Weddings and Families

Weddings —Scheduling in 2021

New limits are in force in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada at the moment—for the latest in Ontario, please check out the official information site or contact us. For now, the limits are 10 people for weddings indoors and out, and this includes the officiant. Banquet halls and other venues are required to close and indoor dining in public venues or restaurants is not permitted. The Ontario lockdown is scheduled to end 28 days after it started on January 14th—however, there’s a chance that it could be extended. We’ll advise as soon as we know. In the meantime, to schedule or discuss your requirements for an upcoming ceremony, please connect for details, and to reserve a date.

Our Backyard Wedding—

Celebrating with Love and Laughter—

Fun and lots of laughs were what they hoped for, asked for, and how they celebrated at their fall wedding, says Karianne Marten-Spagnuolo, who married  her husband Adam on September 29,, 2020, in Etobicoke, a suburb of Toronto.

The fact that the ceremony took place at home had not been part of the original plan, says Karianne (usually known as Kari).  They had scheduled a big destination wedding in the beautiful resort area of Cabo San Lucas, in Baja California (Mexico).

But they had no idea that a pandemic would intervene to change their plans. Faced with uncertainty and delay, Kari said they decided to go with a different plan. “We wanted to be married!”

“We wanted to hold a special wedding ceremony to celebrate our love with as many friends and family as we could. The numbers were restricted due to the pandemic, but the ceremony at home was wonderful.”

The ceremony took place  in the backyard on a lovely sunny Tuesday that turned into a perfect evening for a wedding.

When the bridal couple booked their destination wedding, they had planned to tie the knot with about 50 guests present  “So it was hard that we had to limit our guests and to downsize the guest list to meet Covid regulations,  We were very sorry that we couldn’t include everyone we had hoped to celebrate with us.

“After much hard work, we’d managed to include 30 close family and friends, although it was supposed to be 25. But as it turned out, five guests were unable to make it for scheduling or other reasons, so we ended up with just the right number. 25! We were so glad to see everyone come to the ceremony.”

The wedding was quite unique. “We actually wanted a service that was based on love, happiness, and energy,” says Kari, “and David, who is my husband’s best man’s neighbor, was able to create the perfect ceremony for us.”

“We had requested and talked about our ideas for a fun and memorable ceremony, and David absolutely made this a reality,” says Kari. “He had us in stitches.”

Everything about the wedding was unique—including the dress code. Adam is a big fan of DC and Marvel comics, so while the bride went traditional and wore a lovely white short dress for the at home ceremony, the groom wore a T-shirt —and so did the officiant. David stuck to the dress code and wore a Batman T-shirt.”

Many of the guests dressed with this in mind, too, showing their superhero or character favorites… although Kari said the female guests tended to dress up (as you love to do for a wedding!), while most of the guys went for the casual or comic theme, in character-full T’s.

Kari says that David gave a lot of thought to the ceremony and was able to incorporate not only the humor they had asked for, but key family members, including Adam’s grandparents, in the ceremony.  “And it was very nice that we were also able to give a nod to our lost loved ones, whose presence was very absent and missed by everyone.”

Adam and Kari celebrated the nuptials with a party at home following the ceremony and then a short honeymoon in Ottawa.

The bridal couple, who have known each other for about 15 years, also plan to celebrate their five-year ‘dating’ anniversary this coming New Year, says Kari. (Kari and Adam’s sister were friends first, growing up in Etobicoke.)

In the meantime, says Kari, “Things are pretty good. While wedding plans were affected by the pandemic, our work lives haven’t changed too much.” Kari works in early childhood education/child care and this has continued and Adam keeps busy with his work as a plumber.

On the horizon, especially with possible vaccines coming and looking ahead to when life opens up again for travellers, Kari says they might be able to dust off their plans and make that delayed visit to Cabo. “We had already booked, but it was all put on hold. Like most in this situation, we could reschedule but not obtain refunds. Once things are go again, we’ll probably be off to Mexico.” Guests who had pre-booked have the same options to reschedule. “So there’s a good chance we’ll hold another big wedding celebration—in the beautiful surroundings of Baja California.”

