Wedding Rehearsal

May 13, 2016

It was less of a rehearsal and more of a family meet and greet.

Thanks to Atong, we had a perfect location to host our wedding rehearsal. We were pretty sure that we wanted an informal get together and the rental space in her apartment complex was a great venue to a meet and mingle.

Also a big thank you to Michael’s parents, Gregory and Caroline, for their generosity towards dinner.

Although this was not the first time our families were meeting each other, not everyone had met before so it was a nice opportunity to get to know each other.

My bridesmaids were absolutely amazing with their help in making sure the night went smoothly. This even included buying and carrying cases of water and juice from a few blocks away. Believe it or not, we remembered to buy the alcohol but not the water!

My brother also brought names tags and markers, which I loved! Everyone had the chance to learn people’s names and their relationship to the bride and groom. I would highly recommend this idea to anyone with a huge family like mine!

For dinner, we ordered shawarma from… you know it… Shawarma Palace, the best place in town. Always a favourite for everyone! And for dessert, my sister made delicious lemon and s’mores squares, I made brownies.

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We took the opportunity to thank Michael’s parents, my mom and my grandparents for their love and support. We saved our gifts for the bridal party for getting ready the following day.

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Selfies took place… a lot of selfies.

Our 3 MCs: Elvin (and soon to be wife Jenn), Vinh and Amin

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3 of the 4 groomsmen! Bill, Matt, and Dan (4th is Michael’s brother Matt)

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My brother Andy and Kien’s (cousin) partner Samme

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Andy and cousins Janet and Justin

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With some of my family, including my grandparents, aunts and uncles!

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Photo with the immediate Brown family!

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Michael’s Aunt Patsy and her husband Uncle Dan!

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My sister Jenni and Michael

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Janet, Jenni and her partner Edward

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Being themselves 😛

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Justin… always ruining our photos!

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As you can probably tell by now, my family is… special 😉

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My grandparents, mum and aunt

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Cousins

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We even had props! Although mostly forgot to use them!

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(Note Samme’s name tag… see? Useful!)

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Like mothers like daughters

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Cousin love

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My mum!

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Somehow… Michael and I ended the night without a single photo together 😛 Thank you again to all our family and friends who took the time to attend, and for all their love ❤

It was hard to believe we were getting married the following day! After cleaning up, Michael and I then headed over to Four Points by Sheraton in Gatineau and called it a night. We even did a bit of much needed first dance practicing 😉 We would highly recommend getting away from everyone and spending the night before the wedding with just your partner – to have quality time together and reflect on exciting times to come!

Mother’s Day in Canada

May 08, 2016

Happy Mother’s Day!

We celebrated with the entire family, which is something I’ve missed while in Australia!

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Menu of the day consisted of egg noodles and lobster – delicious! (Courtesy of chef Uncles)

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Yay, all 3 of us girls home in Ottawa at the same time!

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My grandparents still looking great at 80+ years old!

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The tradition conditions with all of us presenting my grandmother with cards and gifts – from the offspring of her oldest to youngest children! My brother was working and unfortunately couldn’t make it.

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Family photos!

My grandparents and their 5 children

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With their 2 girls

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And with us!

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My aunt and mom!

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G-pa is wiped after dealing with all of us 😉 Love how he goes for the hammock despite a perfectly fine bed

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SEE ALL PHOTOS HERE

And of course, some late night selfies with our very own wonderful mother!

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None of us would be here today without her sacrifice, love, and dedication – we love you! ❤

Bachelorette

May 07, 2016

To be honest, I didn’t think I would have a bachelorette (hen’s day/night). After all, we didn’t have an engagement party or a bridal shower. Not to mention I wasn’t even in the country until 2 weeks prior to the wedding! However, my amazing sister (maid of honour) and bridesmaids made sure to give me an incredibly special day.

I was told in advance that Saturday, May 7th would be my bachelorette and that it would take place over the whole day – how exciting! I had been previously asked what I would want for a bachelorette. My reply was high tea and a good meal. Definitely no need for clubbing/strippers please!

With that, my sister planned everything and presented me with this list of instructions:

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She even found a gorgeous white dress for me as I couldn’t find one in time!

Started the day with a gift from my sister – thank you so much!

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A bridal Pandora bead with bride on one side and groom on the other.

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Janet, my cousin and bridesmaid, picked us up and the adventure commenced!

First off, a beautiful high tea with my gorgeous bridesmaids at Nectar Fine Teas.

