ÀPropos Productions

Wedding and event planner

At ÀPropos Productions, we offer professional event production services that range from providing advice, to lending support in the execution of events or planning an entire affair from the ground up. Our mission: to enable those who trust us with their projects to meet their needs. Our open-portfolio services are built to be tailored to specific requests, ensuring a highly personalized experience.  We believe that our success is tied to helping our clients put together their perfect moment, whatever it may be.

ÀPropos of nothing... & the 'Zilla

‘Zilla proof your wedding

Congratulations on your engagement! This is the start of an exhilarating time; one filled with emotion, excitement and discovery. You’ll come out of it with a lifetime of precious memories and shared moments. And, believe me; those shared moments will end up being among the most potent and meaningful aspects of your wedding process. So what’s a gal or guy to do to make the most of it? The answer is always to invest in what’s important to you and your future spouse. If sharing this most joyous occasion with your favourite people is important to you, you will want to invest in those relationships and make sure that they’re at least intact by the time you get married. Are you wondering what I’m going on about?

It’s a delicate subject to approach, but a worthwhile one. Fortunes have been made in the entertainment industry from it. The most frequent question I get when I say that I’m a wedding planner, after “Oh, like Jennifer Lopez? “ (Um. No.) is “Do you often get Bridezillas?”

Nobody wants to go there, I know. But weddings can be a tad stressful for everyone involved and stress brings out the best in nobody. The ‘Zilla can sneak up on the most gentle and unsuspecting people, turning them into unpleasant, terrifying creatures.

What I’ve observed in my clients, over time, is that the lack of ‘Zilla Drama doesn’t come from luck, but from the behaviour that they chose to espouse. They created their happiness by thinking and acting in a way that made their family and bridal party want to be around them without feeling guilty or resentful. This is what they do:

They have realistic expectations

Dreaming big is great! This is a very special day, after all. But please keep in mind the chance that not everything will resemble your original vision and that you would do well to give yourself a reality check every now and then. Factors like your budget, location, people’s situation and the timing of your wedding will all contribute to the shaping of it. Keeping your expectations realistically aligned with those factors will avoid your being disappointed.

They hire a wedding planner

OK, so this is biased, coming from a wedding planner. But consider this: while I’m on the phone making sure that your flowers/cupcakes/chairs are being delivered at the right time/address/room, and setting up your ceremony/cocktail/dinner spaces, among a million other things, you, your family and your bridal party are relaxed and getting ready, languishing in each other’s company, indulging in a great snack and a glass of bubbly. No matter how well organized you are, there is still work to be done on the day of. Hiring outside help takes that pressure off your friends and family, and allows you to spend quality time together.

They put themselves in their attendant’s shoes

This is key. Yes, it’s YOUR big day. Hopefully, the bridal party you’ve chosen to stand with you will honour that. But if they fall a little short of your expectations (remember the chat we had about those?), the choices you have are a) to be annoyed and impose your every whim on them, or b) accept what they are willing to offer freely, within their limits and without coercion.

It’s very simple. Option A will most likely breed resentment and animosity. Not because they don’t love you, but for a plethora of reasons (personal/financial/family issues…) that may make it difficult for them to meet your expectations. Option B will find you surrounded by relaxed and comfortable attendants who don’t feel imposed on and who will be delighted to be there with you because you haven’t been unreasonable with them. In case you’re wondering what’s unreasonable, consider reading this, this and this. Yikes!

Quick tip: If you’re not sure where your friend stands on a wedding-related issue, just ask! At least you’ll know what you have to work with.

They make considerate decisions

These couples involve their bridal party as little or as much as each individual is willing and wanting to be involved.