“But we’re so glad we tied the knot here and got married officially. Despite all that we’ve faced this year, it was a wonderful wedding ceremony full of good times, lots of laughs, and great memories—and we’ll remember it always.” —



Wedding Planning During Covid-19

Even in normal times, it’s a good idea to be able to call on experts to handle the details and ensure your wedding ceremony goes smoothly and lives up to expectations.

“Today, with Covid-19, it’s even more valuable,” says Melissa Baum of The Baum Event Company, a Toronto event-planning and design firm specializing in luxury social gatherings. The team, led by Melissa Baum, plan, design, and execute incredible curated and detailed events that speak to each client’s personality and taste, and that hasn’t changed.“

With regulations in constant flux on everything from guest numbers to music to dancing to whether buffets are allowed (not yet), access to a knowledgeable professional who knows how to plan and pivot to meet new circumstances makes things a lot easier.

At the Baum Event Company, Melissa says, “Our goal is to help create the wedding of your dreams. We make sure it’s stress-free, carefree, and as enjoyable for everyone in the wedding party as it is memorable for the couple and guests.”

This includes guests who attend in person and those who may be watching from afar on video, by Zoom, or a streaming service. With guest list restrictions, many weddings involve a greater technological element to enable more friends and family to be ‘present’ than maximums permit.

The big difference for couples getting married now is the high degree of ongoing uncertainty as a result of Covid-19.

Couples are confused as to whether to simply downsize and proceed or wait and see and hope for the best. Melissa says her best advice since nobody can anticipate when life will return to ‘normal,’ is to book your date.

Mostly, couples seem to be sticking to the schedule—often planning to hold another (larger) wedding reception or party when the regular pattern of life resumes.

Once you pick a specific date, you can still play it by ear and adapt to changing regulations or other circumstances affecting, perhaps, out-of-town/province or out-of-country guests. You may still decide to proceed or, at that time, accept the consequences and reschedule.

However, it’s good to keep in mind that weddings are booked a season ahead usually. Popular dates fill up quickly for venues and all types of suppliers and services, and this hasn’t changed. So even if you’re planning a smaller ceremony with a restricted guest list, Melissa suggests scheduling your ceremony ASAP.

A firm date allows the couple to reserve and confirm the venue for the ceremony and reception and book preferred vendors and suppliers. You’ll be able to relax, knowing that your choices for flowers, catering, hair stylists, videographers, photographers, and makeup artists are available.

In extenuating circumstances, where perhaps a close family member’s health or changing travel options leads to a delay, situations are addressed on a case by case basis, Melissa says, “We do our very best to keep the clients happy.”

If you would like to get married next year and haven’t yet picked a date, starting sooner rather than later with enough advance time and sufficient leeway to book and confirm supplier services and dates to suit your schedule will make all the difference.  So will having a skilled wedding planner working on your behalf to make sure your ceremony comes together in every way as you anticipate.

For wedding planning in the time of Covid—since we don’t know when it will end or what may happen next—an experienced planner should be able to design, manage, and coordinate all the intricate elements and details that go into making your ceremony perfect.

At Baum Event, Melissa says they are skilled at taking care of details from concept and coordination, and this includes handling and adapting to new circumstances. Planning and follow through from start to finish is well within the daily scope of work for this company that specializes in weddings, but also handles a range of events from mitzvahs to corporate in normal times.

Baum is also experienced in planning destination weddings—although, for now, these are on few wish lists.

“The pandemic and restrictions on gatherings make it trickier but also more important to have help to stay on top of things.

“Oversight to ensure anything that may be needed to accommodate the pandemic is done correctly and safely takes the stress off. Even if the guest lists are smaller and there are limits on dancing and socializing, we all still dream of having the perfect wedding.

“We’re very pleased that we’re able to continue to offer the same high level of in-depth and quality service as pre-pandemic.”

For more information, contact:

Wedding Licences Extended in Ontario

To assist the many couples who have had to postpone their plans and wedding ceremonies due to the Covid- 19 outbreak, the Ontario government has issued an extension for marriage licenses and made amendments to Ontario’s Marriage Act.

