you’re a vendor who agrees, please share this link! An answer would be awesome.

 

Wedding Vendor Meals Blog Rant

 

 

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July 9, 2014

City Hall Wedding :: Casting Call :: Toronto | GTA | Ottawa

{ Casting Call }

City Hall Wedding BreakfastAtYurmansTumblr Image

{ the details }

LetsGetHitcheddigital

Pivotal Media Logo Toronto

{{ blog love ::

City Hall Wedding image courtesy of BreakfastAtYurmans c/o WG-Fusion planner, Leah }}

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July 7, 2014

Legion of Honor | Fine Arts Museum | San Francisco, California

Bianca Guarnaccia | Wanderlust Weddings by WG | WGx

 

Every amazing couple begins with an incredible story.

The Legion of Honor has over 4000 of them.

Vincent Au Photography California

Located in the heart of oh-so-romantic San Francisco, and overlooking the world renown Golden Gate bridge, The Legion of Honor offers your wedding guests both the timeless elegance of Paris and the enriching history that has made it so special to its visitors.

Dedicated to the fallen soldiers of the Great War, this museum is a symbol of strength, commitment and loyalty – a beautiful testament to marriage as well. Celebrating in a venue that represents all the reasons you feel in love is the perfect beginning to a fairytale ending.

Legion of Honor in the Fog

Legion of Honor San Francisco Wedding Venue

Besides welcoming local brides in the San Francisco area, the Legion of Honor hosts numerous destination weddings as well. Couples who live outside of the city fly here specifically for the backdrop itself – believing that it brings their love alive.

Sphynge Photography San Francisco Wedding Planners

“It was the purpose of my wife and myself to contribute to the beautification of our native city – something not only beautiful in itself – but also something devoted to patriotic and useful ends; something which might be dedicated as a suitable memorial to our brave boys who gave their lives to their country in the Great War, and also lend itself as a home of art and historical treasures, to promoting the education and culture of our citizens, and especially the rising and coming generations.”

 - Adolph B. Spreckles, Founder

To celebrate your wedding at California’s beautiful Legion of Honor, make sure to get in touch!
———-

Bianca is a Bridal Lifestyle Blogger and Travel Writer with WeddingGirl.ca.
Follow her worldwide wedding planning adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!
WGxPhotoshoot (327 of 444)

{{ blog love :: photog credits }}
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July 5, 2014

Cakeity Cakes | Emily Christine Photography | Sweet Spring Shoot

{ spring + styled + sweets }

Once in a while, we hear from vendors we’ve never worked with before, who are dying to showcase some stunning talent.

This is one of those times.

Introducing, for the first time ever, to the WeddingGirl.ca blog, the oh-so-talented Nicole from Cakeity Cakes in Toronto – who teamed up with Emily Christine Photography as well as Country Lane Vintage Rentals and Country Lane Florals to trek some lovely details out into a forest and take some really, really gorgeous shots.

This Spring-inspired styled shoot was devised to showcase the details that can accentuate any confectionary masterpiece to set it apart as its own decorative element at your wedding reception.

Vintage rentals are quickly becoming one of the most beautiful accessories to any wedding celebration – dressers upcycled as stunning alternatives to traditional round, linen-draped cake tables, and rustic wooden crates used as an alternative to glass vases.

Check with your cake vendor about whether they offer pedestal rentals or collaborations with their favourite florists to style your entire cake display,  not just the sweet treat you initially fell in love with.

Cakeity Toronto Wedding Cake design

View More: http://emilychristinephotography.pass.us/cakes_springCakeity Toronto Wedding Cake Design Vintage Spring Style Shoot

View More: http://emilychristinephotography.pass.us/cakes_spring

White Blush Pink Spring Wedding Cake Cakeity Design

 

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Just love | engagement session Toronto | Shawn Bettencourt Photography

 

{ love shoots best }

It’s not often that engagement photos capture raw, unscripted, passionate love.

Pinterest showed up and suddenly so many E-sessions have become productions: furniture dragged out into fields, props dotting forests, and costumes that mimic frames you’d see on the silver screen.

While we do love a great E-shoot big on stunning|gorgeous|dramatic style, there’s also something incredibly magical about pairing a beautifully talented photographer with a couple that’s just madly, madly in love.

