Monday, June 23, 2014

Wedding reception decor

(This is the ninth post in my wedding series.)

With help from my parents, we conceptualized and prepared all the wedding decor ourselves.  We called in favours from family and friends to help with set-up and tear-down on the day of the wedding; without their help, this wouldn't have been possible. Whenever we could, we tried to cut costs and reduce our environmental footprint by repurposing items we already owned, or buying things second-hand at thrift stores. The few items we did buy new - like our envelope box - can be used after the wedding. I'll never forget the feeling of walking into the room and seeing how beautiful it looked!


We paired soft grey table linens with white chair covers and classic white dinnerware. Swaths of tulle were draped from the ceiling.

A menu at each place setting.

I made table numbers from a set of vintage classical French books my parents owned. I used wood shapes from a craft store and numbers printed onto cardstock, cut out and spray painted gold.

On the back of the books, we affixed baby photos printed in black and white.

{Some of my photos}

We wrapped stacks of books in the same pink suede ribbon used on the seating chart.

The head table was angled for a more intimate feel. A small table in the centre meant Brad and I could sit comfortably without a table leg between us.

We reused the pew bows throughout the room. 

Undertable lighting at the head table and entrance table created a soft glow as the sun went down. 

Instead of a guestbook, guests signed gold-edged cards and placed them in a set of drawers. 

'Welcome! On this table you will find/our wedding cards for you to sign/Just a line, a word, a phrase/to capture the feeling of this, our happiest of days/Placed within the chest of drawers/these sentiments will be stored/Our gratitude we cannot measure/for this collection we'll forever treasure.'

We used vintage-style suitcases to store flip flops for aching feet.

Baskets of toiletries were placed in each of the washrooms.

We used a storage box for envelopes by sealing the lid and cutting a small slit in the lid. We didn't get a photo of it during the wedding; this photo is from a pre-wedding mock set-up. I spray-painted the vase on the left gold to match the decor.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Wedding seating chart

(This is the eighth post in my wedding series.)

Seating charts are notoriously tricky, so I thought ours deserving of its own post. On the one hand, they're a great way to inject some personality into a wedding, and anything done in multiples is bound to look riveting. On the other hand, they require quite a bit of forethought and they can't be completed before the final RSVPs have been received. Seating charts designed around individual cards or other items picked up by guests look great in photos, but quickly become messy and bare. We decided to go with a DIY board-based seating chart, using this beautiful photo for inspiration.


 We used a 4' x 3' piece of plywood covered in a lace white fabric donated by a family friend, but foam board would also work well. 

The cards were printed on a very light grey shimmer card stock. We'd used an ivory version in our invitations and the programmes. 

The felt roses were from Dollarama (9/$1), a perfect match for suede ribbon purchased with a Groupon from a crafting supply store. The sheer pink ribbon with gilt edging and the grey ribbon were miscellaneous scraps left over from other wedding projects. 

The font may be too small to read, but the middle card says 'Head Table' and under it, 'The Bride' and 'The Groom'. The first names of our bridesmaids and groomsmen are printed on an angle and arranged in order of seating. 

We created the illusion of layered card stock by adding a border directly in Word. The ribbon was threaded through a slit cut with an Exacto knife, and secured in the back. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Wedding hair, makeup, nails

(This is the seventh post in my wedding series.)

Our hairstylists and makeup artists did a stunning job, helping the wedding party, my mom, my aunt and me look like beautifully glammed-up versions of ourselves. Some of the other girls' hair and makeup can be seen in this earlier post



I entrusted my highlights and updo to my usual hairdresser, Sarah of Salon Bliss. (She also gave me a gorgeous French twist for our engagement photos.) I have an active lifestyle and I usually wear my hair in some sort of a messy bun in my everyday life. For the wedding, I wanted a more sophisticated version of that. Sarah created a soft chignon that maintained the natural wave in my hair. She left a couple of pieces untucked around my face for a more natural look. After I removed my veil, I added a pair of comb clips (from Claire's).

The windy day was a little rough on our hair (especially the bridesmaids, who were wearing it down), but it still looked great even after a long night of dancing!