If you obtained your licence any time after December 1, 2019, or while the State of Emergency is still in force, it will be valid for up to 24 months after the state of emergency ends. (The S. of E. is currently in effect until September 22nd).  You won’t need to get a new licence unless you’ve misplaced the document or have changed address or marital status.

This does not include licences where there has been a change to critical licence information after the date it was issued (such as if either of the parties to the marriage has changed their name, or

Where information is no longer accurate (such as address) or the licence has been lost of mislaid, couples may be able to replace the licence without the usual $75 fee, although the particular municipality may charge for administration costs. If a new licence is required, they should seek a replacement only within three months of the scheduled ceremony.

State of Emergency
Although everywhere in Ontario has now moved into Stage 3, the state of emergency province-wide is still in effect until (at least) September 22, 2020.

Note, new licences purchased after the province-wide state of emergency ends must still be used within the three-months, as before.

More information on requirements affecting weddings in Ontario.

Link to the latest newsletter.


Ontario allows larger gatherings at wedding ceremonies

Wedding Dates-

Wedding couples in Ontario and the GTA who have been holding tight on wedding plans for the last few months are feeling a new sense of optimism as all areas in the province have moved from grade 2 to 3  and we begin to re-open, gently, in this stressful time of Covid-19.

Many have been cheered by the news that the Ontario government is allowing more attendees at indoor and outdoor wedding and other ceremonies in “recognition of the importance of being with loved ones during the moments that matter most.”

Stage 3– Weddings/Ontario

The government has extended the number of people able to attend outdoors to 100 attendees. For indoor weddings (and receptions), the maximum number is 50. Where people gather inside for services such as weddings, they can  continue to fill up to 30 per cent of a room’s capacity in Stage 3.

This number does not include any staff, workers, performers (or the officiant!) —the 30 % of allowable capacity for an indoor venue is for your guests and members of the wedding party.

The official Ontario government website gives additional information on regulations as they change and can be checked here. (You can also download a PDF.)

At both indoor and outdoor ceremonies, proper health and safety advice must be followed including physical distancing. Buffet-style or self-serve meals are not permitted. The Couple’s Dance and Father/Daughter and Mother/Son dances are now allowed, but still no dancing between guests.

Seating must be assigned at the reception, with family and social circles kept together where possible. Guests

At Stacey and Gianni’s wedding.

are asked to remain seated except to visit the washroom or leave–they are not permitted to walk around and socialize, and masks are to be worn except when eating or drinking.

Musicians and performers are welcomed, provided distancing rules are followed and, in some cases, plexiglass shields may be required. Performers are not permitted to share microphones and the noise or music level must be moderated so that guests in attendance do not have to lean close or speak loudly to be heard.

“We have taken deliberate steps to increase testing and increase our ability to track and contain this virus,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.  “I strongly urge everyone to remain careful and cautious as we are all still at risk.”

More: CBC News Report

Please note: the above restrictions on size of gatherings also apply to funerals and other services.


Creating the Perfect Wedding Video

Award-winning wedding cinematographers Mark and Danielle capture stories around the world for their company Kismet Creative, surpassing the expectations of many happy wedding couples from Toronto to Vancouver and far beyond.

They specialize in producing wonderful films with a strong narrative designed to show the couple’s personalities, documenting their turning points and ceremony into a defining story that lives in the memory and will be a treasured celebration of the marriage.

“The ceremony is the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next,” says Mark. He and Danielle first met in Bali (kismet!), were married in Italy—and have since lived in Sydney, London, Vancouver, and Toronto. They now call the GTA home.

Fast forward a few years, and their life is also now filled with the wonder, boundless energy, and thrills of enjoying each day with beautiful daughter Isla—so they fully understand the importance of capturing life’s special moments.

“We’re pleased to be able to capture and showcase the wonderful weddings that memories are made of.”

