Planning the trip down the aisle

A wedding is a ceremony where couples profess unconditional love in front of their friends and families.

Yet for some, a wedding also presents the opportunity to throw a lavish party where no details are too trivial – a mentality that is fueling the $4-billion wedding industry in Canada. With all the different options to plan for a wedding, which way is the most affordable?  Here are three routes couples can take when planning for their wedding.


Starfish Creative Events is  an Ottawa company that hosts wedding workshops, where  couples can gather and discuss their big day. Each four-hour workshop includes do-it-yourself project ideas, decoration tips, food demonstrations, a black book of necessary service names and a private 30-minute consultation. Attendance for one costs $99, while a couple can attend for $175.

The workshop allows attendees to make smart and confident decisions while they’re planning, says Hannah Schatz, the company’s wedding specialist. “This way couples can really be comfortable with how much they’re spending, knowing the limitations of their budget and how to personalize their wedding, all without the pressure to hire additional help.”

“Even though we’ve only held two workshops so far, we’ve gotten great feedback,” says Schatz. “It’s a short but very cohesive session. While many of the brides have read a ton of wedding books, we give them our own workbook, which they say is the best they’ve read because it’s a summarized, condensed version.”

But Schatz stresses that these workshops aren’t meant to replace the duty of a wedding planner. She says about 50 per cent of the participants who attend the workshop still decide to hire a planner on the side, likely because of the peace-of-mind that comes with having a planner on call.


Cristie Vito, the owner of Stellar Events and Weddings in Ottawa, has planned approximately 30 to 40 weddings throughout her career in event co-ordination.

Vito has worked with budgets ranging from $20,000 to $80,000 and says she doesn’t see a decline in the amount of money couples are allotting to their wedding  as a result of  the recession. “Weddings are once in a lifetime for most people so couples tend to keep their vision and not cut back on their budget,” she says. “It just means that instead of saving for a year, they’ll save for a bit longer.”

Like most companies, Stellar offers three types of wedding packages to accommodate different budgets. Consultations for those seeking guidance are charged per hour;.Several weeks of service leading up to the wedding cost a flat rate of $1,000.  For complete involvement in the wedding process the company charges a 10 per cent-commission with a minimum of $2,400.

A common misconception about wedding planners, Vito says, is that they are written off as an unnecessary expense.  She argues that the unique connections of an experienced planner can actually help reduce costs of particular services and tasks.

“The reality is that because I work with vendors on a regular basis, a lot of them will offer me and in turn, my clients, discounts,” she says.

Vito says the presence of a wedding planner for the few weeks leading up to and including the big day is invaluable.

“There are definitely a lot of great resources out there that can help plan but they can’t replace a wedding planner on the day of a wedding … if anything goes wrong, I’m the one that makes sure it gets resolved because [the couple] doesn’t even realize that anything’s wrong in the first place,” she says.


Mariam Ali has been planning her September wedding for approximately one year, all without the help of a wedding planner. She says she felt she’d have enough time to figure out the best prices on her own without having to hire a planner, and she is still happy with that decision.

With most of the planning completed, Ali is still within her budget of $15,000 to $20,000. Her secret? She uses different Internet websites, online forums and search engines to connect and share ideas with others who are also in the planning process. None of the websites Ali uses have any sign-up fees.

“They’re very useful, especially the forums, because they allow for brides to talk to one another. Usually they’ll post pictures of the invitation cards they got and things like that so you can see different ideas,” she says.

Ali also recommends the website,, where members type in their wedding budget and the site will generate a suitable breakdown of how much money should be allocated to each particular service. “So let’s say I hired a florist, I would put in how much it cost me and it would show me whether I could afford it with a calculator illustration,” she says.

She says she believes there will be  a growing trend towards using online sources in wedding planning.