This trip by the numbers:
- Number of airport runs not involving my own flights: 4
- Ice cream treats enjoyed: 2
- Size of wedding party: 12 (1 bride + 1 groom + 5 groomsmen + 5 bridesmaids)
- Wedding guest list: 132
- Number of Chows (incl partners): 25
- Number of Chows that traveled to the wedding: 15
- Evan’s flights: 20th and 21st as Infant in Lap
- Times we went to Asian Legend: 2
I flew out alone with E on Saturday, June 24 on a 12:30 flight. I had secured a bassinet row seat with extra legroom long ago and amazingly, only two other people were occupying the other six seats. Those other two people spread out and E got his own seat at times. Disappointingly, he only slept for an hour and it was during the 45 minutes the aircraft was still on the tarmac, slightly delayed. On the flight back to Vancouver on Monday, July 3, when NPY and I sat without neighbours because it was a 2-3-2 configuration across the row, E slept for under an hour and when he stirred, we couldn’t get him back to sleep. There were several entirely empty rows in the middle section but we kept declining moving to them. Previously, I was frustrated that we have to pay full price for plane tickets after E turns two years old (soon) but with our flights throughout his first two years, it becomes obvious that two years of age is when they are ready in length and willfulness to get their own seat so you can have some peace!
Mum left Toronto for Halifax on the same day we left, July 3, and booked a connecting flight with a layover in Montreal. But of all the terrible luck, her first flight was delayed by two hours causing her to miss her connection and then her connecting flight kept getting pushed back. Originally she was supposed to return to Halifax at 6 p.m. but she didn’t get in until 2 a.m. the next day! It was a nightmare day for her!
Aside from my own Vancouver-Toronto and return flights, I made several airport runs: picking up NPY on Wednesday evening, pick up my parents on Thursday afternoon, dropping off my father who was headed to Vancouver super early on Saturday morning and – after we returned to Vancouver – dropping off my father who on Monday evening was heading to Halifax.
GTD in Toronto
Back in December and I was in Toronto with NPY and E, I looked forward to return in April and particularly in June/July. It seemed akin to child cruelty to take E out in the winter even if he’s bundled up in a snowsuit and boots because the wind was whipping all around. But then it rained hard for a stretch every day leading up to the wedding and that was quite the downer even though I was truly caught out in it just once.
Sunday 25 June: Playdate
Since I missed meeting up with my long-time friend Vinnie entirely in April, we were on the hook to meet up twice this trip: one playdate and one sans kids. The playdate necessarily was on the first day I was in town, the Sunday and we made it work with wonky nap times and E being solidly on Vancouver time. We took the kids to a nearby field with fake turf and it was lovely to be outdoors, keeping one eyeball on the inquisitive toddlers who chased after balls and bubbles and catching up on things parenting, generally.
Tuesday 27 June: Downtown loop
A week before, I set up a meeting with a contact in the Toronto firm to visit their new office and I was still thinking of E’s schedule on Vancouver time. As the Tuesday came up, I had to rouse E to keep the meeting but we got in to downtown via TTC on time and toured the office. It’s the third office with the new concept that I’ve visited but certain features like a beautiful stairwell and the particular views they have were stunning. Then I had a morning and early afternoon planned involving lunch in the Sak’s Fifth Avenue Food Hall by Pusateri’s, matcha sundae at Tsujiri, shopping at Umbra, and checking out the IKEA Play Cafe. At one point, it was torrential raining and I found that chain coffee shops on Queen Street West do not have seating and provide poor respite from the rain. And in E’s dinky umbrella stroller with a laughable canopy, it felt like child cruelty to keep him in there with a chilly wind whipping about.
Weekend of 1-2 July: Out and about with NPY
In a way, NPY was brought in to be a babysitter between his Wednesday arrival to end of the wedding day on Friday. After that, we could almost be entirely selfish and do our own thing… but what could we do? While I am often guilty of compiling recommendations of where to go (for food) in Toronto, I have either been more selective or less diligent on it. I did have a small list of places I wanted to hit up this time around but if something did not pan out, I did not have many back-up suggestions. So it did seem like “there was nothing to do”. We quickly grew tired of fighting traffic, finding that the next destination was another 20 minute drive away and, really, was it worth it?
Once we were free on July 1 in the early afternoon, it was time for E to nap. So we manage to accomplish getting to Rooster Coffee on Broadview where NPY hopped out and got a coffee to go, queue for 20 minutes to get purple (ube and lavendar) and black (coconut) twist soft serve in a black waffle cone, check out Bellwoods Brewery and determine we didn’t want to stay, and check out Henderson Brewing. We went back home for E to have dinner and catch fireworks (from a great distance) set off from CN Tower. Right in the midst of fireworks traffic around Mel Lastman Square (and apparently Drake made a surprise appearance), we tried to get some late night food trying Sugar Marmalade (traffic), Sweet Escape (closed) and finally Petit Potato.
