By Ken Hegan for Vancouver Magazine

Wedding Split

I’’m no genius, but 10 years ago I stumbled across a brilliant plan. I was engaged, broke as hell, and frustrated at how the average wedding costs $20,000. I was having nightmares about money monsters and arguing over bills with my fiancée. Then one sleepless night, I came up with the perfect solution. Instead of plunging into debt, I’d sweet-talk local businesses into sponsoring my wedding. In exchange, I’d wildly praise them in Vancouver magazine…which would pay me to write a diary about my experience.

People said I was crazy. Some called me immoral. My fiancée hesitantly agreed but refused to reveal her identity or face on camera. And yet I still pulled the damn thing off. First-class Vancouver businesses stepped up to sponsor the invitations, rings, spa visits, wedding plans, photographs, suits, ceremony location, reception, beverages (wine, vodka, gin), and a deluxe honeymoon on the Mayan Riviera. I spent 2003 writing columns, name-checking them, quoting their websites, and showering them with shameless tribute. When I tallied up the sponsorships and discounts, I’d saved $32,435 and thrown a helluva party. It was a promising start to lifelong matrimony.

Six years later, the marriage tanked.

It was an amicable split—no shots fired. But I was devastated and embarrassed. After much drunken soul-searching, I realized I had to make an important decision: either I could drink myself into ditches for years and then try to put myself back together, or I could accept my divorce as a gift. An opportunity for clarity and renewal. A chance to bounce back higher, stronger, and happier.

So I cashed in my empties and ran with Option B. And that is why I’m getting my divorce sponsored in Vancouver magazine.

Yep. Local businesses are helping me again, but this time to end a marriage. Why not? It’s the perfect bookend to a union born of barter. Basically I’m treating my divorce day like a personal holiday—like a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off—to celebrate in style.

If my corporate nuptials taught me anything, it’s the value of a plan. I whittled things down to 7 Steps to D-Day.

undefinedStep 1  I pulled myself together. Bought new jeans and cologne. Showered, scraped off the dirt and barnacles, shaved off my scraggly long beard, and snagged a fun job as a travel writer, which was a step up from my last job: shouting lush in park.

Step 2  I found a brilliant and adorable young girlfriend (AYG). I first saw her on my buddy’s Facebook wall, where she was posting funny, whip-smart comments. I had to meet her, so I did what any clever person would do: I lied. I wrote her a fun letter that said Facebook suggested we be friends. Now, Facebook had done no such thing, but I figured it would eventually try to set us up, so I just sped up the inevitable. We bantered, met for drinks, kissed at sunset, and over time and with plenty of courtin’ and secret daily hypnosis, she became my official AYG. Granted, she wasn’t entirely keen on me being semi-tainted goods. However, she did note that I was polite to waiters, wasn’t in a cult, and didn’t have a criminal record or any children (as far as I know). So she agreed to be my special date for D-Day.

Step 3  I bought a convertible. Freshly divorced guys need to be in convertibles—it’s our natural habitat. And this is my dream car: a six-speed, turbo-charged Mini Cooper S with a hunter green paint job that’s so sparkling, it looks like the nails on a classy mermaid/call girl. My favourite feature? Mini convertibles have a tachometer called the Always Open Timer that displays the number of hours and minutes driven with the top down. Ridiculously good fun. Best of all: when my dealer heard about my sponsored divorce (and since the car was a dealer demo), he gave me a $7,100 discount! As their website points out, they offer “incredible savings on ALL demonstrators” plus “valet parking” at their “sleek, urban-integrated showroom” where they certainly gave me the “V.I.P. TREATMENT.” Thanks, Mini Yaletown. You’re the greatest!

Step 4  I needed a lawyer to witness my divorce papers. I don’t know any divorce lawyers in town (and none had had the foresight to sponsor my wedding), but it turns out you don’t actually need a divorce lawyer to witness you signing your papers. So I asked my entertainment lawyer, Kyle Fogden of Roberts & Stahl Barristers & Solicitors, if I could hire him.

He did the deed, and I noticed Kyle was prompt, professional, calm, and kempt. When I asked for the bill, he simply said, “Don’t worry about it, Ken. Congratulations on your new life.” What a gent! Thank you, Kyle Fogden of Roberts & Stahl, and good fortune with your firm’s legal services, which include entertainment law, aboriginal law, litigation, real estate, corporate and commercial law, and wills and estates.

Step 5  When my buddies heard the new plan, they gave me lots of “helpful” ideas. One wanted me to get the Penthouse Night Club to sponsor a Debauched Divorce Stag. Another suggested I get the Hawaii tourism board to helicopter me to an active volcano, where I could then bungee down to nearly touch the lava. This would somehow purify my new life and conquer my fear of being burned alive in a volcano. Great.

What I really wanted was to celebrate my divorce with joy. For my romantic D-Day, I wanted booze. I wanted a deluxe king-size bed. And I wanted loud explosions. That’s how I found the DVC Ventures shooting range. Their website says they’re the “first heated indoor shooting range in BC that is open to the public and has rental firearms. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff is here to provide you with the necessary supervision to make your experience safe and enjoyable.” Bonus: you don’t need to bother getting a firearms licence. Yay! So I called up and asked manager Wesley Yen if I could blast giant holes in things for totally free.

“Sure, Ken,” he said handsomely. “We’d love to host you. We often host stags, stagettes, birthdays, businesses, and corporate events. We’re also the best place to release any residual divorce-related annoyance.”

The AYG and I took my sexy hunter green Mini Cooper S convertible to DVC’s shooting range, located at 1655 Broadway St. just off the Mary Hill Bypass in lovely Coquitlam, home of Lui Passaglia and conservative pundit/swimmer Rachel Marsden (a coincidence only if you choose to see it that way).