  • They choose dresses and accessories that compliment their attendants’ bodies and make them feel comfortable.
  • They make sure that their bridal party doesn’t have to fend for itself to get around or to get fed and hydrated on the day of the wedding.
  • They think of details that affect the attendants: the weight of the bouquets they have to carry, the length of time they have to stand, whether they should chose light-coloured suits for hot days ect…
  • They account for them when planning the day’s schedule (5 AM hair appointments = cranky bridesmaids).
  • If their attendants are on a budget or living far away, they don’t make attendance to pre-wedding events mandatory. And as much as they would like to follow old traditions, they never loose sight of their friends behind those traditions, and are understanding of each one’s situation.

They take care of themselves

They eat properly, they exercise normally, and they keep non-wedding activities as an integral part of their lives. This makes them feel secure, healthy and confident, and keeps them from getting over-stressed and losing their cool with their bridal party (And their fiancé. And their parents. And their… you get the picture.).

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I’m not advocating that a couple should bend over backward to please their wedding party. In fact, if they are being unreasonable, they will make your life and wedding process miserable and that has to be dealt with as well. However, making sure that the people you chose to be around you on your special day are happy and comfortable is one of those investments that keeps on paying off.

Happy Engagement, and enjoy the ride!

ÀPropos of nothing and Art

So, here’s the thing. I love food. I love making it, eating it, dreaming about it and discussing its finer points. I made a decision, a long time ago, to avoid writing too much about restaurants because, well, how many times can you bore someone by waxing lyrical over the tastiness of a dish before it gets old? But in this case, I just can’t help myself. Here’s the scoop:

J and I took a little vacation to Myrtle Beach last November. One of our favourite things to do when travelling is to walk the streets, tasting our way around. We try to avoid touristy places as a rule so you can imagine our skepticism when we happened upon Art – Burger Sushi Bar, right on the boardwalk; the hub of the iconic family vacation town. Yet, it’s now January and we’re still talking about it.

Let’s begin with a snapshot of the experience. You walk in. Beautiful art adorns the walls. Something smells incredible. Despite the scarce low-season crowds everywhere else, this place is packed with locals. There is a local artist in one section of the restaurant working on her next oeuvre.  Everything is art-themed. There are plumes of white smoke dancing on the stark black bar. Following this smoke are the glistening and amused eyes of fully grown adults who are mesmerized by the frankly super cool activity happening at the far end of the bar, where owner Larry Bond is weaving magical concoctions of delicious drinks with liquid nitrogen.

Then there’s the food, but before I go down that rabbit hole, let me tell you about the team working in this room.

The chefs in the open kitchen look like they are dancing or sculpting masterpieces, not working. The bar and service staff made sure that we were comfortable and happy each and every moment we spent there. They were able to mix crazy weird drinks (PB & Jam shot!) as well as true classics like Old Fashioneds. They were knowledgeable, courteous, fun and able to make suggestions based on guest experience, not sales. Meanwhile, Larry manned mission control, surveying his canvas from the hostess area all the way to the beachfront door, his busy hands never once stopping, his tone never deviating from pleasant and calm, even when directing his staff. We watched his team respond to him with the urgency of soldiers and the demeanour of old friends. This man appears to be a pillar of calm on the surface, but a powerhouse just beneath.

From the moment we walked in, we were hooked. We ended up spending most nights there, indulging in their signature drinks and late-night menu. We found ourselves in conversation with a multitude of old colleagues and acquaintances of Larry’s, who had come to check out his new place. And boy, did they have a lot to say about him. As it turns out, this enigma of a restaurateur, beneath his relaxed surface, is a mentor, philanthropist, community figure and overall solid person. Just ask him about the concept behind this restaurant. (No, I’m not going to tell you about it. You MUST go and find out for yourself.)

So. The menu. I have no pictures of food to show you because once the plates came down, I forgot my own name, so I wasn't going to remember to take pictures. First off, nothing is over 13$, except some sake and wine bottles. The idea was to keep everything affordable, making Art an inclusive place for those who want to socialize without breaking the bank. “All of [their] chicken, beef, pork and turkey are responsibly raised, grass fed, hormone and antibiotic free”, claims the menu, while offering a website link enabling diners to learn more about Art’s partnership with ethical meat farms. Talk about accountability! Could that be why it felt so good to eat there? Could it be that the integrity, wholesome sense of social responsibility and generosity with which the establishment is run seep through the walls and permeate the very air that runs through it? Perhaps. That could very well be. All I can tell you is that it felt like home, but with better food and drinks and no dishes.

