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The New Wedding Book

A Cool Couple's Guide to Throwing a Celebration You Actually Want to Be At
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“But you’re getting married! You HAVE to!”

That empty statement is on the other end of everything from wedding cakes, bachelorette parties, lace veils, engagement photo shoots and selfie stations. It seems that from the very minute you are betrothed, everyone and their mother (perhaps especially your mother) has opinions about what you should do at your wedding. Heck, even if you just decide to go rogue and forgo the old “traditional” engagement route, just wait for the unsolicited feedback to roll in. Couples ruminate on things, “at my wedding, do I have to…” as if the Wedding Police are going to come and arrest them.

Given the calamity that was 2020, perhaps it’s time we put those expectations into perspective. There was a colossal reckoning around the world on just what truly is important. We saw a lovely and startling amount of socially-distanced weddings that were pared down, yes, but they maintained romance, class and a sense of intimacy that made our hearts swell (just look up former Teen Vogue editor Elaine Welteroth’s Brooklyn nuptials for a truly magical front-stoop covered in florals, block party wedding that was incredibly memorable. She grabbed a dress from the back of her closet and did the damn thing.).

It stands to reason that this new collective consciousness would affect how we approach weddings (thank goodness we can celebrate weddings with our friends and family again). You actually don’t need to do anything at all (including getting engaged or married). It seems that as a society, we approach weddings like there is one way to do it and to stray or make a misstep means disaster.

What’s up with that?

Nothing deadens romance like the feeling that you’re disappointing a bunch of people or that you’re playing a part that doesn’t feel like your true self. How is a bride supposed to feel like herself when every message she gets about her wedding is what other people think she should do? How can couples get down that aisle in a way that feels authentic, awesome, fun and true to themselves?


You can. We did. And we’re here to tell you that it’s going to be great. Better than great. You and your beloved can pull off a wedding that’s perfect for you, on the budget you want, without isolating the very people you hope to be swilling champagne with on the big day. But, to do so requires keeping your eye on the prize, learning to hear but not necessarily abide by feedback and switching out your wishbone for a backbone.

Because really, what’s the alternative? Well, we know them.

We have a friend that a few days before her wedding, confided that she couldn’t wait for it to be over, like it was a budget presentation she had to give at work or a long put-off dental procedure. The stress of the wedding planning was causing frequent and massive fights with her partner. They were going into a paint-peeling amount of debt. Both of their families were completely pissed off. And she was over it. It was wedding fuckery of the highest order. She got sucked into a machine that was making her play a role she didn’t want to play. Her wedding was Pinterest pretty, to be sure (it ended up in bridal magazines), but her best friends knew that under that French lace veil and airbrushed foundation was one really sad bride. And it broke our hearts.

Our feminist sensibilities also flagged that the roots of seemingly pretty traditions were anything but. While the music and hors d'œuvres have improved over the years, many couples today still participate in the same archaic traditions that people did hundreds of years ago, without understanding what they’re about. Women have rewritten every part of our lives, except how we marry. We’re still getting hitched in much the same way that generations before us have, albeit with the added modern pressures of having it be Instagram-perfect.

We wrote this book because we too were *this close* to getting caught up in that machine, that tempting white tulle bridal spin. This is an entire industry devoted to making women feel inadequate for not following the guidebook—the guidebook that the bridal industry wrote, unabashedly to serve itself. 

Many of the people we spoke to in this book appear by first name or anonymously, to ensure they felt safe talking about their weddings, family dynamics and relationships. To the brides and grooms that opened up to us about your insecurities, your  partners, your parents and in-laws, your bodies and your bank accounts, thank you. Except where relevant, we do not call attention to people’s age, race, sexuality or other demographic markers. They range in age, clothing size, income, backgrounds and location. It was high honour to conduct these interviews, which frequently included tears: tears of joy at recounting their wedding, tears of gratitude for having rock solid partners, tears of regret over falling out with family or losing themselves.
In this book, we made some assumptions and want to openly acknowledge both our bias and blindspots. We’re both white, hetereosexial, cisgender women. When we are talking about weddings, we are talking about the western wedding as we know it in both fairytale and pop culture (a quick search for #weddinginspiration on social media will catch you up). If you go to your local bookstore (SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE!) and ask them to kindly point you to the wedding magazine section, you’ll likely get this sort of wedding. We live in the most inclusive, diverse, multicultural city in the world, Toronto. Because of that, marriages of every kind are completely (and gloriously) normalized for us. In our city, we see weddings that cross faiths, races and every beautiful colour of the sexual identity rainbow. This is our world. So while we undertook this book as a sort of feminist manifesto on the western wedding industry, we didn’t want any person or couple feel felt out. We also appreciate that for some people reading this, the interfaith, inter-racial or non-heterobinary wedding that you want to have might not be so normalized in your world. For some of our readers, it might be hard. It might be bold. It might be illegal. That might be your world. We see you.