A menu consisting of fruit, soup, sandwiches, scones, desserts and chocolate. And pots of tea of course!

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In love with the china!

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As usual, lots of silliness and laughs with these girls!

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Fruit cup with jasmine tea syrup – so refreshing and not too sweet!

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Hearty legume soup sipper

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My beautiful bridesmaids!

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Check out the food – mmm! We had wasabi egg salad, smoked salmon & chevre, lemon chicken & mango chutney, and red pepper cream cheese & cucumber mini sandwiches. Also vanilla bean and cranberry-orange scones with preserves and clotted cream. Up top were dessert slices and an assortment of truffles. All the food was fantastic!

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Took a look around their shop after high tea. Nectar Fine Teas lives up to its name – such an amazing selection of teas and all the accessories you might need!

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After high tea, we got back into the car and started driving… Eventually we reached Quebec and at one point I was sure they were taking me to Omega Park (which I love!) which was when they made me shut my eyes and keep it a surprise.

The first place they stopped at advised that there would be a wait of a few hours… so we bailed (I still had no idea what was going on). We then we pulled over to a candle making shop – I was so excited! Only to be told it was actually a joke and we got back on the road. I was a bit disappointed to be honest. We finally arrived at a backup location. Still keeping my eyes shut, the girls guided me to the entrance.

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We were at Amerispa! For the rest of the afternoon we enjoyed pools, spas, saunas, silence, relaxation, laughs, and good conversation. Sorry, no photos!

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Afterwards, we all freshened up and changed into our outfits for the evening. Colour coordination was involved – me in white and everyone else in black!

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Julia always comes prepared… even with theme appropriate snacks!

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What a surprise! So many lovely ladies joined us for dinner! My friends as well as all my female cousins – thank you so much guys!

Atong, Julia, Tina (who I later found out was pregnant, yay!) and Jenn

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My now very grown up cousins – Lilian, Flora, Christine and Kim

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My cousin Janet and sister Jenni

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Had such a fantastic time catching up with everyone and I think we all enjoyed the delicious (and pretty reasonable priced) food at Fauna Food + Bar

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Have a look at some of the tasty dishes we enjoyed!

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Duck with kimchi fried rice

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Rabbit with squid ink pasta

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My sister, who is amazing, even went as far as getting us a beautiful congratulatory cake!

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Many of those sitting around us offered cheers of congratulations and lots of smiles – this girl really felt the love!

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The restaurant were happy to plate out our cake for an additional $3.50 a person. For the beautiful plating with icecream, cookie, and fruit caviar garnish, we all agreed it was definitely worth it!

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I even got presents! Thank you so much cousins for the lovely candle and selection of teas!

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A heartfelt thank you to all you gorgeous ladies for making me feel so special and loved to soon before my big day! Love you all!

Exactly one week until the wedding!

More wedding meetings

May 06, 2016

Today was another busy wedding prep day! We started our morning meeting with our wedding videographer – KB Production – which I will write a dedicated post to later.

Then a pit stop at our favourite bakery downtown in Byward Market – Moulin de Provence for a morning bite! Always too many options to choose from!

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Have you ever had a black forest danish? Yep, I assure you it is as good as it looks!

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Quick bathroom break before heading to our cake tasting! A perfect message in my toilet stall given our upcoming wedding!

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View of the Byward Market Square from above! Not too busy as it was still quite early.

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CLICK HERE to read about our cake tasting!

After finalising our cake details, we headed to my hair trial! I will also write a dedicated post for my hair and make up. But to give you an idea, she charged $60 for a trial and spent hours on my hair and doing 3 completely different hair styles. We were quite happy with her skill level and Michael even asked if she would be comfortable giving him a wedding haircut – which she did to his absolute liking!

The timing of our hair cut/style was perfect as we were having our engagement photo shoot that evening – couldn’t have planned it better!

WEDDING FOOD

May 05, 2016

Today was the exciting day we (finally) did our menu tasting! Being the week before our wedding, we were incredibly lucky that our caterer – Distinction by Sodexo – allowed us to do our menu tasting so last minute (usually done 1-2 months prior).

By this date, we had already confirmed our menu selection and the wine had also been selected ahead of time by the Distinction Sommelier. That meant although our menu was set, we could make recommendations for adjustments if the dishes didn’t suit our taste.

At the time of our booking, we chose the Symphony option. It was the most expensive at $125/person excluding 17% service charge and 14.975% taxes (cheapest option $85/pp). Despite it being pricey, it really had everything we wanted. Our #1 wedding priority was food (the more the better) so that’s where a majority of our budget went.

