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July 5, 2014

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 … }


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.



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:


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.


{{ 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?


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!


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)


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 }


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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.


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.


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).


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.


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.”


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.


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

With all of my love….

~ mary


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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.


“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.



“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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June 25, 2014

The (outrageous) cost of Wedding Flowers: explained.

…. or, “Why your centerpieces can’t cost $20 per table.”

When we first created WeddingGirl five years ago, the tagline we adopted was “LUXE, ON A BUDGET”

Despite the ever-changing landscape of planning all-things-I-Do, we’ve stuck to it. Moreso now than ever before, we’re getting creative with ways to stretch dollars, skip expenses, and make really smart spending choices all while still making things gorgeous.


We aren’t magic.

We can’t make something from nothing.

We can’t give you Wedluxe-Inspired centerpieces for $20 per table.

… and we mostly can’t bully your florist into doing it for you either.

Once upon a time when we first started planning weddings, much like everything else in North America – things were cheaper. This included vases, flowers, vase filler, candles, gas, donuts, and Starbucks lattés. Unfortunately, it’s how the economy works – prices creep up year after year.

DIY Vintage Rustic Lace Wedding

Some wedding vendors allow you to book services a year in advance and they’re willing to honour 2013 pricing in 2014, etc. but most of the time the same can’t be said for flowers. It’s not because your florists are evil and have some cruel vendetta against your wedding budget. Like those delicate blooms themselves, floral quotes are incredibly sensitive little beings. Here’s why:

1. Time

We all know that time = money.

When you email a floral stylist with all the details of your big day, the clock begins to tick. They’ll read (and undoubtedly love!) your bridal dream gushings, check to make sure they’re available for your wedding date, do some research on your venue and visit all the Pinterest inspiration boards you sent over in your note.

Amrita & Darrel's Inspiration Board

Before your florist can offer a quote, they’ll have to connect with their suppliers and wholesalers to verify availability and pricing. They’ll call around and check to make sure they’re getting the best-of-the-best for you before they respond. They’ll start a preliminary estimate form for you and attach your inspiration photos, your list of must-have’s, and will work out pricing options to make it happen.

Wholesale Toronto Niagara Hamilton North Bay Sudbury Muskoka Glass Wedding Decor Hanging Votive Candle Holder Vases Collage

With preliminary research in hand, your stylist then replies to your message. A great vendor will share in all your excitement and offer advice and suggestions on how to spend your budget, stretch your budget, stay within your budget – whatever it is you’re hoping to do. They’ll chat with you back and forth about vision and ideas and previous weddings so that you know that they know that you know they’re on the same page.

Then there’s the meeting.

Some brides are comfortable working exclusively digitally to review floral design estimates, while others prefer to visit showrooms and floral shops. Depending on the setup of the studio, some will meet with you in-house while others will join you for one of those pricey Starbucks’ latté’s in town. Either way, your florist will spend time preparing for your meeting, a couple of hours chatting all-things-blooms with you over coffee, and then time summarizing all your notes and visions (not to mention the travel time to and from your get-together).

Well-styled and thorough floral estimates can take hours to craft: beautifully worded bridal bouquet descriptions, comprehensive wedding party flower details, family florals, ceremony decor, centerpiece design and reception decor. They’ll search for and include inspiration photos to help give you visuals and work out a variety of prices for extra details like the vases you love and the right candles to give the reception room that enviable, romantic glow.

Toronto Hamilton Niagara Wedding Decor Budget Cheap Wholesale

By the time that floral quote hits your Inbox, your designer has spent well over an entire day’s worth of work on making it perfect for you.

Or, so they hope.

Then there’s revisions.

Little changes.

Different flowers.

Tweaks in colours.

Extra corsages.


Double-faced satin instead of burlap. - need to check on satin pricing.

The silver mercury glass instead of the gold. - need to verify availability.

Hanging mason jars with floating candles to line the garden path after the sun goes down. - measure mason jar opening, determine candle pricing, confirm shepherd hook rentals and verify what time the sun sets.


Updated estimate – complete.

A few final rearrangements and adjustments and one last calculation – then, voila! Your contract is booked.


….. but now, multiply that by a dozen inquiries a week.

Vintage Tea Party Wedding Flowers Fraiche Floral Studio Toronto

If a floral stylist didn’t account for time spent generating quotes and booking contracts, they’d go out of business pretty quickly.

Fast-forward to a few months before your wedding. – Verifying contracts, confirming changes, ordering flowers, ordering vases, picking up vase filler, scratching product stickers off of every single candle holder (sometimes having to soak them in soap and hot water first!). All they need you to do is confirm whether or not your number of tables has changed or whether Aunt Ingrid prefers a pin-on corsage or wrist… while behind-the-scenes there’s a flurry of activity to make sure that all their floral-design-ducks are neatly in a row.

