Wendy and Ben live in Toronto, but when it came time to choose a wedding venue, they opted to tie the knot in Ben’s home country of Belgium at the stunning L’Abbaye de Nizelles. Despite planning from afar, the couple did want to take on some DIY projects, including their romantic and modern invitations. And if you love those, then you won’t want to miss the seating display poster – beautiful!
Wendy and Ben designed the printed materials themselves, blending romantic florals with modern fonts and lines.
“Ben and I live in Toronto, Canada and we wanted to have our wedding in Brussels, where Ben is from,” says Wendy. “His family and friends live there and we figured our closest friends who had to travel to be with us would enjoy what Belgium had to offer – delicious food, beer, and the best chocolate… what’s not to like!? Although planning a destination wedding was challenging – especially with the language barrier, no planner, and an 8 month timeline – we managed to make it work and we couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.”
Why did you choose this location for your ceremony? We did not have the flexibility to choose the location because only civil marriage ceremonies are legally recognized in Belgium. After the civil ceremony, which must take place at a town hall, couples can choose to have a religious or secular ceremony as part of their celebration but it is not required. Luckily, towns halls in Brussels are beautiful (Grand Place for example). We chose the town hall in the municipality where Ben grew up, a charming 19th century building that looks like a classic European mansion.
Your ceremony in three words. Intimate, sweet and simple
How did you go about planning your ceremony? Since we were not having a traditional wedding ceremony, we added a few traditional touches to our civil wedding. We chose to write our own vows and had a ring bearer who held a Canadian and Belgian flag as he passed us the rings. To liven up the ceremony, we included a musician who played the cello for the processional and piano for the recessional. A family friend played the accordion in front of the building as guests await our exit throwing rice and confetti.
Who officiated your ceremony? The mayor officiated. The ceremony was performed in French and we had an English interpreter. Later at the reception, we held a traditional Chinese tea ceremony to honor the union of our families.
What were your vows like? We wrote our own vows. Ben wrote his vows in both French and English so our Canadian and Belgian guests could understand his touching words.
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? Walking in the room together and seeing the love and warmth of our family and friends then exiting as husband and wife while our guests joyfully threw confetti and rice at us.
“We wanted our wedding day to be romantic and intimate. We really wanted our family and guests to feel like they were going to a big dinner party! I found the venue while searching online during Ben’s visit with family in Brussels and I asked Ben to scope it out. It was a 14th century monastery, surrounded by large garden with old oak trees, a pond and courtyard. The building had several rooms including the historic arched hall where we held the cocktail hour and an orangerie: a glass room surrounded by the garden, similar to a greenhouse. To us, it was truly a unique venue and perfectly romantic. Ben fell in love with it and when he came back home, we decided to book the last available spot of the year. I didn’t actually see it in person until a few months before the wedding and it was more stunning than I imagined!”
How would you describe your reception? A fairytale dinner party with delicious food, drinks and lots of dancing
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? We wanted something romantic yet modern. I was inspired by vintage florals such as Dutch masters’ floral paintings and botanical illustrations by Belgian painter, Pierre-Joseph Redouté. We used his illustrations in our invitations and table numbers and offset the vintage look with modern geometric shapes and fonts. From there, we stuck to a color palette of soft muted colors with a touch of plum.
Wendy carried a bouquet of roses, ranunculus, and greenery, while her bridesmaids each carried a single stem of antique red hydrangea.
Did you include any traditions in your wedding? Our wedding was a mish-mash of traditions combining North American, Belgian and Chinese cultures. Before the reception started, we had Chinese wedding tea ceremony to honor and welcome our families together. My bridesmaids served the tea which symbolized luck to our new marriage.
First course: Norwegian salmon in a light broth flavored with Thai spices, lemon grass and coconut milk // Second course: Caramelized duck breast, speculoos biscuit covered with apple-pear chutney, ginger decoction, scalloped potatoes and vegetable ratatouille // Third course: Duo of speculoos mousse and white chocolate mousse with crispy grilled hazelnuts
Did you have a signature cocktail? We served beer – it’s Belgium!
Are there any DIY details you’d like to tell us about? Ben and I are both in creative fields, and tried to do as much DIY as we could while planning from afar. We focused on smaller projects that we could take in our luggage and graphic design elements: invitations, envelope sleeves and labels, table numbers, name cards, seating chart, poster, banners. Ben’s dad made the wood table number holders days before the wedding, and I made kissing wands with ribbons and bells from the craft store.
What was the best advice you received as a bride? Take it all in – take your time and enjoy each moment.
What advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding? Don’t go crazy trying to include every idea. With Pinterest, wedding shows and blogs, there are endless ideas you will want to include but it will just take more time, money and distract from the overall vision. Ben and I discussed all our ideas together, which kept me in check of not going overboard and it also made sure that the ideas were what we both wanted.
What type of cake or dessert did you serve? Ben’s good friend – a pastry chef – made 3 different cakes (speculoos, raspberry and cheesecake) and over 100 macarons. In addition, a family friend made her famous French canelé desserts which were divine and looked beautiful on the cake table.
What was your first dance song? Our first dance was “Big Jet Plane” by Angus & Julia Stone. We knew that was our song when we watched the movie, Romantics Anonymous, during our first year of dating.
If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently? I wouldn’t want to change a thing. It was definitely the most memorable day of our lives; we were elated with our union, how our wedding day turned out and how happy our guests were!