Welcome to ElopeToronto.com!

Welcome to ElopeToronto.com! We conduct simple, meaningful, secular (non-religious, non-denominational) humanist marriage ceremonies in Toronto, legally equivalent to a 'civil ceremony' or 'justice of the peace' wedding, for couples looking for an alternative to a 'City Hall' wedding. We also provide simple legal weddings for those planning a destination wedding. Mary is licensed as a Marriage Officiant by the Registrar General of Ontario, and the Ontario Humanist Society


Hotel Rooms make great sites for indoor winter weddings

It's cold out there. The Ice rink at City Hall, High Park, the island, cherry beach in winter - all COLD, people! Red noses! Brrr! Consider splurging on a great hotel room, in one of the icons: Park Hyatt has great suites (here's a pix from their website), and the Royal York is a bit tatty, but still has some good windows, or of course you might choose the hipper Gladstone or the Drake. Or try the Hilton, or one of the new boutique hotels like St Germain.
Make sure there is enough ROOM, tho - some of the boutique hotels only have room for that great bed, and nowhere to stand. So do your research, or ask the staff for a room with a VIEW or with room to entertain. Then hold your small wedding in your room, and sign the license on the fancy table and order room service. You can always arrange to go down and take wedding photos in the lobby and in the entrance afterwards. We had a nice little elopement wedding at Sutton Place this winter for a couple from out of the city (meaning they came in from Mississauga and survived the trip). Just order a few flowers, and bring a some gravlax and champagne, and have a wonderful winter wedding.


Downtown Toronto Wedding Permits for Parks - small weddings only

Toronto Parks - Wedding Ceremonies and Photography
Just a headsup -  The City of Toronto has upped the permit fees for weddings in city parks. Also, the booking season opens in November, for April - Oct, only. A few caveats:

There are very few downtown locations available, and most of those are for SMALL weddings, under 40 people. That includes Sunnyside, St James park, The Music Garden (20 people), Allan Gardens, Kew Beach pavilion (30 people). You cannot have MORE PEOPLE, people!! You can't book it for 40 and bring in 60. ESPECIALLY at Allan Gardens. It's a historical greenhouse, not an event hall, and you CANNOT BRING more than about 25 people comfortably. They can't see, they can't sit anywhere, they are a hazard to the delicate plants, and it just doesn't WORK. Don't break the rules, please. Also, note that there are NO weddings permitted in High Park - due to too many people being less than thoughtful, and failing to respect the park.(You can rent the VERANDA at Colborne - see Historic Permits

Note also that wedding PHOTOGRAPHY in city parks has a minimum of 2 hours booking - longer than a wedding.

Despite the single listing saying you can have a big wedding for 100 people on the islands, you can't really book an outdoor spot on Toronto islands very easily. They usually only offer you the esplanade thingie on Centre Island by the pier - which might work, but it is hot and sunny and anything but private -- full of lots of other people, including kids running around screaming. Consider the Algonquin Island Club house, an easy walk from the ferry (Gibraltar Artscape is great, but you'll need the shuttle bus). Try outside at the Rectory Cafe patio - you can walk up to the boardwalk out the back gate. Back on shore, Sunnyside has it's own problems - it's falling apart, there are no facilities, and it's funky and funny - but sometimes there are booking problems and mixups.

Check the garden of your condo! We have had some nice weddings in outdoor condo gardens (as well as rooftop patios). Try the Music Gallery at St George the Martyr - Right by the AGO - with the great rose garden outside. Or find a restaurant with a garden or patio. Or elope with 6 friends in front of Osgoode Hall or by slipping quietly into Trinity Bellwoods or another local greenspace and just standing under a tree. You can have little elopements on the Toronto islands without too much fuss. But you can't have a Bridezilla wedding in a park without a permit - and permits are not available for most parks. It's the Wedding Catch 22.

Note: the historical sites, including museums with gardens and outdoor areas, are booked separately from the PARKS department. Here is booking info for such sites as the Spadina Museum and Gardens, Todmorden museum (pix above) and other historical sites. You can also enquire about weddings at the Brickworks - and with luck, you can wander outside at Artscape on Wychwood for pix. Except at the back, where the kids are quite excitable at the waterspray fountain.