Mark and Danielle work together in the business and are extremely skilled at portraying the unique captivating stories of their wedding couples. They bring true professionalism to the task, with experience of writing, directing, and editing videos for the BBC, Warner Brothers, Universal, and Disney—to name a few.

Mark is the main shooter and Danielle tends to be the key contact for clients and couples for the contract side of things. But they often work together on shoots— Danielle may be involved with filming or, via her other company, providing hair, makeup, and wedding styling through

Since the public health pandemic has thrown a hiccup in the plans of a number of couples, they have been adjusting schedules to accommodate, Mark says. Kismet Creative tends to be booked up quickly and, while it has only a few shooting dates still open this year, they are trying to be as flexible as possible. “Because of the current conditions and with everything so unpredictable, we want to do the utmost for our customers.

“Some couples are being super-proactive and rescheduling –booking dates for later this year and next. Others are hoping for the best that everything will be able to go ahead as planned. Many couples are not quite sure what to do.”

Mark’s advice is that if you think you may have to reschedule to touch base sooner rather than later.  Perhaps consider other days of the week so you are able to book your venue and all the other vendors on the same page/same day—keeping in mind that everyone else will be doing the same thing.

“Saturday summer days have become the new must have—like a certain product that everyone stockpiled at the start of the health scare(!) so if you can go for Friday or Sunday, this will give you more flexibility.”

“Considering the strange and unusual time we’re living in, there is no penalty for change—although early re-bookings and confirmations means we can schedule key cinematography to suit everyone’s needs.”

Kismet Creative works with associated excellent cinematographers they can call on during these trying times. Since Kismet already has wedding-experienced and industry-skilled associates in Toronto and BC when additional shooters are needed in a normal year, they can accommodate more change during this period. Although Mark likes to be the principal shooter on 4 or 5 key BC weddings annually, they do have a network of professional associates in BC and in Ontario who can assist.

Everyone works under Kismet Creative’s direction and this allows the company to be more flexible.

Kismet’s skill behind the scenes—and the creative way they go about portraying and telling each particular wedding story—is what clients seem to find most special—and this is ensured regardless of who is behind the camera, says Mark.

Many of their clients come through referrals from other bridal couples and their families and friends, but Mark says there is a pretty even mix. “People find us on Instagram and via googling and recommend us to their friends. This is very heartening as it shows us how much people love the finished videos.”

Costs vary but a ballpark investment for a Kismet production is $4400 to $6400. You will be able to view and choose your ideal approach—narrative, cinematic, portrait, highlights, etc.—and Mark always recommends face-to-face consultation so they can be sure to deliver a film experience that meets your dreams and needs on the day and incorporates all the elements and background needed for the production.

With everything still uncertain re dates and schedules, Mark suggests planning and booking as far ahead as you can—and then be ready to adapt should the situation change.

Going forward, he foresees an increase in how video is used to tell and share wedding stories.

With date and venue changes, travel bans, and flight delays, some guests may not be able to be present. Couples may hold a smaller, more intimate ceremony, live stream the wedding, or share it as soon as they can. “We see weddings on Instagram, more use of streaming services, or really short turn-arounds to share if attendance has to be limited by circumstance. Kismet Creative already does a same day edit for couples who want to view or share their day on the actual day—so this can be handled easily.”

Mark and Danielle love being able to define and record love stories and wedding ceremonies so that they reflect the unique joy and specialness—with all the wonderful details  and elements that simply don’t fit into a photograph album.  Mark’s final piece of advice? “If you’re planning a wedding this year or next, think about getting in touch with us, or other cinematographers quickly. Not only are 2021 dates going fast, but we’re also best placed to offer you unique video and streaming solutions in case your wedding is affected by the pandemic.”

The Ketubah Story

More and more marriages are putting it in writing—and it’s not only Jewish wedding couples who are adopting the Ketubah as part of their wedding ceremony, a tradition that dates back thousands of years.

One of the largest suppliers is—a trendsetter in design and online service well-known internationally for museum quality work, was founded originally here in Toronto by Michael Shapiro and reports that Ketubahs are being ordered for all faith weddings as well as to mark significant days. Ketubahs also commemorate milestone occasions such as anniversaries.

