The Wedding Planner: 2022 Edition

Page 1

Wedding P lanner the

WRITTEN BY: Kelly Waterhouse

SUPPLEMENT TO The Wellington Advertiser

Irvineside Farm:

A wedding destination Josie & John

PHOTOS BY: Chantel Dirksen Photography

You can plan a wedding and pack as much into that one-day event as possible, or, book a destination venue, gather your wedding party and closest family together, and enjoy a full weekend of celebrations in glamping comfort, in a private retreat atmosphere. Josie Lawton and John Griffiths opted for the latter when they booked Irvineside Farm in Centre Wellington to create a weekend of memories centred on their special day, in a place that let them, and their guests, relax and enjoy it all. “Not too many people know about this venue yet. I like to say it’s the hidden wedding gem in Elora,” Josie said. “It definitely is a more personal venue to create a personalized wedding, which we wanted.” Josie and John were married on Aug. 28, 2021, in an outdoor ceremony that welcomed 85 guests.

“We probably got married on the hottest day of the summer. It was a scorching hot day,” Josie recalls, noting she was grateful for the sunshine. They were raised in Elora but now call Sudbury home. Planning a wedding from a distance, under the shadow of the pandemic had its challenges, but finding Irvineside Farm online, they knew this venue matched their personal style and would be the ultimate location to gather safely with their family and friends. “We really wanted to have it there. We still call Elora home, so that was important to us,” Josie said. “And I know there’s other amazing options in the Elora area, but for us, we just thought it suited our style because it was more laid back and kind of rustic, which was perfect for us.” Irvineside Farm is a picturesque eight-acre rural property on the outskirts of Elora with a creek that

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meanders through it, a forest area and treelined country laneway, leading to a beautifully restored farmhouse built circa 1860. Weddings here are designed to be a truly personal experience,. “We see it as a ‘mini-destination’ wedding because your core group of 28 can stay on site for the weekend and you can still have up to 100 guests for the wedding and the reception,” said coowner Cathy Maggs. “From 3pm on the Friday until 11am on Sunday, the place is yours!” Cathy and her husband Kevin Maggs share the property with Kathy and Rob Maggs. It was originally intended to be an adult adventure camp, offering kayaking on the Grand River and cycling day-trips around Elora and Fergus. But soon the owners recognized the potential for their property to fill a niche for private weddings. And what’s more adventurous than a wedding?

“Basically we are trying to be a blank slate so couples can make the wedding exactly the way they want. We would prefer they use local vendors but it’s all up to them,” Cathy said. “Couples are free to choose their own caterers, bar services and decorations, allowing a customized experience that reflects their individual tastes and preferences.” If it’s adventure people seek, guided bike and kayak tours are an added option for wedding guests staying the weekend, with all gear included. “We didn’t end up taking the kayaking or biking trips, because we didn’t have time, but we liked that it was an option,” John said. Irvineside Farm includes on-site lodging for 28, including 12 glamping yurts, with options for twin or king beds featuring the hotel-quality comfort of Douglas mattresses. The yurts include wardrobes, lanterns, all linens and a private porch with a scenic


view of the countryside. “I glamped the first night. It was amazing,” John said. “The tents are huge inside; it was like staying in a little hotel room. The beds were really comfortable and nice. I had a great sleep.” Josie and John agree that the glamping option was a highlight for their guests. “It was awesome. Most of our bridal party are married to each other or dating so it worked out for them to take tents, and then my parents and their close group of friends rented the other half,” Josie said. “We came on the Friday and did a rehearsal that night, and then we did the setup for the event. So it was kind of like a whole weekend event which was really fun.” A four-place luxury washroom trailer with full amenities offers hot showers and all the comforts of home. “None of our guests had any problem getting ready. The washrooms were even nicer than the pictures we’d seen of them,” Josie said. She added their guests were raving about how comfortable the glamping beds were, the layout of the yurts across the property for privacy, plus the convenience of the furnishings, and of course, the great views. “They just loved it,” she said. “It was great.” The outdoor glamping experience of Irvineside Farm created an atmosphere of relaxed comfort for all, and gave people an opportunity to gather in a casual setting, which included lawn games and a bonfire. Except for the wedding itself, guests staying there were encouraged to wear sweatshirts and camping gear. “We thought it was amazing,” Josie said. “All of our guests thought it was so unique and intimate … We were all just having fun and it was a really good time.” Part of the relaxed atmosphere comes from the removal of time constraints that other wedding venues cannot offer because of multiple wedding schedules, whereas Josie and John could go with the flow on their day. “I think it’s great because you get the farm for the whole weekend too. So you’re able to not stress the night before because you’re already settled in there. You kind of know what to expect,” Josie said. “We weren’t as set in stone of how things had to be. So it was nice having our flexibility and being able to personalize it the way we wanted.” Their hosts made everything go smoothly, and Josie credits their adaptability with making it easy to plan a wedding from a distance. “Obviously being a frantic bride before the event, I’d have a few emails to Cathy and she was just so reassuring, had plans in place, and they were so easy going it wasn’t stressful at all,” she said. John agrees. “They were really helpful. They got the fire permits arranged for us and Kevin helped set up the tents for the party.” On the eve of her wedding, Josie stayed in the farmhouse. The next morning, her bridesmaids joined her to get ready together. Their hair was

done by Cheyenne at Eunoia Studio in Elora, and make-up by Alana Kelly, of Alana Marie Make-up. “We did all hair and make-up in the farmhouse so that worked out well for us,” she said. The farmhouse sleeps four comfortably, with three bedrooms, including a queen suite with a two-piece en suite, plus two single bedrooms, with a full washroom on the main floor. The kitchen has all the amenities you’d expect and wifi is included. “We did photos upstairs of me getting ready, and having my dress hanging on the wall,” Josie said, noting the old wood floors and character of the heritage home made for a beautiful backdrop. Capturing all the special moments was wedding photographer Chantel Dirksen, a former classmate, along with videographer Mason Hambly, of MH Wedding Films. “Chantal is amazing,” Josie said. “She was so helpful. Like, yes, she’s the photographer, but she’s also the master of all

It was pretty much to the point, and then cheers, and then we’re like, “let’s party!” But it was good. Exactly what we wanted.” Despite the limitations imposed by the pandemic, John and Josie look back at their wedding day with a sense of gratitude. “It was way better than we ever could have imagined. Especially with COVID and not seeing anyone for so long. It was just so nice to be outside with everyone,” Josie said. “It was nice not talking about COVID too and just spending all that time with our close family and friends.” Unfortunately, it meant some family members could not attend, like the couple’s grandmothers, due to health reasons. “We couldn’t invite a lot of friends that we would have liked to, if it wasn’t for COVID. But we already knew that it was going to be a short list, so we didn’t have to make too many cuts,” Josie said, noting their friends were very understanding given

trades. She’s just so helpful and nice to deal with.” Looking at the day from a different angle, Hambly took drone footage of the wedding, giving the couple an impressive perspective of their special day. “Mason was so professional and fun. He is a true talent and captured our wedding perfectly,” Josie said. The ceremony was made all the more special with the inclusion of the couple’s son, James, then 16-months old, who was escorted up the aisle by his aunts, Josie’s two sisters who were in the wedding party. “James stood up at the altar with me, but it was so hot and he was fussy in the heat, so eventually, grandpa took him, but he did really good and we were happy he was part of the day,” John said. The couple’s ceremony was performed by officiant Amber Schurr of Enduring Promises. “John and I are pretty quiet, so everyone said our vows were short and sweet,” Josie said. “We didn’t have any customized vows or anything like that.

