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Events like funerals and weddings have been really impacted by COVID-19 and the restrictions on gathering. We did an article in the late spring on weddings and how they were being impacted by COVID-19, and so we thought we would do a follow up by talking to a few wedding officiants to get their side of the ongoing story.

Donelda Seymour

Photo Jamie Delane

Donelda decided to became a wedding officiant when she started to think about what she might do during retirement. She is a school counselor and would like to do something different than counseling once she retires.

A Backyard Wedding
A wedding that she performed recently was in a backyard. To plan the wedding they met at a Starbucks with masks on. There were 10 people in the backyard for the wedding and Donelda noticed that before and after the ceremony people were standing apart from one another and in their own little bubbles. The couple would have done a much larger wedding if it weren’t’ for COVID. The couple’s parents watched on Facebook because they couldn’t attend. She made the print on the vows very large so that the couple could read them from a distance.

By comparison, Donelda‘s first wedding prior to COVID was at Canada Place with about 800 people. She says it was beautiful but very long. She added that it was a very different preparation for that wedding compared to the most recent one that she did.

Donelda has really enjoyed some of the backyard weddings that she has done. She told us about one couple that had been living together for 15 years and wanted to get married. She asked them what brought them to this now? The fellow said that he really loves his partner and he just wants to honor her. He said that to me, this is the best way that I can do that. Donelda noted that this couple had never been to a wedding and neither had many of the people in their community. Donelda added, when they did the wedding in their backyard it was a really beautiful occasion and very touching.

Wedding Technology
Donelda finds that most couples are doing video and Facebook so that other people can tune in. Couples have to choose who is going to attend their ceremony due to restrictions and that is a very hard decision to make. With smaller events, couples are considering how to still make it nice and have people who are watching on video see the scope of the event. This is a challenge because some people have friends and family who aren’t techy.

Trade-offs
Donelda says with weddings today there are some trade-offs. Like anything, there are some gifts in it and some challenges. A smaller event on video can be a little bit more intimate, but fewer people get to share in the celebration. She mentioned that people are adapting. It can still be meaningful and something that people enjoy. That shouldn’t stop them from getting married. It’s just not going to look the same as it would have pre-COVID.

Donelda says, one of the touching things about doing this job is you get to bless someone‘s intention to honor and love someone. Donelda believes it’s a privilege to do what she does and wants to root for people who decide to get married.

Photo: vancouverofficiant.com

Kristen Olynick

Kristen is the owner of Vancouverofficiant.com which is a team of individuals who love connecting with people and walking along beside them to their wedding day. Typically, if people have found her website they can take a look at the team, their photos bios, and testimonials, and then choose to meet with the officiant and decide if it’s a good fit. Kristen says she handles all of the bookings so she is right in the middle of all the goodness that is going on.

Kristen became a wedding officiant after her husband told her that he thought she’d be good at it. He knows that Kristen has had a diverse background working as a nurse, teaching, living in different countries and that she loves serving and listening to people and hearing their stories.

She says being a wedding officiant isn’t about being a dynamic speaker. It’s about going on the journey with a couple. It’s highly relational so you have to love people. She says don’t get into this field if you’re not people-focused.

Dreams and Farytales
As far as COVID-19 is concerned she observed that starting in March, April, and May couples realized that their weddings weren’t going to look like they wanted them to look before the virus hit. Thoughts and dreams of a fairytale wedding were being lost. She says March, April, and May were the rescheduling months. The vast majority decided at that time to reschedule to a date in the summer or into 2021. Rescheduling and changing wedding dates causes chaos. Couples don’t know if they can get their venue again, so they often have to come up with a whole different plan.

Photo: vancouverofficiant.com

A Wedding Therapist
Kristen mentioned that in June, July, and August people began to realize that we are in this for a long time. These months are typically high volume wedding months. It was a difficult time for couples to decide, should they go ahead with their wedding? Kristen said she felt like a therapist at times. Her coaching and educational background came in handy. How do you think about planning a wedding with everything going on in the world? It’s one of the most important events in your life. For some the decision was really clear because relatives couldn’t come from overseas, so they postponed. But for others, it was a decision to have an intimate ceremony, or take the risk of putting their lives on hold for a year.

A Silver Lining
Kristen has observed that a lot of couples do see a silver lining. It can be magical to only have 50 guests or less. Also, it’s more affordable because large weddings can cost a lot of money.

