At the risk of sounding cliche, our wedding was absolutley perfect. There are three main reasons as to why our day was perfect:
1. We're in love! And were getting married! The wedding would really have sucked without that.
2. When July 5th came around, details didn't matter. All that mattered was that we were entering into a commitment to spend the rest of our lives together. Only tragic circumstances could have prevented that, and therefore nothing else was important.
3. We (ok, I) planned everything well in advance and was super organized. That way, come July 5th everything fell into place, and we didn't have to worry too much about anything.
So, with huge smiles on our faces, and love in our hearts, here's how the day proceeded.
'The Weekend Wedding'
Actually, the day didn't start on 'the day' at all. It started a week before in East Meadow NY. Ross' Grandmother hosted his aufruf, a traditional event that happens on the Shabbat (sabbath) before a Jewish wedding. (visit wikipedia for what an aufruf is). This event took place at a synagouge near Ross' parents' house, and we invited everyone that was invited to the wedding, plus the shul's congregation. Ross was called up to the Torah and we were both given a blessing by the Rabbi. This was followed by a light meal (seudah shlishit), some songs and then the evening service. It worked out nicely because some people who couldn't make it to Ottawa for the wedding were able to celbrate with us at the Aufruf. We followed up the aufruf with an informal party in Ross' backyard with a bunch of his friends. The police wished us Mazel Tov when they showed up.
Over the next week, Ross and I were separated as much as possible, and we were never alone together in the same room. We had our Best Man and Maid of Honour appointed as our guardians who made sure we were always happy, and never alone...! This hightened the anticipation for the big day.
The Thursday eve before the wedding was the bachelor/bachelorette night. Being adamently opposed to the idea of seeing strippers 3 days before I got married, the ladies and I went for a nice dinner and night on the town. It was a blast, and a great chance to hang out without the men. I'm still not sure what went down at the bachelor party though.
The Friday night was a 'cocktail party' for all the out of town guests. Which for our wedding was almost everyone. Our parents surprised us by showing a video slideshow of our lives so far. It was embarassing. Luckily we found out a week before and convinced them to do it Friday instead of at the wedding. Everyone seemed to love it. It was a great chance for all the families to meet and mingle and for us to spend time with all those who were visiting from out of town.
Saturday a bunch of the crew played a game of football in Major's Hill Park. I took a nap at that time. We also had a hospitality suite at the hotel for our guests to hang out during the day. We stocked it with snacks and drinks - which went over really well. We received a lot of compliments on the hospitality suite after the wedding, everyone liked having a venue to chat with their family-to-be.
We also had little 'guest bags' delivered to everyone's room in the hotel with snacks (including mini-maple syrup bottles) and a program. The program contained directions for all our ocassions (the map of course), and some other fun ideas of what to do in Ottawa. It concluded with a list of our favourite bars and restaurants.
Saturday night was an early one, Sunday was going to be a big day!
After an early morning of hair and makeup, the men and women got dressed in two rooms at the hotel. Our best man and Maid of Honour were in frantic contact to make sure Ross and I didn't accidently run into each other (since we didn't want to see each other before the wedding). At one point I had to hide in a staircase.
Upon arriving at the park (in cars, limos were a waste of money in my opinion). The men and women seperated for the traditional pre-wedding reception to welcome the guests. Ross and his buddies did shots around a picnic table, as they 'roasted' him. I sat under the gazebo with the Moms and Grandmas as the ladies arrived to say hello. Creative Kosher Catering served tapas and virgin cocktails. This was a great idea, as those that arrived late were not late for the ceremony. Then the men danced Ross over to me, standing in front of him so he couldn't see me until the last second. The look on his face was priceless. Then he proceeded with the traditional veiling of the bride before we walked down the aisle.
The wedding proceeded as a traditional Jewish wedding does. I liked that we were set up outside the gazebo. The bridal party walked into the gazebo and then down the staircase away from the gazebo, to the chuppah (canopy) out in the park. It was a nice way to do it, as during the wedding ceremony we were looking out into the park (and my little cousins running through the field).