the circumstances. For the wedding weekend, John adds, “We had a lot of precautions, but there was no real restrictions. But we did ask all of our guests to be vaccinated.” This gave the couple peace of mind, not only for their guests but also for James, who was going to be around a lot of people for the first time in a long time. “Cathy was really helpful. I know she’s a nurse and I’m a nurse as well, and so were some of the girls in my bridal party, so that was really important to me,” Josie said. “Having everyone vaccinated just made things a little less stressful. And with the cases being low in August, it was good.” The aim was to celebrate, and that’s what they did. Josie and John chose to have a full reception, with a buffet meal and dance, easily accommodated through the COVID-19 restrictions because of the venue’s outdoor spaces. “We have a renovated 1,400 sq.ft. horse barn and a 1,100 sq.ft. driving shed for reception fun,”

Cathy said, noting that there are also four pop-up tents to expand the space. “Some couples will opt for a sit down meal, while others may get their favourite food truck to make the day special. The choice is theirs and the space is for these couples to use.” Josie said the extra tents helped offer social distancing during the meals. “We set up three of the tents near the more rustic barn, and sat some of our guests there, and then we had the head table set up in the dry shed,” she explains. “It’s all just so open. It felt like even though it was kind of a divide, everyone was still sitting in the same area. Then we had the speeches in the middle and it worked out well.” “We danced in the barn and we had that open. We served the food in there too,” Josie said. One of the favourite fixtures of their wedding was the rental of a refurbished vintage trailer that was transformed into a bar. “This was the best thing we got for our wedding from a small business called Oak & Brass Design and Rentals,” Josie said. “It had vintage lights and two working fridges, so being out there, if you want to have the full bar experience this was perfect.” Josie said this functional backdrop was “the hit of the night,” with people posing for photos near it. It also inspired other pieces of wedding décor from the same vendor, including a lighted “LOVE” sign, and a wooden plaque with the couple’s name on it, for all the guests to sign. It’s one piece of advice this couple has for anyone looking to book a remote wedding location. “I’d say, you want to have a good bar service set up, so find a vendor like we did,” Josie said. “I think it made it go a little more smoothly than if we would have tried to make up the bar service ourselves.” Belwood Country Market catered the homestyle meal with a buffet service of barbecue pork and chicken and side dishes. The couple agreed that owners Julie and Mike were wonderful to work with. “Everyone was raving about the food. It was just like a really good homestyle barbecue meal, and we obviously had their butter tarts and donuts,” Josie said, noting that Belwood Country Market is renowned for them. She adds, “John’s a pretty big food critic and he was happy, so it was really good.” Kellie Barclay of Fancy That Cake created a mini cake for the event. “She did an amazing job with the cake,” Josie said of the two-tiered white cake with a hexagon pattern, and sugar flowers that complemented her bouquet. “Kellie was amazing to deal with, really easy, and the cake was exactly how I described what we wanted.” For the late night snack, pizza was delivered to the site. “We had Vito’s Pizza, our favourite pizza place in Elora,” Josie said. “Nick was great to work with and everyone loved our late-night option.” When it came to wedding flowers, Josie placed


her order and her trust in Richard Quartel of Mount Forest Greenhouses. “I’m a pretty laid back bride, so I told him to have fun with it and do what you want,” Josie said. “So he made these really different bouquets that had peach Dahlias and were not your traditional white and greens, so I was really impressed with my bouquets. Richard did an amazing job.” They also purchased hanging baskets there, to hang around the farm property. Table flowers were bought at Say It With Flowers, a local Mennonite farm. “I had that eclectic look with single stem flowers on the tables. That was really nice,” Josie said. Planning a wedding from a distance was made easier by trusted local businesses in Centre Wellington. “We got our suits for myself and the groomsmen from Brodericks and they are excellent quality,” John said. “Their customer service was excellent. AJ and Mark were both really helpful and easy to deal with.” Josie bought her dress in Sudbury, for convenience of fittings during the pandemic, but it was Lidia’s Brides in Fergus that saved the day after a wardrobe mishap that saw her cathedral length veil shredded by a well-meaning pet the Thursday before the wedding. “We were in the biggest panic ever. That veil matched my dress perfectly,” Josie recalls.

“But luckily, we called Lidia’s in Fergus and she opened the store up during her dinner. She sold me pretty much an identical veil that I had. She was amazing.” Another helpful service allowed the couple to provide a shuttle service to nearby towns and hotels, reducing the parking on the site. “We used Ayr Coach Line and they were amazing and really helpful,” Josie said. “They did as many trips as we needed to drop off points, one in Elora at the arena, and then one at the Best Western in Fergus.” The couple said local guests really enjoyed the service of being picked up and dropped off, most within walking distance of their homes. It was convenient, easy and got everyone home safe. From a wedding day to a wedding weekend, Josie and John feel their experience was exactly what they envisioned, because it was exactly as they planned; quality time with their wedding party and family, a celebration of their love, in a place that allowed them the flexibility in creating the perfect space for their wedding day. “It felt like we were all at this private little resort for the weekend,” Josie said. “It was above and beyond what we imagined it was going to be.” To learn more about Irvineside Farm visit or @irvinesidefarm on Instagram.





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Fancy That Cake: A slice of tradition PHOTOS BY: Ariana del Mundo You can have your cake and eat it too, adding a statement of personal taste to your wedding décor, as well as your dessert menu. With so many flavours, sizes and styles to choose from, Kellie Barclay, owner of Fancy That Cake in Fergus, has advice for couples deciding how to incorporate this time-honoured tradition into the flavour of their special day. “If you’re spending a lot of money on a beautiful venue and are planning on having a wedding cake, remember that the cake is a centre piece too, so factor a nice cake into your budget,” she said. As a cake artist, Barclay takes her craft seriously, working to create something unique for her clients, something they will be proud to display. “Don’t put the cake in some little corner in the back of the room. Display it. Make your table fabulous,” she said. “Have it displayed nicely and add some special touches around the cake table because it’s an important piece. If you’re spending that kind of money on a cake, put it somewhere where people are going to see it.” In terms of timing, Barclay encourages her clients to book her six to nine months ahead of the wedding date. For convenience and ease, all consultations are done online, beginning with her intake contact form via her website,, which includes a step-by-step guide to the process and her pricing options. “When I get the intake message, I send the couple a questionnaire,” she said. The questions are standard: the wedding date, venue location, (which determines the delivery charge), and how many guests the couple is expecting. “I want to know if cake is for dessert or if the

cake is for the late-night table,” she explained. “If cake is for dessert, they want cake for everybody. If cake is for later in the evening, 50-60% of your guest count is probably where your cake size should lie and you won’t have a ton left over… because not everybody eats cake at 11pm.” When it comes to the inspiration and collaboration, that’s when the fun begins. “Send me pictures of what you have in mind. If you have a Pinterest page of cake images, send me the link,” Barclay said, noting that a variety of ideas helps her get a sense of the theme and concept the couple wants. “Because people can say boho or country chic, or elegant, but I need a visual of what that means to the couple. Then I can take what they’re looking for and add my own creative spin on it.” She adds that some couples want a copy of a cake they’ve seen elsewhere, and while she’d prefer to put her unique signature on it rather than copy someone else’s work, in the end, it’s what the client wants that matters. “Because of all the sugar flower work I’ve gotten to do this year, the design work has just been a joy to do and deliver and see the sketch come to life,” Barclay said. It’s also helpful for her to know other key wedding vendors involved in the event, to help her coordinate the style or theme of the day into her design process. “If I’m going to do [sugar] flowers for you, I’d like to coordinate them with the rest of the flowers for the wedding, and your colors, that kind of thing.” Barclay will send her clients some pricing options around sizes of cakes, sugar flower configurations, icing options.

