The Devil’s in the Details: Venues, Caterers, and Everything Else for a Vegan Wedding
Everything You Need to Know When Planning a Cost-Effective Vegan Wedding in Toronto
With so many options, and a set budget, where do you even start?
This article is not about creating a Pinterest board or how to find a good photographer, because there are plenty of sources on the internet about that already. What I want to share with you today are creative tips for saving money and planning efficiently, while still having a lavish-feeling wedding. Toronto weddings can be complicated, so I’m also sharing some details that I wish I had known before jumping into this!
Plus, if you are planning a fully vegan wedding, or just need to accommodate vegan guests, I also found the perfect caterers for you.
From the beginning, Dusan and I had a very similar vision for our wedding. We both agreed we wanted to keep it vegan. And we wanted to be as sustainably-conscious as possible.
Getting married surrounded by nature, whether on a beach or in a forest, was the one thing I did not want to compromise on. Yet, we also envisioned something classy, light-hearted, and unique.
I can say we did get quite creative with our ceremony and reception locations! I almost don’t want to spoil the surprise, but I know if you are reading this you may be looking for tips for your special day too.
So, here’s an in-depth look at how we found our budget-friendly wedding ceremony and reception locations, where we found our amazing vegan caterers, and many more details I hadn’t anticipated. Of course, wedding planning can be stressful! And I’ll touch on that a bit towards the end of this article.
When I began my search, I was a little surprised at how few resources were available online for both Toronto weddings and vegan weddings specifically. So I hope that my journey is helpful to you! I’ve done a lot of digging and found there are quite a few options for having a beautiful, unique, budget-conscious wedding; you just have to know where to look.
This article is part of my Vegan Wedding Diaries. For tips on preventing and managing stress to finding the right vegan shoes or sustainable wedding dress, check out the rest of the series.
Location, Location, Location.
Let’s start out with the biggest decision: where are we exchanging our vows? Call me a hippie, but being near nature was important to me. Preferably by the water. But we also live in one of the most expensive cities in the world, with very limited and coveted (AKA: super expensive) access to Lake Ontario. What other options are available in Toronto if you want a natural backdrop for your wedding?
Well, it turns out there are quite a few options for getting married in nature in Toronto! However, the combined rental costs can jump into the 5-digits real quick for just a single day. Sigh.
We did find a few reasonable options that didn’t break the bank:
- The Scarborough Bluffs
- The Toronto Islands
- The Yacht Club
We ruled all of those out for various reasons. (Who would have thought that Dusan would be picker than me about this?) I’ll admit that did become a little attached to the charm of a cottage-style wedding on Ward Island. If you are looking for a creative and laid back wedding venue on the lake, I would highly recommend looking into the Toronto Islands.
A greenhouse wedding.
After much brainstorming, we fell in love with the idea of a greenhouse wedding. (It’s in nature, but nature-proof!) There are only a few greenhouses in Toronto that offer wedding rentals, with Allen Gardens probably being the most well-known. However, we expanded our search to include areas bordering Toronto and stumbled upon the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington.
After touring the grounds in person, we both fell in love with the concept. The Royal Botanical Garden offers several wedding packages, depending on the size of your wedding party. For our intimate ceremony, we ultimately settled on the exotic Medditerean Gardens.
About the pressure to have a billion flowers…
Just a quick note on flowers: this was not something I was willing to spend a lot of money on. In my opinion, it’s a highly wasteful, albeit beautiful, splurge. Not to mention the “wedding” label markup on flowers is astronomical. (Not throwing shade on the florists here, importing flowers that are out-of-season and working with bridezillas is no easy feat!)
Because our ceremony will be amongst the greenery, there was no need to even consider any additional flowers, beyond my bouquet.
Budget Tip: If custom flower arrangements aren’t a top priority for you, save hundreds of dollars by choosing convetional arrangements from any florist. Or get married in a garden.
For my bouquet, I chose a local, seasonal florist who works with Ontario blooms. It cost 1/3 of what it would if I went with a custom arrangement.
A creative (and budget-friendly) reception.
Finding the reception location was all Dusan. (He was actually very helpful in the beginning!) Being the clever and creative guy he was, he decided to browse Airbnb to see if renting spaces for weddings was an option. It turns out we had many options for hosting an Airbnb wedding reception all across the GTA! From modern, multi-million dollar homes overlooking High Park to sprawling mega-cottages on private lakes up North, the choices were overwhelming.
Budget Tip: Airbnb has a surprising range of wedding rental options across Ontario. Just be sure the listing is approved for weddings and events before you book!
To be extra sure, we contacted the host and read all the reviews before we made a deposit.
