Real Weddings: Renata and Paul
Inside a backyard wedding attended by Sarah Nurse, Marie-Philip Poulin and Natalie Spooner
Renata Fast, a 29-year-old professional hockey player, met Paul Geiger, a 31-year-old financial analyst, in 2012, when they both got full scholarships to play hockey for Clarkson University in upstate New York. The relationship grew as their careers progressed, bringing Geiger to Europe and Fast to Calgary (to train for the women’s national ice hockey team, for which she eventually took home an Olympic silver medal in 2018 and a gold in 2022). After an intimate engagement at their downtown Toronto condo, the couple got married in Fast’s parents’ backyard in Burlington, with a ceremony that included custom-made Adidas runners, personalized champagne bottles and the who’s who of women’s hockey. Here’s how the big day came together.
Paul: The first time I met Renata was in September 2012. I’d just started playing for Clarkson University’s men’s hockey team. Renata was on the women’s team, and she came to hang out in my dorm room with a bunch of other players after we’d all moved onto campus. Right away, I thought she was pretty, but she was so shy and timid. She didn’t engage with me at all. I was like, What’s this girl’s deal?
Renata: The next day, I was in the university bookstore buying my books for the first semester, and I ran into Paul. He looked at me and said, “Hi, Renata.” He has such a deep voice. I replied with a really quiet “Hi” and we both went our own ways. I was instantly attracted to Paul, but I was so shy that I couldn’t say anything more.
Paul: Renata and I continued to bump into each other a lot. Being on the men’s and women’s hockey teams, we shared a lot of the same facilities on campus. We had all of our classes together, and the two teams would go out to local bars on the weekends to hang out. Even though we were always in a larger group, I’d gravitate toward Renata. I wanted to get to know her.
Renata: I was dating someone from back home, in Burlington, on and off. I could tell that Paul was trying to talk me up at the bar when our teams would meet up, but for a while nothing came of it. Then, in the middle of second year, December 2013, my relationship ended.
Paul: A month later, in January 2014, I found out through the other hockey players that Renata was single. I figured that now was my chance—I had to come up with an excuse to see her. I decided to walk over to her apartment and ask to borrow a cake pan. I told her that we were baking a cake for someone’s birthday. And it worked! We started talking, and soon afterward, I asked her out to play badminton at the school gym.
Renata: We’re both athletes, and we’re pretty competitive, so it’s fitting that our first date was on a badminton court. A few days later, we went for dinner at a Mexican restaurant in town and got to know each other more. We talked about our families, where we grew up and how we ended up at Clarkson.
Paul: Our relationship took off pretty quickly from there. We were both playing Division 1 hockey, so every weekend one of our teams was on the road playing games while the other was playing at home. But we made it work.
Renata: Then my team made it to the Frozen Four national ice hockey championship in February 2014, which is a really big deal in NCAA hockey. The game was an eight-hour drive away from our school. Paul surprised me—he and his teammate, who was also dating someone on the women’s team, drove down to watch us. We won the championship, and Paul was there to celebrate. That solidified things for me. After that, we made our relationship official.
Paul: Things got tricky after we graduated in 2016. I signed an American Hockey League contract to play in Rochester while Renata was playing hockey in Toronto. So we started dating long-distance. Renata would drive down to Rochester any time she could to visit, and I would come up to Toronto when I could. We’d see each other once a month. Then, when the hockey season was over, we lived together for the summer at Renata’s parents’ house.
Renata: The second year after graduation, in 2017, I wanted to make the Olympic team for Canada. I relocated to Calgary to train, which meant that Paul and I were separated even farther. But I did make it onto the women’s national team, and we played for gold in the Olympics in South Korea. Paul was able to get a few days off from his team to come and see me play. We lost, though, which was pretty devastating. I leaned on Paul a lot during that time. He helped me process my feelings and made me feel proud of my medal, regardless of its colour.
Paul: After the 2018 Olympics, I ended up playing in Europe for the next three years: first in northern Italy, then in Finland and then in Hungary. Renata was back home in Toronto, and the time difference was rough. She could only come and visit once a year, but we turned it into a vacation each time. We’d see different countries, and a lot of our fondest memories together are of travelling during that time. By July 2021, I decided that it was time to focus on our relationship and come back home. I always knew I wanted to have a career outside of hockey, so I got a job as an analyst for a consulting firm and bought a condo downtown.