You can bring your own handguns or rent them from DVC. Admission is $30 a day, which includes “gun(s), mandatory insurance, safety gear, introductory lesson, and a Range Officer to supervise and assist you during your visit.” You pay extra for targets and ammo. Or if you’re saluting your divorce in a magazine column, you might arrange to get your guns, targets (we chose snarling zombies), and ammo comped.

After a lesson in weapons handling, we entered the range, loaded our weapons, and annihilated zombies for half an hour. First we fired .45 and 9mm handguns, making bullet shells rain down on our taut tanned shoulders. But when I suddenly remembered you can’t kill zombies with gut shots, I asked for the shotgun, aimed higher, shouted “To my new life!” and blasted holes in the zombies’ cadaverous skulls. Thanks, DVC Ventures Inc.!

Step 6  After showering off the gunshot residue, I took my AYG for a romantic dinner.

Did you know that at this year’s Vancouver magazine Restaurant Awards, Diva at the Met was recognized as one of the top three upscale restaurants in Vancouver? It’s true. Located on the ground floor of the Metropolitan Hotel at 645 Howe St., Diva is conveniently close to the financial district, Pacific Centre, and Vancouver Art Gallery. As Diva’s website helpfully explains, their “distinctive setting and playful style reflect the company’s entrepreneurial approach to redefining the standard in luxury hotel restaurants” and they “lead dining trends in Vancouver through its unwavering commitment to elevating food into a true art form.” Hell, yeah!

Diva’s first-floor bar has a panoramic view of the restaurant, so we parked there and let Corey Bauldrey, our dapper sommelier, entertain us with stories about the Okanagan grapes in our wine, which he paired with their tasting menu. Typically, Diva’s five-course tasting menu costs $55 ($95 with paired wines). A seven-course meal runs $75 ($130 with wines). But as sponsored luck would have it, Diva didn’t stop at seven for us. Chef Hamid Salimian sent so many delicious treats in a row, it was like devouring a parade of singing Munchkins. Our favourites were the Qualicum Bay scallops with taramasalata, cilantro, and croutons; the Yarrow Meadows duck served with pomegranate, orange, walnut, and black kale; and the smoked black cod with potato purée, asparagus, and celery nage. Favourite dessert? The Oreo: vanilla pudding, aerated chocolate, cassis sorbet, and a healthy coating of love. Thank you, Diva at the Met!

Step 7  As dessert was getting cleared, a surprise email came in from the resort that had sponsored my honeymoon. It seems the owner had heard about my divorce and wanted to host me again—all expenses paid—except now I could celebrate my freedom. I’m not making this up. Charming offer. But as much as I loved the tropical Cabanas Copal Resort, I’m looking forward, not back.

So when we left Diva, we stepped into a BMW 7 series courtesy car bound for my sponsored luxury hotel.

Many Vancouver hotels invited me, but I chose the gorgeous Fairmont Pacific Rim, which offers five-star service. As its website says, it offers unparalleled luxury, waterfront location, gracious service, and exceptional amenities. Most of which were missing from my marriage.

The Fairmont Pacific Rim—“sophisticated and cosmopolitan but casual and contemporary”—has 377 guestrooms “with lavish appointments, naturally inspired materials, comfortable furnishings and state-of-the-art technology” like an iPad in each room.

What sealed it for me was this gracious invite from their PR director, Samantha Geer: “Ken, you wonderful fellow. After what you’ve been through, many men collapse into sadness. But you’ve chosen to soar and sparkle brightly, much like our exclusive outdoor swimming pool and deluxe private cabanas, or our shining marble and stainless steel open concept kitchen in Oru Cuisine where our innovative and talented chefs create extraordinary Pacific Rim cuisine with food from the Pacific Northwest. In short: we’d love to host your romantic D-Day.”

Our room was a massive Fairmont Gold Corner Suite on the 20th floor. It gave us private check-in, lounge, concierge and butler services; evening canapés; 1,200 square feet of spacious elegance; a private terrace overlooking Coal Harbour, Stanley Park, and the North Shore Mountains; Bose sound system; remote controlled curtains (huge fun when you’re tipsy); two full bathrooms (great for couples with tiny bladders); soaker tubs; king-size bed; and a living room so big, you can swing a mail-order bride around by her pigtails.

We clicked on the 42-inch flat-screen high-def TV and watched The Maury Show. The audience was scandalized by older men loving younger women. At first the audience booed the couples’ age difference. There was much yelling and finger pointing. But by the end, they changed their minds and cheered for the couples’ love. We fell asleep happy.

After a delicious breakfast at Oru, we relaxed in a private shaded pod on the sundeck. Then we hit the hotel’s lovely Willow Stream Spa, where talented Europeans massaged us. My massage was so relaxing, I dozed off and drooled a puddle that looked like—I kid you not—a Valentine’s Day heart. Awwww!

Then it was time to leave. D-Day was ending. While my girlfriend changed, a woman took me aside. Kristie Kent explained that she’s the hotel’s proposal planner. Basically, she secretly helps men plan how they’ll propose to the women they love. How cool is that?

In their Indecent package (from $1,700), for example, a masseuse demonstrates how to give your mate a sensuous massage. Then you pop the question. Other packages include the Pool Cabana, where you see a plane flying overhead with a banner that reads “Will you marry me, ____?” (also from $1,700); and the Rock Star option in the Owner’s Suite, which includes a field trip to Palladio jewellers and a guitar player hiding in your suite (from $10,300).

Kristie asked if I was in love. I said I was, madly and deeply.

“Will you ask her to marry you?” she said. “And do you want help with your proposal planning?”

I thought hard, then smiled and said, “Ask me again next year.”

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