Our $35K Canadian Theatre Kids Dream Wedding

MGM musical meets mid-century modern

Valaura, Project Manager  & Vincent, Project Manager

sum-up of the wedding vibe: An incredibly joyful and memorable evening full of tears, laughter, community, and insane amounts of fun.

Planned Budget: $26,000 (USD)
Actual Budget: $20,000 USD (The value of the wedding is closer to $31,000 USD, factoring in fee negotiations and very generous gifts.)
Number of Guests: 130 guests
Location: Rotary Centre for the Arts, Kelowna, BC, Canada
photographer: Kevin Trowbridge

Where we allocated the most funds:

Photography. Less than a year after we met, we had an opportunity to model for Kevin Trowbridge on a sort of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe engagement-style photoshoot. When we actually got engaged, four years later, there was no question that we wanted to work with him and he was the first vendor we contacted. Kelowna is a stunning city that has become a top location for destination weddings in Canada. Unfortunately, that means that locals can be priced out of the area and we knew that costs would be higher here than in neighboring cities or in my home province of Alberta. But Kelowna is really important to us and we wanted to share it with our families, most of whom would be traveling.

Where we allocated the least funds:

We were fortunate to win a couple of things at bridal fairs that we attended, including tux rentals for Vince and the wedding party fellas. We also won our photobooth, but paid extra to have them stay for most of the night. We are also eternally grateful to be gifted several key expenses by friends and family, including the wedding cake, flowers, vintage car rental, stationery and signage design, a custom website, all of the desserts, lounge furniture, and wedding dress alterations. A couple of our friends also stepped in to help us with tear-down after a family emergency forced our vendor to cancel at the last minute. Two of our friends actually work as wedding decor specialists (Vintage Origami) and they showed up after tearing down another wedding to help us clean up ours and then returned some things for us the next day!

What was totally worth it:

Nearly everything. Every aspect of the wedding was commented on and each decision was carefully considered before we went ahead with it. It had to be something that we were passionate about or that added to the guest experience, and each decision met that goal with flying colors. We used two venues because, well, I’m a diva. The theater allowed us to support a local arts institution, and it included great sight lines for guests, comfy seating, and air conditioning. It also has great sound and lighting, and we used the Green Rooms backstage for getting ready, so it was good value. Our guests were also offered popcorn and sparkling rosé wine on arrival, which was really important to us. We wanted to make sure that no one was hungry and that they had some bubbly to start the festivities early.

Our second venue is a historic fruit packinghouse and is run by the Okanagan Museums Society. The Orchard Industry Museum and Wine Museum are both located in the same building, and it’s a great space that offers up an urban industrial vibe that juxtaposed nicely with our decor. It’s also one of the very few venues in the area that can host over 150 people.

What was totally not worth it:

The registry. I could write an entire essay on the politics and pressure that comes with creating a registry that meets your needs without alienating anyone. I spent days researching every item we put on the registry to ensure that it would last us a long time, selecting items at various price points, and then stressing about what each item might say about us as people. It was ridiculous. And in the end, I think that maybe a dozen items were purchased off of the registry. At least the research wasn’t for nought as it will help direct our household purchases for the next few years! I also procrastinated on an item that ended up impacting one of our friends in a negative way, for which I will be eternally sorry.

A few things that helped us along the way:

A Practical Wedding and advice columns. I read articles for the two years leading up to the wedding. I took into account every concern that everyone has had and then we planned to help mitigate those same issues with our wedding. We set up a new Gmail account for the wedding. We used this email for entering draws at bridal fairs and for wedding communication to help avoid any CC’ing issues. This was especially important as Vince is the ‘doer’ to my ‘dreamer’, so if someone wanted a contract signed or a deposit made, it wasn’t likely to happen if the request came to me! Our friends were also total rockstars. They spent hours hunched over bricks, painting them white to match my specifications, building a custom website, baking all of the desserts, completing my ‘art installation’ projects, and assisting with setting up the wedding when I’m sure they would have preferred to sleep in or grab brunch. It was a true labour of love and a DIT (do it together) affair. Everyone should be so lucky to have friends like ours.

My best practical advice for my planning self:

You procrastinate. No amount of faux-planning will change that, so plan to do things in the days and weeks leading up to the wedding because you aren’t going to do it 3 months before, no matter what you told your fiancx. And talk to your people and delegate. They are insanely happy for you and genuinely want to help.

