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!

Update

Dear friends,

If you are reading this… thank you! I can’t believe you are still here despite the fact that I am nearly one year behind on my blogging.

As you know, I use my blog as a journal of my life’s events so I will continue to try and blog in chronological order and catch up as soon as I can.

I thought it was only fair to update and let you know why I have been so absent – especially since I have not neglected this blog so much since its inception in 2010!

Although these are not excuses, there have been a few reasons for my absence…

  1. Long work hours as at the hospital
  2. Marrying my best friend and love, Michael, on May 14, 2016
  3. Vacation pre and post wedding (in Canada, Melbourne and Brisbane)
  4. Quickly falling pregnant after the wedding (literally 2 weeks after) and being extra tired working my usual hours. I was honestly coming home from work only to have dinner and fall straight asleep
  5. Finally, giving birth to our beautiful daughter, Laurel Linh Xuan Nguy on February 16, 2017. She’s now nearly 8 weeks old and as you can imagine, I have only rare moments to myself!

I can’t wait to catch up on my blog and tell you all about it and more!

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 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.

3 tiers cake

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!

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. 😦

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 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!

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, 2016❤

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! 😉
  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. 🙂

Will share more with individual posts – stay tuned! And thanks for reading! 🙂

DHAL: June 19-26, 2014

Hello friends! How have you been?

What a long absence, but here’s what I’ve been up to this past week!

Highlights:

  • As I mentioned in my previous DHAL, I spent last week in ICU and glad to say I enjoyed my entire time there. Unfortunately, I do think a week is too short. Just as I was getting used to the very different medical environment and getting to know the team, it was time to move on. Alas!
  • On Friday, June 20th, I made soft cranberry white chocolate chips! I think they turned out good and not too sweet with a hint of cinnamon.

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  • The next day, I accompanied FangYing (and her younger sister FangZee) in the morning to help her look for wedding dresses. I couldn’t stay with her for all her appointments because I had lunch at Matt & Kristen’s – thank you so much for the delicious food! It was lovely to see their family – Abigail gets bigger, smarter and more gorgeous each time I see her. Not only was it really nice to see my friends (James, Kim and Smiles), it was also really nice to meet some of their friends and catch up with some of the ones I’ve met in the past. Annette, who I first met through Kristen during our first year elective in Vietnam is 6 months pregnant already, how time flies!
  • On Sunday, I went with FangYing and her sister again to another bridal shop in Indooroopilly, where she also convinced me to try on a few wedding dresses. Although I’m not seriously looking for one myself yet, it was a fun experience! I definitely do not want a mermaid wedding dress and after trying on some strapless ones, I like them a lot more than I think! That’s all I got so far 😛 Afterwards, we met up with YungHowe, her fiance, for dimsum lunch – yummy! I’ve been craving for a while so it was quite satisfying 🙂

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  • It was a fun weekend that continued even into Monday when I met up with Sarah and Amanda for a girl’s night catch up. We had dinner at New Shanghai, left stuffed with the promise of doing it again soon. It was also Amanda’s belated birthday so Sarah and I had the chance to treat her to dinner.
  • My gorgeous friend Ruixi married her love, Chris, on June 21! So sad I couldn’t be there with them and friends, but she was a beautiful bride and they both looked so happy!! I’m so happy for you two! Love seeing the photos!
  • Starting this week until the end of this rotation – July 11th, I will be on Anaesthesia. This entails me accompanying a different anaesthetic consultant everyday to theatre in order to learn and assist. So far, I have been blessed with very friendly seniors who are happy to have a medical student and eager to teach and give me hands on experience. I am getting better at ‘bag and masking,’ which is the most important skill to learn in these next few weeks. I still lack the upper body strength to hold the mask and bag at the same time, but I’m working on it! Another skill we try to master during this term is intubation – which I’ve met with variable success – I accidentally put the endotracheal tube in the oesophagus today. My last intubation was perfect though, hopefully I keep it up!
  • The other nice thing about anaesthesia is the chance to see surgeries I haven’t seen in the past. For example, a total hip replacement, maxillary advancement, bilateral breast reduction, etc.
  • This morning, I got confirmation that I will have free accommodation during my 4 week elective in Nanaimo, BC – yay! Saves me at least $500 🙂
  • I finished at the hospital quite late today. It was already very dark outside when I got home but I saw an outline of a bouquet waiting for me at the door. I couldn’t look at it until I was inside but what a beautiful surprise. A bouquet of our favourite flowers – lilies from Michael – I love you! They haven’t bloomed yet but are so fresh and I can’t wait to see what colour they are. Thank you dear!

