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Monday, October 19, 2015

The Wedding Planning Without the Wedding Industry and the Home Stretch for Queen Victoria Listings

Now that I finally proposed to Steph, and she agreed to become my wife, it is time to actually plan the wedding. Even though I have been married before, in both instances, my weddings were very small affairs. The last one was very small largely because I was estranged from my entire family and most of my friends couldn't come. 

But this time is different: I am on good terms with both my adoptive family and my birth-family, which means a lot more guests from my family, and I have more friends now that can actually make it this time. Steph also has a fairly large family, and when we sat down to make our guest list, it grew to approximately 100 names in very short order: much larger than anything I'd experienced before. Now mind you, it is not a large wedding by Italian, Chinese or Indian cultural standards. However in those cultures it is customary for guests to give money, and this often pays for the wedding. But for us Anglo-Saxon Canadians, it is not really customary to expect anyone to foot the bill anymore. So planning an event like this requires us to be sensible about the size of the gathering and make sure that we include everyone in our lives who genuinely want to celebrate this day with us. 

So with that, Steph and I started the long process of looking at venues and this is where we encountered the Wedding Industry. My oh my, what an absolutely exploitative industry it is! Steph and I spent four hours last week one night looking at venues and we had one simple question: 

"How much does it cost to rent the venue for the night?"

Seems pretty simple right? You rent the venue, you bring in your DJ and your caterer and away you go. Right? 


We quickly discovered that most places refuse to give you a price upfront until you meet with them in person. It is at this meeting that you will be asked all kinds of questions intended to sus out your ability to pay, or at least your willingness to be governed by your emotions. The wedding planner will upsell you on everything they can: matching linens, table runners, centrepieces, flowers ad infinitum - all stuff that in the end makes not the slightest bit of difference to the thing that Steph and I think is fundamental, which is:

"Are the guests going to be well fed and are they going to have a good time?"

Making your guests wear certain clothes is not conducive to them having a good time. Obsessing over the tiniest details to us is just a sure fire way to wind everyone up. So we decided that we can trust our guests to dress appropriately. I don't expect to see too many gym shorts or yoga pants on our day, and if I do, I'll laugh it off. 

Not only do many venues try to upsell you, but they place restrictions on what you can do with the space that you have to pay extra to get out of. For example, I was looking at one old schoolhouse that was operated by a provincial trust and you have use their catering company (from whom they receive a kickback I'm sure). You check the price of the catering, and it is $100 a plate! For food that you probably would't pay more than $25 for if you were at a restaurant. 300% more! In this instance you can get out of that requirement by giving the venue a 20% kickback on the bill from your caterer, which kind of defeats the purpose of bringing in your own catering company. 

Most restaurants were no better, at least those that regularly do weddings. You would think that a restaurant would be happy to be full for a night with essentially one client, instead of having to serve hundreds of different clients. But no, they get greedy, and all of the sudden they want $10,000 for 100 people when they would normally make half that. 

So within a very short amount of time, Steph and I have made a vow to avoid the Wedding Industry as much as possible. This means if we can't have a straightforward conversation with the owner of a venue about what we want and what it is going to cost, then it's off our list. Pure and simple. 

We think we may have found our venue actually, but we are not yet 100% sure. We made a list of all the restaurants in the city that we have eaten at, that we like, and that have decent prices for their food. Then we thought the actual premises themselves and asked ourselves whether the premises could accommodate 100 people in a nice atmosphere. That enabled us to narrow down to a few places. Then we thought about the personalities of the owners from our past experiences. We asked ourselves: "Do the owners seem like they would charge a reasonable price to fill their restaurant, or are they going to be greedy once they know it is a wedding?". That pretty much narrowed it down to one place that we know will serve good food in a fun way for a good price. We checked with them this past week and it looks like we may have our place, though I don't want to jinx it yet by revealing where it is. 

Why I am I telling all of you this? I think because I can see so many people that I know who have literally gone into debt for this one day and it just doesn't make sense to me. I wanted to share my thoughts on how you can make your day special without breaking the bank. The only thing it requires you to do is think outside the box and be willing to forgo tradition. Think about what your guests would like because if they have a good time, so will you. If you think about it, what do your guests really want?

Do they want to sit through an hour or more of speeches?
Do they want to travel long distances to attend and then not be able to even interact with you?
Do they want to have to spend hundreds of dollars on an outfit they will never wear again or until the next wedding they attend?
Do they want to eat food that they can make at home, probably better than what they are getting?
Do they want to be forced to spend four or five hours doing nothing but dance and make small talk with drinks to people they barely know?

