My husband and I were married on September 1, 2019. We count ourselves lucky. The timing was perfect, really. We had family and friends who travelled from all over the world to be at our celebration, and while it was … Continue reading
Our Wedding Recap
It’s hard to believe that exactly one month has already passed since Kirk and I got married. September 1, 2019 feels simultaneously as if it was just yesterday and also like a huge chunk of time gone. Nevertheless, it’s been a whirlwind these past four weeks.
We got to spend a few extra days with Kirk’s parents after the wedding, exploring the Rockies and Southern Alberta. Two weeks later, we were in Calgary for the weekend to check out the Beakerhead Spectacle (watch out for another post about that) and the final day of the Nick Cave: Feat exhibit at the Glenbow Museum, and, this Friday, we spent the night in downtown Edmonton on a staycation after attending the first of two performances by Elton John on his farewell tour.
Despite the endless hubbub since, I honestly look back at our wedding with the fondest of memories and, at this point in my life, it truly was one of the best days I’ve ever experienced. For our one month anniversary, I thought it’d be fun to do a quick recap of the what, where, when, how, and why of it all.
In a previous post about Edmonton wedding venues, I shared our pick: Ampersand 27. It turned out to be the perfect size for us. During our initial meetings with the restaurant manager and hotel catering manager (from the Varscona), we had estimated around 80 guests. When we sent out our invitations, we actually nearly doubled the guest list. Yet, in the end, only 60 guests RSVP’d as attending. We were able to fit everyone into the main dining area for both the ceremony and reception without issue, so this is an ideal spot for those planning for a small to medium party.
The interior of Ampersand 27 is magical. With a gorgeously designed space, it requires very little extra decoration. There are twinkling lights and dangling balls on the ceiling, and the mantle place makes such a pretty backdrop. The lounge is also lovely for dancing and there’s a lengthy bar top to allow guests a place to perch when they’re waiting for a beverage. The hospitality suite at the back of the restaurant provided a quieter spot for people to chat and rest their feet later in the evening.
In terms of the food, we really wanted the dinner to feel like an intimate gathering and opted for a family-style dinner with large shared plates to be passed around the table and both red and white table wine. There was absolutely no shortage when it came to the starters (caprese salad, roasted cauliflower, and gnocchi), mains (rib eye steak, smoked salmon, and roasted chicken), sides (carrots, smashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and broccolini), and desserts (white chocolate cheesecake and chocolate brownies). Everyone praised the kitchen and left full. We also started the reception with a cocktail hour that served a mix of hors d’oeuvres as well as cheese and charcuterie, tea, coffee, and sparkling wine. Late in the evening, we offered a snack of mac and cheese fritters, Ahi tuna, and, our favourite, pork belly baos. Drink tickets were also distributed to our guests to be redeemed towards anything from highballs to beer and whiskey to cocktails.
Once we knew our venue and the date of our wedding, we promptly started looking for a photographer. There are a lot of options in Edmonton and the list is extensive. Since I tend to use Instagram quite a bit, I narrowed down the search by seeking out potential local candidates using hashtags. When I compiled my favourites, I emailed each of them to ask about their availability and pricing. That helped me to gauge if they’d even be a possibility. Our budget wasn’t large, but we also didn’t want to skimp on the person who would be capturing our memories. Once Kirk and I agreed on a few of them, we set up meetings to see how we’d get along. They were all great; however, one really stood out.
We booked Jennie Lea Photography for both our engagement and wedding photos. And, I highly recommend doing an engagement session with the photographer you choose. It’ll give you a chance to familiarize yourselves with each other, and become more comfortable in front of the camera. We’re no models, but Jennie made us feel like stars. She was also so good with giving directions, location scouting (we found ourselves at Made by Marcus and Malt & Mortar along Whyte Avenue), and she even drove me to meet Kirk for our first look (do this!). I love her and am happy to call her a friend now.
The engagement photos were so wonderful, and, what we’ve been shown from our wedding (everything you see here was shot by Jennie and/or Janice Saxon; the full set is estimated to take approximately 8-12 weeks after our wedding date due to it being the busy season) thus far has blown us away. The photos take us back immediately to those moments. They’re that special.
