What to give for a Wedding Gift

It’s that age-old question we all come across at some point, “How much do we give?” “Do we buy a gift?” “What do we get?, they have everything!”…

Figuring out how much to spend and what type of gift to give can be stressful, particularly if your generosity exceeds your budget.

First rule of thumb is to check if they have registered with a store. 98% of brides have at least one registry. These days, couples are statistically older and more established in their lives so when they register, they are truly asking for things that they need.

If items listed on the registry aren’t within your price range, consider giving a gift card to the store where the registry is listed. Think creatively if you can’t spend a lot of money, it’s not about the dollar amount you spend, it is the thought that counts most. They’re probably more concerned you can show up for their big day than they are with some pricey gift anyway. Small and simple things can have the most impact or value when linked to the day and couple, such as an engraved picture frame or other unique and creative wedding gifts.

If the couple registered for a big-ticket item that’s a little to much for one person to afford, why not consider a group gift. Couples love group gifts because they most likely can’t afford those luxuries on their own. Also consider a theme idea, with multiple gifts, or an overnight mini staycation with dinner or spa.

Wedding experts agree on a couple of things: the closer you are to the bride or groom, the more you are expected to give, and do not give more than you can afford just because of the expectations. It’s a bad idea to use the price-per-plate as a measure for how much you should spend on the wedding gift, the location and cost of the reception should not be the burden of the guest.

Give what ever you think is appropriate to your budget and your relationship with the couple but a ballpark guide would be… A distant relative or co-worker, $75-$100; a friend or relative, $100-$125; a closer relative, up to $150.

With regards to the Plus-One Status, you don’t need to double the amount if you’re double the guests, but you should multiply your base number by 1.5. (So if you generally don’t go lower than $100 when you’re solo, don’t go lower than $150 if you have a plus-one.)

You should never feel bad if travel costs impact your gift budget. If you’re spending money on travel and hotel to be there on their day, that is a huge contribution already. It is more important that you give within your means.

Whatever you decide to give, do so with thoughtfulness and affection, because you were invited to a special event where your presence is considered important.

Wedding Decor Trends

Congratulations you got engaged, now on to the good stuff! 

Couples are keen on infusing their ceremonies and receptions with personality — their own. And while you want your guests to have lots of fun, you still want your wedding to be elegant and romantic no matter how grand or intimate the affair.  The decor or theme of your wedding should reflect who you are as a couple, achieving an overall personal and unique feel based on your tastes. Your individuality will come together in the details.  

The reception sets the scene, it’s when families meet and the atmosphere begins. In fact, the atmosphere set at the reception will continue for the rest of the day. Hungry guests never equate to a happy atmosphere, so it’s a good idea to serve hot and cold canapés, choosing from a wide selection of items, with high visual impact and lip smacking taste. 

 The top three trends for wedding decor…  

Vintage - this Victorian influx of stylish details brings to mind afternoon tea and garden parties (think Downton Abbey). For this look, dining al fresco is a popular choice. Tables are often left uncovered or simply adorned with a vintage lace cloth. Lush garlands get turned into runners and loosely styled floral centerpieces hang from above.  The standard Victorian flower is the rose, but other flowers such as pansies, hyacinths, tulips, and stephanotis evoke similar romantic emotions. Think chandeliers, vintage plates, white-wash vintage vanities.  Look on pinterest for some Romantic Vintage Table Settings.

Modern luxe - At the opposite corner of the inspiration board is a more sophisticated interpretation of romance. Brides who covet sleek style will gravitate toward clean color palettes with bolder accents. Think varying shades of white or ivory with a burst of poppy red, or black-and-white with a punch of emerald green. Modern doesn’t have to mean minimalistic.  Square dining tables, clear “ghost” chairs, geometric place settings, monogrammed napkins and sculptured floral arrangements help set a sophisticated tone for the evening.

