Hi I’m Shanna Walker (nee Reesor). I grew up in Oakville, Ontario all of my life, but now live in Mississauga with my husband and fur baby (aka dog) Lennon. I currently work at a treatment centre in Oakville as a Senior Autism Consultant, supervising a team of Behaviour Therapists (we do some awesome therapy with children with autism!), and I’m also currently working as a part-time Professor at George Brown for the Behavioural Science program. I absolutely love my career, but even more so, my family and my friends, and I am just really enjoying the journey life has taken me on so far.
Our Love Story
Matt and I met while he was home from school (was attending Sydney University in Australia at the time – talk about long distance!). On January 14th, 2011, I was in Guelph for my best friend’s birthday, and he was in Guelph visiting one of his best friends (who happened to be my sister’s boyfriend – they’re since married, too!). We hit it off and dated casually via phone calls and Skype from then on and got more serious once he came home for summer break in June later that year. He completely swept me off my feet with his chivalrous attitude, inquisitive nature, and most of all – intelligence! His handsome face and man bun certainly didn’t hurt matters. We continued dating for the year and a half major long distance (our timezone difference was anywhere from 14-16 hours depending on the season!) He would be going to bed mere hours after I was waking up… but, we made it work because we really enjoyed getting to know each other more. He came home to visit a few times and I flew to Australia to visit as well. Matt finally moved back home to work the following June and we continued to date.
Fast forward 5 years later and we were on a ski trip to Lake Louise on my 26th birthday. When we arrived we walked around the beautiful property at The fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Matt told me we were going to walk to the end of the frozen lake later where they had hot chocolate. As a chocolate lover, no questions were asked – I was sold! Around 5:00PM that evening we bundled up and walked way out to the far part of the frozen lake and up the mountain side a little, on a small path behind some trees. We trudged through the snow and as we got further into the mountain valley I began to wonder, “where on God’s earth is this hot chocolate stand”?! As we turned a corner, I looked down and saw a hot chocolate thermos and some chocolate covered strawberries. Matt said, “those are for us”, I said “no they’re not!” and kept on walking, figuring matt was being his usual silly self. He gestured out to the lake and told me to “look”, I turned around and a photographer was standing about 50 feet away. Confused, I turned back around to Matt and he was down on one knee. He popped the question, and through my hysterical tears, I managed to squeak out a “yes!”. It was completely unexpected and the best surprise of my life. He had hired the photographer to capture the moment and set up the hot chocolate.
Matt knew what kind of ring I wanted – my eye was always on the oval with a tight halo.. I had definitely sent inspiration photos oh so casually about 1 year prior. Matt got exactly that, but added a very unique and thoughtful touch by having both of our profession symbols under the diamond, only visible to me. There is a dog & cat symbol on one side, as he’s a veterinarian, and a puzzle piece symbol on the other, as I work in the field of Behavioural Science, specifically, autism. I’ve had it on my left hand for almost 2 years now, and I still love looking down at it sparkle every day.
Let’s Talk Wedding Planning
Wedding Date, Geographical Location, Venue
Our wedding date was August 6th, 2016. The location was an all white barn in Caledon, Ontario called Rainbow Valley Wedding Barn. Matt actually found the venue while searching online. We both knew we wanted something casual but beautiful, and the thought of getting married in the town Matt grew up in was really endearing to me. We visited this venue first on a cold winter day, and decided right there that it was the one – no need to keep searching. We loved the feel and just knew that it would be even more incredible with all the greenery in the summertime. We locked down one of the remaining 2016 Saturdays they had available and that was that! Easy Peasy.
Our guest count was 250, including the wedding party. We never intended on having a particularly large wedding, but Matt and I both come from large families, and every single out of towner we invited actually came! It was a very pleasant surprise. We really kept it to first cousins, good friends, and their significant others, and the list still remained quite large after it was all said and done. We were OK with that as we just wanted to ensure everyone we loved was there.