Renata: Right as Paul decided to retire from hockey and move to Toronto, I had to relocate back to Calgary—we were approaching another Olympic year in 2022. But, this time, we won gold! Beijing was closed to friends and family because of Covid, but the Olympic Committee set up a screen with a live video feed for our families. Paul went over to my parent’s house in Burlington and watched the game with them. After our win, I skated over to the screen and was able to see Paul and my family at home all together, celebrating our win. It was pretty special, even though they couldn’t be there with me.
Paul: Right after the Olympics, in March 2022, we officially moved into the condo in Toronto together. It was all pretty smooth. We’d been together for so long. But to put down roots and spend so much quality time together—waking up beside each other, cooking meals, playing board games, watching sports, going to coffee shops—was very special. Renata did have to reorganize the cutlery drawer to her liking, though.
Renata: We both knew that getting married was the next step, and we’d talked about it before. But I’d told Paul that I wanted to make sure we had a chance to live together before we got engaged. Checking that box was important to me.
Paul: In the fall of 2022, once everything was settled, I booked an appointment for us to meet with a jeweller and learn about things like diamonds, cuts and bands for Renata’s engagement ring.
Renata: I told Paul that I wanted a round diamond on platinum without any stones on the band. He took it from there.
Paul: Once the ring was ready, I held onto it for a while. I was trying to figure out how to propose. I knew that Renata didn’t want anything too public, so I decided to do it in our condo. One morning in December, Renata left for a couple of hours to get her hair done. I figured that was my chance. I went and bought flowers and champagne, picked up sushi, which is Renata’s favourite food, and set up the place really nicely with flower petals everywhere. Then I made a slideshow with photos of us throughout our relationship and set it up on our TV.
Renata: When I got back to the condo, I saw that the place looked super clean. I knew something was up. I was surprised when I realized what was going on—Christmas was a busy time, so I didn’t think we’d get engaged until that spring. But I was blown away. It was all so thoughtful. Of course, I said yes.
Renata: Initially, we thought we’d wait until the summer of 2024 to get married. But we talked to my brother, Gregory, who’s a wedding planner and designer—he owns Special Event Rentals in Burlington. He said that, if we wanted to do a fall 2023 wedding, he could make it happen. We knew we’d be in expert hands, and it was really special that we were able to keep the wedding planning in the family.
Paul: Our vision was to throw an incredible party for all our friends and family. It would be a tented event at Renata’s parents’ estate in Burlington. We wanted there to be lots of greenery with some modern touches. We really just gave Gregory the green light to run with that idea. He knows us so well that we knew he’d create magic for us.
Renata: Buying my dress was fun. I didn’t really know what I wanted, but I brought my mom, sister and best friend along. We went to three stores, and I ended up with a simple, comfortable crêpe dress with a V cut-out at the front and cut-outs on the sides as well. It had a deep back with buttons all the way to the bottom.
Paul: I chose a standard black suit, but I tried to make it a bit more upscale and tux-like with a shawl lapel and fabric buttons.
Renata: On the morning of our wedding, Paul and I got ready separately. Paul booked an Airbnb in downtown Burlington, and I went to my sister’s house. We did our first look at Port Nelson Park, which is at Lakeshore and Guelph Line. My parents had willows in their wedding photos, so our photographer scoped out this park that also had willow trees. It was right by the water. After the first look, Paul and I read our vows to each other privately.
Paul: I didn’t want to do our vows in front of everyone because I didn’t know if I would be able to get the words out. I knew I was going to cry. And I did—quite a few tears were shed on both sides.
Renata: It was nice to express what we wanted to express without anyone else there.
Paul: Renata’s family had banished us from her parents’ house for the few days before the ceremony. They wanted everything to be a surprise, so there was a lot of anticipation to see how it was all going to come together. Gregory planned for Renata and me to have a private unveiling to experience the whole set-up before our guests arrived. It was really incredible.
Renata: First was the tent where we were having the ceremony. It was modern and elegant, with a beautiful floral arch. The tent itself was clear, so you still had the feeling of being outside. It ended up raining on and off during the day, so it was perfect that we were covered. One unique aspect was that, following the ceremony, everyone walked through the altar to get to the next tent. It was opposite to the normal recession, and it made it feel very organic moving from space to space.
Paul: Next was a cocktail tent. It had a circular bar with really cool oversized flower arrangements and gourmet food stations featuring some of our favourite dishes, like sushi and an Oktoberfest station with beer and pretzels. Renata and I both have German backgrounds, and our wedding was in October, so it was a relevant personal touch. There were also cruiser tables where people could sit and eat their food.