“I used to do fondant icing cakes, but now I’m passionate about buttercream icing cakes. The cost is not far off for either option,” she said, noting that is subject to change with the escalating cost of butter. Barclay also costs out a price for delivery and schedule. “I deliver my cakes fully assembled,” she said. “I don’t like to assemble on site because I want to have it fully assembled and set to go.” Barclay caps her availability around three to four wedding cakes per booking day, given her need to plan the logistics to deliver them to the venues across Wellington County and beyond, to locations such as Orangeville, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton, London and Cambridge. “I have two or three days in 2022 that are fully booked and I cannot take any more,” she explained. With the wedding cake design details set in place, the creative process begins, and Barclay brings the vision to virtual life. Using a digital sketch program, Barclay is able to play with concepts, presenting clients with images for their input, which is a process she reminds clients takes time to get it right. And that’s half the fun. Bringing the concept to reality is the joy. Once design is confirmed, a contract is signed with a deposit payment to secure the date and, the best part; arranging for the pick-up of a tasting sample box. In 2022, those tasting sample boxes will include five slices of cake options, (for a fee dependent on the original cake order), that will feature her specialty flavours, a menu card, and forks in an impressive Fancy That Cake box. Flavours include lemon with lemon curd, and her most popular –

raspberry swirl – but she is expanding her flavours to include orange and cream cake, Banoffee, (which is banana cake with a layer of caramel and vanilla icing), lime and coconut, (coconut cake with lime curd and lime butter cream icing), and a spice cake that is popular for fall weddings. While wedding cakes are the tradition, some couples choose cupcakes as an alternative dessert option, though Barclay says that trend is fading out. She also offers custom-cookie designs, a popular wedding favour. “A lot of venues have instituted a cake cuttingplating fee for wedding cakes, so that can also be an additional cost for a couple,” Barclay said, advising clients to inquire if their venue charges extra fees. Also, if a couple hires a wedding coordinator, they should clarify if that person will perform this role. “Cupcakes don’t require plating because it’s grab-and-go. These are things couples should consider.” Barclay has whipped up a successful business in cake design, translating her client’s vision into her passion for creating the wedding cake of their dreams. With more than a decade as a solo entrepreneur, she has invested in her craft and business, continuously pursuing education in her art, which she enjoys as much as the work itself. “I’m not a trained pastry chef,” she said, noting her training comes from hands-on cake decorating courses with the likes of Clara Johnson, in Cambridge, and “Icing Inspirations - School and Cake Supply Shoppe” and the “Too Nice to Slice” bakery in New Hamburg, where she has worked and taken countless courses with celebrities from the Food Network’s Cake Challenge stars. “These people are celebrities to me and I’m


grateful to have learned from some really cool people,” she said. “I kind of took a little bit of anything and everything. I’ve taken structure classes. I’ve taken face modeling classes. But I’ve kind of whittled it down to focusing on the parts that I enjoy, and I’m going to stick with what I actually enjoy doing and what people here will buy.” Through these courses, she has established a supportive network of fellow cake designers, who offer advice and inspiration regularly. “I’m grateful for the training I’ve had and I never want to stop learning,” she said, noting that through the pandemic, in-person learning ended, but online options inspired her. “You should never stop learning your craft and perfecting things, and even through COVID I have discovered some online classes that some UK artists have started offering.” With the full support of her family, Barclay had a custom commercial kitchen, with a separate entrance, built into her home, keeping her professional space separate from her personal life. As a legit business, she is subject to health inspections and had her workspace designed to accommodate all regulations. “Sometimes people realize they’re going to a residential area, and they come into my space and they know instantly, ‘Hey, this girl knows what she’s doing. She’s legit and not just some lady using her household,’” Barclay said.

She added that she can’t, in good conscience, support home-based cake businesses that are not inspected or regulated. When she is unable to meet a client’s date, she will only refer them to other commercial businesses, such as Wellington Cakes and Decadently Yours, in Guelph, or Cakes on Top in Elora. “Baking competition shows have been wonderful at showing what cake artists can do. They have not been so wonderful at letting people know the time it takes to make a cake,” Barclay said. “Especially things like sugar flowers, they take hours to do. And you know, it’s not just flour and eggs and sugar. Anybody can buy Duncan Hines mix to make a cake. But can you ice that cake so it’s perfectly level on all the sides, on the top and smooth and lovely?” Understanding that wedding cakes are a budget item that can fluctuate depending on a couple’s wishes, she reminds people that the artistry is in more than just the icing on the cake. “When you are paying for a cake, you are paying for the artistry of the cake designer and the time it takes to make that vision come to life,” Barclay said. “You are paying for my time and my 11 years of training and my skill set, and I’m worth that.” No matter how you slice it, the tradition of the wedding cake remains a signature piece of the event, not only in tasteful décor, but in the flavour of the celebration.

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Spring Brook Farm: Transforming history to begin a future Brooke & Darren

PHOTOS BY: Amy Reid Photography

Transforming a heritage barn into a private wedding site may be a costly and time-consuming exercise, but for Brooke Adsett, being married on the farm that has been in her family for a century brought the values of family, faith and love home when she promised forever to Darren Mick on Aug. 1, 2021. “The farm belongs to my grandma and papa Adsett,” Brooke said, noting that her grandfather Bill Adsett passed away in October, making the site all the more bittersweet “It’s been in our family for 100 years this spring.” Brooke is the fifth generation with roots in Spring Brook Farm, in Guelph/Eramosa Township. She shares her middle name with her greatgrandmother Ethel Adsett, who was married to Brooke’s great-grandfather at a neighbouring farm there before settling to raise a family at Spring Brook Farm. “My dad lives one farmhouse over, so we did spend a lot of time there growing up,” Brooke said, recalling fondly the adventures of playing in the forest at the back of the property, the old barn and the fields around it. But she never dreamed she’d be married there. “My dad was the one who actually brought it up and said that it could be an option. And after a long time thinking and knowing the history of it, I decided it would be a good idea,” Brooke said, adding with a laugh, “And a good challenge for my dad to get everything ready.” That challenge was accepted with great enthusiasm, with Brooke’s father, David, leading the charge, bringing Brooke and Darren and other members of the family, friends and contractors into the fold to get the old two-storey bank barn, of approximately 120 years, clean and up to wedding venue standards. David describes the work as a “significant tidy” of decades of items to purge or treasure. New posts were installed in some areas, and the barn was jacked up in spots by a Mennonite family near Mount Forest. “Every Saturday for about three months, we were there, and it was a lot of work,” Brooke said, describing sweeping out hay, dirt, setting down gravel. “We have pictures of me covered in dirt, with sticks and twigs in my hair, and I’d ask Darren, ‘Do you still want to marry me?’” Of course he did. Darren was right in there working alongside her. “Most weekends, with the help of Brooke, her dad and my best man, we pressure washed the

floors, swept and then pressure washed again to try and make it as clean and enjoyable for our guests,” Darren said. “We also added material to the floor to help level it out as well as many more tasks to make this day come together.” One of Brooke’s favourite decor features was the creation of a central light fixture made from recycled farm equipment. “Darren, my dad and Darren’s dad used a tractor wheel and put lights around it and hung it from the rafters,” Brooke said. But the most significant feature for the ceremony was the hand-crafted cross set at the altar. “One of the reasons we chose to have a cross as our backdrop was to signify that we are making this commitment before God as well as making Him first in our marriage always,” Darren explained. “We went out to the field and searched for the straightest tree possible, sawed it down, de-limbed it and brought it up to the barn. My now father-inlaw and I put the logs through his sawmill to make what was the backdrop of our ceremony,” Darren said. It was a significant piece of the wedding that again linked to the farm itself. “That was a tree planted in my youth, cut down by Darren, milled in our own sawmill, put together by a family friend, Brennan Waters, and was the focal point of the ceremony,” David said. The property itself underwent some landscaping to accommodate parking, plus tree trimming, grass cutting and planting flowers to accent the property. But none of it meant more than the field of sunflowers Brooke’s father planted just for her. “That was my favourite flower as a child, growing up and still is today,” Brooke said. “It was really special because even as he was planting them, I got to see them grow.” She laughs, recalling, “The week before the wedding, there was only four sunflowers out and I said, ‘Dad, what’s going on here?’ And he said, ‘It’s going to go, don’t worry about it.’” She had her doubts, but sure enough, on her wedding day, it was a field of blooming sunflowers. “It was a whole field of them and they were all facing the right way, so I was really surprised, to be honest,” Brooke said. The sunflowers would become a beautiful backdrop for wedding photos, but to ensure Darren added to the décor, he picked some tractors to display for photos too, with encouragement from Brooke’s father. “My dad and Darren picked out tractors together,

