If 2018 has taught us anything, it’s that I love a good unscripted TV show.
I mean, I even gave Entertainment it’s own Menu Tab and it has to be one of the most discussed subjects when we chat in the DMs.
So you know when I am really excited about something TV-related, I am going to share it with you and tell you to watch it so we can talk about it together.
I had a chance to sit down with the host, Tommy Smythe (Design Inc., Sarah 101, The Marilyn Denis Show) to chat about the venue vetting process, how to make an agreeable decision as a couple and what he’ll be doing tomorrow night for the show’s premiere. You’ll also get a little preview of what you can expect from the season, how to navigate family and Tommy’s biggest tip when choosing your wedding venue. And there’s sheep! I can. not. wait.
lexniko: So I have to admit, I am a real estate, property, design reality show FIEND. So thank you for sitting down with me. This is already the best morning ever. And now you’re combining two things I love – property shows and weddings as host of the new series Where to I Do? premiering tonight at 8 PM EST on Gusto TV. Tell me a bit about the show for people that may not know.
tommy smythe: I meet a couple and they tell me what style of wedding or style of venue they’d like to have. Of course sometimes the bride’s opinion or the groom’s dreams are slightly different. But I get to know them a little bit, get to know their back story and love story which was really nice because the viewers are all along for the background information which is always delightful and lovely in this case. And then I go research and find three amazing venues where all their asks could actually be realized according to their budget, the number of guests they want to have. I ask a lot of questions in the getting to know you period. And then the real fun starts in getting to find these remarkable in every single case, places. So the audience doesn’t really know in every single case – because the venues are so great – which venue the couple is going to choose until it’s revealed at the end of the episode.
lexniko: And was this filmed all across Canada?
tommy smythe: This was basically as far flung as we were able to go! But the interesting thing about that, is that the locations we visit are really derived from who the couples are. The most important thing that we do in reaching out to real couples is find great stories and wonderful people. You will see we have a lot of different kinds of weddings, with couples of different backgrounds, different faith, different stories. So the stories are what takes us to where we go. The amazing thing is that I don’t think there’s ever been a show about wedding venues – it’s such a big decision. But the nicest thing about the show is the couples. You really get to fall in love with them right along with me. I was so invested in these people and the loveliest part is that at the very end you get to see their wedding happen. And that’s how you find which venue they chose.
lexniko: Oh seriously?! So you actually find out which venue they picked on their actual wedding day?
tommy smythe: Oh ya! This is not Let’s Make a Deal! where they’re like Door Number 3! We let you see that they chose that place because when you see their wedding you’re going to say, “Oh my gosh they picked that place!”
lexniko: And were there any surprises at the venue they chose?
tommy smythe: One of the great things about watching this show is that you really can’t tell which [venue] it’s going to be. Each place has pros and cons, there’s never going to be the absolute perfect place in general (there were a couple of times where it was absolutely perfect). Somebody is going to have to make a little compromise here or there, or you’re going to have to shave down your guestlist a little bit because the perfect place only seats so many people. So there’s always the set up of which one will they choose? – but again, they’re not actors, so you can tell they’re really, really thinking about these things. It’s a big decision.
lexniko: And how much do you get to learn about the couple beforehand because I’m curious how you got to know them and their webbing vibes.
tommy smythe: What’s interesting is that a lot of people might be like, “Why was Tommy Smythe chosen to do a wedding venue show?” but the fact is, as an interior designer for so many years – I’ve been doing this for 25 years – getting to know couples in order to do my job is a HUGE component, probably the most important component of what I do. Having talent and creativity takes a sidebar to anything else if you can’t actually achieve something that is reflective of the people you’re working with. So I’m really practiced at that and I’m a quick study.
lexniko: That’s so true, I’ve never thought about it like that because it’s such an intimate thing – going in to people’s homes.
tommy smythe: Exactly and this is also such an intimate situation for every single couple that we meet. I love meeting people and I meet new people all of the time, so I got really, really invested in these people and their stories and doing a good job for them. It was really important to me that I did a good job and I hope that comes across on the show.
lexniko: We’ve talked about the couples’ vibes, we’ve talked budget, so what is the right blend between function and fantasy? Because I could see it being different from couple to couple but is there a perfect formula?
tommy smythe: I’ll answer that as a person who has attended a lot of weddings not as the person who is helping to pick the venue! What I have observed over the years is that the Authenticity Factor is the most important thing. When I go to a wedding and the bride doesn’t look like herself because she is so over-glamazon’d or if you’re in a setting that doesn’t suit a couple – a boho hippie chick and her surfer boyfriend at the Ritz Paris would be a weird place for them to have their wedding! So getting to know each couple on Where to I Do? was really important in terms of helping them find their vibe because each and every place – and you’ll see this when you watch the show – was exactly the right decision for the couple. And they made the decision. I just showed them options. But they, in every single place, chose the right place – in my view. Because of course, I love every venue when we go in. They’re all, in my opinion, spectacular and perfect and a good fit for the couples. But you really didn’t know and I really didn’t know, going in to that discussion of, “have you made you decision,” which one they would go with. And I haven’t seen the weddings! I have only seen the wedding in our pilot episode.
lexniko: You haven’t seen them!