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Lowlights:

  • I need to start packing! 2 weeks left until I go home! So much to do still. I have 2 pieces of baggage on my flight back so I will be bringing back goodies for my family 😉
  • Long days. I’m exhausted and falling asleep around 10pm these days. This rotation is draining! Can’t wait for it to be over and to be going home!

DHAL: June 07, 2014

Highlights:

  • My highlight of the day was easily having dinner at Kristen and Matt’s and seeing their little Abigail again! She is almost 6 months old and man, has she grown! Sitting up on her own and eating solids, time flies! It was also lovely to catch up with Matt and Kristen over some yummy tacos, cupcakes, ice cream, and wine! Will try to see them again soon 🙂
  • Was researching wedding stuff – exciting!

Lowlights:

  • Was researching wedding stuff – oh my god, we so poor! 😦 Haha!

Congratulations James & Kim!

On Saturday, May 17, 2014, we had the honour of witnessing our two wonderful friends get married.

James, so handsome in his navy blue suit, joined by Kim so breathtaking in her elegant dress, and together surrounded by their wonderful wedding party.

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Words really can’t describe what a beautiful ceremony it was, especially with such love and emotion so visible and felt by everyone present. The exchange of vows touched everyone’s heart and certainly brought tears of happiness to my eyes.

In a brief moment during the ceremony, a few raindrops were felt but quickly swept away by sunshine as if they had no business being there. I don’t know if everyone noticed, but a beautiful rainbow flew across the sky shortly after the ceremony ended. Additional beauty on this special day!

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While the bride, groom, and wedding photo went off to take photos, we nibbled and drank, catching up with one another. And of course, took some photos…

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A sweet moment on returning from their photo shoot, dancing under the skies.

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Gift table, I loved the cage for cards!

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Simple and elegant.

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Every single person’s speech during dinner… made me teary. It was really a privilege to be present and listen to their two families and friends speak about their love for James & Kim. It’s an indescribable feeling but I hope to be blessed with such company and love on my wedding day.

Cutting of the cake before heading to the dance floor!

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About to begin their first dance…

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Lovely!

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They even had a photo booth, how great is that?

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Unfortunately, Michael and I had to excuse ourselves early as Mike had an early flight to Canada the following morning. The night was just getting started and I’m sure everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves before sending James and Kim off with sparklers in the night.

Thank you again for letting us be a part of your special day… we love you and we wish you both all the happiness in the world! May this be your most exciting life journey yet… ❤

Michael & I are engaged!

And we wanted to share the happy news! 😀

Michael and I spent our week off, from Monday to Friday (March 10-14) on a beach getaway on Stradbroke Island.

We stayed at Allure Resort, in a lovely privately owned beach cabin (Shack 18) that you can read more about in this previous post

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First selfie after arriving 🙂

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Just 2 minutes walk from the beach

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With absolutely gorgeous weather

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We had brought all our own groceries so cooked and indulged in many delicious meals in our beach cabin. We had lots of private time, and enjoyed quite a bit of relaxation including catching up on our favourite TV shows, watching movies, reading novels, and playing Splinter Cell on the Xbox. Yes, we even brought our Xbox to the island. 😉

More importantly, we had lots of fun in the sun! Spent hours swimming in the cool, crystal clear waters and went for long walks on the beach.

It was actually during one of our walks on the beach, on March 12, 2014, that my wonderful partner of 3 years asked me to marry him.

Here is what Michael would like to share:

I had been contemplating for weeks how exactly I wanted to ask the love of my life to marry me. I opted for a simple plan that involved doing something that has brought so many days of fun together, asking her during a day at the beach. From our previous camping trip to Straddie, I recalled that there is an interesting area of beach with boulders and other various rock formations accessible at low tide as Deadman’s Beach transitions to Frenchman’s beach. So, with keeping the schedule of the tides in mind, around low tide I suggested we make our way towards Frenchman’s beach.

My plan was initially to double back on Sandra during our walk, hiding among the rocks in order to find a private spot to write my proposal in the sand. Luckily, as we were walking through the completely empty beach, Sandra suggested we stop so she could shoot a video of the waves and rocks. I immediately jumped on this, disappearing behind the largest of the rocks to quickly extract the ring from my backpack and write “Sandra Marry Me” in the sand. I really would have liked to put it in a question…but I was unsure exactly how much time I had before her recording was over, so I kept it to the point with just three words.

