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!

Wedding Manicure

May 12, 2016

This was a photo taken after the wedding but my sister, mum and I got wedding manicures together!

(During this time, May 11-12th, Michael was in Montreal with his mates having an awesome bachelor party)

I loved my colour with an accent nail! (Excuse my dinky pinky)

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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!

Engagement Photo Shoot

May 06, 2016

With fresh hair cuts and styles from our wedding hair trial, Michael and I went home to change and get ready for our engagement photo shoot!

We were very lucky that our photographer, Kim Ing (Facebook Page), was so easy to work with. Because honestly, who offers to do engagement photos one week before the actual wedding? We were incredibly thankful for the opportunity not only to have some pre-wedding photos taken, but also the chance to work with and get to know Kim before the big day!

Kim spent a few hours guiding us across various sites downtown. Despite being nervous prior to starting (we’ve never been the sole subject of photography before), both her and her assistant were incredibly easy going and immediately put us at ease.

Her gentle reminders of “bra strap!” “other nose!” “shoulders back!” only helped us be more aware of our surroundings and posture for better photos.

We didn’t know how many pictures to expect from the engagement shoot – but were incredibly pleased at the number and quality of photos we received. Of course, as we are our own biggest critic so not all shots are most “flattering” from our point of view. But even with pruning down to our favourite shots, there were still a ton to enjoy!

Here are some of our favourites, we hope you like them too!

Stairs to the canal under Plaza Bridge

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It didn’t hurt that we both lost a little bit of weight working all those night shifts before coming home for the wedding! 😛

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Ring shot!

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Look, we matched! Although if we were doing this shoot again, I think it would look much nicer if we had both worn lighter colours!

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By the Rideau Canal Locks with the Chateau Laurier in the background

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Looking across the Rideau River at our wedding venue – Canadian Museum of History

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On the Rideau Canal Locks with the Alexandra Bridge in the background

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Major Hill Park – just a week shy of the tulips blooming!

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Play is our favourite restaurant to visit in Ottawa! Highly recommend 😉

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My prince charming!

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For more engagement shots, CLICK HERE TO VIEW!


During wedding planning, Michael and I decided that photography would likely be the biggest chunk of our budget (after food of course). We chose Kim Ing Photography for a number of reasons:

  • We both love and appreciate timeless photography. We were looking for a classic, natural lighting style that Kim captures beautifully. Check out her portfolio!
  • During our first meeting, Kim met with us at her home office, which was stylish, comfortable, and put us at ease. Not to mention she served us cupcakes!
  • We did not have conflicting personalities and felt we could work well with her.
  • Even though we came with a huge list of questions, she took the time and patiently answered them all. She was even happy to show us photos from a wedding she had photographed at our venue a few years back.
  • Her photography training (not just ‘self taught’) and wedding photography experience
  • Many photographers in Ottawa that were charging less than Kim had portfolios that often paled compared to my own amateur photography. We wanted someone who would deliver above and beyond our expectations – which is exactly what Kim did.

For those who are interested, our photography package cost $3949.35, which included the following:

  • 10 hours wedding day photography coverage with an assistant
  • Professionally edited high-resolution images on DVD
  • Private online proofing gallery
  • Complimentary engagement session (including high-resolution edited photos)
  • Rights to privately print all photos
  • Photos provided 6-8 weeks post wedding date

Kim was fantastic to work with and we were very happy to have her capture our wedding day as well. I will save the wedding photography for a separate post – stay tuned!

WEDDING DJ & PHOTOBOOTH

May 05, 2016

During the first stages of our wedding planning, Michael had ambitious plans to set up our own DJ system which would allow guests to connect using their mobile devices to play songs. Fortunately, he soon realised that it would be a logistical nightmare!

After a bit of research, we decided to go with Quality Entertainment. They are a bigger company with lots of staff and good reviews online. We weren’t too fussed with our music, as long as we could have some options – which made our decision easy!

We appreciated being paired with a coordinator for consistent communication (mostly over email as we were overseas). We also had to fill out planning forms (30 days prior to ceremony) so that they could get an idea of who we were and what we were expecting. This was also so they could match us with an appropriate style DJ.

