VICTORIA AS A WEDDING DESTINATION
By @luxtraveldiva, a self described foodie with a passion for travel and a love of food and wine.
Destination weddings are very popular with today’s bride and groom. Most often a destination in a warmer climate is chosen, such as Mexico or Hawaii, but anywhere that isn’t your home city can be a ‘destination’ wedding location. I was asked to assist a bride and groom with their planning for a ‘destination’ wedding in Victoria, British Columbia. Victoria was already one of my favourite cities on Vancouver Island, so I was delighted and honoured to assist them.
Wedding planning is a delicate affair balancing the needs and wants of not only the bride and groom, but often taking into consideration the wishes of numerous family members. There is much to do and the list is long. The ceremony venue, reception venue, budget, photographer, florist, DJ, announcements and invitations, guest list, rehearsal dinner, post wedding gift opening, attendants, personal preparations for the bride, transportation, and even wedding favours can all become a point of compromise.
The first items on the agenda were choosing a ceremony and reception venueT. The couple was willing to compromise on the date of the event, as long as it fell within a two month window. This allowed them to secure both the ceremony and reception venues that they wanted. Even starting eleven months ahead of the optimal wedding date, not all the venues were available on the same day. Often the reception locale is more difficult to acquire as many venues only accept a limited number of wedding bookings during the summer months.
The couple considered many possibilities for the reception including the Fairmont Empress Hotel, St. Ann’s Academy, Hatley Castle at Royal Roads University, and the Victoria Golf Club. I had attended events in all four venues in the past so I had a good idea about the quality of event they could provide. The couple initially narrowed it down to two possible summer dates. After an exhaustive search they were able to find a ceremony venue that could accommodate one of the dates they had secured for the reception.
In this case, the bride and groom wanted a church wedding. I think we viewed almost every church in the city of Victoria. Each church had their own requirements that had to be met to perform a marriage ceremony, and the couple spent considerable time meeting with ministers and priests before deciding on St. Andrew’s Cathedral. There are countless churches in the city of Victoria that perform marriages for individuals of all denominations. Regulations and rules about your religious status, music, vows, etc. vary from church to church, and you are well served to have an understanding of the expectations in advance of your search. The church staff will be able to let you know what, if any, restrictions there might be in terms of dress, flowers, and music. They often have a list of preferred musicians that are familiar with the church. The couple was able to hire two musicians who were recommended by the church staff who provided both a musical interlude prior to the ceremony, and also the music for the procession and recession. Expect to pay a reasonable fee for the musicians, the priest or minister and, in their case, for the ringing of the bells at the end of the service. Again the church staff will help you with these details.
If you’re looking for a non-church wedding, there are a variety of great options to choose from. Many hotels in the area offer wedding packages that include both the ceremony and the reception. The Fairmont Empress Hotel is a perfect example. An intimate ceremony can be held in the Library, or a larger ceremony for hundreds of guests can be held in the Crystal ballroom. The Fairmont Empress also has a variety of outdoor garden spaces if an outdoor wedding is what you’re after. The hotel offers a variety of reception options based on the number of guests attending.
Another popular venue is St. Ann’s Academy. Once a Roman Catholic Church, the chapel at St. Ann’s Academy is a wonderful location for a religious or civil marriage ceremony. Weekend dates in the Spring and Summer book up fast, so if this is on your list it’s best to call as early as possible. St. Ann’s Academy also offers various indoor and outdoor spaces for the reception, although you would have to book the catering separately.
A wedding ceremony and reception at the Hatley Castle at Royal Roads University is a beautiful option as well. The couple and guests have access to a large portion of the castle and grounds, including the first floor of the castle, the terrace, and the Italian garden. For photos, the Japanese Garden and Neptune Stairs are also made available. If you’d like to use this location just for the ceremony, the Italian Gardens or the Croquet Lawn can be booked in the morning and early afternoon.
In the end, the couple selected the Victoria Golf Club as they offered the most space, and unparalleled personal service. The club features multiple rooms and the reception took place in three adjoining rooms. This allowed the dining room to be used for the reception dinner with the adjoining members’ lounge being used for the buffet and bar. The fireside lounge was used for the cocktail hour, and later for dancing. The Victoria Golf Club has such a special heritage feel it requires little additional decoration. The couple opted for chair covers, head table overlays, with simple rose bouquets and votive candles for each table to enhance the elegance of the intimate dining room. The Victoria Golf Club offered several dining options and worked with the couple to provide the best possible dining experience.
Making a budget, and sticking to it, is the most important step in planning your wedding, regardless of where it will be held. There are a number of ways to control your costs. When confirming the number of guests attending your reception, remember that there are often a handful of guests who are no shows at the last minute. This can be frustrating and costly as the couple has to provide a final head count for the reception at least a week or two in advance. Talk to your friends who have had weddings to get a good idea of what this may mean to your numbers. Also check with the reception venue as most prepare enough food for 10% more than the numbers you have given them.
If you are serving wine with dinner, have the wine poured by the wait staff rather than place bottles of wine at each table. So often whole bottles of wine are left opened but untouched because it is impossible to know exactly which guests will drink white or red wine. By having the wine poured there is less waste. Some reception venues will allow you to specify a particular wine, even if it is not on their regular wine list. In this case, the couple did a blind tasting prior to the wedding and selected a red, a white, and a sparkling wine that were not only good wines, but excellent value for the cost. By letting the venue know well in advance, they may be able to order your selected wines and charge a standard mark-up keeping the cost within budget.
Most reception venues provide both standard and premium liquors. Unless your guests drink and serve only premium spirits themselves there is no reason to splurge on this extra. If you are already serving wine with dinner, you can keep the bar bill in check by waiting until after dinner and the first dance to open the bar.
It has become commonplace to provide a late night snack at or near the end of the evening. Nothing is worse than leaving your guests hungry in the middle of a long night of dancing. Anything from a simple snack table of meats and cheeses to a more elaborate table of sliders or sushi keeps your guests happy and satisfied well into the night.
Once you have secured the two most important components of your wedding day, the ceremony and reception venue, you can turn your attention to the mountain of details left to be decided on.
Many brides rely on friends and wedding forums to find the right photographer, florist, hairdresser, and car service. Recommendations and referrals are an excellent way to pare down the list of possible options. Next to the ceremony and reception venues, the photographer is possibly of the most importance. Be sure to ask for references and see examples of the photographer’s work. You will also want to know what restrictions or copyright issues may arise with reproduction of the photographs and know who owns the rights to the photos.
Flowers are a beautiful and integral part of the wedding. Many brides are opting for more simple bouquets and arrangements, and this helps to keep the expenditures in line. You can also source out grocery stores and wholesalers for your ceremony and reception arrangements. Remember that ceremony flowers can do double duty at the reception, so be sure to assign a reliable person to handle the transportation of the flowers from the ceremony to the reception. It is also nice to give your table arrangements away to your guests; this way you don’t have the task of removing them after the reception.
Victoria has an enviable and extensive list of wonderful venues for wedding receptions and an abundance of ceremony venues from cathedrals to castles. As a truly tourist friendly city, Victoria is well versed in hospitality and has numerous hotels for housing your guests.