Now, let me tell you about the food. Fresh meat that’s ground onsite and cooked to your preferred doneness. Burger buns that must be whipped together from magic wheat are perfectly sized to carry what’s inside and accommodate just the right amount of yummy spillage.  Everything tastes great, from the waistline-friendly falafel burger aptly named Da Vinci, to the Duck-Fatty-Confit-Mushroomed-I’m-Going-To-Have-A-Heart-Attack-And-What-A-Way-To-Go Rembrandt burger.  I would go to great lengths to be able to enjoy their homemade mac and cheese, or BBQ sauce, right now.

Their appetizers are generous and hit the spot, sometimes in a familiar way, like with their bang-on fries, and sometimes in an unexpected way, like with their Chicken and Dumplings.

And then there was sushi. The first food item we ordered was Name your own roll. What better way to test a kitchen than to see what they can do with your favourite ingredients? The result was our ordering plate after plate of the best sushi I’ve ever had. There, I’ve said it.  We simply couldn’t get enough. Every piece of seafood was immaculately fresh and exquisite to taste. Being a sushi lover (ie snob), I’ve looked into technique and tradition around the art of sushi and can tell when people cut corners, which is often the case. I think that a traditional Japanese sushi chef would be pleased with what’s going on at Art. You can tell that they wash their rice, and you can tell that they cool it properly. They take care to create menu items with ingredients that compliment each other, not those that act as fillers. And their Out of the Box sushi items are astonishingly, painfully delicious.

And I’ll stop here. I don’t want to say too much about the menu and the drinks because part of the experience is the wonder you’ll feel over and over again as your visit progresses. I’m willing to bet the bank that the summer of 2015 will see crowds of beachcombers fighting to get into Art so that they can enjoy their crazy frozen drinks (or the coldest beer in the world!) and deserts, incredible food and the unconceited, fun vibe.

Good luck to Larry and the gang. We can’t wait to visit you again soon.

ÀPropos of nothing and a great Christmas party

December 3rd was Ottawa Life Magazine's annual Christmas party.

Held at the fabulous Orange Gallery's new City Centre location, this event was so much fun to work on that I find myself sheepishly hoping that guests had as good a time partying as I did working.

Thank you:
Orange Gallery for hosting us. What a great venue! If you haven't been yet, please drop in. You'll be amazed by the old charm of the building and the varied and wonderfully-curated art.

Essence Catering for feeding us. Chef Jason Laurin and his team blew us away with their delicious and generous offerings. Note: they are also an event planner's dream. Contact me if you want to know more.

Muskoka Brewery for hopping to the occasion. They served us a delicious selection of pure, unfiltered craft beers. More, please!

Southbrook Vineyards for wine-ing us as we dined with their "Connect" and "Triomphe" lines which, by the way, are organic. Score!

Sweeter by the Dozen for sprinkling a dusting of sugar magic. Their mini-cupcakes and beautifully tasty takeaway cookies were a hit.

Kristine St-Pierre and Simon Poirier Lachance (on cajon) for serenading us. Kristine's talent is undeniable and we have no doubt that you'll see her and her band more and more often.

MDRN Photobooth Co. for entertaining us. I could bore you with less than eloquent words like "cool" and "fun", or I could just show you this.

Sam and Dan, our two lovely bartenders, for keeping guests hydrated (or whatever you want to call it). They are graduating from the Algonquin College's School of Hospitality & Tourism and we were lucky to have them on board for the evening. Good luck, gentlemen!

Cody Party Centre, Ottawa South, for equipping us with good quality party gear and dependable service.

Finally, a great big thank you to the staff at Ottawa Life Magazine. Mariana, Marie, Madelaine, Sandra, Katie, and of course, Alessandra. What a great team to work with!


