Our Wedding Recap

One month since this blissful day!

It’s hard to believe that exactly one month has already passed since Kirk and I got married. September 1, 2019 feels simultaneously as if it was just yesterday and also like a huge chunk of time gone. Nevertheless, it’s been a whirlwind these past four weeks.

We got to spend a few extra days with Kirk’s parents after the wedding, exploring the Rockies and Southern Alberta. Two weeks later, we were in Calgary for the weekend to check out the Beakerhead Spectacle (watch out for another post about that) and the final day of the Nick Cave: Feat exhibit at the Glenbow Museum, and, this Friday, we spent the night in downtown Edmonton on a staycation after attending the first of two performances by Elton John on his farewell tour.

Despite the endless hubbub since, I honestly look back at our wedding with the fondest of memories and, at this point in my life, it truly was one of the best days I’ve ever experienced. For our one month anniversary, I thought it’d be fun to do a quick recap of the what, where, when, how, and why of it all.

Venue

Ampersand 27 made for such an amazing venue!

In a previous post about Edmonton wedding venues, I shared our pick: Ampersand 27. It turned out to be the perfect size for us. During our initial meetings with the restaurant manager and hotel catering manager (from the Varscona), we had estimated around 80 guests. When we sent out our invitations, we actually nearly doubled the guest list. Yet, in the end, only 60 guests RSVP’d as attending. We were able to fit everyone into the main dining area for both the ceremony and reception without issue, so this is an ideal spot for those planning for a small to medium party.

The interior of Ampersand 27 is magical. With a gorgeously designed space, it requires very little extra decoration. There are twinkling lights and dangling balls on the ceiling, and the mantle place makes such a pretty backdrop. The lounge is also lovely for dancing and there’s a lengthy bar top to allow guests a place to perch when they’re waiting for a beverage. The hospitality suite at the back of the restaurant provided a quieter spot for people to chat and rest their feet later in the evening.

In terms of the food, we really wanted the dinner to feel like an intimate gathering and opted for a family-style dinner with large shared plates to be passed around the table and both red and white table wine. There was absolutely no shortage when it came to the starters (caprese salad, roasted cauliflower, and gnocchi), mains (rib eye steak, smoked salmon, and roasted chicken), sides (carrots, smashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and broccolini), and desserts (white chocolate cheesecake and chocolate brownies). Everyone praised the kitchen and left full. We also started the reception with a cocktail hour that served a mix of hors d’oeuvres as well as cheese and charcuterie, tea, coffee, and sparkling wine. Late in the evening, we offered a snack of mac and cheese fritters, Ahi tuna, and, our favourite, pork belly baos. Drink tickets were also distributed to our guests to be redeemed towards anything from highballs to beer and whiskey to cocktails.

Photographer

One of our awesome engagement photos.

Once we knew our venue and the date of our wedding, we promptly started looking for a photographer. There are a lot of options in Edmonton and the list is extensive. Since I tend to use Instagram quite a bit, I narrowed down the search by seeking out potential local candidates using hashtags. When I compiled my favourites, I emailed each of them to ask about their availability and pricing. That helped me to gauge if they’d even be a possibility. Our budget wasn’t large, but we also didn’t want to skimp on the person who would be capturing our memories. Once Kirk and I agreed on a few of them, we set up meetings to see how we’d get along. They were all great; however, one really stood out.

We booked Jennie Lea Photography for both our engagement and wedding photos. And, I highly recommend doing an engagement session with the photographer you choose. It’ll give you a chance to familiarize yourselves with each other, and become more comfortable in front of the camera. We’re no models, but Jennie made us feel like stars. She was also so good with giving directions, location scouting (we found ourselves at Made by Marcus and Malt & Mortar along Whyte Avenue), and she even drove me to meet Kirk for our first look (do this!). I love her and am happy to call her a friend now.

The engagement photos were so wonderful, and, what we’ve been shown from our wedding (everything you see here was shot by Jennie and/or Janice Saxon; the full set is estimated to take approximately 8-12 weeks after our wedding date due to it being the busy season) thus far has blown us away. The photos take us back immediately to those moments. They’re that special.

Additionally, I have to mention that, depending on the package you select with your photographer, it may even include a second shooter who will be there to capture the groom and his men getting ready. In our case, Janice Saxon took on that role for our day and she was awesome. Not only did she split off with the guys, but she was also there to provide a different perspective of the ceremony and reception.

Take your time trying to find a photographer that meshes well with you. Ultimately, it’s worth the effort and the money.

Invitations

 

Sign up for Vistaprint emails because you’ll eventually get a half price offer on your printed items. We skipped save the date cards, opting simply to order invitations that dictated the date and location of the wedding while directing our guests to our wedding website (created for free through WordPress) for further details and the RSVP form.

It took next to no time for our shipment to arrive, and when I wasn’t sure about the quality received, I reached out to customer service who proceeded to reprint my entire order under their satisfaction guarantee.

