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Top wedding trends from Vancouver Island and British Columbia’s coastal island region

The picturesque island region of B.C. has long been a favoured destination for weddings, honeymoons and elopements. The region is the very essence of romance, a floral bower swept by gentle breezes and surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery on earth.

If you’re planning a wedding on Vancouver Island, you’ll notice some uniquely local trends. Island weddings tend to be small and intimate, rarely more than 80 to 100 guests. They tend to be more laid-back affairs. Most brides no longer want to follow the old formal rules.

“Weddings have gotten so far away from the traditional,” says Cheryl Williams, conference services manager at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel. “Every bride wants a wedding that is totally unique.”

In fact, going local is one of the biggest trends. “On Vancouver Island and in Victoria, especially, we have this huge local movement,” says wedding planner Barb Walker, owner of French Kiss Events in Victoria. “People over here want to support local businesses.” And it’s not just chefs using local ingredients or servers pouring local wine and craft beer. It’s also local photographers, makeup artists and decorators. 

A HELPING HAND

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There’s a strong DIY esthetic informing weddings these days, with a desire for handcrafted, artisan goods and services. But that doesn’t mean a couple actually wants to do everything themselves. That’s where a wedding expert comes in handy, either a coordinator supplied by the venue or a planner connecting them with local vendors such as florists and photographers. 

“We get a few brides who are really hands on, but most brides are looking for that package – and we have a great wedding package,” says Tamara Olson, the catering manager at Marriott Victoria Inner Harbour, noting that brides also use Marriott’s Pinterest-like tool,  Meetings Imagined. “Then they add small touches to [the package]. It makes it a little more streamlined if you will.” 

FUN WITH FOOD 

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Wedding celebrations should be fun: today that often means an interactive dining  experience, such as an oyster-shucking station, food trucks or a chef preparing à la minute dishes. “Having a chef present can take the buffet up to the next level,” says Chelsea Sutherland, sales and marketing coordinator at the Parkside Hotel & Spa.

Speaking of buffets, they’re in these days. “Plated [meal service] is pretty rare,” Sutherland says. “People want to give their guests lots of options for dinner.” Another option is a cocktail-style reception rather than a dinner, which allows guests to mingle all evening rather than being seated with the same people.

As for what to serve, think small plates, interesting starters, passed canapés, signature cocktails and farm-to-table ingredients. And don’t forget to offer a late-night snack. “That’s huge these days,” the Marriott Victoria Inner Harbour’s Olson says. “We try to make it fun, with a build-your-own poutine bar or a slider bar.”

At The Butchart Gardens, public relations specialist Jen Durdle says activities around the wedding itself, from ladies’ afternoon lunches to summer-evening picnics before the big day, are becoming a part of couples’ wedding celebrations. Custom-printed dinner menus and exclusive dinners in The Dining Room Restaurant are other elegant touches offered at The Butchart Gardens. 

BLOOMING BEAUTY 

Butchart_w2.jpgIf there’s one thing a couple is usually happy to splurge on, it’s the flowers. “I’m definitely seeing a lot of attention on the floral arrangements,” says Sutherland, of the Parkside Hotel & Spa’s wedding clients. “That seems to be what they’re spending most of their money on.”

Florals set the tone of the event, whether it’s rustic Mason jars filled with wildflowers or dainty bud vases sporting single blooms. “We’re seeing people going back to medium or larger arrangements, but they’re not formal – lots of loose blooms and trailing vines,” says French Kiss Events’ Walker. 

Of course, it helps when the venue itself brings full floral beauty to life. For an exclusive period from January 15th through March 31st each year, The Butchart Gardens hosts unique indoor receptions with access to its gardens for wedding photography. Its indoor Spring Prelude garden hosts up to 60 people and provides a colourful preview of Vancouver Island gardens coming alive in the spring.

RUSTIC AND REFINED

When it comes to décor, couples are looking for a venue that is stylish but somewhat of a blank slate, where they can create their own vision. That means clean lines, neutral backgrounds and few bright colours or vivid patterns. “They kind of want to take it and make it any way they want for the wedding,” says Parkside’s Sutherland. 

“We’re definitely seeing a lot of brides wanting to do their own decor and being inspired by Pinterest,” Marriott’s Olson says. In recent years, that inspiration has largely been rustic – think chalkboards, burlap and lace – but Walker finds that look giving way to something more elegant and refined. 

Colours, too, are changing. Blush and gold are being replaced by deep, vibrant burgundies, burnt oranges and golds this fall; and for spring, navy, green and other cool hues shine. Sutherland says, “I think that natural is a huge thing for Victoria because we have  so much natural beauty in the city.”

VENUE WITH A VIEW

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One of the biggest choices for any couple is where the ceremony and reception will be held. And Vancouver Island has some spectacular options. 

For instance, The Butchart Gardens has a Rose Carousel, which includes a menagerie of 30 hand-crafted animals and makes a colourful backdrop for photography.

Urban venues embrace the outdoors with rooftop gardens, wraparound patios and sun-soaked atriums. Some have the luxury of incredible waterfront views as well: for instance, the Delta Ocean Pointe Resort and Spa’s prime location overlooking the Inner Harbour. It also helps when such venues have spa services for the bridal party right on site.

TAKING THE CAKE 

It’s not a wedding without the cake, right? Well, you might be surprised at current trends. Olson says: “We don’t see a lot of cakes these days. If you do see one, it’s really small, and the naked cake is really popular.” What you might see instead is simply a decorated topper. After all, Sutherland says, “People really want to hold on to the tradition of cutting the cake.” Instead, people are nibbling on cupcakes, pies, plated desserts and mix-and-match candy bars. 

GOOD ADVICE 

If there’s one tip to take seriously on Vancouver Island, it’s this: “Book your big vendors early,” wedding planner Walker says. “We have great talent here, and it’s a great community, but it’s not very big.” She advises booking your venue and all services and personnel a year in advance. “Then you can sit back and relax.”