because that’s both of their thing,” Brooke said, laughing. “We are both fond of the old tractors for sure,” Darren agreed. “Some of them were picked for photogenic reasons, which they didn’t disappoint! And the other ones were just a favourite. But the Massey Harris was picked because my dad also has a Massey Harris, a different model though, which I believe was his great uncle’s. So, for that reason I chose the Massey Harris 30. The other tractors were Allis Chalmers WD45, Case DC4 and a IH Farmall 504, which is one that is a favourite for its condition.” Brooke was happy to consent to her two favourite men’s tractor display, again adding a sense of family and history to this special day. “I think taking pictures with the tractors was for them, and I know how much it means to my dad and Darren,” she said, smiling at the thought of their dedication. “They were fixing them up and planning out where they would go.” Getting the heritage barn up to par was a lot of work, but the bulk of the wedding stress was planning the event itself, during a pandemic, especially as Brooke was in her final year of nursing school, and for part of the time was working as a personal support worker at a long-term-care home in Mississauga for her nursing placement. “Since I was still writing my nursing licensing exam, that was cancelled three times, it was really stressful,” Brooke said. “And it was more stressful I think with everyone bringing it up and being like, ‘Are you so stressed? How many people can you have? Are you sure you don’t want to cancel it?’ That was really stressful.” Darren and Brooke were together three years prior to the wedding, so they’ve spent most of their dating life during COVID. Planning a wedding in the midst of the pandemic was a challenge they faced together. “I would always joke that this is the test before we get married, like, especially planning the wedding; it was just so stressful. And so I think it definitely makes you stronger,” Brooke said. It also helped keep the couple grounded in their own values. “People would ask me, ‘Don’t you care, you’re not having a wedding shower? And you’re not getting all these things,’ but we both were like, you know, at the end of the day, we don’t care,” Brooke said. “I think it just made us really focus on why we were getting married, as opposed to what we were missing out on. At the end of the day, we knew that


church in Harriston, and videographer Marks Media, run by a local couple that attended high school with Brooke. “We didn’t do a reveal photo. Darren didn’t want to, he’s old school and wanted it to be a surprise,” Brooke said. It may have been a lot of work to pull this wedding together during a pandemic, but the day was everything the couple dreamed of, and feeling at home made it all the more special. “Through all this work, we got to appreciate the end result so much more. From seeing where we started to how it all came together made it all worth it in the end,” Darren said. His bride agrees. “It was nice to see the progress and feel like we actually contributed to our wedding day,” Brooke said. With all the work to make the old barn an

event, and I’d just smile and say, ‘okay dad’ and look away,” Brooke recalls. “But then, the actual day when we got there? As soon as my father, my step-father and I walked in the barn, I was bawling,” Brooke said, laughing at herself. “You know, when you’re like, trying to catch your breath? And my dad was just like, ‘are you good? What do you want to do?’” She said that made her laugh, because while she was overcome with emotion, she knew exactly what she wanted to do, and saw Darren waiting for her. “The light was shining through the little slits between the wooden barn walls on our wedding day,” Brooke said. “It was perfect.” As beautiful as the ceremony was, Darren is clear about his best moment. “My favourite part of the wedding was honestly once we walked out together as a newly married

“ I think becoming one, and the bond between us is what matters “

we still wanted to get married, if we could have 10 people or if we could have 100, so that’s just what we kept on thinking about.” By August, the COVID-19 restrictions allowed for approximately 100 guests, with social distancing in play, but the couple kept their guest list to around 60 guests, while live-streaming the event for relatives who could not attend in person. “Picking the people was really hard, because I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings,” Brooke said. “But it was kind of nice to really think about and reflect on who actually impacted us as a couple … We tried to choose people who were encouraging and supportive of both of us.” Surrounded by family, Darren’s uncle, Pastor Armstrong, performed the ceremony. Brooke said they each wrote their own vows, but said the simple gesture of Darren’s choice of notepaper was something she will never forget. She had expressed to Darren that she was missing her maternal grandfather, who had passed away, and she was sad that he would not be present on her wedding day. “So Darren went to my grandmother’s home and found one of my grandpa’s note pads that had the business Stoltz Tractor on it, something that would remind me of him … and Darren wrote his vows on that paper,” Brooke said. “When I saw the paper, it made me so happy.” To honour his own grandfather’s memory, Darren wore his tie chain. The couple also had a “Wish You Were Here,” table to display images of those family members who has passed. The chair and wooden desk where the couple signed their marriage license belonged to Brooke’s grandfather Bill, who was unable to be present that day due to illness. On the wedding day, Brooke got dressed at her father’s home, on the neighboring farm. Helping her be picture perfect, Erin Cage, from Vienna Spa in downtown Fergus, came out to do the bride’s hair and make-up, before she slipped into her white gown bought at Taylor’s Bridal in Elmira. “It was low stress getting ready right next door. So that was nice,” Brooke said. Recording the day was photographer Amy Reid, from Brussels, who also attends the couple’s

elegant, yet rustic setting the couple didn’t need a contingency plan, even when the skies opened up with an afternoon shower. “Of course, we had good luck and had lots of rain, but I said we’re not changing any plans. This wedding needs to be inside in the barn,” Brooke said. “It only rained during the ceremony, and then after, there was a rainbow over the sunflowers.” But she admits the nostalgia and ancestry of being married on her family’s farm didn’t fully hit her until the big moment. “Leading up to the wedding, I was living with my dad and we would always drive over to my grandparent’s farm on the Kubota, and my dad would get emotional and it would become this big

couple, because the most stressful parts were done with. I felt like the pressure was off, finally!” he said. “Vows were said, commitments had been made, and the certificate was signed. Now just to enjoy family and friends, as well as some food!” A seated dinner was held on the lower floor of the barn featuring the couple’s favourite foods, catered by Fergies Fine Foods in Fergus. “For the appetizers we did charcuterie boxes, in single-serve boxes,” Brooke said. “And then for supper, we had burgers and kettle chips and salads.” The crew at Fergies Fine Foods recreated Darren’s grandmother’s special salad, using her family recipe, with salad dressings served up in



mason jars. “And I love iced coffees, so we served the Starbucks little frappe milk bottles and pop and other beverages,” Brooke said, adding the wedding was a dry wedding, in keeping with their faith. Before the reception, the couple held a drive-by greeting from the laneway, welcoming neighbours, family and friends to drive up and see the couple in their finest clothes, wishing everyone well from a safe distance. “A couple of the kids from my job at Hopewell Children’s Home in Ariss came in the wheelchair accessible van, so that was really nice,” Brooke said. “One of them was wearing Darren’s bow tie, and they were all dressed up and just looked so cute.” Months later, the couple looks back on their wedding not only as a poignant moment celebrating their new life together, but also as the commitment to their faith, their family and to one another rooted in a place that honours all of that. “For a family farm to be kept in the family that long is certainly something to appreciate and reflect on. It adds even more meaning to the big day because we were able to commit ourselves to one another for the rest of our lives and make that promise on a property that has been in Brooke’s family for almost 100 years which is remarkable,” Darren said. Brooke adds that the moment really put into perspective the importance of their vows, over all the planning and stress. “I think becoming one, and the bond between us is what matters,” she said, adding she learned a lot from planning the wedding and it’s advice she’s happy to share. “I’d tell people not to stress about materialistic things, or even people who try to make the day about them, because really the day is about you and your partner.” She adds, “I think less is more. And it’s not worth the stress of being Bridezilla, so just be kind to those who are trying to help you.” Mr. and Mrs. Mick have settled in Minto to begin a life together, but visit the family farm often. They will continue the family legacy by setting roots in Wellington County.