Some of the information they ask for include:

  • Names of bridal party and other main vendors
  • Time of set up and tear down
  • Number of guests and their age
  • Preference of music
  • Songs NOT to play (ie. Macarena, YMCA, etc)
  • List of guest song requests
  • Specific song list for ceremony, grand entrance, first dance, etc)
  • Whether we needed extra equipment (projector, photo booth, etc)
  • Whether we wanted our DJ to also act as our MC

On May 5, 2016 – we finally had the opportunity to meet up with the coordinator and finalise all details in person. Nothing was too much trouble and we were offered unexpected discounts which were very much appreciated!


ON THE DAY

We were pretty happy with our DJ services on the day! Jenn was our DJ for the night and here were some points we made note of:

  • Nice instrumental music being played for while guests were being seated for our ceremony (we didn’t specify which songs)
  • We provided all our songs for our outdoor ceremony – which were played in the right order at the correct time – and audible!
  • It was much appreciated that Jenn came up to our table once seated for dinner to introduce herself!
  • During the dinner ceremony, we provided a playlist of Vietnamese songs to play. Unfortunately, the museum sound system was not set up ideally. The dance floor was to one end of the venue and the music was quite loud towards that end and not very audible at the other, particularly because the music was played at a lower volume during dinner service
  • I remember people stayed on the dance floor and had a good time – which is always a good sign right?! 😉 At least until the song “Shots by LMFAO ft. Lil Jon” came on and everyone cleared the dance floor to do tequilla shots at the bar 😛
  • They played our requested closing song “Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond”

We also decided to hire 3 other services through them, all of which were hassle free and the guests definitely enjoyed!

  1. Projector for us to have a photo slideshow played on repeat during the reception
  2. Photo booth with props! Unlimited photos and manned by an attendant to make sure we actually got decent photos! Guests got a physical copy and we got the digital versions after the ceremony.
  3. Kissing game spinning wheel – no more clinking of glasses. Although I’m sure it’s still rigged to make the bride and groom kiss more often than not!

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Total Costs:

  • DJ, equipment (including special effects lights), set up and tear down (6pm – 1am) $749 (with a $100 discount)
  • Photobooth (9:30pm – 12:30am) with props, unlimited photos and attendant $699 (with $100 discount)
  • Projector $100 (with $50 discount)
  • Kissing Wheel – free of charge (normally $75)

We were overall very happy with the prices and services provided by Quality Entertainment. Would happily recommend them to anyone looking for similar services for their event – especially if you are looking for packages, they can definitely work with you!

Wedding Day of Coordinator

May 05, 2016

After our menu tasting with Distinction at the Canadian Museum of History, we ended our visit with our first (and only required) face-to-face meeting with our Day of Coordinator – Philippe Genest.

Phil was easy going from the moment we met him, which was definitely what we preferred. He joined us after our delicious lunch and immediately got down to business.

Some of the important items of discussions included:

  • Floor plan for reception venue (table/seating arrangement, where the gift tables/cocktail tables/DJ/photobooth/bar, etc would be)
  • Seating plan for outdoor ceremony
  • Discussion of bridal procession options
  • Seating plan for indoor ceremony (in case of rain)
  • Confirmation of all vendors including cake, DJ, officiant, etc
  • Ceremony + reception timeline
  • Projector screen set up for any slideshow we’d like to play

Aside from our face-to-face meeting, we were able to keep in contact via phone and email up to the big day.

It called for rain on our actual wedding day. In fact, it was pouring during my ride over to the Museum of History a few hours prior to the ceremony. We held our breath until the last minute when Phil decided the rain was over and the groomsman helped him set up the outdoor seating in less than 5 minutes.

A few glitches to note:

  • Museum posters not covered up in our reception venue. These were meant to be covered but a quick word to Phil and he made it happen before any guests arrived
  • No signs to direct guests to the venue – particularly because the Voyageurs Salon is a separate building from the main museum – eventually everyone made it!
  • The logistics of getting into the parking lot after hours as the museum is closed. We weren’t aware and eventually had to get security to escort us

We were honestly very happy with how the logistics of the ceremony and reception went. The layout was as we discussed and everything seemed to be in order. If there were any mishaps, we were not made aware, which was fine with us!

Overall, Michael and I were incredibly happy with our chosen venue at the Museum of History. The room rental is a little pricey but does include all set up and take down, cleaning, internet, outdoor ceremony set up, parking passes, day of coordinator, and more. For the piece of mind, and the fact that we (and our family/friends) did not have to do the heavy lifting, was worth it.

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!