Add a few sprigs of baby’s breath in her hair and a cute little picnic for two and you’ve got yourself an engagement session that reflects precisely what it’s meant to – moments of fierce passion and playful intimacy between two love birds in the middle of a forest. We bet it wouldn’t even matter if all the trees fell around them - these two wouldn’t hear a sound.

High Park Toronto Engagement Session

Shawn Bettencourt Engagement Session Toronto Photography

Shawn Bettencourt Photography Toronto E-Session

Ana Dennis Shawn Bettencourt Photography

Romantic Engagement Session Photo

Shawn Bettencourt Photography E-Session Pic

Shawn Bettencourt Photography Etobicoke

Toronto High Park Engagement Session Photos

Picnic Engagement Session Toronto High Park

Shawn Bettencourt Photography Toronto

{{ Blog love : Shawn Bettencourt Photography, Toronto }}

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July 4, 2014

A *real* wedding photographer….

{ picture this … }

HitchedAbroad-set-SerenaSwanPhotography

Wedding planners see a LOT of wedding photos.

Wedding planners who own wedding blogs see even more.

I’ll never forget a wedding I was coordinating a couple of years ago. The photographer(s) and I were standing at the back of the ceremony and I was shown a sneak-peek back-screen shot of the ceremony that was still happening before my very eyes. The image was immaculately angled, perfectly composed. It was art.

Without any post-production, cropping, editing, colour enhancements, or fine-tuning in Photoshop, the image staring back at me was nothing short of art.

It doesn’t take much more than a moderate investment in a DSLR to “take pictures”. Sadly, we’ve all heard horror stories of pretend-photographers selling services to unassuming brides, seriously under-cutting the industry, and providing little more than a let-down when their images prove to be little more than what guests at the wedding were able to capture on their iPhone.

Photography isn’t about taking pictures.

Photography is an art.

A *real* wedding photographer is an artist.

And like any seasoned artist, photographers pour time, money, and soul in to perfecting the art they create.

A *real* wedding photographer has education. Whether it’s years spent in school or countless minutes, hours, days, months spent pouring over every tutorial they can possibly get their hands on…. you pay for knowledge.

A *real* wedding photographer invests time into his/her art. Often photography isn’t a full-time endeavour – completely understood…. but consider the amount of time that goes into perfecting a craft and understand that if your photographer is paying his/her bills using what they love, they need to charge accordingly.

A *real* wedding photographer owns real equipment: multiple cameras, multiple lenses, back-up storage and back-up back-up storage. I  mean, I can’t speak for myself (I bought my DSLR used on Kijiji) but photographic gear isn’t cheap. You get what you pay for. If you’re getting married in a dark, stone-walled chapel, you’re going to want your photog to have diffused lighting options. If you’re keen on detail shots, their investment in multiple lenses will be what delivers those Pinterest-worthy frames you love.

A *real* wedding photographer knows his/her worth. Artists don’t get rich doing what they love. Conversely, most of us struggle financially just so that we have the privilege in life to do what sets our souls on fire. Those cheap, Kijiji, newbie price packages destroy mostly every wedding-related industry – photography (and, ironically – planning) included. A real photographer charges real photography prices – entirely without apology.

 RickDenhamPhotographyTorontoWedding

 

And this blog is, by no means, meant to undercut the importance of new, passionate, aspiring entrepreneurs.

All *real* wedding photographers once started somewhere – without equipment, without experience, without designer camera bags. I get it.

Over the past five years I’ve had the distinct pleasure of watching “beginner” photographers blossom in to some of the most heart-gripping, talented artists I’ve ever worked with. Of course, every act of creating has a learning curve; there is something amazing to be said for combining a new passion with a new camera and a new outlook on how to make the world more beautiful. But, my beloved Brides, please, for the love of all that is beautiful in the world, be discerning.

Please don’t book an unknown, inexperienced DSLR-owner for a tiny little handful of dollars and just “hope for the best”.

You have one shot at the best shots.

Please be discerning.

If the price for wedding photography seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Having planned hundreds of weddings, I’ve personally seen the best and the worst that photography can showcase – $10,000 packages gone horribly wrong, and $500 packages that blew most pro’s entirely out of the water… but there is a happy|safe|acceptable middle ground.

