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Atlantic Canada delivers stunning backdrops for couples looking to tie the knot

On her wedding day, Heather MacLean stood by a rustic barn on a farm as old as this country, now a boutique winery overlooking the city of Moncton, NB, and poured red wine into a glass while her husband Kristian Barkemeyer added white.

“Kris and I wanted to do something a little different to represent unity during our ceremony,” explains the Nackawic, NB native, who wed at Magnetic Hill Winery last September.

“Basically the wine ceremony involves both the bride and groom mixing two different wines and then drinking from the glass. One wine is sweet, to symbolize happiness, joy, hope, peace and love. The other, a more bitter wine, is symbolic of life’s trials and tribulations. Together the sweet and the bitter represent the fullness of life’s experiences.”

On their wedding day last July, Ingrid Kristel and Peter Adamson boarded a 45-foot lobster boat in Georgetown, PEI and sailed, along with a photographer and guests, to say “I do” on a sandy beach on off-the-grid Boughton Island.

It’s a new package introduced last year by Perry Gotell of Tranquility Cove Adventures. “It’s very quaint,” says Gotell, a retired fishermen now running an experiential tourism business. The company doesn’t handle receptions or accommodations, but does give recommendations of other venues and services in the area. They do provide a rehearsal on the boat, as well as mackerel fishing and a barbecue of the day’s catch.

“The whole experience was beyond what we had ever imagined,” say the Alberta couple, who met Gotell on one of his clam digging excursions two years before, while they were vacationing in PEI. The experience stood out, and when they were looking for a fun place to wed, they were pleasantly surprised to see his offering.

“The thought of doing something so unique for land-locked people like us had us hooked. It is pretty special for us to be near the water, walk along the beach and experience the island attitude.

“Getting married on a deserted island with your closest friends made the whole experience very intimate and provided memories we will always cherish.”

“People are looking for something unique, to tell their story,” Gotell says.

Heather MacLean came across Magnetic Hill Winery online and decided to check it out. “We were looking for a rustic/country feel, and we both love wine.” Owner Janet Everett was welcoming, the location beautiful, and the wine tasted great. “I loved that we could get married in front of the barn, that Janet offered local cheese and a wine tasting while we got our pictures, and so many more things. The B&B is beautiful and I knew we would get great photos outside in the vines and by the buildings.”

From beach to barn, cliff to oceanside, Atlantic Canada certainly delivers stunning backdrops for couples who want a unique venue for their wedding.

Weddings at the winery—they hosted 22 last year—generally are held on the sitting courtyard with receptions in a 40x60 wedding tent. Everett says two bottles of wine selected by the couple (they offer a selection of 14, all at cost) are placed on tables. Popular with guests is that six hotels are within a kilometre. The winery’s B&B is often the honeymoon suite.

Rustic chic

On Newfoundland’s Baccalieu Trail, which has adopted a romance theme (think stunning views and towns with names like Cupids, Heart’s Content and Heart’s Desire), is the Doctor’s House Inn & Spa, a Tudor mansion in Green’s Harbour, an hour’s drive from St. John’s.

The 10-room inn, situated on 106 acres, was built more than 50 years ago as a private retreat by a doctor for his wife. Heading into only its second year offering weddings, it’s become a destination of choice with 25 scheduled for 2015.

“There is something so genuine and sincere about the property. When we drove there the first time and rounded the turn to see the white fences with the Newfoundland ponies, the beautiful trees and flowers giving the land all sorts of colours, and then met Rosie the goat, I was sold,” recalls Danielle DuChene (now Somerton), who wed Christian Somerton there last August.

“The barn is every ‘rustic-chic bride’s’ dream. It truly is. They kept the integrity of the structure and accented it with beautiful drapes to lead into the room and stunning chandeliers…. Without decorating at all it creates a perfect backdrop.” One side is almost completely windows and doors with sweeping views over Hopeall Bay.

They booked the entire inn, home to four Newfoundland ponies, as well as goats, sheep and chickens. Somerton says it felt like the whole property was theirs. “It allowed people to meet or catch up, and by reception time the whole wedding felt very tight-knit.” After the dance, all of the remaining celebrators walked along the magical lit path to the inn and closed the night out with some acoustic guitar and a sing-a-long.

Guests can also book eight ocean-front cottages on a sister property, says events manager Dana March. Or shuttles to St. John’s can also be arranged.

Over at Lester’s Farm Chalet in St. John’s, the wedding party has full use of charming grounds, including a wagon ride for the bridal party and a tour with Farmer Jim for unforgettable pictures with flower beds, rock walls and farm backdrop. The farm chalet can host 150 people for a sit-down meal, while a stand-up cocktail reception can accommodate 182 guests. Ceremonies can be performed in an outdoor tent or under the Japanese trellis. They use their own farm fresh vegetables in all their dishes, in whatever style of meal the couple wishes—from a formal hot served meal to a pig roast.

