Wow, what a weekend is all I can say! Thank you to everyone for your kind messages and best wishes. I couldn’t have asked for anything to go more perfectly than it did. The weather was beautiful — the last brilliant weekend before fall. It was an unbelievable amount of work, but it was entirely worth it. This is a small sample of the millions of pictures that were taken that weekend. We had several professional photographers as guests, plus a few directors, so we knew there would be a lot of pictures.
The intimate and low-key tone of the wedding was actually set several months ago with the invitation that was sent out to only 24 of our closest friends and family. Our dear friend Jenny Francis of Backyard Design created the invite incorporating a small sketch that Arriz made of the bunkie nestled in the trees by the water. She layered a soft green wash over the sketch that brought it to life. I loved its message of new life and regeneration.
The end result was lovely but it was absolutely back-breaking work. Everything was rented, from the chairs to the table to the dishes and the linens. There must have been a million candles! Not to mention all the many bottles of wine and food that had to be carried over. We literally did not stop working until the last minute and all of us were operating on sheer adrenaline. I don't know what I would have done without my tireless wedding planner, Tara O'Grady, who achieved the phenomenal task of pulling off such a gorgeous, intimate affair in the woods with only one boat (and many trips!) to transport everything across.
Tara, who arrived in a cube van filled to the rim, assembled a dream team who each went above and beyond the call of duty so we were fortunate to have an amazing group of people that were up for some hard labour. One of those people was our wedding photographer, Andreas Avdoulos, who also acted as a boat loader, music assistant, lighting master, fire stoker and all around helper. And he took most of the gorgeous photos that you see here.
The ceremony took place in the clearing below the cottage, close to the water, exactly where our decrepit old log cabin used to be. I knew that it wasn’t crazy taking it down so close to the wedding, since this is the flattest part of the property — ideal for a gathering. I used a lot of the rocks from the cabin foundation to build a small rock wall along the cliff at the water's edge and to build a fire pit so we could have a campfire down there later in the night. I walked down the long path through the woods from the cottage to the clearing (about a 4 min walk), meeting my dad by the bunkie along the way. Our guests sat on Philippe Starck ghost chairs and after the ceremony Tara's team moved them up to the cottage to surround the dinner table. Arriz set up a stereo system hidden in the trees that played the most beautiful music, including Nick Cave's "Into My Arms," which made me cry — not so great for mascara!
Here's a glimpse of Arriz and I getting ready. Little did I know that my crazy curly hair (I thought curls suited the wild woodland setting better than straight!) would be partly responsible for overloading the power supply. A whole day of vacuums, music, blow dryers, curling irons, extra grills and burners was just too much for the system. Really, we should have plugged all of the appliances directly into the generator from the get go. Instead, we had to re-route the extra burners and the music to the back up generator partway through dinner because we lost all our power. I have to give Tara kudos for this, she kicked into high gear and I think our guests hardly even noticed that anything went awry.
The door to our bedroom had not been installed yet so I hung a few lengths of burlap over the track for privacy while I changed — yet another great use for burlap beyond the fabulous ideas in our November 2009 decorating feature. There was nowhere else high enough to hang my wedding dress so that’s why it is hanging here. It is by Carolina Herrera from White on Hazelton Lanes in Toronto. Like the curls, I think the dress suited the natural venue perfectly. When I described it to my friends I said "I'm going for a sort of woodland nymph look."
Most of our guests stayed at the neighbouring Domain of Killien, a lovely relais du silence I have talked about in an earlier post. Here are some of my girlfriends arriving on one of the Domain’s boats.
The ceremony began at 5:00 pm, just before the sun began to set and that beautiful dappled light appears. My old high-school friend, Rosie of Quince created my beautiful orchid bouquet to suit my dress as well as the boutonnieres for my father and Arriz.
Here we are saying our vows.
For the dinner, everything revolved around the 24-foot table that we set up right down the middle of the cottage living and dining room. Arriz and I wanted the night to be about sharing a harvest meal and plenty of wine with our best friends — rustic but sophisticated. Here is a glimpse of the table on the morning of the wedding, not quite entirely set up. With such a big table, it was perfect that we didn't have any furniture beyond the daybed yet. I love that the table lined up with the window with the view to the rock face that was illuminated at night.