The Symphony Package included the following:

  • 1 glass of sparkling wine per person during cocktail hour
  • Passed canapés based on 3 pieces per person (choice of 4) during cocktail hour
  • Fresh rolls and butter
  • 5 course meal with a choice of soup, salad, granité, main course and dessert
  • 2 glasses of upgraded wine per person during dinner (selected by Distinction Sommelier)
  • Cake cutting service served after dinner with coffee and tea station
  • Late night snack
  • Colored tablecloth, napkins and choice of white or black chair covers
  • Votive candles, china and glassware, table numbers and stands

Below was the menu available to us at the time, with our selections in bold

Canape Selections:

  • Smoked Salmon on Cucumber Medallion
  • Turkey Tenderloin with Applewood Smoked Bacon Skewer
  • Beetroot Hummus on Crostini topped with Goat Cheese
  • Vegetable Spring roll with Chive Plum Sauce
  • Herb Risotto Lollipop with Pesto Sauce
  • Canadian Coast to Coast mixed Crab Cake topped with Ponzu Aioli
  • Bison Meat Ball Mini Fork with Berry Jelly
  • Watermelon with Aged Balsamic and Mint Leaf

Soup selections:

  • Maple Roasted Butternut Squash Puree, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
  • Coriander and Carrot Soup, Chive Oil
  • Parsnip Root Soup, Apple Infused Sour Cream Crostini Garnish
  • Braised Curry Chicken and Coconut Kaffir Lime Leaf Chowder, Basil Oil

Salad selections:

  • Grilled Cortland Apple and Parmigianino Shavings, Arugula, Trebbiano Grape Acidulated Fig Dressing
  • Mixed Young Greens, Shaved Pickled Red Radish, Cherry Tomatoes, Basil Dressing
    and Powdered Balsamic Vinegar
  • Arugula Greens with Crumbled Goat Cheese, Dried Cranberry and a Raspberry
    Vinaigrette
  • Kale Caesar Salad with Grated Parmesan, Spicy Lemon Garlic Roasted Croutons,
    Crumbled Free Range Egg and Topped with Pickled Crispy Capers

Chef’s selection of granite – which ended up being a refreshing palate cleanser similar to sorbet!

For Mains, we paid an extra $4/pp for guests to have a choice between 2 proteins. A vegan/GF/LF alternative is also offered at no additional costs.

  • Pan Roasted Free Range Chicken Breast, Mushroom Herb Cream Sauce served with Potato Flan and Market Vegetables
  • Maple and Sichuan Peppercorn Salmon over a Panko Crusted Risotto Cake served with Market Vegetables
  • Ricotta and Spinach Cannelloni topped with a Roasted Tomato and Pesto Cream  Sauce
  • Pan Seared 6oz Canadian Beef Tenderloin topped with a Thyme and Roasted Shallot Reduction served with Potato Flan and Market Vegetables
  • Pheasant Breast Stuffed with Thyme and Niagara Apple topped with a Port Reduction served with Potato Flan and Market Vegetables
  • Pan Seared Veal Chop and Veal Jus infused with Star Anis served with Potato Flan and Market Vegetables
  • Alternate Dish (vegan, gluten free, lactose free): Vegetable, Tofu and Portobello Stacker on a bed of Risotto and Roasted Tomato Coulis

Dessert selections:

  • Cheese Cake with Raspberry Compote and topped with Ginger Sour Cream and Honey Powder
  • Soften Half Baked Double Chocolate Brownie topped with Sichuan Peppercorn
    Raspberry and Whipped Cream
  • Salted Caramel Square with Mini Upside Down Coffee Mousse Cone and Whipped
    Cream
  • Lemon and chives crusted tilapia with a white wine cream sauce

Kid’s Meal included veggies and dip, chicken fingers and fries, chef’s dessert and juices/soft drinks.

The late night snack option was too easy: Poutine with fries, cheese curds, and gravy! (Or Sliced Canadian Deli Meats and Canadian Cheeses, Mustards and Basket of Mini Ciabatta Buns)

For alcohol, we decided to have an Open Bar/Host Bar – luckily for us, our guests didn’t drink nearly as much as we estimated and we ended up getting a partial refund!


The Tasting:

Josee Pilon (josee.pilon@sodexo.com) is the catering representative and met us for our tasting. It was our first time meeting her (used to be someone else when we first signed our contract). She was friendly and easy to get along with, which was great!