Since “there was nothing to do”, we took the Jays tickets Lil Sis and BIL picked up to share with visitors and drove into downtown on Sunday, July 2. For a moment it seemed like we might never find parking and I wanted to leave before we ever got in but we found meter parking on Front Street and so we did watch all of one inning from way up in the upper deck. The sky was overcast and the dome started to close but when we started feeling raindrops, we used E as an excuse to hide indoors and we did not watch any more of the game. We picked up my mum from the Airbnb she stayed in with her sisters and comfortably walked around Yorkdale (NPY’s second visit during the trip and my first). Sometimes it’s nice doing something normal (and comfortable) with my mum.
The interesting thing about weddings is becoming familiar with new venues. Lil Sis and BIL decided to go with Timothy Eaton Memorial Church for their ceremony and the Eglinton Grand for their reception. I hadn’t looked them up and wasn’t familiar with either from my life before.
Preparations I was involved in
Arriving alone with E on Saturday and not having NPY around until Wednesday, I wasn’t particularly free until after E went to sleep and that was midnight local time. I was first tasked with writing out the name cards and then I helped with small signage. Meanwhile, Lil Sis and BIL were preparing the movie(s) that would be running and larger printables. Upon first arriving, I saw Lil Sis had the ring bearer pillow and I trained E every day to bring the pillow to “Ung Ko” (uncle) who would be elsewhere in the apartment. The day before the wedding, Lil Sis and I – alone – set-up the venue.
The Shangri-La experience
Lil Sis and BIL booked a one-bedroom suite for two nights, the first night to provide Lil Sis with a space to get ready on the big day. She invited me and my mother to stay with her as there was ample space. When we first saw our Venetian Las Vegas rooms a few weeks before, she hadn’t stayed in such a place before. She wondered how the Shangri-La would compare….
The Shangri-La knocked it out of the park. We had a real living room and a second bathroom. There were closets galore. All of the finishings were visibly and tactily high-end and the service was impeccable. The staff were so willing to help us enjoy our stay and find everything we needed.
The Big Day
I woke up at 8 a.m. and Lil Sis was awake before me, naturally. Hair and make-up were arriving at 10 a.m. and all I could think about was my speech! I had started it months ago and could only bring myself to look at it again the day before the wedding and google advice on putting it together. I had some kind of foundation and knew all the content before I went to sleep and I thought it would look more appropriate to read from paper rather than off my phone. But getting the time to write for a short time was hard…
One of the bridesmaids arrived at 10 and she, Lil Sis and I got our hair and make-up done by the team of three women who came. We asked the hotel staff to find us some stools and they brought upholstered bar stools and we sat facing the window that had a westward view. My sister set the tone with fairly neutral make-up and an updo. But I balked at the bubblegum pink lipstick my make-up artist applied on me and went with a red lip. And a half-up hairstyle – on account that unlike the other bridesmaids, my dress had big V-back. But the ringlets the hair stylist put in fell out and I had “beach waves” from the get-go. My hair disappoints me!
Lil Sis ordered some platters from Pickle Barrel: a Mediterranean sampler, breakfast basket of pastries, salad and chocolate-covered strawberries. It would be all the food we would have until dinner!
The photographer arrived and the rest of the bridesmaids after 11:30 and somehow, it was still all about getting pretty until nearly 2 p.m. We took some photos just across the street while we waited for the limo to arrive that would take us to the church.
The limo ride seemed to take forever and it didn’t help there was inadequate air conditioning – the theme of the day. NPY had been texting me how much of a nightmare it was for him to get E ready. Then I stopped hearing from him and I fretted that they didn’t have the all-important pillow, or didn’t make it!
At the church, we had to wait in the limo for the guys to arrive and go in first. They had been preparing in Vaughan and arrived in the party bus. After they went into the church, then other bridesmaids went in and then I did. Most of what happened next was a bit of a blur. I made it down the aisle (alone, naturally) and didn’t turn around to see E who was set off after I was about five pews in. I did take a peek down the aisle once I was situated on my spot.
As was expected, everyone was in awe of the adorable little ring-bearer and they peeked into the aisle and aimed their cameras at him. He was confused by what was happening, he didn’t see “Ung Ko” at the end of his walk but he didn’t freak out and make a run for it. The little flower girl (who is one month younger than E and the groom’s niece), was unpredictable and I heard that she ran ahead of E and then back to her dad at the back of the church, that she spontaneously gave E a hug, and might have had to have her dad walk her the rest of the way.
During the ceremony, I tried to stay alert and smiling – so many cameras. The next thing I had to do was sign the register and to be able to exhale and trade a few words with the best man during that proceeding felt good. Right after the ceremony, the immediate families took some photos on the steps. My mum’s family went to my cousin’s house and I sent off NPY, my dad and E, the latter of whom needed to nap before the reception.
The party bus that took us to the park for photos also had inadequate air conditioning. Some sparkling wine helped but more so when I just joined a couple of the groomsmen and stood closer to the door and could feel the blast of the air conditioner. Because… we would nearly melt at the park. It was far worse for the groomsmen and groom who kept on their suits and the latter had a vest as well.
Then it was on to the Eglinton Grand which was full decked out with Lil Sis and BIL’s names on the marquee, movie posters posted and a red carpet rolled out. You step into a palm-lined foyer before turning and seeing the set of stairs up to the reception room. On the mezzanine level, cocktail hour was going on but several of the wedding party were assisting with the tea ceremony.