Photo: vancouverofficiant.com

A Dream Come True
One story that Kristen finds really touching is that of a couple where one participant was from the United States and one was from Canada. They were able to get married in the Peace Arch Park neutral zone. The couple was in their 60s and they fell in love a few years ago and wanted to be together. Once the paperwork was final the groom broke down and wept with joy. Kristen says she’ll never forget it. She felt privileged to share that moment with them. Their dream came true in a very difficult time.

Currently, we’re still permitted to have weddings. Kristen says she’s not there to regulate the COVID-19 guidelines.  As a citizen, she wants to do what is mandated. Kristen says one of the minor challenges for her early during the pandemic is that she is a hugger and there is none of that going on.

Kristen is also trying to be positive and to see the silver lining. She says we’re still seeing couples getting married and she loves that. Kristen said she saw a surge of couples deciding to have a ceremony in recent months.

COVID 19 Wedding Plans
Photo Jamie Delane

Gordon Stewart

Gordon is a Marriage Commissioner which is a government appointment. Marriage Commissioner’s positions were designed to give couples a lower cost, strictly non-religious ceremony.

Peace Arch Park
Gordon did a wedding at Peace Arch Park at the beginning of the shutdown on March 21, 2020. The bride was from the US and the groom was from Canada. Each couple only had four or five friends and family in attendance. Gord says it was a beautiful day and a little bit odd because there was no traffic at the usually extremely busy border crossing.

Gordon observed that there was a flurry of ceremonies into May until the park was eventually closed due to its popularity not meshing with COVID restrictions.

Weddings Canceled
Quite a few ceremonies were canceled early on in the pandemic and Gord says overall the number of ceremonies he has been performing from April through July was down about 40%. A lot of the couples that canceled shifted into next year which could make next year very interesting for him.

Gordon has noticed that quite a few couples are deciding to go ahead with their ceremony, and then in the future when circumstances allow they’ll do a larger reception.

Getting Busier
Through August and September Gord found that he was actually busier than he was in past years. He speculates that it might be that people are becoming a little more relaxed or worried about a second wave and trying to squeeze in their ceremony in case there is another shut down. He says no one knows, and it is impossible to predict what is going to happen.

Gordon is finding that a lot more couples are getting married on short notice. He recently did a wedding where he was contacted on Tuesday and the wedding was performed on Saturday.

Wedding Technology
As far as technology is concerned Gordon has noticed that there are a lot of cell phone photos and videos being taken. One of the cool uses of technology is that friends and family from all over the world are able to watch.

Gordon has only been asked to wear a mask during the ceremony twice out of about 100 ceremonies that he has done during COVID-19. During one of his ceremonies, everyone even wore masks during the photo session.

For Gordon, October is looking like it might be as busy as it was last year.

Stay tuned for more!
We recorded our interviews with Donelda and Kristen and will be posting them here podcast and videocast style soon.

Main Photo: vancouverofficiants.com

For a lot of people, Thanksgiving is a time to gather with friends and family, but like most special celebrations and gatherings this year, it might have to look a little different than in the past. By now, maybe you have become used to connecting with family and friends online. With BC officials encouraging residents to consider celebrating Thanksgiving virtually this year because of COVID-19 we were wondering what your plans are?

Earlier this week on September 29, 2020, there were 69 patients in the hospital and 20 of those were in critical care. The number of active cases declined to 1268 and recoveries increased to 7485. There are 3337 people who are under active public healthcare monitoring after being exposed to COVID-19.

There was one more death as a result of COVID-19 in the Fraser Health Region increasing the number of deaths to 234.

BC’s top doctor Bonnie Henry, is quoted as saying “rather than traveling to see friends are hosting a large family dinner, make it small this year and plan to connect virtually instead.”

Is that something you will do again this upcoming holiday?

Please comment on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/fraservalleylife

Traces of Evidence is “An interesting pictorial showing White Rock, BC’s history, from the early beginnings as the Semiahmoo Homeland through early logging, to a thriving modern-day beach town.”

Did you know there was a boathouse on the famous White Rock Pier at one time? Speaking of the pier it looks like it has been a regular place to congregate for many decades. As you will read below, the video created a lot of questions for me which I will have to try and get answered somehow. If you know some of the answers, please feel free to comment.

The entire video is laid on a bed of nicely selected music and tasteful sound effects. If you’d like, look in YouTube notes for the music credits.

At 0:00 – 01:23 Traces of Evidence starts out paying pictorial homage to the Indigenous people who lived and still live in the area. Photos of Indigenous people are sprinkled throughout the video.

At 01:24 minutes the video starts to show the forestry that took place and shots of this are interspersed throughout the rest of the video too. There is one photo of a giant old-growth cedar which if you go for a walk in some of the local parks you will see remnants of today because the stumps still remain. 

