JENNA DAVIS
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Hi, I'm Jenna. I am a Canadian expat living in Germany and blogging my way through sustainable travel. I'm here to help you ease yourself into travel that's a little more sweet for our earth. I make mistakes on a daily basis, but that's what the blog is for - learning and growing! See you on the road!

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Rustic Wedding Day
DestinationsGet InspiredNorth AmericaTravel Diary

How to Plan a Wedding Abroad | + Some Sneak Peek Photos

By on December 24th, 2017

My experience planning my own dream rustic wedding was quite typical… Pinterest inspiration, flowers, locations, caterers, wedding dresses… the whole kit and caboodle (I’ve always wanted to use that word in a blog post). The only difference was that I had 12 months to plan my dream wedding from halfway across the world, 6,152 kilometers to be exact.

That difference was a huge difference for me which forced me to get creative and find a hundred different ways to plan a wedding while not actually getting to see, feel or taste anything I was ordering.

On September 9, 2017, I married my husband on the dock at my cottage in Buckhorn, Ontario. We had 120 guests in attendance, 30 from Germany and 90 from Canada. Cocktail hour started when the guests arrived in a school bus at the property. They were welcomed with our signature cocktail (Cottage Sunrise – a spin-off of a Moscow Mule). Guests took their seats along the water’s edge and waited for the ceremony to begin. The ceremony was a twist between German and Canadian traditions and then Paul Henrik and I paddled away into the distance (instead of walking down the aisle). The evening festivities began, we celebrated, we drank and we danced to the sounds of 90’s tunes, the crackling fire in the distance and fireworks to end the evening.

Rustic Wedding DayPhoto Credit: Dominik 

 

Was it hard? Nope. Challenging, yes… but with a little help from my friends and family, it was amazing what we were able to accomplish.

So, in case any of you have to go through the same thing (or you’re just looking for ways to make wedding planning a little easier), let this guide help you pave the way to a successful dream wedding.

 

The Organization

The organization of a destination wedding (or for me, a wedding back home) is quite difficult when there isn’t someone on the other end helping you out.

Hiring a wedding planner was out of the question for a number of reasons:

  1. I can’t work with a wedding planner who is halfway across the world on a 6-hour time difference
  2. I can’t work with a wedding planner in Germany, they wouldn’t know where to start or who to contact
  3. I can’t work with a wedding planner period because I’m not good at hearing about other people’s opinions when it’s my dream wedding (I know, #bridezilla)

When I had come to the realization that I had now left myself stranded with no opportunity to find help on the organizational front, I found YouLi. YouLi is a travel management platform which allows you to create trips, conferences, destination weddings and a whole load more of events on one easy platform. YouLi took care of the RSVP’s (and automated reminders for the slackers), the online payments (for hotel bookings), and the personalized online invitations (which included directions, gift information, accommodations, post-trips and everything else one needs to know before going to a destination wedding).

The best part about it was that it allowed me to assign my bridesmaids and family members tasks for what needed to be completed back at home. When the task was done, they clicked a checkbox which notified me what had been finished and what still needed to be done. It also allowed me to receive additional responses from guests (on top of just the ‘RSVP’) like whether or not they were going to take the free shuttle bus from the accommodations, if they were vegetarian or had meal preferences if they were joining the post-trip to Algonquin Park, etc.

So now that I had YouLi to keep my mind and mess in order for me, it was time for the fun stuff. The frills.

 

The Frills

You know… the invitations, bridesmaids requests, centerpieces… the usual. Let’s go in order, shall we?

 

The Invitations

First, come save-the-dates and then come invitations. Luckily, if you use an app like YouLi you really don’t have to worry about sending tangible invitations out (an email will do just fine). But I was pretty excited to put my DIY Pinteresting skills to the test, so I decided to send out handmade save-the-dates and official wedding invitations (with our YouLi website link).

