The toughest question for any recently engaged couple is Who do we invite to our wedding? When Emily and I decided to get married last fall (it was a mutual decision, sorry no YouTube engagement video), we knew we didn’t want a huge wedding (with the logistics of guests spread out all over North America) and we didn’t want to elope (stress-free but not much of a celebration). We wanted a small wedding, and that didn’t mean under 100 people.
Our perfect wedding was an intimate weekend with 18 guests in the Rocky Mountains, complete with snowshoeing, board games, and hot springs. Because we kept it small, it was relatively stress-free to plan and we had more time to spend with our family and friends. One of the main reason we decided to get married was to give our families an opportunity to spend time with each other. Emily and I dated for over 5 years, but before the wedding our parents had never met each other.
After the wedding, we had a bigger party in Vancouver to celebrate with our friends. We also made promises to our extended families that we would visit Toronto this summer and Winnipeg for Christmas. I know my aunts have been saving up embarrassing stories of me, and I feel bad for denying them the opportunity to share them at my wedding.
Weekend in Banff
We chose Banff as our wedding destination because it has great natural beauty, it was somewhere Emily and I wanted to visit anyway, and it is relatively easy to get to – or so we thought. Emily and I almost didn’t make it because of the ongoing labour dispute at Air Canada. We woke up on Saturday morning, and were about to leave for the airport when we found out our flight was cancelled. The situation was nerve-racking and comical, and everything worked out in the end. We had to shuffle the car rentals around, and rush to pick up our marriage license, but we arrived in Banff 4 hours late to find our families hanging out in the condo, drinking wine, and getting along splendidly. Any anxiety we had about them not getting along was quickly dispelled.
The wedding wasn’t until Monday afternoon, so we had a few days to spend with our friends and family before. We booked two multi-bedroom condos at the Inns of Banff, so we had a large living room to hang out in and a kitchen to cook meals in. The Moms cooked two fabulous dinners for us – no small feat considering how many vegans, celiacs, and food sensitivities there were in our small group.
We spent most of Sunday ice walking and snowshoeing in the Banff National Park. In the morning, we hiked up the frozen Johnston Canyon. Then after a hearty lunch in Lake Louise, we snowshoed the Lakeshore trail. The two hikes were reasonably flat, but still a light workout. Not everyone made it for both, but I think most people enjoyed themselves. I was happy to get out into the fresh air and introduce snowshoeing to some of our city slicker friends from Toronto and New York.
The ceremony was quick, simple, and touching. Our marriage commissioner was excellent, and our venue (a meeting room at the Banff Rec Centre) had great views of the mountains. Emily showed off her crafty side, with a felted flower bouquet and story book vows. I was a nervous mess before the ceremony started – it didn’t help that Emily was 20 minutes late [Wife's note: he was also a nervous mess during the ceremony.]. I expected to get a few tears out of Emily when I read my vows, but she’s too strong and the only one crying was my mom.
After the photo shoot, we went back to the condo for champagne and speeches. Leanne told about Emily’s university days, Ben accused me of pushing him off a bike in Italy (truth here), Emily’s mom apologized for brainwashing Emily into hating marriage, and my mom told everyone how uncoordinated I was and the secret to my happiness is a jar of peanut butter. Our parents also gave us a box full of mementos from our childhoods. Then my dad surprised us with a catchy wedding song about two vegetarians destined to be together.
For dinner, we were lucky that Nourish Bistro (one of Banff’s best restaurants) was willing to host all of us for dinner and provide a meal that met everyone’s dietary restrictions. It was amazing – a five course feast with raw appetizer platters, vegan nachos (best I’ve ever had, even better than Foundation’s), curry, stuffed roasted peppers, king kong noodles, and a vegan and gluten-free wedding cake. It was an overwhelming amount of food, but amazing.
After dinner, we hung out in the condo and my dad pulled out the guitar for karaoke until late in the night. Not how I expected my wedding night to start, but it was fun.
After we said goodbye to our wedding guests, Emily and I drove up to Jasper with Emily’s mom, Martha, and Leanne for a few more days in the Rockies. We were unaware that the Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper can be sketchy in the winter. Luckily, we had two days of sunshine and clear roads for the drive there and back. The mountains provided a spectacular backdrop, but the glaciers were still covered in snow. I’m looking forward to going back sometime in the summer.
Jasper was a spectacular town. There were herds of elk and bighorn sheep just wandering around; there’s a beautiful Via Rail train station; and the hiking nearby was great. The highlight was walking along the frozen river in the Maligne Canyon. Tour companies offer guided ice walk tours for $55/person, but we just rented ice cleats from one of the local stores and explored on our own. The pictures don’t really show how spectacular it was to walk on a frozen river with waterfalls suspended from the cliff walls.
A week after getting back to Vancouver we hosted a party for our friends at a local art studio – BLIM. I think everyone had a good time. We had a carnival theme – Emily took care of the decorations, I made a Skee Pong game, there were colouring sheets where people could leave us marriage advice, and a jelly bean guessing game. Plus we had a slide show with trivia questions, a toonie bar, vegan cupcakes from Edible Flours, and good music. We had several friends from Seattle attend the party and it was excellent to see them (we need to visit Seattle more often).
Emily and I thought we had everything planned out, but a few of our close friends took it upon themselves to mix in a few wedding games of their own, including Ukrainian wedding traditions that I had never heard of. They had flower wreaths, pumpkins, and ochipok hats (or whatever they could find at the dollar store that was similar) for me to woo my bride with. There was also a hot potato game where Emily and I were awarded a fun event (like snowshoeing, hiking, or Easter egg making) with one of our friends every month.
The full collection of wedding photos.
Not much has changed for Emily and I post-marriage. I’m getting better at ignoring her so I can play video games, and she’s getting more persistent nagging me to do things. But otherwise, things are the same as they were before.