{Real Bride Series}: Meet Kelley

 This Real Bride Series edition introduces Kelley and Neil. Read about their amazing proposal!

real bride series meet kelley.

Kelley’s Love Story:

What is your name and your groom’s name? Kelley & Neil

What was your wedding date? Thursday, December 29, 2016

How did you and your groom meet? We met while working at the Wisconsin Early Autism Project in Madison, WI. The first time we worked together we both noticed each other.  It actually took one of our client’s moms to convince Neil that I was, in fact, interested in him.

We are dying to know, how did he propose?! Funny you should ask, because I wrote a whole prose piece about the proposal the day after it happened:

He gasped, audibly.

“Wow!” he breathed, “Just… Wow!”

Neil was totally captivated by the Grand Canyon. I couldn’t help but smile at my gangly rock hound as we continued further into the park. I parked the car near the geology museum, filled my purse with two bottles of water and a sandwich, and then we both got out and began walking.

Neil’s gasps and murmurs continued along the walk towards the park center. I couldn’t help myself and began ooing and aahing along with him: it was such an incredible sight!

Along the walk, some conversations were struck up with other canyon visitors. Meeting Sam, the bassist of the metal band Barrier, was probably the most eventful: we encountered him, barefoot and bare-chested, meditating on the ledge of the canyon. Neil joined him and, when he finished, almost fell into the canyon while performing a sun salutation in his boots (“Jesus Christ, sweetie!”). After that scare, we chatted with Sam for a bit, learning his name, profession, and that he was from Chicago. His band was on tour and heading to California for a show that night. In a second run-in with Sam, he looked at us with his warm, kind eyes, and said, “I don’t’ know if I’ll ever see you again, but I want you to know that I love you guys.”

“We love you too!” we told him, practically in unison. Looking back, I get the feeling that he knew what Neil was about to do…

During our walk, I commented, “Wouldn’t it be awesome to do engagement photos out here? We should do that at Christmas! Assuming you’ve proposed to me by then, of course.”

I literally had no idea what was about to happen.

Eventually on our hike, we turned around and made our way back to the museum and the car. We went into the museum and, after a brief exploration, went over to the gift shop corner and made some purchases. Upon putting them in the car, I said, “You know what? I’m tired, and a little hungry. Why don’t we go get some food?”

“Well… Will we come back? Because I’d like to come back if we leave now…” Eventually, Neil convinced me to get back out of the car and come marvel at the canyon together one last time (“The sun has gone down a little, so it looks different now!”).

We plunked down on a ledge and gawked at the view. A little down the way, a couple was struggling to fit themselves and the canyon into a photo on their phone, so Neil offered a trade: we take their picture if they take ours. Immediately after our photo was done, I sat back down on the ledge, and gazed out at the gorgeous natural wonder, contemplating life, love, and nature.

“Hey Kelley,” I hear behind me.

Upon turning around, I saw Neil on one knee, holding a ring box with a gorgeous band of diamonds in it.

“I… Wh… Is this…? I— Yes!” I said.

He hadn’t even said the words yet, but I didn’t care; I knew what they were, and I already knew my answer.

Everyone around us gasped and smiled and clapped. A whispered “congratulations!” with a huge smile came from one woman who walked by us.

Later, in the car, I teased him for not actually asking “the question.”  “You didn’t even give me a chance to!” he countered. But then, he took my hands, looked me in the eyes, and asked me, “Kelley Noel Rolak, will you marry me?” “Yes, Robert Neil Thomas Graupner,” I smiled, “Yes I will.”

real bride series meet kelley

What were your wedding colors and why did you choose them? Our colors were variations of primary colors (red, yellow, and blue). The meaning was twofold. First, the three primary colors are prominent in the Autism awareness symbol. Second, Neil has Scottish heritage and, while we eventually nixed the idea of the groomsmen wearing kilts for the wedding, we wanted to pay homage to the Dalrymple family tartan (Neil’s grandmother’s maiden name).

The Dress

Where did you find your dress? Would you say that finding your dress was relatively easy or difficult? I found my dress at Vera’s House of Bridals in Madison, WI.  I knew I wanted a tea-length gown, and while at this expo, I saw a woman dressed in basically the perfect gown. When I saw her I froze, with my jaw hanging open. The woman wearing the dress saw me and laughed. She then came over to me and said hello. Of course, I was so excited, I was barely able to stammer out, “Dress! Where! Perfect!” She then let me know that she was a consultant at Vera’s and that all I had to do was call them to make an appointment.

