Guys. Oh my goodness today’s real wedding is the BIGGEST treat for your eyes we have ever seen! This wedding has charm by the bucket load and is the dreamiest wedding we have ever received in our inbox. We are beyond excited to share Teri and Keith’s gorgeous day with you. Set on the family’s lake in Canada, the wedding and set up involved the couple’s whole family and friends. From the building of the wooden pew benches to the decoration of the cabin and lakeside and the amazing hot sauce favours. Plus did we mention the CANOE? Oh be still our beating hearts. We really can’t do this incredible wedding justice so read on to find out all the beautiful details from Teri herself and see the stunning photography from Katia Taylor…
Teri + Keith’s Story
Keith and I met in our first week of university classes in 2006. We caught each other’s eye in ‘Introduction to Canadian Literature’ and met swiftly after class over lunch in the cafeteria. Most people who know the story know that I loved him instantly. He walked into class late, brushed his hands through his hair and sat down in front of me. I knew then that he was ‘my guy’. Afterwards, I hurried back to my dorm to greet my roommate (“Buddy” – maid of honour) to proclaim “I’ve met the guy! I’ve found my soulmate” and “here’s the plan, I’m going to kiss him and make him my boyfriend”. Despite my dreams being lofty, I did in fact kiss him and make him my boyfriend.
Keith and I proceeded to become best friends, lovers and dorm mates. We lived together with our friends and roommates off campus and eventually moved in on our own. We endured summers apart and together (I’ve got the love letters still), ‘across the sea’ long distance relationships and we’ve built a home abroad.
In 2013 we settled back into Keith’s home city of Toronto and began to build our lives together. We adopted a rescue cat, bought a soda stream, and found a reasonably priced apartment with two bathrooms. This was HUGE!! More importantly Keith and I had finally landed our dream jobs. All during this time Keith had been secretly working on a ring design with a close family friend and was eager to propose.
On December 28th 2016, equipped with his grandmother’s diamond, a gorgeous new design, and 11 years of knowhow, Keith decided to do just that. He woke me with coffee (a standard practice in our house) and hurried me into the shower. We had an extensive conversation about Keanu Reeves: his relationship with River Pheonix, his wife’s passing and his performance in John Wick.
During this conversation Keith tries to hurry me out of his parent’s cottage by gathering my vintage one piece snowsuit, filling a swell bottle with champagne and OJ, and by promptly stating that we MUST head to our future cottage across the lake to check on the build. We did just that. We arrived to the site, the foundation for the addition of the master had been poured, the framing was up, and the cottage was going to be superb. Now, Keith walks down closer to the beach, it’s snowing lightly and I instinctively follow. I’m thinking about our friends who will arrive over the next few days to celebrate NYE. I continue to follow, not noticing at all that my partner is fidgeting for something in his coat pocket. I look away for a moment and turn back. There he is, my guy from Canadian Literature Class giving me that same memorable glance…
“This is the spot” he says gently.
I ask, “This is the spot?”… Not putting two and two together.
Finally and with such assuredness he helps me understand “This is the spot where I am going to marry you”.
He proceeded to get down on his one knee, dipping it into the snow as he carefully places the ring on my finger. I didn’t shriek, scream or squeal. I surprised us both in that moment by feeling totally excited but at ease. It was the right place at the right time. I was completely charmed and I loved him instantly.
Cressy Lake, Haliburton Ontario
Keith’s father, Gordon purchased a small green cabin in the 70’s on “Little Eddie” Lake in Haliburton County. He scraped together all of his savings to purchase this piece of land and and eventually over the years built an entirely new unit from the ground up. His new cottage was a larger, all season cottage on that same piece of land but kept the original cabin as symbol and reminder of the early days. We decided to marry in front of that sacred green cabin to build on that legacy. We held the reception across the lake at our new cottage and the site of the proposal. There was no question that we would marry on such sacred space in the north Canadian wilderness. The moment he proposed we knew we were to execute the party of our dreams on the newly named “Cressy Lake” at the cottage. We had “Legacy” in mind, and it’s important to the both of us to be building on that family story.
The Dress + Accessories
The dress is Macaroon by Junko Yoshioka and was purchased from a small boutique in Yorkville Toronto called Mrs. Bridal. I purchased this dress with every intention of altering it. I worked with Larissa at My Bridal Alterations who executed those changes flawlessly.
I chose this dress after an extensive hunt – I must have tried on 50+ dresses by this point and I was ready to check this item off of my list. I chose this dress freely, on my own during my lunch and when it was 60% off. At that point I knew what I wanted incorporated in my dress and I understood the look I wanted to achieve.
