Luscious Peonies – The Flower of the Year


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Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot,

into the garden,

and softly, and exclaiming of their dearness,

fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness,

their lush trembling,

their eagerness to be wild and perfect for a moment,

before they are nothing, forever?

Excerpt from the poem Peonies by Mary Oliver

Ah, peonies. Those lush romantic blooms are currently the most requested flower by brides. Some bridal trend pundits are even calling peonies the Flower of 2013. To that I say “hooray”. Here’s a trend I can fully support, as, I must confess, I unabashedly adore peonies.

What is it about peonies that elicit such passion and capture the imagination of so many brides and floral designers?

In Sonia Day’s recent book The Untamed Garden – in which she takes a naughty look at some of our most beloved blooms – Sonia describes peonies as flashy, flirty, blousy exhibitionists. All true! But peonies also have less salacious qualities. Peonies symbolize a happy life and prosperity, and they are known as the healing flower. In fact, the name peony comes from the Ancient Greek god Paean, the healer of the gods. Today peony root is still used in traditional Chinese medicine.

As lovely as they are, peonies are also tough and easy care. Established garden plants can last for decades – just make sure they get enough sunshine.

The downside to peonies is their brief period of availability. Try to use peonies when they’re in season (generally late May-late June here in southern Ontario). Off-season imports can be quite expensive and poorer quality than local blooms grown in season.

Even in-season peonies come at a price, $10-$12. Comparatively speaking roses, another beloved wedding bloom, generally cost $3 – $5 per stem.

Peonies. They are symbolic, medicinal and a little bit sexy. But the reason their popularity endures? They’re gorgeous.

Peony Bouquet


Congrats. You’re Engaged. Now What?


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A wedding coordinator can prove invaluable, saving you time and money.

A professional Wedding Coordinator can prove invaluable, saving you time and money.

Happy 2013!

And warm congratulations to all you couples who became engaged over the holidays.

Once the intoxicating first flush of the proposal has faded somewhat – but not too much I hope – it’s time to focus on the work ahead. For as much as planning a wedding can be an awful lot of fun, it is an awful lot of work.

Getting Started

Assuming you’ve shared your happy news with family and friends you can now get down to the details of planning your special day. So, where to begin?

Your initial Top Four considerations are:

  1. Budget
  2. Date
  3. Venue
  4. Guest list

Your first and most important responsibility is to set a budget as every aspect of your wedding flows from there.

The venue you choose, the date of your wedding (a Saturday in August is going to cost more than a Friday in March), the number of guests you’ll be inviting, all of these important considerations depend on your budget. Flexibility is key to successful wedding planning but your budget should be carved in granite. No couple should start off their married life in debt. Remember, your wedding day is just that:  one day. Marriage lasts a lot longer!

Should You Hire a Wedding Coordinator?

To the above list I would add: Wedding Coordinator. Note:  not your friend who has little experience or few qualifications beyond having recently planned her own wedding. A certified, professional Wedding Planner/Coordinator will save you countless hours and potentially thousands of dollars. If this seems counter-intuitive because, yes, we do charge for our expertise, keep in mind that your Wedding Coordinator has already done much of the legwork. With our knowledge of and contacts within the industry we are able to direct you and your fiance to venues and wedding vendors that can help you create the wedding of your dreams – on budget.

Almost 20% of Canadian brides admit to increased bickering with their beloved during the planning process.  Planning your wedding will be stressful and tensions will run high. Your Wedding Coordinator will be a calm, objective third party, as excited for your big day as you two, but keeping a firm eye on the big picture.  She – or he – will help you focus on your priorities while keeping track of the thousands of small details that go into putting it all together. In the long run your Wedding Coordinator will save you time, money – and eliminate those stress headaches.

Still not sure if a Wedding Coordinator is right for you? Consider these tips from The Frugal Bride.







The Bridal Shows are Coming!


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The people who plan and stage bridal shows are very smart. They know the vast majority of engagements happen over the holidays, hence bridal shows galore starting in January. For the newly engaged it can be a bit overwhelming.

Here is a list of upcoming shows, both here in Toronto and the surrounding region. Some are large; some are small.

The larger shows can be exhausting so wear comfortable shoes, load up on batteries for your camera, healthy snacks. And don’t forget a pen and notebook. You’ll be making lots of notes.

Ready? Get set. GO!

January 2013 – Toronto

Canada’s Bridal Show – January 4-6 

Metro Toronto Convention Centre

The Hook:  special appearance by Buddy Valastro from TLC’s Cake Boss


WedLuxe – January 6

The Fairmont Royal York 

The Hook:  they promise it’s going to be epic


The Wedding Co – January 11-13

The Carlu 

The Hook:  Toronto’s finest suppliers. For the stylish, urban couple


The Total Wedding Show – January 18-20th

International Centre 

Hook:  claims to be the biggest show, featuring over 350 exhibitors


Dreams Wedding Show January 20,

Red Rose Convention Centre, Mississauga 

The Hook:  for multicultural couples


National Bridal Show – January 25-27

Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place 

Hook:  Brides-to-Be are Free



January 2013 – Regional


Burlington/Oakville – January 26-27

Hamilton/Halton – January 12-13 

London – January 19-20

Muskoka – January 15-16 – 

Paris – January 20 

St. Catharines – January 19-20 

Stratford – January 26 

Do Wedding Coordinators Ever Sleep?


