I am very happy to feature my pal Stephanie Coffey on the blog today, as she writes about her Toronto Island wedding and how to create a wonderful wedding day for you and your guests, all the while staying true to yourself and your partner. I thought it would be great for future brides to have some wise words written by a newly married bride, and tips for choosing vendors, planning your day, and keeping it real.

I first met Steph when we were kids, and though our lives took us separate ways, we have crossed paths again as we both run photography businesses (and enjoy spending time with her sister, maid of honour Amanda!) Photographing another photographer’s wedding is quite an honour, and I’m so happy that Steph and Illya chose me to document their day. It was truly a pleasure (you’ll understand once you see the photos below!) and with that, I’ll leave you with Stephanie’s post.

I’m also very excited to have this wedding featured over on The Wedding Co today! See the full feature here!

From bride Stephanie…
‘When Jenn asked me to write a guest blog about how to have a successful wedding, I was thrilled to start looking back on our wedding day, and recall all of the plans we made. When looking back, I decided to title this post: How to Have a Wedding With Soul. I think no matter what vendors you choose or what plans you make, soul is the key ingredient. With every choice, look deep within yourself and say: do we want this? Does this speak to us? Does it move us in some way? With that guiding voice in the back of your head, I think you can do no wrong while planning your wedding. That said, there’s definitely a lot of advice I can give on the nitty, gritty little details that helped make our particular wedding one of the best nights of our lives thus far.

We wanted our day to be a true reflection of us as a couple. We both love vintage décor (our home is practically all vintage pieces) and consider ourselves to be fun loving and laid back people. We wanted to combine these elements and create a casual but elegant outdoor dinner party/crazy, fun dance party.

One of the best choices we made was hiring some really talented people to help us. When you begin to plan a wedding, the most humbling experience is realizing that you cannot possibly do everything yourself. Once you put that crazy idea aside the fun begins and you get to start trolling the Internet for creative new people to help you to bring your vision to life. When looking for vendors, we found that two elements were woven through all of our choices:

1) Does this vendor have the talent we are looking for/are they in line with our vision?
2) Do we like this person/company? Do they make us feel special and excited to work with them?

We were able to find a lot of great vendors this way who not only were insanely talented creatives, but also were responsive to emails, attentive with our needs, and genuinely cared about our wedding. Each one was carefully selected and Illya and I were consistently impressed with their work. We also had many conversations about how much we enjoyed working with them all, which was a really nice feeling.

Some of our talented vendors, to name a few, were:
Photography: Jenn Kavanagh Photography (heyo!)
Hair & Makeup: Alex Rotundo & Oriana Rossi
Florals: Coriander Girl
Wedding Dress: Magwood
DJ: Indie Wedding DJ
Videography: Farmer Vision
Officiant: Tade Credgeur
Catering: The Island Café
Venue: Artscape Gibraltar Point

Illya and I decided we’d be together for the whole wedding day. We got ready in our apartment together with our entire wedding party. We then had a ‘First Look’ in the courtyard. Waking up in the morning with my husband to be and getting to spend the ENTIRE day with him was so special to me. The first look allowed us to get lots of great photos before the ceremony. Afterwards we had lots of time to spend with our family and friends. Looking back on the First Look I felt so much raw emotion and energy seeing Illya in our courtyard. I also still had so much excitement seeing him at the ceremony. It was like we got a two for one deal!

We definitely wanted some DIY projects on our wedding day. Our wedding party was full of a lot of really talented people and their help was immeasurable to making the day so wonderful. My bridesmaid and best friend Chelsey designed all of our invitations, menus, place cards & table numbers. My maid of honour and sister Amanda found an amazing old windowpane at a thrift store and wrote our seating plan on it. My bridesman Ben wrote us an original poem and made us wedding programs. Illya’s brother Adam, the best man, wrote us a Flight Of The Conchords inspired song for the ceremony. My bridesmaid Steph and her boyfriend Erik made our caramel popcorn party favours. Our good friend Andy created a signature cocktail for us, The Sammy Slammer, named after our flat-faced cat. Finally my sister, my mom and I scoured the entire GTA in search of vintage and craft beer bottles for our floral arrangements. We got a lot of our supplies from thrift stores. All of the paper for our signage was from The Paper Place. I also splurged a little bit and bought monogrammed garland and floral confetti from BHLDN. The personal touches were so meaningful to us and our guests really seemed to notice them and take them in.

If you are planning to do DIY projects my advice would be to enlist the help of your wedding party as they can be quite big projects. Also pick projects that resonate with you and that you will be happy doing. You will get tired along the way, so it really helps to be invested in the projects so that you don’t lose steam.

We had an absolutely wonderful day surrounded by some fantastic people. Signing off my last piece of advice will be one you’ve probably heard before. Be present on your wedding day. Let everything go and take it all in. The energy you give to your day will be the energy that all your loved ones give back to you. And that is a pretty incredible thing.’