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Just as I finished the last letter, I poked my head out from behind the rock to see she was done and looking for me. I called for her to come around the rock to check out something cool. As she walked around the rock and her gaze shifted to the writing, I dropped to one knee, opened the box to display the ring and said, “Sandra, you are the love of my life, you make me so happy, I want to be with you forever. Will you do me the honour of marrying me?”. She said YES! We kissed and I proudly placed the ring on her finger 🙂 I’m a happy man.

Right after he put the ring on my finger 😀

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I thought Michael was hiding behind a boulder trying to scare me. Imagine my surprise to see his message in the sand and then down on one knee!

There was no hesitation before I said, “Yes!”  In the past 3 years, he has shown me what love for another should be by showering me with it. He has been immensely kind, caring, and supportive. He praises my strengths and accepts my flaws, encourages me and pushes me to be the best person I can be. He treats my family with love and respect and I am extremely lucky to have been embraced by his family from the beginning. Michael is my best friend and the love of my life. ❤

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We are very happy and extremely excited for what the future will bring!

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Here is a short video of our time on Stradbroke Island!

We have kept our engagement quiet these past few days in order to let our families and close friends know first. It was even harder to do because we had no internet service during our time on Stradbroke Island and had to wait until we were back in Brisbane. But now we want the rest of the world to know as well!

Family and friends have asked a few similar questions, so I will share my answers with you here.

1) Were you surprised or did you know it was coming? Well, Michael and I have talked about getting married for some time now. While we were back in Canada over Christmas, he surprised me by asking me to go look at rings with him. He had also asked my mom for my hand in marriage and received her blessing, so I definitely knew it was coming, but it was certainly a surprise when he proposed! Like I mentioned earlier, I thought he was trying to scare me. It never crossed my mind that he was about to ask me to marry him!

2) Did he pick the ring out himself? Yes he did! We tried on a few different styled rings together over Christmas to get an idea of what we both liked, but he secretly got this ring on his own. I love my ring! I especially like that it’s a Canadian diamond surrounded by beautifully delicate and subtle detailing.

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3) When’s the wedding?! Is it going to be in Canada or Australia? We honestly don’t know yet! There are so many factors that are out of our hand at the moment with regards to where we will be doing our medical training. So when we know, we will let you know too!

Whew, if you’re still here then thank you so much for reading and sharing in our good news!

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Ruixi & Chris’ wonderful Save the Date

They did such a great job on this, I had to share!

Fingerprint heart design on the cover, each half unique from one member of the couple.

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And the lovely surprise when you open it up… Knot tightens as the card fully opens.

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How cute is that? I love the fact that they are homemade, simple but with a really cute theme. Not to mention they were probably able to save a bunch of money!

Can’t wait to see what other surprises they have in store!

Tina & Vinh’s Pre-Wedding Nostalgic Party

Vinh and Tina’s wedding is tomorrow – so exciting!

As an opportunity to reminisce the good old days, Elvin organised “Tina & Vinh’s Pre-Wedding Nostalgic Party” for this evening in Canada (June 21).

The event info:

In early celebration of Tina and Vinh’s wedding and also for the sake of good times and great friends’ company, join us for a fun time at Marion Common Room!

We it will be a pot-luck-style event with perhaps Pizza Pizza just like old times!

Please bring any food, games, activities and memories to share with the group just like we did in undergrad!

Think: juice boxes, meech, werewolves, card games etc.

It will be great times!

For those who don’t know, Marion is the main science building at the University of Ottawa… where we spent so much of our time in undergrad together – lots of great laughs and fun memories.

I’m so glad to have been able to hang out with everyone (via Facetime, woo hoo!) Brought back lots of memories, I can’t believe so much time has passed since we’ve last been in that room together. Many of us are all in different cities now, back in Ottawa especially for Vinh and Tina’s wedding. I only wish I could be there in person to watch these wonderful 2 get married tomorrow but I will live vicariously through everyone else 🙂

I took some screen shots during the game of Cards Against Humanity – so much laughter went on.

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Yo, check out Amin’s sunglasses 😉

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Group picture – Miss you guys! Thanks for including me in such a special night! 🙂

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Celebrating James & Kim’s Engagement

Last weekend, on February 9th, we were invited to the Toowong Bowls Club to share in the celebration of James and Kim’s engagement.

It was a gorgeous day and very lovely to see everyone, not mention our first time playing barefoot bowls!

Presents 🙂

Touching speeches from the couple and their families

Family and friends mingling

Group picture ❤

So happy for Kim and James! 😀