Five years ago today, in a church on an island…

By Caitlin Kelly

We got married!

296313_10150820505020720_56988601_nWhy am I laughing hysterically just before I walk down the aisle? We married on Centre Island in Toronto, with a petting zoo very close to the church. All I could hear (instead of my processional) were cows mooing!


It was, as today has been — a gorgeous, sunny, warm September afternoon.

We chose a tiny wooden church on an island in Toronto, St. Andrew by the Lake. It’s surrounded by public parkland, so I could look out the window and see green grass and hear crickets during our ceremony, attended by 25 of our oldest and dearest friends, who came from as far away as New York, D.C. and British Columbia.

By late afternoon, the wood of the church was sun-warmed, and the place smelled wonderful, bringing back some of my happiest memories of other rustic, wooden places — the stage at summer camp, the costume cupboard, our cabins and the dining hall.

I grew up in Toronto and, even after living near New York City for decades, knew this was where I wanted to marry.

I walked barefoot from the vestry to the front door of the church, my burgundy slingback Manolos dangling from one hand. There, because my left hip hadn’t yet been replaced, the minister, (himself in Birkenstocks and ponytail), and my Dad helped me into my shoes.

My processional was Dona Nobis Pacem (Give Us Peace) and our recessional was Stevie Wonder’s You Are The Sunshine of My Life.

Our photographer? A young woman Jose had taught at the New York Times Student Journalism Institute, a talented young woman, now at the Houston Chronicle, Marie de Jesus.

I had never met her, she’d never been to Toronto and she’d never shot a wedding. No pressure! She did a great job and we were lucky to have her with us.


It’s been five years of marriage today — but we’ve been together since we met in March 2000; Jose’s move-in day to my apartment (no kidding), was 9/11. He moved in a week later.

We met, (how else for two career journo’s?), when I wrote an article for Mademoiselle magazine about online dating, then a new thing (1999) and he answered the ad I had to place as part of my research. (As did 200 others!)

My headline?

Catch Me If You Can.

We would never have met any other way, but knew many people in common, which eased our first few meetings.

It’s been a wild 16 years: he retired from The New York Times with a Pulitzer Prize after 31 years, and is now full-time freelance.

He’s seen me wheeled into the OR three times, (knee, shoulder, hip), with a right knee replacement now due in the next few years, maybe sooner.

We’ve traveled together to Paris and Normandy; to six cities in Mexico; to his home, Santa Fe, NM; to Ontario and Quebec many times, to D.C., to Texas, to New Orleans and Arizona.

He gave me a tent for my birthday one year.

Today we both worked, of course, even on a glorious Saturday; he at the computer editing images of several tournaments for the United States Golf Association, I sitting in the parking lot for a village tag sale.

We laugh a lot, share a fierce work ethic and hope for continued good health.

Here’s to a few more decades…

The new bridezilla — show me the dough or I’ll shame you on social media

By Caitlin Kelly

Wedding (Photo credit: teresachin2007)

Here’s a seriously depressing story from The Globe & Mail about bridezillas’ latest depths of greed and entitlement:

Earlier this month, a bride whipped out her phone and texted one of her guests: The newlywed woman was still waiting on a money-stuffed card and congenially reminded her guest that she’d attended “for free.” The guest, a childhood friend saddled with student loans, fired back with a refreshing smackdown. “If you cannot afford a wedding, then do not have one,” she wrote in a letter. “Do not dare make your friends/family feel financially responsible for your decisions/parties/extravagances.” The guest taped a penny to the letter, then bid farewell to their friendship.

It’s the third nasty blowup of this kind since summer, all leaked by the guests and highly publicized. In July, another wedding guest revealed a Facebook message she’d received from a bride dissatisfied with the gift of $100 from the guest and her partner: “We were very much short on paying off the reception,” read the complaint. And before that in June, two guests from Hamilton got blasted for their admittedly unusual wedding gift, a wicker basket brimming with pasta and Marshmallow Fluff. The bride didn’t mince words in subsequent texts and Facebook messages to the pair: “I lost out on $200 covering you and your date’s plate,” she wrote, later adding, “Weddings are to make money for your future not to pay for people’s meals. Do more research.”

There are few occasions more id-revealing than weddings. God help us.

I used to be really good friends with  a woman I’ll call J. We were besties, I thought, for life. Hah!