Talking about your wedding doesn’t make you an obsessive princess, it makes you a good friend. They want to help and they are getting frustrated that you won’t let them! With their permission, plan your wedding around the talents of your people. When your friends have talents and they want to share them with you, let them. Because you are a reflection of your people and their talents make your day so much more memorable.

Favorite thing about the wedding:

Seeing all of our people in the same room. Vince is from Manchester, England and it was so fun to see his English family, my Canadian country family, and all of our hipster city friends mingling together. But above and beyond all of that, it was the strengthening of our friendships that has resonated in the months following the ‘Over-Priced Party’. I don’t think our friends really know how blown away we were by their support and love.

Anything else:

We followed APW advice and determined which three things were most important to us in a wedding, and which things weren’t really on our radar. In our case, we determined that our favorite things are an emotional ceremony and bangin’ party with a dance floor that just won’t quit. So that’s what we focused on. We went back and forth between an elopement and a BIG wedding, but we went big because relationships are one of our core values. This also meant that we didn’t want to compromise on the guest list and, being very social, community-minded people, we wanted to be able to invite people to the wedding even up to the week before—and we did! All of these requirements ended up dictating the venues, ceremony layout, and reception plan.

Over the years, we’ve attended a lot of fundraisers, corporate events, parties, and weddings. We thought about all of the things that we love about these big events and the things that fall flat for us. We decided to do an evening ceremony, with the speeches included, followed by a cocktail-style reception with food stations (perogies, tacos, and charcuterie), and an awesome DJ pumping out classic dance tunes. The ceremony format was divided into Act 1 and Act 2. I was walked down the aisle by my brother, uncle, and Papa—we tried to incorporate as many people into the wedding as possible, where possible. Our friend, Laura, MC’d the first half of the ceremony, which started with an introduction to each of our Ensemble (our name for the bridal party), and a welcome from Vince and myself. The ensemble was then able to take a seat with the rest of the guests, including their spouses, rather than stand up front with us. Act 1 also included a poem reading, and a musical performance by cellist and singer Nils Loewen. Speeches from two of our best friends, as well as Vince’s dad and my mom, rounded out the first thirty minutes of the ceremony.

For Act 2, our officiant, Marjolein Lloyd, presided over our ring warming while Nils played cello and sang “What a Wonderful World” as the rings made their way among our guests. This is one of my favorite parts of the wedding as the tiered seating allowed us to see each and every one of our guests and we made eye contact and waved and smiled as we took the opportunity to sit in stillness and appreciate the moment.

We went on a date the night before the wedding. This was our opportunity to regroup and reflect before the busyness of our wedding day. We went for dinner and shared a bottle of sparkling wine as we wrote our vows together. We discussed the promises that we felt comfortable making and settled on the lines that would become our wedding vows.

The reception venue is next door to the theatre, so we sent guests straight to the party while we finished clearing up the ceremony space. DJ BMack announced our arrival and we bounced into the room and did our first dance right away, followed by Vince’s dance with his mom and my line dance with my mom and Nana (which we really should have rehearsed because my Nana and I had no idea what we were doing and just did our best to follow my mom). Following the ceremonial dances, we cranked up “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang and the party kicked off for real. We challenged our DJ to keep people on the dance floor the entire night and he did!

I really struggled with the idea of a wedding theme. One day, as I explained this struggle to Vince, he said “So, it’s like a brand?” and that was it. Suddenly I understand the point of the theme and why it mattered. At the time, we were learning how to tapdance as one of the teams competing for Swinging with the Stars, a fundraiser for our local hospice association. We were watching old MGM musicals, particularly Gene Kelly, and then La La Land came out and we went and saw it in theatre about six or seven times.

We loved the ideas of bright, popping colours and over-sized sets as the backdrop to the wedding. What if the wedding looked like the set of an MGM movie musical extravaganza set in Paris?! Then we added some touches of Palm Springs mid-century modern, primarily in the use of our shade bricks as table decor and four-point stars. We asked guests to dress in “White and Bright” to add to the vibe. We focused on a handful of very large pieces that were more like art installations than typical wedding decor, including a wall of four-point star balloons to help make the reception space more intimate, a multi-coloured mobile of four-point stars, a colour-changing LED ‘cloud’ above the lounge area, and 8-foot, silver building cutouts that mirrored the designs on our postcard invitations. A HUGE shoutout to my friend Hilary Mussell for sharing her talents as an artist with us for the installation pieces!

Speaking of our invitations, they were postcards that featured artwork on the front and details on the back. The artwork was a nod to our travels throughout our relationship, highlighting landmarks of significance, from the place we met for the first time, to where we spent our post-engagement trip (Montreal).


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