The Buck and Doe

We don’t have a cuisine to call our own. Nor can we offer a distinctive style of music, or any art form for that matter, unless you count the no-nonsense-small-town lit of Robertson Davies and Alice Munro. I would argue Ontario hasn’t blessed the world with much in the way of cultural traditions yet. But at least give us quiet, sensible, money-brooding folk a little credit for inventing the buck and doe.

Wikipedia tells me the buck and doe, or stag and doe as it’s sometimes called, is a distinctly Ontarian (and evidently English) tradition. Sounds right to me, as I’ve had to explain it to non-Ontarians more than once. In short, it’s a party thrown to raise money for your wedding. The buck and doe seems to be more of a small-town Ontario thing than a Toronto phenomenon, and being a city kid I’ve never actually been to one. The bash my brother/best man and groomsman are planning for me is set to be the first.

From the point of view of the bride and groom, the rules of the buck and doe couldn’t have been written more favourably. Here’s how I’m told it works: People pay a cover to visit someplace rented for cheap (say, a legion hall), drink at cost and lose money on games (casino-style and otherwise). You invite as many people as possible so as to maximize the profit, and there’s no need to invite the entire herd to the actual wedding.

The best part: Traditionally your wedding party plans the thing behind your back.

One simply drops a not-so-subtle hint and poof! One finds oneself drinking Labatt 50 out of a plastic cup and watching some hapless friend drawing a 23 in blackjack. Every time that happens, $5 less has to be found for wedding canapés.

At first I thought the idea of a buck and doe was a no-go for my image-conscious fiancée (whom I’ve taken to calling Newfie Magic Wedding Princess Barbie; she’s not entirely happy with the nickname). But with the cost estimates mounting, she not only consented to a buck and doe, she prodded me to see if my brother would be interested in rallying the drunken troops.

I remain ignorant of the details — which is kind of liberating — but I did ask one of my best friends how the planning is coming along. Apparently he, my brother and another friend got together recently to plot. They ended up getting smashed. Whether they got anything useful accomplished beforehand I don’t know.

It’s a start.

Image courtesy of Travis Isaacs.

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