Ok, so the question was asked, an affirmative answer was given, now comes the fun part – planning the wedding! A wedding is supposed to be a remarkable ritual in which two people join together into an institution from which they can draw strength, guidance and companionship. While it may seem like only a piece of paper to some and a reason to party for others, a wedding is a very emotional ceremony: oaths are spoken before family and friends that challenge ones’ integrity, honesty and ones’ character as a human being. All the while dressed up like penguins and princesses! To make the day a reality and a success, many things need to be taken care of.
The suggestions below will be helpful if you are planning a wedding in town or out. While Cree weddings do incorporate some non-Cree traditions, some suggestions simply won’t apply. For one, invitations are not usually sent to everyone on your list, only to those out of town, and in terms of the reception/feast, family members will be pitching in to help out with the cooking and preparation, so the costs will vary. Cree traditions have it that many things required for the wedding will be given as gifts, which cut down on costs and ease the whole planning part a little bit.
#1: Money Matters
The first thing to do is work out a budget: how much money do you have to spend? This figure will keep it all in perspective and influence most of your choices. Keep a chart so you don’t lose track of where the money is going: first write down the numbers on how you see the money being spent and then write down the actual cost as the money flows out. Depending on your requirements in or out of town, most money will be spent on the dress and the tux, the food, the reception location and the music. The other little details will add up too: decorations, gifts for attendants (bridesmaids, best man, flower-girl, etc) flowers, invitations, and wedding favours. Working out a budget will also give you a checklist for all that needs to be done for the wedding.
#2: The 4 W’s
When and Where?
Pick a date. This will give you the time frame for when everything needs to be done. The date will also influence other decisions: are you thinking winter, spring, summer or fall? Do you want the ceremony and reception inside, outside, or both? Keep in mind who will be attending. If there are less mobile people on your guest list try to keep them in mind. If you are thinking of having it outdoors, remember that Mother Nature is unpredictable, so have alternative plans in mind: tents or another location are good to have just in case a storm blows through.
Once you have the date, book the church and person who will officiate. If you are planning on having the feast and dances at the local gym or arena, call to book as early as possible.
Who are you inviting? The whole community or just close family and friends? Most feasts in the Cree communities will accommodate the whole community. If it’s not in the community, how many people will the ceremony and reception locations safely hold? If there are too many people on your list, start with family then branch out. I read one suggestion that if you are only thinking of inviting one or two fellow co-workers, you might be better off not inviting any or inviting all, just to avoid potential conflict. It is also a common practice to invite people to the reception only, especially if the church is too small to accommodate everyone.
Feasts consist of both traditional and non-traditional foods. Are there any allergies you need to take into consideration? Are there a lot of diabetics on your guest list? A good idea is to provide a diabetes-friendly meal, that way no one feels left out and overall it is healthier for everyone. If not, then be sure to have some diabetes specific alternatives.
Are you going to have musicians playing for the dance afterwards? Book them as soon as possible.
#3: Please and Thank-you
Invitations should be sent out as early as possible, especially where travel planning will be involved. Having the invitations done professionally can cost $200 to $800 per 100. While homemade invitations take time, they are often more personal and much cheaper to make. These days, home computer programs can help cut down on this cost quite a bit, as they can print out the invitation in multi-colours and even include a photo if you want. Check for mistakes more than once and have a fresh eye read it over before you press print or give the ok to the printer. Make sure you write “RSVP by [date]”, that way you know how much food will be needed. One cost-saving idea is to include a postcard for the reply, eliminating the need for an envelope. Also, remember to stamp the reply postcard or envelope. It’s a good idea to include a simple map if the locations are outside the communities.
It’s a good idea to keep in mind any thank-you cards that may be sent out afterwards. Again, a home computer program would cut costs and make them much more personal. If gifts are going to be given to those in the wedding party and to those who helped a lot with the preparation, start on them early enough so that they will be ready by the wedding date.
#4: Odds n’ Ends
You can choose to write your own vows or go with the traditional ones, but check the wording beforehand so there are no surprises when you say “I do.”
If you want to hire a photographer or a videographer, go over the shots that you will want ahead of time, i.e.: the first kiss, the ring bearer, the flower-girls, the cutting of the cake, the dancing, etc. Even have the person check out angles and lighting and try some shots out before hand.
One good beauty tip is to start a face-cleansing regimen about 6 weeks before the wedding and stick to it, ensuring that your face will be blemish free on the big day.
