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Tying The Knot In Windsor And Essex County During A Global Pandemic
In the 20 years of my time as a registered Ontario marriage officiant, the COVID-19 years of 2020 and 2021 have been the most challenging, frustrating, and heartbreaking for the thousands of Ontario couples hoping to “tie the knot”, as well as for the wedding industry vendors providing the services to them.
According to the website: HelloSafe.ca — a comparison platform giving access to the best insurance deals in Canada — it is estimated that Ontario lost $780 million in the year 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the average cost of a wedding in Ontario at $29,450 in 2020 (Source: Desjardins Bank), it becomes apparent how these staggering losses mounted. There were 66,257 weddings in 2019, which dropped in 2020 to 39,764 weddings. The first half numbers of 2021 are equally dismal, but projections for mid-year forward are promising, with an anticipated 48,430 weddings by year’s end.
With more of the population being vaccinated — and infections decreasing in hot spots — projections for 2022 are for 70,547 weddings in Ontario. (Source: Government of Ontario for 2019, then HelloSafe.ca’s estimates).
The Ontario wedding industry is a microcosm of the devastating assault by the COVID-19 pandemic on small businesses.
For those businesses still standing, they have been forced to think outside the box in the delivery of their traditional services to the public. The same can be said of the many venues providing wedding ceremonies.
Windsor and Essex County is blessed with a rich and diverse selection of sites for couples not choosing a church-based ceremony. What follows is a brief review highlighting some new wedding venues and some established facilities across the region and how they have responded to COVID-19 restrictions by creating innovative options for couples.
Designs By Diane Offers A New Outdoor Country Setting
Located at 5885 Huron Church Line Road in LaSalle, Designs by Diane has recently opened a new and exciting wedding and event venue.
This 15 acre ranch property not only houses 25,000 square feet of Southwestern Ontario’s largest wedding/event decor inventory, but is now the perfect location for couples seeking a pastoral, country setting for their wedding. Located just a stone’s throw from Dominion Golf and Country Club, it is a short 15-minute drive from the heart of downtown Windsor.
Designs by Diane has been owned and operated by Diane Spencler, a Certified Wedding and Event Planner, for the past 30 years. Exploring her massive décor collection, reminds me of my trips to Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Both elicit similar sensations of awe and wonder.
Spencler is a lifelong animal rescue activist and lover of the outdoors. Asked why she decided to expand her décor portfolio to now include a portion of her property as a wedding/event venue, she replies, “Nature has become our new ballroom.”
As Spencler informs Biz X: “I offer a wide range of venue amenities including a 40 by 20-foot tent for gatherings of up to 45 people, when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. There is also a second covered area 30 feet by 50 feet at the back of the ranch’s arena. Meals can be catered, and food trucks are welcomed.”
And, of course, patrons benefit from Spencler’s creative and renowned décor possibilities!
If couples have chosen another venue for their wedding, she will happily come to that venue for their decorating needs.
In addition, she offers her ranch property and décor for photo opportunities, like engagements and other celebratory occasions.
Check out stunning photos from her outdoor venue, along with rooms she has decorated at various facilities over the years.
Spencler welcomes you to visit her new venue and reminds everyone that fur family members are always welcome, too!
The New Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel Windsor
Local wedding officiant, Kristina Foto, recently opened her storefront wedding chapel, Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel Windsor at 1335 Wyandotte Street East.
For anyone who has ever visited Las Vegas, Foto’s Wedding Chapel stirs up images of the glitzy Las Vegas chapels in the self-professed “Marriage Capital of the World”.
It was through Foto visiting the wedding chapels of Las Vegas five years ago that the idea for her current chapel started. It should be noted that Foto has violated the age-old axiom, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” It didn’t. She brought it to Windsor Essex!
Foto is not only the owner/operator of the venue, but officiant, DJ, decorator, advisor, vocalist, and musician.
In addition, she can also dress the part as a Las Vegas Showgirl and/or bring in an “Elvis” to assist in the ceremony.
With as little as an hour’s notice, a couple can arrive with two witnesses, their marriage licence in hand at a venue-ready space, and get hitched.
The Chapel can host up to 40 persons (depending on COVID-19 restrictions) and is adorned with chandeliers, candelabras, wooden arch ways, flowers, fabric hanging from the ceiling, table coverings, a grand piano, and a Vegas style mural.
Foto adds: “The chapel’s front door is a retractable garage door, which can be opened in nice weather to allow a public view of the wedding inside, from the street.”
During the pandemic, she is also offering free, non-binding, commitment ceremonies for couples whose original wedding plans have been put on hold. It is her hope that this can help the couples in lessening their disappointment and heartbreak.
Water’s Edge Event Centre Micro Wedding Packages
The Water’s Edge Event Centre, owned by Larry Horwitz and his wife Dana Joy Horwitz, opened in 2015 at 2879 Riverside Drive East in Windsor. Purchased for a dollar from the Roman Catholic Diocese of London, this former historical church built in 1908, quickly became a popular venue for a variety of special events, as well as for wedding ceremonies and receptions.
The Grande Ballroom on the upper level can host upwards of 300 guests for ceremonies and receptions, while The White Room in the lower level can facilitate 200 guests.
Couples can also choose to marry outside in the Ivy Courtyard on the south side of the building, which will allow for up to 200 guests.
Obviously if there is a pandemic lockdown, receptions and meals are on hold. But rest assured, once restrictions relax: “The Water’s Edge Event Centre works with a team of caterers that provides unique, modern, and fusion dishes to traditional Italian cooking that even Nonna would call delizioso!”
During the pandemic months of 2020 and into 2021, the couple undertook a landscaping and fencing makeover of the Ivy Courtyard, and inside the building they installed their own state-of-the-art sound system.
COVID-19 challenged the Horwitz duo to be creative and they began offering packages for micro-weddings for 20 or 50 guests — depending on the COVID restrictions in place.
They describe it as, “the relaxing balance between an elopement and a traditional ceremony, offering the formality of a wedding day minus the full-day timeframe and expense. We provide a variety of inclusive packages to suit your taste and budget.”
The packages include venue space, photographer, in-house officiant, live streaming capabilities, music, and couple’s toast, along with favours for the guests. For guests unable to enter the building due to COVID-19 restrictions, they can remain in their cars in the parking lot and view the ceremony through live streaming.