I even used the extra card stock (provided to protect each set of 10 invitations) to write out our whole seating chart, so nothing was wasted.

Wedding Dress & Accessories

As fun as it would have been to hit up some of the local dress shops throughout the city (who doesn’t want to feel like a princess in a few ball gowns?), I turned towards the internet for my dress. I looked all over the place, including BHLDN, which is Anthropologie’s wedding themed website. It was there that I found the one, but it wasn’t where I made my final purchase. I did more digging and I managed to locate the same dress on the Macy’s website for even less money. Plus, when I signed up for the Macy’s newsletter, I received a promo code for an additional 25 per cent off. While we waited for it to arrive, my mom was apprehensive. She was worried about the quality, especially after she saw another dress from the BHLDN site at the West Edmonton Mall Anthropologie that left a lot to be desired. Thankfully, it showed up and it was better than expected.

The lacy, embroidered, blush Adrianna Papell gown was exactly what I wanted. Sure, it had to be modified slightly to give it a better shape on my body, but it was relaxed, girly, flowy, comfortable, and had just enough detail to satisfy the fashionista in me. Jennie, my photographer, squealed when she saw how non-traditional it was. My friend said it reminded her of Rapunzel in Tangled and she wasn’t really wrong.

I went to My Style Tailor (14804 Stony Plain Road) for all of the alterations: sides taken in, cups added, straps secured, loose stitching fixed, and the hem shortened. It wasn’t a quick turn around time, but May got everything done in one go.

To complete the look, I went into an old box of accessories that I never unpacked when I moved. There, I found some floral clips used to decorate my hair. I wore a necklace given to me by my grandmother, and I donned a pair of deep blush pink velvet shoes purchased online from Forever 21 (I did lose a few jewels from the shoes, but it was barely noticeable).

Bridesmaid Dresses

A glimpse of the steel blue dresses that my bridesmaids chose.

I was quite nonchalant about what my bridesmaids were going to wear. I let them know what colour I was thinking of (dusty/steel blue) and said that they could go anywhere they wanted to purchase their dresses. They didn’t have to match. They just needed to be full-length and within the same colour family. I simply wanted them to feel comfortable and happy. I certainly didn’t want to dictate how much they’d be spending on a one-day event. Better yet, I wanted them like their dresses enough to be able to reuse them down the road, if they chose to do so.

I guess I was a little too lax with everything though and they wanted more direction. The four of us made a day of it, hitting up three different stores on a Saturday at the end of March. While there were some nice choices at the more boutique-like bridal stores we went to, the prices were a lot higher and the selection wasn’t as big. Our last stop was David’s Bridal at South Edmonton Common and that’s where they found their favourite dresses.

It took a second visit to come to a decision, but all three of them actually liked the same dress and opted to match. Silver shoes were chosen to go with their gowns and they accessorized with their own delicate pieces of jewellery.

Hair & Makeup

Long braided hair made me feel like Rapunzel from Tangled.

I left this until almost the last minute (practically). I have my bridesmaid Amanda to thank for reminding me to book this. We got Alice Tran to come from Calgary to do both services for all four of us girls. It made for an early morning, but everything timed out well and we were right on schedule. The day was relaxed while we snacked, chatted, did our nails, and got dolled up.

Groom’s Attire

Look at how handsome Kirk is!

Kirk really wanted a custom blue suit for the wedding, so we went to Indochino at West Edmonton Mall. He was measured in-house and he got to pick the fabric, lining, style of pockets/collar/sleeves/pants, etc. In all honesty, we had a tough go with the fittings. The first jacket was way off with the stomach; it could have fit me inside it as well. The second jacket just had the puffiest padded shoulders, which looked wrong and caused the area above his biceps to pucker weirdly.

The third time was the charm though, thank goodness! We started the whole process of the having the suit made near the start of April, and, by the time we received the proper jacket, we were nearly down to the wire. It all worked out in the end, but it was touch and go for a bit. Kirk looked really dapper though and I am glad that he went for it. He paired the suit with a pair of brown suede dress shoes and a wood tie clip that we found at Simons, which finished off the whole look.

Groomsmen

This photo is fire.

So, as it happens, Kirk’s best man and two other groomsmen were all in the best man’s wedding party a few years back. They all had matching suits from Moores for those nuptials and they all still fit in them. To make things easy, we told them to wear them again for our wedding, and it was perfect since the grey colour balanced out the blues and the blush. We even got them all matching pink ties from Simons to wear.

Florals

My bouquet with cascading ribbon!

While I went the DIY route for a handful of things with our wedding, I knew that, as a black thumb, I probably wouldn’t fare well with creating bouquets or boutonnieres myself. I shelled over the money to hire SWISH Flowers. They created beautiful arrangements for my bridal bouquet and three bridesmaid bouquets as well as matching boutonnieres and pin corsages for Kirk, his groomsmen, my dad, and our mothers.