Distillery, Arta and Archaeo

We had a super Distillery wedding on the hottest day of the year - we had to move from Archaeo patio to the Arta Gallery for the ceremony due to the heat . But isn't this a great pix of the bride by Lini Campbell! You can see more pix of this event on her photography blog.
And here is a home wedding in Cabbagetown, with lots of good music (and perhaps too many candles!)  My dress got rather warm in the back. But it makes a very nice light, doesn't it.   The great photographer, Tobias Wang, has some wonderful hi-res shots, which I can't figure out how to edit. But check out his website. The soft glow is from oodles of tealights in mason jars on the floor.  The back of my skirt is VERY HOT!
It's been a season of nice small weddings - homes, apartments, even the glass floor at BCE place by the bank facade one evening.

Here is a delightful little legal wedding at Philosopher's Walk by the ROM.  We are standing by the tiny little amphitheatre by the Music building.


Civil Marriage chamber in Italy

Here I am in the "Casa di Sposa Civile" or Civil Marriage House in Verona by the "Casa di Juliet".

Don't you wish that Toronto civil marriage chambers looked like this? Instead of being concrete block rooms in the basement?  

Weddings at the Multifaith Centre, UofT

There are several spaces at the MultiFaith Centre, which is in the Koffler Building at College and Spadina. The building is clean and modern, and I like the Multipurpose Room with great windows and the Main Activity Hall, which has a lovely 'light wall'.
This is a good location for a non-denominational, multicultural or non-religious wedding. ( Note, - in school season, a lot of students and other groups use the facility, so it gets booked early. Summers and school holidays, it's often quiet.You can ask me about the booking, or check HERE.) There is a real kitchen, if you're having a small reception, but there are restrictions (no meat dishes above the 2nd floor), so it's good for light things like cake and coffee and canapes - though people do bring in caterers. There is an elevator, too, because it's a modern building.

Small wedding at Hart House Chapel

Here is an entirely lovely small wedding in the Hart House Chapel , (bigger youtube), which was organized in 5 days - from proposal to reception :-) The couple's children were only together in Toronto for a few days, so they organized the wedding quickly, and we Skyped in the remaining children from BC, so they could also participate. A wonderful couple, and a magical afternoon. Note, we are standing on a symbolic Ukrainian wedding runner, and then smashing TWO glasses at the end :-)


More summer locations!

What a summer! From historic sites and museums - the Blue Barracks at Fort York, the Gardiner Museum, with a piper on the balcony, The ROM, the Design Exchange, and Artscape Wychwood barns, to the patio, again, at Le Select, 99 Sudbury, Globe Bistro (during Taste of the Danforth- eek!) and Globe Earth, and smaller cafes, including Balzac's coffee house, the Victory cafe (fun), the outdoor patio at Vertical, the rose garden in front of Allan Gardens as well as inside, Hart House courtyard, the cloister at Knox college, and quite a few backyards. Indoors, Rosewater, Park Hyatt and Royal York, Gladstone, then the CN tower again, this time in hi tourist time. We enjoyed both St Lawrence Hall and the fun Market Kitchen (during the busker's festival!), and returned often to the Arts and Letters club - where they are very nice indeed. Got to meet lots more photographers and musicians, as well as great couples. We're fitting in the Spherical Arts pool hall and the Berkeley and the Conservatory in the middle of Nuit Blanche and Culture Days - should be some interesting transportation problems. Last week, I think I was the only person to take the subway to the Old Mill, so I got there in plenty of time, while the wedding guests were stuck in rain traffic.
DO ENCOURAGE your guests and family to take TTC when possible...no parking problems! And you can get some great pix of the wedding party getting to the spot. Here's the groom's peeps in my own family....


Summer locations

Not much time to post - too busy!  But here are some recent locations:
Hart House, Enoch Turner, Le Select, Caffino, FieraMosca, Globe Bistro, Archaeo, the Berkeley, Graydon,  Allan Gardens, Canoe, Toronto Islands, Les Provences Delices, Trinity Bellwoods, Royal Conservatory (and Philosopher's walk), St. Lawrence Market Kitchen - lots of backyards and balconies - and even the Toronto Necropolis Chapel. Yes indeedy, that's us in the sunset, under the lynch gate (across from Riverdale farm). Must find links...


Heels on Wheels - the Day of Delight wedding

Heels on Wheels | dandyhorse magazine, Day of Delight wedding
We had a fabulously wonderful wedding at Dufferin Grove Park today, in the Day of Delight Festival: Giant puppets, a tandem bike, a salsa band, and many other 'delights'. Pix to come soon, but here is a teaser...

