After photographing over 300 weddings in the Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge area, I’ve created this guide to helping plan a wedding in Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge. I am not a wedding planner, nor do I play one on TV. I have just been part of a lot of weddings, and I have seen what makes for the best (and more importantly – stress free) day.
Please share this with anyone you know that’s soon-to-be or recently engaged!
Who am I?
Taylor Jackson — I started out taking photographs of bands, and New York City. It sounds cooler than it was. At one point American Idol used a picture I took on a huge billboard in Times Square, and I didn’t know about it until it was replaced with an advertisement for Wicked. Disappointing, but at least Wicked is a great show.
If you want to see a week in my life condensed into 10 minutes, here it is. Spoiler: We see bears.
This is my instagram: http://www.instagram.com/taylorjackson
First — pick a season. Unless there’s a specific reason you want a certain date, being open to a few dates over a few months will save you a lot of stress. The best venues (as well as photographers) are booked for prime dates about 2 years in advance. That means if it’s 2015, we’re pretty much booked for every Saturday from May – October in 2015 and 2016.
The Best Wedding Venues in Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge.
Here are my favourite 5 wedding venues in the area — they are in no particular order. They all come with a venue planner/day of coordinator that will remove so much stress from your planning.
Langdon Hall is kind of like the Grand Canyon of wedding venues. The feeling you get when you’re there is impossible to convey in words.
Langdon is the nicest hotel within 100 KM of Kitchener-Waterloo. Maybe even the nicest in Ontario. If you can keep your guest list to 70 people, you can get married here. It’s great for everyone to be able to stay on site, and the food continues to amaze me at every wedding.
After a ceremony on the back lawn, guests relax and enjoy cocktails on the patio before sitting down to dinner and ordering from a custom designed menu.
If I was to have a ‘home’ wedding venue – it would be Hacienda Sarria. The girls that work here are a family. The venue is a hidden surprise at the end of Union St in Kitchener. If you haven’t been here, you’d have no idea it’s there. Once you’re inside, you are part of another world. While the Spanish Courtyard is the main interior focal point, every single detail of the building has a story. I love the outdoor ceremonies they host on the front lawn in the summer time.
Their in house caterer is now Charcoal Group, which I am a huge fan of.
Hacienda Sarria is incredibly consistent, and you and your guests will be the only people on site.
One interesting thing that really speaks to the quality of the venue, is that the Hacienda event planners keep planning their own weddings at Hacienda.
They have a behind the scenes system that rivals a NASA space mission. Their kitchen is spread over 3 stories (maybe 4?) but you and your guests won’t notice a thing. While they do 3 separate weddings here on a typical Saturday, their day-coordinators all in constant communication (via secret service-esq headsets) and make sure you’ll never end up in the same place as another bride.
Every wedding here runs exactly on schedule. If they say the dance floor will be open for 9pm, you will be on the dance floor at exactly 9pm.
The food here is always fantastic, and guests order from a custom menu when they sit down for dinner.
Entirely redone for 2014. Whistle Bear is operated by the same group that runs Cambridge Mill. Most comments about Cambridge Mill also apply here.
For the photo session they’ll give you golf carts to drive out to some pretty great locations in the forest. They’ll also send an escort cart that is equipped with wine and beer for your wedding party.
A random thing I’ve noticed: the sunsets here are really something special. The sun sets behind the 18th tee with the warm light spilling down onto the back patio of the clubhouse.
The fire pits also add something unique to the after dinner experience.
Other venues worth checking out:
Waterloo Region Museum – has amazing light inside the venue, a theatre for the kids, and great for setting up long tables.
Verses – I’ve only done one wedding here, but it was one of the most unique spaces I’ve come across in the area.
The Tannery – great space with wrap around screens you can project onto.
Alternative Wedding Venues
Just because it’s not a traditional wedding venue, they still might be open to doing a wedding. Venues from Bauer Kitchen to Centre in the Square have been known to do weddings.
Centre in the Square:
The main 5 venues I mentioned have space for an on site ceremony.