I threw her a wedding shower, at a point in my life when spending even $100 to welcome 15 of her friends — only one of whom I knew — was a real financial strain. When she arrived the first words out of her mouth weren’t, “How lovely. Thank you!” but “What time will this be over? I need to let my fiance know what time to pick me up.”


Then she held a destination wedding on a Caribbean island far from New York, where we live. Another $1,000+? Nope.

Another friend kept having showers and parties, like the dinner inviting a group of her friends, (many high-earning or married) to a midtown restaurant full of Wall Street guys eating $40 steaks. Women at the table ordered many bottles of wine and the bill arrived — my portion (!) was $100, an absolute fortune for me at the time. Every shower required another gift. By the time I attended her wedding I couldn’t afford another thing.


I’ve been married twice; the first time my family gave us some money for the wedding. I married again in 2011, in Toronto, and it was all on us. We managed to make it charming, stylish and affordable.

We loved our gifts, but, apart from the actual ceremony, considered the day a large party. I don’t ask my friends over and present them with a bill for dinner…

People in a marquee enjoying a wedding feast.
People in a marquee enjoying a wedding feast. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What do you make of this notion that wedding guests need to cough up — or else?

Has it happened to you?

Have you done it?

But it’s exactly what we wanted! How did you know?

Wedding Gift
Wedding Gift (Photo credit: INIJIE)

It’s summer and, in North America anyway, it’s wedding season!

If you’re getting married any time soon, be sure to practice this phrase.

Because you will get some seriously weird shit as wedding gifts.

If your wedding gifts are given in cash, score! No such luck for me.

Here’s a blog post about the 10 items couples should register for, but never do…

Every time I watch the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and see the couple get a house — a house?! — as their wedding gift from her Dad, I wonder what that would be like. (My Dad gave me a knife set for the first wedding and a set of sterling salt and pepper dishes for my second.)

We recently got a belated wedding gift from a friend we see fairly rarely. He gave us…a gong. So cool!

Jose and I are now competing to see who gets to ring it first/most/most often and under what circumstances:

— come to bed, at once!

— you’re snoring. Off to the sofa!

— breakfast/lunch/dinner is served

— time to drive me to the train station

Unlike a toaster/blender/vase, you’re fairly unlikely to get multiple gongs. Maybe not even one.

My favorite nuptial gifts, (from both of my weddings) have included:

– a pair of binoculars

— a picnic basket

— a mini-blender

— a drawing of several nautical knots (get it?)

— a gorgeous wide, deep bowl perfect for pasta or parties

— a gift certificate to one of our area’s loveliest restaurants; (this from a couple who live nowhere near us, who did their homework)

Don’t wait too long to select or send your wedding gift. One friend waited almost two full years after attending my first wedding.

Her gift arrived just in time for…my divorce.

And here’s a website where you can actually get a refund if this happens to you, oh generous gift-giver!

What’s the best wedding gift you received?

Or gave?

The worst?

Ten Ways To Stay (Happily!) Married

Kapu bride and groom
Image via Wikipedia

Like I’m an expert — having been married (for the second time) an entire month. But I did live with Jose for 11 years before we married, long outlasting many official marriages along the way.

Here’s a smart blog post with tips from a few American couples who’ve been married a long time.

Argue when necessary. I don’t believe marriages whose motto is: “We never fight.” Hmmm. So, you never, ever, ever have a difference of opinion on anything? If so, cool. If not, and someone is perpetually squelching their feelings for fear of conflict, look out. Jose and I are passionate, stubborn perfectionists. It’s gonna happen.

Apologize — and really mean it. Not the “I’m sorry you feel hurt” which is BS, an insult and so not an apology! Forgive quickly, and mean it. Grudges are poison.

Flowers are a very good idea, any time. Women who adore them cannot get enough of them. Find out your spouse’s absolute favorites — buy big and often. Every time she looks at them, she sees your love.

Never stop saying “please” and “thank you.” About three years ago, we went out for dinner with an older woman who had never met us, and who had no idea how long we’d been a couple. Watching our behavior, (still respectful, even a bit formal), she guessed a few months. The late Diana Vreeland, editor of Vogue, in her fab 1997 autobiography DV, said she always stood up a little straighter when her husband walked into the room. I like that.