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When soulmates get hitched: Everything falls into place

Wendy & Derek

PHOTOS BY: Lydia Trudell Photography

Imagine being an independent florist with work predominately in the wedding industry during a pandemic, when for more than a year weddings were either cancelled, postponed or scaled-back to the extreme. Add in the impact of trying to keep your business afloat with reduced access to the inventory of the main thing you sell: flowers. Now, imagine balancing all that while planning your own wedding. Wendy Wright, owner of WR Designs, took it all in stride, because if she has learned anything about weddings, being self-employed and being in love, it’s to remember that the calm in the chaos is remembering to be authentic in the “why” behind everything she does. Whether it’s work, her clients, or her soulmate, Derek Wright, her passion is her purpose. Love leads the way. It’s that simple. “Honestly, our ceremony was my favourite part. Just reading my vows, hearing his; that really was so fun,” Wendy recalls. “And I love partying and dancing with the people I love so much, but truthfully, just actually standing in front of Derek and just being like, ‘you are it for me and here we are,’ and our friends supporting us, believing that this is what should be happening, that was really awesome.” Having both been married before, with children from their previous relationships, Wendy and Derek’s focus from the start was on building a life together and blending their families. “I truly feel like I found my soulmate the second time around. There was zero reservation. I had none. We were very comfortable with our relationship. Neither one of us were going anywhere,” Wendy said. Part of that life involved a shared love of travel. “Travelling consumed a lot of our finances. So, we just never put aside any [money] for ‘hey, let’s get married.’ We just eventually knew we would do it. And one day, here we are. We just decided on a whim.” That whim turned into a two-year wait, thanks to the pandemic. “We had a plan and then the world went into a craze, which then of course set us back, so we had three dates and three postponements and then finally on our fourth try, we were able to pull it off,” Wendy said. “So, it was two years in the making, but it was a month or two planning and then, oops, were doing it and then okay, scratch that idea. Oh, okay, we’ve got another two months we’re going to plan again and then scratch that idea because we just weren’t allowed to do it.” But even all the changes and postponements didn’t diminish this bride’s bloom, because she

never lost sight of the meaning of it all. “I just thought I’m not going to stretch us. If things don’t go as I think they should, or maybe that we planned, that’s okay. At the end of the day, I’m still marrying the person that I love and that is the exact reason why we’re doing it. Not doing it for any other reason. . . so there was no stress.” Experience is the best teacher and Wendy sees the stress on some of her clients, so while she is happy to guide them and be of service by reducing their concerns with her skills, she recalls the pressure of being a bride and didn’t want to repeat that lesson for herself. “Because I remember my first time around planning a wedding. You’re trying to impress

family.” The pair were firm on their venue. They didn’t want the formality of a hall, and searching for a barn venue didn’t feel right. But 15 years ago, they attended a wedding at Cox Creek Winery, located on the northern border of Guelph/Eramosa. “I just remember how beautiful Cox Creek was,” Wendy recalled. The rural property offers spectacular options for wedding ceremonies, in and around the apple orchard. Of course, the fact that it is a winery, creating award-winning local wines just adds to the flavour of the venue. It is nestled amongst apple orchards, fruit vines and tall trees, offering privacy and peacefulness, but the real selling feature there is

people, you’re trying to make sure you get time in for every little thing when the day comes and goes so fast,” she said. This time would be different. No wedding party. No sense of needing to follow the traditions of every detail or manage the expectations of anyone. That relaxed attitude inspired every aspect of the wedding day, from the planning, to the attire, to the guest list, even to the flowers themselves, which says a lot for a florist who is passionate about her work. “When it came down to the crunch, Derek and I both said to each other, we’re not all about that fuss. We didn’t want the glitz and the glam. We’re not big attention people,” she explained. “And so, we were like, we want just the most intimate of people there that would be in our regular everyday life. So, we just made it small and simple and just really our closest friends and

the Trochta family. “Jerry Trochta is amazing and her son, Adrian, was spectacular,” Wendy said. “We just fell in love with it to begin with and then we went back to see it at dusk, around 6pm, when we would be getting married. And we’re like, ‘oh yeah, hands down, this is where it needs to be’. The sunset was perfect.” Wendy said that visit inspired her vision for the day. “And I became the bride that I didn’t think I was going to be because I became like, oh, where’s the sun setting? How will I make the space look good? All the things I didn’t think I’d care about that, I’m going to care about them now,” she said. When asked if her wedding had a theme, she laughs, because even that happened almost by accident. “When I do somebody else’s wedding, I watch all of the theme play out and then my portion of

that wedding usually becomes part of that theme, right? But when it came down to the crunch of planning my own, all themes went out the window and I was like, oh my gosh, we’re getting married and I have no idea what the theme would be. I just wanted to get married,” she said. Then “Hudson” rolled into her life, a retro trailer and the ultimate symbol of getting hitched (pun intended). Everything fell into place. “We are big campers. We love to go camping and we actually own a larger camper and we belong to a large group of people who do some group camping,” she said. “Two years ago, just before the pandemic, Derek and I decided that we were going to park our trailer and do a seasonal site. But we were really missing out on travelling with our friends. So, I had said to Derek, I really wish we could go because we go away in August with this group.” They decided to look for an older trailer, something that needed some work, they’d consider buying as a travel trailer. Fate intervened. A friend of a friend had a trailer for sale. It was a 1970s trailer, with the original décor. It needed some work and polish, but despite having no running water, it had a comfortable place to sleep. It was love at first sight. Derek and Wendy bought the trailer and towed it home, aware they’d just taken on another renovation project in the midst of wedding planning. “We named the trailer Hudson because my intentions were to decorate him in the Hudson’s Bay colours,” Wendy said, noting that is still her plan. “Then we are planning a wedding and we have no backdrop because I didn’t have a theme. And I kept looking at this trailer. I’m in love with this trailer so much because it’s so adorable.” All Wendy knew at this point was that she wanted a casual wedding, at sunset, at Cox Creek. She bought a dress in a boho fashion, which she described as, “simple, nothing flashing about it.” Derek also decided to forgo the formality of a suit, choosing dress pants and a dress shirt. Comfortable and easy, just like the day. “I said to Derek, ‘I think it would be really awesome and super intimate for us, and our friends would freak out, if we have our trailer as our backdrop.’ I said, ‘If you trust me, I will pull this off.’” Of course, Derek trusted her to work her magic. Wendy got permission from Adrian to haul the trailer on site. It was all coming together. Using recycled décor from her retail shop and items from home, Hudson got a makeover to become the wedding backdrop of their dreams. “I had done like a pre-trial where we store the

trailer at home, and set it all up the way I would really like it. I went and bought some throw pillows and a rug,’” Wendy said. She repurposed a bamboo rug they’d been gifted years ago, that complimented the tones of Hudson’s exterior, and created a place for the couple to stand for their vows. Adrian parked the trailer for them, in front of two large apple trees that seemed to encase the trailer so perfectly, it seemed meant to be. “We had opened the door to the trailer for the ceremony, because we wanted it to just be like we’re at a camping site,” Wendy said. “And from my store at Valentine’s I have marquee letters that say ‘love.’ So we stacked them on top of each other beside the door and then we were married in front. That’s who we are. We’re laid back, super cool. Nothing fancy. It was just super fun.” Thinking back on it, Wendy laughs, saying, “I guess the theme ended up being camping. The trailer created our theme.” From there, the wedding planning fell into place, even amidst the challenges of the pandemic. But thanks to vendors who were navigating the changes too, Wendy felt supported. “I knew basically all of my vendors just from the wedding industry. So just being in it and knowing who I really liked helped,” she said. Key to the event was the tent from Burkes Tent Rentals, and Wendy said the crew of that team was quick and accommodating from set-up to take

down and had many options for them. “We had a lovely tent that was put up with the opened windows in it and it was beautiful. And then they provided all the chairs and the tables,” Wendy said, noting she appreciated the patience and cooperation of their event scheduler, Kelly Hill, who helped accommodate the many changes with dates and COVID-19 protocols. “They were so easy to deal with.” The pair exchanged rings purchased from Ron Wilkin Jewellers in Fergus. Their DJ was In Tune Events, from Guelph, and the caterer was Wendy Gottmer of Southern Belles Catering in Belwood. “The menu was camp-inspired. We picked out a menu of what we would eat at a campsite,” Wendy said. “We did sliders and sausage sliders. We did macaroni salads, regular salads. And our dessert was a s’mores cheesecake.” Accompanying the meal were Cox Creek Wines, with a pinot grigio and merlot at every table, plus guests were offered an apple wine and raspberry dessert wine for tasting. When it came to her bouquet and flowers, Wendy remained low-key about it all. In fact, the day of her wedding, she had another bridal bouquet to complete for a woman whose wedding was postponed twice. But the pandemic was still making floral supply and demand challenging. “I knew going into my bride’s wedding, when I placed the order, that there would be some floral that just wasn’t going to be available,” Wendy said,