Ceremony is just after 1 minute
Has a few options – they’ll set up a stage on the back pond, set up chairs on the front lawn, or let you use the courtyard or back room.
Lisa and Hari used both indoor ceremony locations
Emily and Dave used the front garden:
Here’s the first wedding I photographed in their new glass chapel about 2 years ago:
Across the street from Cambridge Mill, there’s also Mill Race Park, which is good for either outdoor ceremonies, or the photo session.
Where To Take Wedding Pictures in Kitchener-Waterloo
The plus with all of the venues mentioned above is that you don’t even need to leave the property for photos. There are lots of locations on site for photos of the family, wedding party, and you two.
If you need a few more ideas (or potentially ideas for an engagement session): my favourite spot in the city is Uptown Waterloo. There are an infinite amount of different locations within a short walking distance. (And to be honest, it’s a lot less sketchy than downtown Kitchener)
If you’re in Cambridge, Mill Race Park area down by the river is fantastic. Soper Park is nice as well depending on the time of year. St Jacobs also has great options.
Indoor Wedding Photo Locations in Kitchener Waterloo
I get asked this question a lot – where do we go for photos if it rains. Here’s a short list of my favourites:
– Any restaurant with good natural light. If you buy a few drinks, usually the restaurant is more than willing to let you take a few photos.
We used Ethel’s in Waterloo a few years ago:
– Hespeler Library has lots of nice light as well. It’s a public space, and if you call ahead and ask nicely they’re usually more than happy to accommodate.
– Kitchener City Hall is also an open space where you can head to if needed. The covered awning in the front allows you to be outside without getting wet as well.
All of the venues mentioned above have some good spots for photos inside as well. Langdon has a covered patio, and a gorgeous interior. Hacienda is amazing inside everywhere. Cambridge Mill has lots of good natural light and rustic indoor spaces. Whistle Bear has a large covered patio space and covered front entrance. At Whistle Bear, you can also take the golf carts into the forest, and it’s typically not raining too much in there.
Wedding Day Timeline
To first look, or not to first look. That’s really up to you. My requirements as a photographer are 15 minutes with family, 20 minutes with the wedding party and 20 minutes with just you two. We can easily get the photos done during cocktail hour.
I would suggest a first look if you’re looking to do photos off site, or if you just want to be part of your cocktail hour and be with your guests. It does make the day run a little more stress free to do a first look.
The venues will help you with the official timing of the day, but an ideal summer wedding timeline goes something like this:
12noon: hair and makeup
4:30-6pm: cocktail hour
6-9:15pm: dinner, speeches, first dance
Depending on your venue, they’ll recommend where you put your speeches. I see it work best usually as 2 groups of speeches – first group after main course, break for dessert, second group of speeches after dessert, then into first dances.
If you’re doing a Same-Day-Edit video, I suggest doing your first dance as soon as you are introduced into the venue so we have a little more footage to work with.
This is so simple because it’s based on trusting your vendors to do what they’ve agreed to do. If you’re doing a lot of the setup and decoration yourselves, the timeline gets a little more complicated. One thing I love about having the venues above is that if there’s a problem – there’s a pretty good chance you won’t even hear about it. You’re free to just enjoy your day.
A big advantage with Langdon, and Hacienda is that you can fully get ready on site. The less transportation the easier the day will run.
This one is easy. Kettle Creek
I’ve been working with Martti and Trish for years, and look forward to every time I get to hear them officiate a wedding. They make the process of designing your perfect ceremony very easy.
Brentwood is the best transportation option in Kitchener Waterloo. Their drivers are second to none when it comes to professionalism, safety and respect.
There are a few great people in the area for flowers and decor. The one I work with most often is Tina at Pink Poppi. You can give her as much, or as little direction as you like. In my experience, the more creative freedom you give her to do what she does best, the better. She will come up with beautiful ideas that you haven’t even thought of.
Hopefully reading this helped make a few decisions easier for you. There are an absolutely overwhelming number of options out there, but if you choose the right vendors to trust, it makes planning the perfect day so much easier.
Send me a message if you have any questions! I’d love to hear from you!