Additionally, I have to mention that, depending on the package you select with your photographer, it may even include a second shooter who will be there to capture the groom and his men getting ready. In our case, Janice Saxon took on that role for our day and she was awesome. Not only did she split off with the guys, but she was also there to provide a different perspective of the ceremony and reception.
Take your time trying to find a photographer that meshes well with you. Ultimately, it’s worth the effort and the money.
Sign up for Vistaprint emails because you’ll eventually get a half price offer on your printed items. We skipped save the date cards, opting simply to order invitations that dictated the date and location of the wedding while directing our guests to our wedding website (created for free through WordPress) for further details and the RSVP form.
It took next to no time for our shipment to arrive, and when I wasn’t sure about the quality received, I reached out to customer service who proceeded to reprint my entire order under their satisfaction guarantee.
I even used the extra card stock (provided to protect each set of 10 invitations) to write out our whole seating chart, so nothing was wasted.
Wedding Dress & Accessories
As fun as it would have been to hit up some of the local dress shops throughout the city (who doesn’t want to feel like a princess in a few ball gowns?), I turned towards the internet for my dress. I looked all over the place, including BHLDN, which is Anthropologie’s wedding themed website. It was there that I found the one, but it wasn’t where I made my final purchase. I did more digging and I managed to locate the same dress on the Macy’s website for even less money. Plus, when I signed up for the Macy’s newsletter, I received a promo code for an additional 25 per cent off. While we waited for it to arrive, my mom was apprehensive. She was worried about the quality, especially after she saw another dress from the BHLDN site at the West Edmonton Mall Anthropologie that left a lot to be desired. Thankfully, it showed up and it was better than expected.
The lacy, embroidered, blush Adrianna Papell gown was exactly what I wanted. Sure, it had to be modified slightly to give it a better shape on my body, but it was relaxed, girly, flowy, comfortable, and had just enough detail to satisfy the fashionista in me. Jennie, my photographer, squealed when she saw how non-traditional it was. My friend said it reminded her of Rapunzel in Tangled and she wasn’t really wrong.
I went to My Style Tailor (14804 Stony Plain Road) for all of the alterations: sides taken in, cups added, straps secured, loose stitching fixed, and the hem shortened. It wasn’t a quick turn around time, but May got everything done in one go.
To complete the look, I went into an old box of accessories that I never unpacked when I moved. There, I found some floral clips used to decorate my hair. I wore a necklace given to me by my grandmother, and I donned a pair of deep blush pink velvet shoes purchased online from Forever 21 (I did lose a few jewels from the shoes, but it was barely noticeable).
I was quite nonchalant about what my bridesmaids were going to wear. I let them know what colour I was thinking of (dusty/steel blue) and said that they could go anywhere they wanted to purchase their dresses. They didn’t have to match. They just needed to be full-length and within the same colour family. I simply wanted them to feel comfortable and happy. I certainly didn’t want to dictate how much they’d be spending on a one-day event. Better yet, I wanted them like their dresses enough to be able to reuse them down the road, if they chose to do so.
I guess I was a little too lax with everything though and they wanted more direction. The four of us made a day of it, hitting up three different stores on a Saturday at the end of March. While there were some nice choices at the more boutique-like bridal stores we went to, the prices were a lot higher and the selection wasn’t as big. Our last stop was David’s Bridal at South Edmonton Common and that’s where they found their favourite dresses.
It took a second visit to come to a decision, but all three of them actually liked the same dress and opted to match. Silver shoes were chosen to go with their gowns and they accessorized with their own delicate pieces of jewellery.
Hair & Makeup
I left this until almost the last minute (practically). I have my bridesmaid Amanda to thank for reminding me to book this. We got Alice Tran to come from Calgary to do both services for all four of us girls. It made for an early morning, but everything timed out well and we were right on schedule. The day was relaxed while we snacked, chatted, did our nails, and got dolled up.
