Bridal belle

Amanda O'Reilly runs a concierge and wedding service at Weddings InStyle. Photo by Chris Mikula, The Ottawa Citizen.

Seven years ago, Amanda O’Reilly quit her job in high-tech and opened up a personal concierge business called Balance InStyle, helping busy executives and ordinary overworked people juggle all of the details in life, from assembling furniture to organizing parties.

Some four years later, O’Reilly, who is also a licensed wedding officiant, opened a 2,000-square foot loft-like venue in the ByWard Market, big enough to hold a wedding ceremony for up to 100 guests and the reception to boot.

O’Reilly and her “right-hand” helper Jillienne Currie, also an officiant, stickhandle the details, from taking care of the gratuities to ordering a cake. If nonna wants to make the cake and you want do-it-yourself flowers, that’s fine, too.

“It’s for people who want to enjoy their day, and not have to worry about the minutia and the stress,” says O’Reilly, who now has a full-time staff of four, including herself.

The new business filled a niche in the Ottawa wedding ecosystem — a place to hold a ceremony that flows seamlessly into an intimate reception. The venue, with its brick walls and hardwood floors, is sleek yet warm, and can be reconfigured because everything except the kitchen is movable.

The average Weddings InStyle event is about 50 guests. That’s much bigger than a city hall ceremony, which allows only seven people in the room, but it’s smaller than most receptions.

The business grew by word of mouth. Even the courthouse started to refer couples looking for something more romantic than a quick ceremony in front of a portrait of the Queen, says O’Reilly.

“I think you want to go to the courthouse to apply for a divorce, not to get married.”

Weddings InStyle has attracted rave reviews locally and internationally. It won best small venue in Ottawa, in Ontario and in Canada and third in the world in the Wedding Industry Experts Awards, as well as gaining “expert status” based on peer reviews.

It also won a Bride’s Choice Award three years in a row from WeddingWire, which has reviews of more than 200,000 vendors in North America.

O’Reilly never intended to get into the wedding industry, but realized her skills as a concierge and her network of contacts from caterers to florists translated into the business of helping people get hitched.

“We’re like a wedding concierge,” says O’Reilly, who says the wedding industry is like “a shark tank” and is always prepared to help couples adapt their plans to meet their budget.

In the past year, Weddings InStyle has handled about 100 weddings, from a pair of archeologists who asked to have the Indiana Jones theme song played by a harpist to a couple who wanted their dogs as ring bearers.

Among the trends O’Reilly has noticed — couples who want a chic cocktail reception where guests can mingle instead of being segregated at their tables. O’Reilly likes to create “vignettes” allowing the guests to lounge on couches scattered around the space.

Some couples are opting to hold their weddings on Sunday or Friday, she notes.

“(Prince) William and Kate made that OK,” she says. “There’s only 52 Saturdays in a year.”

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