If you have access to the Internet, there are websites that can help you with every facet of planning the wedding. You can become a member for free at many of them, allowing you to browse and entitling you to receive newsletters, tips and reminders.
At http://canada.topweddingsites. com/ there are links to the top Canadian wedding sites.
At www.bridalspace.com there are articles on makeup, invitations, dresses, photography, flowers, cakes, etc.
At www.canadianbride.com there are articles and tools such as a place to set up a budget, a checklist of things to do and a place to make your guest list.
At http://www.superweddings. com/index.html you will find an array of ideas, especially money saving tips. There is also a section on do-it-yourself projects for your wedding, including how to make your own garter, centrepieces and favours.
At http://www.dcpublishing.com there are two books that can be downloaded with over 500 ideas for invitations, receptions, decorations, toasts, etc.
At http://www.geocities.com/sprin grain2.geo/NAWedding.html you will find links to Native American wedding sites. A lot of the links didn’t work when I tried but those that did were interesting to read and look at.
Keep in mind that the contents of these sites are only suggestions and you do not have to follow everything they say. It is your wedding and the only thing you pretty much need to do is have someone perform the official ceremony; everything else is up for grabs. If you don’t want to wear a white gown: wear pants or a red dress or whatever you want; if you want to have a particular theme, write it in the invitation. Do not expect everyone to adhere to it though, as people will do what they will.
Now you have the date, the place, and the guests, so what are you going to wear? The options are endless and will depend on how much money you have to spend. Have you dreamed for years about the dress you want to wear, or are you thinking that you will only wear this dress once in your life and don’t want to blow your budget on it?
New dresses can cost as little as $300, up to over a thousand dollars-plus. According to the director of Oui, Je le Voeux in Montreal, Jocelyn Sigouin, the hottest styles this year have boustiers, spaghetti straps and embroidery – gone are the big puffy sleeves, long sleeves and big bows. If you are going to buy it brand new, it’s important to order at least 6-12 months before the wedding, some say even earlier. It can take 3- 8 months for the dress to come in, and it will take about 6 weeks of fittings to get it just right. A good idea is to start the fittings about 2 months before the wedding. A money saving tip for a new dress is to choose the dress you want, then take a photo of it to a seamstress who can recreate it at a fraction of the cost.
If you are going the low-budget route, dresses can be found at second hand stores for $35 to $200. Although styles have changed over the years, if you see one that you like, remember that it can be cleaned and altered to suit your taste. At Oui je le voeux you can even rent a dress from a huge selection of both new and recycled models. For about $350, you get the dress, the hairpiece and jewellery, leaving only the shoes to take care of. They also rent wedding party dresses, ring-bearer suits and tuxes for the groom and groomsmen. The wedding party dresses for rent start at $85 and up, while tuxes rent for $60-$130.
Whether or not the bridesmaids are buying their own dresses, try to choose something that they like too. One suggestion is to have the bride choose the colour and the bridesmaids choose the style they want- either all the same or something to suit their own tastes and body shape.
It’s always good to bring a friend or two when trying on dresses, just to get a different perspective. Ultimately, you want a dress you feel comfortable in, that has enough movement to allow you to dance and sit, and that makes you feel beautiful.
A good website to browse for ideas is www.theknot.com – there are over 20,000 wedding dresses to peruse, including some alternative ideas.
Jaymore Magasins in Val d’Or sells wedding dresses, with an array of catalogues to look through. They recommend ordering a dress about six months in advance as it takes about three months for the dress to come in. Prices start at $400 and up.
The Boutique du Tissu & de L’osier enr in Chibougamau will make a dress for you. They recommend coming in at least two months before the wedding with your choice of dress. You can also choose from a selection of patterns they have in the store. Prices start at $300.
Despite the similar looking tuxes and suits, men have plenty of choices too. There are a number of different styles of jackets: short, long, tails, classic, pin stripes, different collars, accents on pockets, and different styles of vests, pants, shoes and ties. If buying a suit, remember that it can be worn for other black-tie functions. Brand new suits and tuxes at one store went for $375, including a vest and shirt.
It is definitely much cheaper to rent a tux, as the prices start at $60 and up. This price includes the suit, the shoes, the tie and cumberbund.
Jaymore Magasins in Val d’Or rents tuxes, starting at $89 to $ 139.
Boutique L’impact in Chibougamau also rents tuxes and suits starting at $90, to $180. if your wedding is on Saturday, the suit can be picked up on Wednesday and brought back the following Monday.