The Hair + Makeup
Hair by family friend Lisa Finnie – young, talented & optimistic. She totally nailed the look, romantic, whimsical and soft. I know my bridesmaids and each one of them wears their hair in a specific way… For instance Robyn needed to rock a high bun, whereas Buddy and Shannon wear their hair down. With my two sisters I was able to style them with low chignons, loose and soft. What tied each BM together was the Flower Comb I gifted to each of them which was handmade by Lady Hayes.
Makeup by Stephanie Vanalstyne – total pro star and mother of “Buddy” my maid of honour. Stephanie has been working in makeup for over 20+ years and is hands down one of the most skilled artists in her industry. She currently works in television.
The Style + Inspiration
Our goal was to showcase the natural beauty of the land. We simply created a dreamy outdoor scene at the cottage. We enhanced the natural and rustic beauty of the northern landscape by incorporating coppers, greens, petals, blushes and navy.
I had a strong vision from the beginning and was truly excited to share it with my loved ones. The vision was a complete expression of myself and my love for my husband, the gratitude I’ve felt for being a part of such a special place for more than 10 years and of course our own style.
Together and with the help of our friends and family we created every single wedding detail, from the wooden pew benches in the ceremony, to the copper arch, to the individual candle holders on the dining room tables. We sourced and procured everything independently – the aisle runner, the ceiling swagged fabrics, the copper “disco” balls, the hay bales and their accent fabrics and the amber bottles for the flower arrangements.
What we wanted was to throw a dream party in the wilderness, amongst the stars and by a campfire.
The Bride Tribe
My bridesmaids were given a colour palette (blushes, plums, burgundy) and some basic instructions. They chose their own dresses (ASOS, Etsy vendors etc) and shoes and I styled each one of them on the day with accessories: sweaters, scarves (it was chilly) and flower hair pins (made by Lady Hayes). I was really going for a romantic, whimsical and cozy look for the bridesmaids as a whole. I loved draping them in sweaters and scarves, especially since it was such a cold day!
The Groom + Groomsmen
The best men and groomsmen also had the task of outfitting themselves. In a similar style they were given a pallet with some basic instructions. We ended up gifting them each a cheeky pair of socks and a maroon woolly hat for later when it got colder. The groomsmen did a great job achieving that mismatched look!
We ordered our flowers in bulk from a local garden centre “Carey’s” in Minden Ontario. We decided to arrange the flowers ourselves with the ultimate direction and design coming from my maid of honour. My MOH (buddy) and my bridesmaid Shannon decorated the copper arch, the canoe, and oversaw the team creating the table arrangements. My MOH designed and created my bouquet along with the bridesmaid’s bouquet.
The Food + Drink
We executed two food service operations (Act I Ceremony + ACT II Reception) at two different sites. This was planned and executed by my dear friend and chef Charlotte Langley of Scout Events.
She was assisted by another lovely friend, mentor and chef, Steve Mitton (he manned the fire pit where he cooked pork bellies and chicken for reception service! Incredible!)
No cake! We featured a selection of locally sourced pies, butter tarts and cookies from a local baker and business owner Jennifer from Whole Lotta Yum. We also asked our chef to prepare s’mores in a jar and have them torched to order!
People arrived by school bus at 6pm for what we called “Snacks + Sips + Sunset” and were greeted with 5 rounds of seasonal canapés. There was an active oyster station and a charcuterie bar. The bar was open and was serving house bubbles (champagne) Coat-Albret Cider, and you could help yourself to a variety of canned beer from the ‘beer canoe’. The idea was to feed people instantly (as they arrived off the bus), to get some booze and food and their bellies before the ceremony at 7:45-8pm.
After the ceremony, guests proceeded to follow the bridal party down the gravel road in the bush and to the reception site across the lake. We arrived to the reception and shortly thereafter food was placed buffet style inside the converted 3 bay garage on a large table. The bar was open and we featured a variety of taps from a Toronto brewer Nickel Brook Brewing Co.
Brandon Miller ‘DJ Acquittal’ – Criminal defense lawyer by day and totally rad DJ by night, wow! Our guests were absolutely floored by our DJ. Here was this guy spinning 45’s out of our converted 3 bay garage. My goal was to get my dad dancing, he has this way of twisting his ankles and hopping to the beat that I love… and you only get to see this on rare occasions. My goals were met when I looked across the room as my dad sang vehemently along to “I fought the law”, that’s when I knew we’d done it!