Cue: the week of the wedding.

Confirming order delivery with the wholesalers, picking up the flowers, checking and re-checking to make sure that everything that’s needed is there. Bringing hundreds of dozens of blooms back into the studio – processing every single one of them by hand. (Note: wholesale flowers come straight from farms – usually in foreign countries – packed super tight in refrigerator temperatures so they stay super fresh until well after your wedding is over). Processing means de-thorning roses, trimming leaves off hydrangeas and cutting every single stem on the perfect angle to dip in hydrating fluid and arrange perfectly in oversized buckets in a temp-controlled room so that they open just enough to be gorgeous but not enough that they over-bloom and die before you walk down the aisle.

No pressure.

So then there’s the arranging.

Blue Purple Celestial Inspired Bridal Bouquet fraiche floral 3

A half dozen bouquets, meticulously styled and finished with gorgeous stem wrap to accentuate your dress. A half dozen boutonnieres carefully arranged and finished to match.

Mom’s corsages.

Dad’s boutonnieres.

Oversized altar arrangements, a dozen pew decor pieces. Rose petals for the aisle that need to be plucked from perfectly-processed roses, separated from their seedy, unattractive centers, and stored in refrigerator temperatures to ensure the perfect amount of … perk … when they’re carefully arranged in swirly patterns down your ceremony aisle the next day.

Fraiche Floral Studio Ceremony Decor Toronto Wedding

Centerpieces are often arranged into floral foam and can’t be put together more than a certain number of hours before show time (some flowers really, really don’t like floral foam). Your florist needs to cautiously time out their schedule (as well as the schedules of all their helpers) to make sure that painstakingly specific timing is maintained. What keeps your Florist awake at night? Fear of waking up on the morning of your wedding day, to find four buckets of wilted hydrangeas|roses|peonies  on the studio floor. *knock on wood*

Budget Cheap Wholesale Wedding Flowers Toronto

And then there’s the delivery.

As much as it would be awesome to teleport your flowers from the design floor to the reception hall, unfortunately each individual arrangement needs to be delicately packed, carefully loaded, safely transported, and gingerly placed. The job goes faster with extra sets of hands, but those hands need to get paid for their time as well.

Finally, some venues have pesky delivery requirements: certain times of day, within certain hours, through questionable back doors that require the dismantling of pre-packaged arrangements to fit through the frame. Perch the altar pieces, spread the petals, hang the pew decor, place the centerpieces, arrange the head table arrangements, deliver the girls’ bouquets before scheduled pictures and make sure all of the men’s bouts are pinned properly. -  all in a wedding florist’s day!

Oh. And those rented pillars that you used during your ceremony – they need to be picked up and brought over to your reception, then brought back to the studio at the end of the night.

Sooooo, an hour for research, half hour response, a three hour session, a few hours for changes, another half hour for updates, an hour of phone calls, two days of processing…. well… I mean… you get the picture. Beautiful blooms take time and love to plan, arrange, and make gorgeous on the day-of.

But then there’s the stuff itself…..

Wholesale Flowers Candles Wedding Toronto

2. Stuff

Of course, you have to pay for the stuff you buy.

Yup – seasonal flowers are usually cheaper than imports, and buying local is usually cheaper than foreign…. but supply-and-demand is an illustrious minx.

Dreaming of red roses around Valentine’s Day?

Looking for pretty much anything white around Easter?

The prices of flowers per stem, even at direct wholesale, fluctuate with the tide (pretty much literally) – ranging anywhere from $0.50 to over $20.00 (yup. per stem).

Floral prices are affected by climate, rainfall, minimum wage, and even the price of gas used to transport them.

Then there’s the other stuff – vases, candles, mirrors, cellophane, vase filler, ribbon. Not only does your floral stylist need to cover his / her costs on acquiring these items, they need to cover the time it takes to get them from straight-from-China condition to perfect-picture-ready.

 Ruffles and Twine Vintage Dresser Rental Niagara


{ the low-down }

All of this to say….. “this stuff ain’t cheap”.

Unfortunately, flowers don’t cost pennies-a-stem.

Sadly, those beautiful 24″ reversible trumpet vases you saw online last week aren’t available at the Dollar Store.

A floral designer that knows (and loves) his/her industry can offer you oodles of options – believe me – they all want to see their lovelies gracing the pages of all-things-inspiration…..

But they need to eat.

And pay their rent.

And make sure their water doesn’t get shut off the day before your wedding.

This is why centerpieces aren’t $20 per table.

It’s why wedding flowers have pricetags and why the brag-worthy styles that grace magazine covers seem to be “outrageous”.

It’s why, when your floral designer tells you they can’t lower their prices anymore… they’re probably not lying.

Be creative.