Do your research.

There is an industry standard for average pricing (with a natural range of standard deviation). Take the time to understand why some prices might be far higher than the average, and conversely, why others might be far lower.

Do your research. (or you can always ask us!)

Scour all the images you can get your hands on. Most photographers lead with a small sample of their best images. Ask to see shots from an entire wedding. Decide whether the pictures you’re looking at make you “feel” anything. Magic happens the moment you lay eyes on an image of strangers in love that makes your heart skip a beat (like this gorgeous moment from Diane Personett Photography:

DiannePersonettPhotography

Make sure it’s the artistic style of the image that you love – and not the lavish centerpieces on the table or the glittery chevron pattern on the stationary pictured.

Pictures are not the same thing as art.

Photographic artists play with everything they can to give rise to unique, creative, emotional, breathtaking images. I’ve watched photographers bend light, create reflections, capture angles,  perfect poses, even stick wedding rings in chewing gum just to get them to stand meticulously vertically inside one another. Photographers capture tiny little details that would otherwise vanish in to the ether (after all, how else would anyone remember the painstaking effort you put in to your DIY escort cards or hand-made wedding favours?)

These end up being the shots that everyone notices, and no one forgets. These are the photographers who dare to colour outside the lines, and it shows (in the best possible way).

*Real* wedding photographers produce images that make you feel things.

*Real* wedding photographers capture moments that would otherwise have gone completely unnoticed.

*Real* wedding photographers enhance and convey the beauty they’re surrounded with.

*Real* wedding photographers know how much of who they are goes into what they do – and aren’t afraid to charge accordingly.

And if you’re planning a wedding for the first time, ask around. There’s nothing wrong with turning to near-and-dear ones for recommendations (but make sure they, themselves, know first-hand!). Personal endorsements go a long, long way when you’re treading unknown wedding-planning territory, but make sure that you’re collecting them from other brides, newlyweds, or wedding planning experts directly.

Your wedding photographer is an artist. Let them be creative, appreciate the effort they may for you, and be patient with them as they sculpt perfection in your shots and in their editing.

As a planner|blogger who has seen hundreds of thousands of wedding photos, I promise you, it’ll be worth all the time, money, and faith that you put in to their art.

photography-love

{{ blog love :: images courtesy of Serena Swan Photography + Rick Denham Photography}}

 

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July 1, 2014

Using UBER for your Wedding Day Transportation in Toronto

{ an oh-so-UBER-alternative }

This blog is being written for Lili and for all those other budget-savvy wedding parties in Toronto who just aren’t up for spending thousands of dollars on wedding day transport.

All of us here at WeddingGirl discovered Uber the day we  first met Lucas and his team at the UNIUN Industry Open House last summer.

We’ve loved them ever since.

For those of you that don’t know, Uber is like your own personal chauffeur – sending a swanky black car to anywhere you are, directly through their mobile app on your phone (and it’s crazy easy to download the app for iPhone/Android - search, select, download – done!)

Once you’ve signed up your account (yes, it’s totally safe to give them your credit card!) – just pick the vehicle you’d like, press a button, and a car pulls up to your location in minutes. Uber Black cars range from Lincoln Town Cars to Cadillac Escalades, and if you’re looking to save a buck or two, regular yellow taxi cabs are available as well. – No payments, no tipping, no hassles! If you’ve got your cell phone, you’ve got yourself a driver.

Uber Toronto Logo

 

{ Wedding Day Uber Transportation }

I guess it’s no coincidence that Lili emailed us right as we were working on the Uber details for a Day Of Itinerary for one of our upcoming WG couples. It sealed the deal that this really is a pretty fab alternative to traditional wedding day transportation in the city!

Of course, some logistics will need to be ironed out.

1. Determine who in your Wedding Party doesn’t already have the UBER app installed on their phone.

2. Get them to download it.

3. Promo code WEDDINGGIRL will give you a $30 credit (which will mostly get you anywhere in the city for free).

4. Figure out how many people you’ll be moving around with and make sure to specifically request the SUV Black Car option – by sliding the car selector to the right – otherwise you might get a limo sedan that only fits 4….. or, 1.5 brides, depending on the size of her train!