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adding she needed to take care of her bride first. A week before her wedding, Wendy accepted she wouldn’t have the flowers she hoped for but her attitude kept her amused and positive. “I just came to the conclusion it will be what it’ll be and if it’s super bizarre and out of this world, people will be like, ‘that’s so Wendy, she didn’t even care.’ Or, I will woo everybody because it will be so spectacular and I’ll have gotten everything I wanted. Well, it wasn’t that way at all, so I basically took what was available for me in the colours that I knew I liked, because those were what I had to choose from, and pulled it off.” Wendy was still assembling her flowers the morning of her wedding, right after ensuring her customer was happy with her bridal flowers. Business first. Even the centerpieces were a lucky coincidence. “There were some containers from a supplier of mine that I ended up buying extras of and I really don’t know why I did it, but I did. “They were a wooden box on a little metal frame. And they just happened to be like the wood that went with my theme. And I just thought, well I guess I’m doing my centerpieces in those because there was just enough to cover the table.” “I didn’t fuss at all. Even if I knew that I’d have to carry a bouquet of carnations or a single rose, the point of us doing this whole thing was so Derek and I could be married,” Wendy said. Officiating the ceremony was Martti Pajunen, South Central Ontario Wedding Officiant, who also shared a personal connection to Wendy. “I did his daughter’s wedding flowers year ago,” she said. “Martti is the gentlest soul and the only thing I said to Derek, if there was anything we could have, I want him to be the one that marries us.” With all the joy of the wedding itself, there was one person whose presence was missed, but whose spirit was celebrated by all: Wendy’s father, Lloyd. He passed away a few years ago, but Wendy was determined to ensure he was with her in spirit.

“My father was my best friend,” Wendy said. “One of the important things for me that made me feel like he was very much a part of my day, I added him to my bouquet with a little charm with a picture of his face.” A chair was placed where her father would have been seated, with a plaque that read: “We know that you’d be here today if heaven were not so far away.” The plaque was placed inside the tent for the reception. Later in the evening, guests enjoyed a toast to his memory. Her best friend embroidered a white handkerchief with blue stitching, for Wendy’s “something blue,” with a note about her father being with her on her special day. Lloyd and Wendy shared a special bond, including a deep love of music. He was a singer and played the drums. When a friend of her father’s uncovered some old footage of her father singing, including a version of Ben E. King’s classic Stand By Me, a decision was made. “I told Derek, I need to walk down the aisle to my dad. I need to hear him,” she said. After Martti welcomed the guests, just prior to Wendy’s walk down the aisle, he spoke of Lloyd, and then made an introduction to the song that wowed everyone. “I was queued to walk 15 seconds before he was finished singing ... And the minute they started playing it, I could not stop crying. Just hearing my dad, he had the most magnificent singing voice. That was the icing on the cake and I totally can’t believe I was so lucky.” It wasn’t easy to top the emotion of that moment, but Wendy and Derek did by writing their own vows. “This time around I thought, I have found my soulmate, and I want him to hear what I truly feel. I don’t want it to be scripted, because there’s so much more that I wanted to share with Derek on a personal level,” Wendy said. “I really wanted to be able to say them in front of all the people that we love the most.”

Derek’s vows were every bit as heartfelt and authentic to their relationship. “His vows were great. It was tearful, but it was awesome,” she said. “And he made me laugh really hard, too.” As she hoped, her wedding guests enjoyed Martti as much as she and Derek did, for his ability to weave the couple’s personal history into the ceremony in a way that made everyone feel included. “And that’s what people were commenting on is that they actually wanted to just listen to him because he spoke so well. And people could see that Derek and I were really enjoying him.” Capturing it all was photographer Lydia Trudell Photography, of Fergus, whose personal connection to Wendy went back to her own wedding, when Wendy created Lydia’s floral arrangements. Two years later to the day, Lydia postponed her anniversary plans to photograph Wendy and Derek’s special day. “She is amazing,” Wendy said. “I’m so grateful she could do this for us.” After the ceremony, the outdoor reception gave everyone a chance to celebrate. Since the guests

were all a close-knit circle of family and friends, the couple knew all were vaccinated, which allowed everyone to relax, too. “It was like everybody craved it. Everybody just craved the company of everybody else. And the fact that we could sit at tables and dine together and not be worried. All the things that brought us together before that we had been kept from, you know, that were kept away from us,” Wendy said. “It was a spectacular party. It was so much fun,” Gathering with close family and friends in a relaxed, casual atmosphere celebrating each other was everything Wendy and Derek hoped for and a memory they’ll never forget. And it was worth the wait. “We left our wedding feeling we had such a great day where all of our friends expected what happened, and with the trailer everybody was surprised but then they’re like, ‘But of course it’s you guys.’ The food, oh yeah, that’s totally what we would have gone with, like every aspect of it really was just us. It was perfect.” Whatever the future holds, Hudson will surely continue to be the backdrop of more adventures and happy memories ahead, now that these two are officially hitched.

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An enchanted wedding in the woods SUBMITTED PHOTOS In amongst the trees, along a flagstone path set in the forest floor, surrounded by the beauty of nature, is an enchanting wedding scene, in a venue unlike any other in Wellington County, for couples who want to experience a wedding day unlike any other. Erin Estate Weddings is a love story unto itself, even before current owners Jaime Silk and Jesse Christink bought the property. You could say love, of a very unique kind, has always been the cornerstone of this country property located on Second Line, Orton, in the Town of Erin. But it was the union of Silk and Christink on their wedding day that sealed the deal. Love built it. Love restored it. And now, love is always celebrated here. The property was once home to Peter Ketley, who moved from England to rural Wellington County where he designed and built the estate to mirror the impressive Elsing Hall Gardens, (circa 1470), an homage to his homeland. Like its inspiration, the Orton property featured English gardens, landscaped grounds and a medievalstyle manor house.

“Peter came over from the UK to Wellington County and spent 40 years here meticulously building and developing the property,” explained Jaime. “It has a very unique story.” She adds that Ketley lived alone and kept to himself, so few neighbours knew the impressive grand scale of the property, with English gardens and a unique home. So, while Elsing Hall Gardens remains a modern museum in the village of East Dereham, just west of Norwich, England, unfortunately, the Orton property didn’t have the same fortune or fate. More than a decade ago, the current property was sold. Silk said after approximately eight years of neglect, the home and surrounding grounds fell into disrepair, and was back on the market. “In every way, shape or form, it was neglected. Everything was overgrown. There were piles of garbage everywhere,” she said, noting the derelict property seemed odd with this old castle-style manor, which turned many prospective buyers off. “Most people came and didn’t even want to look at the place. They literally opened the front door and

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the real estate agent said that most wouldn’t even enter the house.” But all this property needed was someone to fall in love with it once more, someone who would restore it to its former glory. That’s when Jesse and Jaime walked through the door with a vision for their own wedding, and the inspiration for a business. “My husband and I were engaged at the time and living in Burlington. We were looking to purchase a country property, but were also trying to plan a wedding” Jaime said. In the search for venues, the couple was discouraged to find many of the wedding sites to be busy, crowded and impersonal, with multiple ceremonies planned for the same dates. From big city reception halls, to country barns and historic mills, Jaime and Jesse felt that while they were all beautiful venues, something was lacking for them. “We also found everything was very rigid; you have to show up at 5pm and you can either have beef or chicken. We just kept going to all of these venues and nothing felt right … and we were not