At 01:56 we begin to see photos of some of the people who moved here in the early 1900s. We see one of the first lumber mills and some of the first homes too.

03:10 – The railway eventually came to White Rock connecting the city to the U.S. and the rest of Metro Vancouver. It travels along White Rock beach where it still is today. There’s even a photo of a 1920’s food truck. I guess those have been around for a long time!

Then there are pictures of some of the first roads and a May Day celebration from 1937.

Around 6:00 minutes you will also see what appears to be the opening of The Peace Arch that is located at the Canada / U.S. border (I wonder how the lineups were back then?)

At 09:24 there are photos of school children and possibly one of the first school buildings. At 09:53  a school building is shown that Semiahmoo High Secondary would eventually be attached too for many years until it moved to 148th Street in Surrey.

At 10:59 there are photos of people in the military which makes me wonder, was there a military base in the area at one time?” and “did some of these soldiers go and fight in any of the World Wars?” Possibly World War II?

At 12:26 there are photos of Marine Drive, first called Washington Avenue, and a bus with the word “Vancouver” on it which must have taken people to and from Vancouver. What was the trip like back then?

15;15 – Apparently, there was quite a large fire at one point along Marine Drive.

Near the end of the video, we begin to White Rock resemble the way it looks today, minus the high rises. There are some photos of the Tour de White Rock, the well-known bike race that tests cyclists as they race up and down the city’s steep hill’s.

Photo:  Traces of Evidence – A Pictorial History of White Rock, BC

It’s heating up here in the Fraser Valley and you might be looking for some new summer craft ctivities to help cool down. Here’s a fun and “cool” (literally) summer craft you can do with your kids!

What you’ll need: Summer Craft for Kids 1

  • Coffee Filters
  • Washable markers
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Ice Cubes (you could probably also use water with paintbrushes but ice cubes are the “cool” part of them because, you know, they’re cool)
  • Plastic table cloth

 

Step One: Flatten the coffee filter and begin to colour. I did a few in wedges of colour and a few in patches of colour. The girls (4 and 2) just did squiggles for the most part, which of course is fine, but if you put more colour on the brighter the butterflies will be.

Summer craft 3Step Two: Move an ice cube over the coffee filter to blend the colours. I like to use a circular motion but really anything that gets the ice cube melting and the colours running together will do.
Step three: Set filter aside to dry.

Step four: Once dry pinch the coffee filter in the middle and wrap the pipe cleaner around the center to make antennae.

That’s it! Super cute and a great way to cool down on a hot day!

 

~ By Becca Toews

As we speak it’s hard not to be struck by all of the things going on in the world and some online writers mentioning how difficult it is to think about celebrating Father’s Day this year. We want to honor that and at the same time celebrate the men in our lives Fraser Valley style.

1_ Celebrate Online Many businesses still are trending at full capacity so the typical Father’s Day brunch probably isn’t happening this year. you can still gather just be aware of what the restrictions are in your area and be sensitive to elderly people and whether or not you have been potentially exposed to the virus. you might be getting tired of it but a family Zoom celebration is an alternative especially if you have family members who might have recently been exposed to the virus.

2_ Celebrate Outdoors It’s a little easier and potentially a little safer to gather Outdoors. we expect parks and public places to be quite full so maybe consider celebrating fathers day in your backyard if that is an option.

3_ Celebrate at home  Of course if your family has been living together and you want to celebrate at home you have lots of traditional options to choose from Like having brunch and playing family games.

4_ Hiking or going for a walk Many of the local trails are open to the people who live in the area, so why not go for a leisurely walk with your home crew. Some of our favourite walking trails include some Langley trails like Derby Reach (easy), the Fort to Fort Trail (easy), and Houston Trailhead (moderate). The dikes in Pitt Meadows are flat and have wonderful views. The trails in the lower part of Golden Ears Provincial Park A suggestion for a Golden Ears walk is to park in the Main Corral Parking Lot which is just after the entrance to the park and then follow the signs for the Mike Lake Trail (moderate).

5_ Do a home beer tasting party Pick up beers from your local breweries and do your own beer tasting. You can do this online too. Some of our favorite Fraser Valley breweries include Yellow Dog Brewing in Port Moody, Dead Frog Brewing in Langley, and Fieldhouse Brewery in Abbotsford. There are so many good breweries to choose from these days!

6_ Revisit some of the best games in sports history Many of the sports channels are still forced to show reruns. You can check the channel guide now and schedule recordings of anything that might show up for your Dad’s favorite teams.

