Tracey McAteer Events shares how she planned and designed an exquisite Marie Antoinette inspired wedding for Sara and Omar beautifully captured by Calvin Lee from Ikonica at Berkeley Church wedding venue Toronto.

What were your first conversations with Sara and Omar like when they approached you for their wedding?

Sara & Omar wanted to hire a planner who could make their day memorable and more importantly, stress free. In our initial conversations, Sara identified that she would have a hard time letting go of her control, which is very normal. Sara has a busy job as a Project Manager and works with spreadsheets and organizational tools on a daily basis. She needed someone who could keep up with her and ensure that everything would be organized and planned the way that she would. Both Omar and Sara wanted someone who could take charge and help Sara feel at ease and confident. Not to mention, someone who could throw them an awesome party!

Sara and Omar had a stunning décor scheme at the Berkeley church. What were some of your sources of inspiration for the design?

The sources for the design scheme were inspired by the French opulence of Marie Antoinette’s lavish flair. Sara is an architect graduate and has a love for historical buildings. She immediately fell in love with Berkeley Church and its stained glass windows, the exposed stone and especially the dramatic arch at the altar.

What is the story behind the brides beautiful wedding dress and how did its style inform other design decisions?

Staying true to the Marie Antoinette theme, Sara chose a timeless ball gown by Spanish designer Pronovias purchased from Beckers Bridals Toronto. A romantic off-shoulder dress with embroidered details on the bodice and the illusion neckline and back were embellished with delicate lace appliques. The bouffant styled skirt boasted a long train which was partnered with a cathedral length veil to finish the look.

How do you reach such a pleasing colour palette for the wedding design and what are some of your techniques for keeping it in such perfect balance and incorporating just the right amount of sparkle and glitter?

Sara wanted her wedding to be classic, elegant and ornate which was inspired by her love of Marie Antoinette’s lavish flair. From the beginning, Sara was all about blush and gold! The baroque style candelabras by Susan Murray International were the highlight of the theme. Each candelabra was embellished with strands of crystals which sparkled in the candlelight. Also from Susan Murray were the light blush table cloths and just for the head table we added a sheer overlay with silver and gold decals embroidered with crystals and sequins to add just the right amount of sparkle. The Bride hand-made her own seating chart which was an oversized elaborate gold frame filled with smaller ornate frames of various sizes and shapes which were painted in shades of gold and copper. Sara was all about her wedding cake! She wanted a grand decorative piece that showcased the theme beautifully!

The stage was designed and beautifully set for the wedding day. What was the process behind this setting and what was the outcome?

The Couple’s favourite accent at Berkeley Church was the arch on the stage, formerly the church alter. Despite being offered several locations for the head table, Sara & Omar knew that the stage had to be it. We rented an ornate white sofa and coffee table from Luxe Modern Rentals for their Sweetheart table. The Bridal Party was divided between three round tables surrounding the Couple. It was a secluded hang out for them and their bridal party, or as the couple referred to them as “The Squad”.

What was the process behind the design of the beautiful floral arrangements?

The first item up for discussion was that Sara wanted TIGHT floral arrangements. The loose, wispy and meandering arrangement style was becoming extremely popular at the time. The fabulous ladies at Pink Twig understood the vision and embraced the traditional bridal façade. The flowers were a mix of blush and pink tones with a pop of magenta. This was softened with ivory and a very slight amount of green foliage. To add a bit of dimension, some of the foliage was spray painted gold to add metallic edges to the arrangements. 

The wedding embraced customs from both the Middle East and South Asia while incorporating Western traditions as well. How did you accomplish this and what were some the decisions made in the planning process to bring everything together?

Sara & Omar are very well travelled and love trying new and delicious food from all ethnicities. Having their own heritage spanning from South Asia, the Middle East and a bit of small town Canada, it was important to the couple to plan a wedding that incorporated pieces from each culture.

Sara wore a traditional ivory ball gown and Omar wore a navy suit. However both of them opted for traditional Middle Eastern and South Asian attire at their rehearsal dinner the night before. With that said, many guests were invited to wear any traditional attire they wanted. There was a beautiful array of sari’s and other traditional clothing at the wedding.