I didn’t want anything too structured, so the arrangements were a little bit wild with greenery that wasn’t perfectly placed. We stuck with seasonal flowers like roses, gerbera daisies, and freesia. Mixed into the bundle was astilbe, eryngium, dusty miller, silver dollar eucalyptus, and succulents. The colours were white, blush, and shades of muted green and blue to match our outfits.

It’s definitely helpful if you go into the meeting with your florist with an idea of what you are looking for. In my case, I really didn’t know. There were a lot of bouquets I’d seen on Pinterest that I loved, but most included spring flowers that would have been out of season or too expensive to bring in. I worked with Lara at SWISH Flowers to come up with something that would fit the tone and style of our wedding and I was very happy with what we got.

A friend of mine even deconstructed my bridal bouquet later in the week, making a new vase arrangement and then replanting the succulents for me as a keepsake that I hope I will have better luck at keeping alive.

Music

He spun me around during our first look. We’ll pretend this is from our dance for now.

We did away with a live band or a DJ, and we used my Spotify account on Kirk’s laptop for the entire wedding. We had selected a few songs to play for the ceremony entrance, signing, and exit. Our friend/guest graciously agreed to handle the logistics of that. He also ended up becoming our impromptu DJ for the night. Even though I had asked all of our guests for song suggestions and compiled a playlist ahead of time with the majority of those selections incorporated, everyone ended up making requests and our friend just took it over and I was okay with that.

The speakers were rented from Long & McQuade for the weekend along with a lighting system to liven up the dance floor. It created the perfect ambiance for our party, which lasted until about 1:30am.

Marriage Commissioner

It’s an interesting process to pick the person who is going to officiate your marriage. We met with several people who were all found on the Service Alberta website (they must be appointed by the Government of Alberta) before we picked Pat Monilaws based out of Leduc. She was just so warm and friendly during our initial get together. With the concern and excitement of a mother and impeccable organization, we thought she’d be perfect. She did a fantastic job on the day. If you’re looking for someone to perform your ceremony, we’d certainly recommend her.

Wedding Bands & Engagement Ring

When we were first looking at engagement rings, we went to a handful of shops for fun. All of them seemed to push the trendiest and biggest options onto us. But, when we stopped into Independent Jewellers, Stephanie, one of the store managers, was awesome. She elevated our experience by clearly explaining the 4Cs to us and then she just started pulling out a bunch of different styles in various sizes, letting me try everything on. She understood that not every ring is suited to every hand. I have really petite hands and my ring finger is a size 3.5, so a large carat size might look crazily disproportionate on me. When we finished there, I’d narrowed it down to three possibilities and left the final decision (and proposal) in Kirk’s capable hands.

Probably about a year after we were engaged, Kirk and I popped into Independent Jewellers again to look for wedding bands. We were told that the selection was a bit scant at the time and it would be best to come back in the spring around May for more choices. Sure enough, when we returned, they had just stocked a brand new men’s wedding band that Kirk was drawn to right away. Brushed white gold on the outside with a shiny rose gold finish on the inside. I wanted to compliment my engagement ring with something that was still dainty, but also fun, and I chose a white gold bubble band with bezel set diamonds, which was custom made to my size.

I also love Independent Jewellers because they will clean my rings everytime I’m there (they’re so sparkly afterwards), plus they do inspections every six months.

Cake

With dessert included in our family-style dinner reception, we knew that our guests would likely be so full from the meal they’d just consumed that a big cake would largely be wasted. We thought it’d be best to go with a smaller cake, so we could do a simple cutting ceremony.

I did some research on different bakeries around the city and the prices for their signature cakes (not custom), and I landed on Milk & Cookies Bakeshop. With ten different flavours available, we elected to go for an 8″ Raspberry Lemon cake. For $50, it was already less than or on par with the cost of a 6″ cake at other shops. But, I paid an extra $10 to have the colours of the frosting changed to match the blush and blue of our outfits and to have sugar cookies (so delicious!) added to the top of the cake.

Our wedding was on a Sunday and the closest open date for pick up when I ordered our cake was the Thursday before. The cake refrigerated well and was still fresh and moist for the following week. Anything that remained, we froze for later.

To further decorate the cake, we picked up a ‘Mr & Mrs’ silver glitter topper from Michaels for about $7 after applying a 50 to 55 per cent off coupon.

Decorations & Party Favours

Last, but not least, were the decorations and party favours. I spent the better part of a year collecting items as I continued planning. We were lucky in that Ampersand 27 is already so well-designed that decorations could really be kept to a minimum. Anything that I did find, I could also use down the road as home decor.

Most of the pieces I bought, such as, the cake stand; a card box; wooden initials; a metal “love” sign; picture frames; and a table runner, were from Winners (paid for with gift cards I’d redeemed using my credit card points). We had a couple of our engagement photos printed at London Drugs for display in our seating chart frame and guest book picture frame. After months of calligraphy practice, the signage and place cards were all handwritten by me. Small chalkboard easels picked up from the clearance section at Michaels were used for the table numbers.