After the ceremony we were whisked off to the hotel to spend time away from everyone (phew!) and enjoy the food that we weren't able to eat before the ceremony (as it is a tradition to fast on the Jewish wedding day). Our family and friends had a few hours to explore Ottawa, or mingle in the hospitality room. While the bridal party and immediate family took pictures. Our pictures took place on Parliament hill and in Rockcliffe, and turned out very well. I enjoyed that nothing was too posed. We didn't spend much time 'tilting our heads' or anything like that.
The reception started with a cocktail hour which we had intended to participate in, but were too busy taking pictures so we missed out. We had a seated, 4 course dinner with a couple of speeches intermixed. Then we began the party with our first dance 'The Best is Yet to Come'followed by the hora, and lots of fun dancing and music. We served a chocolate buffet - no cake! And followed everything with a midnight buffet of mac & cheese and pizza. We didn't throw a bouquet or garter (I'm not having Ross stick his head up my dress in front of 130 of our closest family and friends!!). And at the end of the night, we walked back to the hotel.
And...no complaints... it was perfect!
Ralph Hopper and his band were fantastic! They worked beforehand to learn songs we requested, and were a pleasure to work with before the wedding. The music was very 'old school' which was exactly what we wanted. And for the most part it got everyone dancing.
The food from David Smith at Creative Kosher Catering was amazing, and they went above and beyond what we expected in terms of how they presented and decorated the food and tables. They also were the supplier of the chairs and tables for the wedding ceremony.
I highly reccomend More Flowers. Their price was significantly lower than all the other quotes we received and the quality was far superior. We ordered orchid and cala lilly bouquets for the bridal party, and they turned out exactly how I wanted them - even without showing Heather a picture. The flowers for the men, and the reception were perfect as well, and they were very receptive to our budget.
Loved the photos that Andrew did for us. While on the pricey side, it was worth it, as our pictures came out better than I could have imagined. He was very easy to work with and did a great job of capturing our day. I was also very happy that I barely noticed him for most of the day. During the ceremony I didn't ever notice where he was (yet there are plenty of great close-ups). The day didn't feel 'staged'. Many wedding photographers think that the most important part of the wedding is the pictures, and will therefore act as if they are putting on a show. Asking you to pose or even stop while you're walking down the aisle for a picture. Andrew didn't do that, and it was much appreciated. Yet everything we wanted was captured. My only suggestion is to make sure you have someone not in your family photos appointed to making sure you get all the shots you want. We didn't and we a) missed a few and b) had things out of place (flowers etc.) in a few.
Downtown in the byward market, Salon Niccio was able to open early for us, provided champagne and goodies and did a great job on our hair and makeup for a fair price. Our original vendor was cancelled a few weeks before due to a pricing dispute, and so we were quite stuck. But this worked out great.
Loved Rockcliffe. It was absolutley gorgeous. We had the ceremony out in front of the gazebo - and had cocktails and appetizers inside the gazebo beforehand. The gazebo was also the back-up in case of rain. The price was right, and very few extra decorations were needed. We did order chairs though.
The service and food at the Empire Grill was phenomenal. Brenda, our event coordinator from Empire was more helpful in responding to our crazy requests than I could ever have imagined. The food was delicious and we were able to have it meet our strict dietary needs. The decor of the restaurant allowed us to save significantly on other types of decor. And everyone seemed to love it! We used the whole venue minus the patio, which worked well. We had dinner in one space and dancing in another - which allowed those that didn't want to dance to sit and mingle. Our menu was 3 types of fish and a pasta course (added at the last minute without any problem) and was great. We also had the chocolate buffet - which was to die for!
I was mostly happy with the Westin. The rooms are nice, the location was great, and the group rate we received for over 100 out of town guests was good. The service was not top of the line, and I had some difficulties in the beginning with booking. However in the end, all of our reservations were fine, the rooms were great - and the guests really liked it.
We had our 'rehersal' dinner at the Met. Like Empire, the help in coordination beforehand was great. The food was delicious. The venu suited our needs perfectly. Drinks are pricey but very high quality. Service was great as well.
Click on each tool to see a sample.