In western Newfoundland, Gros Morne’s beauty backdrops Neddies Harbour Inn in Norris Point, overlooking Bonne Bay and the Tablelands. Most weddings at the 15-room inn with its noted restaurant, the Black Spruce, have been simple, small nuptials, says manager Annette Parsons. “Many of our couples are looking for something different or they come here because of a special memory.”

Dramatic backdrops

In PEI, the Johnson Shore Inn near Souris is situated on 34 acres, on a kilometre-long road from the main road with stellar Gulf of St. Lawrence waterfront views.

“The red cliffs make a dramatic backdrop to the east and the west, bald eagles, harriers, a host of seabirds and dozens of hummingbirds provide an ongoing floor show,” say Dave Dixon and Mellanie Stephens, innkeepers since last May.

The inn has 12 rooms, all with water views. Marquis tents in the past have allowed seating for 125. Directly across from the inn is Prince Edward Distillery, a boutique operation making award-winning potato and blueberry vodkas and gin. Weddings can also incorporate fresh PEI lobster, seafood and local, organic beef, pork and produce.

Small and intimate

Stefanie and Kathleen Taylor tied the knot last August in the Edwin Jacobs Chapel at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, where they met and attended university.

“We are both Christians and wanted our wedding to be in a church, but most of the churches were too big for the intimate feeling we were going for. So we started looking at old churches and when we saw the chapel in a friend’s wedding photos, we knew we had found the right place. It was small, in a quiet corner of campus, and the simple design required no decorating,” says Stefanie.

Unique venues

Greg Jenkins and Christina Morgan got married last October inside the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site; they loved its unique character and sense of history.

The parade square, with its scenic Halifax Harbour views, was the setting for photos before moving into the north magazine for cocktails. Dinner was held in a spectacular 40x80 tent in the parade square courtyard, then the party moved on to four casement rooms, all connected, with arches and exposed brick, for the dance.

A lobster dinner, catered by an outside vendor, featured Nova Scotia wines and, in a nod to Jenkins’ Newfoundland heritage, a formal screech-in for guests to have the wedding couple kiss, celebrated an East Coast theme.

“Where else in Halifax can you be immersed within the 40-foot walls of a 19th century fort?” says Krista Lingley, Parks Canada promotions officer. “Add in any of the interpretation elements we offer: piper, guards, firing demonstrations, etc. and you can really take yourself back in time.”

Also in Nova Scotia, the Pictou Lodge Beach Resort has been making memories since 1926. For Jessica and Jordie Mann who wed there last September, it proved ideal.

“We fell in love with the lodge as it suited our theme perfectly,” Jessica says. “It was important to us to have everything take place in one spot so our guests wouldn’t have to travel between places and could choose to stay if they liked. Many stayed the weekend and made a nice vacation out of it.”

“Most wedding ceremonies overlook the ocean allowing a beautiful backdrop,” says event manager Amanda Smith. “Guests love the property and its quaint diversity, we have a private beach where guests can relax in a lounge chair or go for a swim in the Northumberland Strait.”

In Ingonish, Cape Breton, it’s easy to pinpoint the popularity of Keltic Lodge Resort & Spa, which hosts about 25 weddings a year. “The location,” says guest services manager Jill Hyndman. “Perched on a cliff with spectacular views of Cape Smokey, the Cape Breton Highlands and surrounding ocean. There are beautiful white sand beaches… the location is unrivalled in Nova Scotia and, in my opinion, most anywhere.”

“We have local artisans, locally crafted beer, Nova Scotia wines, local seafood including lobster. They fish for lobster below the very cliffs you are married on. In season, you can watch the fisherman tending their traps and if you choose a lobster dinner for the wedding or rehearsal dinner, that’s where your dinner will have been caught.”

Pond’s Resort on the Miramichi, an iconic New Brunswick fly-fishing destination, is a full-service, classic Miramichi River-style lodge offering wedding parties accommodations, dining overlooking the river and group events, like canoe trips, fly-fishing experiences and golf, says Marsha Pond.

At Blake and Michelle Pattison’s wedding last August, guests enjoyed glazed salmon caught on the Miramichi, stuffed chicken and fiddleheads that had been picked on the riverbanks. Molasses was set on each table to accompany the homemade bread, and each guest got individual s’mores. The Pattisons held their ceremony, dinner and dance at the lodge, and booked overnight cabins. The next day they sailed the river in Pond’s boats. “This was a spur-of-the-moment adventure and Pond’s was happy to accommodate us,” says Michelle. “I loved and savoured every moment of our wedding.”

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