When it came to our party favours, we wanted it to be personal and something that would hopefully be treasured by our guests. It became a DIY project done with a lot of love. You can read more about them here.

 

I’ll update this post with more photos once we get everything. In the meantime, I hope that this inspires any brides-to-be, especially those in Edmonton.

Wedding DIY: Party Favour Prints

Finished custom party favour!

For our wedding, I really wanted to make something unique for our party favours, but I didn’t know exactly what that would be at first. It wasn’t until I attended an evening printmaking class at the Art Gallery of Alberta that I became inspired. I had such a blast carving out a big stamp that I decided, then and there, to incorporate that creative technique into the gifts for our guests.

One of my friends who attended the drop-in class with me didn’t quite finish her piece that night, so she opted to buy her own tools in order to complete her carving at home. She found everything she needed at Delta Art & Drafting Supplies (11116 120 Street) during a sale, and I followed suit by picking up all of the required materials to put my plan into action. I think, all in, I spent about $130 on a few sheets of easy cut lino, an assorted lino cutter set, rollers, a paint knife, a jar of ink, and a metal leaf adhesive pen (that didn’t get used). I collected some quality art paper that I already had at home, which saved me a bit of money, too.

It took a while, but I was really happy with our design.

The hard part was coming up with a design to represent both me and Kirk as well as what our family and friends mean to us. When I finally put everything together, the rest of the project was a breeze.

It’s good to know how to write backwards!

It took me about a full day to trace and carve the piece out onto the lino. Since you’re creating a stamp, you have to remember that, when it’s printed, it’ll put a mirror image onto the paper. I had to be careful to make sure that the picture would be the right way around, especially with any wording. For designs that are more generic, it’s not much of an issue, but in my case, a map of Canada and all of the hand-carved text needed to be done correctly. Thankfully, I didn’t make any mistakes!

With aching hands, I proceeded to print about 60 copies of my design the following day. I made sure to fully coat the lino stamp with ink, but avoided applying the paint too thickly. If there’s excess, the ink will bleed into the crevices where you want the lines to show, so it’s better to be a little light-handed with the paint. A dry roller used to apply pressure to the backside of the stamp will get the ink to stick to the paper for that perfect one of a kind transfer.

Hand painting gold hearts with metallic acrylic.

For our favours, the finishing touch was some gold hearts. I mentioned previously that I had purchased an adhesive pen, which I had intended to use to apply rose gold metal leaf to each piece. Unfortunately, I found the nib of the pen to be too wide, preventing me from drawing more refined hearts. The glue also never seemed to get sticky enough and the foil wasn’t defined at all. Ultimately, I tossed that idea aside and I ended up hand painting hearts onto the maps using metallic gold acrylic once the base layer of ink had fully dried.

Hand folded envelopes using scrapbooking paper.

The final prints were about 11″ x 7″ in size. Rather than sealing them up in plain manila, my mom found some 12″ x 12″ scrapbooking paper that we had held onto. She was like some origami queen; she folded these beautiful envelopes and then stuffed every one with a print. We sealed them with some pretty stickers that we found at Dollar Tree and then I hand wrote the guests’ names on them.

Signed and sealed!

It definitely was a wedding party favour that required thought and time, a real labour of love. I’m so glad that I opted to do this because it was something creative for me to work on, but it was also different and heartfelt. Our guests really appreciated the effort we put into it and they knew that what we said in our print was what we truly meant.

DIY isn’t necessarily for everyone who’s getting hitched. Nevertheless, I hope this encourages some of you to give DIY a try. At home projects can make things a bit easier on the wallet and, if you give yourself the time, it can be so gratifying to create things. In fact, I enjoyed this so much that I worked on a side printmaking project for a special letter given to my husband for our first look. It made our wedding day that much more special with those small details.

Edmonton Local Love Winter Wedding Experience

The registration desk at the Royal Glenora Club

On Friday afternoon, I made my way over to the Royal Glenora Club to attend Local Love‘s sixth Edmonton Wedding Experience. Unlike the massive fairs held at the likes of the Convention or EXPO centres, theirs is meant to be a much more intimate event with a curated selection of the city’s best vendors.

My Maid of Honor and one of my two other bridesmaids were able to join me. We arrived at the venue by 4:30pm (it started 30 minutes prior) to find a bit of a line at registration. It didn’t take too long to make our way to the front where they scanned our Eventbrite tickets and gave those who were of age (bring your IDs) wristbands, so we could be served alcohol samples. At the far end of the table was a draw for a gift basket and one of the other hosts was handing out swag bags.