PHOTO BY: Angela Sertsis Photography

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up to 800 people, and we only host 160, so we had some really cool cultural groups this year that came in and did really unique spots and the photography was amazing.” “The property is just over 13 acres. It’s in a very unique spot because again, it’s been beautifully designed by the original owner in terms of the planted trees, with beautiful quadrants of the property sectioned off very nicely,” Jaime said, noting that the property is tucked away, with distanced boundaries to private property and conservation forests. “It’s a really unique spot because most places that you’re going to for a wedding, even if you’re

people just can’t get permits to allow that type of business. We’re one of the only forest venues in all of Ontario.” Rooted in their community, Jesse and Jaime are keen to work with and promote other area businesses and see the ripple effect of Erin Estate Weddings going beyond their gate. “Everybody who gets married here gets a town guide with all the businesses from Wellington County … we send out a brochure to everybody saying here’s our businesses, please support our local businesses,” Jaime said. “We’ve had lots of great reports that our couples come up for a tour here and then they stopped at the cidery; booked

PHOTO BY: Jo Boucher Photography PHOTO BY: Fedora Media

the reviews and they have a wedding day vision that matches this venue. “We attract really nice couples that value their privacy, they want their wedding to be a nice, intimate event and they are genuinely down-toearth couples; they’re inevitably outdoorsy,” she said. An email inquiry from prospective couples is replied to with details about the venue, videos of events that have taken place and the pricing. If the couple decides to proceed, Jaime and Jesse invite them to Erin Estate Weddings for a tour. “We pick them up in our shuttle cart and we spend 30-40 minutes just touring them around, walking through all their questions,“ Jaime said. The tour is the best way to fully appreciate the expanse of Erin Estate Weddings. “There’s a section of parking lot, then we have the ceremony space tucked in the woods,” Jaime explains. “The estate offers a bridal suite and a

“ We truthfully get such joy out of giving somebody their dream wedding “

getting married until we felt like something fit us, and just nothing fit.” “Then we found this property. It had very, very beautiful, romantic features, which was very particular to what it would feel like, because obviously you want to feel fancy in your wedding day; but also just sort of had the relaxed country charm of being very private, totally surrounded by trees,” Jaime said. Love at first site. Jesse and Jaime purchased the property and spent more than a year restoring the house and grounds to its former grandeur. Throughout the process, the pair discussed not only their own wedding plans, but how they could create a wedding venue that would accommodate other couples, offering an alternative to typical locations. “A lot of people were getting married at their own country properties, which was very expensive and a lot of work by the time you rent the bathrooms and do everything, and then, with all the family’s involvement, drama gets created,” Jaime said. “So there was all these dynamics that came together that we thought, we wondered if there could be something that sort of felt like an at-home wedding, but you didn’t have to do any of the work, and there was privacy and intimacy [to the space].” They focused on what couples, like themselves, would want: privacy, an intimate setting, a single spot to do everything, from preparing for the wedding, to the ceremony, to the photos, to the reception. “We thought, who doesn’t want to get married in the woods? It’s obviously a very special, tranquil spot, but also you’d want the option of fun elements. So really, what we did was designed exactly (like) what we wanted for our wedding,” Jamie said. “We realized that there was plenty of people just like us looking for the same thing.” Jaime, a psychotherapist by training, soon became a gardener, learning everything about the flora and fauna of the property. She’s taken her skills to the level of now creating field-tovase flower packages, from bridal bouquets to floral décor with flowers grown in season on the property. As much work as the house needed, the landscape needed special care. Jesse, an entrepreneur with a financial planning background, has a talent for building and design, creating wedding arbors and structures throughout the property. “Jesse’s done a lot of the visionary design projects,” Jaime said, noting that throughout the property there are beautiful locales for wedding photos, with manicured areas, tall trees and special backdrops. “We had some pretty spectacular photography and videography teams come in, especially this past year with certain couples that just wouldn’t regularly book here because, you know, typically some of the South Asian weddings would have

PHOTO BY: Tara Weddings rural, you’re still beside a parking lot, where we are very, very setback in toward the 100 acres of woods, right on the cusp of our property. So it’s very, very quiet in the beautiful forested area.” Jaime and Jesse were the first couple to be married at Erin Estates Weddings. The first of many. “It’s an insane amount of work, but I love it,” Jaime said. “Both my husband and I absolutely love it. We love the work.” She said the passion for the business is matched by her passion for the community of Erin, which has supported the couple’s endeavour. “The really unique thing about this too is that most places in Ontario would never give you the permits to have a ceremony spot in the woods. But our town council were so amazing to work with and the mayor was amazing through the whole process,” Jaime said. “So, our spot in the woods there is very unique because again, most

their aunts, uncles and different people in the B&Bs when they’re getting married here. So, it’s been really awesome to be able to bring business to the community.” This is especially important as approximately half of all bookings are couples from Toronto and the GTA region. With five successful years behind them, Jesse and Jaime are now booking into 2023. Their season currently runs from May to October, but in Fall 2022, the addition of a timber frame structure, built by local craftsmen HFH Inc. of Fergus, will offer a new event space on site (to eventually replace the large tent) with more year-round options. They can host a maximum of 160 guests. Couples looking to tour Erin Estate Weddings soon find out how special this place is, but Jaime said most couples have already done their research via online publications, the business Instagram page and their websites. They’ve read

groom suite, so the two floors are for everybody to get ready. And then there’s a very nice fenced off reception space.” The estate home is every bit as impressive as the grounds, and allows a relaxed atmosphere for the preparation of the ceremony. “They get the whole day here, so they can show up at eight in the morning and spend a nice relaxed day getting ready,” Jaime said. “There’s a big huge deck and lounge furniture and everything in the back. So it’s a very relaxed process, as opposed to other weddings when you’re kind of bouncing to the hairdresser and then bouncing back here and then you have to be here, so it’s just everybody shows up and just enjoys the whole day.” A permanent tent structure is in place during the wedding season, with chairs, tables, dance floor, lighting all included. There is no need to rent portable washroom facilities either, as bathrooms are on site. “So basically you just rent the venue and then you choose from our list of caterers, bringing in your catering team, and then it turns into a banquet hall,” Jaime said. Caterers enjoy a catering tent, with a fridge and work space, where they can set up their cooking





PHOTO BY: Beata Mirowska Photography equipment. “Caterers bring in their barbecues, their ovens and cook everything right on site, just right inside the reception tent,” Jaime said. She said the popularity of food trucks and traditional ethnic meals prepared on giant barbecues makes for fun options for couples and their guests. “COVID made it really interesting too, because I think it gave everybody who wanted permission to do something a little bit different, it allowed them to do that. So people were like, … I don’t have to have a sit down for dinner if I don’t feel like it. I can eat hamburgers and poutine if I feel like it. So, we had an awesome summer of really unique elements,” Jaime said, calling the property a blank canvas open to many creative possibilities. “And you could tell that people were so passionate, after their sort of social deprivation, and put a lot of heart and soul into just sort of unique things that just made their wedding way more fun, made it way more intimate, way more of an experience.” People have brought in bands, string quartets, or booked through In Tune DJ Service, a preferred vendor out of Guelph. “We’re very involved with everybody,” Jaime said. “It’s very much like when people get married here. It’s like they’re part of the family. They meet

our staff, our staff are very interactive with them. It’s a very personal experience.” Recalling their desire to offer a wedding experience that takes the business and chaos out of such an important event continues to shape everything Jesse and Jaime, and their team, do. “A huge part for us has been maintaining the integrity of only having one wedding a day. We never do any tours during wedding days. It’s 100% dedicated to whatever the couple has going on,” she insists. That commitment to making each and every couple feel special is genuine. Creating an authentic experience that is as enjoyable and unique as the couples themselves, is exactly what grounds Jesse and Jaime in their business. “We truthfully get such joy out of giving somebody their dream wedding. We have so many couples who say I actually didn’t dream it could be like this enjoyable, this much fun, this relaxing,” Jaime said. “We get so much joy out of meeting these cool couples, watching their day transpire and then just all of the positive feedback and reviews we get. Literally every single wedding day for us is such a joy. You’re creating a day of their positive memory that they always look back on and say, ‘Yes, we had the perfect day.’” For more information, visit, or their Instagram @erinestate.