Eclectic elegance - Falling somewhere between the above interpretations of romance is a resurgence of the grand wedding. “Many 2015 weddings, saw the return to classic elegance,” says Allyson Levine of Bob Gail Special Events in Los Angeles. That means formal tablescapes, butler service, candelabras and other soft lighting, dramatic cakes, lavish fabrics and formal floral arrangements. The eclectic element comes into play when couples choose to take their formal affair outside for a twilight party; opt for a gilded evening with lots of glittering blush-gold touches; replace centerpieces with champagne towers; or surprise guests with a midnight arrival of an ice-cream truck parked curbside.

Couples are rewriting the predictable pattern of a “traditional” wedding day, shunning routine for the chance to throw in unexpected elements designed to stop everyone in their tracks and create a memorable moment. Food wise this means weird yet wonderful flavour combinations (coffee-rubbed meats), live-action food theatre (oyster shucking stations), lavish self-service bars (jugs of fruit purees and magnums of Champagne) and show stopping canapé platters (with their own lighting). 

Sweet treats as a parting gesture – just when your guests turn to leave they are presented with something wonderful to eat on their way out. A cup of warm milk with a cookie, a shot of espresso and some Turkish delight, hot chocolate with mint marshmallows, a sweet treat from the late-night candy bar… Proof that you’ve thought of them right to the last moment!

Our wedding planners offer you personalized service to guide you in making the planning of your most important day as simple as saying “I do”.

Planning The Perfect Wedding Menu

With so many options today, choosing the right menu for your wedding dinner has become more complicated.  Caterers offer a variety of meal packages that you can change or add-to, but remember to keep track of the costs as you make changes to the basic menu package.

The wedding menu can be a simple self serve buffet to an elaborate five course meal. Traditionally a seated dinner is generally preceded by a cocktail hour with hors d’oeuvres, a first course, a main entree, and a dessert.

The cocktail hour is the best place to be adventurous about food selections. Be creative, make a statement, try sushi, dim sum and authentic ethnic food, like Thai or Indian. If your family and friends have conservative palates, you may want to limit the more exotic foods to simpler hors d’oeuvres.

You don’t want to spoil your guests appetites, but you want a server to constantly circulate with hors d’oeuvres and perhaps have two food stations with a small selection that guests can help themselves. Assume that each guest will eat about 5 – 6 hors d’oeuvres per hour and allow for 3 glasses of wine per person. You may decide to serve only wine during the dinner hour with no access to an open bar. The open bar can be reserved for the after-dinner party.  Also, keep in mind people do expect to stand at a cocktail party, but your older guests may need to be seated. 

The most common option for weddings is plated food served individually. The cost is typically higher then a buffet or family-style dinner. French style is a more refined version of plate service. Each course is arranged on a large serving dish and presented to each guest at the table.  The guests serve themselves with tongs or forks, however at most weddings, the waiter serves the food on to your plate.

For the couple who can’t decide on one or two items, they should consider food stations. A station is a buffet table featuring a particular type of food. A station reception should have 4 or 5 tables. Each table should offer a different course or style of cooking.

The cost per dinner depends on what you will be serving; the price of the food and the price of serving the food which includes, rentals, staff, service charge and gratuities. Negotiate with your caterer and be prepared to listen to your caterers advice. If your menu preference is not within your budget, you can always ask your caterer to consider serving smaller portions or alternatively if your menu includes expensive food, choose a more economical style of service.

Keep in mind that wedding etiquette dictates only that you need to throw a gracious and thoughtful party, not that you offer caviar and expensive champagne.

The cutting of your wedding cake should be a memorable one. If a tiered cake isn’t your style there are many alternatives. Cupcakes are all the rage right now and make a wonderful unique display.

The most important goal of any wedding is to express yourself as a couple, so be creative!

And Congratulations!

Unique Wedding Ceremonies

Today, anything goes with regards to wedding ceremonies. Whether your writing your own vows or celebrating with a traditional ceremony, exchanging your vows will be one of the more memorable moments of your wedding day.

Your ceremony should be unforgettable, after all you are about to embark on your life together as a couple…but where do you begin?

Typically a religious ceremony based on the faith of the bride and groom.

Does not adhere to any specific religion, but it is a spiritual ceremony.

Blends two or more faiths with reading or rituals from each religion.

Blends the cultures of both bride and groom such as a Filipino veil ceremony with a Chinese red string ritual.