tommy smythe: Yes so even episode two in our show, which also airs tonight (8 PM EST, Gusto TV) – I know which venue they chose but I haven’t seen the actual footage. So I have seen the body of the shows but I have save the wedding to watch along with viewers. The wedding I did see, in the pilot episode, Tamara & Paul, I cried like a baby in the wedding footage!
lexniko: OMG you have to do an Instagram Live of your reaction to the weddings!
tommy smythe: You will never see me cry on Instagram Live my friend. It is not happening! I am so excited for this show to go to air because I want to hear the feedback from the people who watch it because I suspect it’s going to be couples watching together or dreamers with their boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse or dog and Kleenex for the tears. And then there is going to be that moment of, “ok now where do we go?” Because we go to so many interesting places that I think that people are going to want to travel after they see this show and see some of the unbelievably beautiful spots that we went to.
lexniko: I think so. What’s nice is that you’re opening up Canada to viewers and you’re opening up the concept that you don’t have to stick to conventional when it comes to picking your venue. There are these other options if you’re willing to invest the time to find where you can go.
tommy smythe: There were a surprising number of couples who specifically said that they did not necessarily want to do the traditional thing. And whatever traditional means to you, your friends and family can vary from couple to couple. Some people didn’t want to be in a lodge or a hall; some people didn’t want to be in a hotel. And then we had some people who wanted to be in a hotel and wanted it to be the best hotel! So we see some amazing hotels on Where to I Do? as well. It’s an amazing balance.
lexniko: I know! I saw the preview and I swear I saw you showing a couple what looks like a subway station?
tommy smythe: You’re not wrong! And that was a cool episode because that was a couple on a budget and it was big impact on a budget which showed them really cool spaces that worked for their needs.
lexniko: We’ve talked about guest and the whole function of a space. How much should a bride and groom take guests into consideration when picking their venue? Or should it be: Our Day, Our Way?
tommy smythe: I think it varies from couple to couple, as it should. Some couples are super focused on this being their moment and some couples on Where to I Do? are very concerned about providing an experience for their guests and it really was all about the guests. Depending on your life journey and your story leading up to your wedding day, you can be a couple who almost wants to stage their wedding as a thank you to people who have helped you and been supportive to you through your hardship or life journey. And some people are like, “you know what – we don’t give ourselves a lot of self care and this is our big moment to shine.”
lexniko: And there’s no right or wrong…right?!
tommy smythe: No, not at all. Both are amazing to me. It honestly felt really natural for who those people were when I got to know them and got to go through the journey of picking their spaces with them.
lexniko: It’s so nice to hear you talking about these couples and to hear you say that you truly feel like they found their perfect match in a venue.
tommy smythe: And I didn’t know that I would! Going in to this, season one, I didn’t know for sure that I necessarily agree with everything. I obviously loved every venue that we went to but I didn’t necessarily know I would be so completely thrilled at the end of it. Because of course every couple has their specific needs and there’s no such thing as something that pleases absolutely everybody. The venue that is perfect for the couple might not be the favourite for the mother-in-law or the parents or grandparents who might not be so interested in seeing something like a nightclub as a venue for example.
lexniko: How was the family dynamic on the show? I hear it from every single couple that it can be a factor. Do we get to see that or is it more behind the scenes?
tommy smythe: It’s definitely case specific but definitely family discussion, needs and wants come in to play for a lot of the couples on the show. And for some it’s more, just us. And both are great in terms of our stories.
lexniko: And I have to ask because it’s Royal Wedding Week – Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are getting married at St. George’s Chapel. I have never been, but I hear you have been twice, so what do you think of the location as a venue for them as a couple? Is it traditional or non? They’ve broken so many rules as a couple, I want to know where this decision falls.
tommy smythe: The key to breaking rules is that you don’t break all the rules, all the time. You break a few and then stick to traditional values and try to marry the two together. My suspicion is that because this couple is so young and so modern and so stylish – he is actually quite stylish, sartorially – I think that they will have a very modern wedding, in a very traditional environment. If you remember the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding, they put those giant, mature tress down the aisle in Westminster Abbey. After their wedding, I attended a few local weddings that actually incorporated mature trees and I suspect these two will do the same. I would be looking for a fresh idea in an old space, because that covers all of the bases for them.
lexniko: If couples’ don’t have a fairy godfather and they’re watching the show and feeling inspired, what is the biggest tip you can give them when they’re thinking about their dream venue for their wedding?
tommy smythe: For me, that’s a two-pronged answer. The most important advice I would give, especially knowing what I know after going through it with these couples on Where to I Do? is make sure that you can find a place that incorporates something of each of you and that feels, secondly, extremely authentic for you as a couple. Make sure it really feels and looks like you – authenticity in everything is the most important thing. Especially in this moment where you’re demonstrating to the world that you love each other and are committing to spending your lives together – it’s important that that feels real.
lexniko: And I have to ask: did you have a favourite property?
tommy smythe: That’s like saying do you have a favourite friend! But I will say there were some interesting places that I never expected to visit that really delighted and surprised. Put it this way – without spoiling too much, for example, there’s sheep! I encountered some sheep And that’s not every day for me!
That was truly one of the most fun conversations I’ve had with a TV personality and I cannot wait to learn more about these couples and see the venue they’ve selected. It is so clear that Tommy cares so much about the options he presented but mostly that they’re the right fit for the brides and grooms throughout the season.
Will you be watching tonight? Join me in the Stories to chat all things wedding and Where to I Do?