Who Went:

The appointment itself was so much fun. I brought my mom, my sister, and future mother-in-law to come help me decide what dress to choose. The first dress I tried on was, of course, the dress I fell in love with at the expo. It was wonderful! There were quite a few options, and I didn’t want to miss something if it could be even more perfect. I’m glad I made that choice, because the dress I ended up choosing was the fourth dress that I tried on!

The Description:

The dress itself was a relatively plain strapless tea-length gown. But the feel of it made me do the same “I love this floofy dress” happy spinning that I did in the first dress. But something was missing, so we tried adding a belt, which added some much needed bling. My FMIL suggested a jacket. I think we were both thinking of a bolero, but what they brought out was so much better: a lace 3/4 sleeve, portrait neckline jacket that buttoned in the back. In all of the wedding dress TV shows, it seems like every bride cries when they find “their dress.” Well, that was the moment I burst into tears.

So a relatively easy experience, but still storied.

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Where did your ceremony and reception take place? Was there any special meaning behind the choice of the venue(s)? Our ceremony and reception took place at Superstition Manor in Mesa, AZ. While we both live and work in Wisconsin, my parents both have family in Arizona. I have even spent every Christmas that I can remember (except one) in Mesa. And the idea of having a winter wedding somewhere where it wasn’t ACTUALLY winter (sorry, Arizonians, but you don’t know what cold is) was also definitely a large factor in picking Arizona.  Superstition Manor closes at 9pm on weeknights. We knew the party would last later than 9 pm, so we rented a party bus to take us out to Scottsdale for an after-party pub crawl!

What kind of flowers did you have in your bouquet and at the ceremony/reception? I had wildflowers that fit the color theme in the bouquet, including some dahlias. Neil was actually the one to take care of the floral arrangements, as I was busy with graduate school. I could not make it to the tasting at Superstition, so Neil, his mother, and my father went in my place. Neil picked the menu, scouted photographers, and settled all of the floral details. Knowing that I am a Star Wars nerd, he made sure that the florist included a light saber hilt in the handle of the bouquet. Brenda even made sure that the noise mechanism worked, which made the bouquet exponentially more fun! So I think Neil did a pretty great job with the things he helped with.

The Cake

What was the flavor of your wedding cake? We had a vanilla cutting cake, with mini cheesecakes and mini red velvet cupcakes as the dessert.

What details from your wedding that made it unique to you? Neil’s uncle officiated our wedding, and gave us each a mate from a pair of Christmas socks as a metaphor for the cooperation we would need to develop in order to make our marriage work.

First Dance:

For our first dance, we used a piece of music called “Waltz for Zizi,” from the anime show “Cowboy Bebop.” The father-daughter dance was to “Not While I’m Around,” covered by Jamie Cullum. I had had my heart set on using Jamie Cullum’s version of the song for years before I realized that it was a cover of a song from “Sweeny Todd,” but I decided I didn’t care.

Special Meanings:

We signed our marriage certificate with a Darth Vader pen.

Neil has a 125-year-old railroad pocket watch that he carried with him.  My father gave it to him for Christmas. It had belonged to his great grandfather while he was working as a doctor for the railroad as it was expanding to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I occasionally play with an old time band in Madison called the No Name Stringband. I had hoped they would be able to play for the wedding but their schedules did not allow for it. As a gift to me, the band recorded a new version of their original piece, “You Look Alright, Still,” for me to use in their absence.

Did you provide favors to your guests?  If so, what were they?  We had small cactus tea lights in red glass tea candle holders. We also made coloring books and had sets of crayons for everyone in case they were waiting during pictures.

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Other than marrying your husband, what was one of your favorite moments from your wedding day? The photo booth at the wedding was so much fun! We also had rented a party bus to use after the wedding!

The Honeymoon

Did you take a honeymoon? If so, where did you go? We took our honeymoon 3 months after the wedding. We went on a Disney Cruise through the western Caribbean: Cozumel, Mexico; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; Falmouth, Jamaica, and Disney’s Castaway Cay. The cruise even had a Star Wars day at sea!

What is one piece of wisdom you learned from your planning experience that you would like to share with future brides? Delegation is important! If you are busy, allow someone you trust to take the reigns. You may even end up with the best bouquet ever!

