There is no shortage of wedding articles out there – but this is not another average one to tell you what the newest colour schemes are, how to do DIY lanterns, or even on how to do a wedding on a specific budget. BEFORE you stop reading though because this now sounds pointless, let me explain you what I will tell you…. A way to have a wedding that is completely free of the “wedding” agencies and services – the absence of those that deem them the “experts” when it comes to weddings. Why? Because getting rid of these weddings caterers, wedding dress shops, and wedding venues brings much more than you would ever expect to your special day. Because really, in the end you are the “expert” of your own wedding. We planned our whole wedding without using or involving any of these. And the result, was nothing short of spectacular.
Probably the first question a girl is asked when people find out she is getting married. “Have you found a dress????!” Honestly, at first I was thinking of going out to a little beach shack and picking up a cute summer dress and calling it quits. However, during our trip to Madagascar we had a different idea come up.
We stayed with an amazing Airbnb host on our trip to Madagascar for RTP. A fellow Canadian took us in under his roof in the capital for quite a few nights. Not only did we get to know him, but we also got the chance to get to know his Malagasy girlfriend. Working for a magazine and being an inspiring designer, she excitedly showed us recent custom creations she had made for friends and family. BING! Light bulb moment. As you can guess, I asked Michella if she would consider designing my wedding dress for me. I would love something that has an African feel to it, custom made, and not to mention by the hands of someone I had met and grew to be close friends with. She not only accepted but was thrilled to tears.
Pros to a custom-made dress?
- Get to design your dress to the T (sketches to the right). Fun, as it is a bit of a mystery what the dress will actual look like in the end.
- But what was more important to me was this was a chance for me to support someone in her aspiring career. I don’t think Vera Wong needs anymore support. Michela had never made a wedding dress before or anything close but she was excited for this to be her first.
- Although she was terrified because she didn’t want to disappoint, I reassured her that in the end it is just a dress and I fully trusted her. She poured a lot of thought and time into the dress. The result? A beyond beautiful dress that exceeded my expectations beyond my wildest imagination and has the best story behind it. (And now, she has a wicked brand she is continually growing -> check her work out at My Mitoo)
RECAP: Look for a local designer or even a student. Support someone that is looking to grow and learn. For some trusting someone that doesn’t have a wedding catalog with making their dress is just too scary. But if you are willing to take the little “risk”, it pays off.
(side note: One of the highlights of this was receiving the dress in London, Ontario all the way from Antanarivo, Madagascar 8 months after we had left…all delivered right into my hands in a shoe-box! I was shocked it fit too ;P)
Toughy. Especially if you have any sort of dietary “restriction”. Being vegan/vegetarians and living in Chile is hard. Being vegan/vegetarians that are about to get married in Chile is even more difficult. Approach a cater and they will offer you menu choices A, B, or C. But what if I want A except without X in it and Y from C’s menu? “HA.”
Ok….Well how about just menu A except without X? “NOPE.” There’s no adjusting. I realize this might be different in other countries but those were our findings. Even still, there isn’t much out of the box thinking in the typical wedding caterers menus.
Jonathan and I went to a cooking class teaching you how to cook everything Chilean; from empanadas, to pastel de choclo, to pisco sours, we learnt a ton from Carolina, our head chef. Her passion for sharing her country’s cuisine gleamed out of her. Better yet, she was extremely accommodating. One person in our group was gluten-free while another a gluten-addict. Some loved shellfish and other’s thought they were satan’s pets. Vegan, paleo, raw, gluten-free, sugar-free,….she had an adjustment ready for everyone and no one was viewed as a nuisance because of their restrictions. Obviously we approached Carolina a few weeks later and asked if she would want to cater our wedding. She was flaberghasted and could hardly contain herself. Although she never had lead a wedding catering group, she was up for the new experience and thanked us for our trust in her.