Your spouse comes first. It took a long time for Jose to understand that work is key to his happiness and our income, but he must put it aside to connect with me, certainly at day and week’s end. I’m a driven, ambitious and passionate person, and all for someone who loves their work, but not at the expense of their marriage. I’ve had to stop obsessing about my own issues, especially my mother, who lives very far away, whose life is forever full of demanding and emotionally draining complications.

Laugh long, loud and as often as possible. My Dad has stayed with us a few times in our one-bedroom apartment, sleeping on the sofa. He says he was struck by how much Jose and I laugh in bed together. We do laugh a lot. Life in your 40s and beyond gets crazy stressful as friends and parents sicken and die. Laughter heals.

Never abandon seduction. I don’t mean sex, per se, but effort. I really appreciate it when Jose puts on a coat and tie, whether for church or a party or a meal out. I, too, make a point of shedding my sloppy at-home clothes, which I live in because I work alone at home all day. Perfume, cologne, a fresh shave, a pedicure. Having a wonderful meal prepared for you, offered at a lovely table. Jose brings me coffee in bed each morning,  It all helps.

Cultivate close friendships with people who share your spiritual values. I stay far away from whiners and emotional vampires, especially from those clinging to abusive mates or contemplating, or having, an affair. Every marriage needs all the strengthening it can get, and none of the weakening. Surround yourself with healthy role models.

Vacations! Every relationship needs some fresh air and new perspectives, on the world and on each other. Jose and I had a doozy of a fight at 6:00 a.m. in Paris after I chose the wrong bus to get us into the city. But when we arrived at Notre Dame just in time for the sunrise, he quickly forgave me. We’ve also taken separate vacations and thrived. One of my favorite memories was when I was in Tunis, in June 2003, and he was in San Francisco, and we spoke by phone across that impossible distance, my coins clanging through the pay phone like hailstones.

When we can afford it, we come here, (five times so far!) to this idyllic Canadian resort, and look forward to more shared memories there. I love having “our place”, where they know us well and remember our previous visits over the past 10 years.

Totally separate interests. Yes. Jose is passionate about Buddhism and golf. Not I. I love antiques, design, museums, dance. We both need to recharge our batteries, make space and time alone to enjoy ourselves, share our loves with friends and strangers — so we can come home with fresh material. Every marriage needs new material!

Here’s a new book that offers some of the same ideas, and others…

What keeps your marriage thriving?

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

Getting Married? Ten (Funny) Tips From A Recent Bride

A motorbike rider (R) carries a woman (L) dres...
Image by AFP/Getty Images via @daylife

Love the Brits…Here’s Guardian blogger and author Lucy Mangan on 10 tips for getting married:

2. What to do about flowers

You must have a bouquet. For the simple reason that as you come down the aisle, you have to have something to do with your hands. I wanted to carry a book, in case I got bored, but apparently this is frowned upon. As is waving, picking your nose and – even though the stress of the event means it is the ideal time to take up smoking – sparking up. So a bunch of flowers it has to be….

4. What to do about drink

Buy more.

5. What to do about themes

Various people – dressmaker, caterer, venue owner, friends, family – will ask you this question. Do not look baffled. It is because many people feel that plighting their troth to another fallible, confused, insecure, infinitely complex and ultimately unknowable human being is not likely to provide them or others with enough interest or pressure on the day, and so they like to introduce a themed element to the proceedings. Thus you can have a cowboy-themed wedding, a medieval wedding, an Elvis wedding…

But that aside, here is what I say. Theme ye not. It is a layer of complexity and expense you can well do without. Instead, take as your mental mentor my friend Emily who, when asked by one of the assistants in the first bridal shop she went into what the theme of her wedding was to be, answered simply: “Me. The theme of my wedding is Me.”

As wedding season heats up, a few laughs are always welcome.

I once showed up for a friend’s casual backyard wedding to find her sitting on her bed looking very glum indeed, as did her sister. “Looks like someone needs a joint!” I joked. No one even cracked a smile. OK, I was inappropriate and jocular, but anyone looking that miserable before the ceremony?

(They divorced within a few years.) It didn’t seem a great omen when, in the garden next door, mid-vows, someone fired up their chain-saw.

I’d suggest planning for disaster as best you can; it poured a record rainfall the day of my wedding so my light beige cotton vintage dress soaked up water like a sponge — making for a bath-tub-like line above my hem when I saw the photos.

