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Vancouver Harpist

Wait a second… I don’t think that’s how that saying goes. After having been the “entertainment” at about 500 weddings, it was a nice change for me to experience being on the other side, as the bride!

I was never one of those girls who always imagined her wedding day and who had it fully planned in my head.  I must admit however, that after playing at so many, I had thought to myself: I wonder if I will ever get married? Who will it be to? If a wedding is in my future, I will certainly be choosing a dress I can dance in!

Luckily for me, my Prince Charming stepped into my life and I am grateful for him every day.  He is thoughtful, kind, perceptive, caring, honourable, loving and the list goes on. We laugh every single day and I love the way we navigate through our discussions and plan for our future.

When we decided to get married and we started planning, we decided that the best place to have the celebration was at my parents’ farm in Manitoba. That way, the small group of people we were going to invite could all basically stay very close and we could make it a weekend event.

Almost all of the planning was relatively easy to do (thanks Mom!) and we thought we had everything under control…until 5 inches of rain fell in the 2 days prior, completely soaking the already wet grass right where we had pitched the party tent. The night before the arrival of all our guests, about 6 of us were standing in the tent, feet soaked in muddy water and it was clear something needed to be done. The next morning, my family and very close friends woke up early to head to the lumber yard (the only business in town) to get 70 sheets of plywood an entire pallet of 4×4’s and a zillion screws. We all spent the next many hours building a floor in the huge tent so that we would have a solid and dry surface to dance on.  Check out this video my sister made to see what happened:

As the limo bus arrived with our out of town guests, my family put the finishing touches on the walkway. The floor turned out amazingly and I still can’t quite believe that we were able to make it happen. I am so incredibly grateful for it and chuckle back at the thought that we didn’t want anyone to do any work whatsoever; never mind building almost 2500 square feet of tent floor!

The next morning was the wedding!

The guys got ready at my grandparents’ house:
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Vancouver Harpist's WeddingHarp EventsMeanwhile, in my parents’ house, a lot of the women were getting their hair and makeup done:

Winnipeg Harp

And then came my turn to slip on my dress.

I ended up getting ready in my parent’s room with them and my sister which ended up being a really beautiful moment in the day that we are really grateful for. With all the running around that had happened, it was our 15 minutes to just be with each other. It was very special to all of us as we are a really close family and it was so special to have that time together on such a momentous occasion.

Vancouver Wedding HarpistVancouver Musician Singer SongwriterAlso at that time, I opened Toby’s card. He is a very sentimental and thoughtful person. It only took me 4 tries to get through it without tears.

harp singerSome finishing touches, and… off we go.

Vancouver MusicianToby and I had discussed if we were going to see each other before the wedding or not. We asked family to weigh in on the matter and it really opened my eyes to how important tradition is to people; those you would expect to want to keep with long-held customs and those you wouldn’t. Their opinions gave me a lot of perspective about what other couples must face when dealing with cross-cultural differences or even just variations of opinion. Marriage celebrations, and the ritual associated with them, can be a very big deal to the loved ones of the couple! I found it important to take their feelings into account during the planning process but to stay true to what we envisioned as well.

In the end, we decided to see each other prior to the ceremony so that our guests wouldn’t have to wait between the ceremony and reception (and so we could get a handle on our emotions!). A lot of people were very sentimental about our wedding so it was nice to at least see each other briefly beforehand so we could compose ourselves some and feel more comfortable making that walk down the aisle:
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Vancouver MusicWedding HarpThis post would not do the day justice if I didn’t mention the crazy weather.  The day of our ceremony, many friends from around Manitoba said that they were thinking of us. They knew that the bulk of the weekend’s events were outdoors and it was pouring all over the province; while we were getting dressed the radio warning system announced that three tornados had developed (one not even that far from where we were!).  This huge cloud pictured below graced us with its presence 10 minutes before the ceremony but decided to play nice. It sure made for some striking photos.

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The time for the start of the ceremony came quickly.  It was a very special moment which ended up being very emotional for many – it was beautiful. We didn’t have any bridesmaids or groomsmen, because all of the people attending are extremely special to us.

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I remember when I was a little girl, my Dad talked about how walking his daughters down the aisle was going to be a massive milestone for him and one he was both looking forward to and dreading. It was a very happy and powerful moment, for the two of us and many others…something I won’t ever forget.

J&T 0318So, what does a girl who’s played at 500 weddings do for music at her own? She hires one of her greatest friends, Jeannine, to perform!

In fact, there is no other person in this world that I envisioned playing at my wedding. Her and I have played a lot together over the years, all the way back to when I was small. We connect on both a personal level and on a musical one; it meant so much to me to have her there.
Wedding MusicDuring the ceremony, my little cousins walked down the aisle for us, as flower girl and ring bearers. My sister Kara officiated, my Mom and Toby’s parents each offered a reading, my cousin Kailyn passed along the rings and Toby’s siblings Jeff and Sally signed for us.  We wanted this to be a family participation kind of wedding!

