Monday, August 21, 2006

Our Heros

Instead of having tables that are organized by numbers, we wanted to highlight some of our heros - and include a bit of a popular education format for the kissing game. We know that people would want us to kiss, so we collected vintage noise makers and instruments. So, if someone wanted to see us smooch, they had to make some noise with the toy on their table and answer a skill-testing question about the Hero that was featured on their table.

So, one of the hardest part was picking just 13 people, but we managed. We are amazed by their work in the nonviolence field, animal rights, civil rights, environmentalism, and overall commitment to living their lives as best they can. Some are artists (poets/authors), and some are inspiring folk who became heros by a simple decision to challenge the status quo. After choosing them, we colour-photocopied Mexican Bingo cards unto paper and put the names of our heros on the other. Then, when it was time to see where people were sitting, we put up each table and community hero up on the wall, encircled by the fabric flags i made. It was like our friends and family were having dinner with these people!

Here are our heros:

American Indian Movement (AIM)
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Fannie Lou Hamer
Farm Sanctuary
Food Share
James Baldwin
Jane Addams
Ken Saro-Wiwa
Kilus Foundation
Mary Wollstonecraft
Paulo Freire
People First
Vandana Shiva

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Our Key Players

One of the best reasons to have such a celebration is that we get to be with our friends and family, and that they get to meet each other, and spend time together. Normally, for us anyways, we have groups of friends that only hear about each other, so this will be a great chance for us all to be under 1 roof.

Another wonderful thing is to celebrate our community. Joel and i really value the sense of community and love that we don't exist in a bubble (though sometimes we do cuz our ideas are so 'out there!). Our friends are all talented and amazing people, so we wanted to recognize them and honour their work.

For example, in order to honour our community, we are trying to keep our celebration as intimate as possible. That means we are trying to keep 'the professionals' (aka strangers) out of our party! While that can't be done 100%, we are finding ways to connect with our friends' hidden talents. Not only does it keep our costs down, we are also allowing for creativity, intimacy, and connection through this process. That and we also aren't necessarily hosting a carb0n-copy wedding with a roomful of professionals who turn our special day into a wedding factory.

We have friends and family with hidden talents and they will be supporting us on our big day. We wanted to take some time now to say thanks and recognize them for their fabulous work:

The Flower Arranger
My sister is a amazing woman; crafty, dedicated, smart, and very earnest. She will be playing a key role in the day and since i'm not having bridesmaids, i wanted to still say thanks to her in front of everyone. She is an environmental chemist who loves what she does. So, just because i'm not having bridesmaids and bouquets, that doesn't mean i don't like flowers. Quite the opposite in fact. So, my sister will be helping me buy our flower arrangements for the day. We are not ordering bouquets from a florist, but rather supporting our local grocers and favourite corner stores. They sell beautiful flowers, at a good price, and i love that i'm not supporting a big capitalist industry, but rather small local stores. I do want a special bouquet, though, so Trina is the lead 'flower girl.' I have asked 12 key female friends in our lives to bring a flower of importance. These 12 flowers will make up my bouquet, and symbolize the connection we have to our friends. I will share more about this later.

Oh, and who can forget our assistant - Kelly - for helping us on the Friday before the big day. She escorted us around the city, picking up flowers and the cake. She also provided her much needed advice regarding flower choices and care - she has such a green thumb!

The Make-Up Artist
Keegan has been a friend of mine for a number of years and i love her. We have shared this city of Toronto together and i couldn't imagine living here without her. She is such a lovely woman and wonderful friend, and above all that she had the patience to teach me to knit. I am forever indepted to her for that. She once told me if she couldn't pursue the work she does (she's also an amazing listener and supportive person professionally), she would be a make-up artist. Well, who better to do my make-up than a friend that i love and who knows me for all my strengths and faults?

The Wedding Coordinator
There is no better person to help organize the biggest day of your life than a close friend who's done it herself. Robin literally bounced into my life in a Philosophy of Feminism class, and i have never looked back. While our life paths may differ from each other, our commitment to life, love, friendship, women's rights, and happiness keep us as strong as ever. She has helped with everything in my life and loves me unconditionally and completely, as i do her. She has answered all the varied questions i have and we have wonderful debate-like conversations with me about weddings, marriage, child-rearing, and life in general. I couldn't do this without her!

The Personal Shopper/Decorator
Growing up in a crafty household, it should be no surprise that Martha Stewarts has cohorts in us. I think i got my love for hosting and decorating from my mom. While we have different styles, our excitement and eagerness is the same. She really outdid herself with all the decorations and great thrifty finds for our celebration . Who needs a professional decorator when the 'mother-of-the-bride' is even better! Thanks mom!