Kirk really wanted a custom blue suit for the wedding, so we went to Indochino at West Edmonton Mall. He was measured in-house and he got to pick the fabric, lining, style of pockets/collar/sleeves/pants, etc. In all honesty, we had a tough go with the fittings. The first jacket was way off with the stomach; it could have fit me inside it as well. The second jacket just had the puffiest padded shoulders, which looked wrong and caused the area above his biceps to pucker weirdly.
The third time was the charm though, thank goodness! We started the whole process of the having the suit made near the start of April, and, by the time we received the proper jacket, we were nearly down to the wire. It all worked out in the end, but it was touch and go for a bit. Kirk looked really dapper though and I am glad that he went for it. He paired the suit with a pair of brown suede dress shoes and a wood tie clip that we found at Simons, which finished off the whole look.
So, as it happens, Kirk’s best man and two other groomsmen were all in the best man’s wedding party a few years back. They all had matching suits from Moores for those nuptials and they all still fit in them. To make things easy, we told them to wear them again for our wedding, and it was perfect since the grey colour balanced out the blues and the blush. We even got them all matching pink ties from Simons to wear.
While I went the DIY route for a handful of things with our wedding, I knew that, as a black thumb, I probably wouldn’t fare well with creating bouquets or boutonnieres myself. I shelled over the money to hire SWISH Flowers. They created beautiful arrangements for my bridal bouquet and three bridesmaid bouquets as well as matching boutonnieres and pin corsages for Kirk, his groomsmen, my dad, and our mothers.
I didn’t want anything too structured, so the arrangements were a little bit wild with greenery that wasn’t perfectly placed. We stuck with seasonal flowers like roses, gerbera daisies, and freesia. Mixed into the bundle was astilbe, eryngium, dusty miller, silver dollar eucalyptus, and succulents. The colours were white, blush, and shades of muted green and blue to match our outfits.
It’s definitely helpful if you go into the meeting with your florist with an idea of what you are looking for. In my case, I really didn’t know. There were a lot of bouquets I’d seen on Pinterest that I loved, but most included spring flowers that would have been out of season or too expensive to bring in. I worked with Lara at SWISH Flowers to come up with something that would fit the tone and style of our wedding and I was very happy with what we got.
A friend of mine even deconstructed my bridal bouquet later in the week, making a new vase arrangement and then replanting the succulents for me as a keepsake that I hope I will have better luck at keeping alive.
We did away with a live band or a DJ, and we used my Spotify account on Kirk’s laptop for the entire wedding. We had selected a few songs to play for the ceremony entrance, signing, and exit. Our friend/guest graciously agreed to handle the logistics of that. He also ended up becoming our impromptu DJ for the night. Even though I had asked all of our guests for song suggestions and compiled a playlist ahead of time with the majority of those selections incorporated, everyone ended up making requests and our friend just took it over and I was okay with that.
The speakers were rented from Long & McQuade for the weekend along with a lighting system to liven up the dance floor. It created the perfect ambiance for our party, which lasted until about 1:30am.
It’s an interesting process to pick the person who is going to officiate your marriage. We met with several people who were all found on the Service Alberta website (they must be appointed by the Government of Alberta) before we picked Pat Monilaws based out of Leduc. She was just so warm and friendly during our initial get together. With the concern and excitement of a mother and impeccable organization, we thought she’d be perfect. She did a fantastic job on the day. If you’re looking for someone to perform your ceremony, we’d certainly recommend her.
Wedding Bands & Engagement Ring
When we were first looking at engagement rings, we went to a handful of shops for fun. All of them seemed to push the trendiest and biggest options onto us. But, when we stopped into Independent Jewellers, Stephanie, one of the store managers, was awesome. She elevated our experience by clearly explaining the 4Cs to us and then she just started pulling out a bunch of different styles in various sizes, letting me try everything on. She understood that not every ring is suited to every hand. I have really petite hands and my ring finger is a size 3.5, so a large carat size might look crazily disproportionate on me. When we finished there, I’d narrowed it down to three possibilities and left the final decision (and proposal) in Kirk’s capable hands.