What was your wedding budget?
We didn’t necessarily go in with a pre-determined budget – but we definitely knew that we didn’t want to go crazy and kept costs as low as possible, wherever possible. Because our venue was a barn, we had to have everything brought in – which came at a price. What we saved in venue fee (Only $5,000!!!) we may have made up for in bringing in necessary items such as tables, chairs, linens, and all the equipment required by the caterers such as ovens, stoves, and so on… who knew barn’s didn’t come with a kitchen?! I don’t think we spent beyond what we felt was necessary to feed and entertain our guests, but at the end of the day with how many guests we had, it came to $55,000. I’ve heard budgets of way less, and also WAY more… so it is difficult to tell whether we did well in that area.
How did you prioritize your budget, what factors were most important to you?
For us, it was more important for us to have good food and great entertainment (e.g., we booked an amazing live band, and a magician for cocktail hours), and less important to drop thousands on a dress, a cake (we bypassed this completely as we held no sentiment in the tradition!), or some silly “everyone has this so we need it to” gimmick.
How did you ask your besties to be your bridesmaids?
I asked my bridesmaid’s (who were in the country at the time) by inviting them all over one night, and giving them each a little box I had made for them. Thinking back, this was one idea that didn’t quite come to fruition exactly as I was envisioning. I purchased small round boxes, and printed off tags that said “Will you be my…” on the inside of the lid. I went to a specialty bakery to have “Bridesmaid?” written in gold script on specially ordered blush pink macarons. Well, went I went to pick them up, the “Bridesmaid?” looked as though it was written by an amateur with a sharpie marker. I was disappointed in the final product but it wasn’t the end of the world. The girls were happy to be asked and I was even happier to have them as part of my day. I FaceTimed my two bestfriends who were out of the country at the time for school (Chicago and England) and opened the box to reveal the question. I cried some happy tears for sure when they said “yes!”
How was your dress shopping experience?
My wedding dress experience pretty much falls in line with the rest of the total wedding experience – relaxed. I went out with just my mom and sister (Maid of Honour) a couple of Sundays after I got engaged. I didn’t have an appointment booked, but decided to just pop in to the bridal boutique anyway – they ended up having two cancellations that morning and were completely free to help me as I was the only one in the store! Very lucky. I have to be honest and say, the consultant was a bit crabby and not warm and bubbly – but I wasn’t going to let her rain on my parade.I knew what kind of dress I wanted – fitted, with a slight flare at the bottom to accentuate my figure, backless, and lace overlay. The only piece I was unsure of was whether I wanted lace sleeves or not. I showed the consultant a random picture of what I described and she immediately brought me over to a dress that completely fit the bill! It was the first dress I tried on – and it was the one. I don’t think I cried happy tears… but my mom and sister did! I of course tried on about 10 other differently styles to take advantage of the once in a life time experience, and to appease my mom who wanted me in sparkles head to toe! It was fun but nothing felt quite like me as much as that first dress. After falling in love, the consultant let me know my only $1,200 – it was a complete win experience as I never expected to find a dress at that price. I’d also like to add that I had about 20 lace buttons sewn down the back of my dress by my seamstress. So always remember dresses can be tweaked and modified! Designer was Pronovia – check them out, they are all so beautiful.
For bridesmaids dresses I let my girls choose what they wanted – I just asked that they were short, and different shades of grey… I encouraged them to find different materials because i envisioned the look of beaded, sequinned, tule, etc., materials side by side. I wanted them to spend what THEY wanted to spend, and wear what THEY felt good in. They all did incredible finding dresses individually and on the morning of the wedding we hung them all side by side. They were exactly how I envisioned them – we were all amazed by the beautiful outcome!
What was your overall vision or theme?