I have always dreamt that my father would canoe me across a lake to be married. This dream came to life on September 9th 2017. Just after guests had arrived and were greeted by my groom (after getting off the school bus) I was then queued to come across the lake. My father and I in the custom built canoe he gifted to me earlier that spring. It was a total dream and a memory we will both cherish. We both paddled and in the background our song was playing “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key” by Billy Brag and Wilco.
Our dear friend and chef Kevin Rickey of Foodbenders crafted a delicious hot sauce on our behalf to use as our wedding favour. I came up with the drawing of the deer with antlers (my pet name for my husband is “deer”) as a small gift to Keith who is always requesting that I draw him something. It was a surprise. So I went ahead with a basic drawing, developed the concept and had the help of an illustrator/graphic design friend (Leah Houston) who put it together for me. The hot sauce was super delicious and the design was flawless. Chef Kevin prepared 110 bottles and I labelled each one with friend and bridesmaid Shannon Armishaw.
The First Dance
About a week before our wedding we made the call to cut the first dances out of our production schedule. We just wanted people to be able to get to the “partying” part of the event sooner. Not to say that we didn’t choose special songs…
Canoe: Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key by Billy Bragg & Wilco
Procession: Praise You by Fatboy Slim
Recession: Simple Life by The Dandy Warhols
The Ethical Side
We were both extremely conscious of leaving a low carbon footprint on the wedding. Looking back we should have created our own compost on the property that could help alleviate some of the waste.
We were keen to recycle as much as possible and to protect the lake from waste. We used resources from our land for the ceremony and reception.
The Best Bit
My father and I did a quick ‘canoe rehearsal’ during the afternoon while all hands were on deck and people were buzzing around to get everything done. In the moment with my father, while we practiced our run across the lake I felt for the first time that day completely taken care of and at ease. After that point I was able to focus on what was to come, it allowed me to be more present and less rattled by own nerves.
So yes, our canoe dress rehearsal was the favourite part of my day. I believe my father felt the same way, we were both pretty emotional in that canoe together. It was really special.
What might you have done differently?
Looking back, I wish there was more I could have done to keep my guests warmer. We had such a cold evening in September and despite all the instructions we could send in advance and the firepits, blankets and fire towers we could offer it was still a really cold night. It pains me a little to know how cold some of my guests were. But there wasn’t much more we could have done. The following weekends were extremely warm and we proceeded to hit record breaking weather in September.
- Stick to your vision – at times it felt like I had to justify my vision to those who were (ever so kindly) helping me to achieve it. You are just going to get people who simply can’t ‘see’ it. Don’t be discouraged by them, and definitely DO NOT let them sway you away from that vision. If you have a vision, stick to it. Give yourself that creative credit and leeway you deserve.
- Break The Rules – don’t be afraid to break the rules. This is your wedding and you can literally execute it however you want! I originally wanted to be married at the stroke of midnight, I made a compromise and married as the sun was setting at 7:45pm (This concept still blew people’s minds and I had to fight for it!) You will always have people who are looking to conform and waiting for the usual wedding happenings to take place. But that’s boring and may not actually represent you properly. For instance, there was no way that my mother wasn’t going to give me away, my mother deserved that position just as much as my father so we decided to incorporate both parents as we walked down the aisle. Why not share that honour with the 2 people who raised you?
Also, you’ll have a lot of fun dismantling the usual wedding conventions and making something of your own. People remember so called “unusual” weddings.
- Take Care of Your Guests – be hospitable. Do everything you can to ensure a positive guest experience. This is your day to share your vision with your ultimate supporters, take them on a ride, shower them with great food and beverage and keep them comfortable.
- Simplify & Edit – This coincides with “break the rules”. Just because you’ve been to a wedding where the bride throws the bouquet, or there are 30 minutes of first dances doesn’t mean you have to include these traditions. Skip the mundane process traditions and just get to the good stuff. If you need to take something out of your production schedule so it will ease the flow of the event, just do it!
Thank you so much to Teri and Keith for sharing their beautiful day and love story with us, and huge congratulations to you both! Just reading your story and seeing your amazing day made us really feel like we were there too! And oh how we love those candles… Thank you to photographer Katia and to all the gorgeous suppliers involved, and thanks Teri for the really great wedding planning advice – super useful for any future brides and grooms! If you fancy seeing some more real weddings, then have a look here.
Hair / Lisa Finnie – Family Friend | Makeup / Stephanie Vanalstyne | Groom’s Outfit / Theodore 1922
Florals / Carey’s Garden Centre | Baked Goods / Whole Lotta Yum
DJ / Brandon Miller – DJ Acquittal | Canoe / Greybeard Canoes
Custom wood, mirror + glass signs / Halliewood Designs
Hot Sauce Favours / Chef Kevin Rickey @ Foodbenders