Vancouver WeddingWedding MusicHaving my sister officiate was really important to me. We are very close and the decision felt totally right to both Toby and I.  She did an amazing job and I couldn’t be more grateful that she married us.
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I’m not sure why we put so much rice in the containers but it ended up being hilarious. I wouldn’t be surprised if a rice paddy starts growing on my Dad’s beautiful lawn in the spring!
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OMusician Weddingne of the reasons why we chose to get married this past summer and on the farm was because my grandpa George had not been doing well for quite some time; we wanted to be sure to have him attend.  We are so happy that he was able to be there with us at the ceremony.  He got to see the following picture a week before he passed away. He laughed when I told him that he looked like the Godfather with his son and grandson behind him, looking like hitmen bodyguards while Toby shook his hand.  A handshake to seal the acceptance of Toby into “the family” perhaps? I am so glad that my Pere was able to be there.

The Godfather

What to do at the end of a wedding ceremony? Celebrate!

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The whole gang!

Vancouver MusicA huge reason why we kept our wedding so small was because we wanted to focus on our families. With life being as busy as it is for everyone, we aimed to visit with each person and not be in a rush.  We also wanted our families and friends from far away to get to know one another at least a little bit anyway. One of my greatest treasures from the weekend is having these family photos.Harp VancouverHarp Show

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Like mother, like daughters.

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When one doesn’t have a wedding limo, a golf cart proves to be even better. My cousin and his girlfriend surprised us with it!
Harp ShowIt was important to me that everyone could see and be a part of the whole evening so we placed our tables in a U shape with simple decor.
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We placed our immediate family at our sides and my Dad was our emcee. I was quite adamant that the speeches were going to be from our parents and us but then people started taking the mic and sharing lovely stories and well-wishes which ended up being so beautiful and so special. We laughed and we cried and it was one of those moments that you can’t plan which ends up being better than anything you could have imagined.

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Vancouver SingerEvent MusicWeddingWedding VendorWedding PlanningCorporate EntertainmentHarp Show It was so great to see everyone we love so much having such a good time.  The festivities continued to the dance floor where Toby and I started with a slow dance for about a minute and then broke into the routine from Napoleon Dynamite.  This was Toby’s idea, not mine, but I am so glad we did it. It was worth it just to hear everyone scream and to set the tone for what ended up being a dance-filled party until the wee hours of the morning kind of evening.

Wedding VendorWedding PartyOur father-daughter dance was to an Alan Jackson song that my family and I used to dance to as kids, every Sunday morning with the music cranked up super loud. We danced together for 15 seconds before my sister jumped in and then immediately the party got started! Vancouver Event

Corporate Function Entertainment
I am so grateful for all the work that everyon put into making our day so memorable and extraordinary.  Everyone says that your wedding day goes by so quickly, but thankfully for us, we really felt like we had so many special moments throughout the weekend. We really were lucky to be able to take the to soak up all the love and happiness that were surrounded by.
So many people have asked us if anything has changed since we got married.  Our lives and daily routines are still the same but our perspectives have definitely changed.  We now have this deep sense of comfort in knowing that he now has a wife and I a husband. OMG!
We are also so happy and honoured to have spent such precious time with the people we love.  We were reminded how lucky we are to have the health, happiness, love, friendship and trust of the many amazing people in our lives. These are bonds and relationships that are fragile and sometimes hard to find and we are so grateful to everyone who made the effort to come and of course to those who went way above and beyond to lend a helping hand or three!

The weddings I have played since I got married myself have left me feeling very warm inside as I now see these gatherings from another perspective. I admit that I didn’t always fully understand each wedding or some decisions the couples I have played for made, but now I know that none of that is important.  The things that do matter are the couple cherishes each other, the families that have loved and supported them all the way up to that day, the joining of friends and family for a lifetime event and all those special hugs, comments, I love you’s and every other little detail. It certainly helps to make you realize what life is really all about.

Singer songwriter eventsThank you to all of our wonderful friends and family for all of their hard work, energy and love but especially to:
My parents – without them, this wedding really wouldn’t be possible. They worked so hard to get the yard ready and bought all the decorations. My Mom fed everyone all weekend! I’ve really got some pretty amazing family.
My sister – without her, we wouldn’t officially be married and for all of her hard work.

My Uncle Deano – for his mastermind/project coordination work on the tent floor.

Everyone who worked on our floor – without them we would have been dancing in the mud. (I am still shocked and amazing that this happened and how wonderful you all were with making it so).

Elke – without her our tent would have not looked nearly as amazing as it did with her decorating.