My overall vision was that rustic elegant feel – lots of whites, golds, and creams – with a pop of greenery and soft blushes in the flowers. It truly came together exactly as we had intended it to. We really just took a relaxed approach and put a large amount of trust into our vendors, and simply hoped for the best come the day of. We genuinely weren’t too hung up on small details and knew that if something went amiss, chances are no one would notice or care anyway – so why worry about it? Have you ever noticed at a wedding if the linens were matte or sheen, if the bridesmaids shoes were silver or nude? I know I haven’t. Everyone ended up meeting and even exceeding our hopes for the day anyway – so i’m glad we didn’t stress out for no reason.
If you had to describe your wedding style in one word what would it be?
Hmm…one word – that’s tough. Maybe: Natural.
How did you find your vendors?
I found most vendors through friends, or friends of friends. My AMAZING photographer is a friend of ours. our super talented videographer is a friend of Matt’s, our florist is my mother-in-law’s neighbour, our caterers are Matt’s long family friend.. Our DJ was recommended to us, we went out the The Drake in Toronto one night to listen to them and were sold immediately. Only one meeting if anything for each vendor, which worked out really nicely.
How did you design your table layout & decor?
So our table linens were discussed during the one meeting with our caterer as they were also taking care of bringing in all the tables and linens. Ashley, who was the lead – knew I wanted all off-whites and soft creams. She actually had a table set up for us when we arrived for the meeting. it was clean and simple table clothes and satin napkins, and I knew that with the florals, it would come together just perfectly. I made the table numbers by finding about 25 silver differently textured frames from the dollar store and having gold calligraphy numbers placed in each frame. The lady who did the calligraphy for my table lists did those (I can’t remember her name now!) It added a classic but simple touch to each table.
How involved was your fiancé in the planning process?
We were both involved, but Matt did a ton – maybe more than me and he just loves to get things done, and we really only had 6 months. Because we were both so causal about the process, and neither of us picky – we just checked items off the list as we went. He found the venue, we both found the band, he found the magician, I went to the catering meeting, we both did the tables, I did the invites, and so on. It was a very shared duty over all.
Did you use a wedding planner?
We did not use a wedding planner – however in hindsight, it would have been really nice to have one. I think our easy-going attitudes felt it wasn’t necessary at the time, but I guess we did risk a lot not having a middle man there to ensure it was all coordinated and pulled together at the end.
Did you have a Day-of Coordinator present on the day of your wedding?
We were lucky to have Ashley from catering help to take the lead on a lot of things beyond her role, being a family friend… so I suppose in a sense, we sort of had one in that way. I did not feel an ounce of stress on the day of (apparently neither did Matt). I think that is a personality thing. Looking back, since we did food bars with all items we thought were cool and unique (and really just stuff we’d want to be eating at a wedding!), this piece could have been more organized; lines formed at the stations when everyone got up to eat – it would have been nice to have someone coordinating the flow of dinner. We felt platted dinners were generally boring and over-done, but if I could do it again, I think I might reconsider this piece because the line-ups made me cringe a little. We chose to sacrifice convenience of a platted dinner for the fun of poutine cones, custom salad bar, mac & cheese martinis… you get the idea. Can’t have it all I suppose!
Did you guys do a “First Look”, or did your fiancé see you for the first time walking down to aisle?
We did not do a first look. I wanted the first time Matt saw me in my dress to be when I was walking down the aisle. I am so glad I waited because it was my favourite feeling of the whole day. I LOVED walking up to marry Matt.. it was like all our years and memories together, coming together into one special moment. Our photographer was present from getting ready in the morning, until a little after final speeches/dancing, I believe. I felt it was definitely sufficient.. Kayla got hundreds of beautiful, candid shots, and captured everything we were hoping for her to capture. We didn’t do a grand exit – but we did do a midnight hot dog cart, which is basically just as important in my eyes.
What would you recommend as “must have pictures” for future brides?
Must have shots for me were shots of the morning time when everyone is getting ready (so much FUN and you want to relive it through photos afterwards), the groom’s face as you’re walking down the aisle, the GUESTS (so much better than a guest book – they just collect dust… in fact, we didn’t even do one!), and some just fun ones of you and your husband being you guys or goofing around.