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Barn Swallow Fields:

A venue built with your dream wedding in mind PHOTOS BY: Lydia Ivy Photography Take all the modern convenience and sophistication of a big city venue, with the stunning views of the wide-open countryside at every turn, and you have the dream wedding venue Barn Swallow Fields at Thatcher Farms. And it is the stuff of dreams, custom designed to the vision of owners Dana and Adam Thatcher. Set on 140 acres of the family farm in Guelph/Eramosa Township, Wellington County’s newest wedding venue is set to open in spring 2022. “We are creating a magical space for clients, customers and the community to be, to come and spend time,” Dana said. “It’s truly a one-of-a-kind space.” The first generation farm is already home to Thatcher Farms’ Butcher Shop, Bakery and Farm Market, the success of which is due to the couple’s vision to expand the property to become a destination to bring people together. To do that, they embarked on the construction of a brand new barn-style venue, featuring 17’ cathedral ceilings, custom crafted timbers, pine shiplap walls and ceilings in a soft white paint, creating a bright, spacious, yet intimate space. “I didn’t even realize what we did, but Adam loves the rustic wood and beams, and I love the white finish, and so we’ve married that. A lot of couples have come in and they’re like, ‘She’s from the city and I’m from the country and this is like us, combined, this visual experience,’” she explained. “And I guess that’s what Adam and I did. We didn’t realize it. It’s just happened. So I think it’s a pretty magical space.” It all comes down to the spectacular natural views. “We’ve added four 75-foot big red barn doors that open wide, so when you’re inside you feel like

you’re outside. At every side of the building is a beautiful space,” Dana said. “Out one door you see field and hills; out another door there’s going to be a beautiful garden space; and at the back is a beautiful garden space. So I think that’s one of the compliments we get most when I tour people, is they’re so shocked at the outside space. So there’s multiple areas to have a ceremony.” There is also a place for bridal parties to get ready on the wedding day, and places for guests to gather and relax, furnished with antique pieces and décor that Dana has curated personally over the years. “When you walk in the front doors, to your left is a lounge area with French doors on it and a quiet space if somebody needed it, and there’s three accessible washrooms, and then you walk into the main building,” Dana explains, adding the second floor offers mezzanine space, including a seating area with lighting and mirrors, for bridal parties to do hair and makeup. Inside the main space, the venue will be furnished with tables and chairs, with a personal touch. “Adam has built us these beautiful harvest tables, so that all comes with it,” Dana said. Barn Swallow Fields has been designed to create a natural ambiance of simple sophistication, something that could help save couples money in their wedding budget. “You won’t need a lot of décor, the building speaks for itself. So people can absolutely bring whatever they want [to decorate],” Dana said. “But the tables are so beautiful. The views are so beautiful. For décor, flowers are almost enough. So we’ll just get going and see what our clients want. “We’ve got it set up, so it’s fairly easy for

everybody, and that’s our goal is to make it as easy as possible for clients so that they feel we’re doing the brunt of the work. I know it’s very overwhelming for a lot of people.” Taking the load off a couple’s plate includes the menu itself. “A wedding at Thatcher Farms is cool because we have partnered together so the venue and the food are together,” Dana said. “What we heard from clients was that there are so many different pricing and so many vendors to try and pull together, so we are pulling together the two biggest vendors that a wedding requires with one price. That’s two things that are checked off your list right away as soon as you booked the venue.” Indulge Catering, out of Kitchener, will help create a true field-to-fork local food experience, featuring Thatcher Farms meats and seasonal produce, as well as supporting other local farms and food producers. It’s a relationship that has been years in the making, Dana explains, as her vision is to create not only grand weddings, but also use this venue to host field dinners, live music, or offer seasonal events. She wanted to create menus with someone who shared her vision and values for local food, agriculture and community building. “Quality was my biggest thing,” Dana said. “Indulge Catering offers professionalism, experience and quality.” When your farm is your business, but also your home, brand integrity is more than just marketing. “At most venues you can bring your own caterer. I didn’t want that because it’s our name on our venue. So if we have a caterer and the food is subpar, I don’t want people to think it’s the food at Thatcher Farms,” Dana said. “It’s not the caterer

people would remember. It’s us. So that quality really matters to me.” She is also generating a list of preferred vendors, not only to simplify the process for her clients, but to again ensure vendors on-site offer quality services and make set-up easy. The barn venue has an occupancy of 140 people, seated, but the expanse of natural outdoor space allows for much larger gatherings. “We’ve had lots of inquiries for a 300-person wedding,” she said. “So couples would rent a tent and have the indoor space as well, but have a tent for the reception.” Dana says as beautiful as the interior of the new venue is, the outside is every bit as picturesque with the countryside views of their crops, sunflowers and fields, but the space is also functional for couples and their guests. “We poured a beautiful concrete patio, the whole perimeter of the building,” she said. “And we have plenty of parking on site.” Thatcher Farms’ Butcher Shop, Bakery and Farm Market may share the property, but couples getting married at this farm will enjoy a private experience. “We will have some signage, and all the weddings and events are taking place behind the market, so it’s very separate on its own,” Dana said, adding that times of the shop and weddings can be staggered. “We have the best customers, the most understanding customers. I’m not worried about that.” In fact, the community around Thatcher Farms has been in full support of the concept of Barn Swallow Fields, because its members understood Dana and Adam’s vision. “It’s taken us almost two years from vision to


final permits,” Dana said. “The county was super supportive. The township was super supportive. There was no resistance at all.” That’s due in large part to the natural growth and progression of Thatcher Farms, from a butcher and farm market store to adding seasonal agricultural events, like a pumpkin patch and corn maze in autumn, strawberry fields and sunflower trails in summer. “Now we have created something that is kind of every part of the season; every season has something to it. And then we’ve built this pavilion or barn structure and we really want to host weddings here, but I also envision it as this space during strawberry season and pumpkin time that customers can come and have really good food, enjoy the country setting, I really want to have lots of live music events. So just a space that people can come and be when they’re here, so they will feel they can’t wait to come back. That’s what we’re trying to create.” The new Barn Swallow Fields venue gives them permission to be seasonal from April to November. It was a costly risk, but one the couple believes will pay off in time. “I think as a small business owner, the biggest issue for me was there was no budget to be had or found to do this project. I couldn’t go to an engineer and say what is this going to cost us because they had to literally do the work before they could tell us. So as a small business owner,

not many people are willing to do that,” Dana said. “Now this is kind of a next step in our business, is just creating that space for families and friends and traditions and just pure enjoyment – good food, good music.” In September, the Thatchers received final permits and through the winter months are finishing the last pieces of building and design, ensuring the new structure is up to code for final inspection, with a plan to open in Spring 2022. Being under construction hasn’t deterred engaged couples from touring the site. “Before they come out I email and say, please remember we’re still under construction. Please try and see my vision. Just keep that in mind. And when they get here, they automatically see my vision,” Dana said. “And they aren’t scared of piles of dirt or the sawdust, when it’s 90% finished but there’s a big 10% left still to do … but the feedback has been great so far. They see the vision.” Come spring, Dana and Adam have scheduled a plan to do some final landscaping before their first wedding. “We already have bookings, and it’s a construction zone. So that’s pretty amazing. I’m really impressed that we had interest already. So I hope it’s full tilt going forward. It’ll be great.” For more information, to see images of the venue or to book a tour, visit, or Barn Swallow Fields on Facebook and Instagram (barn_swallow_fields).




is a tale as old as time.

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