We booked Ottawa Makeup Artists on the recommendation of the owner's sister, who's now a distant relative through marriage. I wanted to play up my eyes and keep my cheeks and lips soft with a slight peachy tone. Elissa (the owner) did a dream job; I actually drew a gasp when I first looked in the mirror. I had asked Elissa to use some of my own products, which I've listed here. The others I'm not sure of.

{Brad's favourite photo of me from our wedding.}

Foundation - Armani luminous silk foundation in 5.5 (airbrush application)
Blush - Nars in Orgasm and Cover Girl in Peaches
Eyeliner - MAC powerpoint in Tealo
Eyebrow pencil - Annabelle in Taupe
Lipstick - MAC cremesheen in Shanghai Spice
Lip gloss - MAC lipglass in Please Me

 I did my own manicure using a Kiss Custom Fit kit ordered through Amazon, as Shoppers no longer seems to stock it. 

I got a pedicure from La Crystal nails and wore Essie's Ballet Slippers (my own polish). I wanted something a little more powdery white but they didn't have the colour I had in mind available. I doubt anyone even noticed my toes!


Vendor review: Salon Bliss, Ottawa
Salon Bliss is the small salon with a giant heart. The owner and head stylist, Sarah, is very talented, accommodating, and cares deeply for her clients, her staff and her work. She has treated my mom, Brad and me - all regular clients - wonderfully over the years. Going to an appointment at Salon Bliss feels like stepping into a warm hug from an old friend. The business is expanding and with that comes occasional growing pains (e.g. the odd unreturned voicemail). However, I'm confident these issues will be smoothed out over time, and it's been worth it for the quality of the work they do. Sarah and Sandi, our wedding day stylists, showed up at 6:45 am for our 7:00 am appointment looking cheerful and ready to go. They were unfazed by the 12 women flying around the house, working efficiently and chatting pleasantly as we went along. I think that Sarah could even offer differential pricing, charging more for her services as the salon's most experienced stylist. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Salon Bliss!

Vendor review: Ottawa Makeup Artists, Ottawa
Elissa and Amy were our two makeup artists for the wedding and we were really pleased with their work and their professionalism. They accommodated our need for an early start, and like Salon Bliss, they arrived on time and with everything they needed to set up. Their pricing was at the mid-to-high range but they didn't charge for travel time to our appointment on the outskirts of the city. Also, when I had told Elissa that a makeup trial wasn't in my budget, she very kindly arranged to do it free of charge at a bridal show where she was exhibiting.There were a couple of things I hadn't loved at the trial (100% a communication issue on my end). As I explained myself, Elissa listened attentively, asked questions, and walked me through how we could make changes. She blew me away with the results. I used some MAC blotting papers throughout the day but my makeup stayed put very well. Amy's work was equally beautiful. I would definitely recommend Ottawa Makeup Artists! 

Vendor review: La Crystal nails, Ottawa
I was totally satisfied with my pedicure from La Crystal nails, a nail bar recommended by Salon Bliss. The colour lasted a solid two weeks after the wedding, with only the tiniest chip a week in (probably due to my return to the gym). I wouldn't say I got the warm and fuzzies walking in. The space felt a little cramped and I was a first-timer surrounded by what were clearly regular clients. However, they were efficient, professional and used good sanitation procedures. Their pricing is mid-point, not as cheap as some of the sketchier-looking places but much more reasonable than day spa prices. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Bridal jewellery and accessories

(This is the sixth post in my wedding series.)

I wanted my bridal jewellery to match the sophisticated and slightly vintage feel of my gown. Since the neckline of my dress was already elaborate, I decided on drop earrings to draw the eyes up, and a bracelet.



My parents bought the earrings during a trip to Switzerland and gave them to me as a Christmas gift. I stupidly threw out the box so I don't remember the brand, but if my parents still remember where they're from, I'll update the post. 

I'd read somewhere that if you wear your hair up, the earrings should be pretty from all angles. My parents told me they'd searched really hard to fit a pair that fit the bill (awwww). These have an open back so the light can shine through through the centre crystal, and a row of small crystals on the side. I took a couple of extra photos to show the exquisite workmanship. 