Did you have a videographer?
Yes we did. And it was worth every single penny. LADIES – If you are considering whether it is “worth the extra money”… please believe me when I say… IT IS. Matt actually surprised me the day of our wedding with ours. He and I were also going back and forth and finally agreed that we didn’t really need one, despite me being was told over and over by wedded women how a videographer was the best wedding decision they had made. The morning of our wedding as I was just beginning to get my makeup done there is a knock on the door and in-comes a wedding videographer – I bawled happy tears instantly! I cherish the video so incredibly much, and I’ve probably watched it about 100x over.. I go back every couple months now and watch it still. I can’t wait to show our kids one day! I can honestly say, as the day was fleeting and slipping away so quickly, I remember feeling waves of relief, thinking, “ahh, it’s OK – it’s all being caught on film”. In summary..if you’re on the fence – DO. IT. You will not regret it. Our wedding videographer’s name is Sara Cornthwaite – she was insanely kind, unbelievably talented and totally stayed behind the scenes… I truly didn’t even notice her filming us!
Escort Cards or Seating chart?
What song did you choose for your first dance?
What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong (but covered by our band, so it sounded like the Michael Bublé version!). We just felt it fit the carefree happy go lucky, easiness of ur relationship. It’s also a timeless classic that will be beautiful forever, in my opinion.
Buffet or sit down meal?
So after much discussion, we decided we would do food bars. Our thinking was, “What would our guests want to be eating after a few drinks at a giant party?”. We started with passed hors d’oeurvres with such options as gourmet sliders, panic crusted chicken satay with aioli, shawarma bites, tempura shrimp with sriracha mayo dip, lamb spadini with spicy arrabbiata sauce, etc. We did a bits & bites stations with poutine cones, gourmet sliders with blue cheese and friend onions, grilled cheese with apple and sharp cheddar, etc. We did a custom mac & cheese martini bar with option to top with shaved BBQ’d beef, cajun shrimp, crispy maple bacon, etc. Also offered was a California salad bar which featured customizable salads in stemless wine glasses. As I mentioned, at midnight we all hit up the hot dog cart grabbed a baked in-house glazed cronut!
Live music or DJ?
We hired a live band. They were called, “The Digs” – and they were absolutely phenomenal. We actually were looking into a different band we happened to see at a friend’s wedding, but after that band told us they were booked for our date, they recommended the band they had hired for their own wedding! That’s almost a guarantee that they would be great. Matt and I went to The Drake Hotel to watch them perform live one night and we were sold, instantly. We always knew we wanted live music as it adds such a nice vibe and brings an extra level of entertainment for your guests throughout dinner and while dancing. If you are looking for a band and you live in the Greater Toronto Area, I highly, highly recommend that you check them out.
Cake or Desserts?
No cake – just dessert. Dessert was kept simple with a full candy bar, gourmet fresh baked cookies, cedar plank s’mores, ‘ooey-gooey’ brownies, and lemon meringue pie.
Did you provide transportation for your guest or valet parking?
We did provide shuttles from the hotel to our venue and back to the hotel late at night for all those staying at there. There were quite a few of our guests who did, which allowed them to relax and enjoy some drinks.
Top 3 most memorable moments of your wedding day
The top three most memorable would be spending the morning with my favourite ladies on the planet, listening to music, dancing around, getting glammed-up, and feeling totally at ease. Another favourite memory was walking down the aisle to matt, and seeing him for the very first time in my dress… such a rush of emotions and excitement. My other favourite memory was just walking around the beautiful white barn, seeing every single person I loved in one giant room, eating fun food, having a great time.
One thing that made your wedding unique or something special and personal you added to your day that stands out from other weddings.