Probably about a year after we were engaged, Kirk and I popped into Independent Jewellers again to look for wedding bands. We were told that the selection was a bit scant at the time and it would be best to come back in the spring around May for more choices. Sure enough, when we returned, they had just stocked a brand new men’s wedding band that Kirk was drawn to right away. Brushed white gold on the outside with a shiny rose gold finish on the inside. I wanted to compliment my engagement ring with something that was still dainty, but also fun, and I chose a white gold bubble band with bezel set diamonds, which was custom made to my size.
I also love Independent Jewellers because they will clean my rings everytime I’m there (they’re so sparkly afterwards), plus they do inspections every six months.
With dessert included in our family-style dinner reception, we knew that our guests would likely be so full from the meal they’d just consumed that a big cake would largely be wasted. We thought it’d be best to go with a smaller cake, so we could do a simple cutting ceremony.
I did some research on different bakeries around the city and the prices for their signature cakes (not custom), and I landed on Milk & Cookies Bakeshop. With ten different flavours available, we elected to go for an 8″ Raspberry Lemon cake. For $50, it was already less than or on par with the cost of a 6″ cake at other shops. But, I paid an extra $10 to have the colours of the frosting changed to match the blush and blue of our outfits and to have sugar cookies (so delicious!) added to the top of the cake.
Our wedding was on a Sunday and the closest open date for pick up when I ordered our cake was the Thursday before. The cake refrigerated well and was still fresh and moist for the following week. Anything that remained, we froze for later.
To further decorate the cake, we picked up a ‘Mr & Mrs’ silver glitter topper from Michaels for about $7 after applying a 50 to 55 per cent off coupon.
Decorations & Party Favours
Last, but not least, were the decorations and party favours. I spent the better part of a year collecting items as I continued planning. We were lucky in that Ampersand 27 is already so well-designed that decorations could really be kept to a minimum. Anything that I did find, I could also use down the road as home decor.
Most of the pieces I bought, such as, the cake stand; a card box; wooden initials; a metal “love” sign; picture frames; and a table runner, were from Winners (paid for with gift cards I’d redeemed using my credit card points). We had a couple of our engagement photos printed at London Drugs for display in our seating chart frame and guest book picture frame. After months of calligraphy practice, the signage and place cards were all handwritten by me. Small chalkboard easels picked up from the clearance section at Michaels were used for the table numbers.
When it came to our party favours, we wanted it to be personal and something that would hopefully be treasured by our guests. It became a DIY project done with a lot of love. You can read more about them here.
I’ll update this post with more photos once we get everything. In the meantime, I hope that this inspires any brides-to-be, especially those in Edmonton.
Edmonton Restaurant Review: iPho and Grill Vietnamese Cuisine
I was really waffling on what to eat and where to go for dinner last month. Ultimately, I picked iPho and Grill Vietnamese Cuisine located along Calgary Trail at 6104 104 Street. We showed up right around six o’clock on a Saturday night without a reservation, and we didn’t have any problems getting a table. It was busy when we arrived though. A number of the tables were already occupied, including one with a large group of about ten people. It meant service was a tad slow, but thankfully, we weren’t in a rush to go anywhere else after. Despite the wait to order, the booth was comfortable and the space was new, clean and modern.
To drink, I ordered a Fresh Fruit Mango Bubble Tea ($4.45). Contrary to the name, the beverage doesn’t include any tapioca pearls in it for the base price, so you do have to add them for an extra cost ($0.75). I actually found that the mango tasted more artificially flavoured than fresh, but the consistency was smooth and there was a decent ratio of pearls to smoothie, so I didn’t run out of either before the other.
As his starter, Kirk opted to go with an order of the Spring Rolls ($5.95). These rice paper wraps were freshly fried to a crunchy, thin, golden-brown and filled with a mix of ground meat, veggies, and vermicelli noodles. I didn’t eat any of his, but a couple of pieces came with my own food, and I thought that they were delicious. For the appetizer, they served the spring rolls with a side of fish sauce for dipping. Kirk wasn’t a fan of using it, but I think that the funky sweet, salty, and fishy taste married well to create a nice balance of flavours, amping up the spring roll ingredients.