Pop Culture Theme 
Create a ceremony based on your favourite movie, book, TV show, wear costumes and write your vows to reflect your theme.

Traditional Buddhist ceremony, exchanging Buddhist vows.

Civil or non-religious 
Non-religious ceremony can be very warm and heartfelt, focusing on the love you share for one another.

Renewal of vows 
Mark a special Anniversary in your marriage by tying the knot again.

Once you have selected the type of ceremony you desire the next step to cover is the list of traditions and rituals. “Something Old , Something New, Something Borrowed and Something Blue”. In modern China, the bride wears three wedding gowns. The first is usually red in colour as this colour signifies luck in China, the second gown is typically white and fluffy closely resembling a traditional western gown and the third is the brides choice and is often an elegant ball gown. In India brides and their female friends decorate their hands and feet with traditional designs called Menhdi made from the plant dye Henna. The Mendhi designs are so elaborate and specialized taking many hours to complete and dry.  Jumping the Broom, most often found in African American weddings, the tradition stems from the days of slavery when marriage wasn’t legal between enslaved men and women, so they would jump over a broom together to signify their union. Mazeltof! – the breaking of the glass by the groom, meaning “Good-Luck” the broken glass is a reminder that joy should always be tempered. Peruvian cake pull replaces the tossed bouquet in Peru. Ribbons are tucked into layers of the wedding cake and one ribbon has a fake engagement ring attached to it. Each lady holds a ribbon and pulls it out of the cake together, the ring signifies the next one in line for marriage.

There are many traditions from around the world and many ritual ideas for your wedding ceremony;

Sand Wedding Ceremony – You both pour sand into a vase from your separate vases, and the joined vase can not be separated and poured again, so shall your union make you inseparable.

Handfasting Ceremony – Pagan – Wiccan ritual in origin, and is also where “Tying the Knot” Comes From.”Handfasting” comes from the tradition of the bride and groom crossing arms and joining hands — basically, creating the infinity symbol (a figure-eight) with the hands.

Candle Ceremony – Two small candles symbolize you both entering into marriage as individuals and will not lose your identities, but rather create and strengthen your union together.

Dove Ceremony – Doves choose one partner for life. Releasing of two doves symbolizes love, peace, purity, faithfulness and prosperity.

Stone Ceremony – Wedding guests hold a stone during your ceremony and make a wish for you. You collect the stones and display these “lovely wishes” in your home.

Rose Ceremony – A Single Rose means “I Love You” For your first gift as Husband and wife you exchange the rose you hold.

Few Ceremony and reception venues compare with the casual elegance and timeless style of the Old Mill Toronto to help you realize your dream wedding. On site 16th century candlelit chapel and out door wedding garden add to the array of personal choices. We also provide the items you will need to have your Rose Ceremony, Candle Ceremony and Sand Ceremony on site. 

Remember it’s your wedding, your way! Make every effort to keep your special day memorable and unique by planning your wedding to reflect who you are and don’t limit yourself with regards to tradition and convention. You’ve already made your biggest decision: Choosing whom to marry! – now have fun planning your wedding with your personality.

Fifty Shades of White

It was the Ragtime era, when the phonograph became available to consumers. The first time guests were dancing at weddings; and in spite of high waists and high collars, long trains and long gloves it was the bopping head and flailing arms and legs of the Turkey Trot that was coveted by the youth and considered scandalous by polite society.

In 1914; the start of World War I the Toronto cityscape was dotted with horse and buggies as the population pushed 200,000. It was the year of the opening of the Old Mill Tea Room, the future venue for a legacy of weddings that would define the iconic Toronto landmark.

In 1929 the Old Mill Tea Room added a dance hall; and a nine piece orchestra that played six nights a week. It was the Depression so although couples continued to exchange vows brides were exchanging silk for rayon gowns or their Sunday dresses that could be worn again.

In the thirties with women supplying ¼ of Toronto’s workforce the world was introduced to mac ‘n cheese, instant oatmeal and canned soup varieties. The invention of kettles that whistled when they boiled and blenders for home use made it easier for women to go to work.

