Guide: Planning a cottage wedding

Tips from cottage-country experts on how to make your special day as smooth as possible

By Steve BreartonSteve Brearton

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You’ve decided to take the plunge and get married at the cottage. You know it’s not going to be easy, what with bugs, summer storms, and porta-potty rentals. So to help smooth your walk down the, um, aisle, we offer the hard-earned wisdom of cottage-country caterers, photographers, wedding planners, ministers, and those who’ve already tied the knot by the lake. Just remember, you’re not getting hitched at the Ritz for a reason. Embrace the place.

Planning the ceremony

Unlike most occasions when you invite friends and family to your country getaway, you probably won’t have everyone staying with you during your wedding. But it’s still up to the bride and groom to help organize accommodation.

Hotels

Hosts can simplify the options by reserving a block of rooms at nearby hotels or lodges — making certain there is a range of price and style — and letting guests know about it when invitations are sent out. You can often negotiate a group discount — typically about 10 per cent off standard rates. But be sure to remind invitees to reserve in advance: Summer bookings at most popular accommodations must be made at least two months ahead.

Of course, if you advise guests on where to stay, inspect the lodgings beforehand. At one recent cottage wedding near Bala, Ont., family friends — a judge and a lawyer — arrived at their recommended hotel only to be met by a filthy lobby, the lingering smell of grease from the snack bar, and bikers swigging beer at pool tables. They were glad to find beds at a modest but well-kept motel nearby.

Rent a cottage

For groups, renting a cottage is also a possibility. Be warned, however, rental stays are almost always a minimum of one week and typically run Saturday to Saturday with check-in mid-afternoon (not exactly convenient for a Saturday afternoon wedding).

Some rental agencies, like Haliburton’s All-Seasons Cottage Rentals, offer a few cottages with stays beginning on a Friday. All-Seasons’ Janice Bishop reminds people that no cottage owner wants to turn their rental into a flophouse, and eight guests are the max for a standard three-bedroom cottage. She recommends booking by January.

Borrow a cottage

If you are really lucky, you may be able to take advantage of a neighbour’s generosity. When Kim Kane and Ken Melhuish were planning their September 1999 wedding on Upper Rideau Lake, they quickly realized there weren’t enough local lodgings to accommodate their guest list.

Mother of the bride Louise Kane says that once neighbours learned of their situation, they offered the use of five nearby cottages. “Some of them were just acquaintances at the time,” Kane notes, “but we definitely got to know them better.”

Tents

Tenting, either on location or at a campground, is the most affordable option. If campers are staying on-site, make sure they understand the complications and hazards of cottage life beforehand.

You might even provide tenters with “survival kits” that include bug spray, sun hat, sunscreen, and flashlight pulled together in a metal fire bucket or waterproof sack. Even then, not everyone will come prepared, so have some extra blankets, water, and (for the real rookies) pillows on hand.


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