Stephanie & Joel Strugnell



When you know, you know! That was the feeling Joel and I had after our very first date. Two small town kids, who attended high school in the same town, but who had never met - until our passion for fitness and health lead us to cross paths at the Stratford GoodLife. Only ever exchanging hellos at the gym, it wasn’t until mutual friends introduced us to each other at a local pub when we took the next step. We talked for what felt like hours, leaving our friends to entertain themselves. As the conversation continued to flow, I was feeling confident and happy about our first real encounter, and assumed Joel felt the same. But when he left to catch his ride and didn’t so much as ask for my phone number, I was left with a surprising reality check. I didn’t see Joel for over a month, and I wasn’t sure if it was our conflicting schedules or if he was avoiding me at the gym. Later, I would find out that he had gotten hurt while snowboarding, which had kept him from his normal activities.

Our lives carried on separately for that month and a half, until one night when we were both on Facebook. I had some downtime on a business trip in Arizona, so decided to message Joel. We chatted back and forth for over two hours, when he asked me to contact him when I was back in town! In an attempt to not look too eager, I waited an extra day before sending a text, which he promptly responded to with a phone call asking me to dinner - the way a true gentleman would. We chose Borealis restaurant, in Kitchener, for our first official date, and we spent so much time talking that we barely ate! That’s when we both knew.


After dating for almost three years, Joel planned the most unforgettable night of my life. It didn’t even matter that it was the worst torrential down pour I’ve seen in years, because he thought of everything. The day started with Joel treating me to a full day at the spa, followed by dinner at the same restaurant where we had shared our first date. At that point, I thought for sure he was popping the question, but he knows me too well, and threw me off by casually asking what I wanted to do after dinner. Needless to say, we spent 40 minutes at Chapters. Thinking I had gotten my hopes up too high, we drove back to Stratford to meet up with friends. On the way, Joel made a few (intentional) wrong turns, until he pulled into the parking lot across from the Avon River. Umbrella in hand, he asked me to close my eyes and follow him. Hand in hand, we walked through puddles as deep as my knees, until we reached the Tom Patterson Bridge. There he had romantically laid out a white sheet with candles setup in the shape of a heart. Suddenly he got down on one knee, and all I remember is saying YES! While soaking wet, shivering and yet the happiest I’ve ever been, I heard cheering coming from the bridge, and looked up to see both of our immediate families with huge smiles on their faces. Not only did he plan for everyone we loved to be there for our special moment, he even had a photographer capture the whole thing! Being the planner that I am, I got to work that night, and basically had half the wedding decisions made by midnight!

A few weeks after the proposal, Joel and I called some local venues. I remembered that the St. Marys Golf & Country Club had recently done renovations, and it was supposed to be beautiful, so Joel made an appointment to tour the venue. We met with Ashton Staffen, their Director of Special Events – and, well, a girl with that much organization, attention to detail and a similar style to my own, easily made it a done deal. She and the venue were the whole package, and I knew that our wedding would run smoothly and stress-free if we chose SMGCC. Ashton and her team kept me on track through the planning process, helped me make decisions – and also with the versatility of the Ballroom – my vision came together exactly how I dreamed.


Time seemed to fly by, meeting after meeting happened, and then we were days away from October 1st – our wedding day. All week leading up to our wedding, the forecast predicted clear skies, but on the morning of our wedding, showers were expected – not exactly what I was hoping for when planning an outdoor fall ceremony. Everyone kept saying, ‘you guys started this journey in the rain, so it makes sense that you’d get married in the rain!’ And so, the weather didn’t stop us from enjoying every minute leading up to and during our ceremony. We were encouraged by family and friends to keep the original plan of getting married outside, at the Ballroom pergola that overlooks the beautiful golf grounds. Ashton and her team assured us that they would make our dream wedding happen, rain or shine. And that they did! With a light, romantic mist filling the air, and with the St. Marys team rounding up enough umbrellas for all of our guests, we said our vows outdoors in front of the people we loved. Later, many of our family told us that, during our ceremony, 30-40 birds flew above, and that they believed it was Joel’s late Mom and my late Dad showing us that they were there with us.