Also a big thank you to our amazing friends and family who flew or drove to be with us on our wedding day.It wouldn’t have been the same without

A big thanks as well to our amazing vendors, especially:
Jeannine Guyot for her beautiful playing and singing. She can be reached at: For links of her playing, visit: Jeannine’s solo playing and singing and here with her Guyot Musical Trio. If you are in Manitoba, contact her for your next event!
Jessica Stuart-Crump for her amazing designs on all our invitations, for her friendship and for coming a day early to help out with everything. She continues to do work for a large company you all know so you’ve likely seen her work all about. If you need anything designed, contact her!
Love Laugh Cakes for our amazing desserts. She is as sweet and professional as her creations!
Bisou Bridal for my beautiful dress.
Deseo Bistro for our lovely and delicious food.
Two Chicks and a Bag of Makeup for their amazing makeup for our families.
Sandy & Jen from Edward Cariere for the beautiful hair they did on the ladies!

Last but not least, we would not have this blog and the beautiful photographic memories without the stunning work of Mairen from Lucky Girl Photography. She also helped us hire her friend Jesse who took video of our day which we love as well. Check him out: Jesse Vanderhart. You guys were wonderful! Thank you!!

One of the best things about my career is the diversity it affords.  As I reflect on this past year, I realize that my work has varied greatly throughout. From releasing my debut CD, to solo shows, wedding ceremonies & receptions, to large and small ensembles, choirs & orchestras and everything else in-between I am always up to something. On top of all that, one cannot overlook all the business & marketing side that needs my attention too!  Lately, my harp and I are out of the house about 3-5 times a week for performances and I am constantly working on new and exciting projects.  Sometimes I get overwhelmed by all there is to keep on top of, but in these moments of reflection I am reminded of how fortunate I am to be doing what I love.

This Saturday marks the end of this year’s wedding season and I would like to take the time to share with you some of my most memorable experiences from this year’s nuptials.

A highlight for me was working with so many fabulous couples.  The pictures below are from one of my favourite weddings this year, mostly because of Angie, AN amazingly sweet bride who wedded her partner Adam at the Vancouver Art Gallery. This ended up being the perfect setting for a modern and exquisite couple.

Here is the lovely couple walking out:

Photography by Tomasz Wagner

This couple did a great job with their decor, they hired fabulous people and it was very cool to watch their guests move around in the unique space.

I also had many requests for songs  to play on the harp this year. Here is a list of my Top 5 well-known favourites for a live wedding playlist:

1.  Can’t Help Falling In Love – Elvis
2. Here Comes The Sun – The Beatles
3. What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
4. Just the Way You Look Tonight – Frank Sinatra
5. Unchained Melody – Elvis

Vancouver Harp Weddings

These are my top 5 favourite things about the weddings I play at:

1. When everyone is happy.  Yes, it’s simple but true!  It is so easy for me to see when people are happy and supportive and I love it when they are.
2. When, at the end of the aisle, the father hugs his daughter and then the groom.  It is such a sweet moment.
3. When the couple has hired a supportive and experienced team of vendors.  Every moment is seamless, effortless and executed the way it was planned.
4. When couples write their own vows.  I know this is not everyone’s cup of tea but those are the ones that I love the most as they are so unique and special.
5. When the couple incorporates special details.  This can be anything from a familial or cultural tradition, to lighting a candle to symbolize the presence of those who could not attend.  These are the moments and touches that make the day unique and meaningful.
Vancouver Wedding Harpist

I started playing weddings at 13 years old and I believe I have played around 800 to date. As you can imagine, I now have quite a few stories as a result! So many celebrations have been incredibly beautiful and some have made last impressions for all kinds of reasons.

I have started a list of don’t’s which I am calling “Etiquette by Janelle.”  Below are the first 10 and after that, I will be posting a new one to the list every Friday on my Facebook and Twitter. Each post will be accompanied by the hashtag: #EtiquttebyJanelle. These posts are meant to be entertaining, tongue-in-cheek and perhaps some readers will learn a valuable lesson or two and avoid any potential aftermath!

Here are the first 10 “Etiquette by Janelle” tips:

No 1. Always practice walking in your gown before the wedding day. You don’t want to look or feel uncomfortable.
No 2. If I am given a three page itinerary, just for myself when I show up, you’ve gone too far with the micro-managing.
No 3. If I am wearing my sunglasses outside, it’s because I need to see my strings and music. Don’t worry, it won’t effect anything!
No 4. If it rains, I absolutely cannot have my harp outside without adequate cover. And no, a tiny umbrella just won’t work.
No 5. Take the plastic off the flowers before you walk down the aisle.
No 6. The base of my harp is not a stool to elevate yourself to get a picture.
No 7. Do research on your vendors so you can have peace of mind and be sure that you can fully revel in your day without worrying.
No 8. Touching or testing out my harp is not ok just because I had to step away for two minutes.
No 9. My harp column is probably the worst place in the whole venue to put down your drink.
No 10. Last but not least, this day is a big one. Enjoy it!

Tune in to my social media to hear more tips from a Vancouver harpist!

Thank you for reading my blog!

Photography by Tomasz Wagner

All photographs on this blog post taken by: Thomasz Wagner.