Our Affordable Indie Wedding — Heaven!

We're married!

Not every bride gets to describe her wedding day as perfect, but ours was.

Here are some details of our fab day in Toronto, my hometown, Sept. 17. and how we achieved such a terrific result on a fairly tight budget.

Here’s a link to a 24-image slideshow of the day. (Why am I laughing so hard just before I walk down the aisle? The church is right next to a petting zoo — and we’re hearing cows moo!)

Jose and I decided to marry on very short notice — about eight weeks — so we had a tough budget, short time-line and international details to wrangle. Both of us being divorced after our own first marriages, and in two different states, we had to hire a lawyer in Toronto to handle all our Ontario government-required paperwork and keep a close eye on the process.

I knew I wanted to marry at the church on Centre Island, St.-Andrew-by-the-Lake. Like our home church in Irvington, NY, it’s small and intimate, with gorgeous stained glass, a wooden floor and a powerful sense of history, built in 1888 for families summering on the island, a short ferry ride from the foot of Toronto.

We were having only 24 guests, so we needed and wanted a space, indoors and out, that would be charming, quirky, historic, intimate and welcoming. Set in the middle of parkland, surrounded by water, shaded by ancient weeping willows, this was the perfect spot.

The minister, Michael Marshall, was also a lucky, perfect fit for our personalities. He’s also a chaplain at the Hospital for Sick Children, and has five grown children of his own. Our family is creative and driven — photographers, journalist, film director — and he handled us beautifully.

A last-minute challenge– no speakers in the church! Jose bought a set at the Apple store and they worked beautifully, the sound filling the small church with the music we had chosen and burned at home on a CD: 30 minutes of settling in tunes (from kd lang, a Canadian, to the classic hymn “Jerusalem”), my processional (Dona Nobis Pacem, [give us peace] sung a capella), our register-signing music (a guitar piece by Sor) and our recessional (You are the Sunshine of My Life by Stevie Wonder.)

I wore a Ghost dress I bought a decade ago in L.A., a gift from Jose (the “old”), a silk overblouse bought recently at a sample sale in NYC from Opening Ceremony; brand-new, insanely expensive Manolo Blahnik slingbacks I bought impulsively in Toronto the week before the ceremony (“new”). My “borrowed” was a vintage hankie from a friend and my “blue” a tiny enamel and gold heart my Mom gave me when I was eight, both of which I tucked into my bra.

My mother, far away in a nursing home, was not going to be with us, so this carried extra meaning for me.

Jose wore a black suit he owned, and new/antique mother-of-pearl cufflinks I gave him.

We had no maid-of-honor or best man or attendants, but family and friends were very much a part of it all. My sister-in-law Sheena made brownies for after the service; my brother Robinson, who is ten years younger than I, handled the music and our friends Marcia, Merrill and Peter all did readings.  My friend from freshman year at University of Toronto, Marion, came all the way from Kamloops, B.C. and helped me create the table arrangements — a bowl of fresh flowers for head table and sparkly branches down the middle of the main table, all of which I bought, either in NY (we drove north) or bought in Toronto.

We cut costs by:

being decisive and flexible; not having a limo/DJ/attendants/fancy rehearsal dinner (Chinese food instead), having help from friends and family, supplying my own table decorations, not having champagne, having a cash bar (for about 40 minutes) and keeping the guest list short, as the room we chose could only hold 30 people in all.

Our two best decisions: holding the ceremony at 5:00 p.m (sunset was 7:00 p.m.,) knowing how well the light would illuminate the church, park and city skyline at that time of day and spending 2.5 hours meeting the minister four days before the service to get to know one another. The former guaranteed spectacular images with dramatic shadows and the latter meant we felt relaxed and at ease with our officiant.


Legal fees $800 (Dad paid)

Invitations $200

Cake  $150 (Dad paid)

Table decorations $100 (place cards, fresh flowers, branches)

Marriage license $140

Speakers $150

Minister’s honorarium $100

Church rental $700

Wedding favors, which were home-made credentials: $100

Water taxis $400

Bus rental: $400

Reception: sit-down three-course meal (including wine, taxes, gratuity) $2100

Cake: $150

Flowers: Bouquet and two boutonnieres $100

Photographer: $1,500

Food and prosecco after the ceremony $150

Hotel: three nights for us and for our photographer, a friend who came from Rochester, NY $1500


plus: our rings, gas and tolls to get from NY to Toronto, Jose’s’ gift to me (diamond earrings!)

For the deeply curious, here are some links:

Hotel: Intercontinental, downtown

Invitations: Wedding Divas, an online site; (this style is the one we ordered)

Church: St.Andrew-by-the-Lake, Centre Island, Toronto

Florist: Pistil Flowers, Toronto

Photographer: Marie deJesus, Rochester, NY

Reception: Grace Restaurant, Toronto

15 thoughts on “Our Affordable Indie Wedding — Heaven!

  1. Wow, that looks absolutely gorgeous with the stained glass in the background! You two look so happy together on your special day and it looks like it was a perfect occasion. Thanks so much for sharing with us and congratulations on getting married!

  2. That is such a gorgeous photo in the post– I wish I could see the slideshow, but (like Ann), the link is not working for me.
    It sounds like you had a perfect day, and I hope you are cozying into marital bliss with your partner– is it much different ‘after’ your big day than it was before?

    1. I’ve fixed the link now.

      Things feel a little different. We have both discussed feeling more responsible to one another financially, certainly. It feels quite different to introduce one another using “wife” and “husband”…the words do carry a lot of baggage for many people. Time will tell!

    1. Thanks! I know so…my first wedding, with 65 people or so, in 1992, was barely $12,000, which is still very little. I’d rather have small, charming, fun, elegant…and not take years or a year to pay it all down. I have heard of $100-175,000 (!!!?) weddings, which often seem to end in a quick divorce.

      I think when you go nuts on the externals, the reason you’re there gets lost.

  3. jacquelincangro

    Beautiful on a budget. From the photos it looks like a grand time was had by all. Your bouquet was lovely and matched your overblouse perfectly.

  4. Wonderful pictures, could feel the happiness radiating from them, so i looked through your slideshow with a big smile too.

    I particularly liked the looks on both your faces in the photo with the caption “That part of the ceremony where the minister asked the couple if there is any reason that they shouldn’t be joined in Holy Matrimony.” Haha!

  5. Pingback: The secret of a lasting marriage is… | Broadside

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