Have you ever played the coulda, woulda, shoulda game?  In my opinion it’s the best way to get nowhere fast.  But as with all things, there’s a time and place for everything.  Re-imagining your wedding is one such instance and it’s surprisingly fun.  If I planned the day today, knowing what I know now, it would be completely different.  Well of course it would, because 6 years later I’m different.

I’m not sure how many wives say this but I wish I had been a bit more crazy.  I approached the whole thing like it was a research project, to check things off of a list and enter into excel.  I was careful to be composed, flexible and willing to accommodate people’s wishes.  But amongst all of that pretend zen, I was actually a control-freak desperately trying to hide my anxiety at giving things up left, right and centre.  By not speaking up and saying “no” more, I lost my voice and as a result parts of my wedding started to chip away.  With those fractures I felt like I was also suppressing a part of who I was, who we were as a couple.  For example, after a recent visit to Paris we vowed that we would return to live there for an extended period in the near future.  We say this with such confidence because rarely do Andrew I not make things happen.  We are stubborn as individuals and even more strong-willed together so we know that it’s going to be a reality and we will strategize our next steps to get there.

With regards to the wedding I’m not really talking about having regrets because looking back, I had a beautiful, lovely wedding day and I wouldn’t change a thing.  I just wish that I had fought harder for what I wanted.  So, I’m doing a remix, a Smith wedding version 2.0.  Here’s the do-over with all of the trimmings.  They all begin with the word “go,” ha, because it rhymes with “no”:


Go away.  That’s right my wedding would have been far, far away from the streets of Toronto.  Really, why didn’t I think of this back then?  The strength of our partnership is our common love of travel.  It should have involved suitcases, passports, jet lag and somewhere beautiful to reflect on the beginning of this next phase in our lives.  We should have begun anew.

Go intimate.  With the distance comes the ease of having a guest list that reflects close-knit bonds.  Please don’t misunderstand, I’m sure that our party of over 160 people all wished us well, I just didn’t know many of them and neither did Andrew.  The individuals who will commit to attending your destination wedding probably know you well enough to put in the time, effort and financial resources.  Many will ask, what about those who really care for you but can’t attend?  Aren’t you leaving them out?  Yes, that’s always unfortunate but to be completely honest, even as a graduate student living off of funding (thankfully not for much longer), if my best friend decided to get married in Iceland, I would sell the clothes off my back to buy the ticket.  With the smaller attendance you are able to actually interact and converse with all of your guests and in the end, all of you are bonded by this shared experience abroad.

Go outside.  On my wedding day it rained all day long.  All day.  I’m exaggerating because we did get some outdoor shots but the lighting was dark and flat.  Rather than put up with this fate again I would research a time and place when there would be sunshine.  I’m not saying that I would suddenly have the ability to control weather conditions, just that if you are smart enough, there is literally a time and a place where it’s warm and rarely rains.  I would rent a villa in the south of France.  There would be enough room for family members and close friends to stay with us in the house during the wedding and guests could stay in town.  The ceremony would be outside.  Then we would eat, drink, dance and be merry.  Simple.

Go custom-made.  You know the emerald green dress that Keira Knightley wore in Atonement?  I would get that dress tailored-made for me in white silk.  I would also be as skinny as I am now.

Go all out.  There are suddenly more possibilities when you are not serving dinner to over 160 people.  With that extra breathing room financially you can make your vision a reality aesthetically, through your choice of cuisine and music.  You are better able to get lost in the details and create a certain “feel” that reflects your excitement to celebrate the profound love that you have for each other.

These coulda, woulda, shoulda ramblings can become a reality you know.  On our 20th wedding anniversary we are going to rent a house in Provence for a month.  We are going to cook, read, get fat and be content.  Hopefully our family and friends will join us for those long, lazy, happy days.


After the party

I once said “there’s nothing like a social climber trying to prove their worth with a major celebration.”  Wow, that sounded much harsher in print but I don’t mean for it to be.  We’re all social climbers, and probably always will be unless you’re Prince William.  Negotiating the intricate workings of the class system is inescapable and we try to survive through markers of privilege and accomplishments.  It requires work but those who are best make it seem effortless.  Because of the ease with which they read contexts and people they are often rewarded with praise, love and popularity.  There’s probably a reason why the word “cool” denotes lack of passion.  Those who know best could care less what you think of them, or at least they give that impression, and it’s irresistible.  One of my favourite phrases is “fake it till you make it” because it denotes the performance aspect of confidence, backed up with some level of competence.  Till you’re established on solid ground I think most of us have to not be disingenuous per say, but sometimes pretend to be more than the sum of our parts.  I guess it’s a good form of hustling right, and you are nowhere without working hard and having some of that finesse.

One of the biggest performances people take part in is through their wedding and I feel like this is just an extension of the social project.  One of the curses of grad school is that you start to see through everything.  My husband loves it because it’s a part of his nature but I just find it exhausting sometimes.  On occasion it’s a bit more fun to enjoy things at the surface level right?  But, now I can’t even help it if I wanted to and it’s made worse by the fact that I married someone who sees the same strings on people’s show.  Don’t get me wrong, we are the first to point out our strings too, it’s just that we can sometimes push each other on and be a bit judgemental.  Returning to the wedding, I always love a good party and so I found planning my own not a source of stress at all.  The only difficult part was trying to balance the budget and this is where I continually reminded myself of the performance aspect.  Did I really need that centrepiece?  What am I trying to say with it?  Do I need it to prove something?  This was also coloured by my own perspective of how I was about to enter marriage, not a fancy dress ball.  I preferred to be grounded.  From the minute I started to plan the whole thing I knew that it was a commitment to work.  I regret being way too pragmatic now because I think it took away some of the romance of it.  If I had to do it over that’s the only thing I would change—to have a more balanced approach of practicality and emotions.  But really, when you already live with your husband, do you need to be apart the night before the wedding?  I didn’t give into that superstition or tradition because when you’ve known each other since you were 14 and started dating at 16, you go through a lot and you’re more confident that you can probably get though anything.  So, when I designed our wedding day, the most important thing to me was that it represented us.  There’s definitely some negotiation involved in the process and you make concessions due to cost and parental wishes, but that’s the one thing I didn’t want to lose.  Some people say that they barely remember their wedding day but I feel lucky that this was not the case for me.  Weather-wise, there were thunder storms throughout the whole day, less than ideal yes but it was almost a relief.  As soon as that happened I literally just said forget it, I’m going to have fun.  The pressure was gone and I began to relish in the most important part: the people.  We just felt like it was one of those rare moments when the whole room was filled with people, from all over the world, to love us and wish us the best.  So, I ate my dinner, enjoyed the company of my best friends in the wedding party, did not walk around the room once during the reception, danced and drank some vodka.  You only get one day and my advice to a bride is to remember your partner, be with each other and float in the warmth.  Having such a day gave me something to come back to in my marriage.  Through the hard times, because trust me we’ve had plenty after that party in August six years ago, I try to reconnect with that day and how I felt.  There was a support system there, our guests wanted our union to succeed, to thrive, and so it made me return to him, us, our history.  That’s what your wedding day is for.