Wedding couples are able to order from hundreds of unique designs from classic to modern to suit every budget and timeline. Many parents also like to purchase the Ketubah as a gift. Since it is often viewed as a precious family heirloom and passed between generations, the style, look, and wording are significant decisions.

Choose from an extensive range of limited-edition artist creations that can be personalized and customized—from wording to colors to the craftwork involved. This may be beaded, canvas, gold or silver leaf, crystal work, luminous—the variety is limitless.

Lovely paper cut Ketubahs, considered a traditional Jewish fine art since the Middle Ages, are also a specialty.  Fine art archival paper cut Ketubahs can include your personal details incorporated into the design—which can involve 18 layers of paper cuts!

Once you’ve found your style, you’ll need to decide colors, theme, language, and the amount of personalization. This is when you’ll choose whether to include names, wedding date, and location, which are integrated (seamlessly!) in the calligraphy—or the rabbi can write in the names in blank spaces.

You may need to check with your rabbi before you order —you’ll be asked to specify text and the company offers many options including Reform/Orthodox/Conservative or Humanistic —also ‘Canadian Reform” and LBGTQ.

You can also choose an “Interfaith” selection or write unique words to reflect your beliefs, vows, or that are meaningful to you both.

Regardless of which you choose, the Ketubah is often the heart of a Jewish or interfaith wedding. The Ketubah has profound history behind it and is seen as a symbol of the couple’s devotion to each other and the marriage.

Traditionally, the Ketubah catalogs the husband’s obligations to his wife and establishes provisions for her protection. The traditionaltext closely resembles the one codified 2000 years ago.

Two witnesses sign the Ketubah—friends or distant relatives/close relatives do not sign—and generally consider it an honor to be asked. (The bride and groom don’t sign traditionally/it’s not the same as signing the register or license in a church wedding. However, there are choices that have lines for the bridal couple to sign if they so choose.

The rabbi may read out the Ketubah under the Chuppah—Jewish tradition is that it is a significant part of the ceremony.

Costs for the Ketubah range from budget friendly—as low as the $150 range—to $1000 and everywhere in between. However, if it involves a lot of artisan work, such as for crystal creations, gold leaf, or a complex paper cut Ketubah—for example, an 18-layer piece of archival art with all your personal details incorporated—this may set you back even more.

But the finished piece is likely to become of historical importance to your family—and be viewed as a truly unique and original piece of fine art that also happens to commemorate your wonderful marriage!

To see more examples, see





Baby Naming Ceremony

We took these lovely photographs recently at a baby naming ceremony conducted by the Rabbi and received a very nice testimonial from the parents. Thank you!

“We would like to truly thank Rabbi Gellman for the wedding and baby naming services that he provided. As my husband and I are an interfaith couple, finding a rabbi to marry us proved to be a difficult task. Not only did Rabbi Gellman agree to assist us but he got to know us as a couple, he created a beautiful ceremony and delivered the service alongside my husband’s minister. Fast forward two years later, when our beautiful daughter was born, my husband and I knew that Rabbi Gellman was the best choice for her baby naming. The service yet again moved everyone in the room. He is professional, easy to talk to and delivers beautiful services.”  Jordana

The Perfect California Wedding

Brett and Arthur—

Brett and Arthur enjoyed a wonderful wedding ceremony in October when they were married in the lovely surroundings of Healdsburg, in California’s Sonoma region, by Rabbi David Gellman.

“It was an interfaith wedding—Arthur is from England and it was important to have a ceremony that paid homage to both Christian and Jewish traditions for the families, and also was personalized exactly the way we wanted it,” recalls Brett.

“There were a number of special Jewish elements we wanted to include such as the Ketubah, seven blessings, smashing the glass, wine, and the Chuppah. Whatever we did decide was very meaningful and special to us. I carried the corn dolly Arthur’s mother had once walked down the aisle with at her ceremony in England and that his grandmother before her carried at her marriage.”

