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 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 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 below 🙂
    • 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!