7_ Go Fishing You will have to do some research to find out where you can fish in the Fraser Valley because finding a place to fish that is open is a challenge right now. One place to start is the Fishing the Fraser Valley brought to you by BritishColumbia.com. Check out the guide and then contact the location that you think might suit you. It will ruin the surprise, but if the man in your life likes to fish, he will know if his favorite location is open, so you can always check with him first.

8_ Go for a bike ride – Bike sales have skyrocketed during the pandemic. If you have a bike it’s a great way to practice social distancing and get some exercise. One of our favorite Fraser Valley rides is to park in Fort Langley and then head out on River Road for as long as you want. With some maneuvering, you can ride all the way to Abbotsford if you want (difficult)! When you get back to Fort Langley there are all sorts of restaurants, coffee shops, and bistros to visit.

9_ Go on virtual tour – Check out this article from Town and Country on how to do a virtual tour to some of the most spectacular places on earth – https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/arts-and-culture/a31900863/best-virtual-tours/ For an amazing Fraser Valley historical virtual tour see Sq’éwlets: A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Community in the Fraser River Valley

10_ If you follow FV Lifestyle you know we are big fans of shopping local and wine. The Fraser Valley has some great wineries, so why not pick up some local wine and do an in-person or online wine tasting. To discover Fraser Valley wines see https://winebc.com/discover-bc-wine-country/fraser-valley/ Shout out: If you like blends and are open to recommendations one of our current favorites is Reserve 7 from Township 7

 

By Becca Toews

All of us have experienced some level of loss during this COVID-19 pandemic. It ranges from canceled plans to loss of loved ones, loss of freedom to loss of safety while going about your job.

Large events have been canceled and while some of us are grieving a concert or sporting event we were looking forward to, many Fraser Valley residents have been faced with the decision about what to do about their upcoming weddings. As we head into summer, more and more people are having to make the decision to postpone or seriously alter their plans for how their wedding day will look.

Jenn Bateman

Jenn Bateman, a Fraser Valley wedding officiant, has had a varied response from couples who had planned to get married this spring. “Some have just chosen to reschedule to 2021, some have chosen to forgo a large wedding and just have a small ceremony with under 10 people, and some people are having a simple ceremony this year and then we’re doing their big wedding, that they rescheduled next year, so essentially two ceremonies.”

There really are lots of options, though none of them ideal. Weddings take so much time, energy and money to plan and it can be really disappointing to give up the wedding you’ve always dreamed of. It can also be a beautiful experience.

Jenn says, “I’m a big believer that weddings don’t need to be long and drawn out in order to be special and meaningful. Starting a life together is intimate and special and deserves to feel that way, and sometimes all of the fanfare with big contemporary weddings can take some of that away. For those who choose to go ahead now- This unique circumstance of limiting weddings might be a chance for some couples to enter into that lifetime partnership in a really meaningful way. But it also deserves a celebration, so I’m hoping for a lot of one-year anniversary parties with family and friends so they get that too.”

Austin and Becca Toews

Ceremony Changes

When it comes to the practical moments of the ceremony, Jenn says she has had to make some changes, such as not touching the rings and bringing along separate pens for signing the paperwork, “I don’t come within six feet of any of the wedding guests and I make sure that the couple has checked with us about health measures beforehand. We definitely want to be able to accommodate people who still want to get married in the most simple way and still make it special for them”

Cody and Analea

One couple, Cody and Analea (Styles) Friesen held their wedding ceremony two weeks early after gathering restrictions were announced in March. They had planned on a very large wedding of 500 people and ended up having eighteen people in attendance, following the restrictions of no gatherings over fifty people that were set at the time. Cody says, “Our concern was more of ‘are we still able to get married’ because we were at the start of the COVID-19 wave, we didn’t have a lot to go off of.”

“This is why we moved the date up two weeks – worried that we would go into complete lockdown and [we would be] unable to get married at all,” adds Analea.

The Hardest Part

When asked what the hardest part of changing their wedding day was, Cody responds, “The hardest part was not having all of our guests there to witness and celebrate with us. As well as that everything about our day was different other than the person that we got to marry.“

“Losing the people,” adds Analea, “not even having our full wedding party or best friends or grandparents being able to attend was heartbreaking.”

YouTube

Cody and Analea had a great plan when it came to sharing their ceremony with their invited guests. On April 4th, which was the date they had planned for their wedding, they uploaded and published the video from their wedding ceremony to YouTube and invited all their guests to join them for their “virtual wedding” They both went live on their Instagram and Facebook (dressed in their wedding suit and dress) to answer questions, explain what had happened, and watch their ceremony with everyone on YouTube.