Renata: We decided not to do a sit-down dinner. Last year, my sister did a cocktail-style wedding, and we really enjoyed it. We loved how it encouraged people to socialize, because you’re walking around between the food stations and the bar. You’re not stuck at a table, which was conducive to the party feel that Paul and I wanted.
Paul: The final tent was the reception tent. That one was a big reveal for our guests. At the end of the cocktail hour, the curtains were drawn back to unveil this final space at the exact same moment the band started playing. Then guests were met with prosecco and appetizers. It really set the tone for an amazing night. There was a stage, a dance floor, custom-built pergolas covered in greenery plus 12-foot-tall olive trees. This tent also had main course food stations serving short ribs, scallop risotto, lasagna and chicken, plus more cruiser tables and some lounge-style couches.
Renata: I started bawling the moment I saw the space. Knowing how much work my brother and all my siblings had put into the wedding made it so special for Paul and me.
Paul: My family wanted to do something special for the wedding too, so my mother baked our wedding cake. It was a carrot cake, which is Renata’s favourite, and she decorated it with flower petals. My mom is a great cook and baker.
Renata: As a professional women’s hockey player, I’ve been sponsored by Adidas for the past five years, so when they found out we were getting married, they offered to design custom shoes for our wedding day. We thought it was perfect since we’re both athletes. They have “The Geigers,” our initials and our wedding date hand-painted on them, which is really special. We also had mini champagne bottles for our guests, which each had a personalized label for our wedding and a sipper top. The waiters handed them out when the band started playing.
Paul: The band was fantastic. They had a repertoire of songs that Renata and I could choose from. We picked some older sing-along songs and some newer, more upbeat pop songs. We didn’t want anything slow—we wanted songs that people could dance to. In between the band’s sets, there was a DJ playing newer music.
Renata: We had late-night stations for espresso and gelato. Both were huge hits. Paul and I ate a lot of gelato together during our time in Italy, so it was a nod to that stage of our lives.
Paul: The dance floor was packed the entire night. At several points in the evening, it extended past the area that had been blocked off for dancing. Everyone was up on their feet and enjoying the music.
Renata: Most of my Team Canada teammates were at the wedding. They’re all incredible people, and I feel so fortunate to have lived out some of my dreams alongside them. It was fun for our guests who aren’t around the team often to share the dance floor with players like Marie-Philip Poulin; our captain, Sarah Nurse; and Natalie Spooner.
Paul: The DJ played until about 2 a.m., but a handful of our family and friends stayed in the tent with us until 4 a.m., just talking and reminiscing. I was on a natural high the whole night. It felt like the best night of our lives. It was so much fun.
Renata: I was blown away by how it all came together. We were just overjoyed at getting to have everyone we love together like that.
Paul: For the next two weeks, Renata and I couldn’t stop talking about the wedding. We kept reliving all our favourite moments. Because both of our schedules are pretty crazy, we decided just to do a mini-moon right after the wedding. We went up to Wakefield, Quebec, for four days and rented a modern cabin on the Gatineau River. We golfed, hiked and took in the beautiful fall trees.
Renata: We’re planning on doing our real honeymoon sometime in the spring, once we can take more time off from work. We haven’t decided where yet. After that, we’ll just continue building our life together. Kids are maybe down the road, but not right away.
Paul: I’m looking forward to tackling life with Renata and dealing together with the challenges that come our way, the good times and the bad. There’s no one else I would rather take on the journey of life with.
Date: October 12, 2023
Venue: Renata’s family estate in Burlington
Planner, decorator and florist: Gregory Fast
Photography: Mango Studios
Videography: Gauche Films
Officiant: Jeanette Honig
Tenting, flooring and rentals: Special Event Rentals
Day-of coordinator: Carina D’Angelo of Event Boutique
Invitation: Paper & Poste
Day-of graphics: Aykay Group
Vinyl details: Dance Floor Decor
Catering: Catch Catering
Staffing: The Butler Did It
Cake: Mother of the groom
Band and DJ: St. Royal Entertainment
Valet: Adagio Valet
Bride’s hair: Shannon Petrolito Hair, Bubbles and Blow
Makeup: Beauty MarQ, Carla Marques
Bride’s dress: Alyssa Kristin, Sash and Bustle
Bride’s evening dress: Jenny Yoo, Anthropologie
Groom’s suit: Coppley from Charles & Hunt
Espresso cart: Flow Espresso
Gelato: Gelazza Mobile Gelateria
Rings: Carnabys Bespoke Jewellery
Guest accommodation: The Pearle Hotel & Spa
A/V lighting: Soundbox Productions
Curtain reveal: Curtain Call