As the bride says: "Day of Delight is Clay & Paper Theatre’s annual celebration of love, courtship and desire. This festival is all about leaving cynicism behind, and celebrating love. What better place could you think of to hold a wedding? I’m not a big fan of traditional weddings. I’ve been to a million of them, and they’re all the same. Boring. Most ceremonies are constrained by outdated traditions and say very little about the people who are involved in them. Day of Delight has theatre, music, installation and participatory projects including Cardbordia (an entire land made of cardboard) and a musical bicycle parade! How cool is that? We want to say “Hey, this thing we’ve got here is pretty great. Let’s celebrate!”


Coping with rain and wedding locations.

In uncertain weather, you can try to book indoor greenhouses.  Here is another Allan Gardens wedding, when we were fortunate to have (almost) the entire place to ourselves.  But do see our other post on Allan Gardens' disturbing policies of over-booking.  Try for off-hours bookings, midweek or early or nearer closing. And expect crowds, who are not complying with the contract they signed with the City.
Pity, really.

The view of the Rose Garden from the St James Pavilion is lovely right now, tho.


Racing to the altar: couple ties knot after Toronto Marathon - thestar.com

Racing to the altar: couple ties knot after Toronto Marathon - thestar.com
Here are Rodney and Jessica, who changed clothes quite a bit and got married in their West end house in late afternoon. It was still a bit rainy, so we held the wedding in their back patio - after Rodney draped the band saw with some white fabric to make a license-signing area..  They cooked all the food for the reception as well. Truly a wonderful wedding, showing that rain couldn't dampen the race or the wedding - and I got to hold their medals, too!  ---  and their wedding cake had a model of them riding a Cervelo tandem bike  (does that even exist?)  Happy wedding!

Caffino - big windows in the rain

Here's a pix of Caffino, (Toronto Carpet Factory) down on King West at Dufferin, from a Groupon coupon today. We had a lovely wedding in this room, quickly moved inside from the private courtyard because of the rain, but the windows are so large they allow lots of natural light.  Good Italian food, nice big atmosphere - industrial detailing.
We've done a few weddings here, in the rain, inside, outside....


Candlelight wedding @ Mjolk gallery in Roncesvalles

Mjolk is a  stylish Scandinavian store in the west end @ Roncesvalles.  As a Danish granny myself, I was honoured to participate in the wedding of the owners of the gallery - who cleared out the space, added a retro 1950s fireplace, and served wonderful Scandinavian food for friends and family in the showroom - with a great jazz combo in the window space. The lovely pictures are by Danijela Pruginic


Beach weddings - almost time

We're off to Cherry Beach today for a spring birthday picnic, and that reminded me of a very nice sunset wedding last summer.  Everyone in bare feet, couple in linen shirts and pants, and a few dogs rumpling around.  We signed the license sitting on a log on the beach.  This works very well for small weddings - but you need to be aware that there will always be other people around, having their own beach time.  They'll probably congratulate you (if they even notice)


Can my (sister, dad, uncle, friend, neighbour) marry us?

We've been asked this a lot more lately.  We also often asked - "Can you just 'sign the papers' to make the wedding legal, while my friend marries us?

The answer is simple.

Your friends and family can certainly be involved, and can do many of the NON-legal parts of a wedding.

If your friend is NOT a Registered Marriage Officiant, however, you need a legally registered Marriage Officiant to conduct the legal parts of the wedding ceremony. We cannot just 'sign the papers'.  A wedding is a legally witnessed contract between two parties. The Marriage Officiant must preside over required parts of the actual ceremony.

Here are some choices:

1)  You can have a simple legal wedding ceremony before your family celebration, along with your two witnesses, and save the music and readings (and rings, which are not legally required) for another ceremonial wedding celebration. This is the same concept as having a legal wedding in Ontario before you fly off for a ceremonial resort wedding. It's the same as Prince Charles getting legally married at the Registry Office in the morning, before changing clothes and going to the Cathedral for a wedding blessing after lunch.

2)  You can invite your friend to participate in your wedding, and the legal officiant will do the legal bits, and your friend or relative can do the family bits. This takes a little planning, but it works quite well.  Family or friends can welcome guests, offer readings and best wishes, present the rings, and ask everyone to welcome the couple at the end, for example.

Here is the previous post on this topic, with a few more details. We can also send you examples of ceremonies with participation by others.  Happy planning!


ALLAN Gardens can be a ZOO on weekends.

We have had many lovely small weddings at Allan Gardens.

BUT, when we arrived on Saturday at 4 for our little wedding, there were 3 other wedding parties running around Behaving Very Badly.

