Meeting your soulmate in a bar may not be as unlikely as it sounds. Just ask Vancouver couple Cynthia Oishi and Ernest Chan — although their romance began rather slowly after they first met through mutual friends at a downtown nightspot 12 years ago.
“We were at Shenanigans of all places,” laughs Cynthia. “It was kind of our hangout at the time.” They became friends after that night, and remained so for two years, until Cynthia moved away to Montreal for work. After eight months, she was debating whether or not to remain out East when Ernest and a friend arrived for a visit. Ernest, however, had something a little more romantic in mind. “He convinced me to come back,” says Cynthia coyly.
The pair started dating soon after Cynthia returned home to the West Coast. Their engagement didn’t come along for another nine years, during which time the two recall, surprisingly, feeling no pressure at all from friends or family to get married. When Ernest finally popped the question, Cynthia says she was taken completely unaware: “I wasn’t waiting for it at all — I was trying to prolong it.”
Ernest had been planning to propose for about a year when, two summers ago, he picked up Cynthia from work to take her for dinner at the Beach House in West Vancouver, the ruse being that he needed his ice skates sharpened on the North Shore, where the couple played in a hockey league with friends. “I had had a hard day and wasn’t having any of it, though,” says Cynthia.
Worried that his big plan was being thwarted, Ernest had to think fast. “I’d been waiting for so long for Tiffany’s to tell me that the ring I wanted was available,” he says. “I’d finally got it, so I didn’t want to wait anymore.”
Instead of heading over the Lions Gate Bridge, he pulled into Stanley Park, saying that they hadn’t seen the restorations to the park since storms had damaged the famous Vancouver landmark. As they were admiring the view, right on the seawall, Ernest handed Cynthia a bundle of three carrots, wrapped in insurance papers.
“She was like, ‘You’re giving me insurance?’ ” laughs Ernest. They had always shared a private joke that Cynthia wanted a 3-carat diamond, so Ernest fit the Tiffany diamond ring on a carrot for her to find when she unwrapped the bundle.
Naturally, Cynthia said yes. To celebrate, the newly engaged couple drove right across the bridge to play hockey with their friends, just as originally planned. Cynthia considers herself a tomboy by nature, and hockey had been a big part of their life together, so it was only fitting to both of them that the game feature in their engagement day, too.
Next up: wedding-planning time. Cynthia and Ernest’s Japanese and Chinese families both turned out to be easygoing about the whole process. “They just sat back and told us to do whatever we wanted,” says Cynthia. But neither she nor Ernest had a clear vision in mind before they began planning. “We both knew we wanted to get married in a church, but that was about as far as ideas went.”
The majority of early decisions fell to Ernest, as Cynthia, who’s employed with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, was working such long hours at the time. “We wanted to create a vintage modern look,” says Ernest, who’s employed as a property manager, “and the Terminal City Club fits that perfectly. I knew Cynthia would love it.”
He was so sure that he booked the elegant downtown venue’s Metropolitan Room before Cynthia had even seen it. Luckily, he wasn’t wrong about his fiancée’s taste. Another easy decision was the choice of photographer. The pair had met Ellen Ho of Hong Photography Studio at another wedding a couple of years earlier and fallen in love with her style. “We just let her take the reins with the photography — we love everything that she does,” says Ernest.
To create a bold, luxe look throughout their wedding, Cynthia and Ernest took advice from their expert team. “All the vendors that Ernest picked exceeded our expectations,” says Cynthia. “I wasn’t nervous about his picks because I knew they were just as important to him, and I trusted his taste. We both liked the colour purple, and the décor team helped us pick the pewter and damask design that we incorporated into the invitations, linens and cake.”
Once they’d settled on their colour, they found florals to fit perfectly with their theme. Tall vases, topped with luxurious mounds of purple hydrangeas, with suspended magenta orchids in the stems, formed a decadent complement to the elegant, high-ceilinged Metropolitan Room.
While the couple didn’t opt for an Asian-style venue, in honour of their Japanese and Chinese heritage, Cynthia made several costume changes throughout the day to reflect family traditions.
Her “something new” came first and was a gift from her sister: a strapless Jasmine Couture gown that she wore for their traditional ceremony at Vancouver’s St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church. For the Chinese tea ceremony, Cynthia then changed into a red qipao — a “something old” that had been her mother’s wedding dress from her parents’ marriage 30 years earlier. The third outfit, a pretty Japanese kimono and uchikake (white covering), was rented for the occasion and worn during the second half of the reception speeches. Cynthia even wore the kimono to play a little hockey after dinner.
Yes, hockey. While the couple had long since bonded over their love of the game, their passion for the sport rose to new heights during the Vancouver Canucks’ run for the Stanley Cup in 2011. Cynthia and Ernest were so hoping for their hometown to win that they took a long break from wedding preparations while they immersed themselves in the playoffs. When the NHL season ended (sadly, not in the Canucks’ favour), Cynthia and Ernest realized their wedding was now only a month away and they’d need to hustle to ready the final touches.
Furthering their hockey theme, a friend made hockey-outfitted figurines of the wedding couple as cake toppers. The reception even featured a classic “towel power” moment where all the guests waved their white napkins along to the U2 song that plays at every Canucks home game, and the couple also organized an indoor hockey shoot-out game. Bride and groom fittingly finished with the highest scores at the end of the night.
“But Ernest lost,” laughs Cynthia, “due to the fact that he was aiming for his groomsmen instead of the net.”
The result was an informal and lighthearted reception atmosphere, full of personality, warmth and laughter — just like the relaxed couple themselves.
Looking back at their wedding day, the two say they feel truly lucky to have had such support in pulling it all together. “A lot of our friends went above and beyond in helping us out for our wedding day,” says Cynthia. “Many countless hours were spent on the creation of our invitations, favour cards, ceremony programs and slideshow. We are very blessed to have such generous and supporting people in our lives.”
Venue — Ceremony St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church | Venue — Reception Terminal City Club | Photographer Hong Photography Studio | Videographer Capture the Moment Media | Bride's Dress Jasmine Couture, from Bello Wedding World | Bride's Kimono Kayo's Wedding Service | Bride's Jewellery Elsa Corsi | Bridesmaid Dresses Alfred Angelo, from Tiffany's Color World | Groom's Attire Claymore Clothes Ltd. | Groomsmen Attire Black & Lee | Bride's Hair & Makeup Helen Dao | Bridesmaids' Makeup Yasmine Khan | Décor Lavish Design Group | Flowers Proline Trading | Cake Cake Tease