Tips for hosting a city wedding
By Megan Jenkins
Posted on July 20 2018
So often, we look to the countryside for the venues that will play host to our ceremony, reception, accommodation, and after parties. Even living in Vancouver, a beautiful, world-class city, we tend to hustle off to Squamish, Whistler, or the Okanagan (wine country!) for our big day. Perhaps this is because we want our wedding days to feel separate from our day-to-day life, and to be away from the boring, routine aspects of our experience in the city. We don't really want to get caught in traffic, or walk past the Starbucks we stop at every other day on the way to the reception.
All this said, hosting a wedding in the city seems like it would be an amazing time—especially, obviously, if you love where you live (or! if you love another city and decide to host a destination do!). When hosting a city wedding, there are a few considerations that can go overlooked which are absolutely necessary for the day to run smoothly. These are our picks!
Choose an accessible venue (that you love)
Of course you should choose a wedding venue that you adore. If you want to host your wedding in your city, this is a great opportunity to explore renting your favourite cocktail bar for the evening, or the restaurant where you went on your first date. Choose a place that means something to your relationship, and that you'd be proud to have your family and friends gather in. However, bear in mind: does that area of the city, or that venue, accommodate all of the people and traffic you want to come to your wedding? Is there nearby parking? Is the neighbourhood safe? Can your guests of varying abilities attend (i.e. wheelchair accessible?) and feel safe while enjoying themselves? Very often, unfortunately, heritage buildings (at least in Vancouver) are often unequipped with accessible washrooms and walkways—bear this in mind while scouting!
Book accommodations nearby
If you're hosting a destination wedding, or if you have lots of guests from out of town attending, see about reserving a block of rooms at a nearby hotel to house your guests. You can pay for the rooms, or you can simply reserve the rooms (usually guests need to RSVP and reserve with a deposit several months in advance) and have your guests pay their own way. They'd need a place to stay anyways, and this way, you can set them up to enjoy the full festivities by keeping them close together and in a great part of town.
Communicate plans and travel options; coordinate them if you can
Again, if you're abroad, or if you have people visiting for your wedding, be sure to communicate as much as you can about travel options. This is a great opportunity to make use of a wedding website—register a Squarespace domain for your big day and gather all of your information there (you can even receive information from guests, like whether they'd like chicken or fish, through the site, and collate that info into a central location!). Things to consider: how will people get from the airport to the hotel; from the hotel to the venue(s); between venues; and how will they get around outside of the festivities, if they're in town for a few days? Give them a rundown of public transit, bike shares, Uber, car rentals (and parking options); or see about ordering a number of taxis to move people between venues at a specific time. Keep relevant contact information in a central location at the wedding, too. Remember: if this information is readily available on your wedding website (or elsewhere), people won't have to ask you how to get around! One less thing to worry about.
Keep your locations close together
This cuts down on the issues associated with moving people through the city. If you can, walk from one location to the next. In Vancouver, that could mean getting married on the pier in Coal Harbour and walking to Blackbird or Black & Blue (or Cartems! Mmmm, donuts!) for your reception bash. If everyone is on foot, there's no need to fear getting stuck in traffic or separated. Again, keep in mind varying abilities: elderly attendees may still need vehicle transportation, even if walking short distances.
Mind wedding crashers
Naturally, when you get married on land which is regularly used by the public, there's a chance someone will stumble into your wedding. Be it on a rural farm, or in a national park, you could wind up with an uninvited guest or two. However, in the city, there are so many more people—it's highly likely someone may wander into the restaurant you've reserved just to see what's going on. See about hiring an usher or door person to keep tabs on who is coming into and going from the space. They can also keep an eye on which guests may have had too much to drink, or direct caterers and other wedding vendors through the space.
Pay attention to bylaws
This is more important in the city. If the noise bylaw in the countryside dictates you need to quiet down by 11pm, but there are no neighbours within miles of your venue, you're probably okay to keep the party going. However, if you keep the night going at a venue in a city, especially if there are residences nearby, you may be in for a visit from the police. Similarly, make sure you have all of the appropriate permits and licenses. If you're hosting at a licensed restaurant, and that restaurant is catering, everything will likely be taken care of or organized through the venue—all you'll need to do is respect the capacity limit of the space. If you're using an awesome service like thisopenspace, though, you will need to secure those permits yourself. You can get in a lot of trouble and wind up with some hefty fines from the city for breaking bylaws (serving alcohol without a special events license, serving or preparing food in an unlicensed area, parking in permit-only zones, being noisy into the night)—and that's the last thing you want to worry about on your wedding day.
All images (including cover photo) from the incredible Studio 29.
Mind the rhythm of the city
This one is easy if you live in the city you're hosting in: we'd never have a 2PM wedding and then try to move people out of the city centre for a 3:30PM reception, for example—the traffic would be way too bad. Similarly, we'd never book a wedding to take place near a parade route or a marathon or bike race track. Just think about what the city is doing around your venues at the time of your wedding and ask yourself about any problems you could run into; do several drive-bys! Walk by on foot! Really suss out what's going on outside of the four walls of your venue. If you're hosting abroad, this can be harder to figure out—so ask a local. Ask a friend that lives in the city, or consult with your vendors, like your caterer or officiant. In Toronto, they'd tell you to avoid the Don Valley Parkway at all costs. Get the DL on what it's really like to move around and enjoy the city, and you'll be set.
So, it's not impossible to host a city wedding, but it does require some extra attention here and there. If you can ensure you've ticked all the right boxes with the city bylaws and ensure you're not accidentally inviting unwelcome guests, your city wedding could be an absolute dream. Think of it—walking from your reception venue to your hotel with your newly minted spouse, still in your wedding outfits, the city lights twinkling around you...
Yeah, we'll reconsider our countryside wedding bias.