outdoor wedding couple

Amanda, 24 & Ben, 26

Wedding Date: August 31, 2008

Number of Guests: 52

Wedding Ceremony Location: Family cottage, Lakeside Fairholm Island, Lake Muskoka, Ontario, Canada.

Wedding Reception Location: Family cottage, also on Fairholm Island, Lake Muskoka, Ontario, Canada.

bridesmaids outdoor wedding wearing brown and green

Why did you have an intimate wedding?

Before the wedding, I thought it was because of the budget and the size limitation of the venue. Looking back, though, the connection with our guests should have been the biggest reason. Even if money and space hadn’t been an issue, I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

outdoor wedding ceremony lake muskoka

What are some the challenges that you faced planning an intimate wedding?

Most of the challenges were related to the fact that we were using a non-traditional venue. The cottage {it’s been in the bride’s mother’s family for more than 100 years!} just wasn’t set up for a large party. Also, it’s on an island, so everything (food, chairs, tables, dishes, staff, guests, decorations, and a rather large grill) had to be brought in by boat, which was no small task.

wedding guests outdoor wedding

Was it difficult to pare down the guest list?

Yes and no. Yes, because of course there are people we would have liked to invite and couldn’t. But also no, because we were having a destination wedding (we live in Pennsylvania), so there were people who just would not have been able to make it.

Did you have any ‘issues’ with the small guest list from friends and family? If so, how did you address them?

Actually, we didn’t have many problems at all. We explained to our relatives early on in the planning process what guidelines we had set out – close friends and family only. Nobody really seemed to have a problem with our approach.

What were the highlights of the ceremony?

Ben’s vows. We had decided to write our own, and he absolutely blew me away. That, and the reaction of my youngest sister, who was one of my bridesmaids. She was apparently so overcome with emotion that she cried through the whole ceremony. Happy tears, though! Towards the end of the ceremony my father had to throw her a pack of tissues. Our videographer caught that moment on tape and it cracks me up.

outdoor bride in forest

What were the highlights of the reception?

A few things come to mind. Ben was intent on picking our first dance song and keeping it a secret. He surprised me with a compilation of ‘Over the Rainbow’ by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and ‘Grow Old With You’ by Adam Sandler, from the movie ‘The Wedding Singer.’ It was sweet, silly, and perfect.

We used an mp3 player for the reception, and unfortunately had some technical difficulties when it came time for the father daughter dance. I was heartbroken that ‘Little Miss Magic’ by Jimmy Buffet refused to play. My twin sister came to the rescue as impromptu DJ and selected – of all things – ‘Sweet Emotion’ by Aerosmith. We ended up ad libbing and doing the mashed potato and the sprinkler instead of something more traditional. It was a great spontaneous and funny moment.

My favorite part of the reception, though, was the speeches. In addition to the usual best man and maid of honor speech, the microphone was passed around the room to many of our guests, who had touching stories and advice to share.

wedding reception inside cottage

What was the best thing about having an intimate wedding?

Being able to spend quality time with our closest friends and family, without running around and missing the chance to savor the occasion. It was amazing to have so many important people in our lives together in one place. We had everyone over the night before the wedding for a rehearsal dinner barbeque, where my grandfather gave a moving speech welcoming everyone to the island. Everyone got to meet and spend some time together before the wedding. Between the rehearsal dinner and the reception, I tried to spend as much time as possible with everyone, and I still could have used more time. I have no idea how people get to see anyone at large weddings!

wedding guests outdoor wedding in muskokas

What advice do you have for couples who are considering an intimate wedding?

You might get some flack for not inviting everyone you’ve ever met (and maybe some you haven’t met), but you won’t regret it. I know I don’t. That’s not to say that large celebrations are bad — if you want to have a huge wedding, go for it! Only you will know what kind of wedding you really want to have. Don’t let yourself get talked into inviting half the world if that’s not what you want.

wedding couple on lake


Photographer: Photography by Stacey

Videographer: Starshine Videography

Catering: Dempsey Fine Catering

Muskoka Party Rentals

All Seasons Weddings

bride and groom sunset on lake

Photos: Photography by Stacey

Read more about this fantastic wedding over at dellastella.

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5 Comments  |  Filed Under: At-Home Weddings, Beach Weddings, Outdoor Weddings, Real Weddings, Weddings Away

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  1. Posted by Rebekah R. on April 15th, 2009 at 8:03pm

    What a cute wedding. I love the picture of the bride.
  2. Posted by Sarah on January 16th, 2010 at 4:15pm

    Where did u find the bird graphics to put on the fans? Love them! I have been looking high and low to find some!
  3. Posted by Kate Gass on June 2nd, 2010 at 9:39am

    Great location. Cottage weddings are so intimate and pretty.
  4. Posted by Misty on February 1st, 2011 at 1:03pm

    Pssst....Beautiful, but fyi. It's Muskoka. NOT "The Muskokas"
  5. Posted by Patti on June 2nd, 2012 at 9:29am

    So I am attempting to make the fan programs, can you describe how you made the crossword. Just in Microsoft Word or is there a template somewhere?
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