Nfld. & Labrador·Point of View

Wedding crashers: How a trip to Port Rexton led to an invite and a band booking

For CBC journalist Jen White and her husband, their most recent trip might just take the (wedding) cake.

We met the Ontario couple on a Monday, and six days later, played at their reception

Newlyweds Carly Pettinger and Kara McLean, middle, with Tomorrow's Hangover. From left: Trevor Barker, Jen White, Neil Hyde, and Steve Chaulk. (Jen White/CBC)

Whenever my husband and I go on vacation, we usually come home with stories of new friends and random adventures. But this most recent trip might just take the (wedding) cake.

Neil Hyde and I arrived in Port Rexton on Labour Day. We drove up to our rental property — a charming, three-bedroom saltbox home — and dropped our bags, before wandering down the road to the local brewery.

The late afternoon rays were beaming, and we raised and clinked our mason jars of IPA on the outdoor patio. 

The Port Rexton Brewery is an interesting place, where tourists and locals alike convene, and happily chat about the area: what they've done, where they've been, and where they're going next.

The first question I overheard the bartender ask every time he poured up a glass for a new patron: "Where are you from?"

Neil and I enjoy a pint at Port Rexton Brewery on Labour Day. (Jen White/CBC)

While my answer was, "Oh, we're just in from St. John's," others that night were from all over: Ontario, Quebec — even Virginia.

When the sun started to disappear, we moved indoors to a long table, where two women later joined us.

Kara McLean and Carly Pettinger were visiting from Kitchener-Waterloo, and had just gotten to Port Rexton from Gros Morne, as part of their pre-wedding adventures. The pair were set to tie the knot at another brewhouse — the Quidi Vidi Brewery in St. John's — six days later.

Kara completed her master's degree at Memorial University in 2015, and had fallen in love with Newfoundland.

And a year later, she fell in love with Carly.

They met while on the job — in the office of an NDP member of the Ontario legislature. Over time, their love blossomed, and now, after three years together, they were about to walk down the aisle.

We bonded over pints, laughing while talking about politics, where we worked, and where we'd been on our respective trips.

As we parted ways for the evening, we made plans to meet back at the brewery the following night.

Excursion around the bay

Neil and I had just finished an epic Scrabble game, when we spotted Kara and Carly walk into the bar. 

"Well hello, friends!" I shouted.

They had two other people in tow — another couple from Ontario, who were in town for the wedding. The friends asked how long had we known Kara and Carly, and we replied, "Oh, we met last night!"

That's when we chatted about how quickly we'd jelled, and how, after they'd left the brewery that first night, were wondering if it would be weird to invite us to their impending nuptials.

Of course, we said we would be there with bells on.

The brides-to-be, the two Newfoundlanders, and their two friends from Ontario, at Port Rexton Brewery. (Jen White/CBC)

Our conversations continued. It was a rainy evening, and the pub was mostly empty, so we all encouraged Neil to take out his guitar to play a few tunes.

That's when we told Kara, Carly, and their friends about (shameless plug alert) our band, Tomorrow's Hangover.

Point blank, Kara said: "Will you play at the wedding?! Seriously. Whatever songs you want, for however long you want."

Neil plays a tune at the Port Rexton Brewery. (Jen White/CBC)

As the evening went on, the out-of-towners weren't sure what they were going to do, because the Ontario friends had rented a place in nearby Trinity — but with no cabs in the area, there was no way to get them home that night.

Without any kind of pause or hesitation, the Newfoundland hospitality just came spewing out: "You know you can stay with us, right?" I said. "We have a full house to ourselves!"

We stayed up until the wee hours, playing games and sharing more laughs.

Crashing the wedding

The next day, we wondered if it had been the brews talking — but then Kara contacted Neil on social media: they would love it if we could play at their reception.

Our bandmates were initially wary of the plans and curious about our newfound friendship, but we knew it would be a great gig. Kara rearranged the wedding day schedule to slot the band in to play.

Kara McLean, left, and Carly Pettinger after their marriage ceremony. (Submitted by Neil Hyde)

On Sunday, Sept. 8 — six days after we met — Neil and I were part of the Newfoundland contingent (that you could count on two hands) of wedding guests, with about 70 people from Ontario and beyond.

I barely knew these women, yet I was so touched to hear all of the beautiful speeches delivered by family, friends, and colleagues: how Kara's quiet and serious personality was the yin to Carly's yang, a wild and carefree spirit, who lives life to the fullest. (And, I'd learned first-hand, often documents it in selfies.)

It was such an honour to be a part of their story: the MCs noting, how typical it was of Kara and Carly, that of course they would randomly meet people at a brewery while vacationing in Newfoundland, and days later, not only invite them to their wedding — but also ask them to provide the musical entertainment.

The brides continually voiced their gratitude — but so too did many of the wedding guests. "It made their night," one woman told me. 

The privilege was not lost on me. What a special thing to have happen — for all of us.

Jen and Neil, with the happy brides, Carly and Kara, at their wedding at Quidi Vidi Brewery in St. John's on Sept. 8. (Jen White/CBC)

It strangely feels like our paths were meant to cross. And it's not lost on me that very rarely do you meet people who you feel comfortable enough to attend their wedding a few days later and not feel completely out of place.

So, in pure brewery and wedding fashion, I raise my proverbial cup: Cheers to the happy couple, to years of love and laughter — and to more epic adventures.

And next time, we'll meet in your home province!

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jen White

CBC News

Jen White is a reporter and producer with CBC News in St. John's, and the host of the CBC podcast One in Six. You can reach her at jen.white@cbc.ca.

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