Oh, how slightly ill-prepared we were. The other Asian bridesmaid and I were watching Youtube videos to decide how to run the ceremony and the groom’s side were asking about eligibility to participate in the ceremony. Lil Sis hadn’t really planned out the tea ceremony order and when we asked our side, my eldest uncle set us straight that tea is poured to the groom’s side first. That threw us for a loop as the groom’s side isn’t Chinese and had counted on watching the bride side go first. So I had to abandon my presumed task to carry the tea tray back and forth to corral, with the best man’s assistance (as he was family), and brief everyone how it would go down for them. In the end, everyone was happy to have their moment to express their wishes.
There was a bit of a hiccup before the beginning of dinner. Some film was to be run as the cocktail hour was winding down but it wasn’t and guests were being shuffled up and down between the main level and mezzanine for no apparent reason. But only half an hour late, the bride and groom appeared to fanfare, followed by the bridesmaids paired off with groomsmen and dinner was underway.
Throughout the day, the best man and I chat about our speeches. He inquired where I was at and was appalled I wrote it all out on my phone. He had his talking points and he’s so charismatic that I knew I couldn’t go after him. Confidentially, my sister wasn’t confident in either of us as we didn’t seem to have our acts together until the last moment. I checked with the emcee just how far into dinner I was going to have stay nervous and it was just after the soup course, and I requested to go first. Must be so. If the best man had wowed the crowd, and I was go to next, I would just leave…!
It went off really well. I told a story and I was able to end my speech referring back to it. I gave some advice from something I read (it’s the best I can do). I expressed our great impression of the groom and subtly threw in some references to his and my Vancouver connection. I talked on behalf of our parents. The edge of the podium was high so I was able to glance at my phone without looking like I was reading from it. Most of all, Lil Sis liked it. The best man had a fairly funny speech but I tuned it out because there was too much blood still in my ears (hah) and it was less together as mine was.
Guests were invited to come to the stage and tell of their favourite movie and if they did so, Lil Sis and BIL were obliged to kiss. It made for some great “roasts” and stories. BIL has great long-time friends – some in BC, hint hint – and his family is effusive in their adoration of Lil Sis. I definitely noted (and then inquired to elicit reaction) that BIL’s friends and family often referred to him as a “prodigal son” which suggests his inevitable return to BC…
There was a photobooth but I visited it just twice I think. I loved that one of my cousins, his wife and two kids really coordinated their outfit changes and pulled off so many different looks between snapshots. I love that the Chow siblings visited several times.
Meanwhile, E was occupied with Lyla, one of the bridesmaids’ daughter, who just adored E and could play with him all of the time. There were a few other children and toddlers and they marveled at the lights on the dance floor and chased each other around on the wide open space during dinner.
There was a DJ and dancing, preceded by a father-daughter and mother-son number and a first dance. At 11 p.m., there were late night treats. I found myself eating carrot sticks by that point instead of the fried junk food.
Lil Sis and BIL designated the French 75 as their signature cocktail and I took a few sips of one before the reception began and imbibed on some random other stuff to toast. And cousin shots. Those cannot be missed at a cousin’s wedding!
There was an after-party at one of the bridesmaids’ condo and I tagged along to follow my belongings and then took an Uber home from there.
At my own wedding, I really felt remissed that I hadn’t given enough attention to my family, my elders and to some extent my cousins. It was a chance for me to make up for this during the dinner, when I found myself with free time because only the bride and groom were toasting each table. A lone cousin from the Lock side came from Vancouver and I spent some time chatting with him and his fiance at different points at the reception and ceremony. I made a stop at the elder Chows table and then sat down with cousins for a bit.
Chows get together
From Thursday evening until Monday noon, all seven Chow siblings were in the same city for the first time since 2014 when my grandmother passed away. As soon as we knew we had everyone coming (no other cousin wedding could boast of this), I couldn’t be more tickled about it.
The four sisters and one brother were at the rehearsal and subsequent rehearsal dinner. They shut the place down but we were leaving for the Shangri-la and didn’t stick around. After the ceremony and before the tea ceremony, they got together at my cousin’s house that was a short distance from the venues. They got together the next morning to visit altogether their parents’ graves and a number of us cousins made it too. Besides the early time, the newlyweds were not allowed to come to the cemetery for superstitious reasons. We feasted at Asian Legend. My mum stayed in the Airbnb with her sisters for two nights. We feasted another time the night before my mum left.
After my mother left, the sisters and the eldest brother went on a couple of road trips until they one by one they returned home.
Sure, I gained a brother-in-law and sister-in-law a few years ago through NPY. But it seemed to hit me more this time around. Then there was the fact that I have seen BIL only during several trips to Toronto over the years (and their trips to Vancouver). I met his family over lunch the day before the rehearsal and they are so pleasant and friendly to me, the lone sister, it felt like they were on the way to becoming my extended family. Even some of BIL’s cousins are like his siblings and so the feelings extend to them. Lil Sis and BIL crossed their marriage threshold that day but there is a ripple effect and I feel like my life has changed as well.