5. On the day of the wedding, have your UBER call details worked into your itinerary.

A piece of advice from a wedding planner who’s mostly seen everything that can go wrong – be super robust in your scheduling! Uber cars usually take < 15 minutes to get to you… so allot yourselves 30. If you’re traveling somewhere that’s 30 minutes away, schedule at least 45.

 

{ first come, first serve }

There is no way to pre-reserve your Uber cars. Just like a regular taxi service, Uber’s are available on a first-come, first-serve basis …. so you do need to consider how long you’ll be waiting for a car on weekends, holidays, during freak thunder storms, etc. (Unfortunately, there are a couple of drawbacks alongside saving a thousand dollars)

Beyond the time it takes your car to arrive, remember that any time you’re moving around the great metropolis of Toronto you know that traffic can either be absolutely mental or entirely non-existent – it’s a risk any commuter takes. Hey, limos get stuck in traffic too – just plan accordingly!

{ Uber Planning }

Say you’re looking to transport 12 people on your big day – 5 bridesmaids, 5 groomsmen, and the Bride and Groom.

For the purposes of comfort and wedding dress logistics, let’s give the Bride her own UBER car just in case her dress has one of those oversized crinolines or crazy-long trains to accommodate.  Here’s a sample Wedding Day Itinerary complete with Wedding-Planner-Approved UBER details….

11:30 a.m. – Groomsman #1 orders Uber SUV Car #1 (6 men will usually easily fit into an SUV car)

12:00 p.m. – Groomsmen leave Westin Harbour Castle Hotel (1 Harbour Square, Toronto)

12:30 p.m. – Groomsmen arrive at Thompson Hotel for the First Look (550 Wellington Street, w). 

1:00 p.m. – Bride + Groom’s First Look at the Thompson Hotel (photographers in place)

1:15 p.m. – Groomsman #2 orders Uber SUV Car #2 | Bridesmaid #1 orders Uber SUV Car #3|  Bridesmaid #2 orders Uber SUV Car #4

1:30 p.m. – Wedding party travels to UofT (27 King’s College Circle)

2:30 p.m. – Groomsmen #3 + #4 order Uber SUV Car #’s 5 + 6

3:00 p.m. – Wedding party travels to Metropolitan United Church (56 Queen Street, East)

4:00 p.m. – Ceremony begins

4:30 p.m. – Ceremony concludes – family photos begin outside of the church

4:45 p.m. – Groomsman #5 calls Uber SUV Car #7 | Bridesmaids #3 and #4 order Uber SUV Car #’s 8 + 9

5:00 p.m. – Wedding Party travels to St. James’ Cathedral Event Centre (65 Church Street)

5:30 p.m. – Eat, drink, celebrate!

Sooo, the grand totals? Nine of your closest lovelies signing up for the UBER service, 9 black SUV cars, for a grand total of $0.00 assuming everyone is signing up for the first time and using their WEDDINGGIRL promo credit!

Ta-Da!  Just a bit of pre-planning details and some digital data magic = free wedding day transportation!

Happy Uber-ing!

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June 29, 2014

So you wanna be a blogger? | Toronto Blogger Workshop

“You’re a blogger?! I want to be a blogger!”

…. if I had a nickel.

When we first announced WeddingGirl-University a few weeks ago, the primary motivating factor behind its launch was a deeply-rooted passion to share information, motivation, and ideas. It’s that whole “Give a girl a cupcake vs. teach her how to bake”-type proverb….

….. that is how it went, right?

Regardless.

WeddingGirl University is about multiplying.

WeddingGirl University Logo

This past weekend, WeddingGirl was invited to attend EventProf.ca’s Black + White Party on the rooftop of the oh-so-swanky Thompson Hotel in downtown Toronto. The evening was being hosted in celebration of Pride Week and Linda and I spent the night connecting with vendors, chatting with couples, and digitally immortalizing our favourite moments. We snapped, tweeted, posted without skipping a beat while mixing and mingling with some of the most stylish party-goers we’ve ever met.

As always, a little extra media buzz never hurt anyone!

