Jenna Walker of The Reklaws and her husband Ryan Watson

How They Met: The Reklaws’ Jenna Walker on her summer cottage romance

Siblings Jenna and Stuart Walker are two halves of Canada’s most-streamed country artist — the Reklaws. With eight Juno nominations, eight CCMAawards and a record-breaking and TikTok-viral hit, the duo is bringing their music magic to Muskoka this summer from July 5 to 6. Here, Jenna shares her own cottage summer romance story that began more than two decades ago with her now husband, Ryan Watson.

How they met

I have known Ryan for over 20 years! We are family friends and his younger sisters were my best friends growing up. For a long time I didn’t even know they had brothers. I was naive and they were just my friends and I never really saw any other siblings at their house as both of the boys played competitive hockey and were never there on the weekends. 

Our families would spend time up in Southampton in the summertime, and I remember a young boy [Ryan] walking up to my friend [Ryan’s sister Emily] and telling her that “mom wanted her home.” I asked, “Who is that?” and she replied, “My brother.” I remember being blown away that she had a brother, but more blown away by the innocent crush I developed for him. 

From then on our families would spend almost every weekend together and would celebrate Christmas Eve together for years. As time went on our connection grew deeper. I still remember the first time I came over to their house to hang out with Ryan instead of Emily — it took a minute for everyone to get comfortable but it soon made us all so happy! 

The relationship

Changing from a family friend to something more was risky, because it would make for very awkward family gatherings if things didn’t work out. But it was a risk we were willing to take. There were many years where he was playing hockey in the U.S. and I was in Nashville, and the long distance was hard. But whenever we were home, we ran back to each other. We dated for nine years prior to getting married, and with each year, we grew closer and closer together. We moved in together and it just felt right. 

The proposal

Stuart and I were booked to play the Calgary Stampede in 2021, and Ryan and I both agreed it would be awesome to go out a bit early and go to Banff. We decided to stay at Fairmont Lake Louise. We would hike and have some good food and then end our trip with the stampede! So we arrived, checked into the hotel and got dressed for a long hike. I told Ryan I would meet him down by the lake while he “did something.” He took forever to come down to the lake. Little did I know he was calling my family to ask my parents for permission. 

So we hiked 17 kilometres — uphill! We took one last turn to the tallest viewpoint and he said, “We should make a video for our friends.” So I set up my camera and then he got on one knee! I was shaking, not just from the hike but from all the emotions! I screamed yes, and we had the best evening of celebrating and drinking champagne. 

The wedding

 

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We got married on June 24, 2022, on the same beach where I met Ryan, in Southampton, at our family cottage! We’d both spent every summer there as a kid, and we fell in love over and over there! We hope to always celebrate our anniversaries on the same beach each year.

Shared hobbies and interests

We both grew up in hockey households; I played for many years and Ryan played professionally for twice as long. We love to watch sports games in the evening, it calms us both down! We also just love to spend time with friends and family; hanging out with our people is where we thrive.

Secret to success

Keep having fun! You could probably ask our families but we are the fun couple; we love to have fun with each other! I think it is important to prioritize that. Ryan is my best friend, and I think we both feel when the other is not there that there is something missing. 

It has also been important to listen to each other! We are both so different in the way we think about everything, but that has made for amazing conversations as well as expanding the way in which each other thinks. It would be boring if we thought the same; he has brought so many new views into my world and I to him. 

Balancing careers and a relationship

I think because Ryan has known me for as long as he has, his understanding for what I do is easy. He loves when I am busy and reaching for goals. I do the same for him. We know these are the years to grind and support each other through it.

The future together

Our future together looks like “FUN” (I asked Ryan this, and that was his response)! And I don’t disagree! I know for a fact we would love to have a couple of kids, a garden and a backyard with a pool and friends over. This looks like a good life, and I’m so glad I get to dream it and do it with him.

 

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