Ottawa Citizen: Wedding showdown Best Day Ever aimed at millennials

In a small, century old building tucked in amongst the grand old piles and newer, tony condos on New Edinburgh’s MacKay Street, a newly engaged young woman beams as she flounces out of the change room.

“What do you think? I just love it. It’s so, I don’t know, what do you think?” she asks, not stopping for the answer.

On a bench running the length of The Handmade Bride, her mother and sister deliberate as she comes out in a parade of gowns. Judging by the sleeveless silk fripperies by Toronto custom wedding gown designer Anais Annette that the bride is choosing, could it be a summer wedding?

“Oh, I don’t know,” the bride laughs, her brown eyes sparkling. “We haven’t set a date. We’re just doing the fun part first.” She turns to her mother again, a traditional type who seems to favour bridal lace and covered shoulders. “I like the top part,” the bride says, smoothing her hands down the bodice of a less-favoured piece, “but I don’t like poofy.”

Owner Meaghan Brunetti nods in agreement. This is, after all, no ordinary bridal boutique stuffed with diamante headpieces, massive couture gowns and overpriced oyster satin shoes. This is a store designed by and for the choosiest generation of them all: Millennials.

A gorgeous vintage-inspired dress is bathed in sunlight in the front window of Meaghan Brunetti small boutique in New Edinburgh called The Handmade Bride.

“People who come here elope, they go on destination weddings, they don’t get married in a church,” says Brunetti, 30, who operates the one-year-old store with her sister, Jenna. “They choose the alternative, it’s the new norm. This generation wants the custom life, custom job, custom apartment and the same thing goes for the wedding. It’s the ultimate opportunity to express themselves.”

Given that the average Canadian wedding costs $31,000, says a 2014 survey by BMO, the “chance to express themselves” presents a pretty solid business opportunity for vendors willing to tap into the millennial mindset.

Massive bridal shows have answered the call, with varying results. On one hand, hundreds of vendors sign up to offer the ultimate wedding experience to couples walking through the venue. On the other hand, says Brunetti, the experience of shopping for wedding ideas with thousands of other brides-to-be can be nothing short of exhausting.

And that’s where her latest venture, Best Day Ever, covers the spread. Designed to treat just 250 couples to the best possible choices for their “best day ever,” the Nov. 15 trade show at the Canadian Museum of Nature will offer just two of everything: two florists, two dress designers, two DJs, two photo booths, nail salons, hair salons, decor firms, rental companies and two live weddings (vow renewals, actually) that will showcase the glam/romantic versus rustic/alternative talents of two wedding planners, Toast Special Events and When Sparks Fly Weddings & Events.

Team Sparks style story board.

Team Toast style story board.

Elise Schmitz

“I wanted to make this event because the trade shows are super overwhelming for brides, with everyone trying to sell to them,” says Brunetti. “They leave feeling overwhelmed and clutching a thousand business cards. We want them to experience what vendors do on the spot. They’ll be able to touch, feel and see everything and then they leave with a big box full of gifts from vendors with their business information.”

Then there’s the two live “weddings” that will showcase completely different styles of events, both of which have massive traction with the millennials at the moment. Featuring two couples who won a competition called “Ottawa’s Best Couples Ever,” the vow renewals will highlight the hottest new trends — think rustic greenery and floral headpieces versus romantic elegance — that 2015 has to offer.

For Brunetti, that will also mean offering the most ethical, locally manufactured choices around. Having been forced to turn online for the right elements for her own wedding, she decided that when planning nuptials, the tactile experience matters. As such, back at the shop, which is sparely decorated with a simple trestle table, cushions, antique dressers and artsy-crafty paper tassels, she carries only 15 designers, the majority of whom are Canadian-owned and use Canadian manufacturing.

“I want the dress to have a story, not that someone in China made a thousand million of them. The designers I carry make them by hand — that’s a criteria — and they’re actively involved in the fitting process. If another fabric is needed, they find it and send us the swatch. There are ethical reasons for doing it this way,” she says, “and it mirrors what this generation wants.”

The Best Day Ever: A Wedding Showdown

Where & when: Canadian Museum of Nature, Nov. 15 at 5 p.m.

Who: 40 Canadian and Ottawa-based wedding industry vendors

Cost: $89 for a five-course meal, two weddings, gift box worth more than $100; portion of proceeds go to the Elizabeth Fry Society

More info: http://www.bestdayeverottawa.com/

MEET THE TWO TEAMS:

Rustic/alternative

Thea and Jody represent the rustic couple. They are proud parents to Kira and are lovers of cosplay and performing arts. They are ready to get hitched once again in front of hundreds of strangers due to their on-stage experiences in Murder Mysteries and dressing up in costume at conventions. Their unique personalities will certainly shine through on Nov. 15.

photo supplied / Jonathan Kuhn Photography

Rustic/alternative: Karen Sagle, When Sparks Fly Weddings & Events

“My vision is for a very natural, organic, simple and clean approach. We are planning to use lots of greenery and natural materials, and to keep things very simple and basic and elegant. I think a lot of brides get hung up on all the extra ‘stuff’ that comes with weddings. I’m hoping to convey the idea that a wedding can be beautiful and simple without all the extra things — just a few really good quality elements can make a really big statement.”

Thea and Jody are parents to Kira.

photo supplied / Jonathan Kuhn Photography

Glam/romantic

Andrea and Mike are the glam couple. They have two young daughters and embrace a healthy lifestyle. Mike is a local blogger and Andrea is a baker, they are very excited to have a special day planned for them and to have new wedding photos with their children and their new fitter bodies.

photo supplied / Barbara Ann Studios

Glam/romantic: Elise Schmidt, Toast Special Events

“Glitter, sparkle and shine. Our team is hoping to leave our guests with sense of sophistication and glamour. While our style is ‘contemporary romance,’ we do have a few unconventional gourmet surprises and design details, which may challenge your thoughts on the everyday wedding formula. We’re re-defining the wedding experience one bride at a time.”

Written by Julie Buen, Ottawa Citizen