Lets face it, unless you are part of the wedding party, or you like to dance a lot and drink a lot, most weddings are huge bore, especially if you are not really close to the both people getting married. You'll show up to the very formal ceremony in the afternoon and won't know most of the people there and sit through a long drawn out ceremony. Then you usually have to kill 2-4 hours before you can go to the reception. You show up at the reception an immediately feel inadequate at the gift you got, but you go put it in the designated spot with all the others, then you mingle with a cocktail, glancing around at to find someone you know that you can talk to. Problem is, they are usually busy talking to other people and don't have time to talk for more than a few minutes of small talk. Then you sit down to a 2-3 hour formal sit-down dinner where you have to sit through a hour or more of stories about the bride and groom that as nice as they are, don't really mean anything to anyone except the person telling the story. Then after all that, its dancing and drinking until 2 am. But you have no rhythm and don't like to dance. So what do you do?

I realize that I probably sound very selfish from the tone of everything I just wrote. After all, don't we go to weddings to support the bride and groom? Can't we just suck it up and be happy for them? Of course we can, and of course we do. That is what most of us do. But if as the bride and groom, you are going to spend a lot of money on what amounts to a large party, why not make it fun for all the guests? Undoubtedly, most everyone who reads this blog will have attended at least one party in their lives that was so much fun that people who were there still reminisce about.  But how many weddings have you been to that get talked about after the fact, except to embarrass those who got really drunk? Not many. 

What is fun is usually something more intimate and casual. Do away with the formal dress code. Let people dress comfortably. Serve them food that they will enjoy that they can't make at home -maybe some very good ethnic food. It's often much less expensive than standard western fare. Organize activities that are fun that bring your guests together and let them have fun like games and have some dancing for people who like to dance. 

Most importantly, don't be bullied by the venues into paying ridiculous prices and accepting ridiculous restrictions. Be prepared to accept a venue that might not have been your first choice, because at the end of the day, you can always create the atmosphere you want with the activities and the people. 90% of the atmosphere will come from your guests with only 10% being the actual venue. That is why I think it is so important to make your guests comfortable. There will always be somebody with a space large enough for you that will only be too happy to make $1,000 or so for one night. That's a LOT of money for using a space, especially when you consider that monthly commercial rent for that same space would be in the $5,000-$6,000 range, unless it's right downtown. 

Anyways that is my two cents on the whole wedding thing. 

This week, I am finally listing the last of my Queen Victorian material consisting of revenue stamps. As I said in an earlier post these are not postage stamps, but are stamps used to evidence payment of government fees and excise taxes. Some examples are shown below:

This issue is the Law Stamps issued by the province of Ontario in 1864. Law stamps were affixed to any legal document and were to evidence the payment of filing fees. So a mortgage, a conditional sales contract, a land conveyance - these would all have law stamps. 

This is the federal Bill Issue for 1868. Bill stamps were attached to negotiable instruments like promissory notes, cheques and bank drafts. All cheques until fairly recently (sometime in the 1950's) used to have an excise tax payable for processing them. The above 1c stamps would have been affixed to every single cheque cashed by the banks at that time. Thus, while not rare in used condition, pristine blocks like the one shown above are not common. 

Next we have gas inspection stamps. All gas connections had to be inspected for safety compliance and the payment of the inspection fee would be evidenced by attaching gas inspection stamps to the inspection document. The above strip is used and is from the 1897 series, which was in use until 1930.

Finally, we have the Electric Light Inspection stamps, which came into use in 1900, and were used until the early thirties. 

There are many more categories of revenues than what I show here, but most of them come into play after Queen Victoria's reign. All the above stamps that I have shown are federal issues, but each of the provinces had their own revenue stamps as well for things they had jurisdiction over. It's a fascinating field and many of the original documents are quite rare now. Who knows how many offices have thrown out boxes of records in recent years containing documents worth hundreds of thousands of dollars?


  1. As if you don't have enough work to do.

  2. Very excited for your big day, however it turns out! :)

  3. interested to hear about the birth family / adoptive family dynamics, if you are comfortable posting about it.

    did you vote? what do you think about the Liberal landslide?

    1. I am comfortable posting about my life. I'm not writing the blog primarily to to that of course - the purpose is to illustrate the process of finding and following one's passion. But some mention of my life keeps it real I think.

      Yes I did vote first thing yesterday morning. I went with Green, even though I know they wouldn't win. I don't know about Trudeau - he seems charismatic, but I think both main parties are too similar to one another at the end of the day. But better them than the conservatives I think. The NDP sounds nice on paper right up until you get to economics and then I have a problem as an accountant voting for them. It's unfortunate really because I like their ideas, but the problem is someone has to pay for them and we are already heavily taxed in this country. At least with the Greens, they have some really sensible policies that make voting form them much more tolerable than anyone on the field at the moment. That's just my $0.02.