Real Weddings: Carmen and Peter

Inside a dreamy, off-the-grid elopement at the Buffalo Farm

Peter Sowagi and Carmen Tsang met at a singles night at their rock climbing gym in 2014, and now live together and run their own digital marketing agency. They never planned on getting married, but midway through the lockdown they spontaneously decided to tie the knot at the Buffalo Farm near North Bay. Here’s how it went down.

Carmen: I’m from Calgary and moved here in 2013 to pursue a career in fashion.

Peter: I was raised in the GTA. After school I worked in personal investing at CIBC, which just wasn’t flying for me. By the time we met, I was looking to get back into acting. We were both members of Joe Rockhead’s, and one evening in 2014, we both went to the gym’s singles night and found ourselves paired up. I went up the wall first. Carmen, who was holding the rope, got a glimpse of my rear end, and that was it.

Carmen: We talked that night and realized we’d been on similar paths. I left corporate Calgary and my job as a marketing manager at a wealth management firm because I wanted a stepping stone into a more creative phase.

Carmen: After our rock-climbing date, Peter invited me to a TIFF movie. I was supposed to be in New York for Fashion Week at the time, but I rescheduled my flight for 6 a.m. the next day so I could make the date work. I couldn’t resist his charm. We grabbed a bite at Soho House before the movie, and now we do that every year on that same date in September. After the movie, we ended up back at Soho House for some drinks. Next thing we knew, it was 4 a.m. Peter rushed me home so I could pack and get to the airport on time.

Peter: I was attracted to her smarts, her drive and definitely her beauty. She also understood my jokes, which was nice.

Carmen: Our relationship started off slowly in the beginning. I was working as a sales and marketing director for an eco-conscious womenswear label, and I travelled a lot for my job, so we would only see each other once a month. Then, in 2016, everything started happening quickly for us. We were seeing each other more and more at the time, and Peter had been looking for a place to buy. He found a beautiful loft in the CBC building. I went to the showing with him and ended up falling in love with the place, too, and we decided that day that we would live together.

Two months later, we started our digital marketing agency, Laboratory. We both love creating content for other brands, and wanted to work for ourselves so we could have time to focus on our passion projects. Peter wanted to pursue acting, and he’s also a partner at the cocktail bar Mrs. Robinson on College. I have an ethical, sustainable home decor brand called Department of Artisans. We travel a lot—when we’re not in a pandemic—and spend half of the year abroad and half in Toronto.

Peter: We love that we have our own business but still have time for our own endeavours.

Carmen: Peter and I never thought we needed to get married. Our lives are already intertwined. We talked about a future together, but it wasn’t important to either of us to have an official marriage certificate or throw a big party. We would have rather spent the money on travelling or an experience. Then, we were on the couch one day at the end of June, and somehow the topic of getting married came up. Something shifted after spending so much time in lockdown together, and we decided to just do it.

We were going to get married at city hall, but then found out it was closed because of Covid. So we thought maybe we will get married on the steps of city hall, just to make it easy, and then go somewhere in cottage country for our honeymoon. But every single decent cottage in Ontario and Quebec was booked until October. We had flagged the Buffalo Farm a while back because they have a cool yurt. We discovered it again during the planning, and it just happened to be available for the week of our wedding. Peter suggested we get married there instead of city hall. We thought it would be more intimate and special. We decided not to tell anyone—not even our families—about our plans.

Peter: It took some time to get our licence. A week and a half before the date, they still weren’t dishing them out. Then, just before the wedding, Toronto entered Stage 2, so I reached out to the city and they were able to schedule an appointment for a licence. We looked up officiants in North Bay and I came across a lovely lady named Dot Beaucage-Kennedy, of Ojibwe-Nipissing descent, which was perfect because the farm is on Nipissing territory.

My family has this white bow tie that used to be my grandfather’s. My uncle and a few other cousins have all worn it on their wedding days, and I wanted it wear it for the ceremony. But since we kept our wedding a secret, it was a bit of a mission to get it. My mother had it so I told her I was doing an audition for a romance movie and I needed that white bow tie, which worked. I got my tux from SuitSupply, and they were able to alter it for me in three days.

Carmen: l got my dress about four days before the wedding. It’s from a small label called Cami NYC. She usually makes camisoles, and expanded into bridal last year. I wanted something super-simple that that I could get dirty running through the fields. My jewellery is from Dean Davidson, a Toronto designer and good friend. Our wedding bands were also made by friends of ours: Peter’s was by Tarin Thomas, and mine was by Automic Gold. I contacted our photographer, Evelyn Barkey who is based in Muskoka, two weeks before the wedding. She was a dream to work with.

We arrived at the farm the day before the wedding. On the next morning, we woke up, had breakfast and took our rescue dog, Frank, for a walk around the 500-acre farm. It rained and thundered all afternoon. There was all this fog, which made for beautiful photos but a muddy situation.

Peter: We walked to the river and went for a swim. The area has no Internet reception, so we brought a record player and a bunch of our records. We hung out and listened to music and read books most of the time. It was a nice week to shut off and enjoy the simple things in life.

Carmen: It was the first week we’d turned off our phones since we started our company. We knew it was going to rain that day, and thought about changing the time of our wedding. But we wanted to get married in an open field at sunset, and decided to just stick to the original plan and let it happen the way it was supposed to happen. At 3 p.m. it started pouring rain, with lightning and thunder. So I went to have a nap. When I woke up, Peter was getting ready, and he was steaming my dress. It was the cutest scene.

The rain stopped at 6 p.m. Before the ceremony, we hung out with our photographer and picked my bouquet from wildflowers around the farm. We set up the ceremony decor together, laying down carpets, pillows and candles onto the grass. We needed witnesses, so we asked a couple from Ottawa who were the only other guests on the property. Frank was our best man and maid of honour. Right after the ceremony we popped champagne, strolled around the property and went for a canoe ride. Then we had our first dance to “That’s How Strong My Love Is” by Otis Redding. After we danced, we went back to our cabin and ate our cake on the porch. We cooked up some dinner and enjoyed the night together.

Peter: My favourite moments were our first dance—when it was just us swaying in the tall grass—and when we sat on the porch with our shoes off eating cake together. It capped off the day perfectly.

Carmen: I loved that the whole day was just Peter and me. We were present in the moment, and felt like we were the only two people in the world. The day wasn’t that different from any other day, except for the fact that we got married.

Peter: Our families were surprised when we told them the next day over FaceTime. They thought we were going to say we were pregnant. They never thought we would get married. But they were super-happy for us.

Carmen: Peter had asked my dad for his blessing a week before the wedding, so they thought it was going to be an engagement announcement. When we told them we got married, they were confused. It was funny.

Peter: As the news spread among our family and friends, everyone said the whole thing was very us. We live our life somewhat unconventionally, and this fell in line with that.

Here are some more photos from the day: