Wedding Officiant

May 05, 2016

Michael and I initially had plans for a Catholic wedding ceremony performed at our venue. We eventually found out (after booking our venue) that it would be next to impossible. Instead, we decided to have a civil ceremony with the intention to have it convalidated at a later date.

After researching costs and customer satisfaction, we decided to go with All Seasons for our wedding officiant.

After reading many of the profiles and reviews, we chose Michael O’Callaghan to be our wedding officiant.

Keeping in mind that we were booking from Australia, Michael was prompt during all our email communication, always kind and polite. Before we met him, he had already given us a number of important documents to look through, including our Declaration of Marriage and logistics form to fill out.

With his years of experience, he was able to give us a number of ceremony scripts to choose from, with clear encouragement that we could customize it further to suit our personalities. He also provided a number of different reading suggestions to explore.

It was a pleasure to meet him in person over coffee on May 5, 2016. He was very caring and thoughtful. We were also pleasantly surprised to see how prepared he was – with a dossier of all necessary paperwork and copies of our customized wedding ceremony. Michael then took the time to run through every step of our ceremony, including any changes, who stands where, facing which direction, prompts, etc. There were no silly questions and we didn’t feel rushed in any way.

He was extremely understanding and didn’t even bat an eye when we told him we still had not finalized our wedding vows!

After the amount of time he spent with us at our first meeting running through the logistics and timeline of the wedding ceremony, it was absolutely not necessary to have him run an official rehearsal. We did, however, invite him to attend our ‘rehearsal dinner’ to meet the family and enjoy some food. He politely declined, saying that it was his personal rule not to attend rehearsal dinners or wedding receptions. He explained that if he accepted one invite, he would feel obligated to accept every client’s invitation – which is often not physically possible given his potential commitments.

On our wedding day, he arrived early and was able to run through a few last minute details. We especially appreciated the opportunity to honour my dad’s absence by lighting a candle in his memory during the ceremony. (Despite practicing ahead of time, it was so windy and cold that we still had trouble doing it!) The only thing we had to complain about was… it was incredibly windy, and cold! As a result, Michael decided not to use a microphone (would’ve been too noisy picking up the wind) and so our guests had quite a bit of difficulty hearing the ceremony.๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Overall, we were very happy with our experience in having Michael O’Callaghan officiate our wedding and would definitely recommend his services to anyone looking for an officiant!

Wedding Venue

Michael and I tossed up 2 types of venues during our wedding discussions. Below were our top picks:

  1. Beautiful, modern, all inclusive venues
    • Le Belvedere – Our initial top choice with sprawling breathtaking views of Gatineau Hills and very affordable at $139/pp. Unfortunately, with our guest list and due to its location (at least 1/2 hr from downtown Ottawa), we decided against this venue. Would definitely recommend to another bride!
    • Canadian Museum of History (previously known as the Canadian Museum of Civilization) – OUR WINNER! More information below๐Ÿ™‚
    • Canadian Museum of Nature – multiple facility rentals to choose from with a mix of modern and old architecture and charm. Unfortunately, we never received a reply to our inquiry so eliminated by default!
    • St Elias Centre – Right by Mooney’s Bay, also all inclusive with outside caterers available
    • Canadian War Museum – We eliminated this option after visiting simply due to the ambiance (very gray and dark) – just not what we were looking for but definitely worth considering!
  2. Community halls where we can customise our own set up and food (think multi course Vietnamese food with 2 roasted pigs).

It didn’t take much research for us to decide that we would have to forego the community hall option. For a number of reasons:

  • Many halls did not have the capacity we were looking for (either too big or too small)
  • Most did not offer anything exciting in terms of architecture and potential for transformation post decoration
  • Cost of renting the hall is cheaper. But once you add the cost of hiring all the tables/chairs/linens/dinnerware, etc – it was pricey.
  • Unless you pay for additional labour, it’s a lot of manual work! And we certainly didn’t want to ask family/friends to work leading up to our wedding.
  • We would be coming home from Australia for the wedding. Time = money. The less time we spent on wedding set up, the more quality time we could spend with family and friends.
  • No community halls had cooking facilities onsite, all food would have to come pre/half-prepared and warmed up – not really what we wanted

Canadian Museum of History – Voyageurs Salon

As we would be planning a wedding in Canada from Australia – there would definitely some challenges! First up – booking a venue!

