Brunch weddings have a singular charm that can’t be emulated by evening weddings, no matter how beautiful they are, and that’s one of the many reasons why this delightful Calgary celebration makes our hearts sing. Marcus, the groom, whose perfect proposal was thwarted by a delayed flight and a downpour, must have been relieved to see his beautiful bride, Brandi, floating down the aisle beneath the crisp blueness of a crystal-clear sky, a sweeping view of the Rocky Mountains in the background. The two tied the knot that sunny morning beneath a flower-bedecked chuppah, reflective of Marcus’ Jewish heritage and handmade by the bride’s parents. Other homespun details included the most darling egg cake topper ever to grace a swirl of buttercream—made by Brandi herself—and Québec maple syrup favors—so deliciously fitting for a brunch reception! Breakfast cocktails consisted of classic mimosas and Bloody Caesars, a Canadian favorite. The beauty of the day was captured by Diane + Mike, a gifted husband-and-wife photography duo whose signature style simply makes us swoon.
Q + A with Brandi
What’s your love story? How did you meet, fall in love, and get engaged?
Marcus and I met while he was in Calgary completing his medical residency, and I was pursuing my PhD. I was a little shy at first, and I guess subconsciously I was playing hard to get, but I knew from the first time we met that Marcus was someone I could see myself spending a lot of time with. It was actually surprising because we are complete opposites in so many ways, and Marcus was very different from the type of guy I thought I was looking for, but within a few months I think we both knew that we had found someone to share our lives with. I think what has made us a good team over the last several years is our differences. We really complement each other well, and we both enjoy learning from each other and doing things together. I think we’ve both lived much fuller lives because of the other. Marcus has taken up some of my small-town pastimes, and I am definitely much better traveled thanks to him. When we met, Marcus was having a hard time adapting to life outside Montreal, and our friends like to say that the moment I won him over was when I had Montreal bagels airmailed to him in Calgary for Valentine’s Day. I’d have to agree! Now we make our own Montreal-style bagels together. I’m a very practical person, and our engagement probably reflects that. Marcus was back in Montreal when we got engaged. We had planned a two-week trip to the East Coast, and I was flying into Montreal to meet him. He had planned to pick me up at the airport when my flight arrived around midnight and take me up to Mount Royal, which has an amazing view of Montreal, to propose. However, my flight was delayed, and it was probably 2 a.m. by the time we left the airport. He was still going to take me up to the mountain, but the skies just opened up, and it started raining so hard that he could barely drive. Thinking back, I can remember him trying to come up with a backup plan and driving really slowly to see if the rain would let up, but there was no hope. In the end, the poor guy drove me home to his grandfather’s house, where he was staying, and proposed in the car in the driveway. I think that was probably the only possible way he could have completely surprised me, because who thinks they are going to get proposed to at 2 a.m. in a driveway?! For me, it was perfect. I didn’t need a fancy restaurant or elaborate scheme; I just wanted to be surprised by someone who sincerely wanted to marry me.
Can you tell us a little bit about the details of your wedding and your sources of inspiration?
During our engagement, Marcus was living in Montreal, so we had to plan things long distance. This forced us to be quite efficient in our decision-making. We would pick two or three vendors that we both liked based on their websites, and then I would go meet with them. We really wanted to have an outdoor “destination”-style wedding, so the choice of venue was very important. We wanted somewhere intimate, private, and classy but not over the top. Because Marcus was living away and I was quite busy with school, it was important for us to find a venue that would be as “all-inclusive” as possible. We wanted our wedding to really reflect us, but we didn’t want to be overwhelmed with the planning and organizing. We had decided to visit several venues just outside Calgary in the Rocky Mountains when Marcus was in town one weekend, but none of them really had the ambiance that we were looking for. After describing to one of our friends what we liked about the different venues we had visited, he recommended Pinebrook. I actually went to see the venue by myself because Marcus had gone back to Montreal, but as soon as I saw the view and met with the events coordinator, I knew it was the place for us. In the end, we were able to find the perfect venue in Calgary that combined an amazing outdoor space with fantastic service.
For our wedding, we decided on a brunch reception. We both love brunch, and having the ceremony and reception early in the day allowed us to keep things relatively laid-back while still having a bit of elegance. Also, Marcus comes from a Jewish family, and we were able to easily create an amazing “Kosher-style” menu that integrated some of his background into the wedding. The events coordinator at Pinebrook, Tuesday Poole, was absolutely amazing. She worked with us and the chef to customize our menu so that it really suited our tastes and dietary restrictions. We were able to design a really beautiful brunch buffet that our guests all raved about. Some of the other venues we had visited seemed to do amazing jobs at hosting elegant evening weddings, but they didn’t seem very comfortable straying from their normal wedding packages and weren’t as willing to work with us to create the brunch-style wedding we had in mind. In addition, Pinebrook was able to offer us linen rentals and ceremony seating for a very good price, which saved us from having to organize delivery, setup, and return of linens and chairs. Another added bonus was that Pinebrook has its own horticulturist who provides basic flowers indoors and maintains the grounds. Having a good backdrop to start with meant that we didn’t have to spend as much of our budget on buying flowers and really only ordered basic centerpieces for the tables and a few extras for the outdoor space, bouquets, and boutonnieres. The entire planning experience at Pinebrook was extremely well organized and professional, which made our experience as stress free as possible.