Amid World War II even more women were employed and weddings were planned with haste to young men in the forces. Vogue magazine wrote (1942) “Weddings nowadays hang not on the brides’ whim, but on the decision of the grooms’ commanding officer.”

Grooms were increasingly wearing wedding bands as visual reminders of their nuptials.

This era of rationing and practicality forced shorter hemlines (above the ankle for bike-riding ease) and lacy sweaters to get the most mileage out of a ball of wool. Brides were not exempt from frugality often using furnishing fabrics and lace curtains to fashion their wedding attire.

Life was better in the fifties. Toronto got a television broadcast system, TV dinners were on grocery shelves and portable dishwashers were being wheeled into kitchens.

Brides were wearing ballerina-length dresses with luxurious poufy layers and short fingerless gloves made of lace. Bolero jackets were in demand for ceremonies, covering strapless or laced dresses with sweetheart collars for the reception.

In the sixties women were making up 1/3 of the Canadian workforce and ¼ of the Canadian engineering profession. They were learning that ovens could (and should) clean themselves.

When they were grooving down the aisle brides were choosing short skirts or dresses and hair worn long, dotted with flowers or veils popping from pill box hats.

Toronto enjoyed architectural successes in the seventies, with Ontario Place, The Eaton Centre and The CN Tower being erected. Microwave ovens hit the Canadian market but the decade is generally associated with flower power and the peace movement.

Blame it on the hippies, but seventies brides had their own fashion senses. From pantsuits to smocked gauze gowns to Bohemian frocks this was an era of recreational duds.

O Canada became the official national anthem in 1980 kicking off an era of formality and tradition in wedding styles.

If one person can define the decade it was Diana, Princess of Wales who set the tone for puffy hair, puffy sleeves, long-distance trains and veils and the return to bodacious bouquets. Brides among the non-nobles dressed as princesses nonetheless.

The nineties were digital; as in cameras, answering machines and video discs. People were still using coin booth telephones but mobile phones were introduced to the marketplace.

In fashion, the ‘designer look’ was desirable. Brides were wearing strapless, sleeveless and sexy gowns. Cleavage was in (or out?) and dresses were form fitting.

At the turn of the century the vowels were ahead; with the arrival of iPhones, e-tickets, e-books, USBs and ATMs.

Drinks are frothy and wedding gowns more so. Pick-up skirts and asymmetrical hems fall from form fitting bodices.

Mermaids may be mystical in the sea but on the aisle the Mermaid dress is genuine and sought after, as is the Pandora, Princess, Sabrina or Tulip dress.

A century of changing styles, fashions and trends; yet the Old Mill Toronto is unwavering in their dedication to their brides and their special days.

You might say that the Old Mill Toronto will go to great lengths to seek perfection.

And as a toast to the brides, every 2014 wedding dinner package booking will be entered into a draw to Win 1 of 2 Romantic Cruises and, a first Anniversary stay in a luxury King Room at the Old Mill Toronto, as well as an engagement digital photo session Free!



Let Them Have Cake

Dorothy and Jim were married at the Old Mill Toronto in 1957.  When asked to describe their wedding cake, Dorothy remembered a two tier structure with a first layer of roses and the second with cherubs.  They both described the decorative piece on top.  “It was a bride and groom under an arbour” reflected Dorothy.

“I was going to say cage” giggled Jim.

The couple is but one of a number of couples reflecting on their wedding day at the Old Mill Toronto.  The iconic landmark near the banks of the Humber River in Etobicoke, is celebrating its own anniversary; 100 years and it still has the VOW factor.

Barry and Patsy exchanged their vows in the sixteenth century chapel at the Old Mill under the dappled light of the stained glass windows and candlelit chandeliers.

Most men might not remember the finite details of their wedding day 34 years later, but Barry was a banquet captain at the Old Mill and Patsy worked in catering. Barry remembers vividly.

“When the ceremony was finished, the wedding party was about to take their pictures, the Old Mill surprised us with a complimentary pre-reception for our guests.  I will always remember my cousin coming around the corner and yelling out ‘hey everyone, they’re serving sandwiches in the Mill Room.’”

