From pop-up weddings to exotic elopements, Toronto millennials approach marriage differently

They're young and they're in love. They just "aren't into" spending big money on a traditional ceremony, one local wedding planner says.

More young couples looking for intimate, low-stress and affordable weddings

Melissa and Ian Wrohan, left, went all the way to French Polynesia to get married, while Stephanie Murray and Bryan Parr, right, threw a surprise wedding in a London, Ont. backyard. (SV Photograph/Mango Studios )

Wearing a white dress, Laurence Beauchesne, 25, walks down the aisle as the band plays Can't Take My Eyes Off of You.

Joe Skopec, 28, wearing a navy suit and big smile, waits for her at the end.

Moments later they say their vows and seal them with a kiss. "It's just incredible. Very excited! Very happy," the bride says, minutes after the ceremony ends.

Then, after drinks and hugs with their guests, their hour is up, and the next happy couple takes over a pop-up wedding chapel at Toronto's Drake Hotel.

By the end of this February day, eight couples will say "I do" in the same space. And those who keep an eye on the world of weddings are seeing more inventive ceremonies like this. 

Laurence Beauchesne, 25, and Joe Skopec, 28, were one of eight couples to get married at a pop-up wedding chapel at Toronto's Drake Hotel. (Makda Ghebreslassie/CBC News )

Beauchesne and Skopec, who live in Kitchener, Ont., landed on the idea of a pop-up wedding after trying to plan a traditional affair.  

"It was just getting very stressful and very overwhelming," Beauchesne told CBC Toronto. "I wasn't having nearly any fun. My mom is the one who heard about this pop-up wedding. We thought it was the perfect idea for us."

For $1,999, the package included a band, photographer, officiant and flowers. Meanwhile, Weddingbells Magazine pegs the average cost of a wedding in Canada at around $28,000.

"My friends always make fun of me — 'Joe would find a wedding on clearance' — [but] I didn't even find this," Skopec said with a laugh.

From pop-up weddings to exotic elopements, Toronto millennials approach marriage differently. 2:26

'Sign me up'

Sharan Dhami, 30, and Dave Rosenblat, 31, also got married that day and know all about expensive weddings.

Last summer, they had two religious ceremonies, only to find out later they didn't have a proper marriage certificate.

"We were told that the venue we had our first wedding at, they were actually able to get the marriage licence. So we assumed that was correct. It turns out it wasn't," said Rosenblat.

Sharan Dhami, 30, and Dave Rosenblat, 31, already had a Sikh and Christian wedding ceremony last summer, but after a paperwork problem they wound up doing it again at a pop-up wedding chapel. (Makda Ghebreslassie)

The third time was the charm, and the couple says the pop-up ceremony was not only legal but proved to be less stressful, as well.

"You're telling me I just have to do my hair, makeup and just show up? Sign me up," said Dhami. 

Lynzie Kent, of Love By Lynzie Events + Design, organized the pop-up wedding and says she already has a waiting list for the next one.

"The majority of the people who are signing up for the chapel are definitely between the late 20s to early 30s age range, but we've had couples up to 70 years old," she said.

Kent says there's plenty of reasons younger people are opting for pared-down weddings.

"It's so expensive to be a young couple in the city these days," she said.

"If you want to buy a home, if you want to travel a lot, people just don't see the value of investing a ton of money into a wedding. Some people just aren't into it."

Surprise weddings

Stephanie Murray and Bryan Parr are another couple who took the plunge in a surprising way.

The London, Ont., couple had already booked a venue and photographer for a destination wedding on Prince Edward Island, but the planning process proved to be too daunting.

"It just wasn't reflective of our personalities, really," said Murray. "The things that were important to us was a dance party and all of our friends and family."

So after ditching their original plans they had a surprise August backyard wedding. 

Stephanie Murray and Bryan Parr estimate they saved between $20,000 and $40,000 by having a backyard wedding. (Mango Studios)

Their parents and siblings knew, along with a few friends that had to fly in, but most of the 140 guests thought they were simply attending an engagement party. 

After saying their vows under a tree, the couple turned to face friends and family who were "throwing high fives out and some people were eating tacos from the food truck and had drinks and it was just very relaxed," said Parr.

"It's exactly how we envisioned it," added Murray. 

Weddings 'evolving'

Alison McGill, the editor-in-chief of Weddingbells Magazine, said she's seeing more surprise events like this.

"Weddings are evolving," she said. "They're becoming hyper-personalized. With millennials, they're not afraid to mix it up."

That includes getting married at non-traditional times.

"We're seeing lunch weddings or brunch weddings. We're seeing weddings done on a Wednesday or Thursday," McGill said.

She also says couples aren't taking as much time to plan their weddings.

Murray and Parr pulled their event together in just two months, although Murray admits that required some luck.

Exotic elopements

Amy Bielby, the editor of Today's Bride and Destination Wedding magazines says she's envious of the options available to couples today.

"Before, people were doing very cookie-cutter type ideas. Everybody's wedding looked the same. My wedding looked the same as my friends' — but now we're throwing out the playbook, and you can just do what you want," she said.

One trend she'll feature in an upcoming edition is elopements to exotic locations.

Amy Bielby says the next edition of Destination Wedding will feature couples who got married on Moorea, an island in French Polynesia, and Santorini, Greece. (Kimon Kaketsis/SV Photograph )

"You're not eloping to Vegas and to the little white chapel," she said.

"These people are at the bottom of volcano. There's the couple, a volcano, the jungle, their officiant and the photographer."

Bielby said many of these weddings are well thought out and focus on the happy couple's experience.

"It's another way to make your vows unique. You got married in a rainforest alone with just the sounds of the rainforest behind you. That's beautiful."

About the Author

Makda Ghebreslassie

CBC Toronto reporter

Makda is a CBC Video-Journalist, who from time to time fills in as TV news anchor and a newsreader on Here and Now and Fresh Air. She worked in newsrooms in Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and Windsor before moving back home to Toronto.