Goodie bags were only available for the first 100 guests. But, they’re packed with a ton of information, discounts and treats (which I’ll go over later), so it is beneficial to make it there when the doors open as opposed to later in the evening (although, it’s understandable if you cannot as 4:00pm is somewhat early for a work day), if you hope to snag one.

Sweetness makes some great sugar cookies and pretty lollipops.

Once we were signed in, we walked up the stairs to find two of the Royal Glenora’s banquet spaces — available to be rented through to the end of 2019 before they undergo a massive renovation in 2020 — set up with stations. The Braemar room actually has the larger capacity, so they fit the majority of the participating businesses in there. However, I do think it would have been nice if they had spread them out a little bit more between that room and the Strathcona/Glenrose rooms because with four rows of booths, it was quite cramped whereas the latter was quite spacious in comparison.

To help with congestion further, I think a rearrangement of a couple of the vendors would have made a big difference. At the back of the Braemar hall was the Old Fashioned Mobile Bar (so cute!) and Elizabethan Catering. Both of them were preparing samples for attendees, leading to large groups hovering around the area as they worked. Separating those two would have alleviated the mass of people in the same small space. Lastly, it was just super hot in that first room. Opening a few of the patio doors to let in a breeze would have made it much more pleasant.

Look at this amazing chair displayed in the Strathcona/Glenrose room!

All of that aside, I did appreciate the mix of vendors that Local Love handpicked. There were a few entertainment options, including the more standard DJ as well as a live acoustic singer who was performing. And, while I don’t need to hire any planners or book any decor rentals, there were some amazingly talented creators and fun ideas for inspiration. Beautiful photographers and venues — we’ve already chosen to go with Jennie Lea Photography and Ampersand 27 — were sprinkled about the rooms, too. There were also a number of cake/dessert businesses handing out tasters. I found it was nice to see what they had to offer, not just in terms of the cake itself, but for party favours or cake alternatives (the tiered macarons from Sweetness!).

My fave finds:

  1. iDo Accessories – Nadia provides very reasonably priced jeweled belts, tiaras, headbands and hair combs out of her home studio. All of the pieces are handmade and so gorgeous. From what I could tell, items ranged from $15 for the smaller accessories to maybe a maximum of $100 for the larger ones. It’s wonderful to know that there’s someone out there who understands the need for more affordable accessories like this. The majority of other shops (aside from Claire’s Accessories; I cannot vouch for the quality) tend to charge $200 or more for similar pieces.
  2. More Than Gold (Fine Jewellery by Sonja Deklerk) – Such pretty jewellery ranging from more simple bands to vintage-style pieces that are likely to become family heirlooms.
  3. Art of Charcuterie – Seriously, Diana’s table was amazing! It was just a feast for the eyes and the palate. The way that she stacked and arranged all of the displays and the food on her charcuterie boards was incredible. It was absolutely a work of art that looked just as good when half eaten as it did when it was first laid out.
  4. Edmonton Wedding & Party Centre – This is actually a division of Special Event Rentals and I didn’t know they existed. Their booth had some unique guest “books” as well as many items that could be personalized for the bride/groom and wedding party.
  5. Special Event Rentals – Again, I don’t require their services. Yet, it was worth a stop at their booth since they were handing out complimentary copies of a wedding guide binder from “America’s #1 Wedding Planner” Beverly Clark. These normally retail for $25 USD each; a very nice bonus particularly if you’re just starting to figure out the details of your big day.
  6. What the Flowers – They’ll make fresh floral arrangements for bouquets, boutonnieres and corsages. Larger displays like arches or centerpieces can be made out of more cost effective high end silk flowers that still bring out the wow factor.

The three of us spent a little over an hour and a half there, leaving with our bags even fuller than when we’d started our exploration. It was a good amount of time and it didn’t feel too overwhelming. We had ample opportunity to chat with the vendors that we were interested in and we never felt rushed. Overall, it was worth the visit.

I believe a regular ticket would have cost $15, but we received a discount when we purchased ours during the early bird period. At just over $12 after fees and GST, it’s a phenomenal value, considering what we found in our swag bags: a scrunchie from Wild Theory Weddings (photographer), a beaded bracelet from Bridal Avenue, earrings from Urban Drawer (a sock company), a gift card for Buff Wax Spot, a bath bomb from Travel Beyond This City (travel agent), a frameable quote card as well as a $100 discount from Delica Bridal, offers for a free chocolate bar from The Violet Chocolate Co. and a free teeth whitening kit from Highmoor Dental, copies of Blush and Wedding Bells magazines, a brownie from Whisk Dessert Co., a sugar cookie and lollipop from Sweetness, a chocolate cake pyramid from Melt Confections, and a container from The Cotton Candy Shoppe, and a variety of other pamphlets with promos.

