Photos by Chelsey Cunningham Photography
This is the part of our ongoing Wedding Series that I have received the most questions about. And I'm not surprised; choosing a restaurant to eat lunch at is enough of a challenge when you have food allergies, let alone choosing a venue for an entire wedding. There's the reception dinner to consider, but also the morning-of breakfast and a break for lunch. And of course many families like to have brunch the following day to celebrate. And did I mention the rehearsal dinner? We'll get to that in a future post ;)
To make everything more streamlined we decided we wanted to get married at a hotel in the city. Finding one place we trusted and situating all our meals and accommodations there seemed like the best bet. Initially we had toyed with the idea of choosing an off-beat venue like a fancy barn, and industrial building, or an old loft. But after considering how much additional planning goes into using those venues we quickly abandoned them.
Toronto has so many amazing hotels and it was a lot of fun checking them all out for our special day. On our short list we had the Shangri La, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, and One Hotel King West. As a little girl I didn't think too much about what my wedding day would look like, aside from my bouquet and dress, so each venue was a potential match in my head. Our main criteria was that the chef be open to accommodating, and that the food be safe.
We nearly went with the One Hotel after seeing it's grand ballroom in what used to be a bank. Ornate gold details, columns, and even separate "bank manager" offices were available for our Baha'i ceremony. The event coordinator was helpful but did not come across as overly confident when we came down to discussing the food. At my request to speak with the chef during the planning process she wavered a little, and said she'd get back to me later in the week. When I didn't hear from the chef I poked her, and still no answer. Until finally the chef called me while I was at work and said he could only talk right then because he was so busy. Well so was I! And I was also annoyed at his disregard for how important this was to me. When he made mention of preparing a safe dish for the bride, I knew it was time to pass on that venue. We wanted the whole evening to be Mandy-friendly.
So we continued our hunt, now with less than 5 months to find a place. Next I visited the Four Seasons. Their planner kindly showed me around the venue and then brought out a sample menu, which was my cue to discuss our wanting a custom menu. She seemed a bit thrown off guard at my list of allergies (peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, soy, legumes) and immediately told me that they could not guarantee anything because it is a shared kitchen but that they make their best efforts. I thanked her for the meeting and never returned.
Finally I went to the Ritz Carlton. Heather, the event sales manager, showed me around the grand ballroom that overlooks Wellington street. Immediately I fell in love with the vibe of the space and her we-can-accommodate-anything attitude. The Ritz is known for their dedication to service and it was so refreshing. When I gave her the run down on wanting a custom menu and my list of allergies, she just wrote it down and told me they get requests like that all the time and that it would not be a problem. Sold! I was so relieved. When I reported the news back to Brandon he agreed it was the best venue to go with.
They were able to come up with an entirely custom menu for us, including the rehearsal dinner, antipasto bar and late night bar at the reception, and the morning-after brunch. I'll get into the details of that in the next segment of this series, because the amount of effort and attention to detail they put in requires its own post.