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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Food & neighbours

Let your location set the tone when it comes to food. You can use a caterer for the whole thing, or mix it up with food you and your friends and family have prepared in advance combined with some special touches a caterer can provide.


If you do go the caterer route, they will generally bring what they need to prepare and serve the meal — from warming pans to convection ovens — and can often avoid your kitchen altogether.

Setting the mood

Keely Schierl, of The Butcher’s Daughters in Huntsville, believes the best cottage wedding meals are ones that reflect the relaxed mood of the cottage, and suggests approaching the meal as if it’s a dinner party.

Salads with beans, bulgur, or couscous can be bought locally or prepared a day in advance, and may even improve overnight. Salmon can be baked the day before and served with a salsa or chutney. For meat lovers, ribs are excellent pre-roasted and reheated on a barbecue; or serve a salad with chicken or beef as a light entrée.

Schierl recommends that fancy, time-consuming appetizers are a good item to pick up from a caterer and then simply warm in an oven. “People have weddings at cottages because they are special places,” she says, and suggests that choosing food associated with specific cottage locales helps convey the spot’s uniqueness. “I was at a wedding where they served pies from a local place in Gravenhurst. It was perfect.”


In Ontario, serving liquor at a cottage does not require a license. The sale of alcohol at a residence, however, is illegal and anyone ignoring the prohibition could face criminal bootlegging charges.


Don’t forget to have lots of ice on hand for drinks; if no refrigeration is available for beer, wine, and water, a bag of ice per person is about right. You can store it in the shade in coolers or large plastic tubs available at hardware or home stores.

The neighbours

Cottagers are easygoing folk, but don’t push your luck by surprising your neighbours with cars parked on a shared road or a party blasting tunes all night long.


Wedding planner Cori Bullock suggests speaking with nearby residents even before invitations are mailed, to inform them of plans and find solutions to any concerns.

Invite the neighbours

As a courtesy, caterer Sandra Morandin recommends inviting them to the party, if only for after-dinner dancing. “You may end up having to impose on these people for parking or use of a dock,” she says. “Inviting them is the least you can do.”

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