Although the City states that there is only room for about 40 people, some clients regularly ignore this requirement. One wedding had over 80 people crammed into the central greenhouse on Saturday, and they were (completely illegally) passing round trays of food, letting kids run wild, putting their coats on the flowerss, and generally ignoring the fact that we were in a GREENHOUSE. The caretakers got them to ditch the food, but they admitted that clients regularly ignore the regulations, that weekends can be awful, and many people treat the gardens as a RECEPTION HALL, and forget it's a greenhouse. They actually have to wash it down with soap in the evenings after the weddings leave. Sundays are just as bad, they said.

It's heaven on a slow weekday, and we love it a lot. But on Saturdays, they often book 3 weddings an hour, and let the parties fight over the space. Not to mention photography shoots, and other intrusions. Be warned, and pick a weekday early, or at dusk, if possible. Sad.


SKYPING a wedding ceremony

People have asked me more frequently about a SKYPED  wedding. We have been doing these for a couple of years - and were featured in a Toronto Star article about a SKYPED ceremony to Lebanon for a mom who couldn't come.
Last week, we had a wedding in Kengsington Market, and Skyped to Romania and the Netherlands, so both parents could watch the wedding.
Of course you cannot GET MARRIED by Skype.  You both have to be in the same room, with your officiant and your witnesses.  SKYPE is a way to share your ceremony with loved ones who are unable to attend.   However, you can broadcast your ceremony to friends and family who are not present - whether overseas, or unfortunately detained, or unable to travel.  You just set up a couple of laptops, ask your attendants to hold them, dial in BEFORE the ceremony and establish connection, and arrange yourselves so everyone can see. 


Urban wedding at South of Temperance on Adelaide

We had a nice cheerful wedding at South of Temperance on Yonge and Adelaide last night.  They cleared this raised area by the fireplace for the ceremony, and we had 60 people in chairs in the restaurant part. You could also go outside in better weather. The fireplace was lovely, and the staff was helpful and warm.  Lots of nice light through the overhead skylights.  Simple (generous) food from the semi-open kitchen, big bar. They popped the couples slide show on the overhead television monitors...


UK- Moonlight marriages get official blessing as night-time ban is lifted

Independent, UK
"I'm getting married in the morning, ding-dong the bells are going to chime...."

If you've ever thought about why all Brit weddings are around noontime - things are about to change (except for CofE):

"Couples who want to marry in the moonlight will soon get their wish granted, as the UK ban on night-time weddings is lifted. Historic legislation requiring that ceremonies are held during the day is to be scrapped as part of a drive to remove outdated laws.

Although the move is unlikely to a lead to Las Vegas-style wedding chapels operating 24 hours a day, ministers explained it was not the Government's place to dictate when couples should be allowed to marry. Church weddings originally had to take place between 8am and noon, but the hours were later extended to 3pm and 6pm. The same hours were adopted for civil ceremonies when they were introduced in 1837, although many registrars work for even shorter periods.

The rules for Church of England weddings are sent down in canon law and cannot be altered by the state. But the restrictions on civil ceremonies are to be swept away in the new Protection of Freedoms Bill. James Brokenshire, a Home Office minister, said the move on weddings had been inspired by comments from the public during a consultation on which laws should be abolished.." A spokeswoman for the Church of England said it had no plans to alter the hours during which wedding ceremonies were conducted.

of course in Toronto, it's not the moonlight, it's the temperature. We've done some moonlight weddings in winter, but my fingers we so cold it was hard to turn the pages...

Campbell House Wedding

We had a lovely afternoon family wedding today at Campbell House, Queen Street by Osgoode Hall. About 25 people sat in the parlour, and the couple came down the stairs together.  A lovely, intimate afternoon, and the guests were invited to enjoy the museum as well, and then everyone went off to celebrate.  A lovely Regency afternoon in the heart of the city.

Here is the brides room (ballroom) and the wonderful staircase, for entrances and pictures.

Here is a link to enquire about Campbell House rentals (and inhouse catering)

Valentine's Day Elopements - Monday, Monday...

Valentine's Day Surprise Wedding.

It seems people are superstitious about SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 13, so engagements and dinners and weddings are mostly happening on Monday, February 14 this year. And Mondays are perfect for a very quiet elopement - even for brunch.

Restaurants are prepared for elopements (they have the champagne ready) but not always prepared for actual weddings. For a small elopement, you can still book a "Valentine's day romantic meal", and pre-order champagne, and ask for the 'quiet table in the corner' (probably crowded, on Valentines Day). If you can get the 'romantic corner', or even a private room or the back of the restaurant, then let the front of house know you're going to actually stand up in that corner for 10 minutes and get married. And THEN you'll drink the champagne and order dinner.