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WPIC Founders Tracey Manailescu and Danielle Andrews Sunkel at Wedding MBA 2012

WPIC Founders Tracey Manailescu and Danielle Andrews Sunkel at Wedding MBA 2012

Even wedding coordinators have to take a break now and then. So what do we do when we’re not helping couples create matrimonial magic? We learn. Like most industries the world of weddings changes constantly. It is our job to keep up.

An important mandate of the Wedding Planners Institute of Canada (WPIC) – where I did my certification – is their commitment to continuous learning. Our learning does not end when we receive our certification. All WPIC grads are expected to continue to learn and grow, both personally and professionally.

All grads have access to an on-line alumnae board. This board is a friendly meeting place where we share information with our colleagues right across the country. The knowledge, advice and support we provide for each other are invaluable.

And we hit the road. Whether it’s a local venue tour, attending bridal shows or traveling out of the country to learn from global industry thought leaders, we are always on the move to expand our understanding of the industry and our role within it.

In recent months I have attended numerous education events featuring industry experts covering topics such as marketing, insurance (not the most exciting topic, but important), floral and décor, and trends. In the coming months I’ll be doing the bridal show circuit and traveling to Las Vegas for Wedding MBA – the Oscars of wedding conventions.

Internet webinars offer countless opportunities for learning. I’ve spent many hours glued to my computer monitor, soaking up wisdom from industry leaders like Marley Majcher, Alan Berg and David Tutera – all from the comfort of my home.

And did I mention books? So many books! But not a problem for a book lover like me. (Note to self:  get more shelves for the office.)

When you work with a certified wedding coordinator or planner (the two terms are interchangeable), be assured you are working with a total professional who is committed to on-going learning. You should expect no less.


Keeping the Winter Bride Warm


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We can thank the Duchess for the wedding sweater trend.

We can thank the Duchess for the wedding sweater trend.

Isn’t it interesting that the phrase Winter Weddings conjures up cozy, warm images? It’s a bit oxymoronic. The fact is if you live here in Southern Ontario and opt for a winter wedding you will be cold at some point. And if you choose to wear a strapless gown (as do the majority of brides) you will definitely feel a chill on your exposed flesh. Brrrrr. Just the thought makes me crave a hot mug of cocoa.

Keeping the cool weather bride – and her bridesmaids – toasty warm poses a fashion challenge. There are many options – hooded cape, cashmere pashmina, antique shawl, an elegant faux fur stole. All are classically beautiful ways to ward off a chill. But have you considered the trend du jour:  the wedding sweater.

When you hear the word sweater cable knit pullovers, thick Nordic turtlenecks and sensible cardigans likely pop into your mind’s eye.  Wedding attire does not immediately come to mind but the wedding sweater is definitely an on-trend choice for winter brides and their bridal parties. Here are just a few of the samples I’ve discovered:

Colony Club Cardigan-BHLDN

CBHLDN Starstruck CardiganSavile Row Jacket BHLDNFoxtrot Topper BHLDN

The four, above, are from the BHLDN collection. The sweater below is by Anthropologie:


These are just a few samples of the beautiful sweaters available to the winter bride, but what do you think? Are these sweaters wedding worthy, or just too casual?

Those Two Magic Words – Thank You


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Two words. A simple phrase. But, oh, so powerful.

Recently I contributed a generous donation to a deserving fundraising event; something I’ve supported for years. The event itself was weeks ago.

Have I received a thank you for my contribution? I think you know the answer.

As a newly engaged couple you are going to be wined, dined, celebrated, showered and, most important, married. People are going to wish you well, give you gifts, shelter your out-of-town guests, take time out of their own busy lives – sometimes at great personal inconvenience and expense – to help you celebrate your happy and important milestone.

At the very least – the very least – these people deserve a proper thank you.

Contrary to popular myth a newly married couple does not have a full year to send out thank you cards. The Emily Post Institute recommends three months following receipt of the gift. Many etiquette specialists (and I agree with this) say thank you cards should go out within three months of the wedding, regardless of whether or not a guest has sent a gift. Every guest deserves the courtesy of a proper, personal thank you. Remember, people have taken time from their lives to join in your celebration. If a gift should arrive after the thank you card has been mailed, send a second card as soon as possible, acknowledging their generous gift.

Many couples like to include a photo with their thank you cards. A lovely idea as long as waiting for your photos to arrive isn’t pushing your thank you timeline into “rude” territory. If you haven’t received your photos within the three-month timeframe send out your thanks without the pictures. You can always include the photo in a Christmas card.

And, for the record, distributing pre-printed stock thank you cards to every guest at the wedding is not appropriate. Expressing the words “thank you” is a very personal expression between you and your guest. Pre-printed cards are simply rude.