Tara and I chose to keep the wedding decor very simple to reflect our experience of the cottage and the land. The rented tables (those suckers are heavy!) were covered in a burlap-like linen tablecloth. This was the backdrop for a long centerpiece of votive candles and small arrangements of white flowers and simple greenery placed amongst the sweeping curves of a large collection of fallen deer antlers. I kept the flowers to a minimum since there aren't any flowers in the area naturally. Large bouquets would have been completely out of place, plus these small arrangements didn't get in the way of the dinner and conversation.
Here is Tara putting the final touches on the table.
And here it is in action.
For the place settings, we combined the placecards and menu on one sheet, which was a good way to avoid too many cards littering the table. The illustration at the top of each card is the same one Arriz sketched for the invitations.
We used the 25-hour-long candles from Ikea so we wouldn’t have to continually refill them. I prefer unscented candles on a dinner table so the fragrance doesn’t interfere with the food.
Our chef, Rod Bowers, also known as the owner/chef of Toronto's Rosebud and Citizen restaurants, did an amazing job and was phenomenal on so many levels — more than a fantastic chef and great guy to have around. Arriz and Rod hit it off right away, bonding over their mutual passion for great food and good music. He made sure I ate during the day and kept me smiling when I started to get nervous. He fit in so well with all our friends and family — important when there are only 24 people and the kitchen is right by the table! Plus he cooked by candlelight so we could maintain the soft ambience and he didn't flinch when the power went out.
With Rod’s help we planned an organic harvest dinner using as many locally sourced ingredients as possible. He came up with the idea to give little pots of hot mustard that he made as our wedding favour.
Here is the menu Rod created. He catered the whole weekend and given the limitations of the situation (water access, up a cliff, small kitchen without an oven) he accomplished nothing short of a miracle. Every dish was incredible!
These are just some of the hors d’oeuvres served after the ceremony, before dinner. Tara discovered that an ex-concierge from Toronto’s King Edward Hotel now lives and runs a catering company, Dear Carolyn, in Haliburton and they were phenomenally helpful in the preparation, serving and clean up. They even came the day before the wedding and helped me clean the cottage, which was still covered in construction dust.
It gets pretty chilly at night so I bought a whole bunch of these white Felicia throws from Ikea and put them in a basket by the door to the deck for guests to use when they went outside.
There are many pictures of the party that went well into the night and I think it’s safe to say everyone had a great time! I remember stepping onto the deck and looking over the railing to see this magical site: The path leading from the cottage down to the campfire and the dock lined with hundreds of candles nestled in sand in tall clear glass cylindrical vases. There were twinkling lights everywhere that cast a warm, flickering glow over the trees and water. This picture doesn’t quite capture it, but it was absolutely breathtaking — almost otherworldly.
The next day everyone came back to the cottage for a brunch on the beach. A few people canoed over, which I loved! Arriz’s mom orchestrated our own modern Mehndi ceremony where she gave me and all the women at the wedding a henna design on our hands. It’s an old Indian wedding tradition and they say the darker the Mehndi goes, the stronger the marriage and more love a groom has for his new bride. I have to say it really helped me relax. It takes about 3 hours to dry so I was forced not to run around cleaning up or anything, which is why it was impossible to do it before the wedding!
Here are some of us having the Mehndi done by the bunkie.
And here are the famous caesars our friend George Whiteside made. They were definitely in high demand!
George is a brilliant photographer and friend of both Arriz and me and he took this gorgeous portrait of us as our wedding gift.
I'd like to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who was there and shared this incredible moment with Arriz and I — and also to thank the incredible group of people, now friends, that helped to make it happen. It all seems like a beautiful dream now. And really the wedding was a perfect ending to our building experience. It was like all that work was for this one event.
This is not the last you will hear about or see of the cottage. Stay tuned to the magazine: we will be photographing it once it is completely finished, furnished and decorated and running it in our 2011 cottage issue.
I hope you've enjoyed sharing this journey with me as much as I have. And thanks again for all of your well wishes.