So… I made the save-the-dates, but I didn’t just want any old save-the-date card, I wanted a card that my guests didn’t have to stuff in a drawer or recycle right away. I decided to attached little magnetic tags to each save-the-date card so that my guests could throw it on the fridge and be reminded every.single.day (that I was eagerly/impatiently waiting for the RSVP).

Then came the official invitations which I had, even more, fun with. I used yellow paper binder dividers as my wedding invitations because they came in bulk at the dollar store. I also used old burlap that I found on the side of the road in a garbage pile for my bows and wraps. The only other thing I needed was some nice lace to finish it off (which of course, I purchased at the flea market).

 

The Bridal Party Requests

There are so many creative ways to ask your bridesmaids and groomsmen to join you on your special day. Sadly, most of these creative ways require you to be in the same room as your best friends when you ask them. Instead, I went Pinterest crazy and created the groomsmen’s invitations with suspenders attached (that they were to wear at our wedding) and the bridesmaid’s invitations with pop-able balloons so they could literally “pop the question” (I know, cheesy).

But they were cute, right? I couldn’t resist.

 

The Dresses

Call me crazy, but I purchased my wedding dress online for 99 Euros on Amazon. Of course, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t have a little fun with it. I ended up flying home for a friend’s wedding earlier that year so I took a couple of my bridesmaids out on a little wedding dress search (after I had purchased my dress online).

Turns out after all of that wedding dress madness, the one I purchased online ended up being the winner.

Never out rule the online shops! My bridesmaids and I also spent quite some time searching the web for bridesmaids dresses, but my odd color selection gave us limited options. I ended up finding my dresses in store, but for a fraction of the cost, a normal bridesmaid’s dress would cost. It took a couple tries to get it right, but we managed. 

Right?

 

The Decorations

Decorations (if you’re creative) have got to be the best part of planning a wedding. I started my decorations before I even knew who would be invited to the wedding.

If you’re creative, well… make a budget for yourself, buy the art supplies and roll with it. I took care of all the little arts and crafts (centerpieces, bows, and bridal gifts) while my dad took care of the bigger things like wooden benches, the altar and the aisle stumps (plus rebuilding a new deck, extending the dock and creating a dockside bar… I know, my dad’s crazy).

Wedding Decor

If you’re not creative, why not consider buying someone’s previously used wedding decorations? Or… as I did, have your family and friends help you out!

Rustic Bridesmaid DressPhoto Credit: Lisa Davis

 

I have 7 apple bins full of handmade wedding decorations left over from my wedding and I’m now handing them off to be repurposed at another beautiful rustic barn wedding.

Wedding Decor

Reduce, reuse, recycle!

 

The Services

This was hands down the hardest part of planning a wedding abroad. If you’re up for spending a ton of money on your wedding, then there are certainly people who can help you find your dream caterer, wedding cake, DJ, and florist. But… if you’re anything like me, you’ll be finding every possible way to save an extra penny.

So here’s how I did it.

 

The Caterers

Who needs expensive caterers when you’re having a cottage wedding? I was looking for the good ole-fashion Canadian finger food. Instead of convincing an expensive caterer to drive up from Toronto to the cottage country, I decided to call up a chip truck and ask them if they could work their magic.

We managed to convince the guys over at Get Fried to cook us up a huge pork roast and serve up some late night poutine. The rest of the food was prepared and cooked by us (or my family (especially my stepmom Stacey, my aunts, my mother-in-law and my sister-in-laws… I didn’t do anything)… corn on the cob, potato wedges, potato salad and all the ingredients for a gourmet salad buffet. Of course, we also had an unlimited supply of Timbits to curb the hunger during our cocktail hour too.

Rustic Wedding Dinner

 

The Entertainment

Who needs expensive entertainment when Spotify does the job just fine? Of course, that is personal preference. While I would have loved to have a DJ at our wedding, we were in the middle of cottage country. So… we went with the alternative route, force your family friend to become a DJ for the night and jam away.