Kirk’s main dish was the Specialty Chicken Noodle Soup ($10.95). He requested that they make it spicy for a dollar more. It would have been nice to try the broth before it was altered, just to see what it tasted like in a more pure form. All I can say is that the spicy version was HOT. The soup was piping temperature-wise, but the heat on the palate from the spice was even difficult for Kirk to handle. I had two spoonfuls of the broth and, while I enjoyed the flavour profile at first, it definitely kicked you in the throat at the end and the spice really lingered. Otherwise, I believe that the bowl could have used a little more of the chicken as there wasn’t a whole lot of meat, and the same goes for the noodles.
Whenever I go for Vietnamese, I usually turn to the vermicelli bowls and their Special Combination 5 (#91 on the menu; $15.45) didn’t disappoint. It had a well-portioned combination of noodles, bean sprouts, lettuce, cucumber, and carrot to form the base of the meal. It was topped off with copious amounts of grilled beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, and spring rolls. A small dish of fish sauce was provided to coat everything (I used all of it). The veggies were crisp and juicy, the noodles had a nice bite to them, and the meats were all prepared nicely. Occasionally, I find that the beef at other restaurants have a lot of tendon running through the pieces, making them chewier, but I didn’t have that issue here. The beef also had a distinct lemongrass flavour. The three meats were tender, and I was especially happy with the shrimp, which were surprisingly plump and perfectly seasoned. I devoured the whole bowl and went home very happy.
Once we were fully satiated, we head over to the counter to take care of our bill. I’m unsure whether or not they will take payment at the table, but we noticed a number of other patrons walking up to the till, so we did the same thing. Overall, iPho and Grill was pretty good; however, if you aren’t certain that you can handle something truly spicy, you’ve been forewarned about their soups.
Wedding DIY: Party Favour Prints
For our wedding, I really wanted to make something unique for our party favours, but I didn’t know exactly what that would be at first. It wasn’t until I attended an evening printmaking class at the Art Gallery of Alberta that I became inspired. I had such a blast carving out a big stamp that I decided, then and there, to incorporate that creative technique into the gifts for our guests.
One of my friends who attended the drop-in class with me didn’t quite finish her piece that night, so she opted to buy her own tools in order to complete her carving at home. She found everything she needed at Delta Art & Drafting Supplies (11116 120 Street) during a sale, and I followed suit by picking up all of the required materials to put my plan into action. I think, all in, I spent about $130 on a few sheets of easy cut lino, an assorted lino cutter set, rollers, a paint knife, a jar of ink, and a metal leaf adhesive pen (that didn’t get used). I collected some quality art paper that I already had at home, which saved me a bit of money, too.
The hard part was coming up with a design to represent both me and Kirk as well as what our family and friends mean to us. When I finally put everything together, the rest of the project was a breeze.
It took me about a full day to trace and carve the piece out onto the lino. Since you’re creating a stamp, you have to remember that, when it’s printed, it’ll put a mirror image onto the paper. I had to be careful to make sure that the picture would be the right way around, especially with any wording. For designs that are more generic, it’s not much of an issue, but in my case, a map of Canada and all of the hand-carved text needed to be done correctly. Thankfully, I didn’t make any mistakes!
With aching hands, I proceeded to print about 60 copies of my design the following day. I made sure to fully coat the lino stamp with ink, but avoided applying the paint too thickly. If there’s excess, the ink will bleed into the crevices where you want the lines to show, so it’s better to be a little light-handed with the paint. A dry roller used to apply pressure to the backside of the stamp will get the ink to stick to the paper for that perfect one of a kind transfer.
For our favours, the finishing touch was some gold hearts. I mentioned previously that I had purchased an adhesive pen, which I had intended to use to apply rose gold metal leaf to each piece. Unfortunately, I found the nib of the pen to be too wide, preventing me from drawing more refined hearts. The glue also never seemed to get sticky enough and the foil wasn’t defined at all. Ultimately, I tossed that idea aside and I ended up hand painting hearts onto the maps using metallic gold acrylic once the base layer of ink had fully dried.