Local Love’s next Edmonton wedding experience probably won’t be until the fall, but I recommend that any brides, couples, or wedding parties who are looking for a completely manageable fair to gather ideas, deals, and enter contests keep an eye out (follow them on Instagram or Facebook). For a gal that didn’t even think it was necessary at this point in the planning stages of our late summer/early fall wedding, I can definitely say that I was pleasantly surprised by this event and walked away with at least a few new options and ideas that I hadn’t necessarily thought of before.

Edmonton Wedding Venues

Ampersand 27’s lounge and dining room.

Right after Christmas this past year, I became engaged. I took it pretty easy at first, allowing the idea of marriage to fully sink in for a few months before starting on the journey of planning our nuptials. However, by the end of March, I thought it was time to start doing something. In my mind, it made the most sense to begin with a venue. Once we had that in place, we’d have a date, and everything else would fall in line.

My one real stipulation when choosing a location was that I wanted it to be different from any other that I’d previously been to for a wedding. Don’t get me wrong though. Every single one I’ve had the pleasure to witness has been beautiful and perfect for the couple I was there to celebrate. And, granted, I cannot guarantee that our selected venue will be new and unexpected for every single one of our guests. But, honestly, I just don’t want it to be a cookie cutter version of what my friends have already done and seen themselves. For me, that meant spots such as the Lodge at Snow Valley, the University of Alberta Faculty Club, and the Riverview Room at Shaw Conference Centre were out.

The following list is by no means comprehensive in terms of all of the places I actually reached out to. These are just the ones that Kirk and I decided to visit in person. They are discussed here in the order that we saw them.

Hansen Distillery

This option as a venue was a total fluke. We ended up here for a tour and tasting at the distillery earlier this year. When we were there I noticed how cute the lounge space is. It’s got tables, bar seats and even a stage in the corner that a band or DJ could use. They make fantastic drinks with their own spirits, too.

Rental fees at the time of inquiry were about $175 per hour. In addition, they had an expected spend of at least $2,000 on alcohol as well as an hourly cost of $20 for each bartender. At a minimum, before tacking on food catering and extra table or chair rentals, we’d be on the hook for $4,000 plus taxes and gratuities. In reality, that isn’t all that bad since beverages and the venue are already accounted for.

The only thing to keep in mind is that it’s a small space. Typically, the lounge only seats 30 people. But, more can be squeezed in. It just really limits the number of guests you can have. Yet, for those who intend to keep their wedding a more intimate affair, this could be a great location.

Enjoy Centre

Glasshouse Bistro. Photo courtesy of the Enjoy Centre.

Without a doubt, the Hole’s Enjoy Centre in St. Albert is stunning. Yet, as of this year, they only have two options for rentals, including the Moonflower Room and their Glasshouse Bistro. They used to have the Park Room on the lower level, which was better for smaller weddings like ours (we’re expecting around 85-100 guests max).

First off, I have to stipulate that, being a greenhouse, the building is warm. We met with their events planner at the end of March and it was already sweltering inside (I mean, we were literally walking around the perimeters checking for plug-ins in case we needed to bring in multiple fans). I seriously can’t fathom what it would feel like in late summer. By the same token, if you’re okay with warmer temperatures and you want it to feel like you’re getting married in a tropical destination, then this may be the one for you.

During our tour, we took a look at the Glasshouse Bistro. It’s their restaurant and it resides on the west side of the building (I believe because it seemed like the sun was setting on that side). Since the sun was shining through the windows, it made it even warmer. Otherwise, it’s a pretty venue that can be laid out with longer banquet-like tables for a sit-down dinner of up to 120 guests. The other side of the restaurant where there’s usually a cafe is then turned into a dance floor. I guess one of my problems with it is that you still have all of this retail space sort of right next to the party area, taking away from the ambiance a little bit.

My other qualm with the Glasshouse Bistro was that there were only two options for food. Either the reception is catered by their own kitchen — around $95 per person (the most expensive I came across) — or by Elizabethan Catering Services (the only outside vendor they will work with on the restaurant side).

Moonflower Room. Photo courtesy of the Enjoy Centre.

Still, the rental fee was way more reasonable than their Moonflower Room. Found on the opposite side of the floor and situated next to the greenhouse, this is where they have their seasonal market. The room is massive and can either be booked as a whole or split in half, so only the front portion is used. It’s sort of cavernous, but it’s open, inviting and versatile with a minimalist design to it. When we viewed it, a party was being set up, making it easy to picture what it’d look like. It’s also big enough that everything from the ceremony to the reception to the dance can happen in one location.

Unfortunately, with a minimum cost of $5,000 just to rent half the room, it was already digging way deeper into our pockets than we wanted. Adding on all of the other costs like a food caterer (they’re more flexible with the Moonflower Room as other vendors can be used as long as they’re approved by the Enjoy Centre), bartenders, alcohol, music, etc. meant our budget would rack up really fast.

Muttart Conservatory

Atrium of the Muttart Conservatory. Photo courtesy of the City of Edmonton.

