Whether your guests live out of town or close to the venue, providing them with a few ideas to make the wedding go beyond the big day is an opportunity to keep the celebration going all weekend long! We’ve compiled a list of the best local establishments, restaurants and attractions in Southwestern Ontario - the St. Marys, Stratford and London areas - that can fill the pre- and post-wedding gaps.
Golf at St. Marys Golf & Country Club
What better way to get outside than playing a round of golf! It’s often common for the groom to enjoy a round of golf the morning of his wedding and/or prior to the rehearsal dinner. This is an opportunity to unwind and get together with his groomsmen, friends and family outside of the typical wedding itinerary. If you’re expecting a large group or have a particular date in mind, it’s best to book a tee time a month or two before the wedding. Even if golf isn’t everyone’s forte, you can still have fun by playing golf games such as best ball.
Last Minute Wedding Prep
Saturdays are for the boys - or so they say! For the guy requiring some last minute pre-wedding prep, Stonetown Barber has you covered. Head to the St. Marys barber shop for a hair cut or a professional shave prior to the wedding. The owner, Scott, is a professionally-trained barber who grew up locally, and has a personality as big as his beard.
For the girls, Sensations Salon & Day Spa has a full menu of service and treatment options that will help the bridal party or wedding guests unwind before the busy day. While the boys are on the golf course, the talented ladies at Sensations can assist with all your hair styling, makeup application and manicure needs.
St. Marys Scenery
One of the many perks of choosing a small town Southwestern Ontario wedding is the abundance of beautiful scenery. Suggest for your wedding guests to take a leisurely walk or bike ride along the Grand Trunk Trail. This historic trail, which once operated as The Grand Trunk Railway, now functions as an accessible walking and biking trail spanning over three kilometres, and is also recognized as a popular wedding photo location
Another feature of St. Marys is the North Thames River which is perfect for canoeing, kayaking and fly fishing. The diverse scenery along the route includes local farms, fields, forests, and parks. The fact that London has its own fly fishing club speaks to the quality of fishing and other seasonal outdoor activities in the area.
Restaurants & Accomodations
St. Marys has fantastic local restaurant options from brunch to dinner. The Westover Inn features award-winning cuisine and guest rooms that make for a convenient location for wedding guests. Another overnight option in St. Marys is the Stone Willow Inn, which is within walking distance from the St. Marys Golf & Country Club. Both hotels are located in the historic Stonetown area and close to amenities like the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Grabbing take out for a picnic at Milt Dunnell Park ('The Flats'), or to eat back in the hotel room, is easy with options like the Towne & Country Cheese Shoppe, which serves up a variety of soup and sandwich combos. For dinner, try Little Red's Pub & Eatery for exceptional service and local dishes like their famous Blanbrook bison burger.
You can't refer to Stratford without the Stratford Festival coming to mind. The internationally-recognized theatre runs from April to October, coinciding with peak wedding season. The variety of performances will appeal to many audiences, and out-of-town guests can easily browse the festival website to see what upcoming events would best suit them. There are also nearby attractions like the Avon River, where swans swim alongside the walking trail, and the Shakespearean Gardens, which is best known for its perfectly-kept landscaping and heritage stone bridge.
Shop Downtown Stratford
This historic and quaint town has few big box stores and instead boasts a variety of unique, family-owned businesses. Guests will be able to find the perfect wedding gift at boutiques like Bradshaws, where they can choose from bridal registries or browse a selection of kitchenware and home decor, and even enjoy complimentary gift wrapping. Wills & Prior is another local favourite, where a curated collection of new and vintage items makes for a unique shopping experience. Behind an Instagram-worthy storefront, shoppers will find beautiful cotton throws, toss cushions, and small-batch soy candles among the artfully-displayed merchandise.
Weekend Stays in Stratford
Stay close to all of Stratford's amenities, in addition to the wedding venue, by finding accommodations right in town. Offering rooms or suites, and amenities like a gym and indoor pool, The Bruce Hotel also features both a fine dining restaurant and an upscale lounge to suit the palate of guests with a refined taste. Alternatively, the Best Western Plus The Arden Park Hotel is another great option for an overnight stay, with a convenient location, complimentary parking, and an indoor pool and hot tub.