The bracelet was from BHLDN, Anthropologie's bridal sister store (Perle style, available here). They don't ship to Canada, so I had it sent to a friend in Cleveland, one of the many, many small acts of kindness shown by friends and family during the wedding planning. The bracelet was an absolutely perfect match for the pearl and crystals sewn onto the gown's bodice. 

Wedding bands

We bought our wedding bands at the same store where Brad got my engagement rings, Goldstream Jewellers in Pembroke, Ontario. I wear mixed metals in my day-to-day life, so I wanted a wedding band that incorporated both white and yellow gold and some diamonds. It was the owner who suggested the criss cross style, which I immediately fell in love with.

Brad's band was also mixed metal, brushed white gold with a strip of high gloss yellow gold in the middle. His band narrows towards the outside edges, making for a more classic style and a comfortable fit. 


I didn't want the expense of new shoes for the wedding, so I wore a pair of Nine West Outlet rose gold sandals I already owned. An initial attempt to bedazzle them with pearl stick-ons looked juvenile, so I bought a jewelled headband from Aldo Accessories (Weast style, seen here), cut it to size and glued it along the toe strap. 

My Mom bought me sparkly white toms for dancing. 

{Photo credit:}


My clutch was also something I already owned, but honestly I barely used it on our wedding day.

Vendor review: Goldstream Jewellers, Pembroke
We were thrilled with our experience at Goldstream. Brad's father knows the owner so we knew her advice would be trustworthy. This store represents everything that's wonderful about small towns: genuine and friendly service, unpretentious surroundings, and a true commitment to the product. The owner, Carrie, and I had a long discussion about our mutual passion for ethically-sourced diamonds. Even Canadian-mined diamonds are often sent overseas for cutting and polishing and Carrie only works with partners who can trace the product throughout the supply chain. She didn't rush us, gave us thoughtful feedback and was a pleasure to work with. Unlike the large jewellers, they are closed on Sundays, but their pricing is very fair. I highly, highly recommend them!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

My wedding gown

(This is the fifth post in my wedding series.)

My wedding gown was at once everything and nothing I'd imagined. I felt beautiful, classy, sexy, and most importantly, me. 


One of the most helpful things I did when shopping for a wedding gown was arriving with a list of general likes and dislikes, rather than specific photos. After all, the odds of a bridal salon carrying the exact style you saw in a magazine are slim. For example, I knew I liked lace and sweetheart necklines, just as I didn't like sheer corsets or accent colours. However, I kept an open mind, which is how I ended up with a strapless dress. 

I made a rule to only try on gowns under the price limit we'd set. Maybe that meant I missed out on something spectacular, but I knew I'd feel worse if I blew my budget. My dress was about the 15th I tried on, and right away, I felt there was a special 'je ne sais quoi' about it. I tried on another 15 or so, including some Vera Wangs and Oscars at a pop-up sale, to be sure. However, I came back to this one and bought it off the rack.


My gown was the Paloma Blanca 4154, an A-line style in dupioni silk with a short train.

 The bodice was sweetheart lace with floral, crystal and pearl appliqué, a style which was repeated around the hem. 

The back came down slightly and had a row of decorative buttons. 

Rutching around the natural waist swept down under the bust and gathered in the centre with more lace and appliqué. 

I loved the vanilla colour (best seen in the photo taken from the back above), which warmed my skin tone. The silk fabric gave the gown a beautiful sheen and nice movement. 

I was lucky that I didn't have to get the length altered, but a lot of alterations were needed around the bust and waist. My tailor was amazing. She suggested small touches, like adding button loops so the buttons lay flat, giving it a more polished, designer look. 

The bow was a custom addition. My parents had bought the fabric on a trip to New York in a store recommended by a bridal magazine. It was sold as imported French silk and there's no question it was a high-quality fabric. However, my tailor takes nothing for granted and test-ironed a small piece. It shrivelled right up, so it was definitely NOT silk. We would have ironed it the day before the wedding and ruined it! Instead she hung it for a couple of months and let the creases fall out naturally. Wow.

I bought my veil second-hand on Kijiji. It was originally three-tiered with satin edging and crystal appliqués dotted throughout. I had the tailor cut away one of the tiers to reduce the bulk.