À Propos of nothing & Special Dances

Whether you’ve always dreamt of the moment or it’s just a custom that you want observed at your wedding, the Special Dances segment of the evening needs some careful planning.

Family dynamics and logistical hassles can make it a stressful task and, what’s more, once you’ve figured out timing, order and who-knows-what-else, you still have to pick the song! Ouch. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind, so that you can actually enjoy yourselves.

Phase I – Decisions Decisions

1. What do your parents want? What do your In-Laws want?

Determine people’s wants and needs. You might be giving them a tremendous gift with minimal investment by having them participate in the wedding through Father-Daughter/Mother-Son (and any permutation thereof) dances.

2. Most importantly, what do YOU, the couple, want?

Determine which dances, if any at all, are important to you. If both you and your families are not very excited by this tradition, you’re allowed to nix it altogether.
Once that decision is made, take a moment to think about whether you have any particular songs that you would like to dance to. Any heartstrings being pulled? Any memories being stirred?

At the end of Phase I, you should have:
  • A decision about which, if any, Special Dances you will have at your wedding. Go ahead, write them down! Email your spouse or parents about them. It’ll be one thing off your to-do list.
  • An idea of whether or not you have particular songs in mind. If you do, include them in the List of Things Related to Your DJ (if you don’t have one of those, get on it!).

Phase II - Research

If Phase I left you with the knowledge that you’re missing some or all of your Special Dances songs, you might want to consider this little exercise:

1. Open your mind and your notebook

It’s still early in the planning. Listen to lots of music over the next few months, over dinner, while you’re driving, doing chores, at the gym etc... Your ears and heart will tell you once that special song comes on. Are you hit by one of Oprah’s “Aha Moments” when The Turtle’s Happy Together comes on? Get to your notepad or email as quickly as you can (NOT, repeat, NOT WHILE YOU’RE DRIVING!) and make yourself a note that’ll be really easy to find later on.  I’m a fan of sending myself emails with a dummy-proof subject line (wedding songs, for example).

2. Get searching

Too much on your mind? Out of inspiration? We all know that The Interwebs provide a plethora of advice and ideas. Here are a few ideas and lists that were garnered within exactly 56 seconds of searching:

From the classic
Like here
Here
And here

The most popular

The unique

The cringe-free

Mother-Son Dance songs
Here
And here

Father-Daughter Dance songs
From here
And here

Now. Block off 30 minutes with your partner. 
Print (sorry, trees) this document and grab two pens.
Open a whole bunch of music lists.
Brew a cup of something hot or make yourselves some cocktails.
Settle in and be ready to listen, laugh, gag etc. Use this as a chance to have fun together!
Start the clock.
Go over as many songs as you can and mark down which songs you either really love or hate on your own separate sheets. Also make a couple of choices that you can tolerate. Mark them down on that form!
Now tick off which category they belong to.
After 30 minutes, STOP 
Compare notes. Write down which choices you have in common.

At the end of this phase, you should have a maximum of 5 choices per Special Dance that you both love.

Phase III – Verify

Congrats! You have some viable options!
Now, let’s run a couple of tests that will avoid hassle and awkwardness.

1. Length

Does the song go on and on? Two minutes is quite a long time, so make sure to keep song choices short.  If your favourite tune is too long, see if there is a spot where you can fade it out (ie lower the volume gradually). Yes, you can ask your DJ to edit it, but that might a) cost you extra and b) cause some technical issues.

2. Meaning

Is this the song that your mother-in-law shared with her ex? Is it going to be difficult for her to sit through it, or worse, dance through it in front of a bunch of people?
I’m not saying that you should let your song choices be dictated by others. But, as the hosts of this momentous event, you might want to consider people’s feelings and how they might impact your evening.

