On February 20th, 2016 Ryan and I got engaged, and it was the beginning of one hell of a roller coaster. Regardless of your intentions, how modest of a wedding you hope to plan, and how few details you initially care about, it seems to take on a life of its own…and no matter how much you think you don’t care about table settings, you’re going to care about table settings. Happy planning!

Our goal when we began planning was to have an affordable, beautiful wedding that really spoke to who we are as a couple. I loathe being the centre of attention, and we live a very lazy and laid-back life. While I didn’t want our wedding to look lazy, I did want to achieve a laid-back evening that would allow us to actually spend some time with our guests, our families, and each other.caitlin and ryan mcgarry with their dogs in ottawa

After what felt like a lifetime of research, we settled on a gorgeous local restaurant as our venue. It was a place we’d been several times that always provided us with an incredible experience. People were quite surprised to learn that the wedding would be during the week, at a restaurant, with no traditional bridal party, and no dancing. The most important thing with this is to stick to your guns. No one knows you as well as you know yourself and I knew that after a fifteen hour day, I would have no interest in dancing, getting plastered, or doing anything other than the other true love of my life—eating.

We have always been very fortunate that the friends and family we keep close share the belief that it’s your day, and that day is meant to accomplish only what you wish it to. My dad was happy to not have to walk me down an aisle, my siblings were happy to be seated during the ceremony, and my friends were happy to help in every way possible.

We wanted our day to be as much a celebration of our love as a celebration of how much we love those closest to us. We think we accomplished this, all while staying within budget! It helps to know exactly what your vision is, exactly what you hope to get from the day, and knowing that at the end of the day, you get to spend the rest of your life together.

Sum up the spirit of your event.

I wouldn’t say there really was a “theme” per se, outside of throwing a nice dinner party in which we happen to get married, that didn’t put us into debt and meant we got to actually enjoy the day together with our nearest and dearest.

Why was the timing important?

The timing was important because we had our wedding on a Wednesday. We didn’t want our friends and family to HAVE to take two days off in order to attend (in most cases), so we started our ceremony at 7:30 pm, which allowed most to work their normal day, and have a wonderful evening with us.

What was your budget?

Our budget was “be as cheap as possible without sacrificing food quality” and “still have enough money to afford all the little details”—we came in at about $6000 for the day itself.

What were your “non-negotiables”?

Amazing food, photos, and the most important people to us. Everything else was icing on the cake.

What did you splurge on?

By far the largest cost was the food. If nothing else we wanted everyone to remember an incredible meal. No one remembers what colour your napkins were, but everyone remembers if you fed them cold, bland chicken and undercooked, underseasoned prime rib.

What could you have lived without?

We’re such bargain hunters I really felt because nothing had an exorbitant cost, there weren’t many unnecessary details. With 40 guests we probably could have done without place cards – everyone would have found their way to a seat. Everything we planned had a reason and spot as part of the pretty limited vision, so there weren’t too many extraneous details. We sifted from all the ideas to the ones we had to have, to the ones that we (read: the bride) really felt were special. Ultimately, we worked on a system of the fact that we would be married without all of it, but if we could manage the beautiful details we would.

Number 1 bargain tip?

Ask your friends for help (in the nicest way possible!) Our cake, music, set up and take down were all done with the help of my friends. As someone who doesn’t like to ask for help, this was my biggest struggle – but everyone was happy to help as much as they could! I saved hundreds (probably thousands) in not having to hire a day-of coordinator and purchase a cake from a bakery alone.

Our cake, music, set up and take down were all done with the help of my friends. As someone who doesn’t like to ask for help, this was my biggest struggle – but everyone was happy to help as much as they could! I saved hundreds (probably thousands) in not having to hire a day-of coordinator or purchasing a cake from a bakery.

Also, find a venue that will allow you to rent your space free of charge if you spend the minimum on food and drink! Ours was a steal with a pretty low minimum spend, considering how amazing the food was, and the space itself actually cost us nothing!eat drink and mcgarry personalised wedding napkins

Favourite detail?

My favourite detail was the backdrop we got married in front of an 8-foot canvas with our vows printed on them, complete with a large peony garland across the top and two huge white balloons with greenery. A beautiful focal point that will be featured in many of our photographs!

Biggest surprise?
I’m so anal retentive there weren’t many surprises but I would have to say that the best surprise was how stress-free the day was. When you know that you’ve planned every detail and get to the most important day of your life hoping all your planning turns out but knowing that you’ll end the day spending your life with your partner, it all works itself out. I never felt stressed partly due to the fact that an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure: take your time with planning, make sure each detail is in place, and it’ll all go off without a hitch (except that you’ll be hitched!)

Special moment?

Most memorable moment was the First Look.

Even when you know exactly what the look on his face will be when he turns around, seeing it happen is a moment that you’ll never forget. It’s also a moment that you get to share alone with each other, and those moments are very few on the day of your wedding!

Vendor Shout-outs |

Most of my decor came from  They’ve got it all (backdrops, personalized napkins, menus, bridesmaid gifts, etc) and are located in BC, Canada which means NO DUTY.

Bev Robson Photography I couldn’t have asked for a better photographer! Bev and her colleague, Kathy, made us feel so comfortable, so special, and so prepared for the day. They were great rolling through the day with every last minute change of plan to get every shot I requested. If you’re in Ottawa (and the surrounding areas) and looking for an incredibly talented photographer who you can trust to capture your day, ensure your photos are amazing, and that will make you feel as comfortable as possible. Contact her!

Plenty of Pretty  Sandra runs her company from Ottawa, ON and made the greenery and florals I used. Incredibly reasonable pricing, impeccable quality, amazing service, and an easy process with a beautiful result.

Table 40 by Fraser Cafe Our venue was above and beyond any expectation I had. The food was incredible, the experience planning was perfect, and the service was amazing.

Stella Maris Collection Was where I got my bridal robe, which was incredibly comfortable, gorgeous quality, and a part of the day that I would have easily overlooked but really made me feel like a bride. The photos with my best friends are some of my favourites, in part due to the comfort I felt in my robe.

Boutique 1861 I bought my dress from this boutique in Montreal that is not exclusively for bridal dresses but does carry them. It was gorgeous, an amazing steal at $150 including taxes and shipping, and really achieved the look and feel that I was hoping for.


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