Julie & Brian Garel


Brian and I met almost 10 years ago on the first day of orientation, at the University of Waterloo. We were in the same orientation group, and aside from a few name games with the rest of the group, we didn’t officially meet until later in the day during a campus tour. Brian had broken his flip-flop during a really intense cheer-off earlier in the day, and was stuck at the back of the tour with one shoe. I felt bad (and also thought he was cute), so I walked slowly with him at the back of the group, and we chatted for the rest of the tour (not paying any attention to the actual tour!). Later that day (after getting lost on campus) I was talking to my friends about the cute boy I had met, and told them that I was pretty sure I had found my future husband!

We became fast friends, given that we were in the same program, had all the same classes, and lived in the same residence building. We started dating a few months later, and have been together ever since!


Because we had been together for so long, I knew that a proposal was likely coming, but it was definitely a surprise when it happened in May 2017. I had assumed Brian was going to ask me on an upcoming trip we were taking to Guatemala, but he thought that would be too obvious, so he had other plans!  We are both very outdoorsy (and also obsessed with our dog Buzz), so Brian decided to pop the question while we were hiking with Buzz on our favourite trail in Kitchener – a place where we’ve spent a lot of time together throughout the years. We stopped on the side of the trail so I could give Buzz some water, and when I stood up, there was Brian on one knee! I was in complete shock, and even though I was sweaty and in hiking gear, it was truly the most magical moment! Not to mention, the ring fulfilled literally all of my Pinterest engagement ring dreams!


A few months later when we were back from Guatemala, we decided to start thinking about wedding planning. This was something that we were both actually really excited about, because we both have backgrounds in event planning and are quite crafty. We had chatted about ideas for pretty much everything except for a venue, and this was partly because we couldn’t decide on a location. Initially we wanted to get married somewhat close to one of our hometowns, and ideally have an outdoor wedding. Brian is from the GTA, and I’m from the Muskoka area, but we were really struggling to find something that fit our price range and style. And although anything outdoors in Muskoka would have been beautiful, we decided it was a little too far from where we live in Kitchener to make multiple trips for meetings and tastings. And then somehow we magically stumbled upon the venue of our dreams, and it was only 40 minutes away!

The St. Marys Golf & Country Club was the only venue we visited, and we knew as soon as we pulled into the parking lot that it was the one. I was getting boho, industrial, and even rustic Muskoka vibes as soon as we arrived, and we quickly learned that our wedding would have an outdoor feel from beginning to end. The roller glass doors that made the reception space feel like an outdoor space, the gorgeous view of the surrounding landscape from every vantage point, the rustic feel of the outdoor ceremony pergola, and those exposed wood beams! All that, and meeting with Courtney (our Event Planner) was an absolute dream! She was so sweet and knowledgeable, and she even confirmed for us that we could have our dog Buzz involved in the wedding (something that most other venues don’t allow). We told her right away that we didn’t care about an exact date and that we would take whatever was available – since we knew without a doubt that we wanted to get married at SMGCC!

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Fast forward 11 months to July 30th 2018, and there we were on the hottest day of the summer at the most beautiful venue ever. I remember walking into the Hideaway the morning of the wedding and being absolutely blown away by how incredible everything looked. Our friends and family, and the SMGCC staff had worked tirelessly the night before and that morning to decorate the already stunning Hideaway space. We had decided not to hire a decorator, because we knew that we wanted to make a lot of the décor ourselves, and also because majority of the décor was actually in the floral design. Conveniently, we have an amazing florist in the family – Brian’s uncle Brad Higginson from Alma Florist - who ensured there was floral and greenery bursting from almost every inch of the space. Even though we were doing the décor elements ourselves, we found that we really didn’t have to work too hard to make things look good, since the space was organically so beautiful.  We built a free-standing backdrop for behind the head table, and added a faux-wood wallpaper to make it look like barn board. Brad accented gold metal hoops with floral and greenery, which we used first at the ceremony pergola and then repurposed on our backdrop for the reception. And SMGCC sourced amazing harvest wood tables for the wedding party and immediate family to sit at for dinner, which was the perfect finishing touch for our rustic vision. As someone who is very particular about design and décor, I literally could not have been happier with the way everything came together.

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Despite it being around 40 degrees outside, everyone who was involved in the wedding was just so wonderful. We couldn’t have asked for a better, more badass photographer than Sarah Antaya. She made us feel incredibly comfortable, made us laugh so much, and found ways to make us all look amazing despite sun and sweat! We hired one of the preferred DJs of SMGCC, Music Central Entertainment, and they were fantastic. As well, our friend’s band played live out on the patio in between the ceremony and reception, which was a personal touch and made for such a fun atmosphere.

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Our ceremony was magical for so many reasons. I’ll never forget walking onto the golf course and down the aisle, and seeing literally everyone I love, including my dog! Brian and his groomsmen looked so handsome in their RW&CO. suits, and my bridesmaids were absolutely stunning in varying shades of pink and floral floor length dresses. I also couldn’t have been happier with my Leanne Marshall dress, as it was incredibly light and flowy, and perfectly fit my personal style.

We were so grateful to have Brian’s Aunt Michelle officiate our wedding. She’s one of our most favourite people, and having her present with us made the moment feel even more special. Our ceremony was personalized with some of our favourite readings, and we had one of our very talented friends sing ‘The Book of Love’ by Peter Gabriel while we signed the registry. It was absolutely perfect.

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What I loved most about the day (other than marrying my best friend and being surrounded by the people we love!) was just how lovely and accommodating everyone at SMGCC was. I was slightly worried about how the hot weather would impact our day, but the SMGCC staff were so incredibly thoughtful and flexible, making sure everyone stayed hydrated and happy! They created an impromptu water station on the patio so that our guests could get water before the ceremony, and they even moved a few of our ceremony chairs into a shaded area for some of our older guests. As well, they anticipated the needs of Brian and I, our wedding party, our parents, and even our vendors throughout the entire day, and made sure everything ran smoothly at every minute. The exceptional service and genuine care we experienced on our wedding day was also apparent throughout the entire planning process, and we are so grateful for Courtney, Kaitlyn, Taryn, Matt, the amazing chefs, and the rest of the SMGCC family who helped to make our day truly unforgettable.

Story by Julie Garel

Photography by Sarah Antaya