Who were some of the other vendors that were a part of your dream team? Lasting Impressions Weddings – Brenda (floral)
Royal Escape Productions – Joshua (photography) – When we first met our photographer to set up a contract, the three of us ended up chatting for an hour before we finally got down to business. Joshua from Royal Escape Productions is easy to get to know which made having him and his team at the wedding even more fun. It truly felt like they were friends who just happened to be taking our pictures.
Superstition Manor – Brittany (venue)
Save this Dance – Tyler (DJ)

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{Real Bride Series}: Meet MacKenzie

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MacKenzie’s Story:

What is your name and your groom’s name? MacKenzie & Brett

What was your wedding date? Saturday, November 19, 2016

How did you and your groom meet? Brett and I met his senior year at prom. He went with a friend and I went with his best friend. Long story short, we spent the whole night talking, traded phone numbers, and the rest is history.

We are dying to know, how did he propose?! In March of 2015, Brett planned an “Escape the Room” game inviting our closest friends and family. While I didn’t know it at the time, he had planned ahead and hidden a note in place of one of the clues to help us escape the room. We were about 50 minutes in to the 60 minutes groups are given to escape when my friend Amanda said, in a very loud voice, “MacKenzie, come look over here in the oven.” I had already looked there, several times, and she pulled out a metal, magnetic lock box and handed it to me. As I slid the box open, a small folded piece of paper fell out. I opened the note that read “Your next clue is with your fiance.” I turned around and Brett was down on one knee with a beautiful ring.

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What were your wedding colors and why did you choose them? Brett and I chose navy blue, oranges and peaches for our fall wedding. We wanted a contemporary look to merge with our rustic venue.

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The Dress

Where did you find your dress? Would you say that finding your dress was relatively easy or difficult? I found my wedding dress at David’s Bridal. It was the second gown I purchased and I fell in love with the soft features of the skirt and the beautiful designs at the top of the dress.

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Where did your ceremony and reception take place? Was there any special meaning behind the choice of the venue(s)? We held our ceremony and reception both at Shenandoah Mill. Brett and I fell in love with look of the mill, and how easy it was to coordinate the event. We love our pictures!

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The Cake

What was the flavor of your wedding cake?  Brett was in charge of the flavors and look of the cake. The bottom layer was almond flavored cake with a chocolate hazelnut filling. The middle layer was pumpkin spice with cream cheese filling. And the top layer was red velvet with cream cheese filling. The frosting covering the outside of the cake was a light buttercream. It was delicious!

real bride series wedding cake

What details from your wedding that made it unique to you? Our favorite part of the wedding was the unique participants in our ceremony. Our grandmothers were our flower girls and they were so honored to be asked! And, not to mention, they looked adorable coming down the aisle! We also used our dog as our ring bearer. During the ring exchange in the ceremony, we called to have her released. She ran down the aisle in a tutu with the rings tied to her collar. It couldn’t have gone smoother!

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Other than marrying your husband, what was one of your favorite moments from your wedding day? Seeing my dad before he walked me down the aisle. Brett and I chose not to do a first look, so our photographer captured a first look between my dad and me.

The Honeymoon

Did you take a honeymoon? If so, where did you go? We are planning our honeymoon for June of 2017. We have a Caribbean cruise scheduled with some exciting excursions planned.

What is one piece of wisdom you learned from your planning experience that you would like to share with future brides? Enjoy the planning process and do only what you can. If you do it right, the experience of planning and involving your family will be just as valuable of an experience as the actual wedding. Don’t worry too much, because the day of, all you worry about anyways is enjoying the day.

Who were some of the other vendors that were a part of your dream team? Graceful Cakes– Wedding Cake
Cassy Carmody Photography
Shenandoah Mill-Venue

real bride series mackenzie

{Real Bride Series}: Meet Tessa

This issue of our Real Bride Series features Tessa and Michael who were married earlier this year at the Ocotillo Golf Club in Chandler, AZ.  Tessa offers great advice while reminiscing about her wedding day.

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Getting to Know Tessa & Michael

What is your name and your groom’s name?    Tessa Mallette & Michael Lara

What was your wedding date? Saturday, January 28, 2017

How did you and your groom meet?   We met online and it did not take long before we wanted to meet. Our first date was at a sushi restaurant and didn’t want the night to end. We had so much in common; both of us are the oldest child with younger brothers and we enjoy traveling, trying new restaurants, and experiencing local attractions and farmers markets.