My tip, should you decide to wear a vintage dress, is figuring out what your maid of honor will wear. I was all excited about my Edwardian dress when it hit me that my maid of honor needed a great dress that would complement mine….and she lived in a trailer near the Alaska border, long before one could easily order pretty things on-line. About three weeks before the ceremony, I found a Victorian cotton bathrobe in the same colors, added a lace collar and ribbon sash and she looked fantastic. This is the time it’s OK to be a little OCD.

What is your best tip?

Getting Married? Avoiding The Nuptial Arms Race

WUHAN, CHINA - MARCH 6:  People talk behind we...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Named a community service pioneer by Time, Katie Fewings knew brides blow serious coin on their weddings — the American average is now $28,000. She launched, a British site, in 2005 after she used fair-trade wine and a gown made locally of organic poplin for her own ceremony.

I love this one, held in Denmark — check out the Legos on their cake.

When I married, I wore a vintage dress from around 1905 and my maid-of-honor a Victorian dress, both bought from local vintage clothing stores; total cost, less than half what one new gown would have been. I didn’t do it to be green or PC. I hate white satin and felt weird wearing a traditional dress; something comfortable and pretty and distinctive worked well. Instead of cut flowers, I used ivy topiaries in the shape of hearts and potted red geraniums. The reasons were budgetary, but the effect was charming. Our budget, more than 15 years ago, was less than half of what brides today are spending, but we had all the elements that mattered.

My marriage? Brief and not happy. But, hey, a stylish affair on a tight budget — one that many friends planning their own weddings borrowed ideas from. At least we got something right.

There are many ways to have a fun, chic, cool wedding without buying into the bridal arms race, described by New Yorker writer  Rebecca Mead in her 2007 book “One Perfect Day.” From Publishers Weekly:

In its nascence in the American lexicon, the term “Bridezilla” has inspired articles, reality television and watercooler tales of brides gone mad. This phenomenon piqued New Yorker staff writer Mead’s interest, sending her on a three-year investigation of the current American wedding and the $161-billion industry that spawned it. “Blaming the bride,” she writes, “wasn’t an adequate explanation for what seemed to be underlying the concept of the Bridezilla: that weddings themselves were out of control.” Interviewing wedding industry professionals and attending weddings in Las Vegas, Disney World, Aruba and a wedding town in Tennessee, Mead ventures beyond the tulle curtain to reveal moneymaking ploys designed around our most profound fears as well as our headiest happily-ever-after fantasies. Goods and services providers alter marital traditions—and even invent new ones—to feed their bottom line. Stores vie for bridal registry business in hopes of gaining lifelong customers. Women swoon for what retailers call “the ‘Oh, Mommy’ moment” in boutique fitting rooms—an unsettling contrast to the Chinese bridal gown factory workers who make them possible, sleeping eight to a room and scraping by on 30 cents an hour. Part investigative journalism, part social commentary, Mead’s wry, insightful work offers an illuminating glimpse at the ugly underbelly of our Bridezilla culture. 

Any tips from your frugal/green wedding you’d like to share?

Poufy, White, Pretty, Built Like a Battleship — The Wedding Dress

A model parades a wedding dress during a fashi...
Corset, check; Spanx, check...Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Found this fun, thoughtful post from website Deep Glamour about traditional wedding dresses.

I wore a beige cotton day dress from 1905 to my first wedding; I look like hell in white and didn’t feel like blowing a mortgage payment on a garment with one-time use. Not sure what I’m wearing to my next. At the rate I’m inching toward the altar, maybe a walker.

New Kit Helps Women Fake Virginity On Their Wedding Night

A Bride, her beau, a bouquet and a bevy of bokeh
Image by eyesplash Mikul via Flickr

Want to pretend you’re a virgin on your wedding night? Here’s the solution. Thanks to this kit, manufactured in Japan and distributed by a Chinese firm, for $30 you can now pretend your husband really is the first. You insert the solution, which looks and feels like the blood typically resulting from a torn hymen, and he’ll never know the difference.

For women in some cultures, being a virgin on your wedding night is a matter of life or death, as any dishonor  — such as having been sexually active before marriage — reflects poorly on her family. No feminist can stomach the notion that her body belongs to anyone but her, so this level of deception strikes me as nauseating. But I don’t live, and didn’t marry, in a culture that might have killed me if I weren’t “pure” on my wedding night.

There aren’t many stories that leave me at a loss for words, but this one comes close.