The very same day we went to see the Enjoy Centre, we also stopped in to the Muttart Conservatory. It’s one of the city’s most iconic landmarks with pyramids that can be used for intimate ceremonies of 25 to 50 people, depending on which one is selected. The atrium in between the four pyramids would then be rearranged for a wedding reception.

Being a City of Edmonton property, the rental fees are much more reasonable, and they pretty much give free reign over all of the spaces like the atrium, pyramids and the classrooms for the whole evening. What I didn’t like was how tight the schedule would be on the day of the wedding. Due to the fact that the Muttart Conservatory would be open for regular business on the day of and doesn’t close to the public until 5:00pm, any wedding setup wouldn’t be able to be done until after that time. Personally, I didn’t want to be stressing out over stuff at the last minute, so it kind of put this location at the bottom of my list.

Ampersand 27

Those twinkling lights on the ceiling make for an excellent backdrop.

This is a restaurant situated right on Whyte Avenue and 106 Street. It’s in Old Strathcona, but a block or two west of the most high traffic areas. It makes it a little bit quieter and laid back. It’s also connected directly to the Varscona Hotel (they now own the restaurant, too), which we found to be an extra convenience, especially for our many expected out of town guests.

From the get go, we were treated so well by their restaurant manager and chef. The two of them gave us a full tour of the facilities, including the banquet room in the hotel, their hospitality suite, private dining room, lounge and main dining room. They sat down with us for a whole hour afterwards to discuss what we were envisioning for our wedding day, and they were willing to work with us on our budget.

Ampersand 27 itself is gorgeous. I hadn’t been there in a while, but I vividly remembered the twinkling lights on the ceiling, the stone accent wall and fireplace. That hasn’t changed at all, and it’s absolutely the perfect backdrop for an elegant, modern wedding. The restaurant is broken up into distinct spaces, too, so it’ll be easy to configure it for a ceremony, reception, and dance.

Before we left that day, the restaurant was incredibly generous, inviting us to have a drink and a snack. The hospitality they showed us was amazing, and it really helped to solidify them as a top contender for our wedding day. FYI, this is the one we’ve picked! We’re so excited to celebrate our big day here.

Revel Bistro and Bar

The historic and gorgeous lounge and bar.

Revel Bistro and Bar is located on Jasper Avenue. It’s right across the street from the Shaw Conference Centre. Previously, it housed Tavern 1903 and Alberta Hotel Bar + Kitchen. This latest restaurant is brought to us by the same owners as PRIVADA Wine & Tapas in St. Albert. With a minimum spend of about $7,000 plus taxes and gratuity for a weekend booking, it’s probably one of the more affordable buyouts you’ll find.

I’ve always loved this place for the history. When the building was restored, they kept the look of the old bar that used to be inside the original Alberta Hotel. It has a nostalgic style with a fancy wooden bar, detailed tiling, pretty moulding on the ceiling and light fixtures created by the same man who designed the Titanic (so they say). It’s neat and it’s pretty. But, that’s only on the lounge side of the venue. The other half is much more sleek and modern. As it turns out, the ceiling was paneled in such a way as to amplify sound since it was made to showcase live music (CKUA is next door and I guess it was thought that they could utilize the space sometimes).

Relegating the wedding to one side of the restaurant or the other would really limit the number of guests we could have as the dining room really seats about a maximum of 70 people. The lounge can maybe accommodate another 50 people, if I recall correctly. Trying to utilize both spaces for a sit-down dinner would be difficult, if things like speeches are to be made throughout the evening as the entrance to the restaurant kind of blocks off the two sides from one another.

Logistically, it just didn’t seem ideal for our particular plans. Plus, Revel Bistro and Bar is so new that, at the time of our meeting with their manager, they had yet to host a wedding there. While they had a few already booked for the summer, they really didn’t have any experience to go off of, which is something we weren’t entirely comfortable with.

Characters Fine Dining

Characters dining room. Photo courtesy of Characters Fine Dining.

In April, we set up a meeting to view Characters Fine Dining. I’d been there once before for dinner with a friend and it stuck with me as a unique place to hold a private event. It’s a large space with an open kitchen, lots of seating and a dual-sided fireplace. When we arrived for our meeting, we got to see the lay of the land.

It’s got a much more rustic industrial vibe than anything else we’d checked out. But, there’s a warmth to the place that makes it very cozy. Their manager explained that the backside of the main floor dining room could be configured with theatre-style seating for a ceremony in front of the fireplace. The other side of the restaurant, closest to the door, would be styled for the reception. If needed, we could also rent out one of the private dining rooms in the basement for cocktails in between. Or, the patio, weather permitting, could be used for that as well.

They probably had the most extensive set menu choices out of the few restaurants we looked into. The most popular options started at around $75 per person. The expected total spend to rent out the whole main floor was about $10,000. However, that supposedly would include all taxes and gratuities. Despite the cost, this did turn out to be one of our favourite choices because everything could be done under one roof.