We suggest you don't START calling for a booking by talking about a 'wedding', or the venue will assume you want fuss and waiters and flash photos and flowers and chairs and all sorts of waiterly attention, on their busy night. But if you simply book a 'romantic dinner' and then your party essentially stands up for a few 'toasts', it's closer to an engagement, a birthday or a family celebration, which they can easily handle. But a good tip is still a good plan!


Where to get great gluten-free baked goods

From BlogTo: Bunner's Bake Shop in the Junction seems to be a good idea for wedding treats - not sure about their catering specs, just call them - but they do offer Gluten-Free treats, as well as vegan. And they seem to have expansion plans.

Winter Wedding Locations

Winter Elopements - some places are quite lovely in winter, that are full of people and tourists in the warmer weather.  I think this is the H20 Waterpark (I thought it was Sugar Beach) from the pix of the day in Torontoist..  But if you put on your snowboots and tramp down, what a great view for a little elopement.  And at least in this picture, no yellow snow :-)


Come Up To My Room - Gladstone Art Show

Come Up To My Room
 Want to see inside the Gladstone?
Every year, the Gladstone Hotel holds an event they call Come Up To My Room, where artists take over empty rooms on the building's second floor and redecorate them to suit their own particular sensibilities. Being there is kind of like attending a party at the home of a rich and crazy interior designer, and snooping through all his bedchambers. Eleven rooms—twelve, counting the downstairs ballroom—were transformed as part of this year's show (part of the Toronto International Design Festival). Admission is $10, and exhibit continues through Sunday Jan 30.

Teatree Cafe - new vegan cafe on the Danforth

Teatree Cafe - in my nabe.
Who knows, maybe they cater weddings? (small ones?)
They close at 6 - wonder if they'd hold a small wedding?
Must wander down and ask - and see if there are any cupcakes left..


CBC: Thoroughly Modern Marriage documentary

Thoroughly Modern Marriage
Thursday January 20, 2011 at 9 pm on CBC-TV
Repeating: Friday January 21, 2011 at 10 pm ET/PT on CBC News Network
We were contacted about this documentary on modern marriage - which includes a discussion of civil weddings, the trend to marrying later in life, common law marriage, same sex weddings, and all the other topics discussed on the radio this morning, including the decline in religious-type weddings. We noticed they did not, in the end, mention Humanist ceremonies, as an alternative to being married by a Justice of the Peace or at City Hall. However, it is clear that the trend toward a different type secular wedding and commitment ceremony is growing.
They did discuss the decision of couples who have decided to ask their friends and family to be present as they make "a public statement of their private commitment to each other" (a phrase from the beginning of a Humanist marriage ceremony). We were pleased that they also mentioned that couples are making this decision at many different phases of their relationship - some have been together for many years, and have homes and children, some have decided to have a party and celebrate their partnership by getting married, and some older couples have finally decided to celebrate and formalize their long-term union with a simple legal marriage ceremony.
It was nice to have a fairly realistic view of modern marriage - and a few statistics as well. Enjoy the stories of the couples, and write us with any questions.


Winter wedding in ANOTHER park

This is from my dear colleague Eileen, and the location is Bow Bridge, in Central Park, in Manhattan.  I used to do these winter weddings every year,  sometimes for Aussies or even brave Canadians (often from Montreal).This cold couple are eloping Brits, who hit the big snowstorm in NY last week (though this day was between the two snow dumps). They were red of nose and cold of toes, but what a great picture!


Winter elopement in High Park ~ and one in Leslieville

Most of the action was on the Ice Rink on Sunday, so the five of us walked into the Japanese garden, and stood on the bridge by the frozen waterfall.  Great shots from the bridge below by our photographer!  Our fingers got a bit frozen, but hearts were warm, and the chickadees came to comment on what we were doing.  After a short ceremony and some great pictures in the snow, we hiked back to the Grenadier cafe for hot chocolate and the signing of the Marriage License.   A memorable mid-day wedding to start the year.

and then - a wonderful wedding by the empty wading pool in a Leslieville Park.

 I did take my gloves off, and so did the couple, to exchange rings.  But we went inside to sign all the papers - I couldn't bend my fingers by then! I call this a red mitt wedding - where your nose matches your fingers! I think it would have been warmer with snow!

Lovely New Years Eve wedding in Cabbagetown

We had a romantic and moving wedding in a candle-lit tent (in the backyard), with family and friends cosily arranged inside, and everyone reading poetry and warm thoughts. One partner was Native, so we also had ritual drumming, smudging, and peaceful reflection to begin, and then ended with some wonderful winter squash soup to warm up!    A memorable and happy evening.