Here’s how we did it…

First step: Pick a date – May 14, 2016. We chose a spring date as it would be the earliest time to get married in beautiful Canadian weather! There was no attached significance to the date, but it also happened to be Michael’s parents’ anniversary date – so additional meaning!

Second step: Choose a venue – After hours of research online, we narrowed down our list of potential venues to the aforementioned. We were lucky to have our annual leave in March 2015 – over a year prior to our wedding date, which was lucky because we could visit the venues in person prior to committing. Be warned, book the venue as soon as you can (especially if your date is considered high season)!

Third step: Book an appointment to see the venue. Come ready with all your questions and something to take notes! Bring your phone/camera to take photos of the space because you will likely want to refer to them at a later time. This is especially true if you are visiting multiple venues! If the venue also does catering (or other services), try to set up a meeting with them at the same time. Don’t be shy – you are ultimately paying them a lot of money. If you have any negotiations or special requests you’d like to discuss, bring them up!

We dealt with a lovely lady named Roxanne at the Museum of History. She was prompt with all our email inquiries, met us in person at our meeting, took us on tour, offered advice, answered all our questions, and made sure we had the opportunity to meet with the caterer on the same day.

We fell in love with the Voyageurs Salon at the Museum of History as soon as we saw it. We also visited the Canadian Museum of War but then decided not to even bother visiting the other potential venues. Mind you, it is a cafeteria during business hours so you will have to use a bit of imagination – but Roxanne carried an iPad with photos of the venue transformed for different weddings to make it easier! (Click here to see photos) It was the perfect size for our wedding, beautiful architecture, amazing views of Ottawa and the Parliament buildings by the river, private outdoor terrace to use, very convenient location close to downtown Ottawa and nearby accommodations, cheap onsite parking, area for outdoor wedding ceremony (with rainy day back up in the upstairs Panorama Lounge available), etc. We would have to use their onsite caterer, Sodexo, but the menu was tantalizing and fit our budget.

Fourth step: Book the venue! We were sent a draft contract shortly after our meeting and after a few days of discussion, negotiations and revisions, we went ahead and booked! The venue was the first major wedding vendor we were happy to lock in well in advance!

Our favourite part about choosing this venue ($3200 at the time of booking) – was everything that was included:

  • Banquet seating for up to 160 people, including room for cocktail reception and dance
  • Set up and tear down (banquet/head/gift tables, podium, dance floor, etc)
  • Cleaning before and after
  • Food service including cocktail hour, dinner, cake, late night snack
  • Internet access
  • Projector screen
  • Security guard
  • Ambiance lighting
  • Set up for outdoor wedding ceremony
  • Private outdoor terrace
  • Museum production coordinator (who is also day of coordinator)

We also paid an additional (discounted) fee to book out the Panorama Lounge (facility upstairs) in case it was raining and we had to have our wedding ceremony indoors. By booking the room, it also meant that there would be no other wedding taking place on the same night, in the same building, and gave us access to more space for storage/getting ready/etc as needed.

After the booking, it was mostly out of sight out of mind until we were back in Canada, over 1 year later! We revisited the location on May 5, 2016 – less than 2 weeks prior to the wedding. I would suggest not leaving it this late, but unfortunately, we had no choice!

It’s great to get another perspective on what we envision and what our guests will be seeing. Here are a few photos the surrounding views:

Views of the Laurier Bridge and Parliament buildings from outside the Voyageurs Salon

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The blossom trees lining the processional walkway, which also gave us an opportunity to practice the walk for timing!

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The open space that would set up for the outdoor wedding ceremony, facing the river.

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Another view of the facilities – outdoor ceremony site right in front of the Voyageurs Salon and the Panorama Lounge upstairs

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Upstairs from the terrace above the Panorama Lounge looking down

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To the right of the Voyageurs Salon is the Grand Hall and main building of the Museum of History – impressive and stunning!

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In between the 2 buildings is a large staircase that would likely be the focus of group photos

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It was also the day we met with the caterers for our menu tasting and the museum production coordinator to confirm layout and set up for our wedding – killed many birds with one stone!