ThompsonHotelWeddingPlannersToronto

One of the lovely ladies we met that night asked us why we were taking so many pictures.

As is most often the case when I explain what I do for a living, our response was met with an elated – “OoooOooo! I want to do that!” – and suddenly the clouds parted and the WGU logo appeared in the sky like a foretelling bat-signal.

Okay… well, maybe that’s not exactly how it happened, but it was close.

———-

Mary Bratko Entrepreneur Blogger Wedding Planner Toronto

Whether it’s telling someone I’m a wedding planner or mentioning that I’m a blogger, I’m usually met with

1. Comments of disbelief (Yes, I assure you – I’m a blogger… and yes, it pays my bills)

and/or

2. Expressions of wanton coveting.

Indeed, I am a blogger.

I don’t have to go to an office every morning. Most days I work in pyjama pants. I get to play on the internet all day long and sometimes I get invited to special things by special people just so that I can tell other people about it.  Here’s the thing, though…. and let’s be serious: I never meant to end up here.

 

Mary Bratko Toronto Blogger Entrepreneur

A fortune twist of fate landed me where I am today – with multiple blogs and nearly 2 million views a year.

So what’s that mean?

It means that I’m living proof that anyone can start a blog and be crazy-successful with it! I pinky-swear.

Whether you work full time and are looking for a creative outlet, or you’re passionate about starting your own business, I have no doubt in the world that you can follow in similar footsteps to what WeddingGirl has become – a full time career, a blooming business, and a VIP pass to the kind of lifestyle you dare to dream of.

Instead of meeting individually for lattés with every aspiring Blogpreneur that sends me a note, I’m turning this into a soirée of sorts. I’m inviting 10 budding little bloggers to an evening of  concept development, readership building, monetizing traffic, and fighting the fear to just make it happen. Because, let’s face it – everyone’s afraid of doing something for the first time! (myself included).

Subject matter doesn’t matter. Whether it’s weddings, babies, living green or HVAC systems – I know firsthand how amazing and rewarding blogging can be. Your ideas. Your terms. Your success.

Let’s do this!

{ Blogpreneur :: beginner }

Date: Tuesday, July 8th

Time: 6:30 p.m.

Location: University of Toronto Faculty Club

Cost: $45 + HST

RSVP: info@weddinggirl.ca

For additional details, please feel free to Get In Touch!

{ Registration closes on Sunday, July 6th at 11:59 EST – or when the first 10 spots are taken }

MaryBratko-WeddingThreesome2.0-15

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How Same-Sex Couples Aren’t The Ones Ruining Marriage…

Filed under: Bridal Blog,Love,WG{=} — WeddingGirl @ 3:38 pm

{ an ex-bride’s reflections on a week of Pride }

Mary Bratko WeddingGirl.ca

When we brought Vanessa onto our team she inspired us to create WeddingGirl-Equals – the part of our little wedding world that emphatically supports equal rights, same love, and that love is never wrong.

This past week, as Toronto has proudly celebrated the same message across place, space, and time, I couldn’t help but spend this morning reflecting on what World Pride 2014 has meant to me.

Toronto CN Tower Pride LGBT Support

This past week, WeddingGirl.ca took a stand: as bloggers, as wedding planners, as girls who believe in a right to love anyone you want.

This past week, we opted to go against the grain and we showed our unity and support by proudly showcasing our WG{=} logos across our various social media platforms, and throughout our blog. We featured open vendors, same-sex couples, and attended Pride events that have both humbled and inspired us.

Vanessa and I had the distinct privilege of witnessing 110 LGBT couples exchange vows at beautiful Casa Loma. It was North America’s largest same sex wedding and the first event of its kind in Canada. Emotions ran rampant and the love in the air was palpable.

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That afternoon, as I strolled past the white tents under which officiants from 12 different denominations guided hundreds of couples through their own, personal nuptials, I couldn’t help but be faced with a stark reality.

Same sex couples aren’t the ones ruining marriage…. girls like me are.

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While I’ve never hidden from the journey that brought me into WeddingGirl-Land, it’s also not a story I’ve shared openly either. When asked, directly, the tale of how WG came to be, it goes something along the lines of -

“I was studying to go to medical school. I got engaged. I planned a wedding. I loved planning said wedding. I realized a few months before the wedding that I wasn’t happy. Canceled said wedding. Sold all of my wedding stuff. Started WG. The end.”