This book is our attempt at calling for a modernization of weddings, that gives couples the latitude to do what feels right for them. When we decided to get married, it felt like the bridal industry was treating us like wedding-lusty airheads on spending sprees. As downtown women living on working girls’ salaries, we weren’t having it. We’re quickly fed up with the ever-increasing significance, over-the-topness, and cost of weddings. And since you picked up this book, you likely are, too.

Are weddings hard work? They might be, but don’t have to be. The hard work is done now, anyways. You did it. You snagged that stone cold fox and are putting a ring on them. You found your half. If you’re anything like us, you think back to your single days when you’d lament that all the good ones were taken. Then, POOF! Into your life walks this stunning/brilliant/hilarious/sweet/caring/whatever-quality-you-most-adore-in-your-partner into your life, and you know that you want to go through it all with them. Think back to all the goosebumps when you’d get ready for a date. Remember how you’d try on outfit after outfit before you met up. Making sure you were wearing “good underwear” (or maybe that was that just us?). These emotions are going to be your north star as you move from engaged to married. You will be lavished with attention but also come up against some pressure to do things a certain way. Maybe you’ve been dreaming about your wedding since you were little. Maybe you never envisioned a wedding at all, but your mother has been designing yours since you were five. Who knows.

What we do know is that there is a sneaky, elusive thing called “the perfect wedding” that doesn’t actually exist. In a world utterly governed by the ethos of social-media perfection and celebrity culture, couples are in hot pursuit of managing and editing every single aspect of the wedding. The dress has to be perfect. The flowers have to be perfect. Everyone has to look perfect. Perfect doesn’t exist. Let’s just repeat that so the people in the back can hear: Perfect doesn’t exist. So, let it go. Instead, seek meaning, or beauty, or specialness. Plan a wedding that feels like you. Be true to yourself and your love. Be kind and considerate of your families. Make sure your guests are comfortable and that they have fun. But don’t lose yourself in pursuit of something that doesn’t even exist. Instead:

  • Let your sense of self be your guide. Be true blue and you can’t go wrong.
  • Find weapons-grade compassion and call upon your reserves of kindness and diplomacy.
  • Include or create traditions that the two of you find meaning in. Don’t include traditions that aren’t meaningful to you, or make you feel uncomfortable.
  • Think of guests that might face accessibility issues, elders, those with kids or guests that are travelling a great distance.
  • If something causes friction, deal with it right away. Tiny problems can sprout into huge issues if they go unsolved.

The fact of the matter is that weddings are emotional and cost varying degrees of money. Emotions and money are fertile ground for stress, which is all the more reason to protect your relationship. How you make decisions about your wedding as a couple really will shape how you make decisions in your marriage.

There is a quiet, societal pressure that couples are supposed to be overjoyed at every point of their wedding planning. Sure, tasting cake is better than updating a budget, but not every area of wedding planning (umm, or life)  is going to be fun, emotional or even interesting. Some of it just has to happen, there are so many items to tick off a to-do list, you’re kidding yourself if every one of those items is going to bring you joy. As you make seemingly countless decisions, you might feel really excited and jazzed about some, and completely aloof or bored by others. That’s cool and normal. You’re not going to fail at marriage because you don’t pore over every detail.

We hope that this book serves as a little whisper in your ear, to stay true to who you are as a person and as a couple, and use critical thinking to make decisions that work for you.

We found our way and hope you do, too.

Happily ever after,

Karen and Michelle xo

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Canada's Storytellers | Les grands écrivains du Canada

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The history of the Governor General’s Literary Awards has been the history of Canada itself. Winning books have influenced Canada as much as Canada has influenced them. They have included many of Canada’s best works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and drama.

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