These rockstar made a healthy, tasty menu that showcased flavours and ingredients to Chile for all of our Canadian guests. For our Chilean guests, she somehow nailed the best wedding cake ever. A cake made from good ol’ Canadian crepes and maple syrup (I’m salivating even just writing about it). This woman had never even tasted pure maple syrup before and she figured out how to bake an entire dessert revolved around the flavor.
Pros to local caterers?
- Got to design our whole menu from scratch.
- Had the creative minds of people that have never prepared for an event like this before. They brought wicked ideas to the table plus made any and every change we asked for.
- They not only cooked but they helped with decorations. One of the cooks even brought wood serving pallets she cut from fallen trees on her farm. PLUS, her sister made and painted clay serving dishes with her own two hands specially for our wedding.
- The entire catering team were all our friends. Why have a bunch of strangers walking around during your whole wedding when you can have friends that can eat with you and help serve!
RECAP: List off your favourite restaurants, cafés, cooking classes, farmer’s market vendors, etc. Who sticks out to you the most? Ask them! Even if they’ve never catered a wedding before…who cares! It turns into a completely new experience for you and them AND all of your guests who aren’t stuck eating the same old steamed veggies and fish/steak dinner they had at a wedding the month before…and the wedding before that…and the wedding before….etc
Coming clean. Our location in the end was no where close to being called a “venue”. Instead, a badass, absolutely perfect, unique, hidden, best-view-ever, massive, slept us and most of your guests….Airbnb house. Yup, we booked our wedding “reception location” on Airbnb.com. And it was fantastic.
By choosing a unique location – you do limit yourself. The further you get away from the big city hubs well the less options you have whether that be for flavours of M&Ms or wedding venues. With us choosing Zapallar, Chile we had a grand total selection of ZERO wedding venues. But even if we were to have chosen a bigger city with 100 wedding venues, we wouldn’t of chosen any. With these usually comes restrictions: who can cater, when you are allowed to set-up, when you get the boot, what music you can play (hell no to Eminem), etc.
So like everything else, we customized. We found a beautiful spot on Airbnb and added all the pieces of the puzzle together here. Sure it was a bit of extra effort to decorate and set-up ourselves but we had a secluded area where there was not site of a single stranger (whether that be passing by our “hall” or a random server in the room). Best yet? We knew no one else had ever had a wedding there before! It made it that much more special. So whether you go the route we did, use your own backyard, or haul everyone to the summit of a mountain – remember that your reception doesn’t have to be in a place where other’s have had theirs before.
Disclaimer: If you go this route, of course check with your host before-hand! We met up with the owners and explained all of our plans and they were thrilled to have their place be the setting for such a special day 🙂
Pros to non-traditional wedding venue?
- If you customize everything else, why wouldn’t you customize the location?
- You (and your guests) can have a completely new unique experience – no repeats of hotel halls
- You run the show: put decorations where you want, have the party go till when you want (or your brother wants in my case), be able to eat/sleep/shower/get ready all in one convenient place
RECAP: As you’ve probably noticed the underlying message of this post by now – think outside the box! Like the caterers, list of your favorite spots and if it’ll fit the number of people you’re having to your wedding, make the baby happen! Even if takes a little extra planning and labour, it is completely worth it in the end having a wicked spot for the celebrations.
Never thought I would be writing a wedding post to be honest. Because although I was excited about “The Day”, I was most excited to just have a big party with friends and family and of course marry Jonathan (no matter how that looked). All this is personal advice and would obviously change if you were having 200+ people attending versus 30. So to each, her own. I get that some girls have been dreaming of their wedding day since the moment they got out of that high-chair – and there’s nothing wrong with that. No matter what way you choose to go though, see if you can incorporate even ONE of these into yours….
- Where and when you can – support locals!
- If you’re not completely happy with an option – customize. If it’s not out there, find a way to make it.
- Don’t think that “wedding” services/products are the only option – anything can be “wedding-ized”.
- Most importantly; do everything the way YOU want! Don’t worry about what your mom or future mother-in-law are going to think. This is a day where you get to be 110% greedy. A day all about you and your spouse – so embrace that!