The Dancers
A party isn't a party without entertainment, and who better than professional dancers! I met Melinda right when i started dating Joel, so she has watched me grow into who i am today while building my relationship with Joel. As a roommate of mine, she really saw me grow! Melinda and Edgar met and fell in love while dancing together. They can do everything from salsa to ballroom. We have asked them to support us on our special day, and we're so excited they have agreed. I don't want to spoil the surprise, but let's just say bring your dancing shoes!

The Photographer
Chris and his family are old friends of Joel's and we have become huge fans of his photography. We admire his ability to capture the beauty in the everyday and to photograph with such tenderness the people and places around him. We are absolutely thrilled that he took pictures for us, and from what we've seen so far, his pictures will be incredible. With his older brother also making a painting for us, we are so thrilled that our day has become a kind of celebration of their creativity.

The Jewelry Designer
It was a struggle to decide if we wanted to be branded with rings. When we finally decided to, it was an easy decision to make as to who would make them for us. A friend of ours, Suzanne, just graduated from OCAD in jewelry design, and she fixed my other special ring. It's very exciting for us that she has agreed to make our rings from scratch and personalize them. They will be some special for us, and we can't wait for her to play ringbearer for us!

The DJ
Music, and along with it, dance are a big part of our lives and relationship. Our friend Mark has such a vast knowledge and appreciation for music and theatre, and even more generally, creative expression. We were super happy he could play music for us on our super happy fun day, and he made it just that! Of course, there were just a few songs that we important for us to play, like Open Window by Sarah Harmer, By Your Side by Sade, Somebody by Depeche Mode, and I Love Everything About You by Stevie Wonder. Mark was also incredibly patient with us and our guests - the dancing fun time competed with the magnificant view of the Toronto Skyline. For an example of his enormous appreciation for music, check out his album reviews here.

The Facilitator
We hold our friend Krista responsible for our relationship, so we felt she should be the one to host our celebration program. She was one of the facilitators at the urban social justice camp where we met. Krista's life commitment to social and economic justice, and her open, supportive and caring friendship with each of us has had an enormous impact on our lives. Her thoughtful, empathetic, caring and honest approach to her relationships and her community makes her the perfect person to do this sort of thing. Anyone looking for a love celebration facilitator?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Our Community Members

And now, a special word from our sponsors...well, the local stores that we supported for our big day, anyway!

The Flower Shops
One of the most important parts of my celebration was the flowers - they just bring a lovely sense of intimacy, nature, and light. So, i went to my favourite flower shop, Cindiloowho, where the amazing owner Dani did her usual wonders for our table. We also went to an amazing flower market at Avenue/Davenport with my sis and friend Kelly (who incidently has a great air-conditioned car). We spent about $100 on random flower bunches but each was gorgeous in its own right. I even got peonies and runnuculus that are supposedly out of season! Other flowers were sunflowers, daisies, snapdragons, lisianthus, gerberas, big mums, and some others i don't even know the names of! I had an absolute ball making the flower arrangements Friday night, and the time doing this was appreciated at it brought a bit of calm to my night!

The Cake Maker
Yum yum! First of all, this tea house/cafe is a place Joel and i go to for 'special dates' like our birthdays, and now assumedly our anniversary. It is such a hidden treasure in the city. Picture Alice in Wonderland tea party cakes and desserts and that is the essense of the Red Tea Box. They have a huge selection of teas and yummy lunch/brunch items. A perfect place to unwind in. They customize cakes for you and even ask you to bring in things that 'represent' you. I wanted a blue tier cake with peach cherry blossoms, and loads of chocolate. That is what a got and more! Han, the owner and cake maker extraordinnaire, made me a vegan cake and it was a masterpiece. One of our extravagent splurges and one of my 'wedding' things but so worth it. I can't wait to eat the leftover pieces! FYI, the top tier is off in this photo, but it was also completely blue.

This is a regular stop for us when we're shopping on Queen W. Cabaret specializes in vintage clothing and has an amazing selection of formal and fun wear at great prices and in excellent condition. Joel and i met Tao months ago, and he dedicated himself to help me find the 'perfect dress.' While i have to admit i didn't fnd it there, we did find just about everything else including Joel's suit, my petticoat, a headpiece for my flower girl and some other important things like my bathing suit and nightgown. Thanks Tao and everyone else for your continued commitment to help us and for your amazing greeting everytime we go in to see you!

The B & B
We stayed at a wonderful bed and breakfast on the island (did you know there were b&b's there?) called Swan's End. Kiloran and Jeffrey were the perfect hosts and they made us feel at home and pampered. I loved coming home to a tray of cherries and almonds, and we always had cold bottled water on hand to combat the heat. Staying there for 4 days really helped us to get a feel of the island and we loved every minute of it!