Be excited.

Be willing to trust your expert.

Be sure of what you like, but be open to suggestions.

Be honest about your budget.

Be amenable to money-saving ideas that a great florist should always offer you.


fraiche floral studio vintage rose bridal bouquet

….. Stay gorgeous.



{ blog love }

Photog Credits:

Darling Mine Photography

Silverlight Photography

Holly Thomas Photography

mINK Creative Photography

Taylor Jackson Photography


Floral Credits:

Fraîche Floral Studio

Fleurish Design Studio

Lush Design Studio




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June 24, 2014

How to Plan Your Own Wedding Bar :: DIY Wedding Alcohol Planner

{ DIY Wedding Planning }

Wedding Day Fund Mason Jar


Brides are getting smarter.

Budgets are getting tighter.

Many of the weddings we’re planning are opting to skip out on the all-inclusive one-size-fits-bride venues and couples are dancing the night away in what we refer to DIY Venues.

These often-hidden-gem spaces  are reception locations that charge couples a flat rental fee for use of their space (sometimes unreasonably affordable – other times.. not so much), and the Bride and Groom are then responsible for bringing in their own rentals, decor, catering, alcohol, etc.

While DIY venues are (mostly always) the more cost-effective wedding option, they are, undoubtedly, much trickier to plan.

DIY venues usually require you to consider bringing in your own tables, chairs, flatware, stemware, tableware, to make your own catering arrangements, and most importantly, to plan your own bar.

It seems ironic to us as wedding planners that the elements of your big day meant to save you the most money tend to be trickiest to plan!

No worries, though. We’ve got you covered.

{ planning your DIY bar }

Note: Every wedding is different.

Depending on the type of guests you invite (older vs. younger, drinkers vs. not), some weddings will boast a much heavier alcohol consumption than others.

Details of your particular big will also play a role in alcohol consumption: time of day, length of cocktail hour and dinner, availability of shots and varieties of liquor / mix on your bar rail.

We’re basing these particular nuggets of wedding-planning knowledge on the average event.

So, as we were….


{ insider insight }

Between our own (extensive) experience at the weddings we’ve planned, and with the expert advice of a few trusted industry insiders….here’s what you need to know:

1) The average wedding guest will consume one alcoholic drink per hour throughout the wedding

So. 5 to 7 drinks per person for the night, plus two glasses of wine at dinner.

Got it.


2) More specifically put, the average wedding guest will usually drink 2 drinks during cocktails, 2 drinks during dinner, 2 drinks while they’re dancing, and 2 drinks in the last couple hours of the night (this includes shots).

Therefore, if you’re looking to tighten the reigns on alcohol consumption we usually suggest limiting the availability of shots, slowing the bar toward the end of the night, and serving exclusively signature beverages during cocktail hour.



3) Liquor is the most widely consumed alcohol at the average wedding (particularly in the form of shots).

Wine comes in second (and is typically the drink of choice during dinner).

Beer comes last.


4) Red wine is FAR more popular than white wine (usually at a service ratio of 2:1)

If you’re offering wine to your guests during dinner, ask your servers to come around with a “First Pour” rather than opening a bottle of red and a bottle of white on each table. This allows guests to choose their preferred wine at the onset of the meal and servers can be instructed to provide bottles to tables if explicitly requested.

Oh – and it looks classier too!

As has been the case with nearly every wedding we’ve coordinated, more often than not we see whole bottles of white wine go entirely to waste.



5) If Premium and Import beers are offered, they are usually consumed at a substantially higher rate than any Domestic labels.

Plan accordingly.


6) The most popular liquors consumed at a wedding, in order of popularity, are: Vodka, Gin, Rye, Tequila, Rum, Scotch, Amaretto, and Apple + Raspberry Sours.


7) The most popular mixes, in order of popularity, are: Club Soda, Tonic, Cranberry juice, Coca Cola, and Clamato juice.


8) Signature drinks are surprisingly unpopular.

Yes, they look super cute with their colour-coordination and themed straws with personalized flags… but guests will drink signature cocktails only because they’re offered (usually in the proximity of white-gloved servers passing around shiny silver trays).

Once the bar opens and guests can order what they want, the hefty majority stay lightyears away from colourful and fruity drinks.

Skip the drink flags.



{ wedding Signature drinks }

But so long as we’re on the topic of the oh-so-popular signature cocktails… there are ways to plan these so they don’t suck!

As wedding planners – we actually love the personality and creativity that goes into signature drinks…- don’t let us discourage you from the idea entirely – just make sure to choose a drink that tastes good (and isn’t just mixed to be electric yellow so that it matches your 70′s wedding theme).

Most of the signature drink rave reviews we hear involve refreshing, subtle blends like champagne spritzers and light sangrias (think bubbles + white cranberry juice adorned with a berry or two at the bottom of the glass).

