Planning a cottage wedding: Props and rentals

The serene beauty and get-away-from-it-all feel at cottage weddings is a world apart from the complicated preparations required for a major event in the near wilderness. Simply put: Be prepared.

Cori Bullock of Kingston-based Hand in Hand Bridal Services and a veteran of cottage weddings, recommends hosts visualize the event from set-up to tear-down and think about tools or necessary hardware they’ll require — things like extension cords to power a PA system or wire to attach directional signs to trees or poles.

Flowers & plants
A cottage setting provides a naturally beautiful backdrop, but if you decide to bring in cultivated flowers, remember that wind and rain can be an issue; fragile-petalled plants such as tulips will blow apart, leaving little more than bare green stalks and a dusting of pollen.

Also bear in mind that if you’re asking a friend or relative to bring bouquets or other flowers up from the city, pre-made arrangements take up roughly five times the space as ordinary loose flowers.

Many cottagers choose to pick wildflowers from around their property. Pick them 24 to 48 hours before the event to allow time for water to make its way up the stems so they won’t wilt as quickly.

Another popular option is to use potted plants for the tabletop or around the property. You may even be able to drop off your planters in the winter at the local garden centre, and have the staff seed and grow the geraniums or impatiens so they’re ready the day of the ceremony.

Inclement weather could make dinner and dancing on the deck something of a disaster, so a rented tent with platform is likely essential.

The problem is, tents require a flat, open area, which is frequently lacking at the lake. The story of one family who allegedly blasted a granite out-crop with explosives to increase usable space has entered the lore of cottage-country wedding planners. For the rest of us, tents come in many different sizes and configurations, and it may surprise you what a small patch of land can accommodate. Some companies will even forgo the traditional site visit to determine whether an area is appropriate for a tent and rely on images from photographs. Any tent over 600 sq. ft. generally requires a structural permit from the local municipality, which comes at a small cost.


Cottage-area rental companies carry all of the basics, but if you are looking for extras, you’ll have to go to specialty firms in urban areas.

Toronto’s Chair-man Mills, for instance, provides anything you can imagine—from faux-marble dance floors to kosher Royal Doulton china—and, for a price, they’re willing to travel.

Margie Cook of Chair-man Mills recommends arranging for rental deliveries to arrive at least one day before the function to allow for alternative arrangements for missing or damaged items.

If there are barriers to a large truck reaching your property, Cook adds, inform the company in advance so they can bring ramps that will allow them to go the distance using dollies or hand carts.

Trucks typically require a three-to-four-metre clearance and it’s not unusual to have to cut tree branches. (If it’s a shared road, check with neighbours first so you don’t alter the tree that’s marked their property line for the past century.)

Remember to store any rentals in a sheltered area: Customers pay for breakage, loss, and damage. Clients often have the option of paying a damage waiver beforehand amounting to eight per cent of the rentals.