The tasting also took place in the Panorama Lounge, which was the upstairs venue we had booked as our backup indoor rainy day option so it gave us the opportunity to scope it out some more 🙂

They also had the table set up so we could appreciate what the settings would look like. Of course, it would look slightly different with our own centrepieces, napkin arrangements, menus and wedding favours!

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Josee stayed with us through out the tasting to make notes of our feedback and finalise reception details. We initially thought it would be weird to have someone watch us eat, but surprisingly, it was pleasant and not awkward at all!

We were also surprised to find out we’d be having full servings! It was explained to us that that way, we could appreciate the presentation and serving size of each dish – definitely not expected but well appreciated!

Bread rolls and butter

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First course was Maple Roasted Butternut Squash Puree, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds which was warming and delicious. We were definitely off to a good start.

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Then came the Grilled Cortland Apple and Parmigianino Shavings, Arugula, Trebbiano Grape Acidulated Fig Dressing.  We wanted to choose a non traditional salad that would still appeal to a majority of guests and were very happy with how nicely the sweetness of apples worked so well with the saltiness of the cheese and the acidity of the dressing!

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We also got to taste the red wine that would be served – Domaine Houchart, Côtes de Provence, France. Unfortunately, the white (Flying Solo, Grenache Blanc – Viognier, France) was not available to taste on the day! We quite enjoyed the red and wish it was sold here in Australia so we could buy some!

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Michael and I shared the 3 mains, thank goodness!

First was the Maple and Sichuan Peppercorn Salmon over a Panko Crusted Risotto Cake served with Market Vegetables. The salmon was seasoned and cooked beautifully and we especially liked the risotto cake which was moist and very flavourful with hints of citrus.

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Pan Seared 6oz Canadian Beef Tenderloin topped with a Thyme and Roasted Shallot Reduction served with Potato Flan and Market Vegetables. Beef was cooked medium rare and was nice and tender. The only comment we had was the reduction was just a little too salty for our tastes – which was noted.

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Last of the mains was our alternate dish Vegetable, Tofu and Portobello Stacker on a bed of Risotto and Roasted Tomato Coulis. Although we definitely preferred the previous 2 dishes, we appreciated that this dish was quite substantial and filling. Not your typical salad/pasta vegetarian option.

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And finally, dessert Cheese Cake with Raspberry Compote and topped with Ginger Sour Cream and Honey Powder. Ginger sour cream is a flavour we’ve never had before and it was definitely a winner!

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If our guests ate the same meal we did (which will also include a granite and canapes we didn’t have the chance to try) – surely they will be happily stuffed! 🙂 We left the tasting incredibly happy with our choices!


On the Day:

Michael and I had to take family photos and did not have the chance to try the canapes! 😦 We hope everyone else enjoyed them on our behalf.

The soup and salad were just as good as we remembered it. I’ve been told that the beef was cooked nicely and wasn’t overly salty. Unfortunately, myself and a few others who had the salmon did find it overcooked and slightly dry. In particular, I was disappointed with the risotto cake which was dry and lacked the punch of flavour that impressed me so much at our tasting. Otherwise we had no complaints with our food!

Everyone loved the poutine bar! Despite it was gauged at 4oz/pp there was heaps for anyone who wanted seconds, even thirds! The best part? Real cheese curds!

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We cut our cake during dinner service, which was later put out for guests to enjoy. Our package was meant to include ‘cake cutting service.’ The tiers of our cake were separated (top tier saved) and set on the table for guests to self serve – which was fine as they could help themselves to whatever they wanted.

None of our guests brought up any concerns at the wedding reception. It seemed like everyone had a good time and were happy with the service and the food.

There were a few stand out/feedback moments for us:

  • Despite providing a seating plan with everyone’s meal option, my husband and I personally witnessed 2 (of 5) vegetarian guests served the wrong dish – one who was a groomsman at the head table! It was eventually sorted out but surely a simple “I’ve got a vegetarian dish for so-and-so?” should’ve been easy?
  • Dry salmon and bland risotto as mentioned previously
  • My mother told me after the wedding that a server had been incredibly rude towards my grandma for using cutlery in the wrong order. Apparently she had used her main knife and fork for her entree and was rudely told she shouldn’t have done that when the table was being cleared.
  • The lack of announcement that poutine and/or cake was being served meant that those too busy on the dance floor/photo booth didn’t realise food was available! Especially since our cake was brought out to our ‘gifts table’ closer to the entrance of the venue, even we didn’t realise it! Our suggestion would be for the staff to ask the DJ/emcee/another guest to make an annoucement when late night food and/or cake is available so everyone has the chance to enjoy!
  • Would have been nice for guests to have a bar menu to know what was available to order. We were told this would be provided but unfortunately it wasn’t to be seen!
  • A minor detail that doesn’t change anything but it was a little disappointing to see our napkin placement was not as we had wanted – for such a simple design too!