Although Pinebrook included setup services, we also hired a day-of wedding coordinator, Amanda Brown, to ensure that everything arrived on time and went smoothly. Given the early start of our wedding—10:30 am—there wasn’t time for me or members of my wedding party to ensure that the flowers, cake, and other necessities arrived and were set up properly, so having Amanda be my personal assistant for the day was really reassuring. She was able to pick up our flowers and cake and get them where they needed to be, so we didn’t have to pay for the delivery of these items. In the end, we probably would have survived without a wedding coordinator, since the venue provided some of these services, but knowing someone was there to attend to any unexpected hiccups and to greet our guests and vendors as they arrived really gave me peace of mind. Probably the biggest benefit of hiring Amanda was that we were able to use her connections and expertise when searching for our vendors. It was great being able to e-mail her with questions or ask her for advice. I’ve only planned one wedding, but Amanda plans weddings for a living, so she really knows how to select vendors and how to create a successful wedding day timeline. Her knowledge saved us a lot of time during the planning process, and she was able to reassure us that we were well organized and had everything under control.
I think my favorite part of the entire wedding day was walking out, hearing the string quartet playing beautifully, and seeing how everything had come together—it was quite a moment. My parents are quite handy and generously made us a beautiful chuppah for the ceremony. Although we did not have a religious ceremony, it was important to us to incorporate some Jewish traditions, such as the chuppah. I was completely blown away when I first saw the chuppah decorated with flowers and our guests sitting out on the lawn overlooking the mountains, waiting for my arrival. I think the chuppah really personalized our wedding, and it added that one special touch that made an already beautiful setting extraordinary. We tried to carry through the homemade touches with our cake and wedding favors. We kept the cake design very simple and focused instead on finding the best-tasting cake possible. I made the cake topper myself, and I think it fit our morning brunch theme. We also made the wedding favors ourselves. We gave our guests small bottles of Québec maple syrup, which fit with our brunch theme. Marcus was able to get the syrup in Montreal, and I ordered some real maple syrup bottles from a syrup company online. We designed and printed the labels ourselves. We also opted to bring our own wine rather than use the wine provided by the venue. We chose wines from wineries that we had visited in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. Finally, during the band breaks, we played music from the various artists we have seen in concert together. Because most of our guests were from out of town and had to fly into Calgary, we really wanted to be good hosts. I have heard from so many brides that their biggest regret was not being able to talk to all of their guests at the wedding. To make sure this didn’t happen to us, we planned two separate events for our guests leading up to the wedding day. We opted not to have a traditional rehearsal dinner and instead invited our families to our apartment for a BBQ the Friday night before the wedding. Having a more informal get-together was perfect for us and allowed everyone to meet and mingle. We had been to another small wedding where the bride and groom had hosted a potluck the night before the wedding, and we thought that it was a really great idea for guests to meet and visit before the wedding, so we decided to do something similar. We spent the evening before our wedding with our friends from out of town on the patio of a pub downtown, and this was probably one of our favorite parts of the weekend. It was really nice to relax and visit with people we hadn’t seen for quite a while. Plus, because we were having a brunch wedding and most of our guests had to return home the morning after the wedding, planning something the night before worked out well. Given the early morning start of our wedding, we provided a light continental-style breakfast for our guests when they arrived for the ceremony. Following the ceremony, we also had a short cocktail hour with mimosas and Bloody Caesars.
What kind of advice would you offer to future brides?
1. People won’t remember every detail of your wedding, so pick just one or two things that are important to you, and splurge on those. We were on a budget, and we were able to get excellent service from a number of our vendors who were just starting out. We found several of our vendors using Kijiji, which is similar to Craigslist. We felt that these up-and-coming vendors were just as good and probably better than some of the more established vendors in Calgary.
2. Like many couples, we received some family pressure to do things a certain way. Although we were sensitive to some of the wishes of our families, we didn’t give in and maintained our vision for the wedding. In the end, it is your day and probably your money, so if you try to please too many people, you will end up forgetting about what’s important to you.
3. Paper invitations are passé. Everyone and their dog has an iPhone or at least e-mail these days. We saved a lot of money—and more importantly, time and stress—by registering for an online wedding website that included the ability to send and track e-mail invitations and save-the-dates and allowed guests to RSVP online. Doing this allowed us to spend our time and money on other aspects of the wedding, such as the live music. I’ve also heard from a lot of friends that invitations and RSVPs can get lost in the mail. By sending them online, you can see when people receive them. We did, however, send handwritten thank-you cards.
4. If you are looking to have a low-stress wedding, keep the wedding party to a minimum. We had one bridesmaid and one groomsmen. We didn’t ask them to do anything except show up, but they did volunteer to organize the bachelor and bachelorette parties. Picking a bridesmaid dress was easy. My bridesmaid got to choose the color (as long as it didn’t clash with purple flowers) and style (as long as it wasn’t an evening ball gown), and I paid for it. The groomsmen wore his own suit.
5. Stick to your gut. We met with a few vendors who came very highly recommended, but we just had a feeling that they weren’t for us. Some vendors can even be a little pushy and try to get you to sign a contract on the spot. If you aren’t feeling it, don’t feel pressured to agree to anything. Pick people you feel good about working with and who you trust.
Photography: Diane + Mike / Ceremony and reception venue: Pinebrook Golf & Country Club / Flowers: Philip Chong Flower Bar / Catering: Pinebrook Golf & Country Club / Cake: Daisy Cake Creations / Day-of coordinator: Amanda Brown of Calgary Wedding Planning Co. / Linens and rentals: Pinebrook Golf & Country Club / Music: Allegra (string duo) and The Real Deal / Officiant: Bonnie Noyce Faust / Transportation: Allied Limosine / Accomodations: Sheraton Eau Claire and International Hotel / Bride’s dress: Blissful Bridal / Bridesmaid dress: Sunshine Studios / Groom’s and bestman’s attire: Shirts from Brooks Brothers and ties from Moores / Hair and makeup: Allison Cullen of MakeMe Style / Invitations: Wedshare and DIY from Michaels / Wedding website: Wedshare / Wedding favors and cake topper: DIY by the bride and groom / Chuppah: Made by the bride’s parents