FIRST SUSHI BACK IN OTTAWA

May 4, 2016

Our second day back in Ottawa and the day my sister Jenni (maid of honour) arrives from Vancouver! We had a long list of things we wanted to eat and of course, sushi was on that list!

Family reunion lunch at 168 Sushi Buffet!

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We ate, and ate, and ate. It was not the BEST sushi, but it was still pretty darn good! Especially for Michael and I, who’ve been living in Rockhampton with absolutely no decent sushi!

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Always a fav – seaweed salad

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My brother Andy LOVES his grilled eel! If you’ve never tried, please do! It’s tasty!

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Tempura and rolls

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Edamame

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We went shopping after lunch and I thought this was worth sharing. A store called Marshalls (similar to Winners) was selling this Fendi purse/clutch… FOR $2199! 1) It was dang ugly. 2) Who in their right minds (even if filthy rich) would ever buy this?

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Anyway, a good second day back in Ottawa with family! Tomorrow begins the hectic wedding meetings!

Wedding: Beginning the planning!

My official first wedding-related post!

You may have noticed, I have added a new tab to the menu called “WEDDING”
On this page I will be sharing everything related to our wedding held at the

Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, QC on May 14, 2016โค

I hope you enjoy reading about our journey preparing leading up to the big day!

In addition, I hope some of my posts may help another bride-to-be in her research and planning for her wedding! Please feel free to message if you have any questions!


Michael and I were engaged after 3 years together on March 12, 2014.

Did we start planning our wedding right away? Definitely not!

But here were a few things we knew for sure:

  1. We wanted to graduate first and start working before getting married.
  2. That very likely our wedding would be back in Ottawa, Canada (most convenient location for the majority of our family and friends) – even though an elopement or destination wedding would’ve less stressful!๐Ÿ˜‰
  3. As international medical students studying in Australia – we were each in debt by $250+K. That meant we couldn’t actually have a real ‘budget.’ All the money we spent would be money that a) We could’ve used to pay back our debt or b) Put us in further debt.

Needless to say, the stress of school and the thought of spending quite a bit of money on a wedding was enough to keep us from any serious planning for a while!

I remember it being quite stressful, for the both of us, to discuss or even think about what we wanted for a wedding. Being international graduates, we weren’t guaranteed a job after graduating, and it was an even slimmer chance of getting a job at the same hospital, in the same city.

But our stars were aligned and when we both got offered positions together at Rockhampton Hospital beginning January 2015 – we breathed a sigh of relief knowing that we would actually be making an income and be able to even pay for a wedding!

The key: Don’t rush into planning a wedding if you are not mentally/physically/financially ready to do so!

We finally started discussing and researching our wedding options. Here are some of our topics that I’ll eventually be sharing in more detail…

  • Venue
  • Ceremony (I’m Catholic and Michael is Protestant)
  • Food (our main priority)
  • Music (self/band/DJ, etc)
  • Photographer (Sandra’s must have)
  • Videographer
  • Bridal party
  • Incorporating cultural aspects
  • Number of guests
  • Officiant
  • Wedding dress
  • Tuxedo/suit
  • Accessories
  • Decor/theme
  • Flowers
  • Cake
  • Hair/makeup
  • Stationary (RSVPs/invites/programs/menus, etc)
  • Gifts for parents/bridal party, etc
  • Wedding favours

Before looking into anything specific, I started my ‘planning’ by spending quite a bit of time browsing wedding boards on Pinterest, saving everything from colour palettes, hair/makeup looks, wedding dresses, etc. It was so easy and such a great platform for me to quickly get ideas and see related looks.

I also read a lot on wedding boards/websites like Wedding Bee and The Knot. I had no experience with wedding planning and I had yet to attend any weddings – there were many things I needed to learn! Questions to ask vendors before hiring them, etiquette for invite wording, ideas for bridesmaid gifts, order of procession, etc! Of course, there is no definite right or wrong way to do anything, as a wedding is your own, but it’s always good to get the general idea of how things are usually done!

I definitely recommend doing the above to get started on your wedding planning! And don’t forget to ask your family and friends for ideas/advice – they are a wealth of information sometimes. But always be careful of the strong personalities!

