It’s rare that an elementary school teacher is invited to a former student’s wedding.
But in a little village in southern Italy on May 12, retired teacher Nina Fowell was there with tears in her eyes to see Drew Scott and his long-time girlfriend, Linda Phan, tie the knot.
Drew and his twin brother Jonathan are best known for the Canadian television series Property Brothers, on which they help couples find fixer-uppers and transform them into dream homes. Most recently, Drew was featured on Dancing With The Stars.
The ceremony took place in Piazza del Borgo, between Bari and Brindisi in Puglia, along the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Guests stayed at the Borgo Egnazia. The wedding was featured in People magazine.
Fowell taught the Maple Ridge brothers, including their older brother JD, in her Grade 6/7 class at Yennadon elementary.
“A connection with a Grade 7 teacher is very special,” Fowell said.
“The reason I like teaching that grade is because there is so much going on in their lives at that age. Their bodies are changing, their school is changing, who they are is at a point of growth,” she explained, adding at that stage, the twins were hard to tell apart.
All three of them, she said, were creative.
They came up with their own company, called JAM, which stood for Jon, Andrew and mom, and they were always entrepreneurial.
When they left elementary school, the brothers went to Maple Ridge secondary before Thomas Haney secondary.
“When they hit high school, they really became their own guys,” said Fowell.
“Drew was into basketball, he wanted to teach basketball in high school, and Jon became Jonathan Silver, the illusionist, and wore black and the bling,” Fowell added.
But during that time they never forgot their favourite teacher.
When Fowell retired, they sent her a video congratulating her. She still has it on her phone, and she played it for the guests during the wedding reception.
“Because they said they weren’t going to kiss with the glass banging, you had to talk about some embarrassing moment and so this was mine. It was a visual,” she said.
It starts off with JD saying: “You taught Jon, Drew and I so much over the years. Me, personally, you were the first teacher I ever connected with.
Then Jonathan pipes in with: “For me, you were an inspiration. You just taught me never to give up and always follow my dreams”.
Suddenly, Drew steps into the frame, wearing a black wig, bright pink blush on his cheeks in a bikini top, skirt and headband, saying, ‘And you were a real inspiration for me too Nina. An inspiration in ways words don’t describe.’
“The sound wasn’t great at the wedding when they showed it, but Jon said afterwards: ‘Now there’s a picture that will be stuck in your mind forever.'”
Fowell took her friend Brenda Jenkins to the wedding as a guest. It took three flights to get there and three to get back.
The wedding celebration was a week of events, starting with bachelor and bachelorette parties, a welcoming dinner, the wedding and, finally, a Mother’s Day tea.
Fowell remembers the food.
“For every four people, they would bring you four of something,” Fowell said of the karaoke-style bachelorette party.
“And they would just keep coming and coming and coming.”
At the welcoming dinner, there were booths with meats, cheeses, salads and deserts.
Just before the meal, Drew and Linda thanked their 300 guests for coming. Drew specifically mentioned Fowell and his former basketball coach from Thomas Haney, Mike Shannon, who was also present, and Linda mentioned some of her high school friends.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, I got a mention,'” said Fowell.
The wedding had a traditional menu, but Fowell says, it was extensive and you got served everything.
The Mother’s Day tea was an outdoor barbecue. The wedding took place in what appeared to be an 800-year-old building, although Fowell said she was surprised to learn it was only eight.
“It was beautiful and everybody cried, including Linda and Drew. Her dress was gorgeous,” said Fowell.
Linda’s dress was designed by Claire Pettibone and was described in People as having a cathedral-length train with intricate, hand-beaded floral details on the bodice and sleeves and an open back draped in jewels.
Drew wore a Claymore Imports kilt made from Scott tartan in their family’s signature pattern.
“You have to be a Scott to wear a Scott tartan,” Drew told People magazine.
The first dance started out as a waltz and morphed into a masterpiece choreographed by Drew’s Dancing With The Stars pro-partner Emma Slater and her husband, Sasha Farber.
The wedding cake will be featured on the June 25 episode of Cake Hunters on the Food Network. It featured vanilla with goat cheese and strawberry balsamic, organic red velvet, carrot and chocolate hazelnut with a butter-cream frosting.
Instead of gifts, the newlyweds asked guests to donate to WE Charity, formerly known as Free The Children, founded by Marc and Craig Kielburger, to provide people in need access to clean water and help build schools for communities in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Fowell, though, decided she still wanted to give them something personal that spoke more to their relationship.
“My in-laws homesteaded a farm in Brandon, Manitoba back in the late 1800s early 1900s. They actually walked out from Toronto with their oxen and everything,” explained Fowell.
On their property, they had a one room schoolhouse for the children.
Fowell’s gift was the bell that the teacher used to ring to call in the children.
“Well, I was their teacher and I thought that was appropriate,” said Fowell.
“They have a huge family and I thought it would make a great dinner bell.”