The Story of Winnipeg, Canada – Where Perfect Strangers Will Eagerly Pay For Your Wedding.

During any given weekend, in the dead of winter, you will hear many Winnipeggers ask where the nearest social is, eager to gather their friends and buy tickets. Here, they will pay to dance, gamble and drink the night away, knowing full well, all their money is going towards someone else’s wedding.

Known throughout Canada as “Winterpeg”, Winnipeg, Manitoba’s capital city. Also home to brutal winters with temperatures dropping well below freezing and lasting up to 5 months of the year. Causing much of the population to barricade themselves in their homes and constantly ask themselves why they live here. Unless there is a social, one of the only things besides the obligation of work that will coax a Winnipegger out into the freezing abyss.

The Weather Influence

With winter comes the commencement of “social season”.  The time of year when you can bet on socials every Friday and Saturday night, something the people of Winnipeg very much look forward to.

Socials are the first step to planning a wedding in Winnipeg and their success has caused this tradition to spread throughout Canada under a different name: A Stag and Doe.

Often the obligation of the Maid of Honour and Best Man, an event in celebration of the lucky couple will be organized and paid for by the wedding party, in an effort to cover the cost of their big day.

The logistics

Once an event space is rented out, typically a community center, a finite number of tickets are printed, limited only by the maximum occupancy of the building.

These tickets are then sold to whoever will buy them, whether it be friends, family or Joe Blow off the street. Everyone is welcome and all are automatically entered to win a door prize.  If someone is unable to attend the social, have no fear, support tickets are also available at a reduced price, giving the purchaser entrance into the raffle but not the event itself.  

The Event

Getting ready for a social is a breeze, dress like Mr. Zuckerberg and you’re winning.  You probably won’t know who’s social it is anyway. Generally speaking, the only people in attendance who are dressed to the nines are the couple who will be receiving all your money. Upon entrance, attendees are given the opportunity to buy raffle tickets.  These tickets can be thrown into a draw for one of numerous prizes, many trying their luck at multiple prize draws.  Many will buy dozens of tickets in an effort to increase their chances at winning and at the end of the evening the winners of each prize will be sent home with their spoils. Most prizes are donated by businesses who view socials as a good advertising opportunity and often include flat screen TV’s, tickets to sporting events, signed memorabilia and themed baskets, such as camping accessories, all gathered by the wedding party. Along with the raffle tickets, drink tickets are also for sale.  Typically around $3 a ticket, each one is good for a drink at the bar inside.  

Food, fun and game

Food is provided for free at some point during the evening, usually homemade and perfect for absorbing alcohol so you can keep on buying those tickets. Once inside, music will be blasting, lights flashing, and games set up around the perimeter of the room, a sensory overload to get that adrenaline going. Each game requires a small bet to play, such as $2 to guess the bride’s weight (scary, if the bride is present).

One popular game is the loonie toss, where a valuable prize is placed on the floor and guests toss their loonie ($1 coin) in an effort to be the closest one to the item at the end of the night, ultimately winning said prize. 

Throughout the evening, the best hustlers will be walking around selling 50/50 tickets.  Guests can buy tickets to be entered into a draw for a chance to win half the money in the pot.

Once the social has ended, all the coins and bills from every transaction are given to the couple to spend for their wedding day.

Although the proceeds vary based on attendance, many couples will come out with tens of thousands of dollars more than they went in with, some even covering the cost of their entire wedding and honeymoon.

HAHA, Why??

At this point you may be baffled beyond belief or thinking this is a pretty good idea.  However, it’s considered more of an insult to forego the social than to ask people to spend money to support your event.

Socials are the perfect night out, catering to all interpretations of fun and ultimately a one stop shop to ensure everyone will have a fantastic time.  
For people who have to brave -25 °C weather every time they step outside, finding a place to spend the entire night without the fear of boredom, or hypothermia, is essential.  

Unique to Winnipeg

Socials in Winnipeg have been so successful, the concept has spread throughout Canada under a different name: Stag and Doe. However, this version is not as popular and occur far less frequently outside of Winnipeg.

A word of warning, If you ask about a social anywhere other than Winnipeg, you will cause mass confusion, so stick to the Bambi themed name whilst inquiring elsewhere.

With nightclubs charging $10 a drink, the cheap booze and free food of a social is a pretty great place to warm your belly.  Essential to your survival, it’s also where you should be if you ever find yourself in Winnipeg during the dead of winter.

If you have any stories of attending a social, or know of similar traditions where you are, leave us a comment below and if you would like more travel tips and stories visit Arielle’s blog.

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