Algonquin Island Association
What a perfect location for our celebration. A school and daycare during the week transforms into party central on the weekends. It's just a big hall with the bare bones to offer, but anyone can make it special and personalized (with a bit of work!) We loaded 4 wagons on the ferry and about 20 boxes full of decoartions and key ingredients like presents, 40 aprons, vases, flowers, cake plates, lanterns, you name it. We worked hard Friday night and again post-party Sunday morning, but it was all worth it. During the day, there was a perfect breeze and intimate feel and at night, well, the view was priceless. Even our Toronto friends were mesmerized by the view of the Toronto skyline from the AIA. We have no idea how we found it but are so happy we did!

Other Important Players include:
- neighbourhood Goodwill, Value Village and Salvation Army for vintage dessert plates and aprons
- Caterer David Godfrey for the tasty vegetarian food - tempeh stew and grilled tofu dinner options plus quinoa salad, rice, grilled veggies and a selection of finger foods for 'cocktail time'
- the water taxi dudes for transporting people and our stuff
- neighbourhood grocers for our fair trade coffee and teas, vegan truffles, freezies, and cookies
-ebay because i found my Stella McCartney dream shoes there just in time for breaking in before July 15!!!
- i'm sure i'm forgetting some, but stay tuned because we will be thanking all our important 'key players' soon (aka wedding party and friends who helped out!)

Our Commitment

In keeping with our desire to make things honest, unique to us and sacred, we wanted to write our own commitments to each other. We know we will also love, cherish, and all that, but there are other more important vows that we hold dear. Here they are for you to read:

Our commitment vows:
"I am commiting all my love to you. This is a commitment
to challenge
to support
to have fun
to laugh, to cry
to be honest
to listen, to share
to forgive
to be spontaneous
to accept
and to love.
I love you with all my heart"

We also really care about our community and belonging to one, so we wanted our friends and family to commit to us. So we wrote for them a 'Community Manifesto.'

"We, your family and friends, have witnessed you commit to each other. We celebrate
the love that brought you to this day. As members of your community, we also commit
ourselves to nurture and support you as the unique individuals you are, and the couple
you have become. This community is a home for your partnership, as we do not find
meaning in life by ourselves alone but with others. May your home be a place of happiness
for all who enter it, and your lives be a celebration of compassion, forgiveness, and love."

Lastly, as we love music so much and because singing is a big part of the Mennonite faith (Joel's heritage), we wanted to include a hymn. With no musical accompaniment and with the belief that some people would know the tune, we sang 'For the Beauty of the Earth.' Amazingly enough, it went very well! Here are the verses we sang:

"For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies. For the love with from our birth
Over and around us likes.

Chorus: Lord of all to Thee we raise, This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the wonder of each hour, of tghe day and of the night. Hills and vfale and tree and
flower, sun and moon and stars of light.

For the joy of human love, brother, sister, parent, child. Friends on earth and friends above
For all gentle thoughts and mild."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Our Program Speech

Well, we did it! We had our big celebration on Saturday. The weather was cooperating, all our expected guests came, we danced the night away, and can't wait to share with you all our pictures.

We're going to share with you our big day, but in segments, as we are still running around post-big day doing all the errands that go with post-party work - clean-up, taking down, returning things, eating things, packing up, unpacking, writing thank-yous, paying bills, you name it! We don't want to forget a single detail, and we especially don't want to forget a single moment of our big day - it all went so fast!

Being on Toronto Island was a blessing as we heard that Toronto reached a record high heat wave. With a thunder shower to cool us off on Friday night, we set up and watched the beautiful Toronto skyline as a break from the madness. We promise to post pictures and tid bits of story all this week, but here is our most important piece of info: our speech.

As you may already gather, this was not a typical wedding. We had a friend be our 'facilitator' and she acted as a master of ceremonies to help with the flow of things. The party began at 4:30, after a slight delay caused by the meaham of ferry line-ups. We had all our guests sitting on chairs in a circle but we did not have asigned seating. We also made sure we had cold punch and fans on hand to help with the heat! When our DJ Mark pressed 'play' on the boom box, Open Window by Sarah Harmer started, and Joel and vania, with their flower girl Kiki, started to make their way across the field. Along the way, vania and Joel picked up flowers that were given to us by our 12 key women - close friends and family members - as a symbol to acknowledge their approval of our union. This made up vania's bouquet - all individual flowers that characterized our ties to these women. Kiki was a perfect flower girl, dropping marigold flowers across the path.