The final prints were about 11″ x 7″ in size. Rather than sealing them up in plain manila, my mom found some 12″ x 12″ scrapbooking paper that we had held onto. She was like some origami queen; she folded these beautiful envelopes and then stuffed every one with a print. We sealed them with some pretty stickers that we found at Dollar Tree and then I hand wrote the guests’ names on them.
It definitely was a wedding party favour that required thought and time, a real labour of love. I’m so glad that I opted to do this because it was something creative for me to work on, but it was also different and heartfelt. Our guests really appreciated the effort we put into it and they knew that what we said in our print was what we truly meant.
DIY isn’t necessarily for everyone who’s getting hitched. Nevertheless, I hope this encourages some of you to give DIY a try. At home projects can make things a bit easier on the wallet and, if you give yourself the time, it can be so gratifying to create things. In fact, I enjoyed this so much that I worked on a side printmaking project for a special letter given to my husband for our first look. It made our wedding day that much more special with those small details.
Edmonton Restaurant Review: Izakaya O-Tori
Last year, Edmonton was abuzz with news of a new Korean-Japanese fusion restaurant called Jang located at 11212 Jasper Avenue. They were getting rave reviews from visitors, and I fully intended on trying it out. But, before I knew it, the eatery had been replaced by a spot called Izakaya O-Tori. Being a fan of Japanese ramen and sharing plates, I decided to drop by during a recent date night.
From what the server told us, it turns out that the business is still run by the same people who launched Jang. They simply opted to change their menu. Because of what is now served, they also chose to rebrand with a different name to better reflect the updated items. Now, Izakaya O-Tori holds more similarities to what you might find at their southside sister restaurant, Menjiro Ramen, just expanded.
Therefore, in addition to the ramen bowls — available with either beef (Gyukotsu; not typically the norm for ramen) or pork (Tonkotsu) broth — you can indulge in yakitori (meat skewers), a variety of waffle fries, a poke bowl, or pressed sushi. Kirk and I both went for some ramen; he ordered the Spicy Gyukotsu ($16) and I went with the Black Garlic Tonkotsu ($14). We also shared the Red Dragon Roll ($17).
I guess the first thing I’ll note is that the Spicy Gyukotsu is somewhat pricey considering the portion size. I don’t think that the bowls are quite as hefty as what you might get at local fave, Tokiwa Ramen, yet it’s more expensive. Kirk also wasn’t super keen on the roast beef that came with it and he thought the broth wasn’t hot enough. On the plus side, I sampled the soup and I found it to be incredibly creamy and rich in flavour with just the right amount of heat on the palate for me.
In comparison, the Black Garlic Tonkotsu broth was also smooth, but felt lighter overall. Packed with umami flavour, the springy noodles married very well with the soup and the huge slice of succulent pork belly. Joined by half of a seasoned egg, bean sprouts, green onion, fungus, and red onion, the bowl provided a landscape of textures that delighted and satisfied. I thought my broth was hot enough, too; however, I’ve never liked my food scalding, so to each their own in that respect.
Despite the tasty ramen, the star of the show really was the Red Dragon Roll, a large maki made with shrimp tempura, cucumber, spicy creamy cheese sauce, ahi tuna, and avocado. It was laid in front of us and then torched at the table until the tops of each piece had been delicately seared. Kirk is slowly coming around with more of the raw fish, so it helps when there’s even a slight bit of cooking applied to sushi. He absolutely loved this dish and told me that he would have been happy to eat the whole thing, if he didn’t have to save some for his better half. Admittedly, I felt the same way.
To finish off our meal, I selected the Matcha Crème Brûlée ($6). The sugar top was caramelized nicely and, once cracked, it gave way to a soft-set pudding-like custard. It was heavily flavoured with green tea, which was perfect. The worst thing is not having a strong enough taste, and thankfully, that wasn’t the case here.
We enjoyed our meal at Izakaya O-Tori. It’s clean, the service is great, the decor is simple, and the food is comforting. The only thing we thought was odd was how empty it was for a Saturday night. Hopefully word gets out about this place. We can never have too many ramen shops in town!