Thanks to Ashton’s personal and professional recommendations, I chose what, in my opinion, are the best vendors in the area. Lyric Flowers designed our soft and romantic ivory floral bouquets, and created custom baby’s breath balls that hung over the dance floor – one of my favorite details of the day. Jay Harrison and Lanny Hoare, the owners of Lyric Flowers, truly are flower Gods. They work with you on your vision and then deliver an even more beautiful product. Not to mention that Lyric works closely with Kim Foster, of Above & Beyond Event Design (who I worked with for my décor), and this made the planning so much easier! Kim sat down with me and went over every detail of my vision, from my color scheme, to the type of rose gold sequins I wanted on the tables, to how we could match the vases Lyric was using for my centerpieces. Ivory, black and rose gold accents highlighted the elegance of the Ballroom, and a vintage chandelier above the head table finished the romantic and timeless look. Kim’s design for our serpentine head table was so simple and classy – she used a layering technique with soft ivory chiffon and sequin gathers to tie the whole look together, and added candlelight and suspended crystals as the final touches.


Capturing the beauty of the day, and the love we felt, was my extremely talented friend Christine Kufske of Click Photography. I could go on and on about her professionalism and fun personality, but it’s her talent that really sets her apart. She doesn’t just take photos; she captures moments that I now cherish everyday.

Keeping with the monochromatic color scheme, my stunning bridesmaids wore black floor length dresses that they handpicked from different boutiques. Each dress was unique, and fitted specifically to their body. Our handsome groomsmen complimented the girls in matching charcoal suits, which they rented from Collin’s in Kitchener. My dress was purchased at Ballett’s Bridal, in London. I fell in love with the lace that softly lined the sweetheart neckline, and the subtle undertone of gold that was hidden under the alencon lace gown. The trumpet silhouette made me feel elegant and sophisticated, and by adding some sparkle to my waist, my dress felt absolutely perfect.


We’re so grateful that our very busy friend Travis Blum, from Main Event DJ, was there to keep our guests dancing and partying. One of the best memories of our wedding was when Travis played a track he had created from an old recording of Joel’s late mom, singing her signature song –we will cherish that moment forever. 

Sweet Pea Cakes designed our beautiful red velvet ceremonial cake, which was dressed with cream cheese frosting and a gold topper. Linda Langenengger did the bridal party makeup, and Kaitlin Wagler did our hair – and we could not have looked photograph ready without either of them.


The goal for our wedding was that everyone had a fantastic time, shared in our special memories, and ate really great food.  Jason Skipper, the Head Chef at St. Marys, cooked our prime rib and stuffed chicken flawlessly, and we ended the meal with an incredibly unique and delectable frozen lemon meringue cake that is like no other dessert I’ve tried before – the true highlight of our dinner! To ensure everyone would continue to enjoy them selves until the very end of the party, we had pulled pork poutine and mini barbeque chicken pizzas served for late night, both of which were a big hit amongst our guests.


We couldn’t have been happier with how seamless everything flowed at St. Marys, how attentive and professional the staff was during the big day, and how much support and guidance Ashton provided during the planning process. Ashton (and Matt) even made a surprise visit at our wedding, even though they got back from their European honeymoon that morning – they truly care about their couples and go above and beyond, which makes the day that much more special. We would sincerely recommend St. Marys Golf & Country Club to any one of our friends, and to anyone reading this who wants to have a venue that really does it all. October 1st, 2016 goes down in our books as the most unforgettable, loving and happy day of our lives. We often look at photos and videos of the day, and are reminded of how lucky we are to have shared our new chapter with all the people we love. 

Story by Stephanie Strugnell

Photography by Click Photography