Q&A: Francesca Conte dishes on her dream fairy-tale wedding at The Doctor’s House
Publishing professional Francesca Conte met her husband, James Bodanis, a former professional football player who now works in tech, more than a decade ago, when they were both 19. It was a mutual friend’s Halloween party, and James asked Francesca to play a game of foosball. Francesca was immediately smitten by his sense of humour, and was thrilled when he friended her on Facebook the following day. After dating for nine years (three of which were long distance while James was playing football in Michigan and Montreal), they decided they wanted to get married in the fall of 2019, and designed a custom salt-and-pepper diamond ring together. James proposed one evening before a Dave and Buster’s date night. “He swivelled around on a La-Z-Boy chair in my parents’ living room with the ring in his hand and said, ‘Hey, could you do me a favour? Will you be with me forever?’”
We caught up with Francesca about the planning process, and what made the day so special.
Tell us about your vision for the day.
We were dating for so long that my idea of what our wedding would look like changed throughout the years. I knew I wanted something rustic, but not at a barn. We’re both really into fantasy and The Lord of the Rings, so I wanted it to feel like an elven garden fairy tale. I found a picture on Pinterest of a bridal party with these autumnal bouquets and just ran with it. It felt very us. I wore a champagne dress, and the floral accents from Coriander Girl had gold leaves and pampas grasses. We filled the room with greenery and earthy tones—we wanted guests to feel like they had entered into our little storybook.
How did you decide on The Doctor’s House?
We both wanted a smaller, more intimate wedding, and had been looking at a ton of fancy rooms in Toronto that we’d have to put together from scratch. My sister recommended The Doctor’s House, and as soon as we saw the Garden Room, one of their smaller spaces, we knew it was perfect. I remember walking in and feeling like we were in a book. We saw it before renovations, but once they were done it was even more gorgeous. They added crystal chandeliers and made it slightly swankier, while still retaining the cozy, homey feel and honouring the venue’s history.
What was your favourite part of the venue?
We wanted our wedding to tell a story, and the venue was a huge part of that. All the pieces—from the bookshelves to the chapel to the gardens—felt like we had entered something more than just a venue. We loved that we had grounds full of trees and flowers that made you feel like you were somewhere far away, yet still close to home.
After they renovated our room, they brought back a bunch of painted portraits from the 1800s, which gave the room such a rich, historic feel. The fact that the Garden Room was so intimate was a huge selling point for us. We only had 90 people there, and the furthest person never felt more than an arm’s length away. It felt like you were at a celebration in someone’s home—albeit an extremely beautiful one! Even now I’m getting butterflies thinking about it.
Tell us about a few standout moments:
Entering the room for the first time was an incredible experience. Seeing our vision come to life and the details come together so beautifully took my breath away. The food was also amazing. Our goal was to have a bit of everything to cater to all our guests. There was a plate of casarecce in vodka sauce with mushroom risotto, followed by beef tenderloin, chicken supreme and seafood in a beurre blanc sauce. My father, someone with a pickier palate, was raving about it all night. He told me, “It was amazing. You don’t like beef? Have the chicken! Don’t like chicken? Have the fish! I had them all.”
The speeches were also an emotional moment for James and me. I’m supposed to be the sensitive one, with an English degree, so James felt a bit of pressure. But he blew me away, and said the most beautiful things about us and our families. His speech was much better than mine! Everyone sees his funny side a lot, but I loved that our guests were able to see the sincere and sensitive side, too. Our DJ, Michael Leeking from Impact DJ, threw on “Tale as Old as Time” from Beauty and the Beast at one point and everyone started crying on the dance floor.
To learn more about planning a wedding at The Doctor’s House, visit thedoctorshouse.ca.