Surprisingly, it worked out better than I could have ever asked for. You might want to consider it for your own wedding too (we just put together a 6-hour playlist of awesome dance music that will get the whole crowd up and moving).

Rustic Wedding CheersPhoto Credit: Dominik

 

The Wedding Cake

Nothing tastes better than homemade cake (with cream cheese frosting). My sister makes some of the best cakes I’ve ever tasted and having that homemade touch at my rustic wedding made it that much more special. Instead of buying a fondant covered cake that no one eats, I decided to convince my sister to bake a Vanilla/Chocolate/Carrot Cake that had the entire party going up for seconds. The cake was gone in about 15-minutes, and then we served up Kawartha Dairy ice cream and my mom’s famous homemade haystacks and rice crispy squares for everyone.

Rustic Wedding Cake

 

The Photographer

Hire a friend! My brother was sweet enough to connect me to a friend of his, Hayley Hruska, who is an incredible photographer from the GTA. Finding the perfect photographer is definitely one of the most important parts of planning a wedding… why not hire someone you trust? (plus we had my mom take a few shots as well!)

Rustic Groomsmen OutfitsPhoto Credit: Lisa Davis

 

The Videographer

Having a wedding video isn’t for everyone, but I definitely needed one. I want to be able to re-live my wedding day (when I’m grumpy and make Paul Henrik sleep on the couch).

Instead of hiring an expensive videographer, I asked family and friends (including my amazing Uncle) to film some clips throughout the wedding. Now it’s up to me to make a montage of it all (from the guest’s point of view).

Rustic Wedding DayPhoto Credit: Dominik 

 

The Equipment Rentals

Depending on where you’re getting married might depend on whether you need equipment rentals (that includes toilets, tables, cutlery, tents, lighting, linens, and more). I hate to break it to you, but this is going to take plain old hard work to get it done right.

First Dances - Rustic WeddingPhoto Credit: Dominik 

 

The Officiant

Don’t ask me! Did I forget to tell you that I was already legally married in Germany 9 months earlier? Instead of hiring a legal officiant, we got married on my dock and my Uncle did the honor of marrying us (and he did an incredible job might I add)!

Rustic Wedding DayPhoto Credit: Dominik 

 

The Florist

Rustic weddings require rustic bouquets. To be honest, you or I could create the perfect rustic bouquet just by going out in our backyards and picking a few flowers to add to a pre-purchased bouquet. Garden flowers and wild grass make formal bouquets look a little more wild and rustic. Instead of booking a florist wedding florist, I hired a wonderful woman, Dianne, in Lakefield to create my wedding bouquets and centerpieces from her garden. She runs a company called 14th Line Selections in Lakefield, Ontario where she sells flowers at local markets. I couldn’t have been happier… Dianne’s bouquets and centerpieces were more than perfect!

Rustic Wedding FlowersPhoto Credit: Lisa Davis

 

It was 17 degrees and sunny on the day of our wedding, our family and friends surrounded us and we were getting married. As cheesy as it sounds, this was truly the best party I have ever been to and I am so honored to have celebrated our wedding surrounded by all the people that I love.

Rustic Family PhotosPhoto Credit: Lisa Davis

 

I would like to say a huge thank you to all of those who helped make my dream wedding possible. It is unbelievable how much my friends, family, and bridesmaids did to bring the day to life.

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3 Comments
  1. Reply

    Cristina Cantarelli

    December 12, 2017

    Jenna, I can’t believe I missed this. What an absolute beautiful bride you are! The cottage setting is stunning and the rustic decor too! I love that you added so many personal touches. The cake from your sister is so pretty and how sweet that your uncle married you both!

    • Reply

      Jenna Davis

      December 12, 2017

      Awwww, you’re the best! Thank you so much for the sweet comment! ♥️
      It was definitely a special day… I don’t think we’ll ever have the opportunity to bring our entire German/Canadian families together like that again… it was amazing having all of them at my family cottage. 😍

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