I won’t spill the details just yet, but we are both thrilled with our reception location. Plus, with Airbnb rentals, you get to stay overnight at a beautiful location. It’s like a hotel and reception in one package. This ended up saving us quite a bit!
Finding the perfect caterers for a vegan wedding.
A quick google search brought up a few options for caterers in Toronto that were either fully vegan or had vegan options. However, I really struck gold when I checked the Toronto Vegetarian Association’s website.
It was here that I stumbled upon UpBeet Foods. UpBeet is a fully vegan delivery and catering service that offers a range of vegan food services. Meal plans and meal deliveries, corporate brunch services, backyard finger foods, and plated custom wedding menus. Not to mention the customer service is just phenomenal! I can’t say enough good things about the company.
We ended up using UpBeet catering for both our Engagement Party and our Wedding Reception. Take a peek at our custom, vegan wedding dinner menu below.
Our Vegan Wedding Menu:
- Buffalo Cauliflower Bites with Creamy Ranch Dressing (GF)
- Vegetable Pakoras with Mango Chutney (GF)
- Vegan Caesar Salad with Crispy Chickpea Croutons and Nut & Seed Parmesan (GF)
- Niçoise Chickpea Smash Salad with Sweet Dijon Mustard Dressing (GF)
- Lentil Eggplant Lasagna with Tofu Ricotta & Basil Marinara (GF)
- Spaghetti with Marinara & Meatless Meatballs
- Tofu Butter Chicken with Brown Rice & Cucumber Mint Raita (GF)
Are you drooling, or is it just me? I would highly recommend UpBeet Foods if you are also planning a vegan wedding or any other vegan event in Toronto.
Sourcing Rental Equipment and Waitstaff.
It didn’t occur to me that we would need to rent tables, chairs, table cloths and all sorts of food-presentation things until a few weeks ago. (WTF is a chafing dish??) Thankfully, UpBeet Foods had a rental company that they frequently worked with, and I was able to get all of that sorted in about a week.
Sustainability Tip: Opting for real plates, cutlery, and glasses, either from a rental company or your kitchen, are a much better option to their disposable, plastic alternatives.
Hiring waitstaff was something I hadn’t even considered. Though I quickly realized they would be necessary if I wanted to enjoy my wedding reception and not have to play hostess the entire evening. We were able to arrange those through the rental company as well.
Friends with benefits.
If you have friends or family that are willing to help out with setup and food preparation, this would be an easy way to save several hundred dollars off your final budget.
Just remember, if you do have people generous enough to help out, show them a token of your appreciation with a small gift. The same goes for anyone who donates their time towards making your day less stressful; say, a friend that offers to do your hair or your cousin who tackles all of the guest invitations.
Some small gift ideas for those who saved your sanity on your wedding day:
- A bracelet or necklace.
- Decadent hand cream.
- A gift card to their favourite store.
- Goodies from LUSH.
- A luxury scented candle.
Etiquette Tip: Don’t forget thank you cards! Send these out after the wedding to all guests and anyone who helped out. Make sure you express gratitude for any time, money, or gifts donated to your event.
If guests do bring gifts, save yourself the grief of keeping track of who brought what by keeping the card inside/attached to the gift. Or write on the card what the gift was. This will help later when you’re writing the Thank You cards.
Applying for a Marriage License in Toronto.
Up until this point, I’d been relatively “meh” about the wedding euphoria I was supposed to be experiencing. But walking into city hall together, hand-in-hand to submit our paper application brought on entirely different feelings. Things started to feel real for me. This was a step towards making our union official, official. It wasn’t about decor, or dresses, or guests… it was just him and I and our names on a provincial document.
If you are unsure of how to apply for a marriage license in Toronto, follow the steps on this page. There you can find the ID requirements, city clerk office locations, and business hours. I would also recommend filling out the marriage application form online, as this is much quicker than doing it in person at a city clerk’s office.
Time Saving Tip: if you live closer to any of the non-City Hall locations, I would recommend using them. The clerk offices at Toronto’s Downtown City Hall are typically more congested than uptown locations. Unless you don’t mind waiting, then, by all means, choose whichever location you fancy!
Know when to delegate and take a mental health break.
Lastly, but certainly not least of all, know when you’ve reached your limits. If wedding planning becomes severely stressful, press pause. Take a deep breath. Ugly cry if you need to. Ask for help.
Because I struggled quite a bit with the final month of planning, I decided to write an entire article around this topic. Please give it a read if you are thinking of planning your own event or are, unfortunately, already super stressed out about it! Know that you’re not alone, and a lot of people go through this.
Don’t Forget: Your wedding isn’t about the music or the cake or the flowers. Your wedding is about you and your partner celebrating with the people close to you.
All the other stuff is just fancy fluff.
And if you are recently engaged, then congratulations! Don’t stress, you’ve got this!