Prince of Wales Armouries

This was the very last venue we decided to look at. After a month of tours and meetings, I was pretty much ready to pick somewhere. I was also getting antsy about places being booked up because I’d heard how far in advance couples tend to reserve things. The Prince of Wales Armouries at 108 Avenue and 104 Street is slightly off the beaten path and maybe not the easiest to find. It’s also not a location I was super familiar with since I tend not to go much further north than Jasper Avenue.

But, I was intrigued by photos I’d seen on the City of Edmonton website. Once more, as a city property, when compared to other privately owned businesses, it’s got quite an affordable rental fee. They also have two different rooms available for booking. Between them, I much preferred the Governor’s Room though. It’s much more historic with the 19th century look whereas the Jefferson Room is only a bit fancier than a standard hall.

When renting out the Governor’s Room, it also comes with the use of the West Terrace on the second floor, which is like an indoor patio. It’s perfect for the dance at the end of the night, and it’s quite unique since it showcases the Prince of Wales Armouries as a building within a building.

Edmonton Restaurant Review: Ampersand 27 (2018 Update)

The bar and dining room of Ampersand 27.

Located on 106 Street and Whyte Avenue, Ampersand 27 is right in the heart of Edmonton. Seeking out potential venues for our upcoming wedding, my fiancé and I popped in for a venue meeting with Restaurant Manager Laura Rudd and Executive Chef Fan Zhang. It’d actually been a little while since my last visit (read my previous review here), but my recollection of the place was spot on.

Those twinkling lights on the ceiling make for an excellent backdrop.

The space is just as beautiful as I remembered with twinkling lights on the ceiling, a statement fireplace against the back wall, modern teals and metallics mixed with natural woods and stone, and a funky amoeba-shaped bar. What I didn’t realize was its direct attachment to the Varscona Hotel right next door, which we consider to be a big plus as we’re going to have plenty of guests travelling from out of town. With accommodations nearby, room for a dinner, reception, dance, and hopefully a ceremony, this seems like an incredibly versatile spot with plenty of possibilities.

Their charcuterie menu is quite extensive with all meats made in-house.

Neither of us really had a solid idea of what we want for our celebration. However, during our discussion with Laura and Chef Fan, both of them had some excellent suggestions and seemed eager to bring our vision to life. They gave us a lot to think about, and, when we were done our tour and conversation, they actually invited us to stay for a drink and some charcuterie.

Look at this amazing cheese and charcuterie board!

In all honesty, they were super generous. When they offered to make us a plate, we expected that they’d provide just a small sampling of food to whet our appetites. Afterwards, if we were still hungry, we were more than willing to stick around and make a night of it on our own. But, wow! We received a humongous board chockablock full of house cured meats (my faves were the Bresoala, Truffled Mortadella, and Kielbasa), homemade pickles, preserves, and beer mustard (the best!), in-house baked sourdough bread, and a variety of cheeses (creamy Port Salut and Goat Gouda won the night). All in, I guessed the total value was around $100, including our beverages. They outright spoiled us!

Although we technically didn’t need anything else to eat, we opted to treat ourselves to an order of their 3 Pork Buns ($15) with an Extra Bun ($5) to make it even, as well as a side of the Brussels Sprouts ($5).

Brussels Sprouts in Garlic Butter

The latter was cooked until the greens were tender, but still had bite. The outer leaves were also charred and crispy, just the way I like it. The sprouts may have been a tad greasy, yet I suppose that’s a given considering they’re prepared in garlic butter.

As for the Pork Buns, they were mentioned by a couple of the staff, so we thought it made sense to try them. I’m glad we did because they absolutely did not disappoint. The thick cut pork belly was seared until crisp on the outside and the fats had rendered. Sriracha mayo, hoisin, thinly sliced pickled cucumbers along with baby leaves and chopped green onion finished them off. Pillowy soft steam buns held everything together.

Warm Brownie for dessert!

Before we left, we had to try a dessert. Our choice of the evening was the Warm Brownie ($11; it may not currently be available). It was sort of deconstructed and served with caramel sauce, sponge toffee bits, roasted peanuts, fresh whipped cream, and a mint leaf for garnish. This was absolutely decadent and sweet; it’s the perfect dish for sharing as the portion size is more than decent.

I can’t lie. Ampersand 27 completely won us over. Laura and Chef Fan showed such amazing hospitality. Additionally, their fantastic server Janell cannot go unmentioned. I previously knew her from another restaurant that she worked at simultaneously as she held a position here, and she’s wonderful. Janell has a way of putting the customer at ease and making them feel like a friend.

While nothing is set in stone at this time, Ampersand 27 is at the top of our list. Not only are the share plates such a delight, but the people who run the place can’t be beat. Even if it doesn’t end up being the venue for our nuptials next year, it’s still going to be one of our favourite Whyte Avenue businesses and restaurants for a long time to come.