This was the photo we had provided, loved the wide and long hanging napkin design that would give us a nice pop of colour as we planned to place a menu and wedding favour on top.

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Our setting on at the wedding reception – the napkin was placed much higher on the table. As a result, less colour seen and less flow of napkin into the tablecloth!

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Overall…

Aside from the few glitches above, we were very happy with our wedding reception and the all encompassing catering service!

We would definitely recommend the Museum of History and Distinction by Sodexo to any of our friends looking for a beautiful wedding/reception venue that includes everything from set up to tear down for your peace of mind 🙂

The wedding packages offered by Distinction by Sodexo at the Museum of History seem to have undergone an overhaul since our booking. You can view their current options HERE. The packages appear more expensive now and do not include the same amount of options that we had.

Their most expensive package is now called Distinctly Unique ($150/pp) and has the following differences: less options to choose from for every course, 3 instead of 4 chosen canapes, 3 and not 5 course meal, no upgraded wine at dinner, no glass of champagne included with canapes, late night snack not included (poutine bar an extra $10/pp).

Man are we glad wedding planning is officially behind us… weddings are expensive!

Wedding Cake Tasting

May 06, 2016

Through a Facebook wedding group, I found the one who would make our wedding cake!

Irina Shainski of Sweet Song Cakes has made beautiful and delicious cakes. It was incredibly easy to communicate with her via email from Australia and she provided reasonable quotes and drafts for our cake based on what we wanted.

You can visit her website HERE and her Facebook page HERE to see what she has to offer.

You can also contact her via the details below for more information:

ishainski@gmail.com
(613) 290-0349

We only had to send her a $50 deposit to secure our date. She assured us that the only thing she needed to know well in advance were the colours and designs of flowers we wanted on our cake so she could make them. The final design and flavours of the cake we could finalise last minute when we finally met her a week before the wedding for the tasting (with fingers crossed)!

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Irina invited us over to her house for the tasting of our 3 pre-selected cake flavours:

  • Carrot
  • Chocolate orange
  • Red velvet
  • Paired with 3 icings: cream cheese, vanilla, chocolate

We liked all 3 flavours, with carrot being our favourite. She encouraged us to go ahead and select all three flavours if we enjoyed them, so we did (cream cheese with both red velvet and carrot)! There were plenty extra so she happily packed them up for us to take home and share the tasting with family 🙂

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The only negative: At the time of the tasting, the red velvet cake had been over-mixed (cake was dry with lots of large tunnels) – as an amateur baker, I knew it’s an easy mistake when you’re busy. We had faith and chose the flavour anyway – was not disappointed!

So the details were finally official! For $500, we ordered a beautiful 4 tier, 3 flavoured wedding cake to feed 120 people (not including a top tier to keep for ourselves). We only had 90-ish people at our wedding – but that meant more cake for everyone! And of course, we decided on carrot cake for our top tier!

This was the first sketch Irina provided us after our initial email communication.

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I had browsed through all the photos of cakes Irina had made and posted on her Facebook page and website, gathering ideas. The final design I chose were a medley of features from a variety of cakes she had previously made. It was especially comforting knowing that these were Irina’s own details and that for sure she could replicate the design I had in mind. For your reference, these were my inspiration cakes:

Flower colours as per this cake:

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Simpler flower placement (just roses and small flowers) like this cake:

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Elegant design of tiers like this one…

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With gold ribbon trimming and simplistic piping like this cake:

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This was the beautiful cake she delivered on our wedding day…

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Irina also made sure to confirm the venue, access roads and time of set up. She and her husband delivered the cake themselves and Irina put the finishing touches on the cake once assembled at the venue.

From feedback, all our guests enjoyed having some cake, which delighted us! We also knew in advance we would have plenty of cake (especially because dinner included dessert) and had takeaway containers ready for anyone who wanted to take some cake home as well!

We would definitely recommend Irina to anyone looking for a delicious and gorgeous cake for their special occasion! Beautiful details, easy communication and wonderful prices!

Michael and I look forward to being back in Canada in the near future to dig into the top tier we’ve saved in my mum’s freezer! Thanks again Irina!

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!