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The joys and perils of an urban wedding

Neil and Celine McMahon Photo Credit: KCS Photography

For Jessie MacAlpine and her husband Ken, their wedding at St. Lawrence Hall was about location, location, location.

“We actually met each other across the street in the Flatiron building and then our first date was at C’est What… so we wanted to be married in that neighbourhood,” MacAlpine says.

After their “I do” on June 4 of last year, the MacAlpines arranged a double-decker bus ride for their guests throughout the city when the tour guide highlighted locations with special meaning to the couple.

“My wedding was very Toronto,” MacAlpine quips.

For couples planning a downtown do, the city offers many unique options — while also posing some specific challenges.

Danielle Andrews Sunkel, president of The Wedding Planners Institute of Canada, says there are many options for couples looking for something other than a banquet hall — and even more for those ready to be creative when it comes to picking a place.

“Just because they don’t offer a wedding package doesn’t mean you can’t do your wedding there.”

At the same time, ““I think in Toronto it can be very overwhelming for a bride and groom who are venturing into planning for the first time,” says event coordinator Rebecca Chan.

“It’s the very first project they’ve planned together with a big budget.”

As for Celine McMahon, she settled on Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex. What she did not realize at the time: they had chosen the same weekend as the Grand Prix.

McMahon’s advice to couples: know what’s going on in the city the weekend of your wedding, especially if it is in the summer, when there are more events taking place.

Another overlooked issue couples need to consider: once guests find their way to the venue, some may not know where to put their cars, and they will more than likely have to pay for parking.

MacAlpine says parking was one of the biggest problems at her wedding (although guests who lived in the city were happy to have easy access to public transit).

Sunkel says some couples arrange to have a bus pick up guests from a parking lot, hotel or other central location. She’s even worked with one couple using rickshaws to pick up and transport people.

Of course, all these options add more expenses. Sunkel says it can cost more to hold a wedding in the city.

But Chan says there are ways to work around that, especially if you’re avoiding popular venues. “You could decide to spend very little and get away with that in the city of Toronto as well because you have a lot of options. You have a lot of venues at your disposal, a lot of vendors at your disposal.”

The key, Chan says, is to set your parameters and stay within them.

“Really do your research. Stick to your budget, because you have so many options, you are bound to find something that’s within your budget.”

Sunkel says there are ways to cut costs. For instance, some non-traditional venues allow couples to purchase a special occasion permit and buy their own alcohol, avoiding a significant markup.

At the same time, Sunkel says couples are often not aware of other additional fees, such as the landmark levy on Ontario heritage buildings. That adds 15 per cent on top of some of the vendor costs.

The guests, too, may face added expenses. MacAlpine says some out-of-town attendees at her wedding drove in, then left early to head home and save on the cost of a downtown hotel.

Sunkel says there are many creative ways of showing off Toronto and what is has to offer as part of a wedding — from tours for the guests, to hiring a food truck to come and serve late night snacks outside the venue, instead of a traditional sweet table.

This is Krista Simpson’s first piece for the Toronto Standard. Follow her on Twitter @kristasimpson.

For more, follow us on Twitter at @torontostandard, and subscribe to our newsletter.

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