An Unexpected Tiny Wedding

Even though their wedding wasn’t exactly what they had expected, there are still parts of it that they will look back on with fondness, “The beautiful intimacy of [the] tiny wedding was actually so amazing. There was less pressure and the ability to be so natural and real with one another. The support and love from our community even from a distance was heartwarming and so encouraging. The realization that all that really mattered was marrying this person – not any of the extra pieces – was so special.”

While communicating with your guests and the wedding party is at the top of the advice list, one of the most important things to remember is,

“Breathe,” says Cody, “this is not normal, and that’s okay. Keep the main thing the main thing. You are marrying the love of your life and that is enough”.

Austin and Becca Toews

It Could Be Sad

Analea also has some advice for once the wedding day has passed and you’ve started your new life together, “realize it’s still going to be hard after the wedding. You’re going to be sad about what you lost and maybe struggle with disappointment, envy, and frustration, but it’s truly worth it. We’ve never regretted it for one second”.

Give and Take

Regardless of a pandemic, weddings are a time of giving and taking. So often brides and grooms think their wedding day will be exactly what they want, only to get to the planning stage and realize that their parents and other people close to them have ideas about what the day should look like too.

The Important Stuff

The wedding planning process is the perfect time to practice compromise, weighing what is really important to you and what you are willing to let go of. It seems like that is what couples are facing now, more than ever. Weighing what is the most important part of your event and making decisions based on what is best for you.

Celebrate Love

Whether you are facing a wedding that doesn’t look like what you always thought it would be, or you’re grieving the fact that you can’t be there for a wedding of someone close to you, this is a time to celebrate love, to celebrate commitment and care for one another, and to cheer on those people who are probably thinking a lot these days about vowing, “in sickness and in health”.

Photos Jamie Delane 

During the COVID 19 pandemic, we are all learning what it means to practice social or physical distancing. At the same time, are you noticing that more and more people are gathering online to connect with friends and family? We sure are.

WAYS OF CONNECTING

People are reaching out to their family’s on programs like FaceTime, Zoom, Google Hangouts and more. There were even churches located in the Fraser Valley that met online this past week as they have been forced to close their doors for the time being. We’ve also seen coaches, counselors, and people from all walks of life and professions offering to meet with people online instead of in person.

If you have a Gmail address you have access to Google Hangouts and you can meet with a group of people using this free program. CLICK HERE for Google Hangouts instructions.

Zoom is another option to connect socially and they have a free option too. The free Zoom program allows you to meet with up to 20 people for 40 minutes for free, but everyone needs the software which can sometimes be a challenge. CLICK HERE to read more about Zoom

 

FACEBOOK

Although it can get a little overwhelming for some of us with all of the posts on social media it can be a place to connect and have conversations with friends and loved ones about the virus and find out how they are coping. Facebook provides the option of Facebook Live. Video hosts can comment as people post in the comments section.

Another Facebook option is to have a group messaging conversation. Our family has a group conversation going specifically based on the virus and I know other families do too. With family members living all over the world, this has been a good way for us to carry on a conversation and stay connected.

INSTAGRAM

Although less interactive, another option to connect with friends and family is to do an Instagram Live post and then respond to people as they text their comments. This is obviously a little less personable and interactive, but you can get a little bit of a live chat going.

IN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD

We have also seen fun things going on in neighbourhoods where people open their doors and play music on their front steps, create welcoming chalk drawings and post fun and encouraging posters in their windows and their exterior walls. In one townhouse complex in Ladner*, we read about a show of kindness and compassion by neighbours as they wrote birthday messages that said “Happy Birthday” to a four-year-old from their decks.*

And finally, there has been a very heartwarming and compassionate show of support to our very deserving healthcare workers as Vancouver apartment dwellers go out on their balconies at 7 PM each night and applaud and cheer for health care workers battling the COVID 19 pandemic**

Links
*Delta Optimist
**News 1130

Are you starting to think about Valentine’s Day? If you have gone to the grocery store lately or your local florist, you will see that the marketing push has begun!

If you would like some music to get you in the mood (and even if you don’t), we came across this beautiful “Indie Folk Love Playlist for Valentines’ Day 2020.

In the words of Indie Folk Central… “Cuddle up with your loved one and enjoy these dreamy indie-folk love songs. Specially created for Valentine’s Day 2020 | Acoustic, singer-songwriter, Americana | And it might even be a perfect playlist for those who hate Cupid’s favorite day!”

Some of the featured artists include Dustin Tebbutt, Children of Indigo, Lucia Fogale and one of our favorite, sometimes local Vancouver artist Jon Bryant.

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Photo: Pablo Merchan Montes