But don’t take my word for it. Let’s hear what the Etiquette Gurus at the Emily Post Institute have to say:

“First of all, stationery is the operative word here: No fill-in-the-blank cards, no pre-     printed cards, no phone calls, no emails and no generic post on your website.”

Sending a proper thank you is the right thing to do and your guests will be very appreciative of this simple, but thoughtful gesture. Take the time to do it properly.

Click HERE to learn more about the etiquette of the thank you card.




Putting a Ring On It – The Luxury Retail Perspective


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Image from

Look at this ring. It’s the classic Tiffany diamond solitaire. One brilliant cut, stunning stone set within six prongs. Simple. Elegant.

It is Tiffany & Co.’s best selling engagement ring. Are you surprised to learn this gorgeous ring was first launched in 1886?

That, my friends, is the definition of classic and timeless.

And that leads us right into the luxury retail experience.

Recently – over many cups of tea – I had a wonderfully informative chat with Erin Stripe, a Fine Jewellery Sales Professional at Tiffany & Co. here in Toronto. Full disclosure:  I’ve known Erin for years – she’s practically family – but I couldn’t think of a better person to talk about the luxury retail engagement ring experience. Erin has been with Tiffany since 2008, having joined their sales team immediately upon graduation from OCAD University. At OCADU she received a Bachelor of Design degree, her area of specialization being Jewellery Design and Metalsmithing. The girl knows her stuff and she was happy to share her knowledge with me.

If you’re a gentleman about to spend a LOT of money on an engagement ring it is in your best interest to get educated. This entire process may take weeks. Erin prefers to call herself an educator, rather than a salesperson. This is, I believe, key to the luxury retail shopping experience. When you buy an engagement ring at a luxury retailer like Tiffany you should feel confident that you made the very best purchase because you were well informed during every step of the process.

To get the most out of the experience book an appointment with a sale professional, preferably NOT on a Saturday. Allow about an hour for the meeting. During this important process your sales pro will discuss your budget, the importance of the 4 Cs and your lady’s tastes (if you aren’t entirely sure you might want to enlist the assistance of a trusted friend.) A good sales person will learn as much as possible about the bride-to-be to help determine the best style and quality for your budget.

Beyond the impeccable quality of Tiffany’s diamonds you can rest assured knowing that Tiffany (and likely other high-end jewellery retailers) offers a return policy, certificate of authenticity, warranty and lifetime aftercare. You can also feel good knowing that Tiffany is an industry leader in the ethical sourcing of gemstones and metals. Each piece is handcrafted. Every diamond is cut to maximize its brilliance. Simply put, you can’t go wrong.

A Tiffany engagement ring has been the dream of many brides-to-be for generations. There are good reasons why. Tiffany’s reputation for design and quality is unmatched. Yes, you do pay for the branding, but you do get a lot for your investment. It is said that a woman will look at her engagement one million times over her lifetime.

Take the time to do your homework. You want this to be right.

Learn more about Tiffany and other luxury retailers here:

Putting a Ring On It – Part 1


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A stunning split shank, cushion cut diamond halo ring
by Linda Penwarden Jewellery

Christmas. New Year’s Eve. Valentine’s Day.

Each is a lovely holiday, but to those of us in the wedding industry they are also known collectively as Engagement Season.

Next to buying your first home, purchasing an engagement ring will be the most emotionally fraught financial transaction of your life.  If you’re feeling the pressure you can thank diamond mining giant De Beers for popularizing the engagement ring tradition with an effective ad campaign launched in the 1930s.

If you’re thinking of “putting a ring on it” in the coming months you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed by the choices available. In Canada 88% of men present their girlfriend with a ring when they propose. So how do you know you’ve selected the best ring for such a momentous occasion?

Do you go with a tried and true classic from Tiffany, Birks or Cartier? Or you could go the on-line route and buy a ring – sight unseen – from Blue Nile.

Or, how about this:  a unique, custom piece made locally by a talented designer?

I recently had a nice chat with Toronto jewellery designer Linda Penwarden. Linda has been designing fine jewellery for about a decade from her shop on Mount Pleasant Avenue.  A significant percentage of her business comes from engagement rings.

In addition to her seasonal and shop collections Linda has created many unique pieces over the years for customers who want something a bit different. A custom design may mean tweaking an existing creation – substituting a clear diamond with a coloured gemstone for instance – or it may mean creating something completely new. Working closely with her customer this design process typically take four to six weeks. As Linda says on her website, the process “… ensures a finished product of the highest standards, manufactured locally, ethically and with integrity.”

Linda has certainly seen trends come and go but aims for a clean, modern and timeless aesthetic. Her design approach transcends fleeting fads allowing Linda and her team to  create quality jewellery that is intimate, elegant and uniquely expressive.

A one-of-a-kind design may be the most romantic and meaningful way to ask your beloved to join you on the journey called marriage.

To learn more about Linda, her creative process and her beautiful designs visit her website.