How to Plan a Fairy-Tale Wedding in a Castle in Canada (and Other Tips for Your Big Day)By Michael Hess
Crystal MacLeod has been in the wedding planning business for a while now. Her company, RSVP Event Design, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. In that time the company has won national awards for things like Best Wedding Under $75,000 and Best Wedding Creative (think Dracula-themed wedding) and just recently planned the Delta Hotels by Marriott Bessborough’s Royal Wedding. Let us explain.
The Delta Hotels Bessborough in Saskatoon, Canada, is known as the “castle on the river.” The property looks like something out of a fairy tale. So when Meghan Markle and Prince Harry tied the knot in Windsor, Delta Bessborough was the obvious choice to hold a viewing party in Saskatoon. This was no ordinary spring soiree, though. The property threw a lavish mock wedding, and who better to help plan it then MacLeod?
“We wanted to have a royal wedding experience that, if you weren’t able to attend the actual wedding, would be the next best thing. So we wanted to create essentially a mock wedding with a classic feel,” MacLeod told Marriott TRAVELER.
When she’s not planning events in line with those across the pond, MacLeod is guiding future brides and grooms through their wedding preparations, many of which are held both in and outside of Delta Hotels Bessborough. Marriott TRAVELER sat down with her after the big event in Saskatoon to ask a few questions about the property and find out what goes into throwing the perfect wedding.
[Note: This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.]
What is so special about this property? Why do so many couples travel to tie the knot here?
This is Saskatoon’s castle on the river. I’ve been fortunate to plan hundreds of weddings at this property. We have a great relationship with Delta Bessborough. They are excellent to work with. The chefs throughout the years have been magnificent. That is one of the things that they are absolutely well known for. Obviously, the decor of the castle is just outstanding.
Anybody that wants to have the fairy-tale wedding, this is where you have it. So the gardens outside serve as the perfect backdrop for ceremonies. It is by far the most coveted space in the city to have an outdoor wedding. It’s on the Saskatchewan River, and then the backdrop of course is the castle itself.
What are some of the more unusual wedding requests you’ve had?
We’ve done a Gothic wedding before here at Delta Bessborough, and it was one of the highlights of my career. The bride and groom came to me in the very initial stages. They didn’t have the venue booked, and when they explained the Gothic theme to me, I knew this was the only venue that would work. They wanted it to essentially look like Dracula’s lair. So we created the ballroom to become a lair. There were numerous candelabras at the front of the room …
There was elaborate draping. There were florals that actually had skeletons in them, and those skeletons had roses in their eyes. The cake was magnificent. It was four tiered with an edible skeleton. It said “till death do us part,” and there was a sword for the cutting of the cake. That wedding was so much fun to plan, and we ended up winning a national award for it!
Do you work with the bride and groom to select a menu, or is that more on the property to decide?
It’s both. Usually we’re brought on board right at the beginning. We help select the venue and establish a tone for the wedding. This includes things like the invitations, the flowers, the decor and the menu. So we want a nice cohesive look, so we’re very involved with the menu selection, but the staff here, they’re so experienced. The chef gets involved all the time. So it’s definitely a collaboration.
What are some of the latest wedding trends?
So our motto in our company is trying to avoid the trends. We don’t want our clients to look at their wedding photos five or 10 years from now and say, “Oh my gosh, what were we thinking?” So the vintage look has been very popular in the past few years and the rustic look, and the rustic look can be done very well.
Sometimes it involves the burlap and the mason jars. And we often say to the clients, “Absolutely. If that is really your style, then by all means. But do you decorate your home at all with burlap, basically? Anything burlap in your home?” Probably not. Where if you go with the classic look, it’s not going to date the wedding.
What’s your take on local versus destination weddings?
They’re just so completely different. It’s just going to depend on the bride and groom. How important it is to you to have those key people at your wedding because with the destination wedding, obviously, not everybody’s going to be able to attend. If you have elderly parents or grandparents that aren’t going to be able to travel, that’s probably not going to be an option for you.
And often, destination wedding properties have what they say is an in-house wedding planner, but it’s not really an in-house wedding planner. It’s whoever answers the phone that day …
So it can be very risky and tricky to navigate, especially when it’s a destination so far from home that you’re not on site choosing the flowers or choosing the menu or doing the decor or all of those items. You are relying on the expertise of the local suppliers, and sometimes that can be questionable.
What is the average size of weddings these days?
The average size of a wedding, locally here, would be 150 to 200 guests. That’s pretty standard. We have done weddings up to 800 people, and I’ve done weddings with 25 people. So it really varies, but 150 to 200 guests is kind of the average.
Tips to slim down the guest list?
So if mom and dad are inviting friends or colleagues, they only get this many colleagues to invite. … Is it a business partner or somebody with a close relationship? For even more intimate weddings, I say would you invite these people to your home for a dinner party? If not, perhaps they don’t make the cut for the guest list.
What’s the best backup plan for rain the day of an outdoor wedding?
The wonderful thing [about] this property in particular is that your backup is usually going to be your ballroom. So I say to brides, if they’re getting married here, even if the wedding doesn’t cooperate, your plan B is beautiful. The ballrooms here are absolutely exquisite.
What we recommend is the day of the wedding, make the call. At nine in the morning, if it looks like it’s raining, if it has rained and the ground is wet, let’s make the call right now that we’re moving inside so that the bride isn’t spending the day checking the weather or looking outside. … Like, make the decision, stick with it [and] then you’re going to enjoy your morning.
How do you navigate the dynamic of the in-laws? Bridezillas?
We’ve only had a handful of bridezilla moments. But there’s often more mother-in-law, motherzilla moments. Sometimes you have some mothers sort of vicariously living through their daughters. This is the wedding that they never had, and this is the wedding that they actually wanted. That often happens, and sometimes we have to navigate those relationships a little bit and sometimes play a little bit of referee.
What’s your take on pets in the wedding?
It’s like wrangling children, like wrangling the little flower girls and ring bearers. You just have no idea what they’re going to do. No idea. And I always say to the bride and groom, [the children’s] goal is to look cute, and they probably accomplished that, because they’re cute. So whatever happens, happens.
And with animals, we’ve had animals not wanting to go down the aisle, or essentially getting stage fright because there are 200 people watching them. Usually they’re getting lead by the flower girl or something or younger people, so the dogs don’t always make it down the aisle in the way you’re probably envisioning that to go down.
I usually recommend that the rings not go anywhere but with the best man. So [if you’re] putting rings on dogs or giving them to the ring bearers, usually on the ring pillows, I would use a fake ring, and then the best man would have the rings in his pocket …
But letting a three-year-old come down the aisle with a very important piece of the wedding maybe isn’t the best idea. So the same would go for having the dog take the rings down the aisle — maybe not the best idea.
MacLeod and RSVP Event Design are based in Saskatoon, Canada. For more information on her and her team, check out www.rsvpeventdesign.ca.