Vows and Vendors: Keeping it Local for My Offbeat Oshawa Wedding

Jessie Davis

Local small businesses were the heartbeat of our wedding. Our special day would not have been the adventure that it was without all of these talented and professional folks, who need our support now more than ever.

Now that communities are starting to come together again after so much isolation and social distancing due to COVID-19, it’s important to remember just how important small businesses are in bringing us together. Small business owners are part of our communities and, in some cases, the very backbone of a thriving city or town.

To celebrate my second wedding anniversary on July 13, here’s my personal story about how small businesses in Durham Region (and Oshawa in particular) impacted our community of family and chosen family on our special day:

I married my favourite weirdo at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in July 2019. The venue serendipitously fell into our laps, and I was grateful because it had been such a big part of my teens and early twenties. I’d spend hours downtown almost every day after school, wandering the gallery’s rooms in awe of the art or poring over books at the Oshawa Public Library next door. As adulthood crept up on me, I loved attending openings and special events at the gallery, as well— and still do!

Exterior photo of the Rober McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa
The Robert McLaughlin Gallery. Photo by Michael Cullen, courtesy of the RMG
Photo of the author's wedding logo; black heart over a gold circle
The magnet version of our wedding logo.

It was sort of an anti-wedding wedding. We didn’t have a wedding party and speeches were “open mic” style. The favours were homemade mango habanero hot sauce, buttons and magnets with our wedding emblem (an awkward black heart set in gold), as well as glow sticks and emergency stick-on moustaches. The centrepieces were herbaceousness from Richters Herbs in Uxbridge, and the table numbers were Nintendo games we bought from We Got Gamez in Ajax that we’d painted gold to look like The Legend of Zelda and mounted on black bases. The song for our unannounced, unrehearsed, and unapologetically hilarious first dance was the band The National covering a Thanksgiving song from the TV show Bob’s Burgers. It features the phrase, “Thank you for loving me,” which we quite liked, but ends with, “Kill, kill, kill…. kill the turkey!”

So, I think you might understand when I say that I didn’t want a cake and I certainly didn’t want to pay “wedding tax” prices on a cake. But that didn’t matter anyway since I wasn’t having a cake, right? …right?

But then, about two weeks before the big day, I changed my mind.

Dorky as it is, we’d found a couple of those big head figurine thingies that people are collecting these days, which would make the perfect cake toppers: Ash from the movie Evil Dead and Ellen Ripley in her white spacesuit from the movie Alien (after I realized that Carrie in her bloody prom dress might upset my mother). So why not let them (our wedding guests) eat cake?

photo of banana cake with cream cheese frosting from Sugar Chalet
Our wedding cake by Sugar Chalet in Oshawa. Photo by Eye Candee Visuals.

I called Sugar Chalet and ordered a banana cake with cream cheese frosting. It’s my favourite but I also think weddings are completely bananas, so the flavour was my own little private joke as well.

On the day of the wedding, the cake was perfect. Simple and beautiful with gorgeous, sweeping detail in the icing. It was true artistry. Hooray! We had glued our big head figures to an old CD that I painted black with gold sparkles, so we popped that sucker on top and were good to go! For a last-minute (by wedding-planning standards) cake, it looked fantastic! I had no doubt it would taste equally as good, too.

The wedding ceremony consisted of Henry Rollins readings, giggling, a wonderful officiant, and vows and rings. I cried the whole time and we signed the register while The Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize??” played (the perfect length of time for signing a wedding registry, by the way). This was followed by The Legend of Zelda theme song playing while we triumphantly walked up the aisle together.

Our wedding altar inside the RMG. Photo by Miles Wisniewski.

And then dinner. Well, Berry Hill Food Co. just nailed it, as they always do when I visit their dining room. The skill and organization with which their staff served hors d’oeuvres while simultaneously switching the main room setup from the ceremony to a harvest-style dinner was mind-blowing. See those curtains in the photo above? Behind them were the dinner tables, fully set up and ready to make their appearance the moment we finished up.

We served cider-brined chicken and, for our vegetarian and vegan guests, a black bean “meatloaf.” I waited as long as I could to make my dinner selection because I honestly could not decide— they are both so incredibly delicious! In the end, I got the chicken because I realized I could just nibble at my vegetarian partner’s meal and get the best of both worlds. After all, we were married now, so I legally owned half of that black bean meatloaf!

The dinner service included dessert as well, so we chose crème brûlée because they also had a vegan option made with coconut cream, which was even better than the original! Everyone loved it and I later learned there were “situations” between guests, where someone loved the brulée so much that they scooped up a seemingly abandoned one and ate it too… but then its owner returned to their seat to find their dessert missing! Luckily this wasn’t the fantastic servers’ first rodeo, so they had a replacement ready.

Then dancing, laughing, and realizing at 11:30 p.m. that they had my favourite beer (Rainmaker Porter from the Second Wedge Brewing Co. in Uxbridge). When I finally had that first glass of sweet nectar in my hand, a friend ran over, picked me up, and shook me (yes, while I’m wearing a white dress and holding a dark beer!) Good thing we were in an art gallery and I’m a Jackson Pollock fan.

Suddenly it’s midnight, so our rendezvous with Mr. McLaughlin and his art must come to an end. But wait! We didn’t cut the cake!

(Cue the sad trombone.)

At least our impromptu “afterparty” at The Atria was interesting enough that we temporarily forgot to feel bad about showing off our awesome cake but never serving it! Imagine me arriving there in my dark beer-splattered wedding dress, catching the tail end of a punk show and bumping into some old friends from high school, too!

Last but not least, La Quinta Inn & Suites offered phenomenal service before and after the wedding. They offered a fixed group rate for our guests, held a block of rooms for months in advance entirely on good faith, had beautiful newly-renovated rooms, provided a surprisingly delightful continental breakfast, put up with all of our friends and family from out of town, and did it all with unmatched friendly professionalism. Plus, they were a few minutes’ walk from the RMG and right next door to The Atria!

exterior photo of La Quinta Inn & Suites and The Atria Bar and Grill, Oshawa
La Quinta Inn & Suites and The Atria exterior. Photo courtesy of La Quinta Inn & Suites.

But what do you do when you have an entire wedding cake to deal with post-wedding? Why, of course, you throw a karaoke party the following weekend and invite some friends who couldn’t make it to the wedding!

Even a week later, the cake was SUPERB. Perfection. I think I said that earlier too, but really… perfection. I may or may not have also eaten it for breakfast every day that week.

We also froze some slices so that we could eat them on our first anniversary (spent at home thanks to this little pandemic thing). Somehow, even though we absolutely did not do any of the things you’re supposed to do when you freeze cake, it STILL came out of the freezer tasting like it did on our special day…

…the day of the karaoke party.

To wrap this saga up, local small businesses were the heartbeat of our wedding, and it would not have been the adventure that it was without all of the talented and professional folks who need our support now more than ever. If you’d like to give us an anniversary gift (and I know you would!), then please get out there and show some love to your favourite small businesses!

NOTE: At the time of publishing, Durham Region and the Province of Ontario are in Step 3 of the Roadmap to Reopen; the Province’s three-step plan to safely and gradually lift public health measures, based on ongoing progress of provincewide vaccination rates and improvements of key public health and health care indicators. Residents are encouraged to follow health guidance when safely exploring their local communities, wash hands frequently, wear a mask and physically distance from others.