Weddings are expensive. The sky is blue. Water is wet. The holy trinity of things we don't need to be told again because we heard them the first hundred times. Various researchers and websites will tell you that the average cost of a wedding in Canada is anywhere from $29,000 to over $50,000. Sadly, with all of the spending we do on oat milk and avocado toast, weddings of that cost caliber seem like a distant fantasy to many of us young Canadians.
So when Tasha and Dean came to me and said she wanted an intimate wedding ceremony and reception in the city for 60 of their closest family and friends for under $10,000, I knew this would be a pretty significant challenge. Oh, and she wanted this wedding to take place in less than three months.
The Venue - $1,100 + $200 cleaning fee
Toronto is one of the most expensive real estate capitals of the world, so many venues start at $10,000 just for rental fees, or at the very least, charge that amount as their minimum spend. I headed over to bizbash.com, which I lovingly refer to as my event planning bible, to search for venues of an appropriate size that were unique and easily accessible by transit (for alcohol consumption purposes and because several members of my family don't drive.) After contacting a few coffee shops and restaurants that doubled as evening event hubs, I stumbled upon the Holy Grail -- The Florist's Loft.
Owned by an incredibly kind and sociable florist named Ken, The Florist's Loft is an event and workshop space located at Greenwood and Danforth where Ken imparts his vast array of plant knowledge on those eager to learn the art of floral arranging. Because of this multi-purpose use, the venue comes equipped with stunning live plant and floral installations covering several walls and parts of the ceiling, which are maintained and updated throughout the year. So, for $1,300, I was able to secure both a space, as well as almost all decor necessary to bring white walls to life.
The Photographer - $0
Luckily there are several members of the family who are amateur photographers and Tasha and Dean were more keen on enjoying time with guests rather than posing for photographs. However, many people hold photographs dear and pictures of your big day may be extremely important to you in which case I always recommend putting a large chunk of your budget towards photos! A good photographer will make all the difference. Check references, check their Instagram page. Make sure you have a contract with them and rest easy knowing you’ll be perfectly well lit.
The Rentals - $1,200
Ken at The Florist's Loft has an array of platters, dishware, cutlery, and glasses on hand. Table linens and ghost chiavari chairs were available for us to use as well. This all came at a cost of $20 per person
The Food, Beverage & Staffing - $4,300
Catering, along with two servers, was provided by 10tation Event Catering. They're super flexible when it comes to working within your budget and their chefs are incredibly talented. People raved about the colourful Israeli couscous salad, as well as their Mediterranean grilled salmon with lemon and dill aioli. For dessert, a friend generously made an incredible two-tier banana cake which we decorated with rosemary at the last minute. We also ordered a few dozen Portuguese custards which are always a hit. A 3-platter charcuterie/grazing station made by yours truly kept guests occupied during cocktail hour.
As this was more of a family dinner style as opposed to a traditional full-blown reception, we opted to keep the bar simple and self serve (read: cheap). We stuck to beer and wine as the main alcohol selections (a dry Beaujolais and a creamy Chardonnay are pretty people-pleasing choices, especially during the cooler months of year.) We placed bottles of wine and rum (a known favourite among the guests attending) on each table to be self-poured, as well as at the "bar" with the charcuterie boards and beer selection. Guests were responsible for helping themselves. While I normally would be nervous about having an un-staffed bar, the small scale of the event and the fact that the wedding was ending at the relatively early hour of 10:00PM meant that I could monitor all guests and people were less likely to indulge heavily so early in the evening.
The Signage & Stationery $125
Instead of hiring a costly graphic designer, I headed to canva.com to create all signage myself, all the way from the invitations to the seating chart. About 60% of the invitations were sent via email so no postage required (trust me, it adds up!) The other 20 invitations were mailed or hand delivered. We also ordered signage to be printed for each table that displayed the wedding hashtag.
The only items that were not printed were the table numbers and blank place cards which were purchased on Amazon using a gift card. Names were then handwritten on each place card by me for a personal touch
In total, the signage/stationery cost breakdown is as follows:
Invitation Printing: $30
Seating Chart Printing: $48
Wedding Hashtag Card Printing: $17
Table Numbers and Blank Place Cards (Amazon): $30 (but free with a gift card!)
The DJ - $200
DJs can take up a huge chunk of your budget, with most coming in at a minimum of $1,200 to make an appearance. Luckily, we had a close family friend offer to DJ the wedding at a crazy discounted rate. It helps to have talented friends!
I always suggest to people who are looking to cut costs that the DJ is a great way to do so. What you really need is a minimum of three playlists and some time to sit down and plan the playlists out. You should have one playlist for cocktail hour, one for dinner, and one for dancing. Then, enlist your wedding coordinator or a trusted member of your wedding party to hit pause or play at a designated time for each one. Simple! A separate playlist can also be curated for when the guests are arriving at your wedding if you wish.
The Officiant - $400
I consulted Weddingwire.com for my officiant needs and felt a little bit disheartened at how many officiants were already booked for our date. This was understandable as we were less than three months out from the wedding. I spoke with one officiant who was booked, however she mentioned she had an understudy who was free that day and would be able to help out.
Nervous about using somebody who might be less experienced, I hopped on what was meant to be a quick phone call with the officiant's recommendation and was immediately blown away. Jaya was an absolute joy to talk to and work with. She had such a friendly and clear voice and spoke with the passion that you would hope someone marrying you would. She was sweet, eloquent, and warm, and truly matched the vibe of the wedding.
The Grand Total... $7,525
Weddings range in size and scope. This comes with a wide array of possible venues and significant rental costs per person which can certainly add up. By keeping the guest count on the low side and really searching to find the perfect venue that could provide rentals and decor for an incredible price, I was able to plan and coordinate an evening full of warmth and love at a fraction of the national average cost. It also definitely helps to have an avid baker and a lover of music on your roster to help cut pesky added expenses!