The truth is, there was another chapter after that one (and some say the story was written all over my face).

disney-bride-hot-pink-wedding-maggie-sottero-victoriana

Ask me about the tale of WG over cocktails (or read The WG Story) and the truth goes more like….

“I was studying to go to medical school. I got engaged. Planned a wedding. Canceled a wedding. Got disengaged. Got re-engaged far too soon after that. Planned another wedding. Walked down the wrong wedding aisle. Said the wrong vows to the wrong groom.”

The truth is that 18 days after my own fairytale wedding, I flew home from my honeymoon…. alone. I packed up my life and moved away from everything I’d ever known. In the years that followed, WeddingGirl became my entire life. Everything changed…. and  I never looked back.

How’s that for destroying the sanctity of marriage?

Of course, there’s always a story. Moreover, there are always two sides to every story. The he-said / she-said of this particular one is irrelevant. The point is that I’ve since immersed my life entirely into celebrating love and life with hundreds of couples while personally stepping back and giving some thought to how my own story came to be.

Those who can’t do, teach – right? Well… it would seem that those who can’t wed, plan.

Entirely without apology.

My wedding day was a dream, but my tale wasn’t close to being completed. Once upon a time I was just a girl living a life that the world around me had prescribed: go to school, get a job, buy a house, fall in love, plan a wedding, have a family.

Planning that first wedding made me obsessed with the idea of being a bride. Planning a second wedding made me realize I had no concept of what it meant to be a wife. Alas, I didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to cancel two weddings. I convinced myself that maybe I could make it work.

I was wrong.

Today, it boggles peoples’ minds that I’m a very single wedding planner.

“But your life must be so romantic?!”

Oh, it is. But not for the reasons you might think.

Mary-Bratko-Wedding-Threesome-Starbucks-1024x1024

My life today has become about passion – but rather than being about a blind passion for the wrong person, my passion is for making things happen: gorgeous celebrations, beautiful flowers, successful endeavours. My life today is filled with love, but it’s a love for what already is rather than what might one day be. These days, I’m learning what it means to be in a relationship with myself rather than trying to jam a square peg into a round hole.

Today, I look to my couples (both Nearly- and Newlywed) with respect and admiration for their journey, but also with gratitude that my own has been different.

In my mind, I was never married.

In my mind, I was just a bride – a girl at a party wearing the prettiest dress. I, myself, before ever becoming a wedding planner, took the sanctity of marriage and destroyed it entirely. Having a wedding wasn’t a privilege to me, it was a right.. and I took it completely for granted.

Those 110 same-sex couples at Casa Loma didn’t arrive that day with naive minds and fickle hearts. Those couples, that day, weren’t living up to a socially-prescribed norm of what was expected of them. Those couples, that day, overcame obstacles to get there. They faced shame, they fought ridicule, they struggled with their own sense of self to stand before everyone and admit, “I love him….” or “I love her.”

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LGBT couples aren’t the ones destroying ‘the sanctity of marriage’. What’s destroying the sanctity of marriage is archaic social expectation; feeling as though you should be getting engaged or  should  be getting married or should be having babies.. regardless of whether that’s something you want.

Marriage is becoming destroyed by those rushing into it, those pushed into it, and those who don’t understand the gravity of the promises being made. The world is changing, and the face of being in love is changing too.

Becoming a wedding planner has inadvertently given me the privilege of writing my own fairytale  - single, sans wedding band, and with nothing but the most humble heart and grateful spirit for the story that’s scribbled itself onto my life’s pages.

To all of those couples at Casa Loma, and to all of the WG couples I’ve met…. I tip my wedding planner hat to you.

Love hard.

Kiss slowly.

Forgive quickly.

Never stop setting an incredible example for all those around you.

Say “I Do” for the right reasons and never lose sight that your wedding day is just a party; that your fairytale ending actually began the moment you first said “Hello”.

Don’t let peonies become more important than promises.

Don’t let DIY projects keep you from Date Night.

Don’t let your big day get bigger than your once-in-a-lifetime love.