Indulge in stratford's culinary scene
If you and your group are looking for a place to chill after the ceremony rehearsal, Bentley's is the place to be. Enjoy a pint and pub fare on the patio, with a menu including gluten free and vegetarian options. For those craving Italian, Pazzo Taverna + Pizzeria offers gourmet menu items including mussels, gnocchi and risotto, along with their signature oven-fired pizzas. For the foodies in your crowd, worker-owned The Red Rabbit offers inspired tapas style dishes, using locally-sourced ingredients. With a stacked menu and an ultra-hip atmosphere, reservations are a must at this local hot spot. Then relive memories from the night before over brunch at Foster's Inn. Best known for their range of Eggs Benedict dishes and their Huevos Rancheros breakfast, your guests will end the wedding weekend on a high note. If you're looking for a more casual dining experience, check out Madelyn's Diner for their famous butter tarts. The open kitchen layout lets you see where the magic happens, and adds to the family feel of the restaurant. Stop at Edison's Cafe Bar for the best cup of java and chocolate chip cookie in town, and become instant best friends with welcoming owners Buffy and Greg. For ice cream or fro yo, head to Scooper's. Rumoured to be Justin Bieber's favourite spot when he's back in town, Justin may just steal the spotlight from the bride if guests catch a rare glimpse of the famous Stratford singer.
Local Brewery Tour
The London area has recently seen an explosion of excellent craft breweries. Consider putting together a map or listing of breweries for your guests, so that they can plan out which ones to visit during their weekend stay. Since many of the breweries are located within close proximity of each other, it's only a short distance between beers. Specifically, Anderson Ale has quickly become a local favourite, featuring seasonal brews as well as classics like their IPA and Amber Ales. Toboggan Brewing Co., situated on London’s infamous “Richmond Row”, has a unique and upscale pub vibe as well as a patio that’s perfect for enjoying a cold beverage during the summer.
Restaurants on Richmond Row and Beyond
The variety of restaurants in London will satisfy any palate. For casual fare, there is the unique eatery, The Early Bird, which specializes in generous portions of comfort food (including the turducken club). The restaurant was even featured on a Food Network episode of You Gotta Eat Here! The Church Key, and Garlic's of London, are both found on London's Richmond Row, close to local amenities such as The Grand Theatre and Victoria Park. London has also seen an increase in locally-sourced, vegan and vegetarian restaurant options, providing food selections for a variety of wedding guests staying in the area. Plant Matter Kitchen, situated in historic Wortley Village is a vegan/vegetarian restaurant that is committed to local sourcing and organic ingredients. Globally Local is Canada's first vegan fast food restaurant with one location featuring a 24-hour drive-thru.
Music & Theatre in London
London is home to a vibrant arts and culture scene, where out-of-town wedding guests will find a concert or show to fill an afternoon. Aeolian Hall is a historic music venue with an intimate feel. There is always a diverse variety of upcoming talent, from celtic to jazz and everything in between.
If theatre is your preference, The Palace Theatre and The Grand Theatre offer a range of live performances. With plays occurring on a September to May subscription schedule, this is a good choice during an offseason winter wedding when outdoor activities may be limited.
There's a sports option for every season in London. Get a group together and head out to a London Knights OHL game during their regular season, which runs from September to March. Games are usually scheduled for Friday nights or Sunday afternoons, making this a great activity for pre- or post-wedding. The city also has a professional basketball team, the London Lightning. Both the Knights and Lightning play home games at Budweiser Gardens in downtown London. During summer or fall months, catch a London Majors baseball game at Labatt Memorial Park. The venue is meticulously maintained and is situated near the forks of the Thames.
Southwestern Ontario offers a variety of activities for all seasons - spring, summer, fall and winter - ideal for downtime either before or after the wedding. To better your guests' weekend away, put together a map of ideas for local activities, and even personalize it with a 'top ten list' of activities that you and your partner enjoy. Taking your guests' needs into account will be appreciated, as they will have a chance to catch up with friends and enjoy the local culture over the entire wedding weekend!