As the guests arrived, traditional live Arabic music echoed through the church. This continued throughout the cocktail hour. Once the guests were seated for dinner, the musicians began the traditional Arabic Zaffa which is where the couple and bridal party are marched into the room by a musical procession of drums and a traditional eastern guitar called the Oud. They were marched onto the dance floor where all of their guests joined them for a high energy dance-set!!

In lieu of table numbers, the tables were named after significant places relevant to the couple. To name a few, Dubai, Baghdad, Karachi, Sarnia, Portugal, Ryerson, childhood street names and other memorable places.

For dinner, rather than trying to mix in all the flavours, the guests enjoyed a “Canadian” style dinner produced by Berkeley Church Events! Many of the ingredients were sourced locally or from Canada. I actually tried a bite of both the Braised Short-ribs and the Ontario Trout and they were delicious! The meal ended with a decadent melange of three mini desserts.

The wedding favours were presented in a traditional Pakistani vibrant brocade fabric sack which was filled with candied nuts and dried fruit, typical at Middle Eastern Weddings. More specifically, each favour had 1 dried date which is a religious custom to hand out after the marriage contract is signed.

How did the ceremony incorporate both Islamic and Western traditions? How was this beautifully set in the Berkeley Church venue and how did it incorporate?

The ceremony took place on the upper level of the church in front of the stained glass windows. Once the live Middle Eastern Music stopped, the bridal party marched to “The Prayer” by Celine Dion and Sara walked to the time-honoured “Canon in D” by Pachelbel. The ceremony was performed by a Muslim Officiant who was incredible in creating a unique service. He began with a recitation of the Fatihah which is the first chapter of the Quran. He then proceeded with a beautiful monologue about the meaning of marriage in Islam and their responsibilities to each other and to Allah. Although not traditional to an Islamic marriage ceremony, the couple did recite traditional Western style vows to one another. The officiant also referenced an array of Western style poetry including an Aboriginal poem. There was an interlude performance by professional vocalist Aaron Sperber, who performed “Can’t Help Falling in Love” accompanied by the Bride’s Uncle, Dr. David Sperber on the piano. Finally, Sara and Omar paraded back down the aisle to the “Wedding March” by Mendelssohn’s. It was a hodgepodge of traditions which made this ceremony so meaningful and inclusive to not only the couple, however all of their loved ones attending.

Looking back at the beautiful wedding of Sara and Omar at Berkeley Church what makes you the happiest about how it all happened?

Omar and Sara are so genuine and caring, that I was honoured to have been able to give them the wedding of their dreams. The three of us had become friends throughout the process! With that said, working for a Bride who is probably more A-Type than I am and being able to keep up with her and impressing her in the end, was actually the most rewarding and certainly the happiest I could be!

What would you say was a key planning principle you believe in that worked effectively in the success on the wedding day?

Staying on time yet being flexible was my key planning principle on the wedding day. I was advised that culturally, the guests will arrive quite late for the ceremony. Therefore, I worked in some buffer time throughout the agenda to accommodate any delays or unexpected surprises. No matter how well you prepare, having the ability to roll with the punches will save your sanity. With that said, the order of events can shift, however it is always my goal to get the party started at the scheduled time. It is important to keep things moving. All of the timing worked out perfectly based on my estimate and dessert was served exactly when it was scheduled! This allow lots of time for this lively bunch to dance the night away!

Venue: Berkeley Church @berkeleyevents

Photography: Calvin Lee – Ikonica @ikonicaimages

Wedding Planning: with Tracey McAteer Events @traceymcateerevents

Floral: Pink Twig @pinktwigfloral

Candelabras: Susan Murray International @susanmurrayinternational

Event Furniture: Luxe Modern Rentals @luxerentals

Linens: Susan Murray International @susanmurrayinternational

Cake: La Luce @lalucecakes

Live Guitarist: Demetrios Petsalakis @demetriospetsalakis

Hair: Nicole Graftner @hairbynicoleg

Make-up: Windy Chiu @windy.chiu

Bride’s Dress: Pronovias @pronovias from Becker’s Bridals Toronto @beckersbridals

Groom’s Suit: Indochino @indochino

Hotel: The Grand Hotel & Suites @grandhoteltoronto

Photo Location: Knox College @knoxcollegeca

Bride: @sara.khudhair