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Magical Woodlands Wedding in Vancouver

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Jennifer and Christian's choice of venue for their outdoor ceremony is absolutely stunning. Make sure you read through all of Jennifer's Q+A below to learn about how she made their wedding a masterpiece. From her bouquet to her dress, every detail has a story!

Jennifer + Christian

East Sooke, Vancouver Island, Canada
- 07/16/2016
Total wedding budget $5,000

What was your budget?

Our total budget was about $5200.

Rings: $800

Wedding finery:$1050 (dress & shoes, $450; tux: $450;  kids clothes: $200)

Caterer: $800

Kids food: $120

Alcohol: $400

Cakes: $200

Designer: $350

Flowers: $200


Helper: $100

Rentals: $150

Rental Truck: $180

Officiant: $175

Misc decor: $200

B&B: $350



How many guests did you have?

We had forty guests, including children.



What creative or personal aspects did you include in your wedding?

Both Christian and I have studied herbalism and have a keen interest in wildcrafting and foraging. Nature is as close to religion as we get, so plants and herbs played a central role in our wedding. We chose three important and ancient wedding herbs—yarrow (fidelity), rosemary (remembrance/luck) & lavender(devotion)—and we built around them. Every plant and herb held meaning from ivy for eternal love to rowanberries for protection and built into garlands, tucked into my bouquet and Christian’s boutonniere and some were even included in the food and drink.  A friend and fellow herbal student made our handfasting cord by dying silk ribbons with the wedding herbs—the colours were magical. When guests arrived we asked them to braid the ribbons and weave their good wishes into the cord.



Did you do any DIY projects or create any handmade items for your weddings?

For months I collected vintage napkins, silverware, china and tablecloths. We supplemented the flowers provided by the florist with lush garlands we made ourselves from flowers, herbs and berries we foraged. For the ceremonial vodka toast we did right after the handfasting, I infused vodka with yarrow, lavender and rosemary and froze the bottles in herbs and water to create these gorgeous botanical ice-encased bottles of vodka. We kept them cold on dry ice until it was time to pour. They turned out really beautifully.  We printed out & framed illustrations from Walter Crane’s  gorgeous Edwardian fantasy “A Flower Wedding:  Described By Two Wallflowers” and placed them among the table garlands. We used the same images to make our own programs and thank you cards. And for wedding favours I made little herbal honey pots infused with yarrow, lavender and rosemary.



What was the biggest thing you did to save money?

My sister-in-law and I have a wild foods company with a decent social media following. We leveraged our ability to promote local vendors to create some pretty wonderful partnerships with some of our favourite makers. We promoted their businesses on our blog and social media channels in exchange for reduced rates. We really wanted to go as hyperlocal as possible and we’re so pleased with how this worked out. We also did a lot of the work ourselves (and by “ourselves” I do mean with tons of help from friends and families) and made whatever we could.  

I was also incredibly fortunate enough to have my dress made for me by Margot McPherson Balanos, a dear friend and relation of ours. Margot is a successful artist  living in France, but she was also an accomplished designer and seamstress in another life. And as luck would have it, she was coming to Victoria and offered to make me an authentic Edwardian tea gown for the cost of material! She then proceeded to comb the markets in France for antique lace and muslin and gathered the most beautiful pieces history that soon became my dress. 90-year-old lace buttons still in their original packaging, handmade lace from the early 1900’s, 60-year-old striped linen as fresh and white as if it were made yesterday… Unpacking all these delicate pieces of white and ivory was like stepping back in time. Within two weeks, Margot has hand sewed me an authentic tea dress. Sadly she wasn’t going to be in Canada for the wedding, but the dress made an excellent stand-in!

Thanks to a tip from our designer, we contacted a linen supply company for tablecloths. Apparently everyone rents from the supply company including the event rental companies that charge a $15 markup. We saved a bundle on going direct and picking up the tables cloths ourselves!



What’s the best advice you have for planning your wedding now that you’re on the other side?

Be realistic and have a plan or hire someone who does. I’m great with ideas, but less great with execution. Thankfully we had a few organized types on board including friends and family who took over and made sure everything came together. But not before we had to weather several meltdowns and minor disasters.  



What was your biggest splurge?

Our best splurge was to hire a designer. I had every intention of doing it all myself but when our photographer introduced us to Franziska of Charming Decor, I changed my mind. I only intended to rent a few items from her, but once we started talking it became clear that Franziska knew exactly the look I was struggling to explain to everyone else. Within minutes she threw together a sample table that had all the elements I’d been dreaming of. We had no thought to hire a designer and zero budget for one, but when Franziska offered to do all the decor for the crazy low cost of $350 we couldn’t say no.



What was your favorite detail?

My favorite detail or details were the crowns and mantles we made for my nephews and niece to wear for the children’s procession down the aisle. They each wore herbs and flowers that corresponded to the four elements of the earth and they played triangles as they walked down the aisle. It was otherworldly. And super cute.



What is the most memorable moment of your day?

The vodka toast! Once we finished our handfasting everyone received a shot of herbal-infused vodka (or water) and a handful of dried petals. Christian and I jumped out of the flower & herb circle we were married in, with full shot glasses of vodka in hand, to boisterous choruses of “za zda-ró-vye” —a Russian “cheers”. We borrowed this tradition from Christian’s family who aren’t Russian but had a Latvian Opa who liked a shot of vodka to counteract the effects of heavy Christmas goose. It became a jolly family tradition of cold vodka, Russian salutations and good cheer. After everyone knocked back their vodka, we exited under a blizzard of dried petals. It was all so lovely.


Photography: Rivkah Photography • Ceremony Venue: Cedar Haven Weddings • Flowers: Wild Edge • Day-of Coordinator: Connie McConnell of Conifer Events • Event Styling: Charming Decor Event Design • Catering: Nature’s Chef • Bakery: Ruth & Dean • Rentals: Pedersen’s Event Rentals • Linens: K-Bro Linens • Ceremony Musicians: McKenna Jennings of Harp-A-Licious Victoria • Hair Stylist: Sofia Pastro • Makeup Artist: Erica Harris • Coffee Service:  Stick in the Mud Coffee • Wine: Charmé de L’ile of Unsworth Vineyards •Herbs & Botanicals: Gather • Wedding Gown Designer: Margot McPherson Balanos • Jewelry: Jennifer’s custom rose gold wedding band by  JanaMade • Shoes: Fidji Shoes • Groom’s Suit: Sondergaard • Tie: Hugo • Men’s Shoes: DSW