We are dying to know, how did he propose?!   Michael and I were supposed to go on a double date with my best friend and her husband. We were running late and parking was challenging as he wanted us to park in a busy mall parking lot across the street. Little did I know, my family was waiting out of sight. We walked near the waterway up to the restaurant, Michael stopped by a fountain and got down on one knee. I was so surprised! What surprised me even more was that my family, my best friend and her husband came around the corner just after I said “yes”! Michael and I are both planners so it is hard for Michael to surprise me but he had emailed my friends and family the location spot including where they all should park and hide so I wouldn’t suspect a thing! So romantic and perfect!

The Details and the Dress

Babydoll Weddings Real Bride Series Tessa MakeupWhat were your wedding colors and why did you choose them?  My wedding colors were blush pink, gold, and mint green. I always knew I wanted a pink wedding but I wanted a more classic look, so I added the gold accents and added the mint green for an extra touch.

Where did you find your dress? Would you say that finding your dress was relatively easy or difficult?   I found my dress at David’s Bridal. It was a relatively easy process and I found it in one day. I was discouraged at first due. I wanted tulle but each one I tried on seemed so itchy.  Finally, I found the perfect dress with pearl buttons running down the back and lace details on the top.  It also had  a flattering neckline and the bottom flowed just like Belle’s dress from Beauty and the Beast.

Where did your ceremony and reception take place? Was there any special meaning behind the choice of the venue(s)?   Our ceremony and reception were at Ocotillo Golf Resort in Chandler, Arizona. We fell in love with all the water and the beautifully manicured green golf course which was perfect for our dream of an outdoor ceremony site.  The reception site was beautiful as well. The architecture of the building featured a wooden ceiling that made you feel as though you were on a boat. It was just the right size for our 80 guests.

From Flowers to Cake to Favors    Babydoll Weddings Real Bride Series Tessa Bouquet

What kind of flowers did you have in your bouquet and at the ceremony/reception?  I had a mixture of different color roses and additional flowers in my bouquet. For the ceremony, we had baby’s breath in metal buckets down the aisle.

What was the flavor of your wedding cake?  Our wedding cake was lemon cake with raspberry buttercream. We also had chocolate cupcakes with a pink buttercream.

Babydoll Weddings Real Bride Series Tessa Cake

 

Did you provide favors to your guests? If so, what were they?   We did s’more’s kits with mini Hershey’s chocolate bars, marshmallows, and graham crackers.

Babydoll Weddings Real Bride Series Tessa Favors

What details from your wedding that made it unique to you?   We purchased two wine barrels for either side of the ceremony aisle and they really created the rustic style that we wanted. Also, our DJ offed up-lighting options which enhanced the reception and added just the right touch.

Did you take a honeymoon? If so, where did you go?   We honeymooned in Kauai, Hawaii which is an amazing island that is mostly undeveloped. We had great weather and enjoyed traveling around the island, kayaking to the secret falls, and flying on a private plane tour of the island.

A bit of Advice…

Other than marrying your husband, what was one of your favorite moments from your wedding day?   Just watching all of our family and friends enjoy dancing and getting to know each other. It was so fun to see everyone in the same place and all the love in the room.

What is one piece of wisdom you learned from your planning experience that you would like to share with future brides?
Do NOT stress yourself out on the details. Make sure you choose the best vendors who want to make your vision come true. Also consider adding some personal touches that you love. When the day comes it all seems overwhelming but once your vision has come to life,  you will be able to enjoy each moment. The ceremony and reception fly by so fast so be sure to take time to enjoy each and every aspect.

The Vendor Dream Team

Who were some of the other vendors that were a part of your dream team?  Lia Photography was such a great choice for us. The husband and wife team shot our engagement shoot and we were sure that they would shoot our wedding with the same professionalism and quality. We were so right! They know which photos will make anyone who sees them feel like they are there and a part of the whole experience. We have many options for printing and our photo book  is almost done. Can you imagine how excited we are to see it and relive the day?!

Rock Around the Clock Entertainment/Jeff Marcus was also such an amazing selection. Jeff was so engaging from day one to make sure that we were on the same page for music selection, up lighting, and interaction with guests, which was very important for us to make the reception run smoothly. Jeff thought of everything and sent over a questionnaire to make sure that he know as much as possible about our guests and music preferences. He also took photos and videos of the ceremony and reception and sent them to me the same night. Hands down, Jeff is absolutely the best DJ that I have ever experienced. We were so lucky to find him for our big day!

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