Kir seems to be popular too – black current liqueur topped up with white wine (a touch heavier than sparkling + juice – a more popular option for Fall and Winter affairs).

Some of our couples are opting for a choice of drinks: Moosehead for him, Apple Pie Martinis for her.

A handful of skillful (and passionate!) bartenders are even willing to take a couples’ favourite flavours and custom-design a concoction from scratch – so get creative!


Of course, cocktail hour drinks that suit the style and theme of your wedding are always classic (assuming they’re tasty too!).

Chilly autumn weddings are complemented nicely with hot apple cider and rum, while sunshine-y summer wedding guests appreciate ice-cold sparkling numbers and flavour infused waters (even if they’re non-alcoholic!).

DIY Wedding Bar Infused Water Jenn Sean

Cocktails that come with a custom-story are always a big hit too…

“The Bride celebrated her acceptance to medical school with one too many margaritas!”


“The Groom’s been known to get messy with martinis!”


{ a few tips }

Regardless of whether you’re planning an open bar all-day-long, or signature cocktails followed by dinner wine and dancing – alcohol is meant to enhance your celebration, not overshadow it.

Guests are encouraged to have a great time but over-indulging often leads to embarrassing moments and constraining conflicts that nobody (your coordinators included!) should have to deal with.

Take your guest demographic into consideration when selecting your alcohol line-up.

Make sure to overstock (liquor in Ontario can always be returned to the LCBO with a receipt!).

Keep all of your proofs of purchase (event alcohol must be purchased with a valid Special Occasions Permit – which must be clearly displayed behind the bar before the first drink is poured).


{ extra help }

We know that planning a DIY wedding can be stressful and overwhelming, but if envisioned properly and executed seamlessly, it can help save you thousands of dollars!

Our WeddingGirl team offers Reception-Planning consultations for DIY Brides to help ensure that no dishes go overlooked, no water jugs un-ordered, and that alcohol service goes off without a hitch.

Make sure to Get In Touch with any questions you might have!

Little Black Dress Photoshoot Palais Royale


Much love,

the WG team <3


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we believe in #OneLove | @WP14TO @WedGirlEquals

{ why we believe that #LoveIsLove }

Not everyone meets their soulmate.

Not everyone gets butterflies.

Not everyone writes a story that includes the fairytale version of happily ever after.

Falling in love is hard enough – why make it more difficult by eliminating half of the planet’s population from your options??




Toronto and cities around the world are celebrating World Pride.

All of us here at WeddingGirl are just celebrating being in love.

How lucky we are to live in a city that emphatically, openly, and graciously accepts that love is never wrong.



Sure, #SameLove isn’t what’s always been the “norm”… but our grandparents would have looked strange with white earphone cables dangling on either side of their faces too.

Yeah, #LGBTlove is considered a travesty in certain religions and illegal in many countries…. but by those standards, do vegans have to fast on Fridays and should wearing a headscarf be outlawed as well?

Times are changing.

People are changing.

Shame on our ancestors for scoffing at all that was “different”.  Our world is evolving into the most connected, the most advanced, and the most open-minded it’s ever been. I bet those of us who are left-handed would agree!




One planet.

One population.

One common goal of happiness.

One love.

That’s what we believe.

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June 23, 2014

Business vs. Brand | Getting Brides to Love You


{ a WG industry insider Interactive }

WeddingGirl University Logo

“The wedding industry isn’t what it used to be. We hear it constantly… wedding vendors are struggling.”

At a time when brides are getting smarter and budgets are getting tighter, successful business owners know the secrets to getting noticed while their competitors end up getting lost in a sea of discount services and all-things-DIY.

If you’re as obsessed with celebrating couples-in-love as we are, you already know about the incredible rewards this industry can deliver. While you might have started your business just as a hobby or side-passion, there’s ways to turn it into your entire life – this girl is living proof.

In the past 5 years Mary Bratko of WeddingGirl.ca has planned hundreds of weddings and has been decoding the inner workings of the bridal mind.


With a little bit of tough love and a whole lot of hard work, Mary knows that you can take your business from your spare bedroom to around the world, like she has.



Join her for this engaging Interactive and learn everything from where you should be spending marketing dollars to why that bride didn’t hire you. Participate in an afternoon of creative connections, branding strategies, blogging how-to’s, sales pitch secrets and the one thing you can do to make sure all of your clients tell all of their friends about you!



{ the Details }

Date: August 24, 2014

Time: 2:00 p.m.

Location: announced to attendees upon registration.

Cost: $119.00 + HST

Currently 15 spots available. Registration Application Forms are available by exclusively by email {info@weddinggirl.ca}

Suggested reading: The WG Story (discount code available for all registrants)

The WG Story - Cover

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