The ‘sandwiches’ were in fact labour intensive canapés and hors d’oeuvres hand prepared by the chef for their 120 guests.

Barry reflects on a perfect reception in the Brule Ballroom (think hardwood floors and wood-burning fireplace). “There was a strolling musician; a violin player who went to each table playing requests accompanied by an accordionist.”  Barry’s request was Flight of the Bumblebee and he is still in awe with the memory of that performance.

Baked Alaska was always an event for weddings at the Old Mill. “Before serving, the lights would be dimmed, then the band would start up and the servers marched in with sparklers on the dessert plates and placed them in front of their guests at the same time.”

Henny and Leo’s wedding in the Old Mill Chapel was in 1988. Henny had been introduced to the Old Mill Tea Room by her sister when she immigrated to Canada in 1975 and it held a place in her heart ever since.

“We had the same minister as my sister did nine years earlier.  He was a really nice man.  He took his time and made us feel special.”

“We liked the idea of having everything in one place.  It was easier for our guests. After the ceremony we went to take pictures in the garden and our guests could get some fresh air and go for a walk as well.”

Henny described a European style reception; hors ‘oeuvres in the Mill Room for 60 people.

“They couldn’t do enough for us.  Everything was perfect.  On our first anniversary they sent us a card and offered us a complimentary cake to celebrate at the Old Mill.”

When Lori and Mauro got married at the Old Mill their cake was something of a showstopper.

Lori surprised her groom with a custom cake replicating his 40’ Silverton powerboat. She said “all the bartenders and servers wore captains’ hats.  My husband loved it.”

Lori and Mauro had 250 guests at their wedding in 2005. “After the ceremony in the chapel we went straight to a tent set up in the garden for cocktails.  It was April so there were heaters.  We had a martini bar and oyster bar.”

Dinner was in Guildhall with musical accompaniment by the Downchild Blues Band.

Lori said they stayed in the honeymoon suite, “it was gorgeous.  It had two rooms, giving us a separate bedroom.  And we had a fireplace!”

If there is one thing that the Old Mill has been doing the same for a hundred years it is making every guest experience unique.

Natalie Bauer, director of marketing and events for the Old Mill Toronto said “we are fortunate to have a selection of different banquet rooms to accommodate large groups or intimate settings. We have the beautiful gardens for picture taking and a patio for outdoor cocktails.

“There is a florist on site who can take care of all the flower details”.

“Our spa has been so popular we had to give it larger space.  Our brides like to come the night before the wedding with their attendants, get their aesthetic treatments and then go back to their rooms to enjoy a glass of wine.  It’s a lovely way to be pampered the night before the big day.”

Any couple booking their 2015 wedding at the Old Mill will be automatically entered to win $10,000 toward their wedding. This includes a wedding night stay in a King Suite. Contest details are at oldmilltoronto.com.

Isn’t that the icing on the cake?

Pam Stellini

Planning Your Wedding, Simple or Complex?

Planning your wedding can be very simple or very complex. Many things need to be decided from the number of guests to invite to the location, food service, entertainment, invitations, decor, photographer & flowers.

As soon as you have a sense of your guest list this will help dictate what size room is required.  It’s always a good idea when possible to view the room while it’s set up for a wedding reception or similar event.  Then you can see how the room “flows” with a particular set up to determine the best location for your head table, dance floor, table set up etc.

Once you have selected your reception facility there are many questions to ask, however your facility probably has their own FAQ (frequently asked questions). Everything from what items do you need to rent or what do they provide, i.e. tables, chairs, chair covers, linens, special glass ware or plates, when can you set up the room, do they allow next day access for retrieving personal items? on and on…

Entertainment is a big decision! Do you have a live band or a D.J.? Should a jazz trio play during guest arrival? of course depending on your reception facility this may dictate what you can have. Is there a stage, how big is the area? Does the facility have a sound system? Is there a dance floor?

Do you have a buffet or a sit down service? If you choose a buffet option, it’s always a good idea to see where the buffet line can be placed in your room. Will the wait staff be able to serve from behind the buffet table? If your buffet is for 50 people or 250 people of course the set up structure of the buffet line will be very different.