Arthur is from Sevenoaks in Kent, and Brett calls America’s key wine county home. The couple met in 2010 and were co-workers and good friends for a long time—until a change in employment opened the door and saw the friendship change as they became a couple. Brett and Arthur both work in biotech in food technology and live in the Bay Area.

“We wrote our own vows. Arthur felt very strongly about doing this,” says Brett, “and we were very pleased. They were perfect.”

The wedding was held at a lovely restaurant venue in Healdsburg, which is always on the list/wins awards as one of the 10 top small towns in the US and is the home base for three of California’s top wineries.  The ceremony took place outside, where the weather was wonderful (for October!) and for the 130 or so guests. Then everyone moved inside for cocktails—and the day ended with dinner and dancing on the patio.

“The ceremony was everything we could have wished for. Rabbi Gellman did a wonderful job. In the spirit of transparency—I have to say that I woud have wanted David as our wedding officiant even if he hadn’t been my dad’s second cousin! He married my brother and sister-in-law a few years ago in Savannah, Georgia. It was a beautiful wedding, and I wanted the same for us.”

Wedding Venues-GTA

Weddings 101!


Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto

It’s no secret that picking the perfect date for your wedding is only the start of what may turn out to be a very long list of To Do’s. You may be planning a cozy gathering and simple ceremony or a more lavish wedding. But choosing to hold your ceremony and reception in a hotel that can easily cater to all your needs to ensure your special day is memorable (and worry-free) is an excellent idea.

“Here at the Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto, in the heart of downtown, we pride ourselves on being extremely flexible. We’re very pleased to help make your wedding as perfect as it can be, whether it’s a large gathering or an intimate wedding or reception,” says Heidi Meisinger, Service Manager – Events.

The hotel caters to weddings and gatherings of all sizes and inclinations. This means that nothing is impossible. “Our goal is to make your wedding perfect.  So whether you wish to plan a last minute upscale bachelorette party, a romantic ceremony on our lovely terrace, overnight or extended stay accommodation for guests and the bridal party, or only the wedding ceremony and reception, we are happy to help.”

The Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto, has a number of options for ceremonies and receptions—but there are group size limitations on the various spaces—so it’s good to get these details out of the way as soon as you can.


The hotel is able to deal with short notice bookings and Sunday and Friday weddings are also fine. They are pleased to accommodate to meet customized requirements for your ceremony —and any requests for your interfaith jewish wedding. The staff work with you. They are happy to meet dietary requirements and work with you or your planner on the menus. “We are a one-stop shop,” says Heidi. “We are pleased to give you access to our list of preferred vendors to assist with details for your special day.”

Whether you’re not sure of the theme for your wedding reception, the style and color of bouquets—or the wedding photographer, the hotel is there to provide guidance. You are also welcome to bring in your own suppliers. The hotel’s flexibility in welcoming your own vendors and rentals, unlike many other venues—helps ensure that everything on your wish list is included.


The hotel also offers packages with excellent choices for key items such as table settings, champagne flutes, custom menu cards, linens, staging, and dance floor. Your bridal party and guests may be staying in the hotel—or not. The Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto, will be happy to discuss arrangements with you including preferred accommodation rates for you and guests, menu tastings, preferred valet parking rates, and a stay for bride and groom in the lovely one-bedroom honeymoon suite.

“Whether you simply need recommendations for vendors we know and love, or assistance with planning customized menus and accommodations, we will go through your requirements with you. Services on site, plus in-house beauty and spa facilities, make planning easier.

However, Heidi says she always recommends that couples utilize the timely services of a wedding planner to ease the demands on the bridal couple and families. “I find that couples who employ a wedding planner seem to be very much less stressed. They are calmer and happier and more relaxed on the wedding day itself. So a wedding planner is a key component—but if you don’t have one, ask for our recommendation—or just ask for guidance on the details. We’re happy to assist whenever we can.”

If you’re planning a ceremony, book your venue and your rabbi or officiant as soon as possible. Then an ideal next step would be to call Heidi to ask about the Shangri-La Hotel Toronto’s wedding packages or discuss your customized ceremony needs.



This is the first in our series on perfect wedding venues—please stay tuned!