Devon and her wedding dress.

When it comes to weddings, Hart House’s Devon Strachan has seen it all—except her own wedding. Now that she’s about to tie the knot herself, Devon invites us along on a tour behind the scenes as a successful wedding planner uses her expertise to plan the ultimate wedding: her own.

In my three years as a wedding coordinator in one of Toronto’s busiest venues, I’ve worked with over 200 couples. I’ve also met many others who toured Hart House, but chose another venue (most couples tour about five to seven venues on average). 

In other words, I’ve seen all kinds of couples, with all kind of requisites, including the couple who wanted to get married here in Toronto after they held a cocktail-style engagement party in New York with 200 guests. 

Or the couple who wanted an intimate wedding with 30 guests in Toronto, their home residence, followed by a traditional wedding in Korea, the bride’s country, followed by yet another traditional wedding in Japan, the groom’s country. 

Or the couple who had an elopement in Niagara-on-the-Lake with four guests in total, including the photographer who doubled as a witness. 

In working with so many different couples, I learned a great deal about weddings. For example, I learned the smartest ways to save money and have a wedding that won’t feel like a compromise. 

I also learned how important it is to keep the big picture in mind, and how futile it is to worry about the tables and the chairs and the grape varietal of the wine and the silhouette of the dress, before deciding on other factors that are vastly more important (and which I’ll share with you in later posts). 

But nothing could prepare me for my own wedding.

In exactly a week, I will board a plane to Tel Aviv where I will marry the man of my dreams. (As it happens, he’s a Toronto-based wedding photographer, and in later posts he will share his own tips on how to get the best photos possible on your wedding day.) 

And even though between the two of us we’ve seen countless weddings, it’s quite a different feeling to know we’re the ones tying the knot. That said, we realize we’re privileged to have such a wealth of information to use for our wedding. 

It’s the same knowledge I give to all my clients at Hart House, but I’d like to help you too make the most of it, so even if you don’t end up getting married here, read on to find out how a wedding coordinator coordinates her own wedding, and what you can learn and adapt to your case. 

The big picture

As I said before, it pays to decide on what kind of wedding you want before you worry about the little details. (Sounds obvious, but believe me when I say it, many couples get caught up in details like flowers, bachelor party locations, and bridesmaid’s shoes before stepping outside the excitement to nail down their vision.)

That means you have to decide whether you want a large wedding or a small one, intimate or formal, in the daytime or nighttime, and where you want to get married. All these decisions will set the tone of your special day. (Of course, a lot of it will be dictated by time and budget, which will set a framework for what you envision and what is possible.)

Here are some common, time- and budget-related statements couples make:

I want the wedding of my dreams so I am willing to book two years ahead to save and get the date and venue I’ve always dreamed of.

We don’t want to wait or have a long engagement so we are willing to have an off-season and/or Friday or Sunday wedding.

We are buying a house and/or have other financial commitments that impact our ability to save for the wedding, so we are having a simple celebration.

We have sufficient financial help from our families but we can only get married on Saturdays in August due to work commitments and travel.

We want to have a destination wedding as it’s cost-effective and the honeymoon is included, but we want to give our loved ones ample time to save, in order to join us.

Have Your Cake and Eat it Too

So you’ve decided on the general tone and most important details of the kind of wedding you want. You’ve also done your research and settled on a realistic budget. This begs the question: Is it possible to have a lovely celebration and save on costs? Do you have to sacrifice the castle for a backyard potluck? 

The answer, I’m happy to say, is no. There is a large middle ground, and many couples are taking advantage of it.

So don’t worry if your budget seems small. In the next blog post, I will teach you the best money-saving techniques I know that will help you cut costs without sacrificing your dreams.