I also highly suggest discussing with your partner in advance what your priorities are when it comes to the wedding. Gives you a rough breakdown of where the biggest chunks of your money will be going towards. For example:

  • Michael and I both agreed that our venue, food, and photographer were most important to us.
  • I couldn’t care less about spending tons of money on a designer wedding gown I’ll only wear once.
  • We were both easy going with music options.
  • Videography would be nice to have but not essential if we wanted to save money.
  • We both felt it was wasteful to spend a lot of money on fresh flowers for bouquets/decor and were keen to look for cheaper options and fake flowers

Then came the real planning… when we started communicating with actual people about what we wanted for the big day.๐Ÿ™‚

Will share more with individual posts – stay tuned! And thanks for reading!๐Ÿ™‚

Back in Ottawa!

May 03, 2016

You know you’re back in Canada when…

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Bagels, timbits, and Tim Horton’s coffee – who doesn’t make a pit stop as soon as your plane lands? We certainly did once we arrived in Toronto! Landed in Ottawa and was so incredibly happy to be greeted not only by my mom and brother, but also my grandparents and my Uncle 2 (Cau Hai)! Despite how late it was (midnight!) they insisted on a meal – so we ended up at Pho Ba Ga La in Chinatown!

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I’ve never been out so late with my grandparents!๐Ÿ˜‰

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It was a good time with the family, but you know me, no Vietnamese restaurant beats homemade food and I still stand by it!

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Thank you to my wonderful family – so happy to be back in Canada!

In case you were wondering where Michael’s family was – they live in Kingston so it’s a drive to Ottawa! Since Michael was planning on staying in Ottawa for the coming couple of weeks for wedding planning, it made sense for them not to drive up but we would see them soon!

Off to Brisbane!

May 02-03, 2016

Finally, 5 weeks of night ward call are over for the both of us! On to 5 weeks of holiday! Including getting married! Can you imagine how excited we were to embark on this adventure?!

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Thank you Yoni for picking us up when we landed in Brisbane, obviously so good to see you again!๐Ÿ˜€

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We were so excited to enjoy a delicious Japanese lunch at our collective favourite – Wagaya – in Chinatown. Unfortunately, it was closed! Not sure why, but perhaps it was a holiday (May Day)?

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Instead, we had lunch at Thai Wi-Rat, with very cheap options off their lunch menu!

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Both Yoni and I got rice with roasted pork (approx $10). Rather than succulent pork with crispy skin, Thai Wi-Rat appears to further fry/bake their pork after chopping – which made it quite tough and dry๐Ÿ˜ฆ I have also never liked the bland cooked vegetables that often accompany such meals – I would much prefer a dressed salad or a bit of stirfry, but I suppose it’s standard! My Thai iced tea was good though!

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Mike quite enjoyed his rice with roasted duck๐Ÿ™‚

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We then checked into our serviced apartment at the Meriton on Herschel Street. Beautiful view and a good value for the space – which is also perfect for entertaining some friends!

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Our amazing view – we missed Brisbane!

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I asked the Meriton to leave a note from me to Michael in our hotel prior to checking in. It wasn’t a problem and a welcomed surprise for him!

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Cheers to our holiday!!

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Night view was just as nice!

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In the evening, we caught up with one of our favourite gals – Fiona! Had some delicious Korean food including crispy chicken wings and bulgogi at another favourite – Maru!

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So good to see this one!

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Yoni dropped by after his evening shift to hang out with us some more – and he drove us to their airport the following morning, you’re the best!

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Gloomy morning before checking out!

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No problems with checking in for our flight and soon we were on our way to North America! First, Brisbane to Los Angeles with Qantas. Then, Los Angeles to Toronto to Ottawa with Air Canada!

I’ve always liked the better quality of food with Qantas airline!

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SOON… HOME SWEET HOME!

Crab a la Jin’s

April 29, 2016

Nothing better than delicious homemade food with good friends.

Actually, there is one thing better. When someone is making the food for you – thanks chef Jin!

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Jess & Jin invited us over for some pretty tasty Chinese crab dishes!

Saucy crab with noodles

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And chili crab!

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Thanks for having us over and feeding us such tastiness guys!๐Ÿ™‚