3. Content

You know that song you love? Well, you love the chorus but have never really paid attention to the rest of it... Yeah, that one! Sounds like a promising choice!
Just be warned, you might be surprised by some weird or even offensive lyrics that you’ve just never paid attention to before. Consider your crowd, and the tone of your event.
Case in point…
I love the song Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrisson. It makes for a cute Father-Daughter song.
In theory. 
Until the words “Making love in the Green Grass” are blasted loud and clear while you're dancing in your father's arms...
Don’t get me wrong, if that song means the world to you, and you don’t care what the lyrics are, all the power to you! Music, after all, is meant to inspire what’s within us.
But if you think you (or your poor, unsuspecting Dad) might be uncomfortable, then you might want to listen to the whole song before selecting it. Look up the lyrics too because, well, you just never know.
That ought to cut a few choices from your list!


Phase IV – Plan

Now that you’ve narrowed it down, take a look at the order you want to have your dances in. Then see how the songs flow together. Ask your DJ or MC for advice, as they are the pros and can provide some really useful insight.

Phase V – Practice

Take your soon-to-be-spouse for a whirl around your living room, preferably in your wedding shoes. See how it feels. Is the tempo too slow/fast? Are you comfortable dancing through the whole song? Are you relaxed? Are you able to enjoy each other’s company?
If you've answered yes to all of those questions, you're ready.

Always remember
Clarify song choices with your DJ, performer etc. Write them down somewhere. If you're providing the music files yourself, have backups and put your songs in the order in which you want them played. Dummy-proofing is always the way to go.

Now, go dance the night away!
 

Manners Monday - Hosting a Wedding

Wedding planning is tough. So much to do. So many options. So many lists! So little time...

According to WeddingBells.ca, Canadian couples expect to spend $31,685 on their weddings in 2014 and one can only imagine how many hours are spent squinting into a smart phone, trying to decide which flower will be the perfect shade of purple... So, honestly, it's normal to loose sight of certain things as the planning progresses.

Unfortunately, guests can sometimes be forgotten too. We get so wrapped up in making everything perfect (and worth that price tag!) that we forget to do our first duty as hosts; making sure that guests are not only wowed by how amazing everything is, but, most importantly, that they are well taken care of.

Here are a few things to remember. And if there's something you're not sure about, ask someone who knows. Chances are that you're not alone in wondering about it.

Monday Manners in Weddings.png

Manners Monday

OK, good people. I’ve been doing a lot of observing lately and I have to ask: where are our manners?

We constantly check our phones at the dinner table, interrupt each other while we’re speaking, let doors slam shut behind us and generally behave as though we’re alone in the world. And what about while eating? I’ve seen so much half-chewed food dancing around in people’s mouths to last me a lifetime. We go about the act of living, interacting and eating without a shred of consciousness and the results are pretty frightening. I’m not saying this because I’m some sort of high-browed etiquette princess. But rather, I realize that we’re forming some pretty bad habits which, in my case at least, are proving difficult to correct. Hello, sloucher!

I’m realizing that we spend too much time inhaling our meals in front of the TV, at our computer or on the run. Since TVs and computers don’t care about our manners, we get used to lowering our self-control. The result is that those bad habits will follow us to moments when appearing like slobs will directly impact our future: business lunches, galas, meeting the parents etc…

Go ahead, call me an old-fashioned snob. But I’m not talking archaic and complicated rules of court etiquette, here. I’m talking elbows on the dinner table, speaking while chewing, food teetering perilously at the edge of mouths. And you know what? Just because we aren’t dining with royalty every day, it doesn’t mean that we should just forego the little bit of basic self control that says to those around us: hey dude, I respect you and will put a little effort into controlling my desires to (for example) scratch the inside of my nose while standing in front of you. Not only is it the considerate thing to do, but the little bit of effort it takes to have some self-control and discipline in a low-stakes situation actually makes us practice being disciplined for when we really need it. Like at our wedding, when 250 people are watching us eat... yikes!

So I’m taking the gigantic risk of appearing like a snotty know-it-all and will publish, AND practice, some tips and tricks on manners that will hopefully remind us all, myself first, to put in a little bit of daily effort into minding our manners.