There are more posts to come on everything from hair and jewellery to food and decor so check back soon! 

Vendor review: Baroness Bridal Boutique, Ottawa
I have good things to say about Baroness Bridal's dress selection, since I found my gown there. However, I'd rate the customer service as mediocre. The owner came across as snobby and slightly condescending. I had to reject her push for a sale before I was ready to commit ('If this is the gown, you should stop looking.' 'I can't guarantee it'll still be here when you come back.'). The fitting rooms seem like an afterthought, and the boutique doesn't allow photos. I'd been hoping to send a photo to my sister to get her opinion (she lives out of town). I didn't think to ask about pre-wedding steaming at the time I bought my dress, but later my tailor told me most salons should provide this service free as part of the gown sale. When I called Baroness, they wanted to charge me $150. My tailor ended up doing it for $30. If you visit this salon, my advice would be to focus on the dresses and don't let yourself feel pressured into a sale. 

Vendor review: With Love Bridal Boutique, Ottawa
I thought this salon was deserving of a special mention even though I didn't find my gown there, because we had a really great experience. The staff are knowledgeable, very friendly and passionate about their work. The boutique is set up with small touches to make the clients feel comfortable and at home. They stock a lot of beautiful dresses, and some came a close second to the one I bought. The prices are reasonable, and they have a selection of second-hand dresses as well as new stock (I don't know of any other salons that sell on consignment in the Ottawa region). Even though they didn't make a sale, they gave me a referral to a tailor, which I appreciated.

Vendor review: Yen's Bridals, Ottawa
Yen's sells bridal gowns as well, but I used them for tailoring services based on the recommendation of a couple of friends. I have nothing but great things to say about Lisa and her business partner (husband?), whose name I don't recall. Lisa's insistence on getting each detail right (I think we had about six or seven fittings) shows how passionate she is about her work. She went above and beyond in a number of ways, and not just by saving my mislabeled bow fabric from shrinkage! For example, my buttons were dirty from the clamp used during the fitting at Baroness. She suggested several options for cleaning them, and when none of those worked, she replaced them and didn't charge me. These are just two of many such examples. Lisa is as personable and professional as she is skilled. I highly recommend Yen's Bridal!!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bridesmaids' attire

(This is the fourth post in my wedding series.)

Any fashion blogger knows that variety is the spice of life! When it came to our wedding, nowhere was that more true than with the bridesmaids' dresses. I was keen on the idea of mismatched dresses in similar hues, for a couple of reasons: 1) Bridesmaids' dresses are notoriously difficult to wear after a wedding; at least they could pick their own style and price point. 2) Practicality. The girls live in four different cities spread across two countries. 4) I'm not a 20-year-old bride and (speaking purely for myself) this feel a little more grown up. 5) Who doesn't like a parade of pretty fashions? 6) There were enough girls (seven) that I thought it would work. 7) Pinterest.


I set a couple of parameters (knee-length, no prints etc.), but otherwise gave the girls free rein. For the footwear, I asked them to collectively agree on general style of nude shoe. They chose closed, round toe pumps with a heel. My sister, who was the maid of honour, wore a sparkly open-toed sandals instead. I had originally suggested she wear a sequined blush dress, but we couldn't find any. 

I couldn't have been happier with the results. They'd each sent me photos of their dress, but we didn't get to see the full effect until everyone was dressed and standing together. It was even prettier than I imagined. They looked absolutely stunning!!

Tip: I had picked up paint chips at a hardware store for the colour inspiration, and passed them around to the girls. I hung on to a set and used it when meeting with everyone from the florist to the makeup artist. 

{First look photo with the bridesmaids}

{Olivia's dress: From 1861 in Montreal}

{Rachelle's dress: BCBG Emily in Antique Blush}

{Kayla's dress: BCBG Lydia in Antique Blush}

{Sara's dress: Watters 1524 in Buff}

{Madelaine's dress: J. Crew Heidi dress in Misty Rose}

{Josée's dress: BCBG Phoebe in Bare Pink}

For the jewellery, I gave them inexpensive pearl earrings (Ardène) and stacked bracelets (Aldo Accessories) to create some uniformity across the group.