Today’s couple, Niccola and Lewis, both work for NGOs in Africa, and witness poverty and struggle on a daily basis. Because of this, holding a large and lavish wedding didn’t feel right for them. Preferring a small and intimate affair instead, the couple were wed in a simple ceremony by the lake on the bride’s mother’s island in Georgian Bay while their immediate family (and dogs) looked on, and their two photographers, Jennifer and Hugh, captured every beautiful and emotional moment.

Georgian Bay Wedding

Niccola, 27  & Lewis, 36 

Dolphin Island in Nares Inlet, Georgian Bay, Canada

Wedding Date: September 1, 2013

Number of Guests: 14 (including bride & groom) + two photographers! 16 total

Wedding Cost: $5,000

Wedding Ceremony Location: Bride’s mother’s Island in Georgian Bay

Wedding Reception Location: In the main cottage

wildflower bouquet

barefoot bride on the rocks

groom by bonfire

bride and groom in the woods

wild flowers

dog by the water

Private Island wedding

Why did you have an intimate wedding?

It was for a multitude of reasons. I have loved big weddings of my friends, but always knew I would have a small one. Part of it is my not having enough interest to plan a large wedding, part of it is not being convinced it would be a good use of our resources. My husband and I both work for NGO’s in Africa. We see, on a daily basis, poverty, disease, and struggle. We are so humbled by what we have and how lucky we are, I would have difficulty in justifying having a lavish wedding. It is not in our personalities. The irony of this though, is that Africans have HUGE weddings. It is the event of a lifetime, and no expense is spared.

wedding guests arriving by boat

driving theboat

private island cottage

groomsmen arriving by boat

pregnant bride sitting on bed

bride hugging friend

friend helping bride with headband

bride's blue dress blowing in the wind

bride on cottage deck

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

Very few, which was one of the highlights. We definitely underestimated how much time-intensive cooking would be required (it was a two day affair). It was more than we realized, and definitely added stress to the cooks (my brothers and mum) that we didn’t anticipate.

groom buttoning his cuff

parents pinning boutonniere on groom

groomsmen drinking beer

Was it difficult to pare down the guest list?

Once we made the decision that it was only going to be immediate family members and their significant others, it became incredibly easy.

Georgian Bay Groom

Georgian Bay bride

bride and groom portrait

group portrait on rocks

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

We did. Friends were of course very understanding because it was so clear-cut; just family. However, we had to stick to just immediate family because the island can only sleep so many people.

wedding guests walking on rocks

bride and father walking arm in arm

groom's parents embracing

bride and father walking down rocks

out door wedding ceremony

What were the highlights of the ceremony?

There were too many to count. It was held at my favorite place on earth – at the front of my mum’s island, where the horizon and water stretch out as far as the eye can see. The gentle lapping of waves, combined with the occasional call of loons and seagulls creates an atmosphere I’ve never been able to match anywhere else in the world. There was nowhere else I would have rather been. I was barefoot, the dogs were running around hunting in puddles, and the most important people to me in the world were at my side – my parents, my brothers, and my husband. I started crying the moment it started, but so did everyone else. It was beautiful and such a happy time.

outdoor Georgian Bay wedding ceremony

barefoot bride at wedding ceremony

wedding ceremony by the lake


bride and groom at wedding ceremony

tearful bride at wedding ceremony

What were the highlights of the reception?

Our ‘reception’ was so casual. We all walked back from the front of the island to the main cottage, signed our marriage certificates, took communion, and then had champagne and hors d’oeuvres (foie gras on toasted baguette). We all just hung out in the late afternoon sun, incredibly happy, talking. It was perfect.

popping a bottle of champagne

champagne toast

bride and groom in cottage

pouring champagne

wedding guests on cottage deck

What was the best thing about having an intimate wedding?

It was incredibly relaxed, with much less pressure to ‘make sure everyone is happy’ the way one worries at bigger events. You are able to spend time with everyone, and truly celebrate with everyone. People are more comfortable showing emotions and sharing stories.

Georgian bay cottage

cooking in the cottage

setting the wedding table

wedding guests sitting around cottage table

wedding guests at dinner

cottage wedding reception

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

Stand your ground – there will probably be people who wished it would be a bigger wedding. Have fun with the menu – small weddings allow you to put more thought into what you eat, as you don’t need to worry as much about the cost of each plate per head. If you plan on doing the cooking in-house, make sure you have a plan. It is very hard for one stove to produce a meal for more than 12 people without food going cold. Because you are probably doing everything yourself, make sure you have a few people ready to run errands at the last minute – there will be things you forgot (for us, it was ice).

toasting the bride and groom


Floral: The flowers were picked wild on the island by my brother’s girlfriend Sasha, who has a masters degree in botany. She made beautiful arrangements, including my bouquet and small wildflowers on the sweetgrass head piece I wore.

Food: The food was a collaborative effort, everyone helped in giving ideas on the menu and picking things up, and my brothers and my mum – who are fabulous cooks – prepared everything by hand. We focused on sourcing all of the food locally, from biodynamic organic farmers. For the wedding dinner we had local wild mushroom soup to start, followed by asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, with filet mignon, wild rice, roasted greens. All of the meat came from Marlon’s Meats, a fantastic organic butcher in Toronto.

Cake: The cake was a 3 tier lemon cake from Dufflet, served with local berries we picked up at the farmer’s market.

Photography: Jennifer Moher and Hugh Whitaker.