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Wedding Vow program

wedding vow cards

The bride and groom worried inclement weather would ruin their outdoor wedding ceremony but, as it turned out, the skies cleared up and the pair exchanged vows during a beautiful autumn afternoon on the grounds of Billings Estate in Ottawa.

Maybe it was just plain luck that the weather cooperated or maybe – and we’re leaning toward this explanation – it was the work of the bride’s grandparents and the groom’s uncle watching out for them from above.

There’d been a feeling that day that those grandparents were with them in spirit. That sense of presence continued at the reception, where it was shared that the couple had made charitable donations in memory of their loved ones in lieu of wedding favours.

One of the recipient charitable organizations was the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. For the past two years, it’s been running a Wedding Vows tribute giving program. It’s headed by Rachael Wilson, the foundation’s Director of annual and legacy giving.

The bride, Sarah-Beth, had lost her maternal grandmother, Mary Linstead, to cancer in 2009 and wanted to make a donation to the Cancer Foundation. Donations made through the Weddings Vows program are used to support families facing cancer in our region and can be designated to any area or program of importance to the couple and their family.

"It’s a really meaningful way to recognize those people who are no longer with us," explained Wilson. "It’s a more lasting gift than a packet of little chocolates and it has a greater impact in our community."

Sarah-Beth’s mother, Catherine Harvey, volunteered on behalf of the bride and groom to liaise with the different charitable foundations per their wish to make donations in lieu of party favours.

"The Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, in particular Rachael, made the process for us very special and significant ," said Harvey, a registered nurse. "Rachael was extremely creative, accommodating and considerate from request to final outcome."

As part of the program, the Cancer Foundation created lovely note cards to be placed at each setting at the dinner tables. As well, it crafted certificates that could be displayed at the reception to inform guests of which charity was being supported and in whose name.

Many of the guests at the wedding were aunts, uncles and cousins, as both the bride and groom come from large families. It had been very touching for relatives and friends to see the cards of recognition, "Everyone’s comments were so heart-warming" Harvey recalled. “They said it was a wonderful way to celebrate and honour the memory of family members.”

The Wedding Vows program ranges from a $250 donation to a $2,500 donation and can include everything from note cards to gourmet recipes to wedding announcements in Courage Magazine. All donations receive a full tax-receipt.

"We are very flexible," said Wilson. "We always work with the bride and groom to do whatever works for them. But we also keep it cost effective to ensure the couples’ donation has a real impact on cancer care in our community."

For more information on the program, contact Rachael Wilson at 613-247-3527, ext. 233 or go to the website at


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