Often one of the last things but not of least importance is the restrooms, changing, coat check, parking and security.  Where is the location of the restrooms to the reception hall? Do they provide bridal change rooms? Does the facility offer coat check services? Does the facility offer valet parking or self-parking? Is the parking lot patrolled? Does the reception hall have its own security staff?

Its a very exciting time for you and your family and with so many decisions to make from the all-important selection of your bridal gown and your bridal party, to the ultimate wedding ceremony and honeymoon. A wedding planner will help you make the planning of your wedding venue as simple as saying “I do”. However grand or intimate you want your wedding day to be an Old Mill Wedding planner can create a package to fit every bridal budget.

Achieve the idyllic day of your dreams with a romantic wedding at the Old Mill Toronto and enjoy a lifetime of memories.


The Importance of a Girlfriend Getaway







It’s truly a gift to have wonderful friends and it’s important to take the time to nurture your relationships and enjoy each others company away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life!

There are many experiences that you can choose from when searching for a perfect Girlfriend Getaway, but first you should ask yourselves what type of an adventure are you looking for:

Relaxing by a pool
Spa going
Outdoor Adventure and exploring
Yoga Retreats
Cocktail Celebrations

There are endless choices for that long awaited getaway with your girlfriends. So grab the girls and pick a date! Friends are nurturing and feed our soul, leaving us energized and inspired to take on the world.

Did you know that July 30 is International Friendship Day, a time to recognize your friends and their contribution to your life. Friends come in many different shapes, sizes and guises: school friends, work colleagues, siblings, partners, parents, pets and neighbours. Pull out all the stops and let your friends know they are truly appreciated on International Friendship Day!

The Old Mill Toronto celebrates friendship with The Girls Great Escape.  This unique weekend exposes you and your girlfriends to unique workshops, wonderful food, wine tastings, Luxury room accommodations and spa services. Every Escape is different from the next and many of the girls come back to try out new experiences.

If a getaway is not in the cards for you at this time, why not spend time with the girls at home. Catch up over some take out, enjoy the beverage of choice and watch a good friendship movie like; Fried Green Tomatoes, First Wives Club, An officer and a Gentleman and of course Beaches with Bette Midler…make sure to have a kleenex on hand though when she sings Wind Beneath My Wings!

The best of friends can change a frown into a smile when you feel down. The best of friends will understand your little trials and lend a hand.  The best of friends will always share your secret dreams because they care.  The best of friends are worth more then gold, they give all the love a heart can hold.

How to say “I Do” and have a Green Wedding


Branches: Used in their natural form, branches make the perfect Ceremony or Reception table decor. Hanging colored ornaments from the branches is a elegant decor touch and your guests can take them home afterwards as keepsakes.
Leaves, Rocks & Acorns:  Scatter them on the middle of your tables to add a splash of color and texture and save on overlays and runners and the soap and water that would go into washing them afterwards.
Candles: Soy and Beeswax are definitely the eco-friendly way to go. Avoid candles made with petroleum by-products along with lead based wicks.
Flowers: Use flowers that are in season and local or where possible, organic. Flowers made of enviro-friendly man made materials are also a great option. These materials include: Hemp, Wool, Organic Cotton, Soy Silk and Bamboo. Potted plants/flowers (annuals) make great center-pieces and can later be planted in your guest’s gardens to enjoy year after year.


Plantable Paper:From invitations to favor tags, this paper will add a rustic look to your special day and you can rest easy knowing that this paper can be planted to eventually turn into compost.  Emailing invitations and creating a web-site with your wedding details including the details of the venue will also reduce your carbon footprint.


Instead of another decorative dust collector, opt to donate that money to charities that support the environment; greatergood.org, WWF and the David Suzuki organization…to name a few.  If you like the idea of giving your guests a gift, bamboo coasters and frames are a nice idea and gentle to the earth.


*Hemp, Wool, Organic Cotton, Soy Silk and Bamboo are  materials that can be used in your attire.
* Transportation can be difficult and by hosting your ceremony & reception in the same place, you will save time on planning and spend less gas and other transportation costs.

Many of these ideas, can not only be found in your own backyard but they aid in preserving our earth, and save you money .