One thing we did a little differently was was donate to my sister-in-laws incredible charity (Dancer’s for Cancer – Road to $1 Million Dollars for Sick Kid’s Hospital) in lieu of wedding favours. I also think we really just exactly what we wanted to do, despite tradition or what you “think” all weddings always have. (e.g., he cake cutting, bouquet toss, receiving line, and so on).
Total months planning?
Exactly three days shy of six months. That is because we were engaged on February 9th, 2016 (my 26th birthday!) and didn’t want to wait a whole year and a half for the summer wedding… our option was therefore, 6 months! Don’t ever let someone tell you it can’t be done because it absolutely can.
What was one thing that you had difficulties with during your planning and how did you overcome it? & What was one of the easier things for you to plan?
I will say the least enjoyable part of the process was organizing the tables – just tedious and time consuming, really! Everything else was totally easy!
One thing you wish you knew when you were planning your wedding?
Really just having a day-of coordinator to ensure timing went smoothly with our food stations. Although that was the only hiccup in my eyes (and possible a minor one that I might have been over-analyzing), it still would have been nice to put someone totally in charge.
Anything you would have done different?
Because we really focused on selecting things we really wanted, and cut things we didn’t feel were important – we have no regrets (Matt agrees!). For future brides, I would just really recommend you choose only things that make YOU happy, and eliminate things that you are only including because you think weddings are just supposed to have them. This is yours and your husband’s day, no one else’s. Don’t sweat the small stuff because at the end of the day… no one cares! Chances are – your guests are just there to see you tie the knot, and enjoy some good food, drinks, and entertainment!
One thing that helped you stay stress free throughout your planning and on your wedding day?
Knowing I was marrying the right person, for starters! That helped. That, and just repeatedly reminding myself that when I am a guest at a wedding, I am not analyzing and picking apart every detail… I am just there to enjoy the day. So I consciously decided that I was not going to worry about anything and just completely soak the whole experience in from start to finish. It comes and goes so quickly! Try not to waste time worrying about what likely isn’t going to happen anyway.
Did you go on a honeymoon? If so, where to? Did you go right after the wedding or wait?
We left for our honeymoon on the Monday after the wedding (we married on the Saturday prior). We knew we wanted to leave soon after the wedding so that we could ride out that marital bliss feeling. Having the Sunday gave us just enough time to unwind from the excitement of the wedding, and relax a little. Matt planned our whole honeymoon. He is just so much better at that kind of thing, so I leave him to it. We went to Australia and Bali. Australia was extremely special to us because that is the first place that we said, “I love you”. It really was where we fell in love (Matt was there in Vet school – our first 1.5 years was therefore long distance). We woke up early one morning to watch the sunrise and sit in the exact same spot we had sat 5 years earlier. Bali was a dream destination for us both, and it totally exceeded our wildest dreams. It was equal parts exotic as it was beautiful.
Last but not least if you could give ONE piece of advice to a bride-to-be planning her wedding what would it be??
My one piece of advice would honestly be to try to remain at ease throughout, and consciously E N J O Y the process. Remind yourself that what you are stressing about today, WILL get done before the wedding. Know that the planning and day really go by so quickly, so try to spend your time basking in that bride-to-be excitement. A wise friend once told me, “take pleasure in the doing, not the done”.
Shanna & Matt’s Happily Ever After
Matt and I have been happily married for almost a year and a half now. We live together in a home that we adore. My dream is to one day renew our vows on our 10th wedding anniversary together.
Venue: Rainbow Valley Wedding Barn // Wedding Dress: Pronovias // Hair Stylist: Charisse Feliciano // Makeup Artist: Shauna Daniels // Photography: Kayla Yestal // Videography: Sara Cornthwaite // Catering: TK’s Catering // Band: The Digs
Keep Scrolling for more stunning photos of Shanna’s Wedding!
How cute was their hashtag? Shanna’s new last name is Walker. Love it! #Walkertothealtar2016
Congrats Mr. & Mrs. Walker!