After Krista the facilitator introduced us, we said this:

"Vania and I are very excited to see everyone here today. In fact, all of you are the reason we wanted to host this celebration. In order for a loving relationship to work, it needs to be surrounded by a community of friends and family. It is your love, friendship, and commitment to us and your community that has encouraged our relationship to grow. By coming and celebrating with us, you have agreed to support us in our life commitment. So, today is not only about celebrating us, but also the wonderful community we belong to. We want to acknowledge our struggles with having this celebration. We feel that celebrating loving relationships is important, but we are also aware that marriage is an institution tghat is political and has been much talked about in the last couple of years. We see our commitment of love here as being rooted in our struggle against violence, sexism, racism, classism, and homophobia and our commitment to a more just, equitable, and democratic world.

Last week, we had a ceremony at City Hall to have our relationship legally recognized as a marriage. We did this so that the law would recognize us as a family, and therefore the joining of our two families. Today, however, is a more important celebration of this for us. We thank all of you for coming and celebrating with us today. "

Saturday, July 08, 2006

One Week to Go!

We are in the final stages of our preparations and are a bit frantic, well at least vania is! All we need to do now really is a few things regarding the decorations - i think i can write a book called 101 Ways to Turn a Plain Old Hall into a Celebration! - and some other logistical things like how to get our caterer to the island without using a car!

Of course, the only thing we can't control is the weather! Yesterday, the Weather Network said Saturday July 15 would be sunny and 28. Today, it's thundershowers and 26. Yikes!

I think i need a glass of wine from one of the bottles we've bottled ourselves....

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Agenda

As July 15 edges closer, we thought we would ease some of the tension and spark some excitement by posting a rough schedule for the day.

The day officially begins at 4pm with the start of the program, where all of you will be asked to contribute a vocal or dance performance...well, maybe not, but I would like to see that program!
So, the program starts at 4pm, but because lots of people love to go to the islands in the summer, you may want to catch a ferry a little earlier, just to be sure you get on the ferry and make it to the program in time. In the summer, ferry's to Ward's Island run every half hour, so at the latest catch the 3:30pm ferry, but if it's busy that could be pushing it. In anticipation that people will come a little early, we'll have cold drinks and of course us to keep you company!

3-4 Arrive at Algonquin Island Association
4-4:30 or 4:45-Program
5-7 Cocktail Hour (or as Joel likes to call it-Happy Hour!)
7-8:30 Dinner-Look out, this will be tasty!
8:30-10 - Dessert, Dance performances and Salsa lessons
10-closing - Dj Mark will get us moving!

Last ferry leaves Ward's Island at 11:45 but we hope to have a taxi service available. (Stay tuned!)

Party on the beach! Vania and Joel will be on the Ward's Island beach for a picnic/beach fun day. For anyone still around or for our friends who live in the city, please come join us! Here's a picture of the beach in 1975, so you will have to come on the 16th to find out how great it is now!
Meet at the clubhouse at noon and we'll walk over, or just come straight to the beach on Ward's Island.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Our Celebration Quilt

With one month to go, we are stepping it up a notch with our celebration preparations. Today was a big day because we had to make a lot of financial commitments, so i guess the celebration is on for sure! We are so excited, but hope that this next month goes smoothly....who am i kidding, there will always be something!

Joel and i wanted to use this time and forum to let our guests know about our guest book idea. Instead of a guest book that we will probably never pull out again, we wanted to do something that we will cherish and that also represents us. So, due to my love of all things crafty, we have decided to make a celebration quilt, and are asking guests to contribute a square to it. Also in keeping with Joel's Mennonite heritage, we thought a quilt would be a perfect gift for us, and a great thing for all our guests (aka community) to contribute to.

We are planning to make a quilt of panels, with personalized cotton canvas squares mixed in with my vintage fabric pieces. During the big day, we will have 9 x 11 pieces of cotton canvas available for people to write on, to draw on, or to create something on. We'll have fabric markers and some fun craft supplies available. But, if anyone wants to do something beforehand, feel free! If there is an image you would like to transfer onto fabric, go ahead. If there is a photo of us, or a poem you would like to use, got nuts! If you would like to be inspired by quilts, Denyse Schmidt is a great resource, and has been very helpful for me. Don't feel pressure to make something perfect, and be as creative as you like - because we are ALL creative! We're hoping people can write something on their piece of fabric, but you can also draw an image or find something you like to transfer. If you want to learn more about transfering things, go here or here for more info! And, if you do make something before July 15, make sure you bring it with you to the island, so that we have all the pieces together. Sometime after that, i'll be having a nice date with my sewing machine and piecing all the lovely art together!