… and never stop writing your story, together.

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You are an inspiration to us all…. and most importantly, an inspiration to me.

With all of my love….

~ mary

aNHhg

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June 27, 2014

Grand Pride Wedding, Toronto | Casa Loma | Liberty Group

{ a fairytale story }

“I can’t believe you’ve been my best friend for 30 years… and today, I get to call you my husband.

The mid-afternoon sun was beaming down as I walked through the gardens of Casa Loma yesterday, but when I overheard those words I felt chills over my entire body. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man kiss another man… and a smile silently crept across my face.

Westend Photography GrandPrideWedding Toronto

How lucky I am to have accidentally witnessed such a beautiful moment.

How lucky we are to live in a place where anyone can kiss whomever they love… regardless of who’s watching. 

Yesterday changed everything.

Yesterday, for the first time in one hundred years, from atop Toronto’s most majestic wedding venue, a rainbow flag gently fluttered in the breeze.

Yesterday, for the first time in North American history, 110 same-sex couples came together for a wedding.

Westend Photography Casa Loma Toronto

Regardless of age, race, denomination, or sexual orientation, yesterday Toronto celebrated love.

“The city was looking to do something special to mark Pride Week.” – Nick Di Donato said to me  as we chatted in the garden. “They were looking to do something at City Hall, and that’s when the idea came to me.”

I can’t help but wonder whether the President and C.E.O. of Liberty Entertainment Group could have ever known the extent to which his forward-thinking vision would change countless lives.

“I have a vision for Casa Loma. I see this venue alongside Toronto’s greatest tourist attractions just like the CN Tower, the Toronto Zoo. I want Casa Loma to engage in city events, and what better way to engage one of North America’s premier wedding facility’s than to commemorate World Pride with the largest same-sex wedding celebration this country has ever seen?”

And just like that, Liberty Group’s palatial estate became the Grand Pride Venue.

By invite-only, nearly 1000 guests arrived at Casa Loma in the early afternoon – a couple hundred Nearlyweds, a couple hundred of their guests, and swarms of media from around the globe.

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“We have cameras here from around the world,” Nick said to me, and smiled. “We’ve had calls from Israel, from South Africa. It takes a spectacular event like this, on a spectacular property, on a beautiful day, to give Marriage Equality the worldwide recognition that it deserves. This is a message to the world about Toronto – this is who we are and the example we want to set.”

As he addressed the group gathered beneath Casa Loma’s brand new, state-of-the-art glass garden tent, Di Donato called the day “Casa Loma’s coming out party”. Indeed, this ‘staunchy, 100-year old venue’ is becoming anything but.

Nick DiDonato Liberty Group Westend Photography

Yesterday marked a new vision for what it means to celebrate love in Toronto.

I asked Nick whether anyone objected, on moral, ethical, or religious grounds, when he first presented the idea to his Boards.

“If you’ve ever questioned same-sex marriage – all you need to do is look around today. How can you not believe in it?”

He wasn’t wrong.

As we glanced across the pristinely manicured gardens, the estate was abuzz with celebration. Emotions were running rampant around us and the love in the air was palpable.

How beautiful love flourishes to be when it’s not forced to hide in the corner.

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“We’re a world in transition,” Nick added. “Toronto is further ahead in this transition than many others. We believe in love. We’re being bold about it. We’re embracing it. We’re spreading it out around the world. We are helping to move other people toward it.”

And as for the beauty of Casa Loma – well, it’ll be around for much longer than any of us will. A wistful smile broke across Nick’s face when he said to me, “This storybook venue offers a tradition for generations. Imagine your grandchildren being able to get married in the exact spot where your own fairytale began.”

…. a storybook ending, indeed.

———-

To view our entire album from yesterday’s festivities, come find us on Facebook! www.Facebook.com/WeddingGirl.ca

To see Vanessa’s photos of the celebrations, follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

MaryBratko VanessaAdams WeddingGirl.ca Bloggers

{ Blog Credit }

Grand Pride Wedding event design: Luc Samuel Leclerc, Liberty Entertainment Group

Florals: Fuscia Designs

Furniture: Lounge Rentals

Photography: TheWestEndStudio.com

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